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Commentary and reflection on Catholic life.

The givenness of things (a positive exchange on Facebook, for once)

Over the past few years, I’ve waged an ongoing and mostly successful battle with myself to reduce the number of Facebook discussions (or really, debates) I get bogged down in, especially with people who don’t share my basic worldview, no matter how annoying I find much of the opinions...

The first requirement of Church renewal in our time

The Catholic Church has often been called “the Church of here comes everybody”. The reason is very basic: You typically do not find the Church to be representative of just one ethnic group, nationality or social class. Membership in the Catholic Church is rarely based on encouraging...

In a Nutshell: Protecting your children in a digital world, in 2017

Now that “connected” devices are ubiquitous—and not just through an easily controllable home network—parents may not know what they can do to monitor their children’s use of online media, including social media. And what about calls to and from their personal phones?...

Family-based catechesis for home and parish: A breakthrough

Sophia Institute has recently published the materials for the first year of a new four-year religious education program which is firmly rooted in family life. This is an important development in catechesis. As one parent put it, “I’m so happy that we’re now treating our Faith as...

Lenten listening: two new Benedictine albums of Marian chant

Lent is an ideal time to get back in touch with the Church’s patrimony of Gregorian chant (particularly for those of us who aren’t blessed to hear it regularly at Mass). The penitential season motivated me to get caught up on a couple of recent albums—both, interestingly enough,...

Out of Africa: The Church’s need for living rules

When Fr. Paulinus Odozor told Crux that African Catholics had long since settled the question of Communion for the divorced and remarried, he gave us a glimpse of a younger and far more vibrant Church. It was this reality that I had in mind when I suggested the successor to Pope Francis might well...

Understanding Mercy—with pointers from the Apostolic Penitentiary

It’s one of those little things that make all the difference. Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, the head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, addressed students in a course on the internal forum following the Jubilee of Mercy. Here is the last sentence of our brief news story: Cardinal Piacenza offered...

Putting your hand to the Plough, with Gerard Manley Hopkins and Dorothy Day

Plough Publishing House is a Christian publisher focused primarily on a particular subset of Christian concerns: Solidarity with the poor, non-violence, the gospel of life, and simple Christian living. While Plough has published a number of authors famous in other contexts (from C. S. Lewis to...

Abridging Herman Melville’s faith, and perhaps our own

There are benefits to giving up reading mysteries for Lent. For one thing, I finally finished a project that both Phil Lawler and Thomas Van recommended when they learned that I had never gotten around to reading Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. That was a Catholic gap I was loath to...

Pope Francis and Bernard Häring: The literally infernal cheek of dissent

During his discussions with the General Congregation of the Society of Jesus in November, Pope Francis praised the Redemptorist theologian, Fr. Bernard Häring, for being one of the first to try to revive an ailing moral theology following the Second Vatican Council. This was reported at the...

On the role of the Holy Spirit in papal elections

A common question among Catholics today is: “What was the Holy Spirit doing during the conclave that elected Jorge Bergoglio as Pope Francis?” The answer, of course, is that the Holy Spirit was doing what He is always doing, prompting all involved to cast their votes for the good of...

Quick Hits: Durufl√©’s Requiem and more

Yesterday I was blessed to hear some of the most beautiful music ever composed in concert at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan (which happens to be the largest cathedral and the fourth largest church in the world, and a splendid place for music-making). The centerpiece of...

Catholics today: Struggling when the wood is dry

I ran across a book on the Spanish Civil War the other day. I have never studied that war, but I know it was characterized by a wide variety of loyalties, often conflicting not only within families but within individual persons. By the 1930s people were hopelessly divided (and very frequently...

Tolkien the modernist: a glimpse of a unique creative process

[My work is] fundamentally linguistic in inspiration…The invention of languages is the foundation. The ‘stories’ were made rather to provide a world for the languages than the reverse. To me a name comes first and the story follows. That Tolkien’s creative work...

More on Trump’s wall: The danger of overreach

I suggested on Friday that President Trump’s 2,000-mile wall could well turn out to be the kind of ill-considered commitment which sends voters back across the aisle in 2020. The risk does not arise from any intrinsic immorality connected with building a wall, but from the likelihood that...

In Potentia: Donald Trump’s Upside, and Donald Trump’s Downfall

It is hard to imagine (but easy to hope) that Donald Trump’s presidency will dramatically alter how politics works in America. Like many other Catholics who voted for Trump, I had to hold my nose as I entered the voting booth. Trump’s crassness, including all the negative publicity...

Combatting the dictatorship of relativism, one soul at a time

As an intellectual exercise, anyone who can think his way out of a paper bag immediately recognizes that relativism is a hopeless tautology. It affirms without a shadow of a doubt that truth does not exist, thereby proclaiming what would be, if it were possible, a very important truth. As a...

Scorsese’s Silence is a contemplative masterpiece

Warning: this review contains spoilers. Perhaps the most frequently noted characteristic of Silence—both book and film—is its ambiguity. Some revel in it, while others are deeply uncomfortable at best. (It is not necessary here to enter into psychoanalysis of the critics.) Most...

Recommended: Challenge yourself with Pope Francis’ latest interview

Each person responds to a homily, address or interview by the Holy Father in his or her own unique way. Most often, the question in our minds is: “Did the Pope respond to my primary concerns in a helpful manner?” Thus, we start by being concerned about something based on our own...

St. Thomas More’s razor-sharp Dialogue of Comfort

I feel privileged to have read another book written by St. Thomas More while he was in the Tower of London awaiting execution: A Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation (see my comments last November on The Sadness of Christ). More remained extraordinarily calm under fire for his refusal to...

If the English cannot live in accordance with moral values, are they free?

