On The News

Analysis of news events and trends.

Fantasy and reality in the ‘Kasper proposal’

The debate on Amoris Laetitia has been simmering steadily since my last entry on the subject. Father Raymond de Souza has helped put that debate in perspective, with a clear and compelling summary—easily the best that I have seen—of where the argument now stands. At this point the...

An Undelivered Christmas Homily

In a J.F. Powers short story written shortly after the Second Vatican Council, a priest is asked, “Father, how can we make sanctity as attractive as sex to the common man?” It’s a provocative question and worthy of a thoughtful answer—perhaps not from the pulpit. After all,...

No, don’t turn down the heat on the Amoris debate

John Allen, an honest and seasoned reporter who always tries to present a balanced perspective on Vatican affairs, is true to form in his column, Thoughts on turning down the heat in the ‘Amoris’ debate. There’s no reason to doubt his sincerity as he searches for a way to...

The rhetorical strategy to debunk the dubia

At this point it’s quite clear: close associates of Pope Francis, defenders of Amoris Laetita and critics of the four cardinals who submitted the famous dubia are all reading from the same script. When you notice that many different people are using the same arguments—in fact the same...

Second marriages and the casualties of spiritual combat

Spiritual combat: the phrase that is not often heard from the pulpit these days. But it is a phrase worth keeping in mind as we wrestle our way through the confusion that now clouds the Catholic teaching on marriage. In the early days of this pontificate, Pope Francis raised eyebrows with his...

Rather Than Global Warming, Worry about Wormwood

Several years ago an article appeared in the Washington Post, of all places, on the history of contraception. The writer reported that wormwood—a kind of herbal derivative—was used as a contraceptive by the ancients. (The story came to mind after reading George Sim Johnston’s...

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....

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