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On the Culture

Commentary and reflection on Catholic life and ideas by Dr. Jeff Mirus, President of CatholicCulture.org.

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Catholic commentary and analysis on contemporary events and trends by Phil Lawler, Director of Catholic World News.

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Extended commentary and thoughtful Catholic essays on complex topics.

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Brief, off-the-cuff, and sometimes light-hearted Catholic commentary, observations and announcements.

Art and theology, beauty and truth, work together in the New Evangelization by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Friday

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty.” But the poet Keats is wrong; that is not all we need to know in life. In an unusual and rewarding new book, Father Robert Imbelli guides readers along the path of beauty toward the realization that all truth, all beauty, and all goodness reflects the...

Anatomy of Conversion by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "Insights" - Friday

In a message yesterday, I listed thirteen testimonials to our work from priests, sisters and lay Catholic leaders around the world. I was trying to complete the task of matching our $45,000 Challenge Grant. However, that email was met with what we might loosely call a resounding yawn. (OK, so...

Anatomy of Conversion by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - Friday

Each person is drawn to God in slightly different ways. There are probably as many “motives of credibility” in the Catholic Church as there are personality types. But as I mentioned yesterday (see It is a failure of mercy to deny sin), most conversion stories turn on a moment when the...

It is a failure of mercy to deny sin by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Thursday

Previously, I promised to explore how we too often obscure the life-changing mercy of the Gospel, despite our best intentions (see Light of the World: Morality vital, but mercy first). We will discover very quickly that this failure usually arises from our own complacency—our refusal to...

Yesterday's news, tomorrow by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Thursday

“The Ordinary Council of the Synod of Bishops will meet on 18 and 19 November…” Thus opens an announcement issued by the Vatican Information Service today—which is November 20. It’s standard operating procedure for Vatican officials to hold a press conference to...

Light of the World: Morality vital, but mercy first by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Wednesday

I doubt anyone has forgotten the famous words of Pope Francis in his premier interview with Antonio Spadaro, SJ of La Civiltá Cattolica back in September of 2013. Many were struck especially by this comment: We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of...

Nuances of Leadership by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "Insights" - Tuesday

Once again, let me begin by asking your continued support of our key effort to match our Challenge Grant. We have just $14,000 left to match by the end of the month! If you have not yet done so, please donate while it will count twice. Moving on, many have said that Pope Francis' homilies...

American influence at the Vatican and in the Synod by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Tuesday

With the departure of Cardinal Burke from this role as head of the Apostolic Signatura, there is now not a single US prelate in a leadership position in the Roman Curia. Nor is there an American holding the #2 spot in any Vatican congregation or pontifical council (although Archbishop Augustine...

Advent-Christmas Ebook Released by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - Tuesday

The Advent and Christmas ebook volume for the 2014-2015 liturgical year has been released in our ebooks download area. This is the first volume of the coming new liturgical year, which begins on November 30th, the First Sunday in Advent. It may be downloaded free of charge in the following...

Standing against the culture: Pope Francis, since Friday, on life, marriage and the Gospel by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - Monday

1. On Human Life: To Association of Italian Catholic Doctors, November 14. The dominant thinking sometimes suggests a "false compassion", believing that it is: helpful to women to promote abortion; an act of dignity to obtain euthanasia; a scientific breakthrough to...

This year's best interview with an American cardinal by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Monday

No, I don’t mean the troubling “60 Minutes” interview with Cardinal O’Malley. About that, the less said, the better. If you’re interested in a wide-ranging interview with an influential American cardinal who actually speaks his mind (and if you don’t want to be interrupted by commercials for...

The Foundation of Prayer for Priests by Thomas Van in "On the Culture" - Monday

In 2007, in light of increasing attacks on the priesthood from within and without, and particularly after the scandals that had done such damage to the Church, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy saw the need to begin a global movement of prayer for priests. To that end, the...

Chastity and Catholicism by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "Insights" - Nov 14

With just over $22,000 left to match in our Challenge Grant, we have passed the halfway point! If you haven't yet, please donate any amount while it will be doubled! In our top commentary this week, Phil Lawler explains Why Cardinal Burke cannot lead a 'loyal opposition'. It is important to...

Replacing problems with persons: Eve Tushnet’s new book, Gay and Catholic by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "In Depth Analysis" - Nov 14

Over the last three days I’ve read Eve Tushnet’s remarkable book, Gay and Catholic. Tushnet, who is now in her mid-30s, realized that she was “gay” in middle school, admitted it to herself at age thirteen, and told her parents shortly thereafter. But while in college she...

Adding Trust to your Christmas list by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - Nov 13

For those who love the Church's revived emphasis on Divine mercy, a beautiful and touching Christmas gift would be the new coffee table book on St. Faustina, simply entitled Trust. Anyone familiar with the enormously popular Divine Mercy Chaplet will understand the importance of St. Faustina...

