In Depth Analysis

Extended commentary and thoughtful Catholic essays on complex topics.

Cardinal Müller walks the tightrope: A Catholic tutorial?

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...

The Morality of Money, 6: Social Consequences of Inflation

We have seen the damage inflation does to the common good primarily in terms of its strictly economic impact. But in The Ethics of Money Production, Hulsmann enumerates a great many ways in which inflation has been corrosive of social and moral life in the past two centuries, and it would not do...

The Morality of Money, 5: Moral Hazard and Malinvestment

Fractional-reserve banking depends on the assumption that the bank’s clients will not all try to redeem their notes at once: that there will not be a “run” on the bank. But as Hulsmann and other Austrian economists have argued, even if one banker is cautious in the degree of his...

The Morality of Money, 4: Manipulation by the State

Fractional-reserve banking and inflation can happen on a free market, but only on the fringes. In The Ethics of Money Production, Hulsmann argues that it is government that allows inflation to become widespread, either protecting it by legalizing the falsification of money, or itself perpetrating...

The Morality of Money, 3: Money, Banking, and Inflation

A crucial period of transition between natural and forced money in the West was the emergence of banking as we understand it today—that is, fractional-reserve banking. In The Ethics of Money Production, Hulsmann details the development of banks from mere money warehouses to money-creating...

Is it a mark of rigidity to accuse others of rigidity? A spiritual proposal concerning Pope Francis.

Like a great many other Catholics, I was astonished by Pope Francis’ harsh dismissal of young people who prefer the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. It is a dangerous business to assume that another person’s preferences constitute “rigidity”. And it is even more...

The Morality of Money, 2: Natural and Forced Money

It is easy for us in the twenty-first century to take for granted that our money has no value whatsoever other than as a medium of exchange, and that it works as such simply because our governments imbue it with value—hence the term “fiat money.” If money derives its value solely...

The Morality of Money, 1: The Problem of Money Production

It is not uncommon to hear of Popes or bishops strongly criticizing the global economic order, and calling for the creation of new institutions to implement financial and monetary reform. Pope Benedict XVI, for example, suggested that a “true world political authority” was needed to...

Rehabilitating Pope Francis, and saving ourselves

Over the past few weeks I’ve received a number of emails which rebuke me for a tendency to defend Pope Francis whenever I believe I can do so reasonably. As someone who has also criticized the Pope on several issues, I find the logic of this position elusive, to say the least. I would think...

The importance of words: The key to our Catholic mission

I notice that Piero Doria has written a new book (in Italian) on the history of the Second Vatican Council. As an historian who works in the Vatican’s Secret Archives, he probably had access to a good deal of information about what was going on behind the scenes at the time. So I hope it...

Confidence in the Church: Our position of strength

When I outlined the suffering we experience when confronted with any form of infidelity in a pope (or a bishop or a pastor), I concluded that we should not expect the life of a Catholic to be free of such hardships, any more than we should expect our best pastors to be free of suffering induced by...

Confidence in the Church: What do we do when we want to cry?

It’s been a difficult year for deeply-committed Catholics, by which I mean those who accept all that the Church teaches and who sincerely try to conform their lives to Christ in accordance with Divine Revelation and natural law—of which the Church alone is the custodian. This is the...

Christianity as stumbling block: The great scandal of an Incarnational life

When I wrote on Wednesday about the scandalous concreteness of Christianity, I didn’t tell the half of it. My argument was that because its essence is found in the Word made flesh, Christianity possesses a particularity or concreteness that resists our all too human temptation to invent...

Should we criticize Pope Francis, or not? If so, how?
Part 3: Caveats

In Part 1 of this series, I explained why criticism of Pope Francis has considerable value. In Part 2, I explored a dozen different forms or methods of criticism which can be used in various circumstances, whether to criticize Pope Francis or anyone else. In this final part, I want to call...

Should we criticize Pope Francis, or not? If so, how?
Part 2: Methods

There is a big difference in the general “atmosphere” as I post this second part of my reflection on the problem of criticizing the pope. I wrote Part 1 just before it became clear that Pope Francis had privately told the bishops of Argentina that they had given his apostolic...

Papal governance by sleight-of-hand strains my grasp of culpability and Canon Law.

The quarrel over the position I took in “Not heretical: Pope Francis’ approval of the Argentine bishops’ policy on invalid marriages” has prompted both serious rebuttals and catcalls around the web. All of this swirls around the Pope’s pastoral approach to divorce and...

Should we criticize Pope Francis, or not? If so, how?
Part 1: Rationale

Over the last thirty days my own criticism of Pope Francis has been more pronounced than usual. Given last week’s extensive criticism of the Pope’s suggestion regarding the works of mercy by both myself and Phil Lawler, it may seem that CatholicCulture.org is in the midst of...

Repentance: A refusal to remain on the peripheries

One of the reasons Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was elected as Pope Francis is because of the intervention he made at the meetings of cardinals prior to the conclave which elected him. These interventions, which highlighted what each cardinal believed to be the most serious needs of the Church, were...

Back to Amoris Laetitia: When do we owe “religious submission of mind and will”?

