On The News

Analysis of news events and trends.

Father Martin and his allies: intolerance masked as a plea for tolerance

See if you recognize this rhetorical strategy: Say that the people who disagree with you are motivated by hatred. Say that they’re dangerous extremists, a threat to civil society. Say that you are interested in genuine debate, but your opponents won’t allow it. Compare your...

Responding to Magnum Principium, to anti-Catholicism, to the Belgian brothers’ defiance

In a busy week of news, a few thoughts on: How the US bishops should respond to the motu proprio Anti-Catholicism in the Senate The Belgian brothers’ challenge to the Pope How the US bishops should respond to the motu proprio Now that the nation’s episcopal conference has primary...

‘Re-evangelizing New England’—my next campaign

“Sometimes a single encounter with what is healthy and ordinary—I use the word advisedly, with its suggestion that things are in the order that God by means of his handmaid Nature has ordained—is enough to shake you out of the bad dreams of disease and confusion.” Thus...

God doesn’t need our advice

There is no servile veneration of Peter in the Gospels. Certainly, he’s first among the apostles. But he also suffers the harshest of the Lord’s rebukes. The rebuke takes place not long after Peter witnesses to the divinity of Christ and Christ responds by identifying him as the first...

Skeletons in Our Closets

It is fair to suggest that in time, most people have occasion to look back at their lives with regret for behavior that may rise to the level of an embarrassing “skeleton in the closet.” Robert Penn Warren, author of All the King’s Men, exploits the primordial fear of...

What does Pope Francis mean by ‘irreversible’ liturgical reform?

Liturgical reform is “irreversible,” Pope Francis says. If he means that history cannot be undone—we can’t rewind the tape—his point is beyond dispute. But surely he does not mean that we are stuck forever with the status quo. It is noteworthy that in speaking on...

Let’s stop pretending: something DID go wrong after Vatican II

Something went wrong—seriously wrong—in the Catholic Church in the years after Vatican II. Can we all agree on that much? Leave aside, for now, the familiar debate about the causes of the problem; let’s begin with the agreement that there is, or at least certainly was, a...

Agonizing Moral Restraint

Dialog includes bombast, and it tends to grab attention. Historically our politicians and generals certainly have put the “bomb” in “bombastic.” In response to North Korean nuclear threats to our country, President Trump warned, “North Korea best not make any more...

Pope Francis must speak out on Venezuela

Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro is forcing the question: Will Pope Francis take a clear public stand in opposition to a leftist leader who styles himself as a populist? For years Maduro and his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez, have used the Catholic bishops of Venezuela as their...

Vatican document suggests excommunication for some Catholic politicians

This week the Vatican launched an international campaign against corruption and organized crime. Well, that’s not quite right. This week the Vatican announced the campaign; it will actually be launched in September. So we don’t know exactly what it will be. If you read the full...

Living on Borrowed Time

In our day there are many medical “miracles.” As we grow older, we experience medical issues that are now routinely and successfully treated whereas they could have taken our lives a century ago. So we are cured and live to see another day—or many more years. But in fact, with...

Benedict XVI is silent, but we all know what he thinks

When Pope-emeritus Benedict praised the late Cardinal Joachim Meisner for maintaining his faith in the Church “even if at times the ship is almost filled to the point of shipwreck,” many readers thought he was referring to the state of Catholicism under Pope Francis. Was...

A partisan vision at the Vatican? Further thoughts on that Civilta Cattolica essay

A week after the appearance of the Spadaro-Figueroa rant against American conservatives, I am still shaking my head with disbelief, wondering how a semi-official Vatican journal could have published such a harshly partisan and grossly misinformed analysis of American politics. I am not...

Keeping the Faith

We live in troubled times: times that can challenge our faith. It is wearisome (but necessary because good Christians face reality) to be reminded of the renewal of the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, terrorism, uprisings, wars and rumors of wars and so on. In recent years even the...

An ignorant, intemperate Vatican assault on American conservatism

With a harsh denunciation of American conservatism, published in the semi-official Jesuit journal Civilta Cattolica, the Vatican has plunged headlong into a partisan debate in a society that it clearly does not understand, potentially alienating (or should I say, further alienating) the Americans...

A dead woman kept alive? The story makes no sense, unless...

What’s wrong with this headline? Brain dead pregnant woman, 21, was kept alive for 123 days... Obvious, isn’t it? If she was kept alive, she can’t have been dead. “Alive” and “dead” are not compatible conditions. But when brain-death is involved,...

In Charlie Gard’s case, a basic moral principle: should the state decide?

Behind the complicated medical and legal questions of the Charlie Gard case, there stands one clear moral principle: Loving parents—not hospital administrators, not judges, not government officials—should control the treatment of their children. Should Charlie be removed from his...

The Reason for Human Reason

There is no contradiction between faith and reason, faith and science. Both share the same Author. Without contradiction, faith grasps truths that are beyond the reach of science. There can be no earthly scientific proof of the Resurrection of Jesus, for example, just as there can be no...

One year later: still waiting for the Vatican policy on negligent bishops

The short piece that appears below was originally posted on this site one year ago: on June 6, 2016. The references are now dated (when I refer to “last June,” for instance, it’s now the June before last; and the motu proprio now more than year old), but the logic still holds....

How conservative ideas are censored, and how to break that barrier

Back in the 1980s, a young staff member at a Christian public-interest group in Washington created a bit of a sensation during a television appearance. I’m sorry that I don’t recall the details—the names and the places—but the general outline of the incident remains clear...

