On the Culture

Commentary and reflection on Catholic life.

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...

Religion in public? Our modern political stupor

Well, well, I was looking for something to write about…and there it was right in our news list: “France’s Le Pen: ban religious symbols in public”. When the leader of France’s third-largest political party proposed a ban on all personal manifestations of religious...

The Pius Wars? No longer a slur on Pius XII, but the Pope’s own war against Hitler

Do you recall the Pius wars? The conflict over the legacy of Pope Pius XII is probably best known from John Cornwell’s highly-biased book Hitler’s Pope, a title that is also a shameless bit of name-calling. But that was in 1999. Since then so many scholars have leapt to the...

Crucified “Christa”: A sign of faith lost

One can only marvel at the “evolving, growing, learning church” touted by New York’s Episcopalian Bishop Andrew Dietsche. He says that’s why Episcopalians can now welcome the crucifix portraying Christ as a woman, which they rejected some 30 years ago. But this is not a...

Evangelizing, Converting, Proselytizing: What’s in a Name?

Speaking on relations between Catholics and the Orthodox while in the Eurasian country of Georgia, Pope Francis touched on the question of conversion: Let the theologians study the abstract realities of theology. But what should I do with a friend, neighbor, an Orthodox person? Be open, be a...

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...

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