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

Political battles vs. sacrificial service: The Brooks paradox revisited by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Thursday

My colleague Phil Lawler has identified a problem in David Brooks’ tactical recommendations for social conservatives (see ’Helpful’ advice for social conservatives: ignore causes, deal with effects). I agree that there are grounds for suspicion, but I am not at all sure that...

Acedia and the Unbearable Lightness of Being by Thomas Van - Jun 29, 2015

In his recent book The Noonday Devil, Jean-Charles Nault suggests that one aspect of acedia, or spiritual torpor, in modern society is that man does not want to receive goods that have a source outside and above himself. This leads him to deny the infinite, which in turn leads him to a...

On marriage, law, politics and the death of the West by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jun 26, 2015

Here we go again. The United States Supreme Court has created a new legal definition of marriage and ruled that all states must recognize same-sex marriage. In other recent news, a UN committee has demanded that Ireland hold two referendums—or referenda, according to grammarians of the...

What Laudato Si' is really about by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jun 19, 2015

I have read and heard many comments by politicians and activists on Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’. But all the comments focus on the question of human-caused global warming, the reality of which the Pope accepts. Thus comments from “liberals” predictably express...

Read like a Catholic: Avoid category mistakes in assessing the new encyclical. by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jun 17, 2015

Tomorrow we will have a new encyclical. Based on the earlier version leaked to Sandro Magister, it is going to be a fairly long one. Responsible commentators are using the leaked version to be able to respond more quickly to the encyclical when it appears, but they are holding their fire until...

Marion Cotillard in Joan of Arc at the Stake by Thomas Van - Jun 13, 2015

This weekend, the New York Philharmonic has been performing Arthur Honegger’s oratorio Joan of Arc at the Stake, with the wonderful French actress Marion Cotillard as St. Joan. I was fortunate to attend Friday night’s performance. Honegger, a Swiss composer born in France and...

Vibrant Catholicism, 3: Unity by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jun 10, 2015

For the third installment in this series, I have been wondering whether I wanted to take up the importance of Catholic consistency in lifestyle decisions, particularly for parents, or instead to focus on the need to exemplify a deep practical unity with the Church. The recent outcry in the...

Pope Francis simply doesn’t take sides. by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jun 5, 2015

It’s been an odd last few days. On Wednesday we learned from Cardinal Robert Sarah that Pope Francis charged him, in his leadership of the Congregation for Divine Worship, to continue the goals for the liturgy as envisioned by Pope Benedict. The next day, the news broke that Cardinal...

The vernacular in, Latin out. Why? by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jun 4, 2015

I’ve changed my mind about not delving into the liturgical arguments in the discussions on the liturgy at Vatican II. I did not quote many of these in my ongoing extracts from Henri de Lubac’s notes on the Council, because the arguments are pretty much the same now as they were then....

Vibrant Catholicism, 2: A life of constant prayer by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jun 2, 2015

I suspect this series on “vibrant Catholicism” will be the most difficult series I have ever written. There is almost no conceivable topic which could not be taken up and dissected to help us understand the nature of an effectively Catholic response. It is hard to know where to begin,...

Vibrant Catholicism, 1: Lamenting the entire 20th century by Dr. Jeff Mirus - May 28, 2015

I have this vision of offering a comprehensive plan to ensure a vibrant, effective Catholicism going forward—because we certainly haven’t had anything like it for a long time. But this is a seductive vision. Even the best and most comprehensive plans for renewal will run into enormous...

Modeling King David’s awareness of God by Dr. Jeff Mirus - May 20, 2015

The fascinating Second Book of Samuel tells of the rise of the monarchy in Israel, transitioning from the period of the judges, including Samuel, to King Saul and King David, who establishes the line of Christ. Both spiritual and exegetical lessons abound here. Let me briefly combine just one of...

Reuniting Exegesis and Theology: Toward an Incarnational study of Scripture by Dr. Jeff Mirus - May 14, 2015

If you have been reading my highlights from Henri de Lubac’s Vatican Council notebooks, you may already have seen this trenchant observation from 1962 by the great twentieth century theologian: It must be confessed that our exegetes...withdraw into a philological and critical role; they...

