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Commentary Archive

All Catholic commentary from February 2009

illiterate by Diogenes in "Off the Record" - Feb 2, 2009

 For the Vatican, a teachable moment Thus reads the headline for a blog item on the USA Today site. The author, Stephen Prothero, who chairs the religion department at Boston University, sees the teachable moment and condescends to teach us. It's always nice when a scholar offers to...

Marcial Maciel Degollado by Diogenes in "Off the Record" - Feb 3, 2009

An OTR reader sends us a  message concerning the founder of the Legion of Christ: The last few days a little editing war has been going on on Maciel's wikipedia page.  A paragraph was added early on the morning of the Jan. 28, by an IP address from Hartford, CT.  It was removed by...

a failure of imagination by Diogenes in "Off the Record" - Feb 3, 2009

An attorney representing the Los Angeles archdiocese can't see why a federal prosecutor would be interested in the way Church leaders handled sex-abuse problems.   "We have been unable to even hypothesize a crime that might have been committed in the handling of these...

unintentional by Diogenes in "Off the Record" - Feb 3, 2009

 It's over now, but in his earlier effort to preserve his chance to become a Cabinet secretary, former Senator Tom Daschle produced an interesting line: My mistakes were unintentional. Now if you run into somebody who makes mistakes intentionally, that's a man you don't want in the...

The Legionaries after Father Maciel by Phil Lawler in "In Depth Analysis" - Feb 3, 2009

What you and I think of the late Father Marcial Maciel Degollado matters not one whit to the man himself. He has already answered to a higher authority. But the reputation of Father Maciel is a matter of acute interest to the clerics who surrounded him during his years as leader of the...

Far too late by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - Feb 4, 2009

 On January 26, the Holy Father lifted the excommunications of four traditionalist bishops.  On February 4, the Vatican issued an explanatory statement. A few simple observations: You don't have to be a public-relations genius to realize that the explanation should have...

And far too crazy by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Feb 4, 2009

This from a reader: “There is absolutely no excuse for [Pope Benedict’s] current decision with the Pius X people, thus alienating the Jewish people just as he did previously with the Moslems.” Nor is this reader alone. Just look at some recent headlines: German bishops...

Is It April 1st? by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Feb 5, 2009

As if to confirm the point I made yesterday in "And far too crazy", here comes Newsweek (2/9/2009) with a major three-page spread explaining what Benedict XVI is up to in this matter of the Society of St. Pius X. It seems that Benedict’s whole purpose is to refashion the...

The Five First Principles of Prayer by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "In Depth Analysis" - Feb 6, 2009

If we get too busy with “projects”, including the Catholic Culture Project, we’re sure to forget about the role prayer must play in all of them. At the same time, it would be a poor spirituality that sought to emphasize prayer only for the sake of particular projects. If our prayer is completely...

the circular firing squad by Diogenes in "Off the Record" - Feb 6, 2009

As the last howls of outrage subside, and the damage-control squadrons stand down, Vatican officials have begun to assess what went wrong with the Pope's announcement of what was intended to be a move toward reconciliation within the Church, but became the Williamson Debacle. Some clerics are...

got milk? by Diogenes in "Off the Record" - Feb 6, 2009

 In his generally unfriendly treatment of Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos (see the previous entry), Jeff Israely of Time magazine provides a remarkable anecdote about the Colombian cardinal: He has gone deep into Colombian jungles to mediate between leftist guerrillas and right-wing death...

Readers chime in by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - Feb 6, 2009

 Each week we receive scores of messages from readers, responding to items on the Catholic Culture site. In many (but not all) cases these readers give permission for us to reproduce their messages. In many cases our readers have very useful insights; in others they raise questions that...

high performers by Diogenes in "Off the Record" - Feb 9, 2009

(This item from the OTR archives, originally posted on December 14, 2006, takes on special poignancy in light of our current economic circumstances.) The current NCR has a piece on corporate America's solution to the Catholic Church's management problems. The driving concept behind the lay-led...

the Obama magisterium by Diogenes in "Off the Record" - Feb 9, 2009

“Benedict is unteachable in matters of birth control and abortion..." So says Hans Küng, the Swiss theologian who has made it clear over the years that he is ready to embrace the authority of the Church magisterium as long as the magisterium agrees with him. And if Küng did...

