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Commentary and reflection on Catholic life.

Glimmerings from the First Book of Chronicles

First and Second Samuel, First and Second Kings, and First and Second Chronicles: These are the books which repeatedly survey the rise and fall of the monarchy in Israel, each with its different emphasis.* I have already discussed Samuel and Kings. The Chronicles were written after the Exile,...

The bishops and tax policy: Missing not just the big picture but God’s picture?

Tax reform has been a big issue in the United States for the past few decades, and the particulars of the current administration’s tax package are currently being hotly debated across the land. Adding to the debate on October 25th, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, chair of the US bishops’...

Want to nudge someone toward holiness?

It is rare that I find a new and simple book aimed at spiritual development which I really believe will be of much use to anybody at all. The pitfalls are legion, but the two most common today are the twin temptations to break things down into baby concepts and baby steps, as if God’s...

What makes a good book? The case of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga

This is a brief and very paradoxical review, because Silas S. Henderson’s new biography of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga is in several important senses a very good book. Yet one wonders if academicians who write books think much about what makes a book really good. Or whether their publishers...

Caveat emptor? Sandro Magister, Robert Sarah, Charles Chaput on Pope Francis

Magister on The Last Things That inveterate Vatican-watcher Sandro Magister wrote an excellent column on Friday entitled “World’s End Update. The ‘Last Things’ According to Francis”. He began by noting that Pope Francis’ atheist interviewer, Eugenio Scalfari,...

The folly of Kings, 2: Divine justice, Divine mercy, and true hope

After the First Book of Kings, the reader steels himself against the Second Book. It summarizes the reigns of the remaining kings of Israel and Judah up to the Babylonian captivity, the vast majority of whom are summarily dismissed because they “did what was evil in the sight of the...

The folly of Kings, 1: Authority, infidelity and Providence

The two books of Kings* in the Old Testament are essentially a survey of the history of the tribes of Israel under the monarchy. Actually, this quickly became two monarchies, that of Israel and that of Judah. In general, the focus is on the kings and their lineage, whether they served God or not,...

Catholic Justice: When the Church should not defer to the State

Phil Lawler introduced a legitimate question when he explained on Wednesday Why the Church still operates under a cloud on the abuse issue. In light of the Church’s continued poor handling of abuse cases, and despite frequent promises to do better, Phil commented on the latest scandal as...

Samuel: A spiritual and political tale of two kings. Part two: David

I have already identified the two books of Samuel as a tale of two kings, and I have amply demonstrated the constant waffling between good and evil which characterized King Saul. Even in the First Book of Samuel, it was obvious that David was constant in his respect for and service to Saul,...

Francis the Thomist? Do not lose the thread.

Now Pope Francis has claimed that the morality underlying Amoris Laetitia is Thomistic. Please note that I am resisting the temptation to write another of my 10,000 word commentaries. Like the rest of you, I really, really want to have a life. Instead, to make things quicker and easier, I offer...

The Dominicana Spirit

Over the past year, through a number of friends and acquaintances connected with the Dominican Province of St. Joseph, I have become increasingly fond of what I think of as the “Dominican spirit.” Dominican thinking—I say based on no expertise but my limited...

The latest effort to correct Pope Francis, for what it is worth

Readers were no doubt startled by Phil Lawler’s assertion yesterday that “the ‘filial appeal’ to Pope Francis was not the most important story that emerged from the Vatican this past weekend.” It may strike some as scandalous that CatholicCulture.org should think the...

The pastoral imperative—and when it becomes a sin

From the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has placed great emphasis on pastoral care, often using colorful similes and metaphors, such as “the Church is a field hospital” and pastors must “get the smell of the sheep.” This is a salutary emphasis, for we are all...

Making up for—and regretting—lost time

I spend at least some portion of most of my days doing what we call “making up for lost time.” All the things that have not quite gotten done as quickly as they should have—or worse, as quickly as I expected them to be done—claim extra hours from another day along with...

Samuel: A spiritual and political tale of two kings. Part one: Saul

There are no fewer than six books in the Old Testament which cover the period of the monarchy: The first and second books of Samuel (sometimes called the first and second books of Kings), the first and second books of Kings (called the third and fourth books of Kings when the title...

Ruth shows family to be at the center of God’s plan

The Book of Ruth in the Old Testament is very short, only about three times the length of this little essay. It is a charming account of how Ruth, a Moabite who had married one of Naomi’s sons, accompanied her mother-in-law back to her ancestral home in Bethlehem after both her husband and...

Curmudgeon’s Corner: The case against Catholic apologies

One of my very few disagreements with Pope St. John Paul II—to whom I pray each and every day—was over his introduction of the habit of formally apologizing for past failures and errors of the Catholic Church. This is a prudential question; good Catholics can disagree about it. But...

Judges: Every man did what was right in his own eyes.

The Biblical book of Judges makes a remarkable point which is just as relevant today as it was before Saul established the monarchy in the eleventh century before Christ: “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg 17:6). But this may...

Liturgical renewal—and every other kind—in the light of Christ

Phil Lawler has already commented ably on Pope Francis’ statement that “we can assert with certainty and magisterial authority that the liturgical reform is irreversible.” Of course saying that he can assert something magisterially is not the same thing as asserting it, which in...

Charlottesville without Natural Law

Almost nobody knows the problem that lies at the heart of the recent unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia. For those who have not followed the action, white supremacists held a rally there which led to widespread outrage, the escalation of rhetoric, and some violence. President Trump is facing near...

