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Extended commentary and thoughtful Catholic essays on complex topics.

No items posted on June 01, 2012.

Opposition to Grace: Giannone as a Microcosm of Fordham by Dr. Jeff Mirus - May 30, 2012

I’ve pulled it back out of my trash can. I’m talking about Richard Giannone’s new book, Hidden: Reflections on Gay Life, AIDS, and Spiritual Desire. Giannone is a Professor Emeritus at Fordham. His book’s title strongly suggests its contents; it describes the...

The Natural Law and Sex by Dr. Jeff Mirus - May 16, 2012

Let’s suppose you want to construct an effective case for confining sexual relations to lifelong marriage between one man and one woman, in which each marital act is open to both life and love. You might turn directly to official Catholic teaching, but not unless your intended...

Subsidiarity: What It Really Means by Dr. Jeff Mirus - May 10, 2012

Earlier this week, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a statement saying that Paul Ryan’s budget proposal, which had just passed the House Budget Committee, failed to meet a “basic moral test”. The failure consisted in cuts to three specific programs,...

US Defense Spending and Cultural Imperialism by Dr. Jeff Mirus - May 2, 2012

Each time I have written about the horrendous tendency of Western states to spend beyond their means, I have emphasized the need to pull back from the creeping totalitarianism which characterizes first world nations. This would reduce or eliminate the nearly incredible costs associated with...

Why Philosophy Matters by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Apr 26, 2012

Reviewing God, Philosophy, Universities by Alasdair MacIntyre, which was first published in paperback last year, is a little like writing a summary of a summary. But it is an important summary. Subtitled “A Selective History of the Catholic Philosophical Tradition”, the book teaches us...

The Two Percent Rule: Damning Catholics with Impunity by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Apr 18, 2012

Mystery writer Robert Crais entitled one of his novels The Two Minute Rule. It is based on the premise that, when committing a crime such as robbing a bank, if you cannot get in and out within two minutes, your chances of being caught rise exponentially. This has inspired my...

The Sovereignty Myth: On the Limits of Political Authority by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Mar 15, 2012

Let me try again to make the limited and uncertain character of human government clear enough so that everyone can see the point. My first effort was in yesterday’s commentary, The Immigration Paradox: Blindness is Forbidden. There I attempted to explain, though perhaps confusedly, that no concept...

On the Guilt of “the Jews” by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Mar 7, 2012

From time to time, a theological question is raised about whether “the Jews” are guilty of the death of Christ in a way which reduces or even eliminates the guilt of the rest of us. A misunderstanding of the answer to this question has often been used as a pretext for Christian...

Proving God by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Feb 29, 2012

Robert J. Spitzer, SJ wrote an impressive book in 2010 entitled New Proofs for the Existence of God. It was impressive because Fr. Spitzer sought to update both the physical and the philosophical proofs for the existence of God, taking into account the kinds of problems which have been introduced...

Doctrine, Discipline and Holiness: Not Always What They Seem by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Feb 14, 2012

A letter in the latest Adoremus Bulletin reminded me that we “conservative Catholics” can go off the rails, at times, on disciplinary questions. The correspondent insisted that only musical instruments made from God’s own materials (that is, natural materials) were appropriate for use in Church....

The bishops' tougher response to the Obama 'compromise' mandate by Phil Lawler - Feb 11, 2012

After an initial muted reaction to President Obama’s proposed “accommodation,” the leaders of the US bishops’ conference have released a second, stronger statement, declaring that the mandate for contraceptive coverage in health-care programs remains “unacceptable and must be corrected.” On...

Abuse Scandal Casts a Shadow on a Candidate for Beatification by Phil Lawler - Feb 8, 2012

For well over a decade, the poisonous influence of the sex-abuse scandal has been spreading through the universal Church, shaking the faith and undermining the hierarchy in one country after another. Now the toxic influence of the scandal has seeped into yet another aspect of Catholic life,...

Clericalism by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Feb 1, 2012

I read through Russell Shaw’s book on clericalism last night. I had missed it the first time around, when it was published by Ignatius Press in 1993. Now it is out in a new printing from Wipf and Stock Publishers in Oregon. The full title is To Hunt, to Shoot, to Entertain: Clericalism and the...

