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Commentary and reflection on Catholic life.

Is God humble?

A few weeks ago, I jotted down a question I thought might be worth writing about: How can God be considered humble? I remember that the question occurred to me while I was reading Scripture, but if I had a blazing insight I wanted to share, I have completely lost it now. Still, the question...

The quest for religious unity: The natural must not eclipse the supernatural.

As a first step to considering more deeply the relationship between the quest for religious unity and evangelization, we need to distinguish their ends. We will see that the quest for greater religious unity has a natural end, whereas the end of evangelization is supernatural. Once we grasp this...

Evangelization deformed or delayed: A danger of the quest for religious unity

Beginning in the mid-20th century, the leaders of the Catholic Church have chosen to place a high priority on forging stronger ties between Catholics and members of other religions. They have sought to emphasize shared beliefs, to increase mutual understanding, and to create a more cohesive...

Darkness: The practical result of our contemporary mythology

My primary goal was theoretical when I explored the modern mythology of “knowing” in a three-part series beginning with “Our mental prison: The myth of “objective” knowledge”. I wished to lay bare the intellectual root of contemporary misconceptions about...

The Death of Politics, revisited with critics in mind

I was happy to see a good crop of comments on last week’s essay, Politics is dead: This year, avoid the quadrennial silliness. And I was not surprised to see some comments which took strong and even heated exception to the position I outlined. As is usually the case with sensitive topics,...

Politics is dead: This year, avoid the quadrennial silliness.

2016 is a presidential election year in America. Most citizens will fasten their attention on the Republican and Democratic candidates. A minor third-party candidate may emerge. Even those with outstanding Catholic values will invent some reason for insisting it is absolutely essential to elect...

Business is a vocation; that’s why the Church won’t leave it alone.

Cardinal Turkson’s recent address to the University of the Andes in Chile made an extraordinarily important point about Pope Francis’ attitude toward “business”. The head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace insisted that “the Holy Father is not...

Modern “objective” knowledge is a circular system: Why?

I’ve already alluded to the groundbreaking work of Michael Polanyi in proving that a purely objective manner of knowing is impossible, for the simple reason that all knowledge is inherently personal. For background see Our mental prison: The myth of “objective”...

Isn't the Catholic Faith simply love unveiled?

Transmitting and teaching the Catholic Faith is a tricky business. The way you go about it depends on a number of prior assumptions. For example, we will emphasize certain things and present key concepts differently based on whether the audience doubts God’s existence or already accepts...

Why are we driven to distraction? (Or, how do saints keep their cool?)

Having just come through a long Christmas week of comparative relaxation and increased reflection, I’ve decided it is time to tell the truth about all the things that make me angry and tense. But let me admit right up front that I am drawing a larger lesson here. I am really talking about...

Our heart is wide: Christians distinguished by Christmas; Christmas distinguished by mercy.

The Devil is very clever. He stirs up just enough misguided Christians to acts of violence to make it easy for the world to condemn all religions as hothouses of terrorism—and all deep religious commitment as “fundamentalism”. A striking example is found in the recent violence in...

The Synod 2015 Final Report: Just how good is it?

When George Weigel finally wrapped up his “what really happened” account of the 2015 Synod on the Family, it was predictable that he would give it a positive spin if he honestly could. Those who follow my own comments on Catholic affairs know that I try, whenever possible, to do the...

Tastes in spiritual reading and devotional books (mostly mine)

I confess that, for spiritual reading, I don’t use much but Scripture any longer. This is hardly an indication of virtue, though it could be a sign of approaching death. Over the years I’ve read quite a few of the most famous spiritual works by saints and doctors, some of them more...

Can we accommodate a refusal? The limits of mercy

Under the influence of the last three popes, I have found myself trying to embody mercy more fully. In doing so, I become increasingly aware of the widespread abuse of mercy in the modern world. On the one hand, I know enough about myself to realize I have some anti-merciful tendencies. On the...

How do we know we are transcendent beings?

The second volume in Fr. Robert Spitzer’s “quartet” on human happiness is now out from Ignatius Press. I described the overall project and reviewed the first volume back in July (see Fr. Robert Spitzer on happiness: An effective approach to God?). Entitled The Soul’s Upward...

If you hope to see us in 2016, please act now.

As everyone has surely noticed, CatholicCulture.org has entered its peak fundraising season. The Fall Campaign makes or breaks us each year, and November is the key month in the campaign. CatholicCulture.org lost about $10,000 last year after three years of meeting the budget. As of...

A response to my critics: Has Pope Francis poisoned the well?

Regarding my essay “Francis on Communion: The Pope’s deeper questions and ours”, the vast majority of the responses were negative. The oddest thing about the responses, however, was that most of them criticized me for positions I did not take. When something like this happens,...

The consecrated life really is a love story.

We live in a curious age when God will call someone to the consecrated life via YouTube. That’s what happened to 21-year-old college student Lauren Franko, who went to play her favorite song and, instead of the lyrics to “Only Hope,” heard the words “Will you marry...

The Pope's advice to a Lutheran woman with a Catholic husband on receiving the Eucharist

Personally, I would prefer Pope Francis to be less prone to shifting spiritual questions to the internal forum in order to escape a clear and consistent exposition of the principles involved. That’s how I’m built. But I can anticipate violent reactions and glaring headlines in response...

To know as we are known: Maritain on human subjectivity

For several years, I’ve been a student of Jacques Maritain’s philosophy of art. I treasure books like The Responsibility of the Artist and Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry. Maritain is known for a lot more than his aesthetics, though; and to get a sense of his contributions in...

