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

Showing the Courage to battle homosexual impulses by Phil Lawler - Thursday

For an apostolate dedicated to helping people live out the Christian virtue of chastity despite a same-sex attraction, “Courage” is a particularly apt name, for two reasons. In our sex-saturated society, it takes some courage to say that one might have sexual urges that should never be...

The ‘Pope Francis effect’—changing the way the world sees the papacy by Phil Lawler - Tuesday

A long-overdue reform of the Vatican’s media operations is still only in the planning stages, yet the “Pope Francis effect” has already become evident in the way the Vatican handles the news. Take a look at today’s statement from the Vatican Information Service (VIS),...

Obama's executive order and the danger of reliance on federal contracts by Phil Lawler - Jul 22, 2014

Just as American Catholic bishops were volunteering to help President Obama—by handling the thousands of children from Central America who are entering the US illegally—the White House has announced that the President doesn’t want help from the Catholic Church. How else should...

What was wrong with the Pope's latest interview? A lot. by Phil Lawler - Jul 15, 2014

In the messy aftermath of yet another papal interview, how shall I explain what went wrong? There were so many different problems, it’s hard to know where to begin. One might start with the odd habits of Eugenio Scalfari, the veteran Italian journalist who has now had three such sessions...

Will the next benchmark case be Supreme Court v. reality? by Phil Lawler - Jul 8, 2014

"Let me be absolutely clear," wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in her vigorous dissent from the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Wheaton College case. “I do not doubt that Wheaton genuinely believes that signing the self-certification form is contrary to its religious beliefs....

Bad biology, bad policy in the Hobby Lobby reactions by Phil Lawler - Jul 1, 2014

In the aftermath of the Hobby Lobby decision, feminists have complained that the Supreme Court has made it impossible for women to control their own fertility. Am I missing something? The Catholic columnist Michael B. Dougherty reacted to the ruling—or rather to the panicky...

Two experts' views on the diplomatic approach of Pope Francis by Phil Lawler - Jun 26, 2014

Two of Rome’s most influential Vatican-watching journalists have recently offered different perspectives on how Pope Francis has changed Vatican diplomacy. Andrea Tornielli of La Stampa observes that when this Pope has traveled abroad, the destinations that he has chosen indicate his...

The Church, climate change, and the shadow of Galileo by Phil Lawler - Jun 19, 2014

Do you want to know what I think about climate change? You shouldn’t. My formal training in the sciences ended 45 years ago, with an introductory course on geology. I do not attend scientific conferences; I do not read scientific journals. I do not understand the methodologies of...

Needed: speed-bumps on the road to divorce by Phil Lawler - Jun 6, 2014

The “empty-nest divorce” threatens to become a familiar rite of passage in American life. During the first few years after graduation from college we are regularly invited to the weddings of our classmates and friends. A few more years pass, and we hear about the birth of their...

The limits of academic freedom: final thoughts on the 'black mass' episode at Harvard by Phil Lawler - May 22, 2014

“The last temptation is the greatest treason: to do the right deed for the wrong reason.” —T.S. Eliot.  Harvard University President Drew Faust did the right thing when she announced that she would attend a Eucharistic holy hour on the evening when a black mass was...

Surprise: The Kasper book doesn't really argue for the Kasper proposal! by Phil Lawler - May 15, 2014

You know that Cardinal Kasper has advanced a proposal that seems to call for a radical change in Church teaching on marriage. You’ve heard that Pope Francis has praised Cardinal Kasper’s new book. So you conclude, not illogically, that Pope Francis agrees with the German cardinal’s proposal. I’m...

The practical dangers of the Kasper proposal by Phil Lawler - May 14, 2014

Last week when I insisted (not for the first time) that Pope Francis is not going to change Church teaching on remarriage and Communion, one reader gently suggested that I might be answering the wrong question. “I believe,” he tweeted, “the main concern is not that Francis will...

Douthat, Kasper, and Communion—continuing a conversation by Phil Lawler - May 10, 2014

Ross Douthat, whose thoughts prompted one of my several recent reflections on the Kasper proposal, has continued the discussion with another good post, in which he asks and tentatively answers this important question: When it seems that the pope is considering what seems like a doctrinal...

Cardinal Kasper's public support for dissent undermines his own proposal by Phil Lawler - May 7, 2014

In a May 5 interview broadcast by WYNC radio in New York—in which he was repeatedly identified by host Brian Lehrer as “the Pope’s theologian”—Cardinal Walter Kasper made the striking statement: “The Church is not against birth control at all.” As...