An American martyr, overdue for recognition by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Nov 13

Exactly twelve years have passed since the brutal slaying of Mary Stachowicz. Seven years have passed since I suggested the opening of a formal cause for her beatification. My own opinion doesn’t count for much, but Bishop Thomas Paprocki (who knew her well) agrees that “she died...

How many devils can dance on a pinhead? by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - Nov 12

Though permission was granted on our comment form, simple charity demands that I withhold the name of the reader who submitted the following email in response to this story from November 4th: New York bishop bans travel to west Africa, citing Ebola threat. See if you can count the number of...

Another Significant Vatican Reform by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "Insights" - Nov 11

With the deadline for our Challenge Grant on December 1st, we definitely need to step up the pace. We have $25,000 left to match. If you haven't yet, please contribute now while your gift will count twice! You'll recall that one reason Pope Emeritus Benedict resigned was that his strength...

Why Cardinal Burke cannot lead a 'loyal opposition' by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - Nov 11

In the quiet little New England town where we live, we’ve just been through an unusually contentious local election. The aftermath has reminded me of an important lesson that I learned years ago. When the votes were counted in our local contests, one losing candidate issued a gracious statement...

Helping troubled marriages; making good marriages stronger by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Nov 11

With Pope Francis and the recent Synod of Bishops attempting to place marriage and the family at the heart of evangelization, it is an excellent time to consider the ways in which we can strengthen and protect our marriages against the stresses, misunderstandings and conflicts that tend to break...

Catholicism, evolution and young earth creationism by Thomas Van in "The City Gates" - Nov 10

Pope Francis’s recent remarks that evolution and Catholicism are compatible caused great deal of excitement in the secular media. While this compatibility will come as no surprise to educated Catholics, it is not the same as saying that Catholics cannot be creationists. However, in an...

New Vatican Policies by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "Insights" - Nov 7

Once again, necessity forces me to beg you to support our Fall Campaign, if you haven't yet: We have almost $28,000 left to match, so your gift will count twice. Today Phil Lawler explains the significance of the new Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, under Cardinal George Pell. See New...

New economic standards: Pope Francis' most important reform? by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - Nov 7

Don’t look now, but the most important reform of this pontificate may have been introduced this week. Did you notice? Many nervous Catholics are still discussing the fallout from the October meeting of the Synod of Bishops, worrying that when the Synod meets again next year, there could...

Catholic controversy and serenity of faith by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Nov 7

We have just gone through a month or so of rather heated controversy in the Church, primarily surrounding the Synod of Bishops. This was amply reflected in our writings and discussions here. Sometimes tensions ran high. In some quarters they are still running high. For example, in the last...

Conservative prelates needn’t panic by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - Nov 7

I have my own take on the question of whether Pope Francis is purging conservative prelates, and it may be useful to suspend my dislike of the terms “conservative” and “liberal” as Catholic descriptors just long enough to make my point. In the recent controversy over the...

Bergoglio’s List: Pope Francis and political oppression in Argentina by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Nov 6

Within hours of the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio to the papacy, the world press began to retail stories that Fr. Bergoglio may have been complicit in serious human rights violations under the military regime which ruled Argentina between 1976 and 1983. This innuendo was based primarily on...

Is the Pope purging conservatives? by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Nov 5

“Does Pope Francis have an enemies list?” That’s the eye-catching headline on John Allen’s column for the Crux site. Allen notes that three bishops have recently placed under scrutiny by the Vatican: Bishops Rogelio Livieres Plano in Paraguay, Mario Oliveri in Italy, and Robert Finn in Kansas...

Radio silence? by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Nov 5

Don’t you immediately see the problem with this headline from St. Louis Public Radio? Priest Silenced By Vatican Shares His Story If Father Tony Flannery is “sharing his story” on the air, he isn’t being silent, is he? As a matter of fact, if the Irish priest is traveling across the ocean...

Three Catholic thinkers on 'the rules' of art by Thomas Van in "The City Gates" - Nov 5

1. G. K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man: There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds. 2. Étienne Gilson, Forms and Substances in the Arts: Everything can legitimately be tried, given up, revived, varied, adorned or stripped of its adornments, for in...

Two bishops take on the SSPX by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "Insights" - Nov 4

I hate to have to emphasize this so much, but I have no choice. We still have $30,000 to go to match our Challenge Grant by the end of November. If each person who receives these messages could contribute just $5, we would easily solve this problem. Of course not everyone can help. If you...

Episcopal action on the SSPX: A basic strategy for unity by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Nov 4

In the past few days, two bishops have been reported as announcing the excommunication of Catholics who attend Masses offered by priests of the Society of St. Pius X. First we heard from Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, Italy, who reaffirmed the policy of his predecessor. Today there are...

Emphasis on the wrong syllable by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - Nov 3

Every time a son or daughter of the Church criticizes a priest’s contradiction of Church teaching from the pulpit, for example, or rejects a self-proclaimed Catholic politician who supports abortion, “liberal” Catholics rally around and emphasize that such persons are wonderfully...

