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Ash Wednesday, the New Hampshire primary, and the limitations of politics

On Ash Wednesday, the internet is abuzz with reactions to the New Hampshire primary. This year’s calendar, placing the start of Lent immediately after the opening ballot of the presidential campaign, prompts some thoughts on the relative importance of political and spiritual battles. Let...

Through the Holy Door of Lent

Each year we have to stoop fairly low to enter what we might call the “holy door” of Lent. (I recall again that this is the only liturgical season which is also a four-letter word.) Still, with all we know about this penitential season, one burning question has remained unanswered—until I...

Lenten sacrifices: What about Sundays?

One of the priests in our parish frequently tries to get us to be tougher when it comes to a willingness to sacrifice. Each year around this time he speaks repeatedly about the desirability of extending our Lenten practices throughout all the days of the Lenten season. He is unimpressed by the...

Religious unity, evangelization and the salvation crisis

Having examined the fundamental difference between the quest for religious unity and evangelization, it seems sensible to ask what, in the modern period, has caused evangelization (with its supernatural end) to so often be subordinated to religious unity (with its natural end). If we can...

Quick Hits: absurd public-health directives, a rude papal adviser, unresponsive diocesan bureaucracies

This week the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced that young women should use contraception if they plan to drink alcohol-- any amount of alcohol. The logic of the CDC’s argument is this: Scientists don’t know what level of alcohol will be harmful to an unborn child, so...

A preview of the Pope's synodal exhortation?

We don't expect Pope Francis to promulgate his post-synodal exhortation until March, but we have a preview of his thoughts on some key marriage questions in his latest address to the Roman Rota: Adequate Preparation for Marriage. Usually I begin these messages with references to our own...

Praying with the Church

When I read the works of scholars who suggest, “The early Church placed on the lips of Jesus…” my inner alarm bells go off. The implication is clear. The early Church placed its own words on the lips of Jesus to proclaim a message that is either generally in line with the...

The 'traditional' same-sex wedding

In this spectacularly lopsided article for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Joel Connelly is determined to show that it is unreasonable for a Catholic high school to refuse to publish a notice of a graduate’s same-sex wedding. Connelly blames the refusal on the “chilly, hard-line...

What’s this about a Solidarity Campaign?

Some may think CatholicCulture.org always has a gimmick to raise funds. I don’t know how gimmicky it is; mostly I just beg incessantly because we need a certain amount of revenue each and every month. We don’t have any financial angels. We rely entirely on those who actually use...

LGBT...ETC: The Code of the In Crowd

First there were gays; then there were lesbians and gays; then there were lesbians, gays and bisexuals—a long enough list to require the initialism LGB; then there were lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders (LGBT). When the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke recently about the...

Is God humble?

A few weeks ago, I jotted down a question I thought might be worth writing about: How can God be considered humble? I remember that the question occurred to me while I was reading Scripture, but if I had a blazing insight I wanted to share, I have completely lost it now. Still, the question...

To preach, to sanctify, and... Is something missing?

Pope Francis knocked me off balance, and prompted some new thoughts about the state of the Catholic Church, with something he said in a recent homily. Or rather, to be more accurate, he stunned me by what he did not say—by leaving out part of a very familiar series. Let me explain first...

NPR discovers the 'secret' that pro-lifers have been sharing for a generation

Congratulations to National Public Radio for discovering what Steven Mosher has been telling the world for the past 35 years: that China's brutal "one-child" population policy led to flagrant and widespread human-rights abuses, including millions of forced abortions, and produced a...

Sing to the Lord!

Some excellent diocesan music directives, which I will come to in a moment, have given me the title for this Insights message. At present I am continuing to explore the difference between the quest for religious unity and evangelization. The former has its place in the nature of things, but the...

Liturgical Year Volume 3 Released: LENT

Lent (the only liturgical season with a name that is also a four-letter word!) begins on February 10th, and so the Lenten volume of our ebook series for the 2015-2016 liturgical year has been released in our ebooks download area. This third volume in the annual series covers the entire season of...

The quest for religious unity: The natural must not eclipse the supernatural.

As a first step to considering more deeply the relationship between the quest for religious unity and evangelization, we need to distinguish their ends. We will see that the quest for greater religious unity has a natural end, whereas the end of evangelization is supernatural. Once we grasp this...

