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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.

Smaller Church, Bigger Faith, 3: Ecclesiastical Discipline by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Thursday

In the previous installment emphasizing the “impact of grace”, I noted the problematic nature of any kind of institutionalized program to press deficient Catholics to select themselves out of the Church. Once again, I am referring to those who claim the Catholic name but do not fully...

The Holy Spirit and Evangelization: A Primer by Thomas Van in "The City Gates" - Wednesday

One thing I have come to realize over the past few years, especially during the reign of Pope Francis, is that in a culture hostile to religious orthodoxy, it is easy for Catholics to fall into the trap of treating orthodoxy as an end in itself. When Francis warns us not to become a...

Journey to the Sun: A Strange Biography of Junípero Serra by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Wednesday

Gregory Orfalea’s biography of the great missionary to California, Junípero Serra, is exceedingly strange. In the good sense of the word, it is genuinely foreign and fascinating. The author has a gift for telling an exotic story with plenty of intriguing detail, even when the evidence...

Russia's demographic recovery + US demographic decline = danger by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Wednesday

In a quiet development, unnoticed by the major media, the the birth rate in Russia has inched higher than in the US. Thirty years ago the Soviet Union was a crumbling empire. At the time, most people in the West did not notice its internal decay. But the nation’s fertility rate, well below...

James Carroll strikes (at the Church) again by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Wednesday

In the years since he deserted the priesthood, James Carroll has contributed dozens of op-ed columns attacking the Church in the pages of the Boston Globe. Like an angry young man who posts embarrassing photos of his ex-girlfriend on the internet, Carroll seems determined to persuade the outside...

Improving the Church by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "Insights" - Tuesday

I suspect we all dream of improving the Church, except that perhaps we tend to dream along the lines of our own spiritual deficiencies. Nonetheless, I am making so bold as to start a series of essays exploring how the Church might improve the quality of her membership. This is not a simple...

Smaller Church, Bigger Faith, 2: The Impact of Grace by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Tuesday

I suggested in the previous installment that the Church’s membership ought to consist not just of anybody who happens to have acquired the name of “Catholic” but of sinners who recognize the mission of the Church and fully accept the need for that mission in their own lives. At a...

Smaller Church, Bigger Faith? The Problem of the New Evangelization by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Monday

It seems to me that the Church faces a critical obstacle to the New Evangelization, an obstacle which arises inescapably because this is in significant part a re-evangelization. I am referring to the profound deficiency in Christian witness within the Church herself. Again, I beieve this...

Significant Items on the Verge of Holy Week by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "Insights" - Apr 11

Just last week, in the wake of recent Girl Scout Cookie sales, my wife and I were wondering when the Church would catch up to the problem of parish-sponsored Girl Scout troops. The Girl Scouts are closely affiliated with the abortion industry through Planned Parenthood, and they have programs...

How same-sex marriage erodes personal freedom and enhances state power by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Apr 11

Stella Morabito has done us all a real service, with her readable and cogent analysis of the drive for same-sex marriage, now appearing on the Federalist site. This whole argument isn’t really about allowing homosexuals to marry, Morabito explains. It’s about abolishing marriage as an...

Theological Bias, or, What’s our news department thinking, anyway!? by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Apr 11

We get the darnedest emails. In this case I’m referring to the one which accused us of cherry-picking what we wanted, rather than what happened, in our coverage of Pope Francis’ advice to students at the Gregorian University in Rome. Our headline was: “Do theology on your knees,...

The papyrus that proves nothing, 'resurrected' in time for Easter by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Apr 10

How can you tell that Holy Week is approaching? Well, I hope that you’ve been observing Lent, and that you always keep an eye on the liturgical calendar. But even if you don’t, you can tell we’re getting close to Easter because a secular publication has given prominence to a...

Atheists and the historical method by Thomas Van in "The City Gates" - Apr 10

Strange Notions, a website devoted to respectful dialogue and debate between Catholics and atheists, has re-posted an interesting piece by atheist blogger Tim O’Neill, entitled “Why History isn’t Scientific (And Why it Can Still Tell Us About the Past)." O’Neill has a...