Divorce, remarriage, Communion, and the sense of the faithful by Phil Lawler - May 6, 2014

Some critics of Pope Francis (and some critics of yours truly) seem to think that it’s only a matter of time before Pope Francis endorses the the Kasper proposal, and gives the green light for Catholics who are divorced and remarried to receive Communion. Some traditionalists are already...

Of Douthat and Kasper, divorce and schism by Phil Lawler - Apr 29, 2014

On his New York Times blog, Ross Douthat has an excellent summary of the debate among Church leaders about admitting divorced and remarried Catholics to Communion. If by chance you haven’t been paying attention to this discussion, or if (more likely) you know someone who wants to be brought...

Is Catholic-Muslim dialogue possible? Yes, but... by Phil Lawler - Apr 28, 2014

Robert Reilly, who gave us The Closing of the Muslim Mind, which I described as ”the most enlightening book of 2010,” has done another great service by applying the lessons of that important work to the field of inter-religious affairs. The Prospects and Perils of Catholic-Muslim...

What Bishop Jugis did NOT say about Sister Jane Dominic's talk by Phil Lawler - Apr 10, 2014

Charlotte’s Bishop Peter Jugis has finally issued a statement regarding the unseemly controversy at Charlotte Catholic High School. In that statement the bishop clearly affirms the teachings of the Catholic Church. But he does not affirm Sister Jane Dominic Laurel, whose presentation of...

Sister Jane Dominic: one strike and she's out? by Phil Lawler - Apr 7, 2014

We still don’t know exactly what Sister Jane Dominic Laurel said at Charlotte Catholic High School to provoke such an angry reaction. No recording has been produced; no text of her talk has been released. We have only second-hand reports. We do know that the school and the Charlotte...

Can the Supreme Court duck the central issue in the Hobby Lobby case? by Phil Lawler - Mar 28, 2014

In the the Hobby Lobby case, a key question facing the Supreme Court is whether a corporate enterprise qualifies for the same religious-freedom protections as an individual. At first glance that seems a very simple question. It is a long-established principle of Anglo-American law, set forth...

Be Prepared: What you need to know before Pope Francis meets President Obama by Phil Lawler - Mar 26, 2014

Count on it: Immediately after tomorrow’s meeting between Pope Francis and President Obama, the spinmasters of the Obama administration—the same talented propagandists who successfully portrayed an inexperienced junior senator as a political savior—will be working furiously to...

Should Catholic politicians oppose legal contraception? Yes; prudently. by Phil Lawler - Mar 20, 2014

Is a Catholic politician morally obligated to oppose the legal distribution of contraceptives? That question has come to the fore because of a surprisingly contentious Congressional campaign in Virginia. Austin Ruse presented the argument to readers outside Virginia in February, with a Crisis...

Dangerous dilution of Church teachings: making the exception the rule by Phil Lawler - Mar 12, 2014

Ask a dozen Catholics drawn at random from a typical American parish, and all twelve will tell you that the faithful are no longer expected to abstain from meat on Fridays, except during Lent. Not so. “Abstinence from meat, or some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is...

Will conservative Catholics help media skew Church discussions on marriage? by Phil Lawler - Mar 5, 2014

Seven months before the Synod of Bishops meets to discuss pastoral care for the family, one can easily foresee how the mass media will cover the prelates’ discussion. It is not easy to predict which themes will emerge as most prominent in the Synod fathers’ debates. But it is very easy...

The dangerous pressure for change in Church teaching on divorce and remarriage by Phil Lawler - Feb 24, 2014

As the October meeting of the Synod of Bishops draws near, we’ll hear more and more about one question: Whether Catholics who are divorced and remarried should be allowed to receive the Eucharist. Clearly this is the question on the minds of reporters, the question being posed by liberal bishops,...

A bit of fair treatment, please, in handling accusations against priests by Phil Lawler - Feb 14, 2014

TheMediaReport.com is offering 5 practical suggestions for journalists covering the sex-abuse story as it relates to the Catholic Church. TheMediaReport is a site that doggedly defends the Church against accusations, and in some cases, I think, ends up defending the indefensible. But in this case,...

How contraception undermines our national security by Phil Lawler - Feb 12, 2014

“There are signs,” observed Muammar Qaddafi in 2006, “that Allah will grant Islam victory in Europe—without swords, without guns, without conquests.” Qaddafi himself is now dead, the victim of the Islamic fervor he helped to arouse. But his prophecy may be coming true...