Quick Hits: the myth of believers in a flat Earth, Europe's failure to evangelize Japan

This week brought us two worthwhile articles about Christianity in secular outlets. In the wake of rapper B.o.B. claiming that the earth is flat, Newsweek points out that people didn't even believe this in the Middle Ages. It's a myth made up in the nineteenth century to make...

The Problem of Religious Unity

Several hundred years ago, we would have lived in an era of inter-religious hostility. Most efforts at evangelization would have been adversarial. Today we are far more likely to seek good relationships with men and women of good will who are not Catholic. But sometimes the result is that we do...

Quick Hits: covering up nudes, Italy's pro-family resistance, the tragic assassination of Diem

The prudish draping of nude statues at the Capitoline Museum, in preparation for the visit by Iranian President Rouhani, neatly captures the story of Europe’s decline. The curators of a great cultural treasury are ready to apologize for their heritage, to eliminate any aspects that might...

Syrian Patriarch: A special Catholic leader?

Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III (Ignace Youssif III) of the Syriac Catholic Church has become a fresh voice in the daily news. Yesterday we heard him scoffing at Italian museum curators for covering up nude statues during a visit from the President of Iran. Today, we find him praising the military...

Church Fathers: Origen's Works

Origen’s prodigious literary output was encouraged by his wealthy friends, in particular one Ambrose whom he had converted from Valentinianism. Out of his own pocket, this benefactor stationed in Origen’s lecture room “more than seven shorthand-writers, who relieved each other at...

Quick Hits: Divine Mercy movie, IVF and surrogacy, the Saints' favorite books

A documentary about the original painting of the Divine Mercy, which Jesus commanded St. Faustina to have made, is being released worldwide on Feb. 10. While representations of Jesus' Divine Mercy are now commonplace around the world, the original painting has been in obscurity for...

Evangelization deformed or delayed: A danger of the quest for religious unity

Beginning in the mid-20th century, the leaders of the Catholic Church have chosen to place a high priority on forging stronger ties between Catholics and members of other religions. They have sought to emphasize shared beliefs, to increase mutual understanding, and to create a more cohesive...

The lasting image of this year's March for Life: that Mass on the snowbound turnpike

In past years I have remarked on the mysterious temporary blindness that strikes reporters in Washington, DC, in late January, making it impossible for them to notice the March for Life. This year there was no mystery about it. With a blizzard of historic proportions bearing down on the city,...

Pope Francis: Attempting to Overcome Divisions

Thomas Van's series on the Fathers of the Church continues this week with Origen's Life and Legacy. This is the first installment of several pieces covering the work of one of the most influential thinkers in Christian history. Speaking of thinkers, I continue to explore the progressive...

Hot (but speculative) rumor: Pope to meet Russian Patriarch next month?

The veteran Vatican-watcher Sandro Magister of L’Espresso has gone out on a limb to suggest that Pope Francis could meet with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow next month. There has never been a face-to-face meeting between a Roman Pontiff and a Russian Orthodox Patriarch. Nor has there been any recent...

Church Fathers: Origen's Life and Legacy

At last we come to Origen, surely the most titanic intellectual figure of the first three centuries of Christianity after St. Paul. In the breadth of his writings and in the depth of his influence, he is equaled by few among the Church Fathers. He brought the catechetical school of Alexandria to...

Darkness: The practical result of our contemporary mythology

My primary goal was theoretical when I explored the modern mythology of “knowing” in a three-part series beginning with “Our mental prison: The myth of “objective” knowledge”. I wished to lay bare the intellectual root of contemporary misconceptions about...

Snowy thoughts both timely and timeless

Perhaps the most timely item on CatholicCulture.org today is our commemoration of the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children, which the American Bishops have added to our liturgical calendar. Jennifer Gregory Miller explains in January 22: Day of Prayer and Penance in the...

A few pointed remarks (from God)

A few weeks ago I read the Book of Proverbs again, and this time I decided to make a note of all the verses which struck me as particularly apt, insightful or, in some cases, entertaining. The next time I read this book, I have no doubt that other verses will stand out. That’s the way it is...

