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Analysis of news events and trends.

Praying with the Church

When I read the works of scholars who suggest, “The early Church placed on the lips of Jesus…” my inner alarm bells go off. The implication is clear. The early Church placed its own words on the lips of Jesus to proclaim a message that is either generally in line with the...

To preach, to sanctify, and... Is something missing?

Pope Francis knocked me off balance, and prompted some new thoughts about the state of the Catholic Church, with something he said in a recent homily. Or rather, to be more accurate, he stunned me by what he did not say—by leaving out part of a very familiar series. Let me explain first...

The lasting image of this year's March for Life: that Mass on the snowbound turnpike

In past years I have remarked on the mysterious temporary blindness that strikes reporters in Washington, DC, in late January, making it impossible for them to notice the March for Life. This year there was no mystery about it. With a blizzard of historic proportions bearing down on the city,...

Hot (but speculative) rumor: Pope to meet Russian Patriarch next month?

The veteran Vatican-watcher Sandro Magister of L’Espresso has gone out on a limb to suggest that Pope Francis could meet with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow next month. There has never been a face-to-face meeting between a Roman Pontiff and a Russian Orthodox Patriarch. Nor has there been any recent...

Will the first-ever Orthodox council occur this year? We'll know soon.

Since the Great Schism, the Roman Catholic Church has held 13 ecumenical councils; the Orthodox churches have held: none. That failure to arrange a worldwide gathering, for nearly a millennium, is a major failure for Orthodoxy. It is an indication that the Orthodox world has been troubled by...

Catholic hospitals and the fight for medical standards

For the foreseeable future, political pressure on the Catholic Church in the US will be concentrated on medical issues. If you doubt that, join me on a quick tour through some of this week’s significant newspaper items: A Los Angeles Times columnist encourages readers to be...

In the war on family life, why are most American men neutral observers?

What will it take to rouse the protective instincts of American fathers? The role of a father is to protect his family. The role of a man—a real man, I mean—is to protect the vulnerable. Yet the vast majority of American men today are sitting idly by, couch-potato spectators, while their...

Instant Gratification

The consumer society has given us new phrases that lack subtlety. When you’re filling up at a gas station, it is presumed you’d be attracted to a “Big Gulp” beverage, going beyond the usual soda bottle size and providing a gallon or so of flavored sugar water (perfect for the kids on road trips)....

How the 'church tax' corrupts German Catholicism

“There is always a danger of corruption within the Church,” Pope Francis said in a November 20 address to visiting bishops from Germany. “This happens when the Church, instead of being devoted to faith in our Lord, in the Prince of Peace, in joy, in salvation, becomes dominated...

Obama is wrong; persecuted Arab Christians should be given priority for asylum

With thousands of refugees from the Middle East clamoring for entry, President Obama has said that it is “shameful” to suggest that Christian refugees should be given preference. That statement is wrong: legally, politically, and morally wrong. Although Obama condemns “religious tests” that...

A refreshing look at the proper role—and enormous power—of women in the Church

For well over a generation, questions about the role of women in the Catholic Church have generated angry debates without producing satisfactory resolutions. In the 1980s the US bishops’ conference, having tackled such controversial topics as nuclear weaponry and economic policy, set out to...

Selective compassion: the dangerous step the Pope might take

Sometime soon—we know not when—Pope Francis will issue a document concluding the work of the Synod on the Family. One question looms over all others: Will the Pope endorse the Kasper proposal? Father Raymond de Souza predicts that he will. “He has steadily prepared the Church...

A feisty reporter's book corrects for the Hollywood bias of Spotlight

In the new film Spotlight, which opens this weekend, the investigative reporters of the Boston Globe are portrayed as brave underdogs who dared to confront the overwhelming power of the Boston archdiocese, and thus exposed the sex-abuse scandal. It might make for a good movie (I wasn’t...

