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All Catholic commentary from December 2016

Cardinal Müller walks the tightrope: A Catholic tutorial? by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "In Depth Analysis" - Dec 2, 2016

I have been advocating the end of an unhealthy preoccupation with the problems presented by Pope Francis, but I am going to risk further comment because I find that Cardinal Müller’s current predicament offers a fairly healthy way to put things in perspective. The head of the...

Three things the Pope can’t say by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Dec 5, 2016

Within the Catholic Church, the authority of the Roman Pontiff is considerable. But even papal authority—and especially papal infallibility—has its limits. The Pope speaks with authority when he sets forth the deposit of the Faith, explaining—in union with the college of...

The Jesse Tree, Part 1: Relating the Old Testament to Children by Jennifer Gregory Miller in "Liturgical Year Blog" - Dec 5, 2016

When I was young, my family had a Jesse Tree as part of our Advent traditions. The tree itself was a simple 4-foot artificial tree. I was seven when my mother made the ornaments out of salt dough and painted with acrylic paint using designs suggested in...

Sing of Mary, 4a: Everything there is to know about the Mother of God, Part 1 by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "In Depth Analysis" - Dec 6, 2016

One way to retreat from vexing situations, without failing to grow in our ability to handle them well, is to turn our attention to Mary, who faced so many of these situations without being able to change the unpleasant outcomes—outcomes which had their own role to play in Divine Providence....

St. Ambrose’s impact on St. Augustine: Excerpts from The Confessions by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "In Depth Analysis" - Dec 8, 2016

Since yesterday was the feast of St. Ambrose, and St. Ambrose played an important role in the conversion of St. Augustine, I wanted to highlight what Augustine said about Ambrose in his spiritual autobiography, The Confessions. While putting this together, I was called away to occupy my...

Divorce, remarriage, and sin: a hypothetical case by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Dec 9, 2016

Imagine that you are a priest hearing confessions. Penitent #1 says that he was drunk last night. He is a struggling alcoholic, he tells you. He’d kept sober for a while, but yesterday he fell into bad old habits. He has sought help with his problem, he’s in a program, and he vows...

The Gift of the Priestly Vocation: The importance of countercultural formation by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Dec 9, 2016

As we reported on December 7th, the Congregation for the Clergy issued a new outline of proper formation for the priesthood, a framework for more detailed plans to be developed in the various countries around the world. It is symptomatic of the problems facing the Church today that our headline...

Quick Hits: Friedkin, Scorcese, Tolkien, Lewis by Thomas V. Mirus in "The City Gates" - Dec 10, 2016

Several things that caught my eye over the past two months: Some big names in the world of film have been getting an inside look at Catholicism. Earlier this year William Friedkin, who directed 1973’s The Exorcist, received permission from the late Fr. Gabriele Amorth to witness and...

Rather Than Global Warming, Worry about Wormwood by Fr. Jerry Pokorsky in "On the News" - Dec 12, 2016

Several years ago an article appeared in the Washington Post, of all places, on the history of contraception. The writer reported that wormwood—a kind of herbal derivative—was used as a contraceptive by the ancients. (The story came to mind after reading George Sim Johnston’s...

Second marriages and the casualties of spiritual combat by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - Dec 13, 2016

Spiritual combat: the phrase that is not often heard from the pulpit these days. But it is a phrase worth keeping in mind as we wrestle our way through the confusion that now clouds the Catholic teaching on marriage. In the early days of this pontificate, Pope Francis raised eyebrows with his...

Sing of Mary, 4b: Everything there is to know about the Mother of God, Part 2 by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "In Depth Analysis" - Dec 13, 2016

Having introduced Michael Hesemann’s remarkable book last week, I’d like to complete my consideration, as promised, of Mary of Nazareth: History, Archeology, Legends. The pervious installment closed after considering the Holy House of Loreto, where Mary lived with Joseph. Let us press...

Pope Francis on secularism, terrorism and the synodal Church by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "In Depth Analysis" - Dec 14, 2016

In his interview on December 7th with the Belgian Catholic weekly, Tertio, Pope Francis touched on a number of important points. I promised in last Friday’s Insights message to discuss it this week. As usual, his answers were somewhat confused, but he did give us a great deal to think about....

Diminishing two signs of Faith: The Eucharist, the Crèche by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - Dec 15, 2016

A priest has decided not to continue the tradition of setting up a Nativity scene in the public cemetery in the Italian city of Cremona. Since the crèche would be visible from a section of the cemetery used by Muslims, Fr. Sante Braggie fears it “could be seen as a lack of...

Beginning the O Antiphons by Jennifer Gregory Miller in "Liturgical Year Blog" - Dec 16, 2016

I’m interrupting my Jesse Tree posts because the O Antiphons begin tomorrow, December 17. This is one of my favorite parts of the Liturgical Year and so I try to not let a year pass without writing something about them. (My apologies for the delay on the Jesse Tree Part Two as family...