A Spanish ecclesiology professor, Fr. Salvador Pie-Ninot, has asserted in L’Osservatore Romano that Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia is an act of the ordinary Magisterium which requires religious submission of mind and will. Speaking very generally, he is right that...

Understanding the Vatican’s structure for financial management

Over the last several years, the effort to make the administration of Vatican funds more transparent—and the administrators more accountable—has reached center stage in the ongoing process of curial reform. Economic and financial reform have become increasingly important with rising...

Don’t discount meaning. It leads to happiness.

I’m gazing out a window overlooking Willsboro Bay on Lake Champlain. I have an opportunity to do this for a few days most Summers, because my mother-in-law has a “camp” up here. Each time I do so, I am struck by the beauty of the place. And each time I experience this beauty, it...

Ad Orientem: Thoughts on debating the non-essential

When it comes to discussions of the liturgy, some readers find my viewpoint appalling, while others regard it as a breath of fresh air. The reason is fairly simple: I have an extremely “intellectual” piety, which means I find nearly every liturgical form and setting to be a distraction...

Is marriage a trap? Our preoccupation with nullity

It would be very difficult to assess all the conditions which impact a couple’s readiness for marriage. It is equally difficult to determine how unfavorable cultural factors may influence this readiness. We can discern adverse cultural trends, but there are many subcultures, and there are...

On speaking the truth: Is confusion the chief “Francis effect”?

Speaking the truth is perfectly compatible with charity. To think otherwise is to mistake charity for mere “niceness”. It is also to miss the point of Pope Benedict’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth) (2009). In fact, the failure to tell the truth to those who are...

Caution! The Vatican's new magazine for women

As we reported on Wednesday, a magazine devoted to women is now being published as a regular “insert” for the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano. The dust has still to settle on this, but the initial reports have naturally raised questions, most of which will probably prove...

Catholics Rising: Why Catholicism cannot be stopped

Perhaps it is time to state the obvious. The Catholic Faith, and the Church that announces and nourishes this Faith throughout history, cannot be stopped. This is a matter of Divine guarantee. Speaking of the Church built on Peter the rock, Our Lord promised: “The powers of death shall not...

The Controversy at the Heart of Amoris Laetitia

If Catholics who have divorced and remarried without obtaining an annulment can in some cases be given permission to receive communion, will this do more harm than good? That’s the question at the heart of the controversy over Pope Francis’ post synodal apostolic exhortation,...

Church Fathers: Origen's Theology

It is appropriate to begin this brief summary of Origen’s theology with a reminder that many of the more imaginative aspects of his “doctrine” were presented as his personal speculation and distinguished from the truths taught by the universal Church which all were obligated to...

Deal breakers in the quest for religious unity and evangelization

In my series on the relationship between the quest for religious unity and evangelization, I touched only lightly on two particular issues which very much affect how we ought to approach both activities. The first issue is the balance on our part between openness and risk; the second is the...

How I won’t grow spiritually, but you might: New efforts to keep it simple.

There are three elements in spiritual reading which will generally put me off. I am going to enumerate them because your own case may be very different. These elements are characteristic of five otherwise perfectly fine new books on spiritual growth from three publishers which have been sitting on...

Responding to the papal interview as if truth matters

I don’t want to belabor the point; Phil’s commentary on the latest papal interview is outstanding as it stands (The damage done—again—by the Pope’s interview). We may wish at some point to further discuss the Pope’s incautious moral characterization of Donald...

The essential posture of evangelization: We are all adopted.

This is the fourth installment of my series on the relationship between the quest for religious unity and evangelization. A large part of what I have been trying to get at may be summarized in a simple comparison between how the relationship of Catholics to those in other religions was viewed five...

Vatican did not tell bishops to avoid reporting abuse-- and reporters missed the real story

This week I read dozens of headlines about a new Vatican document that allegedly instructed bishops not to report sex-abuse complaints to the local police. For example: Catholic Church Tells Bishops They Are Not Obliged to Disclose Child Sex Abuse: Report (Time) New Catholic bishops told...

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...

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...

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...

Under-the-radar signs of progress in Vatican reforms

Have you noticed that as Christmas approaches, you spend less time reading news headlines? There are two reasons for that phenomenon. First, you have other things on your mind; you’re busy with your last-minute preparations for the great feast. Second, the people who usually make the...

Old Earl's Christmas

I had known Earl for as long as I can remember, though he was my senior by thirty-seven years. He was a hard-working, reliable man, an excellent provider for his family, always responsible and deeply trustworthy. Born in 1911, he had already lived through the Great Depression and two world wars...

On the 'conversion' of Jews: The new Vatican statement

Our initial news story on the recent document issued by the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews was somewhat misleading (see New Vatican document: Catholics should not seek to convert Jews). The term “convert” in this context is usually used to describe the...

A case study in the development of doctrine

The trouble with master narratives of history is the air of inevitability they lend to events that could have gone very differently. Historians are the ones who construct narratives, yet it is also their job to disrupt them, or at least to go beyond them so that rather than taking the past for...

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