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Extended commentary and thoughtful Catholic essays on complex topics.

No items posted on September 01, 2012.

Practical Economics: How Things Work, Why There is Room for Morality, Where to Go from Here by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Aug 31, 2012

There is a great deal of debate over the economy in the current Presidential election. Indeed, the Republican ticket has focused the election on economic issues, and particularly on government spending, by adding Paul Ryan as its Vice Presidential candidate. This enables the Democratic Party to...

Scientific Disagreement about Climate Change by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Aug 22, 2012

In my previous essays on the moral dimensions of climate change (see The Moral Downside of Climate Change and Climate Change and Moral Knowledge) I promised to write something about the actual scientific disagreements concerning climate change, for this is a case where moral...

Climate Change and Moral Knowledge by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Aug 17, 2012

Since writing yesterday’s On the Culture entry, The Moral Downside of Climate Change, I’ve received quite a bit of email, including some from Catholic climate scientists, contesting and, in some cases, misunderstanding the point I was trying to make. Let me say at the outset that,...

The Assumption, Tradition, and a Pledge for You and Me by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Aug 15, 2012

The Feast of the Assumption calls to mind the importance of Tradition as a source of Revelation, and the importance of the Magisterium as the only authority that can determine what is part of Sacred Tradition, and what is not. There is, of course, a strong argument for the...

After Liberalism, the Deluge? by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Aug 9, 2012

With the great social experiment of the Enlightenment crumbling all around us, we may well wonder what guiding principles will inform the culture of the future. In other words, what comes after liberalism? The subject is worth serious thought, and not long ago First Things sponsored a...

Diocesan and Parish Renewal: Better Now? by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jul 27, 2012

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 by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jul 17, 2012

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 by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jul 12, 2012

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 by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jul 5, 2012

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 by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jun 29, 2012

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 by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jun 19, 2012

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 by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jun 8, 2012

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 by Paul Jernberg - Jun 5, 2012

[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 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...

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