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Catholic commentary and analysis on contemporary events and trends by Phil Lawler, Director of Catholic World News.

Former Israeli ambassador explains how to make 'two-state solution' realistic by Phil Lawler - Feb 25, 2015

Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to the US, has a refreshing perspective on Israel-Palestine peace prospects in today’s Wall Street Journal. International leaders call for a “two-state solution,” Oren writes. But neither Israel nor the Palestinian Authority can accept a “two-state...

THE challenge for the New Evangelization: bringing men back to church by Phil Lawler - Feb 17, 2015

Here’s a simple formula, tried and true, for getting families into church: If the fathers come, the wives and children will come, too. Steve Wood, who founded St. Joseph’s Covenant Keepers, cites research done by Southern Baptists on bringing families into churches: If a...

Politicized science: the lessons of the Galileo affair by Phil Lawler - Feb 12, 2015

Sometime in grammar school, we all learned the rules of the scientific method, right? You remember how they go: First, form a hypothesis. Next, devise an experiment to test the hypothesis. If the experiment seems to confirm the hypothesis, launch a public-relations campaign to ridicule...

Two cheers for Vatican security by Phil Lawler - Feb 3, 2015

Iana Azhdanova is persona non grata at the Vatican. You may not remember the name, but Azhdanova is the Ukrainian leader of Femen, the feminist group that specializes in topless public demonstrations. On the day after Christmas she tore off her top and grabbed the figure of the baby Jesus from...

Conscientious objection to vaccinations by Phil Lawler - Jan 30, 2015

Following an outbreak of measles that was traced back to Disneyland, public-health authorities are ramping up their campaign to persuade all American parents that their children should be vaccinated. This campaign places pressure on some parents who have moral objections to the use of certain...

The best argument against the 'celibate gay Catholics' by Phil Lawler - Jan 26, 2015

In the space of a generation, the connotation of the word “gay” has changed radically. To my father, “gay” meant carefree and happy. To my sons, “gay” means homosexual. Any living language is constantly changing, as popular usage gives words new shades of...

Guess who thinks Pope Francis shouldn't give so many interviews? by Phil Lawler - Jan 23, 2015

“Interviews are not my forte,” then-Cardinal Bergoglio once remarked, and for that reason he seldom sat down to speak on the record with reporters. When two journalists sought a formal interview, he advised them to publish excerpts from his sermons and essays instead. (A Call to...

Islamic militants have a cause they believe in. Do we? by Phil Lawler - Jan 15, 2015

Newt Gingrich, of all people, should be familiar with the lesson that I was taught as the First Law of Politics: You can’t beat somebody with nobody. So I’m surprised that in a column appearing in today’s Wall Street Journal, on why we’re losing the battle against radical Islam, the former...

Murder, blasphemy, and the limits of intolerance by Phil Lawler - Jan 10, 2015

Let’s stop the posturing, shall we? You say, “je suis Charlie.” But would you have published the cartoons that made the editors of Charlie Hebdo the target of jihadist killers? Would you publish them even now? Let me put the question differently. You say that you will fight...

No more 'princes of the Church'—the Pope's new model for the College of Cardinals by Phil Lawler - Jan 5, 2015

Whenever a Pope announces a consistory, and names a new set of cardinals, commentators hasten to interpret the papal choices. But on Sunday, when Pope Francis identified his latest selections, most commentators—myself included—drew a blank. To be quite honest, among the 20 names...

Which American archbishops—if any—will receive red hats at the February conclave? by Phil Lawler - Dec 23, 2014

Sometime early in the new year, Pope Francis will reveal the names of the new cardinals who will be elevated at a consistory in February 2015. How many American prelates will be on the list? Quite likely, none at all. There are currently 18 US citizens in the College of Cardinals. The only...

Facing entrenched opposition, Pope Francis plows ahead on Vatican reform by Phil Lawler - Dec 22, 2014

The Pope’s Christmas address to the Roman Curia is traditionally the occasion when the Pontiff lets his closest associates know about his top priorities. In 2005, for example, Pope Benedict XVI used the occasion to give his famous talk against the “hermeneutic of discontinuity and...

The intrinsic immorality of torture: still not convinced? by Phil Lawler - Dec 18, 2014

Many readers continue to write with arguments against my condemnation of torture. I have already tried to answer the most common objections, so I will not belabor the matter. Let me just make one simple point: If torture is intrinsically wrong, then it is wrong under all circumstances. We...