On transparency in handling abuse charges, Vatican is facing a big test by Phil Lawler - Feb 11, 2014

Reacting vigorously to a nasty public attack by a hostile UN committee, Vatican officials have repeated that the Holy See has nothing to hide on the issue of sexual abuse. That’s good to hear. But after a decade of scandal, a skeptical world wants to see action to back up those...

Please, some honesty from the Vatican about the health of religious life by Phil Lawler - Feb 7, 2014

The life of consecrated religious communities worldwide “is really enjoying good health at this moment,” Archbishop José Rodriguez Carballo, the secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for Religious, has reported. His evidence? The archbishop told an EWTN interviewer that in his travels...

How secular media exploit the 'Francis effect'-- another prime example by Phil Lawler - Feb 4, 2014

Yesterday I called attention to a very perceptive critique, by Bishop James Conley, of the Rolling Stone cover story about Pope Francis. The purveyors of pop culture aren’t interested in reporting what Pope Francis thinks, Bishop Conley warned; they’re interested in promoting...

Challenge for a religious journalist: how to handle a report about exorcism by Phil Lawler - Jan 30, 2014

How should a news service like CWN, dedicated to providing a Catholic perspective on current events, handle a story like this one, about a reported exorcism in Gary, Indiana? It is a complicated story, with a very confused religious background. There are hints of dabbling in the occult,...

Rooting out corruption at the Vatican: unfinished business by Phil Lawler - Jan 23, 2014

Pope Francis came into office with a clear mandate to clean up corruption in Rome. He’s working on it, but there’s a great deal still to be done. For instance: Msgr. Nunzio Scarano, who was arrested last year for attempting to bring €20 million into Italy illegally, now...

400 priests defrocked for abuse? There's more to the story by Phil Lawler - Jan 20, 2014

Some thoughts on the story that AP broke late Friday afternoon, reporting that Pope Benedict had approved the laicization of nearly 400 priests during the last 2 years of his pontificate: This is only the tip of the iceberg—but not in the way you might think. The AP story covers just...

Are all Catholics truly 'in communion' with the Church? by Phil Lawler - Jan 17, 2014

What does it mean to be “in communion” with the Church? The phrase is not often used among American Catholics, but it is highly relevant to ecumenical discussions. We say that we are not “in communion” with the Orthodox churches. We profess essentially the same faith,...

The problem of non-believing Catholics by Phil Lawler - Jan 15, 2014

Back in September, Damon Linker wrote in the New Republic that liberal Catholics were likely to become disillusioned with Pope Francis, because the Pope was not likely to change Catholic doctrines. Now, writing in The Week, he reports that he’s even more concerned, because liberal Catholics...

With new cardinals, a few surprises by Phil Lawler - Jan 13, 2014

It was no surprise when Pope Francis named the first cardinals of his pontificate at his Sunday public audience. And considering how often the Holy Father had tossed aside conventional thinking, his choices were not terribly surprising, either. As expected, the Pope’s 19 selections...

If homosexuals aren't sinners, they're not like the rest of us by Phil Lawler - Jan 10, 2014

The old Christian injunction to “hate the sin, love the sinner” no longer cuts it, Mary McAleese has announced. The former Irish president explains: “If you are a so-called sinner, who likes to be called that?” Since active homosexuals don’t want to be called sinners, McAleese concludes that...

Countercultural Catholic, chapter 8: Habits of Clericalism by Phil Lawler - Jan 6, 2014

In June 2013, Pope Francis said that he longed for a Church “without a life of its own.” He explained that curious remark by saying that ideally the Church should live only the life of Christ. The Church, he said, should be “the mysterium lunae which has light from her Bridegroom...

Countercultural Catholic, chapter 7: Ritual Purity by Phil Lawler - Jan 2, 2014

When roughly half of all marriages end in divorce, is it reasonable to expect that couples are preparing for marriage with a proper understanding of Christian matrimony? When surveys show that most Catholics do not believe in (or at best do not understand) the Real Presence, is it logical to...

Countercultural Catholic, chapter 6: The Enemy Within by Phil Lawler - Dec 31, 2013

In the military world, no effective force ever tolerates traitors, deserters, or informers. Today, in the midst of our “culture wars,” the Catholic Church can ill afford to wage a two-front battle: against militant secularists on one hand and renegade Catholics on the other. The first...

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