No room for sinners? by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - Feb 9, 2009

First Bishop Wiliamson caused scandal by questioning the severity of the Holocaust. Now a leading German prelate, in his haste to condemn Williamson's statement, has scandalized me. Archbishop Robert Zollitsch told Der Spiegel that Bishop Williamson is "impossible and irresponsible."...

competent enough to be negligent in style by Diogenes in "Off the Record" - Feb 9, 2009

The latest arcane legal question, in the battle for the life of Eluana Englaro, is whether or not the clinic where she is being starved to death is properly qualified for the task. Huh? Doctors are specially trained to keep people alive. It doesn't take any training at all to let a comatose...

the Church has clout! by Leila in "Off the Record" - Feb 10, 2009

The New York Times is so funny. Just the fact that they put this story on indulgences on the front page amuses me, as does their incoherent grappling with the theology involved. They handle the subject pretty much the way I would if I had to explain the mysteries of the relationship...

the stimulus package explained by Diogenes in "Off the Record" - Feb 10, 2009

 Please authorize me to spend a bajillion dollars.  We don't have that kind of money in the treasury, of course, but don't worry about it. We'll leave a big stack of IOUs; the taxpayers can settle up later. The important thing is to inspire confidence in the health of the...

Keep Your PC Safe! by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Feb 10, 2009

My consulting firm, Trinity Consulting, dealt with two intrusions on client networks today. In one case, an intruder stole a password, logged into a web server and added a link to the client’s home page which automatically downloaded a Trojan to the computer of anyone who...

what's eatin' you? by Diogenes in "Off the Record" - Feb 11, 2009

 The Obama team rolled out its plan to fix the nation's financial markets, and those financial markets went into a downward spiral. The more investors learned about the plan, the lower the market fell. Here's how two leading newspapers (under the same management) covered the story:  The...

Happy Birthday, Faithful Departed by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - Feb 11, 2009

For official purposes, The Faithful Departed was published one year ago today. After a year, and now into its second printing, I'm happy to report that my book is still selling well, still having an impact. In one of the earliest reviews (appearing even before the official publication date), the...

omerta by Diogenes in "Off the Record" - Feb 11, 2009

Today's New York Times tells us the story of "A Birth Control Pill That Promised Too Much." Or rather the Times tells us part of the story. There's something missing. The story involves the pill marketed as "Yaz," which had been hyped not only as a contraceptive but also as a...

Conflicting Teachings of the Magisterium? by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "In Depth Analysis" - Feb 12, 2009

The doctrinal issues which divide the Society of St. Pius X and other Traditionalists from the Church are all rooted in the perception that, in the second half of the twentieth century and particularly at the Second Vatican Council, the Magisterium of the Church has contradicted its earlier...

Wealth and Culture by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Feb 13, 2009

It is very difficult to give concrete advice to anyone about his possession and use of the goods of this world. Every person who has ever lived has been called to cultivate the virtues of detachment and generosity, and yet the specific economic circumstances in which these virtues...

more Catholic than the papist by Diogenes in "Off the Record" - Feb 13, 2009

 Absolutely brilliant. Look for other Jesuit colleges to imitate the public-relations ploy that's worked so well for Boston College, and remember that Uncle Di told you it was coming. Putting crucifixes back in classrooms is an easy way to rack up points for "Catholic identity"...

The Ecclesial Context of Personal Prayer by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Feb 16, 2009

As a follow-up to my column The Five First Principles of Prayer, I want to reiterate what I said in the conclusion: “But there is much more that could be said about prayer, about its nature and its stages, and especially about the deep relationship between prayer and growth in...

The Legion of Christ & its founder by Diogenes in "Off the Record" - Feb 17, 2009

 What do we know about the misbehavior of Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, deceased founder of the Legion of Christ? In strict terms: nothing. In part this is the fault of the Holy See, whose 2006 communiqué did not specify the wrongs in response to which it "invited"...