Religious freedom, meaningless without truth by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Dec 16, 2016

U.S. President Barack Obama praised the Maccabees on Wednesday at a White House Hanukkah reception. The Maccabees were a family of brothers who, following their father’s lead, defended Israel against conquest by pagans in the second century before Christ. Praising Jews who “dare to...

The rhetorical strategy to debunk the dubia by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - Dec 16, 2016

At this point it’s quite clear: close associates of Pope Francis, defenders of Amoris Laetita and critics of the four cardinals who submitted the famous dubia are all reading from the same script. When you notice that many different people are using the same arguments—in fact the same...

A unique Advent/Christmas album sets the O Antiphons to music by Thomas V. Mirus in "On the Culture" - Dec 16, 2016

As Jennifer Gregory Miller has noted, tomorrow begins the O Antiphons prayed at Vespers for the seven days leading up to Christmas Eve. Few enough even among practicing Catholics are probably aware of the O Antiphons that it is a pleasant surprise to see that an album largely based around them has...

Quick Hits: Appalled reactions to Canadian bishops’ tepid stand on assisted suicide by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Dec 16, 2016

For readers still stunned by the directive from bishops of Canada’s Atlantic region, leaving open the possibility that people planning assisted suicide could receive the sacraments, two columns provide useful perspective: Writing for First Things, in a short but powerful essay that...

Catholica Summer Program in Rome: Highly recommended for young men by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - Dec 19, 2016

Joe Long contacted me over the weekend to let me know about the new Summer Program he is running in Rome for young men aged 14 to 18. Joe is a good friend of one of my sons and a graduate of Christendom College (the four-year Catholic liberal arts college I helped to establish way back in 1977)....

No, don’t turn down the heat on the Amoris debate by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - Dec 19, 2016

John Allen, an honest and seasoned reporter who always tries to present a balanced perspective on Vatican affairs, is true to form in his column, Thoughts on turning down the heat in the ‘Amoris’ debate. There’s no reason to doubt his sincerity as he searches for a way to...

On pastoral accompaniment to nowhere by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - Dec 19, 2016

In a brilliant column entitled ”The Obedience of Faith” posted on The Catholic Thing, Fr. Robert Imbelli captures what is wrong with the kind of pastoral accompaniment which assumes that people are doing the best they can when they still refuse to turn away from sin. Imbelli...

A stunning new volume of spiritual reading by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Dec 19, 2016

Are you still looking for a Christmas gift for a serious thoughtful Catholic? Or do you need some new spiritual reading for yourself? For either purpose I heartily recommend The Wellspring of Worship, by Jean Corbon. Last year I found this book under the Christmas tree: a gift from my wonderful...

The absurd argument of the dubia critics: an illustration by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Dec 20, 2016

One more quick comment on the dubia debate, and then—I hope, unless I’m unduly provoked—I’ll turn my attention to happier thoughts of Christmas. The argument against the dubia, if I understand it correctly (which is not certain, since it is never made explicit), runs...

The Jesse Tree, Part 2: Finding the Essential for the Family by Jennifer Gregory Miller in "Liturgical Year Blog" - Dec 20, 2016

I’m concluding my Jesse Tree discussion, just as Advent closes. In Part One I discussed presenting the Old Testament to children, using the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd as a guideline. The aspects I want to carry forward in my home are presenting the Old Testament in a deliberate manner,...

The scandalous concreteness of the Gospel by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Dec 20, 2016

It always astonishes me how prone we humans are to making up our religion as we go along. Of course, many of us do not realize there is anything else we can do. Left to our own devices, we are faced with the task of explaining our yearning for transcendence. But we do not see clearly enough to do...

John Labarbara’s surprising take on “knowing God’s love” by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - Dec 21, 2016

This afternoon I skimmed through a book recently published by Sophia Institute Press. The title is Knowing God’s Love, and the subtitle is “8 Essential Truths Every Catholic Should Know”. Imagine my surprise, then, when I found that author John Labarbara shifts his discussion...

Quick Hits: Scorsese’s Silence, leftists look to the Pope, ‘room at the inn’ in the Bronx by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Dec 22, 2016

A few last-minute reading assignments before the Christmas break: Steven Greydanus, an insightful film reviewer with a reliably Catholic perspective, offers his thoughts on Silence, the new Martin Scorsese film based on the novel by Shusaku Endo. The novel is heart-wrenching, profoundly...

An Undelivered Christmas Homily by Fr. Jerry Pokorsky in "On the News" - Dec 23, 2016

In a J.F. Powers short story written shortly after the Second Vatican Council, a priest is asked, “Father, how can we make sanctity as attractive as sex to the common man?” It’s a provocative question and worthy of a thoughtful answer—perhaps not from the pulpit. After all,...

Pope Francis: Hope through the Sacrament of Penance by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Dec 30, 2016

Whatever concerns we may have about how Pope Francis is handling access to the Eucharist by those in invalid marriages, there is a common theme in nearly everything he says and does. I refer to the Pope’s emphasis on the Church as a field hospital in which the chief method of healing is the...