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Commentary and reflection on Catholic life.

Living under the dictatorship of relativism: The cornerstone of politics is virtue

Most of us in the so-called “free world” now live under a sort of consistently totalitarian dictatorship. This is exemplified in the United States by President Barack Obama who, as time began to run out for his administration, decided to govern by executive order whenever he could not...

YOUCAT and DOCAT: Catholic teaching for teens and young adults

After Pope St. John Paul II promulgated the preliminary French version of the new Catechism of the Catholic Church in the 1992 and the final Latin edition in 1997, the Church mandated that all catechetical materials should be consistent with this new and comprehensive official text. The desire for...

For those who are outraged: Even Pope Francis does not know the proper interpretation of Amoris Laetitia.

Okay, so here’s a gift to all those who were indignant with yesterday’s defense of Pope Francis against the charge of heresy. The gift is this: Pope Francis, writing privately, is not a definitive interpreter of how the Church is to understand his Magisterial statements. The...

Unlocking the mystery of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Earlier this year, Ignatius Press brought out an English edition of a remarkable coffee-table book entitled Guadalupe Mysteries: Deciphering the Code. Authored by film director Grszegorz Górny and photographer Janusz Rosikoń, the 280-page oversize hardback book is printed in full color on...

Not heretical: Pope Francis’ approval of the Argentine bishops’ policy on invalid marriages

According to news reports, Pope Francis has commended the bishops of Argentina for recognizing that Amoris Laetitia permits Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics in some cases, without benefit of annulment. The result is that some Catholics are now saying that Pope Francis has crossed the...

Why care for the environment shouldn’t make the “works of mercy” list

I promised yesterday (in Catholics and the environment: Too easily misunderstood?) to address Pope Francis’ suggestion that care for the environment (“care for our common home” as he phrased it) should be added to the traditional lists of the corporal and spiritual...

Catholics and the environment: Too easily misunderstood?

Pope Francis’ suggestion that care for the environment should be considered a work of mercy may not really require any comment. But I have the feeling that many will find this startling or confusing or distressing. If I’m correct, then there is reasonable cause to address the...

More “programs” or Divine fire? The Catholic choice

Unlike a great many other societies throughout history, our society still seems to place considerable value on helping the poor, particularly in terms of social justice. This arose as a direct result of Christianization, but we are now in an interim stage of spiritual decline in which our concern...

The Better Pastor: Learning to really manage your parish

Patrick Lencioni is a well-respected business author, writing primarily about team leadership and management. The magic of his popular books, written in the fable format, is that he uses storytelling to engage the heart and the mind—and unbeknownst to either, to begin the change...

Fighting yesterday’s battles: A real-world political example

When I wrote On guard against ourselves: The problems of aging leadership, I referred to the danger (which we all face) of getting locked in to the way we perceive problems and solutions in our 20s and 30s, but failing to become aware of important shifts in the challenges we face as we grow older....

On guard against ourselves: The problems of aging leadership

One of the reasons Saint John Paul II was so remarkably popular was because he was a comparatively young man when he was elected Pope. He was just 58 years of age, which in our day falls some years shy of being elderly. Fifty-eight may well be the new forty-five. In any case, while he had many...

The intrusion of secular values: A mysterious case study

I’ve noticed a great many negative cultural trends in the course of my life. In fact, from the Catholic perspective, very few trends in Western culture have been positive. It distresses me that I have not managed to leave a healthier cultural environment to my children and grandchildren. But...

Islam: When the Church can speak authoritatively, and when she cannot

This would be hilarious if it weren’t evidence of confusion in the Church. It seems that Relevant Radio carried a debate between Robert Spencer and Msgr. Stuart Swetland on this question: “Is Islam violent?” Spencer runs the website jihadwatch.org and Msgr. Swetland, who holds a...

Episcopal renewal: The thin line, and our response

Two other questions were raised by the correspondent I mentioned yesterday, concerning whether or not the world’s bishops are likely, in the absence of effective papal leadership, to take a greater responsibility for furthering authentic Catholic renewal in their own dioceses. The first of...

Will Catholic bishops really lead an ongoing Catholic renewal?

I wrote yesterday that Catholic renewal is not dead, but that under Pope Francis its center of gravity has shifted from the pope to the bishops. I proposed that the vacuum created at the top of the hierarchy during this pontificate could well spur bishops around the world to take greater personal...

Is there any hope left for the renewal of the Church?

Throughout the West, it is not hard to see how far authentic Catholic renewal still has to go before it can have a significant cultural impact inside or outside the Church. Indeed, the Church very often continues to form a secular culture even among her own children, as she has done since I was a...

On papal language: Fundamentalism, my foot. Or Christ’s feet, hands and side.

At first I tried to laugh off Pope Francis’ remarks about Islamic violence, during the in-flight interview following World Youth Day in Poland. These comments were made in response to a question raised by Antoine Marie Izoarde of i.Media: “Why do you, when you speak of these violent...

Even mercy can be built on sand. Here’s how to tell.

On the whole, the renewed emphasis on mercy since the pontificate of John Paul II is a very good thing. There was a danger in mid-twentieth century piety of falling into a “who’s in and who’s out” sort of spirituality, with an emphasis on the righteousness of “good...

Gänswein’s mark of Cain, and what it teaches about Catholic renewal

In a recent interview, Archbishop Georg Gänswain said many Germans view him as having the “mark of Cain” because of his loyalty to Pope Benedict and his service to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He therefore believes it is highly unlikely that he would...