'Vatileaks II' and the enemies of reform

In his novel Shoes of the Fisherman, Morris West has an old Vatican hand give this advice to a newly elected Pope from a country far away from Rome: “Don’t try to change the Romans, Holiness. Don’t try to fight or convert them. They’ve been managing Popes for the last nineteen hundred years and...

Is post-Synod confusion better than the alternatives?

Ross Douthat of the New York Times has argued forcefully that Pope Francis has created dangerous fissures within the Church by supporting the Kasper proposal. But now Douthat suggests that the Pope could head off a crisis by issuing a post-synod exhortation in which he would “just leave...

The deliberate ambiguity of the Synod statement is a prescription for trouble

Some Synod fathers say the final statement opens the way for divorced-and-remarried Catholics to receive Communion. Others say it does not . You might say the Synod’s message is ambiguous. But Cardinal George Pell would disagree. “It’s not ambiguous,” he told the National Catholic Register....

At the Synod, truths of Christ are worth a fight

The heated debates of this year’s Synod, which seem so dramatic to us today, are mild, bloodless affairs in comparison with the controversies in the early Church. During the first centuries of Christianity, if a reporter said that bishops were “fighting” over doctrinal questions,...

At the Synod, liberals tout their own conspiracy theories

Pope Francis calls for free and open debate at the Synod of Bishops. But when a group of cardinals write a confidential letter to the Pontiff, pointing out ways in which free discussion might be undermined, they are portrayed as a cabal of plotters, undermining the Pope. The German-speaking...

Who leaked the cardinals' letter? Cui bono?

Who leaked the letter from a group of cardinals to Pope Francis, voicing concerns about the Synod? Like nearly everyone writing about Vatican affairs—with the notable exception of Sandro Magister, who published the letter—I wish I knew. Ordinarily, in searching for a source of a...

A secret plot to control the Synod? No; it's not secret at all.

In an unscheduled address to the Synod of Bishops yesterday, we’re told, Pope Francis told the participants that they should not indulge in conspiracy theories about secret plots to manipulate the result of the Synod. The Holy Father is absolutely right. What’s happening at this Synod...

Making sense of the Pope's message to America–including the Kim Davis meeting

The hectic week of the papal visit—during which inspiration mingled with confusion and frustration—has been followed by another hectic week of coping with the aftermath, including the surprise announcement that the Holy Father had met with Kim Davis. Let me try to make sense of what...

A conspiracy to elect Pope Francis? Don't believe it.

Did a powerful group of cardinals conspire to unseat Pope Benedict XVI and elect Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio—Pope Francis—in his place? That sensational claim has been circulating in conservative Catholic internet sites. But the available facts don’t support the sensational...

Flashback: a different sort of papal address to the UN

Almost exactly twenty years have passed since St. John Paul II addressed the UN on October 5, 1995. His message then contrasted vividly with the one delivered this week by Pope Francis, and the difference is not only a matter of calendar references. Notice this paragraph: As a Christian, my...

Why does Pope Francis back liberal causes directly, conservative causes subtly?

Pope Francis challenged Americans of both liberal and conservative political sympathies in his historic address to Congress on September 24. But his objections to conservative stands were clear and direct, while his criticism of liberals subtle and oblique. Why? The Holy Father made no bones...

The Kasper proposal should be DOA when the Synod meets

In light of the new streamlined annulment procedures announced by Pope Francis last week, the Kasper proposal should be stamped ‘Dead on Arrival’ when the Synod of Bishop convenes in October. Cardinal Walter Kasper himself will be on hand again to press for adoption of his...

Why Kim Davis should not have resigned

So if she could not, in good conscience, issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, why didn’t Kim Davis resign from her job as county clerk? I’m not privy to her reasoning, but I have my own reasons why she should not be expected to resign. Ordinarily, when a public official...

What if everyone acted like Kim Davis?