Freak Shows

It seems age brings an increase in flashbacks to childhood. My most recent childhood memory was that of the annual county fair during the hot and humid days of August, just before the beginning of the new school year. It was a favorite time: walking through the barns, checking out the champion...

Mounting criticism of Pope’s silence on Venezuelan crisis

“As Venezuela burns, many Latin Americans ask: ‘Where is Pope Francis?’” The headline on a Catholic World Report essay by Samuel Gregg more or less speaks for itself. And Sando Magister of L’Espresso raised essentially the same question a week ago. The Catholic...

Is the Vatican’s top canonical official undermining canon law?

My favorite canon lawyer, Ed Peters, has some “Questions in the wake of Cdl. Coccopalmerio’s comments on Anglican orders.” I recommend his analysis highly, for anyone who wants an expert perspective; I happily defer to Peters on the legal issues. Let me add a few comments,...

If the American conservative movement has failed, don’t blame politics

Notre Dame’s Patrick Deneen writes in Modern Age that America’s conservative movement is dying, despite—perhaps in part because of—the election of Donald Trump. He contends that the three “legs” of the conservative movement—anti-Communism, libertarianism,...

Why is a Catholic bishops’ conference cheerleading for the European Union?

Yesterday in this space I remarked on the unsustainable ideology of the European Union, which invents new “human rights” on a regular basis, without recognizing any corresponding duties. Just for example, the European Commission recently promulgated a Pillar of Social Rights,...

Apres moi le deluge

As Emmanuel Macron moved toward his landslide victory in the French presidential election, the fashionable media outlets noticed a stunning reality about Europe’s current political leaders: Macron, the newly elected French president, has no children. German chancellor Angel Merkel...

The obstacles to reform of the Vatican’s communications efforts

Pope Francis was unusually candid in his May 4 address to the staff of the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications, admitting that the consolidation of the many different Vatican offices involved in the project will require “a little violence.” It will be “good...

A pastoral crisis the Church cannot (yet does) ignore

The Archdiocese of Boston has opened a new church. That news drew headline coverage, in a city that has become more accustomed to stories about church closings. To be perfectly honest, the news stories are a bit misleading. There have been a few new churches opened in Boston in the past 60...

The Benedict Option—not radical enough

The Benedict Option is the most talked-about book of 2017, at least among religious conservatives. Personally I am pleased with this development, for two reasons. First because I count the author, Rod Dreher, as a friend as well as a gifted controversialist, and I’m happy to see his work...

I Don’t Want to Die

We’ve heard it countless times: “The safety of our [fill in the blanks] is our highest priority.” So various safety programs are put into place, with policies, procedures, and protocols—mostly burdening everyone except the perpetrators. A fire drill, in contrast, is a...

Theologians

Those of us in the business know that the egos of some theologians—from the ancient Gnostics to the professional dissidents of our time—tower over Catholic doctrine. So it was refreshing to hear a very prominent theologian remark years ago, “The Church teaches doctrine, not...

What Trump’s success should teach Church leaders

Donald Trump is in the White House today, for better or worse*, because he dared to address two hot topics that other leading politicians had assiduously avoided: immigration and militant Islam. American voters were looking for a leader, and leadership involves the willingness to confront tough...

Vatican reform on sexual abuse has stalled

Three weeks have passed since Marie Collins resigned from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM), complaining that the group’s work has been thwarted by resistance from within the Roman Curia. A few days after her public announcement, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the...

St. Patrick: the patron saint of parish closings?

(This column, written five years ago, is re-posted by popular demand.) Needless to say, there is no patron saint of parish closings. The closing of a parish is a tragedy. A parish church is more than just a building. It is a repository of memories: of the children baptized there, the happy...

Prayer and Puppies

In preparation for the Olympics held in Greece in 2004, thousands of possibly dangerous stray dogs were poisoned. But the stray dog problem continues to this day. A few years ago during a religious pilgrimage to Greece, our tour bus was confronted with a pack of wild canines emerging from the...

Cardinal Wuerl goes off

A very small number of people, whose voices have been amplified by some of the Catholic media, have challenged the integrity of Pope Francis’ post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia. Thus does Cardinal Donald Wuerl begin an essay defending the papal document—and, far...

This Disastrous Papacy

Something snapped last Friday, when Pope Francis used the day’s Gospel reading as one more opportunity to promote his own view on divorce and remarriage. Condemning hypocrisy and the “logic of casuistry,” the Pontiff said that Jesus rejects the approach of legal...

News reports show impotence of papal sex-abuse commission

Talk about burying the lede! Credit the indispensable Terry Mattingly with noticing that in yesterday’s story about the Pope’s willingness to ease penalties on pedophile priests, AP put the most remarkable information in the last paragraph. So the biggest news was trimmed out of the...

Fear of Holiness

Fear is a useful emotion. Under the control of reason, it is good to recoil in fear from a rattlesnake posed to strike. Other fears are more subtle. It’s easy to think of holiness as inaccessible and even indicting, and therefore intimidating when we encounter a person perceived to be...

Blame the messenger: in this case Cardinal Burke

A bizarre conspiracy theory has arisen, suggesting that the mounting tensions within the Church are the result of a right-wing conspiracy against an innocent Pope. The theory involves inaccurate characterizations of three people: in one case absurd, in another case delusional, and in the third...

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