Can solidarity actually work in the modern world? by Dr. Jeff Mirus - May 12, 2015

In Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict defined “solidarity” as “first and foremost a sense of responsibility on the part of everyone with regard to everyone” (#38). In other words, a person who practices the virtue of solidarity (a) Always shapes self-interested actions so...

Swiss Catholics remind us of the iron law of Faith by Dr. Jeff Mirus - May 7, 2015

The Swiss are now on record (see Swiss Catholics call for same-sex partnerships), though their record is arguably worse even than that of their German neighbors. But the Swiss report includes critical information which we outsiders learned about Germany only by juggling multiple news...

Beyond Our Ken: Henri de Lubac's Paradoxes of Faith by Thomas Van - May 4, 2015

From the truest truth to the falsest falsehood, there is often only one step. It has often been noted, quite rightly. But from the noting of that fact to the condemning of certain truths, as being dangerously near falsehood, there is also one step, and that step as well is often taken, this time...

Not Fully Human: Anthony Esolen’s compelling verdict on personal formation today by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Apr 27, 2015

The modern notion of freedom is a kind of slavery. Over the years, I’ve tried to make this point by explaining that we are free only when we have the power to direct ourselves toward the good. Insofar as we fall into evil or sin, it is because we are enslaved by vice. To take but one...

Final take on the LCWR: A time to plant, a time to uproot by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Apr 24, 2015

Though I have little doubt that Phil Lawler is correct in the rationale he outlines in “With the LCWR, has the Vatican taken Gamaliel's advice?”, I cannot help recalling Ecclesiastes 3:2. Even if we can understand the Pope’s decision against disenfranchising the Leadership...

What happened to the Vatican reform of the LCWR? by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Apr 23, 2015

The recent positive conclusion to the Vatican’s investigation into the Leadership Conference of Women Religious raises more questions than it answers. The kind words that LCWR leaders are now heaping on the Pope and curial officials do nothing to reassure. Questions arise because these...

Evangelization Itself by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Apr 21, 2015

I have brought this ongoing discussion of the importance of meaning to evangelization nearly as far as we can take it without actually beginning to evangelize. If we look back at what we have learned so far, we can see ourselves drawing perilously close to the limits of philosophical speculation....

Piano improvisations, chamber music, Irish dances: Catholic musician Mark Christopher Brandt presses forward by Thomas Van - Apr 15, 2015

Catholic pianist and composer Mark Christopher Brandt has had a productive year—the busiest in his career so far. Back in March 2014, he released Round Trip, an album of duets with guitarist Dan Leonard. Several months later came December Moment, his jazz trio’s Christmas...

Buenos Aires, Moscow, the Vatican, and Baghdad: News without change? by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Apr 14, 2015

If our age is characterized by anything at all, I’ll lay money on the conflict between desire and reality. At least this is a major theme in the news over the past few days. Everybody seems to want to latch on to something that isn’t really there. Take for example, the decision by...

Christian Meaning and Divine Providence by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Apr 9, 2015

In my series on the importance of “meaning” to evangelization, I’ve already covered (a) the crisis of meaning in modern culture; (b) the natural thirst we have for meaning; (c) the methods proper to the human person for finding meaning; and (c) the special claim of Christianity...

Holiness: Purging the evil from our midst by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Apr 7, 2015

During Lent I read again the classic “boring” books of the Bible: Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Of the five books that are attributed to Moses (the Pentateuch, including Genesis and Exodus), these are the ones which emphasize regulatory laws and liturgical rubrics. They are, I...

Making Our Case: Is CatholicCulture.org Worth Supporting? by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Mar 31, 2015

I am a firm believer that the support of apostolic work should stand or fall on whether a large number of people find it valuable. It sometimes happens even in Catholic work that the availability of substantial funds from a small group of financial angels can obscure this usefulness...

Cardinal Marx’s Devastating Misconception of the Church by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Mar 31, 2015

Cardinal Reinhard Marx’s unfortunate assertion that the German bishops “cannot wait for a Synod” to approve Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics has drawn severe criticism from two other German cardinals. Clearly, there are significant divisions within the German...

Recognizing the Noonday Devil by Thomas Van - Mar 27, 2015

If you had to guess the characteristic vice of our age, what would you pick? Some might say lust, and that’s certainly a big one, but it doesn’t seem to get to the root of the problem. The safe choice, perhaps, would be pride. It’s certainly true, but the same could be said of...