Banning Contraception? The Art of the Possible by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jan 13, 2012

Phil Lawler’s brilliant essay on contraception and gay marriage (On same-sex marriage, who are the real ‘extremists’?) reminds me of why we are so fortunate to have him as part of the team that runs the show here. Two recent pieces in which I try to make broader and more abstract points about...

Ignorance, Ideology, Sovietology and Provisional Politics at Home by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jan 11, 2012

In dipping into a series of essays on ideology and totalitarianism, I’ve been reminded of the ludicrous ways in which Soviet Communism was conceptualized, explained and assessed throughout the twentieth century, from 1917 until the fall of the system in 1991, and perhaps beyond. This is a classic...

Saint Death, Churches, and Catholic Scholarship by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jan 6, 2012

As I finished skimming R. Andrew Chesnut’s new book on the Mexican/Mexican American cult of Santa Muerte (Saint Death), I happened to notice that the first cover blurb was from Thomas Tweed, author of another book in my stack, America’s Church. The latter book is good scholarship on the National...

Toward a Realistic View of Society by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Dec 15, 2011

In the “While We’re at It” section of First Things last month, I found this: “Critics of neoconservatism don’t seem to grasp that support for a market economy and limited government doesn’t express a romantic or idealistic view of business but a realistic view of government.” Many First Things...

Evil in Human Guise: Reflections Occasioned by Plan B by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Dec 9, 2011

It turns out that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius surprised everybody by denying approval for over-the-counter sales of Plan B. Had the petition gone through, it would have removed age restrictions from a drug which either prevents or ends pregnancy when taken shortly after...

The Moral Obligation of Reality, II by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Nov 28, 2011

In a Sound Off! comment on my last essay (The Moral Obligation of Reality), bservaes4399 explains that he does not see how my argument moves from what is to what ought to be. This question is not to be taken lightly. I have frequently raised it in my own mind as well. I’ll try here to make the...

Purgatory in Scripture: New Developments by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Nov 17, 2011

The Catholic doctrine of Purgatory and the Catholic practice of prayers for the dead stretch back to the earliest Christian period, but the emphasis on salvation by faith has typically caused Protestants to deny the existence of Purgatory. They also believe that Purgatory is unscriptural. Yet the...

Abortion, the Poisoning of Social Justice, and the Rush to Judgment by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Nov 8, 2011

I have a theory. I cannot provide statistical evidence to support it, but I still think it explains a good deal about why contemporary social services and anti-poverty initiatives, even in the Catholic Church herself, so often seem to be tainted by the culture of death. My theory is that the...

Parsing Beleaguered Words: The Perils of Getting Things Wrong by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Nov 3, 2011

Under duress, people say the darndest things. Often these comments help shape the world, for better or worse. But to get real value from these incidents, you have to parse the text; you have to grasp what is really being said. Here are four examples from recent news: The SSPX and the...

Shooting the Messenger: What the Church teaches about her own authority by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Oct 26, 2011

Phil Lawler and I have had some very negative responses to our commentaries on Monday’s recommendation by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace to establish a new stratum of world government to regulate certain aspects of the global economy (see PL, Spare us from Vatican economic analysts...

Fundamentalism and the Abandonment of Reason by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Oct 18, 2011

Is fundamentalism a significant problem? Do we even know what fundamentalism is? Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil drew my attention to it at the end of September when he asserted that, in Asia at least, “the greatest danger is precisely religious fundamentalism”. Archbishop Menamparampil is the...

What is Special about What We Do? by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Oct 5, 2011

The bottom line is that you can’t get what CatholicCulture.org offers anywhere else. This is a case we need to make effectively to our users if we expect them to dig deep to support this Catholic apostolic work. Let me make that case now. No potential supporter will doubt the importance of...

Toward a Viable Catholic Political Strategy for our Times by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Sep 30, 2011

Yesterday’s Catholic World News story about the brutality of China’s one-child policy is heart-wrenching. You’ll find the testimony from the recent US Congressional hearing compelling. But it raises a question which, in America at least, we too often fail to ask. I’m not referring to the...

