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Commentary Archive

All Catholic commentary from January 2014

Speaking of temptation... by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Jan 2, 2014

Over the Christmas break, I was given some insights but little joy in my spiritual reading. The emotions we experience in prayer and spiritual reading are, of course, incidental; it is the insights (and the transformations occasioned by them) that are important. And when I say I was given little...

Countercultural Catholic, chapter 7: Ritual Purity by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - Jan 2, 2014

When roughly half of all marriages end in divorce, is it reasonable to expect that couples are preparing for marriage with a proper understanding of Christian matrimony? When surveys show that most Catholics do not believe in (or at best do not understand) the Real Presence, is it logical to...

The under-reported Catholic story of the past year by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Jan 3, 2014

In his list of list of the most under-covered Catholic stories of 2013, John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter puts an interesting one in the top position: 1. Benedict the revolutionary He’s right: right that Pope Benedict was in some respects a revolutionary, and even righter that...

Countercultural Catholic, chapter 8: Habits of Clericalism by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - Jan 6, 2014

In June 2013, Pope Francis said that he longed for a Church “without a life of its own.” He explained that curious remark by saying that ideally the Church should live only the life of Christ. The Church, he said, should be “the mysterium lunae which has light from her Bridegroom...

Legal cases on the HHS mandate & abortion clinic 'bubble zones': 2 must-read op-eds by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Jan 6, 2014

Here are two short opinion pieces that are well worth reading: For National Review, Matt Bowman analyzes the legal argument put forward by the Obama administration in its battle against the Little Sisters of the Poor, and concludes that the argument is not only weak but...

The Credibility Wars: Where We Go From Here by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Jan 6, 2014

Contemporary Catholics find themselves at a bit of a turning point, without being quite sure which way to turn. It has become clear over the past few years that the emphasis on “culture wars” has done little or nothing to reverse the flight of Western culture from Christian values,...

Advocating for a Minimum Wage: Is There a Better Way? by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Jan 7, 2014

Today this headline caught my eye: Miami archbishop: raise the minimum wage. So naturally I warmed immediately to one of my favorite themes. Catholics ought to have their own ways of handling this sort of question. Why are wages a political issue? Or, to put the matter more broadly, why must...

Liturgical Renewal Today: A Quiet Emphasis on the Right Things by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - Jan 8, 2014

To mark the 50th anniversary of Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium), the US Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship issued a document called Stewards of the Tradition late last year. I was reminded of this when the text was published in the latest...

Toward Effective Christian Witness: Making Room for the Gospel by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "In Depth Analysis" - Jan 9, 2014

The concerns most often expressed about my writings on the New Evangelization fall into two categories. I’ve emphasized the importance of apostolates of service, both for their own sake and to attract and open others to the Gospel. Given this emphasis, it would be rather disturbing if some...

Overinterpreting Pope Francis: please, everyone, calm down! by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Jan 9, 2014

”Is the Pope a Catholic?” That question is supposed to be a joke. But recently there has been so much overheated speculation about the Pope’s statements and intentions, David Gibson of RNS takes the question seriously, almost, in an interesting analysis column entitled Yes, the pope is still...

Another thought on interpreting Pope Francis by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Jan 10, 2014

Pope Francis continues to surprise us, speaking in ways that we don't expect from a Pontiff. For those who are trying to understand his way of thinking, here's one more thought to keep in mind: Both Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI were accomplished scholars, who taught for years at...

When new cardinals are named, beware facile analysis by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Jan 10, 2014

Sometime soon-- it could be at his Sunday audience-- Pope Francis will reveal his first appointments to the College of Cardinals.  The Holy Father has already announced that the red hats will be distributed at a consistory on February 22. Traditionally the Pontiff has identified the new...

Our Cultural Difficulty in Assessing Same-Sex Attraction by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Jan 10, 2014

The plain fact of the matter is that talking intelligibly about homosexuality and gay marriage is extremely difficult in contemporary Western culture. Two recent news reports bear this out. The former President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, has strongly criticized the Church’s condemnation of...

If homosexuals aren't sinners, they're not like the rest of us by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - Jan 10, 2014

The old Christian injunction to “hate the sin, love the sinner” no longer cuts it, Mary McAleese has announced. The former Irish president explains: “If you are a so-called sinner, who likes to be called that?” Since active homosexuals don’t want to be called sinners, McAleese concludes that...

Pope decries abortion; sun expected to rise in east by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Jan 13, 2014

Which is more pathetic: the suggestion that it’s big news that Pope Francis condemned abortion? Or the suggestion that he denounced abortion in order to satisfy conservative Catholic critics? The former implies—absurdly—that we previously weren’t sure where the Holy Father stood on the killing of...