What Bishop Jugis did NOT say about Sister Jane Dominic's talk by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - Apr 10

Charlotte’s Bishop Peter Jugis has finally issued a statement regarding the unseemly controversy at Charlotte Catholic High School. In that statement the bishop clearly affirms the teachings of the Catholic Church. But he does not affirm Sister Jane Dominic Laurel, whose presentation of...

Divorce is the most prevalent form of child abuse. by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Apr 10

We have a donor who occasionally posts in Sound Off!, offering insight into current issues from a psychological point of view. This is not surprising. His Sound Off! alias is Shrink and he is, in fact, a psychologist. I call your attention to a trenchant comment he made following my second essay...

Corrected: Priests unhappy with new Mass translation? New survey proves nothing. by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - Apr 9

Yesterday in this space I posted an article criticizing a survey of Catholic priests and lay parish leaders regarding the new English translation of the Mass. My comments, I’m afraid, were based on a misunderstanding. The CARA survey that I criticized asked eight questions about the...

The Surprising Implications of Man’s Natural Ends by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "In Depth Analysis" - Apr 9

Recently I’ve revisited the massive shakeup of Catholic theology occasioned by Henri de Lubac’s remarkable study Surnaturel (French for "supernatural"), published just after the close of World War II. The whole episode demonstrates the immense consequences that can...

In Ontario, Catholic schools are welcome; Catholic education is not by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Apr 8

Catholic schools are free to operate in Ontario, as long as they don’t provide religious education. That’s the message that seems to be coming from the Ontario Superior Court, which has ruled that Catholic high schools cannot require students to attend Mass. In its immediate impact, the...

Hostility and Persecution by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "Insights" - Apr 8

A recent daily homily by Pope Francis was very timely, since we are approaching Holy Week and considering the rise of the persecution of Christians throughout the world. The headline of our news report tells the story: Hostility, persecution are natural for Christians, Pope says in homily. Such...

Fighting the Devil: Dangerous Emotions at Work by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Apr 8

Late last week I had an unusual experience. I found myself getting impossibly angry over the situation in Charlotte, North Carolina, about which I had written twice and Phil Lawler once (see list of essays at the end). I realized I was experiencing an unpredictable emotional reaction which was not...

As the family goes, so goes the nation by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - Apr 7

When he met bishops of Tanzania making their ad limina visit, Pope Francis outlined the keys to success in a country characterized by too much poverty and an AIDS epidemic: “By promoting prayer, marital fidelity, monogamy, purity and humble service of one another within families, the Church...

Sister Jane Dominic: one strike and she's out? by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - Apr 7

We still don’t know exactly what Sister Jane Dominic Laurel said at Charlotte Catholic High School to provoke such an angry reaction. No recording has been produced; no text of her talk has been released. We have only second-hand reports. We do know that the school and the Charlotte...

The Ways of the World and the Church by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "Insights" - Apr 4

In the 1950s it was hard for many in the West to see how much difference Christianity made to a person's life. Most people had fairly similar values. Fast forward two generations, and all that has changed. It rapidly became clear that public morality was only incidentally Christian, and that...

Western rationalism vs. the commitment of the whole person to God by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "In Depth Analysis" - Apr 4

Not long ago a Jesuit priest posted a reflection about the Catholic approach to truth in his personal blog. I am not going to quote, and I am not going to identify the Jesuit. It was an off-the-cuff sort of reflection (always a grave risk when blogging), and I have no desire to hold him to the...

What the Charlotte controversy reveals about the acceptance of Catholic teaching by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Apr 3

News coverage is now available for the resolution of complaints about Sister Jane Dominic Laurel’s controversial presentation at a Catholic high school in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Nashville Dominican sister spoke at a school assembly about Church teaching on marriage, divorce,...

Pelosi's piety wins Obama's approval by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Apr 3

Some of my friends are shocked that President Obama, on his return to DC after a visit with Pope Francis, gave a set of rosary beads blessed by the Pontiff to Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the lawmaker honored by Planned Parenthood for her “outstanding contributions to the reproductive health and...

Yearning to Escape Ourselves, and the Example of John XXIII by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - Apr 2

I can relate to Pope Blessed John XXIII’s desire to get away from the Vatican occasionally. Probably most of us can. It is a strange quirk of our humanity that we benefit from a change of scene. Quite often, the problems and tensions we associate with one place fade away when we get away to...

