In Depth Analysis

Extended commentary and thoughtful Catholic essays on complex topics.

No items posted on August 01, 2012.

Diocesan and Parish Renewal: Better Now?

I’ve been saying for some time that the Catholic Church is slowly regaining its strength following the serious illness which weakened her, especially in the West, between around 1965 and 1985. And that’s certainly been my experience in the United States. I’ve been privileged to...

Eternal Rome vs. the Magisterium: A Contemporary Myth

One may still hope that the Society of Saint Pius X will seek to return to full communion with the Catholic Church. Bishop Bernard Fellay’s comments following the General Chapter of the Society could indicate acceptance of an arrangement similar to that of the Fraternity of St. Peter, or...

Rules for Good Catholic Social Teaching

Last year’s convention of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars was devoted to “Catholic Social Teaching and Economics”. The proceedings have just been published, and the lead essay (originally a “paper” read at the Convention), by Notre Dame professor Gerard V....

Living the Will of God: Vocation, Avocation, and Moment to Moment

As many of my long-time readers know, I enjoy sailing small boats. As a result, I’ve also read a good deal of literature by and about sailors. Much of this comes from full-time live-aboard sailors or those who have circumnavigated the world in smallish craft. It’s a life that brings...

Governing Politics

How are we to keep politics under any kind of legitimate control? The question is not simply a matter of political legitimacy, for the legitimacy of any specific political authority is fairly murky. It is easy enough to see why political authority in general is always part of the human experience....

New Evidence of the Dark Side: Hubris and the SSPX Rejection of the Church

I am indebted to one of our readers for pointing me to the homily preached by Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais on the occasion of the ordination of priests and deacons for the Society of St. Pius X. The event took place on June 15th at the SSPX seminary in Winona, Minnesota. Bishop...

Marriage: The Old, the New, and the Normative

The Week magazine has a standard “briefing” page, which it devotes to providing background on a particular issue each week. On June 1st, the briefing was on How marriage has changed over the centuries. The subtitle aptly expresses the point of the briefing: “Critics of gay...

The Logos of Sacred Music

[Editor’s introduction: Composer Paul Jernberg wrote his Mass of St. Philip Neri as a choral setting for the new English translation of the Roman Missal. In the essay that follows, he explains not only his approach to the challenge of composing music for the liturgy, but—more...

Opposition to Grace: Giannone as a Microcosm of Fordham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

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

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

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

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?

  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

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

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

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...

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