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

A suggestion for First Things: separate civil divorce from Christian marriage by Phil Lawler - Monday

First Things is a journal with a proud tradition of fostering intellectual debate. (Remember when the late Father Neuhaus hosted a symposium on the question of whether the US government had lost its legitimacy?) Now a new editor, R.R. Reno, has stirred things up again by publishing, and strongly...

Why Cardinal Burke cannot lead a 'loyal opposition' by Phil Lawler - Nov 11, 2014

In the quiet little New England town where we live, we’ve just been through an unusually contentious local election. The aftermath has reminded me of an important lesson that I learned years ago. When the votes were counted in our local contests, one losing candidate issued a gracious statement...

New economic standards: Pope Francis' most important reform? by Phil Lawler - Nov 7, 2014

Don’t look now, but the most important reform of this pontificate may have been introduced this week. Did you notice? Many nervous Catholics are still discussing the fallout from the October meeting of the Synod of Bishops, worrying that when the Synod meets again next year, there could...

The Pope is not the problem by Phil Lawler - Oct 23, 2014

Thoroughly rattled by the stories that emerged from the October meeting of the Synod of Bishops, many faithful Catholics are now worried that Pope Francis is leading the Church in a dangerous direction—and perhaps even doing so intentionally. Their fears are understandable, in light of some...

What's wrong with this Synod, IV: Unprepared for marriage by Phil Lawler - Oct 17, 2014

As the Synod of Bishops continues to focus on troubled marital (and non-marital) relationships, several prominent prelates have speculated that there are probably many Catholics living in marital unions that would, on close inspection, be recognized as invalid. That suggestion cannot be...

What's wrong with this Synod, III: First World problems by Phil Lawler - Oct 14, 2014

Perhaps now is as good a time as any for a reminder that the official topic for this extraordinary session of the Synod of Bishops is: “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.” During these last 10 days we have heard a great deal about divorce,...

What's wrong with this Synod, II: Debate is free, open (and censored) by Phil Lawler - Oct 10, 2014

Speaking to the Synod of Bishops on its first day of discussions, Pope Francis urged the participants to speak out boldly, “without human respect, without timidity.” The secretary-general of the Synod, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, echoed that message, saying that “discussion at the Synod is to...

What’s wrong with this Synod, I: Shuffling the deck chairs by Phil Lawler - Oct 9, 2014

[This is the first in a series of essays on the current Synod of Bishops, dedicated to the family. I should begin with the caveat that my comments are based on public reports from the Synod. The actual discussions may be developing along different lines. I hope so.] Does the Synod of Bishops...

The Islamic roots of terrorism must be addressed by Phil Lawler - Sep 19, 2014

“Now let’s make two things clear,” President Barack Obama said in his televised address to the American people on September 10. First, he said, “ISIL [the Islamic State] is not Islamic.” But that’s precisely what is not clear about the Islamic State and about...

Senator Cruz undermined the cause of persecuted Christians by Phil Lawler - Sep 12, 2014

For the record, Senator Ted Cruz was not “booed off the stage” when he addressed a Washington conference on persecution of Christians in the Middle East. He left the stage voluntarily. Yes, the Texas senator was booed. And yes, the reaction to his comments was impolite. (Conference...

NY archdiocese should sever ties with St. Patrick's Day parade by Phil Lawler - Sep 4, 2014

You don’t honor a saint by encouraging a sin. No doubt there have been homosexual persons marching down Fifth Avenue every year in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. There was never any ban on their participation; there was no test of sexual orientation for marchers. But next year the...

Weep for slaughtered Christians, not for dialogue with Islam by Phil Lawler - Aug 29, 2014

Faced with the savage violence of the Islamic State (ISIS), Christians can be tempted toward two unhelpful emotional reactions. On one extreme is the thirst for vengeance. If Muslims extremists kill innocent Christians, intemperate voices suggest that we should kill innocent Muslims. Then we,...

In Iraq, the Pope has good reason to seek intervention, but fear unilateral US action by Phil Lawler - Aug 20, 2014

When Pope Francis said that armed intervention is justified to stop the slaughter of Christian refugees in Iraq, he made a distinction that is often missed, I’m afraid, in American discussions of warfare. After saying that “it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor,” the Holy...

Showing the Courage to battle homosexual impulses by Phil Lawler - Jul 31, 2014

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...

The ‘Pope Francis effect’—changing the way the world sees the papacy by Phil Lawler - Jul 29, 2014

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...

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