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Analysis of news events and trends.

Is the Vatican, under Pope Francis, moving away from teachings of John Paul II on life and marriage?

Yesterday’s top CWN headline story, about problems with the sex-education guide issued by the Pontifical Council for the Family, sheds more light—or perhaps I should say, casts a darker shadow—on a story that appeared earlier this month, about new appointments to the Roman...

Catholic bishops 'don't get it'—the fundamental problem is a corrupt clerical culture

“Who is going to save our Church? Do not look to the priests. Do not look to the bishops. It’s up to you, the laity, to remind our priests to be priests and our bishops to be bishops.”                          ...

Is Catholic-Muslim dialogue possible? Yes, but...

This week began with the striking statement from Pope Francis that Islam should not be regarded as the source of terrorist violence. The Pope's statement, suggesting that Islam is no more or less prone to violence than other faiths (including our own), is one in a long line of simliar claims,...

Where can American Catholics turn after the Trump ascendancy?

“Donald Trump is manifestly unfit to be president of the United States.” So wrote a number of prominent scholars and journalists in An Appeal to Our Fellow Catholics, issued back in March. They made a strong case: His campaign has already driven our politics down to new levels of...

The only way to restore public confidence in Catholic bishops

The revelation that the apostolic nuncio in Washington quashed an investigation into the alleged misconduct of an American archbishop is another damaging blow to the wounded credibility of the Catholic hierarchy. Nearly fifteen years after the sex-abuse scandal destroyed public confidence in the...

Summer Cookouts and Party Politics

Here we go again. As we enter the season for the national political conventions in preparation for the November vote we will once again witness how our politicians-– in large part reflecting the views of the populace-– view the abortion or pro-life “issue.” (Incidentally referring to the question...

Ad Orientem: the battle continues

Cardinal Robert Sarah remains the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship: the Vatican’s top liturgical official. So his suggestion that priests should celebrate Mass ad orientem must be taken seriously, even if (as the Vatican press office so helpfully noted) it is not a...

Another costly setback for Vatican financial reform

Here’s what you need to know about the latest reconfiguration of the Vatican’s financial agencies: The Secretariat for the Economy was established to carry out reforms in the wake of financial scandals, to establish transparency and accountability. The proposed reforms irked...

What Polynesian languages teach us about the ad orientem liturgy

Several years ago I wrote that a return to the ad orientem posture would be the single most important reform to enrich Catholic liturgy. So I am delighted that Cardinal Robert Sarah proposed exactly that. This is not just another blue-sky proposal; not a “what if” suggestion....

If the Church apologizes to homosexuals, what comes next?

Pope Francis says that the Church should apologize to homosexuals. But how should we go about it? The Holy Father made it clear, in that remarkable statement, that he thought individual Christians, not the universal Church, had mistreated homosexuals. Certainly I should apologize to anyone...

No Ninnies

Do you know what a 'ninny' is? I'm not sure myself. But I get the idea that if you called a red-blooded American boy a "ninny" in a schoolyard in the 1930s you could end up with a bloody nose. World War II was not a war for ninnies. After the landings in Normandy, the...

Catholic institutions cleared the path for the latest assault on religious freedom

As a result of the latest federal ruling against religious freedom—and pending the result of what seems an inevitable court challenge— Catholic churches in California are now required to provide abortion coverage in their employees’ health-insurance programs. The US Catholic...

What Catholics can learn from Orthodox disputes

The Pan-Orthodox Council opened in Crete this week with a plea from the Ecumenical Patriarch for unity: a unity that is conspicuously absent. For more than 50 years, Orthodox leaders had been working toward this historic event: an unprecedented meeting, that was to offer a vivid illustration...

The damage done (again) by the Pope's statements on marriage

During an address to a diocesan congress in Rome yesterday, Pope Francis was quoted as saying: that some priests are “animals,” that pastors should not be “putting our noses into the moral life of other people,” and that the “great majority” of...

The next Vatican scandal

Another scandal is brewing at the Vatican. This time the subject will not be sex, but that other rich lode of corruption: money. Shady deals at the Vatican bank, the Institute for Religious Works (IOR), have brought disgrace on the Holy See in the past (if you don’t know what I mean,...

Another new policy, but we're still waiting for definitive Vatican action on negligent bishops

The new motu proprio is entitled Come una Madre Amorevole, but it might just as well have been named "And This Time We Really Mean It.” The papal document does not (despite what you might have read in the headlines) create a policy for removing bishops who neglect evidence of sexual...

A twofold disaster in a breakaway Boston parish

My former colleague Domenico Bettinelli hits several nails on their heads in his commentary on the long-overdue surrender of a dissident group in Scituate, Massachusetts, which had maintained a squatters’ vigil for 12 years at a parish church that was closed by the Archdiocese of Boston....

Obama and the Bomb: Hiroshima Revisited

It’s hard to accept President Obama’s motives at face value. I'm inclined to think of his upcoming visit on May 27 to Hiroshima as pure political posturing, and not as endeavors toward true reconciliation. If he is playing his signature radical “community organizing”...

