On the Culture

Commentary and reflection on Catholic life.

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 the 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

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...

Three Catholic essay collections, useful in different ways

Recently three different collections of essays crossed my desk, from three different publishers. In some ways, these collections remind me of the various ebook volumes of our own collected essays which CatholicCulture.org makes available as free downloads. But such collections are as different as...

This delicate lover: God rarely embraces us by force

In thinking about Our Lord’s passion, death and resurrection this year, I was struck by the extraordinary delicacy of God’s efforts to make us obedient to His will. I don’t mean to say that the crucifixion was particularly “delicate” or that His miracles should have...

The Duskwhales talk about their new album, Sorrowful Mysteries

All photos courtesy of The Duskwhales. I’ve been a fan of The Duskwhales since their very first show. From the start, their strong melodies and lush, old-school vocal harmonies set them apart from most other contemporary rock and pop artists. Those virtues have only grown since they...

Scripture is all about connections

One of the most important aspects of Sacred Scripture is the uncanny ability of the far older texts of the Old Testament to point to the Our Lord and His salvific mission as recounted in the New Testament. When we consider that the books of the Old Testament were drafted between a hundred and a...

The marriage game: Musical beds, musical faiths, and no emphasis on fidelity

One of the main emphases of Pope Francis over the past two or three years—and therefore of CatholicCulture.org—has been the problem of marriage in the modern world. This is, of course, intimately connected with the family, and it is no surprise that the high rate of marital breakdowns...

The givenness of things (a positive exchange on Facebook, for once)

Over the past few years, I’ve waged an ongoing and mostly successful battle with myself to reduce the number of Facebook discussions (or really, debates) I get bogged down in, especially with people who don’t share my basic worldview, no matter how annoying I find much of the opinion...

The first requirement of Church renewal in our time

The Catholic Church has often been called “the Church of here comes everybody”. The reason is very basic: You typically do not find the Church to be representative of just one ethnic group, nationality or social class. Membership in the Catholic Church is rarely based on encouraging...

In a Nutshell: Protecting your children in a digital world, in 2017

Now that “connected” devices are ubiquitous—and not just through an easily controllable home network—parents may not know what they can do to monitor their children’s use of online media, including social media. And what about calls to and from their personal phones?...

Family-based catechesis for home and parish: A breakthrough

Sophia Institute has recently published the materials for the first year of a new four-year religious education program which is firmly rooted in family life. This is an important development in catechesis. As one parent put it, “I’m so happy that we’re now treating our Faith as...

Lenten listening: two new Benedictine albums of Marian chant

Lent is an ideal time to get back in touch with the Church’s patrimony of Gregorian chant (particularly for those of us who aren’t blessed to hear it regularly at Mass). The penitential season motivated me to get caught up on a couple of recent albums—both, interestingly enough,...

Out of Africa: The Church’s need for living rules

When Fr. Paulinus Odozor told Crux that African Catholics had long since settled the question of Communion for the divorced and remarried, he gave us a glimpse of a younger and far more vibrant Church. It was this reality that I had in mind when I suggested the successor to Pope Francis might well...

Understanding Mercy—with pointers from the Apostolic Penitentiary

It’s one of those little things that make all the difference. Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, the head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, addressed students in a course on the internal forum following the Jubilee of Mercy. Here is the last sentence of our brief news story: Cardinal Piacenza offered...

Putting your hand to the Plough, with Gerard Manley Hopkins and Dorothy Day

Plough Publishing House is a Christian publisher focused primarily on a particular subset of Christian concerns: Solidarity with the poor, non-violence, the gospel of life, and simple Christian living. While Plough has published a number of authors famous in other contexts (from C. S. Lewis to...

Abridging Herman Melville’s faith, and perhaps our own

There are benefits to giving up reading mysteries for Lent. For one thing, I finally finished a project that both Phil Lawler and Thomas Van recommended when they learned that I had never gotten around to reading Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. That was a Catholic gap I was loath to...

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