Taking Scripture to heart: Joshua’s great lesson

The Scriptural book of Joshua, which immediately follows the Pentateuch and begins to recount Jewish history after Moses, is typically remembered for a few dramatic moments. The book recounts the stopping of the waters of the Jordan River so that the people could cross into the promised...

Our bishops and priests need direct support and protection. Can we supply it?

Today’s news makes one wonder whether the time has come for lay guards for bishops and priests. In Cameroon, Msgr. Joseph Akonga Essombahe has claimed that Bishop Jean Marie Benoit of Bafia was murdered because he opposed homosexuals in the clergy. In Nigeria, gunmen burst into a Catholic...

Complaining? It’s a question of Providence.

When we are children we tend to complain incessantly. We are bored or hungry or don’t like how we’re being treated. Often we are so focused on some desire (such as “electronics time”, not that this was a problem when I was a kid) that we cannot even consider doing anything...

Uncaging The Nightingale: The Mark Christopher Brandt interview

The Nightingale, released last month, is the latest album and compositional project by Mark Christopher Brandt. It’s a 49-minute-long programmatic suite, inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen story by the same name, and a truly beautiful and impressive work of art. The album seamlessly...

Sex vs. Sexual Orientation; Prejudice vs. Discrimination

The Justice Department is now arguing that the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. What a difference the President makes to the Justice Department’s conception of law! This is one of those...

On the importance of doing God’s will (contra mundum)

I’ve joked several times about how hard it is to slog through the legal/ritual books of the Pentateuch: Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. But these do contain a number of dramatic historical episodes, from plagues to wars, including acts of both cowardice and courage—from going...

Pope Francis and Humanae Vitae: The difference to me

Let us return for a moment to Phil Lawler’s commentary on June 23rd, A papal commission reconsidering Humanae Vitae? No, but…. I was visiting family in California when Phil posted this, but I did want to say something further about what is a very important topic. The points made in...

Catholic Social Teaching: Rooted in Leviticus?

There is not as much about social justice in Leviticus as there is about sexual morality. Or is there? We ought to be more aware, after all, that sexuality lies at the very root of the social order. This means that sexual morality, including its focus on the family, is pretty much the sine qua non...

Want to understand sexual morality? Read—and grasp—Leviticus.

Leviticus is a Biblical book which only the Mother of God could love, or so it seems at first glance. This book provides the details of the Israelites’ ritual law, the manner of ordinations, the prescribed methods of celebrating the major feasts, distinctions between clean and unclean...

The Catch-22 of Christian witness by those who are same-sex attracted

We ought not to kid ourselves about the difficulties same-sex attracted people face in bearing witness to the positive ways they have found to deal with their temptations, including the help they have received from their Lord and Savior and His Church. This issue is coming to the fore as Catholic...

Called and gifted for glory: An unlikely lesson from Exodus?

When we read Scripture repeatedly, we almost always find something spiritually significant that we had not noticed before. The Holy Spirit enlightens us in different ways at different times. Over the past few days I’ve had this experience with the Book of Exodus. The first thing I noticed...

Don’t worry: The Black Pope is just a symbol of the zeitgeist.

I have added the head of the Society of Jesus to my list of alleged persons who cannot possibly be real. It was not enough that Fr. Arturo Sosa Abascal insisted in February that we must discern the meaning of Christ’s teachings for ourselves, and that the Holy Spirit might lead us to an...

A new legalism denies the moral content of moral rules.

Guess what? The dismissal of moral norms is a modern form of legalism. This point was made brilliantly last week by Russell Shaw writing in the Arlington Catholic Herald: The old legalism is a morality of young children, for whom being good means doing what parents and other authority figures...

The perils of “apostolic necessity”: The soul of the apostolate is Presence.

I suspect we all know people who are so invested in their jobs that they have little time for anything else. This may be how they define success, which is in itself unfortunate, but there can be a similar imbalance in the Christian life. Have you also known lay persons who work so hard in various...

Renewal Phase 2: Making the parish central again

Back in the late 1960s, when I first began to see the urgent necessity of renewing the Church, the available options were both few and primitive. The disruption of clerical leadership in dioceses, parishes and religious communities throughout the West was so rapid and thorough that it quickly...

Pope Francis vs. Venezuela: Historical perspective

Phil Lawler and Catholic World News have provided excellent coverage of the conflict between the Venezuelan government and the Venezuelan bishops. You can search through the news archives to find steady documentation of the problems in Venezuela over the past several years. Recently, closer...

That nothing may be lost: An engraced path of renewal for the laity

If you’ve been following my recent essays on the difficulties faced by the laity in renewing the Church, you will recall that the chief obstacle is that the laity do not have the sort of ecclesiastical authority necessary to eliminate the influence of those within the Church who reject her...

Rigidity and conversion do not mix. But don’t be fooled by double-speak.

When Pope Francis once again rebuked hardhearted Catholics in a homily on May 2nd, all I could do was scratch my head. “This causes suffering in the Church,” the Pope said, “the closed hearts, the hearts of stone, the hearts which do not want to be open, do not want to hear, the...

Honoring Mary on the 100th anniversary of her apparitions at Fatima

Pope Francis has chosen to honor the Mother of God, and to lend further credibility to her apparitions at Fatima in 1917, by canonizing two of the three visionaries on the hundredth anniversary of the apparitions. Jacinta and Francisco Marto, who died very young, were beatified in the year 2000 by...

Renewing the Church: Yes, we do have a plan.

The reaction of some readers to yesterday’s essay (How can the laity renew the Church?) was that it was a cop-out—a refusal to do the heavy-lifting of actually formulating an effective plan for the renewal of the Church. I was afraid this was going to happen when I wrote: I have not...

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