The crucial test for the pontificate of Benedict XVI by Phil Lawler in "In Depth Analysis" - Feb 17, 2009

Years from now, I feel certain, Church historians will look back upon the early months of 2009 as the crucial test of this pontificate. Four years after he assumed the throne of St. Peter, Pope Benedict has run into a solid wall of resistance to his pastoral plans. That resistance is evident not...

ad majorem by Diogenes in "Off the Record" - Feb 18, 2009

 Insufficient attention to Chapter 20 of Leviticus and Chapter 1 of Romans has led to confrontation with Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.  The Seattle Times and the Seattle Post Intelligencer report: Confronted by scores of lawsuits alleging sex abuse by priests, the Jesuits of...

Correction: the Pope's book is already out by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - Feb 18, 2009

A few weeks ago, as I sent out the day's CWN headlines, I commented that some enterprising publisher should collect the Pope's weekly reflections and publish them in book form. I was thinking specifically of Pope Benedict's series of weekly talks, delivered at his Wednesday public audiences, on...

the bishops and the economy by Diogenes in "Off the Record" - Feb 19, 2009

"Where it is not necessary for a bishop to speak, it is necessary for a bishop not to speak." I think the axiom overstates the case, but it is not without wisdom.  A bishop's appointed task is to sanctify, to instruct, to govern.  In brief: his job is to keep us from going...

Icy Vatican reception damaging to Pelosi by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - Feb 19, 2009

 Did you see the photo of Nancy Pelosi with Pope Benedict XVI during her visit to the Vatican yesterday? No, you didn't. There was no photo, because there was no photographer on hand when they met. The Speaker of the House went to Rome hoping for a photo op. A smiling picture of herself...

not 'fairly' but 'clearly' by Diogenes in "Off the Record" - Feb 20, 2009

During a Fox news interview with Archbishop Charles Chaput, discussing Nancy Pelosi's visit to the Vatican, host Neil Cavuto suggested that the archbishop might see the question of a Catholic politician's responsibility regarding abortion as a "fairly black-and-white issue." Not quite,...

What is it about Obama's choice(s) for HHS? by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - Feb 20, 2009

 If you're old enough to remember the early years of the Reagan Administration, these names might ring some bells: Clark, Allen, Casey, Haig, Walters, Bennett, Pauken, Higgins, Buckley, Shakespeare, Donovan, Rowny, Buchanan. What did they have in common? They were all close to Reagan: in key...

Readers comment on Pope Benedict's challenge by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - Feb 20, 2009

 It's Friday, and time for another round of comments from CWN readers. All of the comments below are in reply to my Commentary essay, "The Crucial Test for the Pontificate of Benedict XVI." Daniel Kintz writes: Your negativity is unfortunate. Like the media, you are choosing to...

Am I Writing about Nothing Today? by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "In Depth Analysis" - Feb 20, 2009

For a year or more I’ve felt prodded (by either the Holy Spirit or my ego) to introduce another form of writing into the mix at CatholicCulture.org, something more laid back, something more charming. There is so much more to living the Faith than commenting on the news, defending Catholic...

rather trying to keep his head down by Diogenes in "Off the Record" - Feb 23, 2009

The current Atlantic has a lengthy article by Paul Elie called The Velvet Reformation: partly a profile of Dr. Rowan Williams, partly a stock-taking of the state of gay lib in the Anglican Communion. The piece is characteristic of Elie in the extensiveness of the background reading and in...

clarification of... something unclear by Diogenes in "Off the Record" - Feb 23, 2009

On Saturday the Vatican press office released a statement which I quote here in its entirety: The communications media not infrequently attribute to the 'Vatican' - meaning by that the Holy See - comments and points of view that cannot in fact automatically be attributed thereto. In fact, when...

Did he jump or was he pushed? Wait; has he jumped at all? by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - Feb 23, 2009

Last week in my Commentary essay, "The crucial test for the pontificate of Benedict XVI," I commented on the controversial appointment of an auxiliary bishop of Linz, Austria, and reported: "Father Wagner had asked the Pope to withdraw his nomination. And the Pope had...