Easter eBook Released by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - Apr 2

Please note that the Easter volume for the 2013-2014 Liturgical Year has been released and is now available for download in our ebook section. You have to be registered and logged in to download. To register, simply subscribe to one of our email newsletters. This will create a user account for...

New “Liturgical Day” newsletter brings total to Four by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - Apr 2

You probably know you can sign up to receive what we call email newsletters from CatholicCulture.org. We have just added a new one, featuring the Liturgical Day. This joins the daily news headlines, the biweekly Insights messages, and the two-week look-ahead for the liturgical year sent out each...

Our Noah Review, plus new downloads by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "Insights" - Apr 1

Our reviewer, Thomas Van, saw Noah on Friday night and posted his take on the movie over the weekend: Noah: far from a natural disaster. Thomas has also reviewed the Two great, chart-topping Benedictine chant albums you've seen in the news lately. Speaking of drama, you also may have seen...

Knowing Less than We Think: Dieting, Global Warming, Morality, Revelation by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Apr 1

One of the gravest deficiencies of our modern worldview is that we are completely unaware of how little we know. There are both special and universal reasons for this. One of the special reasons, for example, is the rapid technological advance of the past two centuries, which has tended to give us...

Kudos to Archbishop Gregory; he 'gets it' by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Apr 1

Hats off to Archbishop Wilton Gregory for making a simple, sincere, manful apology when he realized that he had caused scandal by spending over $2 million on a new residence. The archbishop could have attacked his critics, saying that the complaints about his building plans were motivated by...

A Life Hidden in God by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Mar 31

This year I have been using Bishop Jaques-Benigne Bossuet’s Meditations for Lent. I’ve found it uniformly helpful, and some of the individual meditations have touched me deeply. Here is an example, the meditation for the Fourth Sunday in Lent, entitled “A Life Hidden in...

The deaths of 2 heroes: one military, the other literary by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Mar 31

This past weekend I learned—in one case very belatedly—about the death of two great men, from very different walks of life. Senator Jeremiah Denton was a war hero before he became a US Senator. The bravery that he displayed while a POW in Vietnam was so striking that in its...

about that 'pedophilia' crisis... by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Mar 31

Yet again an accounting of sex-abuse charges against American Catholic priests shows that 80% of the reported victims were male, with the largest number of victims coming from the 10-14 age group. What do you call a man who makes adolescent boys the object of his lust? To control the language...

Noah: far from a natural disaster by Thomas Van in "On the Culture" - Mar 29

Darren Aronofsky’s Noah lets us know within the first thirty seconds that it isn’t a literal translation of the Biblical account. In the course of a text opening that quickly recounts the story of Eden, the fall of Adam and Eve, and Cain’s murder of Abel, we learn that Cain and...

Two great, chart-topping Benedictine chant albums by Thomas Van in "The City Gates" - Mar 29

Weeks ago, we reported the unusual phenomenon of two chant albums reaching the top of Billboard’s traditional classical music chart. I say this is unusual, but not unheard of, because it seems to happen every few years since the ‘90s chant craze was kicked off by the 1994 rerelease of...

Can the Supreme Court duck the central issue in the Hobby Lobby case? by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - Mar 28

In the the Hobby Lobby case, a key question facing the Supreme Court is whether a corporate enterprise qualifies for the same religious-freedom protections as an individual. At first glance that seems a very simple question. It is a long-established principle of Anglo-American law, set forth...

Catholic Accountability by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "Insights" - Mar 28

I see an important and very welcome theme of accountability in recent Catholic news. I mean accountability within the Church. Some of this comes from the Pope himself, some from bishops who understand the fraternal correction required by collegiality. Consider these three news...

Pope continues meetings with heads of debtor nations by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Mar 28

This week Pope Francis met with the leader of a nation whose proud tradition of democratic government is now endangered by a crippling national debt—a nation whose political leaders have done nothing to alleviate that debt, despite repeated warnings from abroad. The next day, the Pope...

Homosexuality, divorce and remarriage: Will a Catholic school in North Carolina set the tone for the Church? by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Mar 28

A continuation of one of the most important Catholic stories of the past decade is unfolding at a Catholic high school in Charlotte, North Carolina. Parents and students at that school are divided in response to a presentation critical of homosexuality at a school assembly. The resolution of this...