Why Be Catholic? 11: Peace

Another one of the many reasons I am grateful for being a Catholic is the peace it brings to my life. The history of the Church and the lives of the saints suggest that this is a universal experience, and we shouldn’t be surprised: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to...

Why Be Catholic? 10: Reason

At first glance, a title which makes “Reason” a point in favor of Catholicism may look odd to modern eyes. We’re accustomed, after all, to thinking of reason as a faculty which we must use independently of faith to solve human problems, something that faith obscures. It has been...

Why Be Catholic? 9: The Fall

It is difficult—it has always been difficult, I think—to find a worldview that makes perfect sense. For example, if we believe the universe is created and governed by an all-loving God, we have trouble explaining natural and moral evils. But if we believe we are not created and there...

Why Be Catholic? 8: Incarnation

There is, in the Catholic vision of reality, a profound understanding of the impenetration of matter by grace which we call the Incarnational principle. The Incarnation of God the Son as Jesus Christ is the bedrock which underlies the Christian vision of the relationship between God and man. In...

Why Be Catholic? 7: Tradition

This is not primarily an essay about Sacred Tradition, which is certainly another worthy apologetical topic. Instead, I have in mind here the Catholic Church’s unique vision of human nature, a vision so profound that one particular dimension of it is just now beginning to be grasped in the...

Why Be Catholic? 6: Divine Intimacy

Among all the concepts of God the world has known, only one draws the believer into the most profound intimacy of love. This intimacy is completely dependent upon the unique way in which the Christian God interacts in its three persons, and in which the Catholic God interacts with men. I refer, of...

Why Be Catholic? 5: Perfection

Anyone with aspirations to human perfection ought to investigate Catholicism seriously. This is, in some ways, an extension of the second number in this series dealing with personal freedom, for freedom is essentially the ability to pursue one's proper end, which is also the path to...

Why Be Catholic? 4: Resurrection

Though I take it up as the fourth in this series, surely the Resurrection of Jesus Christ provides the first and most obvious reason to be both a Christian and a Catholic, for it is Christ’s Resurrection which bears ultimate witness to the truth of the relationship between man and God which...

Why Be Catholic? 3: Suffering

The oldest and most painful riddle of human existence is the riddle of suffering. In every time and place, man has sought an answer. Yet apart from Judeo-Christian Revelation, man has had very little to say. Stoic fortitude, Epicurean pleasure-seeking, Buddhist negation, the Utilitarian calculus...

Why Be Catholic? 2: Freedom

Among the great issues addressed by Christianity, two generally strike each of us as more than merely academic. These are the issues of suffering and freedom, which touch us so very personally. Many would give the issue of suffering the first place. After all, suffering is a profound riddle...

Why Be Catholic? 1: Revelation

There are plenty of reasons to be a Catholic, and the mix of motivations can have as many variations as there are people. For me, however, the very first reason that comes to mind is that Catholicism is the only religion in the entire world that has a logical and consistent approach to the problem...

Chastity and the natural thirst for happiness: A follow-up

In response to the sixth part of my series on Gender Ideology—Gender Ideology 6: The common denominator of chastity—one reader posted a Sound Off! comment that raised interesting questions: Without a concrete description of what God's grace actually looks like, advice to trust...

On criticizing bishops—or even the Pope

Since Phil Lawler and I have devoted a little more space to criticism of Pope Francis in the past week or so, some readers have wondered whether we misunderstand the Pope or whether, in any case, we might do more harm than good by openly criticizing the Vicar of Christ. These are fair questions;...

Gender Ideology 6: The common denominator of chastity

One of the more common arguments in favor of gender ideology is that sexual pleasure is a key to human fulfillment, and so it is a moral duty to facilitate whatever use of the sexual faculties gives pleasure to each particular person. My critics will immediately protest that today’s emphasis...

The serious danger of idealizing the Christian life

If the teachings of Christ are ideal, which they certainly are, why is it misleading to refer to Christian morality as “an ideal”? It’s all in the definition of the word. It is true that the term “ideal” (as a noun) means “a conception of something in...

Gender Ideology 5: Subversion of the social order

Having examined how gender ideology undermines human wholeness (or integrity), it is time to look outward to see its inescapable impact on society as a whole. The fundamental principle here is that a healthy social order must always be rooted in male-female complementarity. In the passionate...

A better marriage preparation (and preparation for a better marriage)

In the furor over the recent apostolic exhortation on marriage (Amoris Laetitia), few commentators have paid much attention to the most important point made in the entire text. In the first paragraph in the section on “The logic of pastoral mercy”, Pope Francis wrote: To show...

Gender Ideology 4: The scourge of our inner life

In rounding out this series on gender ideology, I could go in two different directions. I could look inward at what we might call the disruption of personal wholeness in those who fall victim to this ideology. Or I could look outward at the disruption of social integrity which characterizes...

Emmanuel: The dominant theme of Fr. Spitzer’s third volume on happiness

The third volume of Fr. Robert Spitzer’s quartet on happiness, suffering and transcendence is now available. Those who have followed the progress of this impressive initiative will recall that the first volume explored the nature of human happiness and concluded that our greatest...

Gender Ideology 3: The value of personal relationships

Another argument used to justify a multiplicity of genders, each with its own natural affectivity, is that those affected often speak of their relationships as deeply fulfilling. Such persons can be sincerely committed to each other’s good , and they...

Gender Ideology 2: Personal disorder and personal sin

When it comes to gender ideology, which roots human identity in personal desire, clear thinking is essential. But clear thinking itself depends on a proper recognition of the human condition, including self-awareness of our own passions. Perhaps the first thing we notice on careful reflection is...

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