Don't let our cathedrals become museums!

Pilgrims are streaming through the Holy Door of the Vatican basilica during this Jubilee Year. But they aren’t moving very fast. During a quick visit to Rome earlier this month, I saw the long, long line snaking its way around St. Peter’s Square: thousands of visitors waiting to...

Subjective Conscience and Moral Certainty

As a parish priest, I hear thousands of confessions. It’s my job. The privilege of my office as confessor brings me great joy and for that I give God thanks. But I think the Holy Father’s recent document on love and marriage, Amoris Laetitia (AL), may well place ordinary...

The pending outrage at Notre Dame; the moral challenge to Cardinal Wuerl

In 2009, when the University of Notre Dame invited President Barack Obama to deliver a commencement address, dozens of American bishops lodged loud public protests. Yet this year, as Notre Dame prepares to confer an even greater honor on Vice President Joe Biden (together with former House...

Rehabilitating a disgraced priest: a thought-experiment

After it emerged that a priest with a history of sexual abuse is serving as a pastor, Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City is “assessing the situation.” With all respect to Archbishop Coakley—for whom I have generally had a high opinion—I think he should be assessing...

The drive for Vatican reform has stalled

The news that the Vatican has suspended an external audit might appear to be only a minor administrative matter, interesting only to accountants. But as an indicator of the trends in Rome today, it is as significant of Amoris Laetitia. It is, in my view (and I am by no means a financial...

Gresham's Law and the flaw in the Pope's pastoral program

Does Gresham’s Law apply to pastoral practices in the Catholic Church? I think it does—with unhappy consequences that we can see all around us. Gresham’s Law (for those readers who have not studied economics) states that bad money drives out good money. Let me...

The Pope's confused message undermines his own pastoral program

Amoris Laetitia is not a revolutionary document. It is a subversive one. Pope Francis has not overthrown the traditional teachings of the Church, as many Catholics had either hoped or feared that he would, in this post-Synod exhortation. Instead he has sought to carve out ample room for a...

In Georgia's religious-freedom debate, Catholic bishops sit on the sidelines

Last week, under heavy pressure from powerful corporations, Georgia’s Governor Nathan Deal vetoed legislation that would have protected religious institutions from being required to approve same-sex marriages or to hire openly homosexual employees. In his veto statement the governor...

The Joy of Dread

There are many words now forbidden in polite society. “Adultery” comes to mind. It’s either an unmentionable or has been replaced with the phrase “divorced and remarried.” “Promiscuity” and “lewd and lascivious conduct” have been...

Hollywood Extras

“Christ is risen! Alleluia!  You there! You in the back row yawning. Yeah, I’m talking to you. You’re not listening to my homily are you? Can’t you just pretend to listen? Or at least cover your mouth when you yawn? You’re not...

What's missing from that Pennsylvania grand-jury report

For anyone who has been following the sex-abuse scandal in the American Catholic Church, the Pennsylvania grand-jury report on the failures of the Altoona diocese follows a depressingly familiar pattern. There are the priests who molest adolescents (virtually always boys), the treatment centers...

Vatican faces new credibility test on abuse policy

After simmering for more than a decade, could the sex-abuse scandal within the Catholic Church be ready to boil over once again? There are signs that it could. No, I am not referring to the release of a scalding grand-jury report about the Diocese of Altoona, Pennsyvlania earlier this month....

Strange ally: a left-wing journalist's unconvincing critique of Spotlight

Joann Wypijewski is a left-wing journalist, who has worked for Mother Jones, The Nation (where she was responsible for the “Carnal Knowledge” column), and CounterPunch. She is not someone you would expect to defend the Catholic hierarchy against critics in the media. Yet she has done...

Reasons for skepticism about the Pope's meeting with Patriarch Kirill

“Finally!” Pope Francis said when he embraced Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. “Now things are easier,” came the reply. How much easier? Two weeks after that historic meeting in Cuba, do the prospects for warmer ties between Rome and Moscow seem much improved? There are...

The damage done—again—by the Pope's interview

How damaging was the latest papal interview? Let me count the ways. Tomorrow, no doubt, the Vatican press office will go into its now-familiar “clarification” mode. Loyal Catholic defenders of Pope Francis will argue that the Holy Father’s words were taken out of context. But...

Another way of understanding the Missionaries of Mercy

My friend Father Roger Landry has posted an excellent explanation of the role of Missionaries of Mercy (of whom he is one), who have been commissioned by Pope Francis to make a special effort as confessors and “persuasive preachers of mercy” during the Jubilee Year. Reading his...

Ash Wednesday, the New Hampshire primary, and the limitations of politics

On Ash Wednesday, the internet is abuzz with reactions to the New Hampshire primary. This year’s calendar, placing the start of Lent immediately after the opening ballot of the presidential campaign, prompts some thoughts on the relative importance of political and spiritual battles. Let...

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...

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