With new cardinals, a few surprises by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - Jan 13, 2014

It was no surprise when Pope Francis named the first cardinals of his pontificate at his Sunday public audience. And considering how often the Holy Father had tossed aside conventional thinking, his choices were not terribly surprising, either. As expected, the Pope’s 19 selections...

A refreshingly candid explanation of a diocesan bankruptcy by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Jan 14, 2014

Another American diocese filing for bankruptcy? Ho-hum. That’s become fairly routine, hasn’t it? Yes, but look again. Stockton’s Bishop Stephen Blaire announced that bankruptcy was the only realistic choice for the diocese, because of the sex-abuse scandal. As he put it: Very simply, we are...

Death by Association: The Church Transcends Your Own Identity by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "In Depth Analysis" - Jan 14, 2014

One of the most significant perils within modern Catholicism is the tendency to regard the Church in an intensely individualistic way. In a rising crescendo over the past hundred years, we have seen one Catholic constituency after another subject the Church, her faith and her mission to...

Common Core vs. Catholic Core by Thomas Van in "The City Gates" - Jan 15, 2014

Along with the general community of educators, more and more Catholic writers and groups are sounding the alarm about the new Common Core educational standards. While there are plenty of individual reasons to be wary or even hostile to the proposed standards, the Cardinal Newman Society is taking...

Religious Liberty in Decline, Especially for Christians by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Jan 15, 2014

According to the latest Pew study, the number of states which highly restrict religion increased from 20 to 24 from 2011 to 2012. Most of the restrictive nations are Muslim, Communist, or former Communist. But this does not come close to telling the whole story. In the Declaration on Religious...

The problem of non-believing Catholics by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - Jan 15, 2014

Back in September, Damon Linker wrote in the New Republic that liberal Catholics were likely to become disillusioned with Pope Francis, because the Pope was not likely to change Catholic doctrines. Now, writing in The Week, he reports that he’s even more concerned, because liberal Catholics...

A looming Supreme Court victory for the pro-life cause? by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Jan 16, 2014

Yesterday the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of McCullen v. Coakley, a challenge to the “bubble zone” law that bars pro-lifers from coming within 35’ of any abortion clinic in Massachusetts. It’s an interesting case, and if the justices’ questions...

Get Comfortable with Absurdity: Catholics and the Civil Order by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Jan 16, 2014

In our continuing discussions of the future of Christian politics, we may differ over the likelihood of being able to stem the legal breakdown of marriage. The latest cause for alarm is a federal judge’s decision that the marriage amendment to the Oklahoma State Constitution is...

Methinks the media protest too much by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Jan 17, 2014

If someone stands on a public sidewalk, praying quietly, and occasionally offering help to passersby, what do you call her? A protester. Check the 2nd photo (scroll down a bit) in this Wall Street Journal story about the McCullen v. Coakley Supreme Court case. And this is the Wall...

Are all Catholics truly 'in communion' with the Church? by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - Jan 17, 2014

What does it mean to be “in communion” with the Church? The phrase is not often used among American Catholics, but it is highly relevant to ecumenical discussions. We say that we are not “in communion” with the Orthodox churches. We profess essentially the same faith,...

The Big Question about the Pope’s Thursday Homily by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - Jan 17, 2014

On Thursday, Pope Francis preached against scandal and harm caused by corrupt clergy when he concelebrated Mass with two cardinals. One of the cardinals was Roger Mahony, the former archbishop of Los Angeles. A fair evaluation of Mahony’s ecclesiastical career would suggest, among other...

In New York and in Ireland, defenders of marriage asked to go away quietly by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Jan 20, 2014

If you enjoy the sound of reassuring words, President Obama’s proclamation for Religious Freedom Day might satisfy you. But if you think actions speak louder, these are troubling times. Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York has declared that pro-lifers and defenders of marriage are not welcome in...

400 priests defrocked for abuse? There's more to the story by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - Jan 20, 2014

Some thoughts on the story that AP broke late Friday afternoon, reporting that Pope Benedict had approved the laicization of nearly 400 priests during the last 2 years of his pontificate: This is only the tip of the iceberg—but not in the way you might think. The AP story covers just...

Bishop Williamson’s separation ought to bring the SSPX to its senses by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Jan 20, 2014

The inherent separatism of the Society of St. Pius X and other similar Traditionalist groups is made glaringly obvious by the progress of Bishop Richard Williamson’s breakaway organization. In his latest newsletter, Williamson rejoices in the establishment of a new (and expensive) Queen of...

Why are the US bishops taking a stand--any stand-- on the Trans-Pacific Partnership? by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Jan 21, 2014

Where do you stand on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement? You don’t have a clue? Didn’t know that such an agreement had been proposed? Have no idea what it includes? Just hearing about it for the first time? Then you’re with me. Maybe you’re familiar with the...