In showdown with American sisters, the Vatican blinked by Phil Lawler - Dec 16, 2014

The Vatican blinked. After a 3-year study of American women’s religious orders, undertaken because of problems that are both grave and obvious, the Congregation for Religious has released a report that avoids direct criticism of religious orders, instead suggesting that the communities should...

Can torture ever be justified? Round II. by Phil Lawler - Dec 15, 2014

Many readers have responded, with questions and criticisms, to my argument last week that “Regardless of circumstances or results, torture can never be justified.” Let me respond to some of the common concerns.           The Senate report on “enhanced...

'Father Benedict' sheds some insight on his resignation by Phil Lawler - Dec 12, 2014

If it is accurate--and I have no reason to doubt that it is-- the report that Benedict XVI wanted to be known as “Father Benedict” after his resignation is strange and illuminating. Why? Because today he is not known as Father Benedict. Even before Pope Benedict stepped down, the...

Regardless of circumstances or results, torture can never be justified by Phil Lawler - Dec 10, 2014

Some moral questions are very complicated. Others are very straightforward. In some cases, the morality of an act depends entirely on the circumstances. But some acts can never be justified, regardless of the circumstances. The Catholic Church teaches quite clearly that some acts are...

What I wish a bishop would say about marriage by Leila Marie Lawler - Dec 3, 2014

During the October meeting of the Synod of Bishops, discussions often centered on the widening gap between the popular understanding of marriage and the Christian ideal. What could Catholic pastors do or say to restore the proper understanding of the family founded on a sacramental union? My wife...

A suggestion for First Things: separate civil divorce from Christian marriage by Phil Lawler - Nov 24, 2014

First Things is a journal with a proud tradition of fostering intellectual debate. (Remember when the late Father Neuhaus hosted a symposium on the question of whether the US government had lost its legitimacy?) Now a new editor, R.R. Reno, has stirred things up again by publishing, and strongly...

Why Cardinal Burke cannot lead a 'loyal opposition' by Phil Lawler - Nov 11, 2014

In the quiet little New England town where we live, we’ve just been through an unusually contentious local election. The aftermath has reminded me of an important lesson that I learned years ago. When the votes were counted in our local contests, one losing candidate issued a gracious statement...

New economic standards: Pope Francis' most important reform? by Phil Lawler - Nov 7, 2014

Don’t look now, but the most important reform of this pontificate may have been introduced this week. Did you notice? Many nervous Catholics are still discussing the fallout from the October meeting of the Synod of Bishops, worrying that when the Synod meets again next year, there could...

The Pope is not the problem by Phil Lawler - Oct 23, 2014

Thoroughly rattled by the stories that emerged from the October meeting of the Synod of Bishops, many faithful Catholics are now worried that Pope Francis is leading the Church in a dangerous direction—and perhaps even doing so intentionally. Their fears are understandable, in light of some...

What's wrong with this Synod, IV: Unprepared for marriage by Phil Lawler - Oct 17, 2014

As the Synod of Bishops continues to focus on troubled marital (and non-marital) relationships, several prominent prelates have speculated that there are probably many Catholics living in marital unions that would, on close inspection, be recognized as invalid. That suggestion cannot be...

What's wrong with this Synod, III: First World problems by Phil Lawler - Oct 14, 2014

Perhaps now is as good a time as any for a reminder that the official topic for this extraordinary session of the Synod of Bishops is: “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.” During these last 10 days we have heard a great deal about divorce,...

What's wrong with this Synod, II: Debate is free, open (and censored) by Phil Lawler - Oct 10, 2014

Speaking to the Synod of Bishops on its first day of discussions, Pope Francis urged the participants to speak out boldly, “without human respect, without timidity.” The secretary-general of the Synod, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, echoed that message, saying that “discussion at the Synod is to...

What’s wrong with this Synod, I: Shuffling the deck chairs by Phil Lawler - Oct 9, 2014

[This is the first in a series of essays on the current Synod of Bishops, dedicated to the family. I should begin with the caveat that my comments are based on public reports from the Synod. The actual discussions may be developing along different lines. I hope so.] Does the Synod of Bishops...

The Islamic roots of terrorism must be addressed by Phil Lawler - Sep 19, 2014

“Now let’s make two things clear,” President Barack Obama said in his televised address to the American people on September 10. First, he said, “ISIL [the Islamic State] is not Islamic.” But that’s precisely what is not clear about the Islamic State and about...

