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

Why secular liberals can't tolerate Kim Davis by Phil Lawler - Friday

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 by Phil Lawler - Aug 28, 2015

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 by Phil Lawler - Aug 28, 2015

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 by Phil Lawler - Aug 26, 2015

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 by Fr. Jerry Pokorsky - Aug 18, 2015

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? by Phil Lawler - Aug 6, 2015

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 by Phil Lawler - Jul 28, 2015

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 by Phil Lawler - Jul 24, 2015

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? by Phil Lawler - Jul 20, 2015

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 by Phil Lawler - Jul 14, 2015

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 by Phil Lawler - Jun 29, 2015

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? by Phil Lawler - Jun 29, 2015

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 by Phil Lawler - Jun 22, 2015

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...

The challenge of Laudato Si by Phil Lawler - Jun 18, 2015

We were expecting something big from Pope Francis: something controversial, something that carried a heavy political charge. What he has given us is something bigger. Laudato Si is more provocative, but less political, than what we expected. Those who try to twist the document into one...

The Dysfunctional Stages of the Interior Life by Fr. Jerry Pokorsky - Jun 17, 2015

The PBS American Experience series is fascinating. From Teddy Roosevelt to Vietnam and beyond, the producers report events from various points of view with an admirable attention to historical facts. One such production, “The Summer of Love,” is the story of hippies converging on the...

The 'third rail' of the priestly abuse scandal: the role of homosexuality by Phil Lawler - Jun 15, 2015

Last week in this space, I argued that by setting up a tribunal to judge bishops accused of neglect in sex-abuse cases, the Vatican has finally addressed the second of three related scandals. Now let’s address the third scandal. The first scandal, as you may recall, was the sexual abuse...

Holding bishops accountable: Vatican tribunal addresses the 2nd scandal by Phil Lawler - Jun 11, 2015

By creating a new Vatican tribunal that will judge bishops accused of negligence in abuse cases, Pope Francis has addressed the second of three companion scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church worldwide in the early 21st century. As I explained a decade ago in The Faithful Departed,...

A Vatican official's disgraceful diatribe by Phil Lawler - Jun 4, 2015

A few weeks ago I worried that the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences was pushing the Vatican into needless and divisive political controversy. Now I’m afraid the same Pontifical Academy is pushing itself into disgrace. The story begins in April, when the Pontifical Academy of Social...

Vatican showdown by Phil Lawler - Jun 1, 2015

What happens when a member of a papal commission engages in irresponsible public criticism of a leading cardinal? We’re about to find out. Under ordinary circumstances there’s no doubt that Peter Saunders would be quickly dismissed from the papal commission. But in the current...

Ireland on the brink: the referendum will be a test of tolerance by Phil Lawler - May 19, 2015

On Friday, if the polls are right, Ireland—once a staunchly Catholic nation—will become the first country in the world to ratify same-sex marriage by a popular vote. To be sure, the polls show a late surge of opposition. But public support for the referendum had been overwhelming,...

American Catholics are flunking the test of evangelization by Phil Lawler - May 13, 2015

Yesterday’s top CWN headline news story points to the most urgent problem facing the Catholic Church in the US: the decline in the American Catholic population. As our headline story reports there is some disagreement among experts about the extent of that decline. Pew Research finds...

The unholy political battle to denounce—or exploit—the Pope's environmental message by Phil Lawler - May 8, 2015

The editorial board of Our Sunday Visitor has a strongly worded statement decrying the premature and vituperative criticism of the papal encyclical on the environment. “Well before the encyclical’s release,” the OSV board observes, “a veritable campaign against its...

We've already redefined marriage, by accepting contraception by Phil Lawler - May 1, 2015

In a must-read column for the Wall Street Journal, Rev. Donald Sensing, a Methodist minister from Tennessee, argues that acceptance of same-sex marriage “will not cause the degeneration of the institution of marriage; it is the result of it.” Understand that Rev. Sensing is not happy with the...

The Vatican's dangerous embrace of climate-change theory by Phil Lawler - Apr 29, 2015

Imagine—just imagine, for the sake of the argument—that scientists in a future generation discover that the global-warming trend of recent years was not caused by human activity. If that happens, what will be the consequences for the Catholic Church, in light of the Vatican’s apparent embrace of...

The Finn resignation: 10 years too late, bishops face accountability by Phil Lawler - Apr 21, 2015

Bishop Finn had to go. When he was convicted on criminal charges, he became the poster boy for the American bishops’ mishandling of the sex-abuse crisis. He was an irresistible target for critics of Catholicism: a walking, talking symbol of episcopal negligence. The bishop’s...

Misunderstanding Pope Francis: the secular outlook and the scandal of the Cross by Phil Lawler - Apr 9, 2015

Back in March , Pope Francis told visiting bishops from Bosnia-Herzegovina that the Church “cannot stay closed within its traditions, noble though they may be.” He went on: “It must come out of its 'enclosure', firm in faith, supported by prayer and encouraged by pastors, to live and announce the...

Insights on the enigma that is Pope Francis by Phil Lawler - Mar 27, 2015

Two years after his election, millions of Catholics are still trying to understand Pope Francis. Two recent essays have provided useful perspectives: Writing for Crisis, Msgr. Hans Feichtinger, a priest of the Diocese of Passau, Germany, makes the important point that Pope Francis is not, like...

The Pope's unconvincing arguments against the death penalty by Phil Lawler - Mar 23, 2015

Full disclosure: I oppose the use of the death penalty in America today, for prudential reasons that I may explain in another essay. When Pope Francis said execution is always inadmissible, I was not dismayed by his conclusion. But I was dismayed by the logic he used to reach that...

The patron saint of parish closings by Phil Lawler - Mar 17, 2015

(This column, written three years ago, is re-posted by popular demand.) Needless to say, there is no patron saint of parish closings.  The closing of a parish is a tragedy. A parish church is more than just a building. It is a repository of memories: of the children baptized there, the...

Priests need defense against false accusations by Phil Lawler - Mar 13, 2015

A Catholic priest who is falsely accused of sexual abuse can’t count on his bishop to defend him. That’s the unhappy conclusion one reaches after reading informative article in the Homiletic and Pastoral Review by David Shaneyfelt and Joseph Maher. Twenty years ago, diocesan...

Liberal liturgists try to explain away a key appointment by Pope Francis by Phil Lawler - Mar 11, 2015

Within a few weeks after the election of Pope Francis, rumors began to circulate in Rome that the new Pontiff would appoint Archbishop Piero Marini as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW). For liberal liturgists, these rumors were cause for celebration; for conservatives, for...

Pope Francis prevails in Round I of battle for Vatican reform by Phil Lawler - Mar 5, 2015

Pope Francis has withstood the first major challenge to his campaign for reform within the Vatican. But the battle is not over. The Pope will face more challenges as that campaign continues. By approving the statutes of the Secretariat for the Economy with only a few minor modifications, the...

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...

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