Through a glass darkly: When science becomes a mirror

A friend who read my critique of ideological scientism (Our mental prison: The myth of “objective” knowledge) shot me an email with this comment: “You probably could strengthen your argument by pointing out how politicized modern science has become, e.g., the whole climate...

Our mental prison: The myth of “objective” knowledge

One of the most powerful myths of modern times is the belief that “scientific” knowledge is purely “objective” or “impersonal”, whereas everything else is “subjective” or “personal”, that is, a matter of opinion. But as every...

All things to all men: Pope Francis on the Gypsies, but what of the Gypsy Church?

The news a few days ago that Pope Francis had come under attack by Gypsy activists is in some way humorous. While the Pope has been a strong supporter of the rights of Gypsies, he said in an audience in October 26th that they themselves could help repair their public image if they are “good...

Calling names without naming names: What I like least about Pope Francis

We’ve all done it. We have all ascribed certain characteristics to groups of people in a general way, but without identifying whom we are talking about, or why. Sometimes we do this in a constructive manner by explaining, teaching or preaching about the virtues we all should possess and the...

Indissolubility as liberation: Accommodation vs. evangelization on marriage

The two synods in 2014 and 2015 have marked an important development in the way many bishops think about marriage and family. Only time will tell what fruit this change in perspective will bear, but it is clearly part of a larger shift from a passive to an active Catholicism. A deep faith is...

Playing the lottery: Nudging Providence?

The darndest things catch my attention. Today it was this headline: Italian parishioners asked to donate lottery cards. Apparently the church of San Martino in Cigola, Brescia needs a new roof, so the pastor has asked parishioners to donate their lottery cards in the hope that, with a large...

Same-sex attraction: Read this before you risk your credibility.

I mentioned two weeks ago that Living the Truth in Love from Ignatius Press is an important book, and that I would have more to say about it. Having now read each of its score of theoretical, testimonial and pastoral essays, I am even more convinced that everyone concerned about the...

What about Catholic affirmation for those in false marriages?

It would be a grave mistake for the Church to start speaking positively about intrinsically inauthentic “marriages”. I refer here to the pleas of a few Synod fathers that the Church must explicitly recognize and commend what is positive in the relationships of those who have divorced...

Internalizing marriage at this year's synod

Given the variety of bishops involved and the sheer magnitude of “the family” as a topic, it is hard to predict the particular outcomes of the two-year synodal process. The 2015 synod does seem to be off to a more decisive start. Indeed, Pope Francis himself has set a new tone....

1971: The best of times, the worst of times

I was in my early twenties in 1971. I had just finished college and entered graduate school. For the past five years, since my freshman year in 1966, I had been steadily increasing my involvement in apologetics, attempting as a layman to defend a Faith which was everywhere being abandoned by...

The Ignatius Press conspiracy to control the synods on the family

While we’re on the topic of conspiracies, I think we have to be perfectly honest. Ignatius Press, a bastion of intelligent orthodoxy, has been trying to control the course of the synods on the family for the past two years. So when Ignatius published its own allegations of...

What is the theme of Pope Francis’ pontificate? It’s the family.

It is a great mistake, I think, to sell Pope Francis short when he does not say exactly what we wish he would say. I’ve written about this before. (See, for example, How do we react when the Pope fails to express our top concerns? in January and Pope Francis: Get it? Got it? Good! in June.)...

I saw the Pope. Yes, THAT Pope.

On Friday, I lined up with tens of thousands of people to catch a glimpse of the leader of the free world as he rode through Central Park. (And I ain’t talkin’ ‘bout POTUS.) It went down thusly: The Pope’s motorcade was set to begin at 5 PM, but there was a massive...

Pope Francis: Not so much do as I say as do as I do.

For my money, the most important thing Pope Francis has done so far while here in the United States has been to make a surprise visit to the Little Sisters of the Poor, who are busy fighting the HHS Mandate. That visit, if it were understood, would focus more attention on the key problems facing...

How Christian relationships create authority

Consider the problems. Contemporary Western men are taught not to exercise authority lest they diminish the status of their wives or other women. Feminists see authority exclusively in terms of political power, regarding themselves as powerless if they are not given prestigious positions. The...

The real cost of changing Catholic teaching on marriage

Many Christian bodies change their teachings fairly frequently. We have been acutely aware of this pattern in the Anglican Church over the past century, but many other denominations have also changed their position on such things as divorce, contraception, abortion, homosexuality and gay marriage....

Louis Bouyer’s Memoirs: A portrait of the twentieth-century Church

Louis Bouyer (1913-2004) was another one of those fine French minds of the mid-twentieth century who were relegated to the outer darkness by the secularism that overtook the Church in the West in the 1960s. In this he joined such men as Henri de Lubac, Yves Congar, Jacques Maritain and Etienne...

Making Our Case: Is CatholicCulture.org Worth Supporting?

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...

Streamlining the annulment process: A good thing

Throughout the years of my active presence on the Internet, I have received quite a few heart-rending emails from men and women who found themselves in one of two positions: Either a judgment of the nullity of their marriage had been reached despite their moral certainty that the marriage was...

The dispensations of the Jubilee Year are a two-edged sword.

I want to add to what Phil Lawler has already written on the special dispensations Pope Francis has announced for the Jubilee Year of Mercy (December 8, 2015 to November 20, 2015). Actually, I was prompted to do this by a friend who has heard some Catholics discussing priestly absolution of the...

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