Senator Cruz undermined the cause of persecuted Christians by Phil Lawler - Sep 12, 2014

For the record, Senator Ted Cruz was not “booed off the stage” when he addressed a Washington conference on persecution of Christians in the Middle East. He left the stage voluntarily. Yes, the Texas senator was booed. And yes, the reaction to his comments was impolite. (Conference...

NY archdiocese should sever ties with St. Patrick's Day parade by Phil Lawler - Sep 4, 2014

You don’t honor a saint by encouraging a sin. No doubt there have been homosexual persons marching down Fifth Avenue every year in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. There was never any ban on their participation; there was no test of sexual orientation for marchers. But next year the...

Weep for slaughtered Christians, not for dialogue with Islam by Phil Lawler - Aug 29, 2014

Faced with the savage violence of the Islamic State (ISIS), Christians can be tempted toward two unhelpful emotional reactions. On one extreme is the thirst for vengeance. If Muslims extremists kill innocent Christians, intemperate voices suggest that we should kill innocent Muslims. Then we,...

In Iraq, the Pope has good reason to seek intervention, but fear unilateral US action by Phil Lawler - Aug 20, 2014

When Pope Francis said that armed intervention is justified to stop the slaughter of Christian refugees in Iraq, he made a distinction that is often missed, I’m afraid, in American discussions of warfare. After saying that “it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor,” the Holy...

Showing the Courage to battle homosexual impulses by Phil Lawler - Jul 31, 2014

For an apostolate dedicated to helping people live out the Christian virtue of chastity despite a same-sex attraction, “Courage” is a particularly apt name, for two reasons. In our sex-saturated society, it takes some courage to say that one might have sexual urges that should...

The ‘Pope Francis effect’—changing the way the world sees the papacy by Phil Lawler - Jul 29, 2014

A long-overdue reform of the Vatican’s media operations is still only in the planning stages, yet the “Pope Francis effect” has already become evident in the way the Vatican handles the news. Take a look at today’s statement from the Vatican Information Service (VIS),...

Obama's executive order and the danger of reliance on federal contracts by Phil Lawler - Jul 22, 2014

Just as American Catholic bishops were volunteering to help President Obama—by handling the thousands of children from Central America who are entering the US illegally—the White House has announced that the President doesn’t want help from the Catholic Church. How else should...

What was wrong with the Pope's latest interview? A lot. by Phil Lawler - Jul 15, 2014

In the messy aftermath of yet another papal interview, how shall I explain what went wrong? There were so many different problems, it’s hard to know where to begin. One might start with the odd habits of Eugenio Scalfari, the veteran Italian journalist who has now had three such sessions...

Will the next benchmark case be Supreme Court v. reality? by Phil Lawler - Jul 8, 2014

"Let me be absolutely clear," wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in her vigorous dissent from the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Wheaton College case. “I do not doubt that Wheaton genuinely believes that signing the self-certification form is contrary to its religious beliefs....

Bad biology, bad policy in the Hobby Lobby reactions by Phil Lawler - Jul 1, 2014

In the aftermath of the Hobby Lobby decision, feminists have complained that the Supreme Court has made it impossible for women to control their own fertility. Am I missing something? The Catholic columnist Michael B. Dougherty reacted to the ruling—or rather to the panicky...

Two experts' views on the diplomatic approach of Pope Francis by Phil Lawler - Jun 26, 2014

Two of Rome’s most influential Vatican-watching journalists have recently offered different perspectives on how Pope Francis has changed Vatican diplomacy. Andrea Tornielli of La Stampa observes that when this Pope has traveled abroad, the destinations that he has chosen indicate his...

The Church, climate change, and the shadow of Galileo by Phil Lawler - Jun 19, 2014

Do you want to know what I think about climate change? You shouldn’t. My formal training in the sciences ended 45 years ago, with an introductory course on geology. I do not attend scientific conferences; I do not read scientific journals. I do not understand the methodologies of...

Needed: speed-bumps on the road to divorce by Phil Lawler - Jun 6, 2014

The “empty-nest divorce” threatens to become a familiar rite of passage in American life. During the first few years after graduation from college we are regularly invited to the weddings of our classmates and friends. A few more years pass, and we hear about the birth of their...

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