Difficult Theology and the Goodness of God by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Sep 20, 2011

It is amazing, sometimes, the corners into which religious thinkers can paint themselves as they strive to unravel the mind of an infinite God. This can be true of any of us meditating on an aspect of God’s plan, and perhaps placing it somewhat askew in our own catalogue of truth. It can be true...

Prayer: A Primer on the Path to Union by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Sep 9, 2011

Prayer can be classified in more ways than we can count. From one point of view, we are either praying with the Church in liturgical prayer, or praying more generally in a group, or praying alone. From another point of view, we are praying either vocally or mentally. From still another vantage...

What Does it Mean to Be Saved? by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Sep 1, 2011

  A point that confuses both Catholics and Protestants is what Scripture means when it speaks of “salvation” or being “saved”. Protestants, following Luther, often think that being saved in Scripture refers to making it to heaven, without reference to membership in...

Catholic Gender Moralism and Cultural Chauvinism by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Aug 25, 2011

Bro. Rex Anthony Norris of the Little Portion Hermitage in the Diocese of Portland, Maine was kind enough to send us the text of a letter to the editor he found in the August 9th issue of Christian Century. I cannot recommend the magazine as a guide to faith of any sort, but it does occasionally...

Our Collective Wisdom: Responding Properly by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Aug 18, 2011

It is time to unveil the wisdom of the many CatholicCulture.org users who have kindly submitted their thoughts on how best to respond to those who condemn or rudely challenge the Church, the Faith and the related positions we must take in defending and advancing a Catholic worldview. You may...

Government, Natural Law, and the Modern State by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Aug 8, 2011

The governmental horse still has life enough, I think, for one more beating. Several of our readers have commented on the importance of governmental adherence to a law higher than itself. One of the grave problems in America and many other modern states is that the reigning philosophies of...

The Question of Government Size and Scope by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Aug 4, 2011

In Budgetary Reform: Opportunity Knocks, I made the point that budgetary problems should be perceived as an opportunity scale back the size of government. My premise was that, at least in the modern first world, government tends to be very big, deeply committed to social engineering, militantly...

Christian Human Dignity by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jul 27, 2011

I explained in the last installment why it made perfect sense to look to Revelation to determine the nature of human dignity, and I also explained why Judaism and Christianity were the first two places one should look for Revelation. But since I have often also explained the grounds on which I...

Clarifications on Sterile Marriages by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jul 8, 2011

My recent writings have caused some readers to raise two problems with respect to my arguments against homosexual unions. More than one person has written to question my emphasis on the procreation of children in marriage as the key to its special worth. And one seriously misguided correspondent...

Indifference to Evangelization, Rebuked by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jun 30, 2011

Not long ago I noticed some spam-like emails circulating from a certain Feeneyite source (to which I do not wish to give any publicity whatsoever), in which I was gratuitously denounced once again for my assertion that people can be saved without explicitly embracing Jesus Christ and His Church....

The Green Pope’s Dilemma by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jun 27, 2011

Criticism tends to run high on CatholicCulture.org whenever bishops speak out on environmental issues, though it is generally more muted when it comes to the statements of the Pope. It seems to me that there are two legitimate reasons for this concern. But as we’ll see, these reasons do not get...

Hiding from Truth: Denying What We Can’t Not Know by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jun 9, 2011

In the second installment in this series on human dignity I asserted that “anyone who advances a particular understanding of the nature of man, the nature of intellect, the nature of will, or the nature of purpose and meaning, must decide, before he advances this understanding, whether or not he...

Federal Rulings Against Catholic Colleges Raise Hard Truths by Patrick Reilly - Jun 3, 2011

After years of urging from the Vatican and the bishops to renew Catholic identity in Catholic higher education, it seems the U.S. government is forcing the issue. The lesson? A college or university can’t be Catholic and secular at the same time. Too bad we need the secularists to drive...

How to Discuss the Liturgy by Dr. Jeff Mirus - May 16, 2011

Inevitably the publication of Universae Ecclesiae has stimulated heartfelt exchanges on the liturgy, and once again I have seen a tendency (though not generally in the public posts on CatholicCulture.org) for each side to denigrate the other. The presumption, too often, is that those who oppose...

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