Yet another revealing 'error' in a Vatican translation by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Nov 3

Surprise, surprise! When the Vatican finally released an English-language version of the final report from the Synod, the translation contained at least one blatant omission. And I bet you can’t guess what effect this “error” will have on readers’ understanding. Credit...

Standing 'gradualism' on its head by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Nov 3

Father Frank Brennan, an Australian Jesuit who is currently teaching at Boston College Law School, is disappointed with the final document from the Synod. He was hoping for more dramatic changes. So he writes: For the moment, I would not see much pastoral point in sharing this document with...

Putting Our Best Foot Forward by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "Insights" - Oct 31

The Vatican made the English text available yesterday of the final statement of the recent Synod of Bishops: Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization. Such texts are not intended to be world-shaking events, but skimming over this one will give a more accurate...

Contentious Spirits, Beware! by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Oct 30

For many years, as a much younger man, I far too frequently interpreted my tendency to criticize and complain about others as evidence of my great zeal for the truth. I am well aware of the huge shock this admission will produce in those who read my work now. All right-thinking readers today...

And here's another very old story: the secular media don't understand Catholic affairs by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Oct 29

In Time magazine (of all places), Elizabeth Dias scolds the many media outlets that gave top billing to the statement by Pope Francis that the theory of scientific evolution is compatible with Christianity. That might have been news 65 years ago, Diaz observes. But since Pope Francis was echoing...

How not to be persuasive by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Oct 29

When I’m not busy reading and writing about Catholic affairs, I spend some of free time on local civic affairs. Recently a heated controversy has broken out in the town where we live, and I have played a small role in trying to resolve it. I’ll spare you the details, which are complicated and not...

Francis the Man, Francis the Pope by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "Insights" - Oct 28

Once again we find a common theme in the fascinating pontificate of Pope Francis. For example, writing in response to NY Times columnist Ross Douthat, Phil Lawler clarified his own position in: Could respect for the papacy mean resisting the Pope? At the same time, there was so much...

Clarifying what it might mean for a pope to wish to change Catholic doctrine by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - Oct 28

On Saturday, Phil Lawler wrote about the role of the faithful if Pope Francis should indicate a desire to “change the Church’s teaching” (see Could respect for the papacy mean resisting the Pope?). This was designed to clarify his position in response to a column in the New York...

Does the Kasper Proposal make Pope Francis a heretic? Invalid marriages and mortal sin by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Oct 28

I have been, from the first, among those who have opposed the Kasper Proposal. My first commentary on the subject suggested that Cardinal Kasper’s emphasis on moral principles as mere ideals seemed to presuppose a world without grace (see Does the Kasper proposal undermine the New...

Church Fathers: St. Clement of Rome by Thomas Van in "In Depth Analysis" - Oct 28

Sometime towards the end of the first century A.D., two men made a journey from Rome to Corinth. Claudius Ephebus and Valerius Vito, a pair of freed slaves from the household of the deceased Emperor Claudius, carried a letter to the Christian community in Corinth from Bishop Clement of Rome...

Saving the 21st century? by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - Oct 27

The title screams but the book is pretty good. I’m referring to The Race to Save our Century by Jason Scott Jones and John Zmirak. Recently published by Crossroad, this book explores (as the subtitle puts it) “five core principles to promote peace, freedom, and a culture of...

Could respect for the papacy mean resisting the Pope? by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Oct 25

A challenging column by Ross Douthat in the New York Times prompts me to clarify my thoughts on the recent Synod and especially the Pope’s role in the October session. Douthat kindly links to my piece, “The Pope is not the problem,” as representative of efforts by...

The Church Moves On, Slowly by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "Insights" - Oct 24

The furor over the 2014 Synod on the Family is subsiding only slowly, as everyone seems to be struggling to switch gears. Phil Lawler finds himself concerned over negative attitudes toward Pope Francis, often expressed in distinctly unedifying ways. He covers both sides of the question in The...

Is Cardinal Kasper losing his grip? by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - Oct 24

It may well be that the discussion of the Kasper Proposal will continue all through the coming year up to and including the 2015 Synod on the Family. I have expressed the optimistic hope that the proposal is actually now dead, except in the media, but time will tell. Meanwhile, one wonders whether...

The Pope is not the problem by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - Oct 23

Thoroughly rattled by the stories that emerged from the October meeting of the Synod of Bishops, many faithful Catholics are now worried that Pope Francis is leading the Church in a dangerous direction—and perhaps even doing so intentionally. Their fears are understandable, in light of some...

Do not confuse sacramental discipline and Catholic doctrine. by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - Oct 23

In the aftermath of the push for the Kasper Proposal at the 2014 Synod on the Family, some Catholics have fallen into the fairly serious error of confusing sacramental discipline with Catholic doctrine. It is Catholic doctrine, for example, that valid sacramental marriage is indissoluble,...

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