On the Culture

Commentary and reflection on Catholic life.

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...

Pope Francis and Bernard Häring: The literally infernal cheek of dissent

During his discussions with the General Congregation of the Society of Jesus in November, Pope Francis praised the Redemptorist theologian, Fr. Bernard Häring, for being one of the first to try to revive an ailing moral theology following the Second Vatican Council. This was reported at the...

On the role of the Holy Spirit in papal elections

A common question among Catholics today is: “What was the Holy Spirit doing during the conclave that elected Jorge Bergoglio as Pope Francis?” The answer, of course, is that the Holy Spirit was doing what He is always doing, prompting all involved to cast their votes for the good of...

Quick Hits: DuruflĂ©’s Requiem and more

Yesterday I was blessed to hear some of the most beautiful music ever composed in concert at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan (which happens to be the largest cathedral and the fourth largest church in the world, and a splendid place for music-making). The centerpiece of...

Catholics today: Struggling when the wood is dry

I ran across a book on the Spanish Civil War the other day. I have never studied that war, but I know it was characterized by a wide variety of loyalties, often conflicting not only within families but within individual persons. By the 1930s people were hopelessly divided (and very frequently...

Tolkien the modernist: a glimpse of a unique creative process

[My work is] fundamentally linguistic in inspiration…The invention of languages is the foundation. The ‘stories’ were made rather to provide a world for the languages than the reverse. To me a name comes first and the story follows. That Tolkien’s creative work...

More on Trump’s wall: The danger of overreach

I suggested on Friday that President Trump’s 2,000-mile wall could well turn out to be the kind of ill-considered commitment which sends voters back across the aisle in 2020. The risk does not arise from any intrinsic immorality connected with building a wall, but from the likelihood that...

In Potentia: Donald Trump’s Upside, and Donald Trump’s Downfall

It is hard to imagine (but easy to hope) that Donald Trump’s presidency will dramatically alter how politics works in America. Like many other Catholics who voted for Trump, I had to hold my nose as I entered the voting booth. Trump’s crassness, including all the negative publicity...

Combatting the dictatorship of relativism, one soul at a time

As an intellectual exercise, anyone who can think his way out of a paper bag immediately recognizes that relativism is a hopeless tautology. It affirms without a shadow of a doubt that truth does not exist, thereby proclaiming what would be, if it were possible, a very important truth. As a...

Scorsese’s Silence is a contemplative masterpiece

Warning: this review contains spoilers. Perhaps the most frequently noted characteristic of Silence—both book and film—is its ambiguity. Some revel in it, while others are deeply uncomfortable at best. (It is not necessary here to enter into psychoanalysis of the critics.) Most...

Recommended: Challenge yourself with Pope Francis’ latest interview

Each person responds to a homily, address or interview by the Holy Father in his or her own unique way. Most often, the question in our minds is: “Did the Pope respond to my primary concerns in a helpful manner?” Thus, we start by being concerned about something based on our own...

St. Thomas More’s razor-sharp Dialogue of Comfort

I feel privileged to have read another book written by St. Thomas More while he was in the Tower of London awaiting execution: A Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation (see my comments last November on The Sadness of Christ). More remained extraordinarily calm under fire for his refusal to...

If the English cannot live in accordance with moral values, are they free?

If you want to see how darkened the human intellect can become through sin, look no further than the remarks of Dame Louise Casey in the United Kingdom. Casey holds a dubious position which apparently puts her in charge of “community integration”, perhaps the better to ensure that...

A cinematic rendering of the Ten Commandments

I had the opportunity to see Dekalog, Krzysztof Kieslowski’s acclaimed series of ten hour-long films based on the Ten Commandments, when it was released in theaters in a newly restored version last fall. Made for Polish television in 1989, Dekalog is generally regarded as his best work...

Mary holy for only nine months?

In a bizarre post by the standards of First Things, Peter J. Leithart attempts to explain the meaning of St. Matthew’s statement that Joseph “took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son.” Leithart, who is a minister in the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches,...

Pope Francis: Hope through the Sacrament of Penance

Whatever concerns we may have about how Pope Francis is handling access to the Eucharist by those in invalid marriages, there is a common theme in nearly everything he says and does. I refer to the Pope’s emphasis on the Church as a field hospital in which the chief method of healing is the...

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