The media's annual bout of blindness by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Jan 21, 2014

Dozens of professional journalists, particularly in the vicinity of Washington, DC, are showing early signs of a strange illness that strikes, oddly enough, at exactly this time each year. The illness causes restricted vision, so that reporters fail to notice large-scale events. The disease—to...

Lessons of the Pro-Life Blackout: From Pressure to Persecution by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Jan 21, 2014

In describing the annual bout of blindness, Phil Lawler presents a welcome tongue-in-check look at how the annual March for Life in Washington is typically handled by the media. The spontaneous blackout of effective news coverage of this event—which actually creates a very effective...

Who's obsessed with abortion? Certainly not the Catholic clergy by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Jan 22, 2014

Introducing a friendly interview with Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the Boston Herald notes that the cardinal will be attending the March for Life, then continues: “And although he and the Church are pro-life, there’s a little-known, compassionate outreach program the Catholic Church runs for women who...

The Church’s Mark of Unity, and How It Works by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Jan 22, 2014

Each week we profess our faith in a Church that is not just holy, Catholic and apostolic, but also one. Traditionally, the unity of the Church has been considered in terms of unity of faith, unity of cult, and unity of charity. Members of the Church believe the same things, worship in the same...

Rooting out corruption at the Vatican: unfinished business by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - Jan 23, 2014

Pope Francis came into office with a clear mandate to clean up corruption in Rome. He’s working on it, but there’s a great deal still to be done. For instance: Msgr. Nunzio Scarano, who was arrested last year for attempting to bring €20 million into Italy illegally, now...

When people face death, what are their thoughts? by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Jan 23, 2014

In November of 1968, a Phillips gas drilling platform was hammered by a Winter gale. The waves of the North Sea pummeled the rig some twenty-three miles out of Great Yarmouth, England. During the height of the storm, with winds averaging about 50 mph, the rig crew suffered an enormous blowout from...

Or could the Internet be an uncontrollable nuclear weapon? by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - Jan 23, 2014

I really like Pope Francis’ new message for the World Day of Communications. Our news coverage provokes interest with this headline: Internet is 'gift from God,' Pope writes. And the Pope has indeed written some of the most profound thoughts yet about how this gift, and the...

The Church’s Mark of Holiness, Noted by Friends and Foes by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Jan 27, 2014

Once again we begin with the Catholic profession of Faith in a Church that is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. Yet because of the sins of her members, there can be no mark of the Church’s life that is harder to defend than the mark of holiness. We may feel this acutely in the wake of...

Mass offerings: a useful survey by Thomas Van in "The City Gates" - Jan 27, 2014

We recently received the following note from a reader, Father Albert Dello Russo: Dear Sirs: I am a priest graduate canon law student at the Catholic University of America. I am writing my thesis on the subject of Mass offerings [for the intention of a loved one] and their licit retention by...

Rolling Stone? Don't bother by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Jan 28, 2014

Have you seen the new issue of Rolling Stone, with a picture of Pope Francis on the cover? If you have, then you’ve already derived every possible benefit from the magazine’s profile of the Holy Father. The picture is accurate. That really is a shot of Pope Francis. The article...

On the Spiritual Growth of Larry and Carl and...Us by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "In Depth Analysis" - Jan 28, 2014

I have a friend named Larry who is as secular and as liberal as they come. He thinks religious dogma divides people, preventing them from reaching out to each other in their common humanity. He is convinced that science is the key to human progress. I have another friend named Carl who is about as...

Who Is the Enemy? A Growing Emphasis on Changing Ourselves by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Jan 29, 2014

Those who have followed the history of the Church over the past 50 years, and have also followed my own writing, will have noticed some significant shifts. When I began to develop a sense of Catholic mission in the 1960s, this mission was shaped by the widespread failure of the hierarchy of the...

What IS usury, anyway? by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Jan 30, 2014

Yesterday we reported that Pope Francis denounced usury during his Wednesday general audience. Of course, our reporter did not deign to explain what usury is, and that is just another demonstration of the wisdom of the Catholic World News team. Because in modern commercial societies, usury is a...

Challenge for a religious journalist: how to handle a report about exorcism by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - Jan 30, 2014

How should a news service like CWN, dedicated to providing a Catholic perspective on current events, handle a story like this one, about a reported exorcism in Gary, Indiana? It is a complicated story, with a very confused religious background. There are hints of dabbling in the occult,...

Being a Good Father by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Jan 31, 2014

When I look back on the roughly thirty-five years my wife and I spent raising our six children, I tend to remember my own deficiencies as a father more than anything else. Some parents have a wonderful capacity to remember all the good times in extraordinary detail, but the specific moments which...

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