If you want to see how darkened the human intellect can become through sin, look no further than the remarks of Dame Louise Casey in the United Kingdom. Casey holds a dubious position which apparently puts her in charge of “community integration”, perhaps the better to ensure that...

A cinematic rendering of the Ten Commandments

I had the opportunity to see Dekalog, Krzysztof Kieslowski’s acclaimed series of ten hour-long films based on the Ten Commandments, when it was released in theaters in a newly restored version last fall. Made for Polish television in 1989, Dekalog is generally regarded as his best work...

Mary holy for only nine months?

In a bizarre post by the standards of First Things, Peter J. Leithart attempts to explain the meaning of St. Matthew’s statement that Joseph “took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son.” Leithart, who is a minister in the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches,...

Pope Francis: Hope through the Sacrament of Penance

Whatever concerns we may have about how Pope Francis is handling access to the Eucharist by those in invalid marriages, there is a common theme in nearly everything he says and does. I refer to the Pope’s emphasis on the Church as a field hospital in which the chief method of healing is the...

The scandalous concreteness of the Gospel

It always astonishes me how prone we humans are to making up our religion as we go along. Of course, many of us do not realize there is anything else we can do. Left to our own devices, we are faced with the task of explaining our yearning for transcendence. But we do not see clearly enough to do...

A unique Advent/Christmas album sets the O Antiphons to music

As Jennifer Gregory Miller has noted, tomorrow begins the O Antiphons prayed at Vespers for the seven days leading up to Christmas Eve. Few enough even among practicing Catholics are probably aware of the O Antiphons that it is a pleasant surprise to see that an album largely based around them has...

Religious freedom, meaningless without truth

U.S. President Barack Obama praised the Maccabees on Wednesday at a White House Hanukkah reception. The Maccabees were a family of brothers who, following their father’s lead, defended Israel against conquest by pagans in the second century before Christ. Praising Jews who “dare to...

The Gift of the Priestly Vocation: The importance of countercultural formation

As we reported on December 7th, the Congregation for the Clergy issued a new outline of proper formation for the priesthood, a framework for more detailed plans to be developed in the various countries around the world. It is symptomatic of the problems facing the Church today that our headline...

On liberation from false marriages and sexual sin

In considering all the false unions which pass for marriage nowadays, we find that they are so endemic in our culture as to present two highly significant temptations. The first is to deny the grave evil of entering into these marriage substitutes on the grounds that they are so commonplace as to...

When questions are perceived as threats, a guilty conscience is at work.

As the fallout from Amoris Laetitia continues to settle, it is difficult to imagine a more illuminating exercise than to compare recent statements by San Diego’s Bishop Robert McElroy and Cardinal George Pell. Bishop McElroy’s new policies invite the divorced and remarried to discern...

Misericordia et Misera: To extend mercy beyond the close of the Jubilee

Americans are about to celebrate their Thanksgiving holiday. This is a wonderful opportunity to reflect not only on the material gifts we have received, but also on the spiritual gifts. Which of us can fail to thank God not only for food, clothing and shelter, but for Christ, the Church, the...

When it comes to Pope Francis, is it time to turn the corner?

CatholicCulture.org has tried to be both accurate and forthright in reporting and commenting on the words and actions of Pope Francis. We have tried to treat Francis as sons; to give Francis the benefit of every doubt; to recognize the complexity of the issues he addresses; to acknowledge the...

Driven by frustration, could some cardinals go too far? A caution

Our Catholic World News service has reported on Cardinal Burke’s statement that a group of Catholic prelates may address a “formal act of correction” to Pope Francis. According to Burke, this could be made necessary by the refusal of Pope Francis to correct the confusion about...

Living the Sadness of Christ

The other week, when I was trying to think of something I should write about, I was fresh out of ideas. Even worse, I was feeling bored and lethargic. There can be many different causes for these problems, but in my own case, running out of ideas typically means I am spending too much time...

Down with Trump! The privileged class triggers student revolts (again)

In the wake of the election of Donald Trump, some have taken to the streets in protest. I read a fairly comprehensive account of this in USA Today. It is clear that Trump is a polarizing figure. In fact, throughout the campaign he obviously intended to be a polarizing figure. But that’s not...

We have been Trumped. What does that mean to us?

For anyone who has suffered under the progressive transformation of the United States government into a regulatory bureau of social engineering, the election of Donald Trump is a sign of hope. The hallmark of Trump’s campaign was his refusal to give a tinker’s damn about political...

A word about the futility of politics in the West, on election Tuesday in America

Foster parents in the United Kingdom have been refused permission to adopt their foster children because they do not think placement of children with same-sex couples is a good idea. It is difficult to conceive of a better example of the secular regulatory State at work. As little as a...

Norcia just before the earthquakes: My time with the monks

Last week I spent two nights in Norcia, Italy, the birthplace of St. Benedict, the father of Western monasticism. I was blessed with a rare personal encounter with the monks of Norcia, joining them in both prayer and work, an opportunity seldom offered to pilgrims. My glimpse of their way of life...

Corporal and spiritual works: From mechanical provisioning to acts of love

The Pope’s renewed emphasis on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy could not be more timely. One of the points I hope Francis will make is that the two categories—corporal and spiritual—are inseparable. There are two reasons for this: Those in a position to perform...

Pope Francis: Two moments of much-needed inspiration

On October 23rd and 24th Pope Francis offered the kind of encouragement that can go a long way toward renewing the confidence of serious Catholics who lament the most obvious features of his pontificate. We have had rare flashes of such counter-cultural encouragement in the past, and it is...

Explaining the spiritual works of mercy: An opportunity for Pope Francis

At his general audience on October 12th, Pope Francis announced that he was about to begin a new series in his continuing catechesis on mercy. He plans to devote fourteen audiences to the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Pope Francis believes a commitment to these works can change the...

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