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Analysis of news events and trends.

For conscientious priests, the Pope just made marriage prep much more difficult

If you’re a Catholic priest who tries to be conscientious about preparing couples for marriage, Pope Francis just made your life much more difficult. You’re doing your best. You tell couples that they should think seriously before taking vows. If they are cohabiting, you ask them...

Born That Way

We might imagine Ebenezer Scrooge settling down after the spooking he received over Christmas. He’s benign, no longer is indifferent to injustice. He continues to be frugal, but he’s no longer greedy. He has become a man of justice but does not go beyond the basic demands of justice....

The Amoris debate: Is it really a matter of confusion? (Part I)

Critics of Amoris Laetitia say that it is confusing. Defenders of the papal document say that there is no cause for confusion. This state of affairs is, I’m sorry to say, confusing. Stepping back from the substance of this particular controversy, let’s take a few minutes to examine...

Expecting Perfection

It’s a charming to consider that Jesus, like any son, carried the physical characteristics of his mother as well as some of her —and Joseph’s—mannerisms. The Incarnation is so wonderfully human, encouraging us to approach Him without fear. As we consider the beauty of the...

On the Pope, the Argentine bishops, and the meaning of ‘magisterial authority’

Several readers have written in recent days to question why this site has offered no editorial commentary on the Vatican announcement that the Pope’s letter to the Argentine bishops on the implementation of Amoris Laetitia should be regarded as magisterial teaching. Two or three readers, going...

Anticipation

Advent is a time of anticipation, looking forward to the birth of Jesus on Christmas. Of course the anticipation is a liturgical fiction. Jesus was born into the world over 2,000 years ago. Are we playing childish games by entering into such a fictional season of anticipation? No! On the contrary,...

Learning from the past of the American pro-life movement

Some 25 years ago, Our Sunday Visitor published my book, Operation Rescue: A Challenge to the Nation’s Conscience. To be perfectly candid, it was not a great commercial success. By the time the book appeared in print, the wave of civil disobedience that began in the 1980s had crested, and...

The Vatican’s most powerful office grows even more influential

By creating a new division within the Secretariat of State, Pope Francis has enhanced the power of an office that already holds sway over every other office at the Vatican. More specifically, he has augmented the power of the Vatican diplomatic corps. Is that a healthy development? Before...

Archbishop Naumann’s election: a relief, not a victory

Pro-life Catholics across America are celebrating today, over the selection of Archbishop Joseph Naumann to chair the pro-life committee of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). While I join in the celebration, I want to put things in perspective. Archbishop Naumann is an excellent...

Death, where is thy sting?

Fall is a time of great beauty and many folks travel to the mountains and through the valleys to see the magnificent changing colors of the foliage. But let’s not overlook the obvious. Nature is going dormant, even dying, and this cycle of nature itself is foreshadowing our own deaths. The...

On nuclear weapons, Pope Francis goes beyond all previous papal teaching

Once again Pope Francis has ventured into new territory in Church teaching, with his November 10 November 10 condemnation of nuclear weapons. The Church has frequently lamented the existence of nuclear armaments, and Vatican II clearly condemned the use of any weapons that would destroy civilian...

Tonight’s the anniversary; celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall

On this date—November 9—in 1989, the Berlin Wall came down. If you are too young to remember that event, I probably cannot convey to you the intense joy, mingled with incredulity, that I felt as I watched it happen. To this day it remains the most astonishing historical event that I...

Understanding Pope Francis: the focus is on process, not results

Two perceptive essays that appear on the First Things site, each offering a different sort of insight into the pastoral approach of Pope Francis, help the reader to understand this frequently puzzling papacy. In the “Public Square” section of the magazine’s December issue, editor R. R. Reno...

Funerals and divine worship

It is common nowadays to identify a leader as good and kind and humble simply because he is merely following the crowds. It is the same with priests and bishops. Clergy can be very adroit at keeping the customers satisfied, absorbing a good deal of praise and affection without being truly faithful...

Luther left the Church. Today, dissenters stay.

Whatever else you might think or say about Martin Luther, give him credit for this much: having broken with Catholic teaching, he broke away from the Catholic Church. Today’s dissenting Catholics rarely show the same consistency. Even after rejecting the fundamentals of Catholic doctrine, they...

The crisis of pastoral leadership

Some weeks ago, a friend told me about his reactions to an ETWN movie about the life of St. John Paul II. In particular, my friend responded to a scene in which the young Father Karol Wojtyla confers with his bishop. The conversation was remarkably pious, he said; the young priest and his bishop...

In rebuke to Cardinal Sarah, Pope contradicts himself

Once again Pope Francis has announced a change in canon law—without making a change in canon law. In his letter to Cardinal Sarah, made public on October 22, the Pope says that some provisions of Liturgiam Authenticam “have been abrogated,” and the entire 2001 document...

The Church in Europe: ‘kept in the sacristy’?

Next week COMECE (the Commission of Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community) will open a three-day conference on the future of Europe. The timing is auspicious: the conference falls on the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which began the construction of the European Union. And it...

Vatican’s financial-misconduct trial was a step backward on transparency

At last, a Vatican prosecutor has obtained a conviction on financial-misconduct charges. Unfortunately, the conviction looks like a step backward for the cause of financial transparency. For months now, the Vatican has been under pressure to bring criminal charges for financial misconduct. In...

The conversion of Russia: maybe not as we expected it

All through the Old Testament and into the New, God surprised his People. We shouldn’t be caught off guard, then, if He still has surprises in store for us today. Elijah encountered God not in wind or the fire or the earthquake, but in the small still voice. [1 Kgs 19:11-13] The Messiah...

Beware of false compassion in implementing Amoris Laetitia

Can you name someone—someone you know personally—who has divorced, remarried, and is now an active Catholic parishioner, receiving Communion regularly? (For now let’s not worry about whether or not these individuals have obtained annulments. You probably couldn’t be certain...

The Power and Poverty of Words

In his confrontations with the Pharisees, Jesus repeatedly unmasks their hypocrisy—from their personal external observances, designed to be noticed, to their relentless critical evaluations of others. It is easy to pay lip service to God’s commands, but the measure of true obedience is...

Why the Church still operates under a cloud on the abuse issue

The timing is far from perfect. As the Vatican convenes a major international conference on protecting children from abuse, there’s a shadow over the proceedings, caused by the abrupt recall of an official at the apostolic nunciature in Washington, DC. To be more specific, the focus of the...

Why does Pope Francis refuse to respond?

As Jeff Mirus has already pointed out, there was never any reason to think that Pope Francis would respond to the “filial correction” made by several dozen Catholics. After all the Holy Father has already received and ignored similar pleas from thousands of concerned lay Catholics,...

Was the Vatican auditor general fired for doing his job?

The “filial appeal” to Pope Francis was not the most important story that emerged from the Vatican this past weekend. Don’t misunderstand me. When the Roman Pontiff is accused of encouraging the spread of heretical beliefs, that’s an important story (about which...

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,...

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