Change in Holy Thursday liturgy encourages do-it-yourself liturgical experimentation

On its face, the Pope’s decision to include women in the foot-washing ceremony of the Holy Thursday liturgy does not seem a matter of earth-shaking importance. The question only arises once a year. The liturgical rule that included only males has been widely ignored for years, and the skies...

Quick Hits 1: Priest falsely accused?/Religious test for White House?/Liturgical changes we need

The highly publicized trials of Philadelphia priests are an instance of “prosecutorial lust,” according to reporter Ralph Cipriano. Since the trials began, Cipriano has been making a strong case that the key witness for the prosecution is completely unreliable. Now those strong...

How to deal with suffering, suffering of any kind

We all suffer at one time or another, and some of us face chronic suffering. I am ever mindful, for example, of all those who regularly plow through my commentaries, an exercise which may be classified as the suffering of frustration. But we can also suffer from doubt, exploitation, failure,...

Temperatures Rising?

If I've had to go out once today, I've had to go out a thousand times. During these errands, the outside temperature has varied between 13 and 24 degrees Fahrenheit (-11 and -4 Celsius). I know this doesn't seem very cold to some of our northern readers, but I've lived to tell you that my...

The Catholic Navigator: Bon Voyage!

If you are actively involved in catechesis in your parish, or in other formation programs, you may be interested in subscribing to the Catholic Navigator. This is a lay apostolate of experienced catechists which provides printable weekly catechetical supplements for adults and children. The...

Will the first-ever Orthodox council occur this year? We'll know soon.

Since the Great Schism, the Roman Catholic Church has held 13 ecumenical councils; the Orthodox churches have held: none. That failure to arrange a worldwide gathering, for nearly a millennium, is a major failure for Orthodoxy. It is an indication that the Orthodox world has been troubled by...

The Death of Politics, revisited with critics in mind

I was happy to see a good crop of comments on last week’s essay, Politics is dead: This year, avoid the quadrennial silliness. And I was not surprised to see some comments which took strong and even heated exception to the position I outlined. As is usually the case with sensitive topics,...

Quick Hits: Trump, the Vatican gay lobby, and the next step after gay marriage

In 1999, Donald Trump said that he was "very pro-choice." Politicians can change their minds. As governor of California, Ronald Reagan once signed the nation's most liberal abortion legislation; as President he wrote a book against abortion. But until we have clear evidence that...

To be or not to be: The question of politics

Consider Phil Lawler's excellent analysis of Catholic hospitals and the fight for medical standards. It is, I think, a case in point of the futility of legitimate politics in America. It is also one more nail in a coffin, and I want you to know what lies inside. Isn't it time that we...

Politics is dead: This year, avoid the quadrennial silliness.

2016 is a presidential election year in America. Most citizens will fasten their attention on the Republican and Democratic candidates. A minor third-party candidate may emerge. Even those with outstanding Catholic values will invent some reason for insisting it is absolutely essential to elect...

The crucial topic missing from the State of the Union address [updated]

He was raised in the US, but has lived for years in Australia, so Michael Cook of MercatorNet has an interesting perspective on American political affairs: that of someone who speaks the language—the language of US politics, I mean—but does not hear it constantly. From that...

Notes from around the web

In a fine piece appearing on the National Review site, David French makes roughly the same argument that I’ve made here recently: that the latest battles in the culture wars involve not only marriage and family, but the right to speak the truth—or worse, the compulsion to accept a lie. French...

Catholic hospitals and the fight for medical standards

For the foreseeable future, political pressure on the Catholic Church in the US will be concentrated on medical issues. If you doubt that, join me on a quick tour through some of this week’s significant newspaper items: A Los Angeles Times columnist encourages readers to be...

On Gardening and Architecture...and the awareness of God

Speaking of rethinking how we think (e.g., Modern “objective” knowledge is a circular system: Why?), Christopher Alexander has tried to do much the same thing for the field of architecture. Professor emeritus of architecture at the University of California at Berkeley, Alexander has...

Thoughts on business (among other things)

Since Cardinal Turkson offered a clarification of the Pope's ideas about business recently, I thought I would try to explain more clearly what it is that Catholic social teaching wishes to communicate to businessmen. See Business is a vocation; that's why the Church won't leave it...

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