Patricia Jannuzzi on gay activists: And the real problem is? by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Mar 27, 2015

Anne Hendershott wrote a pretty good column on the Crisis website the other day (A Catholic School Removes Teacher for Defending Faith). She rightly identifies the excessive backlash (both popular and official) against Catholic priests, religious and teachers who put a foot wrong on the question...

Christianity, Poster Child for the Examined Life? by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Mar 24, 2015

In my last installment in this series on the relevance of meaning to evangelization, I discussed the importance of self-examination as a counter-weight to human fallibility. I concluded that Christianity has a powerful claim to consideration as a source of meaning precisely because, as I put it,...

Pope Francis on the death penalty by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Mar 20, 2015

When Pope Francis addressed the International Committee against the Death Penalty on March 20th, he emphasized: “Nowadays the death penalty is inadmissible, no matter how serious the crime committed.” This raises the question of whether the Pope is prepared to further develop the...

Our Failure to Penetrate Reality: The Role of the Examined Life by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Mar 18, 2015

When I explored the nature and sources of meaning in our lives (see What is ‘meaning’ and where does it come from?), I emphasized that the answers were largely self-evident. But if that is so, why do the men and women of our age have so much trouble embracing them? Part of the...

What is ‘meaning’ and where does it come from? by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Mar 13, 2015

I have already argued that we must learn again to trust our own native ways of knowing, our own holistic human perception of reality, if we are going to discover meaning (see Opening Ourselves to Meaning and Purpose). Given a basic acceptance of our own humanity and a corresponding trust in...

On Pope Francis: Getting our heads out of the sand by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Mar 10, 2015

Every pope is controversial, but not all are controversial in the same quarters. You may recall how controversial (indeed, how annoying and even appalling) Pope John Paul II was to all those who aspired to worldly sophistication (and to schismatic Traditionalists). How they loved to denigrate the...

Opening Ourselves to Meaning and Purpose by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Mar 5, 2015

If it is true that many or most people in our time are frustrated by a lack of meaning in their lives (see Evangelization and the Gift of Meaning), then it makes perfect sense for Christians to try to open their neighbors to the possibility of meaning. This will serve both as a genuine human...

Evangelization and the Gift of Meaning by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Mar 3, 2015

Ever since Pope Francis said that we don’t need to talk about “these issues” all the time—referring to today’s most contested moral issues—Catholics have thought more deeply about evangelization. Whether we welcomed the comment or were appalled by it (a reaction...

Ukraine: A great lesson in thinking like a Catholic. by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Feb 27, 2015

The current competition for sovereignty in Ukraine is apt to bring out the worst in armchair quarterbacks. I’ve heard Catholics rant on all sides of this issue, but every position seems to me to be determined by preconceptions. The clearest thing about the conflict in Ukraine from a distance...

NCIS Toes the Pro-Gay, Anti-Catholic Line by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Feb 24, 2015

I’m a big fan of NCIS, the most-watched television show in the United States last season. It was also voted America’s favorite show in 2011. It has spawned two popular spinoffs, NCIS: Los Angeles and NCIS: New Orleans. As a card-carrying contrarian, I’m not proud of my attraction...

Pope Pius XII's Apostolic Exhortations on the Ideal Film by Thomas Van - Feb 22, 2015

Recently the Catholic Artists Society shared on its Facebook page a link to two Apostolic Exhortations of Pope Pius XII, given in 1955 to representatives of the film industry (Italian and international, respectively). I had never heard of these documents before, and was intrigued that a Pope...

The decline and fall of the Person: Musings on my stack of unread books by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Feb 20, 2015

It is no coincidence that there are four new books on my desk which are all centered on the human person. It is not a coincidence because the loss of a clear sense of the person is the overriding tragedy of modern history. This tragedy lies at the root of the gradual collapse of our secular...

Unseemly arguments? Conflict in Rome over financial reform by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Feb 17, 2015

Once again we have a news story emphasizing the disagreements among the various cardinals and offices of the Curia when it comes to financial reform. Such conflict at the Vatican—or even just pointed questions—will always be eagerly reported. It is not insignificant; it makes a good...

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