On The News

Analysis of news events and trends.

The impoverished faith of the San Diego diocese

How would you feel if, after struggling to make ends meet for most of your life, you learned in your old age that you were the rightful heir to an enormous fortune, but your father had never told you about that inheritance? You would feel terribly betrayed, wouldn’t you? In the Diocese...

Fidel Castro, RIP?

God has given us an Advent meditation with the death of Fidel Castro, President of Cuba, politician, revolutionary, mass murderer. Here are examples of responses by world leaders: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a statement hailed Castro as a “remarkable leader” and a...

Rackets

During my pop-philosophy years as a youngster, I happened to catch the “Longshoreman philosopher” Eric Hoffer on “60 Minutes.” Fascinated by his street wisdom I eventually got around to reading his book The True Believer where he wrote: “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business,...

On request for clarification of Amoris Laetitia, the Pope’s silence speaks volumes

We should not be surprised that the Pope has declined a request for clarification of Amoris Laetitia. Are faithful Catholics confused by that document? Absolutely. That is the Holy Father’s intent. The confusion is not a bug; it’s a feature. The defenders of the papal document (and...

Trump, Brexit, and the collapse of a world order

The election of Donald Trump punctuates the end of an era—and I don’t mean just the Clinton era. We are living through a time of global historical change: the demise of an international order. Somehow our leading politicians, pundits, and pollsters, who spend their days analyzing...

Little Italian Grandmothers

One of the most memorable homilies I’ve heard was given by a New York City priest when I was in the seminary. He introduced his homily with a droll comment about “little Italian grandmothers” and their big families. The details escape me. But his quip drew twitters of chuckles...

The danger of appointing like-minded cardinals

“Once, he was sentenced to death. Now, he’ll be a Catholic cardinal.” That was the headline on a Washington Post report on the Pope’s decision to award a red hat to Father Ernest Simoni, who survived almost 30 years in forced-labor camps under Albania’s brutal...

Pope’s choice of new US cardinals underlines commitment to ‘irreversible’ change

With his selection of 17 new cardinals, Pope Francis has left no doubt about his determination to bring permanent change to the Church. “You have to realize that he is aiming at reform that is irreversible,” one of his closest advisers said last year. With his additions to the group...

Jewish Humor

Jewish humor is prevalent in our culture, or at least at one time it was. Many of the great comedians are Jewish: Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Groucho Marx, Jerry Lewis—the list seems endless. Humor, of course, is possible because the contrast of human behavior—whether sinful or just...

The Pope’s confusing statement on gender theory: a follow-up

Several readers have written to me overnight, saying that I was mistaken in saying that Pope Francis had sent mixed messages about gender theory. Let me respond to that concern. When he spoke in Tbilisi, Georgia, the Pope was admirably clear in his denunciation of gender theory. (I said that...

Another confusing papal statement, this time on gender ideology

Another papal trip, another in-flight press conference, another statement to confuse and dismay the faithful. Last Saturday, in Tbilisi, Georgia, the Holy Father denounced gender ideology in ringing terms. “Today there is a world war to destroy marriage,” he said, and gender theory...

A whiff of schism: when different Catholics hold radically different beliefs

At a Catholic parish in Athy, Ireland, a lesbian couple who resigned from parish ministry after entering a legal marriage has returned to active participation—and to loud applause. So now everyone is welcome in St. Michael’s parish, right? Wrong. Anthony Murphy, the editor of...

Is Pope Francis deliberately subverting papal teaching authority?

Today the greatest threat to the teaching authority of the Pope is the Pope himself. Pope Francis specializes in unsettling remarks-- most frequently, it seems, during in-flight interviews. But the responsibility of the Roman Pontiff is to settle questions: something that Pope Francis seems...

Ten years later, recognizing the prophetic message of the Regensburg address

Ten years ago today—on September 12, 2006—Pope Benedict XVI delivered his memorable address at Regensburg. The speech drew violent protests from the Islamic world, scolding rebukes from Western political leaders, and even embarrassed demurrals by other Catholic leaders (including...

Stalled Vatican financial reforms could hurt cause of evangelization

The Wall Street Journal has noticed that the ambitious financial reforms begun under Pope Francis have run out of steam. Reporter Francis X. Rocca notes that the diminished authority of Cardinal George Pell, the prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, is "a sign that the Vatican's...

The Pope's shocking statement on the environment

Pope Francis has often surprised, confused, and dismayed me. But nothing that he has said or done thus far in his pontificate has shocked me as much as his Message on World Day of Prayer for Creation. What troubles me about that message is not the Pope’s call for care of the environment....

Immigration and the Family

In the Book of Genesis, when God created man in his image and ordered man and woman to “be fruitful and multiply,” He implicitly established the family as the foundational social unit. Communities, cities, and nations subsequently have been built upon that basic structure and share in...

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...

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