Kim Davis has become a symbol of resistance to same-sex marriage for two reasons. First, she stands alone. Well, not quite alone. There are other public officials who have vowed not to give their approval to same-sex marriages, but for various reasons they have not (yet) faced legal...

Why secular liberals can't tolerate Kim Davis

Granted, Kim Davis is not a martyr. She’s still alive, among other things. Granted, she could have resigned her position rather than risking a jail sentence. No one has the right to hold public office, and if it turns out that in the Brave New America, believing Christians are barred from...

The intractable practical problems with the Kasper proposal

We all know that “the Kasper proposal” will be front and center in the October discussions of the Synod of Bishops. But what is the Kasper proposal, exactly? Cardinal Walter Kasper has suggested opening a “penitential path” for Catholics who have divorced and remarried,...

No, the Pope did not endorse a gay-friendly children's book

The Guardian headline is an eye-catcher: Pope Francis sends letter praising gay children's book Wow! That’s newsworthy material for sure, isn’t it? Let’s take a closer look. Did the Pope write the letter in question? No. Did the letter praise the book? No. So what’s the real...

'Catholicism by osmosis is dead'—Weigel hits the nail on the head

Reflecting for Catholic World Report on the “smaller, purer Church” that Pope Benedict XVI foresaw, George Weigel makes one of those grand, sweeping generalizations that are so striking because they are so true: This same judgment—Catholicism by osmosis is dead—and this...

The Popes, the Pill, and Climate Change

Politics can be unpleasant. And Church politics, for most thoughtful believers, can be the most unpleasant of all political logrolling. To be “political” suggests a kind of relativism, pandering to this or that group for support, a pandering that is incompatible with the objective...

Why can't Planned Parenthood live without its abortion clinics?

Thomas Van has already called attention to the argument by New York Times columnist Ross Douthat that effectively demolishes the most common defense of Planned Parenthood. But it bears repeating: this is an essay you’ll want to read. The argument that Douthat shreds is that people who oppose...

New York Times propaganda piece on fetal-tissue sales

Today’s New York Times report on the sale of fetal tissue is the journalistic equivalent of a diet pill: a “news” story designed not to satisfy, but to suppress, the reader’s appetite for information. Let’s start with the photo at the top, because although it is not part of the story, it sets...

A Vatican conference with a pronounced leftward political tilt

If we had the name of a Republican politician who was invited to attend last week’s Vatican conference on climate change and human trafficking—any Republican, just one Republican—we might feel just a bit better about the result. But the strongly partisan cast of the final...

If the Vatican's main spokesman doesn't know what the Pope's doing, who does?

Don’t let the understated headline fool you. There’s dynamite in this CWN headline story. It’s not big news that the director of the Vatican press office admits he is “confused” by Pope Francis. We’re all confused. Join the club, Father Lombardi. But when...

The new North American 'martyrs'—Jesuit missionaries for a very different cause

America magazine, the Jesuit weekly, has a painstakingly balanced editorial in response to the Obergefell decision. A stranger to the argument could read the editorial from stem to stern and still not know, with any degree of certainty, whether the editors think the Supreme Court was right or...

The political outlook after Obergefell

Now what? Now that same-sex marriage is a reality throughout the US—or rather, the legal fiction of same-sex marriage is mandated in every state—what’s next? It should be evident already that the Obergefell decision escalated, rather than concluded, a national debate. Just as...

So now is it 'hate speech' to deplore the Obergefell decision?

The ink was barely dry on last week’s Supreme Court ruling when Father James Martin, SJ, began scolding Catholics who were, from his decorous perspective, too strident in denouncing the decision. ”No issue brings out so much hatred from so many Catholics as homosexuality,”...

An encyclical about life at the end of an era

Ross Douthat of the New York Times has an unusual insight on Laudato Si’: he argues that the Pope has taken a clear stand in “the argument between dynamists and castastrophists.” He’s a catastrophist. Douthat explains: Like dynamists, catastrophists can be on the left...

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