The Historic Christian Defense of Life by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Feb 23, 2009

Tired of pro-choice Christians going on about how their stance is a gospel virtue? A new book by Dennis Di Mauro goes far toward undermining that claim. Di Mauro is the Secretary of the National Pro-Life Religious Council, which provides coordination and impact...

...and the archbishop's a Catholic too by Diogenes in "Off the Record" - Feb 24, 2009

 Another triumph of investigative reporting! The New York Times has unearthed this fascinating tidbit about the city's new archbishop:  On matters of doctrine, the archbishop, 59, adheres to the line laid down by Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict, including firm opposition to...

preparing for lent by Diogenes in "Off the Record" - Feb 24, 2009

What day is today? Right!  It's Day Two of "Transgender Awareness Week" -- at Seattle's Jesuit university, at any rate, where the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Trans & Allies Club are teaming up to deliver on the classic boast of Jesuit education: give us a boy,...

How We Think by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Feb 24, 2009

Two interesting stories in the special “Mind & Body” issue of Time (February 23rd) raise significant questions—as I suppose they should—about how we think in contemporary America. First, Jeffrey Kluger’s cover story, “How Faith Can Heal”, explores the...

Bearing bad news by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - Feb 24, 2009

 Every day there's more bad news. There's good news, too. But nobody complains about reading the good news.  On a fairly regular basis, I receive complaints that Catholic World News carries too many negative stories. As I glance over today's CWN headlines, and see a half-dozen different...

Lenten Fasting: What about Liquids? by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Feb 25, 2009

Standing around the office water cooler today, we’ve been having some humorous discussions about fasting. Are liquids in or out? In the face of the prevailing uncertainty, I decided to put a decisive end to speculation before Good Friday. After extensive research, I find that it...

going, gone by Diogenes in "Off the Record" - Feb 26, 2009

Mark Steyn explains why Western élites who think it's necessary "to throw out the babies to save the bathwater" have it wrong: It's striking that, no matter how many British women think globally and sterilize locally, the population of the United Kingdom keeps rising: those...

let's pretend by Diogenes in "Off the Record" - Feb 26, 2009

Reading Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's dissent from the recent "Honest Practices" decision, I was momentarily distracted by the following passage: It is practically gospel in the lower courts that the statute “does not encompass every instance of official...

trained as a shaman by Diogenes in "Off the Record" - Feb 26, 2009

Thomas Peters and Jeff Miller direct us to Tom Pedicone's blog, whose son Anthony attended Mass last Sunday at the Rochester Institute of Technology's Newman Center.  Celebrating was Fr. Richard Hunt, S.J., who, according to Pedicone: processed...

not going anywhere by Diogenes in "Off the Record" - Feb 26, 2009

 The Dean of the College of Cardinals holds a mostly ceremonial role. Until recently it was assumed that once a prelate became the Dean, he would remain in that post until death. But in 1993, Cardinal Angelo Rossi set a precedent. Having reached the age of 80, and having thereby become...

how to spot a hidden religious agendum by Diogenes in "Off the Record" - Feb 27, 2009

In the New Scientist, book review editor Amanda Gefter seeks to warn her readers about putatively scientific works that contain covert religious propaganda -- which, by her reckoning, is intrinsically unscientific. Her effort is hard to understand, since on her own terms the scientists she's...

The Consequences of Not Fasting by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "In Depth Analysis" - Feb 27, 2009

In his Message for Lent 2009, Pope Benedict focuses on just one thing: the revival of the ancient Christian practice of fasting. I certainly cannot improve on his presentation, so with respect to what Benedict says, I simply repeat an earlier recommendation to read it for yourself, and then act...

Still waiting... by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - Feb 27, 2009

 On Monday the Catholic News Agency reported that an important new policy statement on the future of the Legionaries of Christ would be issued the next day "or Wednesday at the latest." It's Friday now, and night has already fallen at the Legion headquarters in Rome. Still no...

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