Pitfalls Surrounding Catholic Consideration of the Arts by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "In Depth Analysis" - Mar 27

Several of us who set the direction for CatholicCulture.org have been discussing the obvious connections between “culture” (which is part of our name) and “the arts”. These connections are always of interest, of course, but in fact we have done very little with the arts...

Obama meets the Pope: the spin begins by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Mar 27

Speaking to reporters after his meeting with Pope Francis, President Obama said that Church concerns about religious freedom and individual conscience were “not really a topic of conversation” during the exchange. That’s funny. The Vatican summary of the discussion mentioned “questions of...

Mother Teresa, the Enigma by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - Mar 26

Is David Scott’s biography of Mother Teresa of Calcutta a disaster or a smashing success? It’s published by Sophia Press, so there are no qualms there. It is spiritually sound, even illuminating, so there are no qualms there, either. But like every other study of Mother Teresa, it...

Be Prepared: What you need to know before Pope Francis meets President Obama by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - Mar 26

Count on it: Immediately after tomorrow’s meeting between Pope Francis and President Obama, the spinmasters of the Obama administration—the same talented propagandists who successfully portrayed an inexperienced junior senator as a political savior—will be working furiously to...

Writing Wrong, and New Life by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "Insights" - Mar 25

There I was, all dressed up to do a review of the 2012 Proceedings of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, an instructive collection entitled Religious Liberty, which I just received in the mail. So I was, in effect, writing up the growing number of conflicts between Catholics and modern political...

The Clash of Law: Parsing the Modern War against Catholics, Catholicism and the Church by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Mar 25

Opposition to Catholicism in the modern West is brought to a head almost universally through the pressure of today’s legal systems. Typically our neighbors do not, all on their own, dislike Catholics enough to harass or bully them. We do not, as Catholics, fear walking down the street, or...

Fun with statistics by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Mar 25

The Society of Jesus has released an internal census, showing that there were 12,298 Jesuit priests in the world last year, and 17,287 members of the Society as a whole. In 1975, those figures were 20,627 and 28,856, respectively. Under normal circumstances we’d call that a steep decline....

The Singing Nun by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - Mar 24

Ah, Phil, Phil, curmudgeonly Phil. Did you really have to say, “An Italian nun is a singing sensation, and I don't care”? When the whole world is brimming with hope that Sister Cristina Scuccia will make people love nuns again, as well as stimulating vocations, did Phil really have...

Will new Vatican commission on abuse answer the one crucial question? (a re-run) by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Mar 24

Now that Pope Francis has named the members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, I think it's relevant to mention the question that I raised when the Holy Father first announced plans for the commission. The post that follows originally appeared last December...

An Italian nun is a singing sensation, and I don't care. by Phil Lawler in "The City Gates" - Mar 24

During the past week, at least 100 people have sent me links to stories about the nun who has wowed a TV audience with her singing on the Italian version of the popular show, The Voice. Great. Wonderful. I hope she wins. If your cousin goes on that show, I hope he wins, too. But please...

Politics and Theology by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "Insights" - Mar 21

Man is a political animal, and it is very hard for him to keep his politics out of his religion. A typically unfortunate example of this is the current struggle in Crimea. Consider these two recent news stories: Report: Russian Orthodox move to seize other churches in CrimeaCrimean bishop...

The Church’s catalogue of ills, according to S. H. Webb by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "On the Culture" - Mar 20

I was amused rather than annoyed by Stephen H. Webb’s featured post over at First Things, entitled Why is the Catholic Church so Defensive? In this short piece, Webb is prompted, by his recent viewing of the Secrets of the Vatican documentary on PBS, to indulge in a personal lament over...

Should Catholic politicians oppose legal contraception? Yes; prudently. by Phil Lawler in "On the News" - Mar 20

Is a Catholic politician morally obligated to oppose the legal distribution of contraceptives? That question has come to the fore because of a surprisingly contentious Congressional campaign in Virginia. Austin Ruse presented the argument to readers outside Virginia in February, with a Crisis...

An Open Letter to All of our Users by Dr. Jeff Mirus in "The City Gates" - Mar 20

We’re a little over $30,000 short of meeting our expenses for the first quarter this year, which is the largest first-quarter deficit CatholicCulture.org has ever had. I do not know exactly why that is the case, since we are actually reaching more people than ever. Total individual users...

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