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

The Obama argument: only churches—not individuals—can claim religious freedom by Phil Lawler - Aug 1, 2012

Arguing against Hercules Industries—the Colorado firm that won an injunction against the HHS contraceptive mandate--lawyers for the Obama administration made the stunning claim that “for-profit secular employers generally do not engage in any exercise of religion protected by the First...

Can the Church recapture dissident 'Catholic' universities? by Phil Lawler - Jul 27, 2012

Most Catholic Culture readers, I suspect, were delighted (as I was) to hear the news that the Vatican has stripped the “Catholic” and “Pontifical” titles from the institution known as the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru. I was delighted, too. What a refreshing...

From bureaucratic leadership, spare us, Lord by Phil Lawler - Jul 24, 2012

In a thought-provoking Wall Street Journal column William McGurn worries that the net result of the sex-abuse scandal at Penn State will be a multiplication of new rules and regulations rather than a recognition that leadership entails personal responsibility—and a commitment never to...

The SSPX didn't say No. An agreement is still likely. by Phil Lawler - Jul 19, 2012

The Vatican made an offer, and the leaders of the SSPX said No. Or did they? Go ahead: read our CWN news story. Better yet, read the full statement from the SSPX general chapter. Do you see a clear “No” anywhere? Neither do I. There is no “Yes,” either, I admit. And some of the language...

Louis Freeh, I have another job for you by Phil Lawler - Jul 13, 2012

Things look grim for Penn State University this week. After investigating allegations of sexual abuse against a former member of the football team’s coaching staff, former FBI director Louis Freeh issued a scathing report. "Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the...

Obama's 'September surprise' for American Catholics by Phil Lawler - Jul 11, 2012

If Barack Obama is a clever politician, he will soon offer the US Catholic bishops another “compromise” on the HHS contraceptive mandate. Such a gesture could boost the President’s chances for re-election, and obviously Obama would welcome that result. The proffered compromise...

Chief Justice Roberts and his conservative defenders: too clever by half by Phil Lawler - Jul 5, 2012

In the week that has passed since the stunning Supreme Court decision on Obamacare was released, many of my conservative colleagues have tried to explain the opinion by Chief Justice Roberts as a hidden gem: a stealth victory for the cause of limited government. Those explanations—like the...

What did the Vatican really decide in Father Pavone's case? by Phil Lawler - Jun 28, 2012

The “victory” of Father Frank Pavone in his appeal to Rome illustrates something seriously wrong with the ordinary application of canon law. The word “victory” belongs in quotation marks above because we don’t know whether the Congregation for Clergy accepted all, or...

Two Americans will play key roles at Vatican by Phil Lawler - Jun 26, 2012

The early days of summer are always a season for speculation around Rome, and this year especially so. With a flurry of appointments, is Pope Benedict XVI sending important signals about his policies and priorities? Yes, he is. Ordinarily I avoid predictions about Vatican affairs. As the old...

Even if Obamacare is overturned, the Fortnight for Freedom must continue by Phil Lawler - Jun 22, 2012

Sometime next week, roughly halfway through the “Fortnight for Freedom,” the US Supreme Court will deliver its ruling on the Obama health-care reform. If the Court rules—as it should—that the legislation is unconstitutional, the threat of the contraceptive mandate will be...

The question stated simply: Has the LCWR gone off the reservation? by Phil Lawler - Jun 15, 2012

Earlier this week I commented on the refreshing candor and clarity of comments by Bishop Leonard Blair, defending the Vatican’s call for reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). Today there is even more candor and clarity, this time coming in an interview with Cardinal...

The second collection: Vatileaks and the arrogance of church bureaucrats by Phil Lawler - Jun 14, 2012

How can we explain the disgraceful behavior of the Church officials behind the “Vatileaks” scandal? Ranking prelates, who (you’d like to think) should have a highly developed moral sense, have been doing things that a schoolboy would instantly recognize as unethical: betraying...

Bishop Blair pounds the facts; LCWR pounds the table by Phil Lawler - Jun 12, 2012

You know the old lawyer’s advice to a new practitioner? “If the law is on your side, pound the law. If the facts are on your side, pound the facts. If neither the law nor the facts are on your side, pound the table.” Liberal Catholics have been pounding the table recently in their defense of...

Emergency contraception, pseudo-science, and media bias by Phil Lawler - Jun 7, 2012

Here’s an interesting case study in news coverage of scientific issues: The New York Times has given prominent attention to a report that “emergency contraceptive" pills may not be abortifacient. Setting aside the merits of the argument, the Times story is significant in itself...

US military strategy fails when religious liberty is ignored by Phil Lawler - May 30, 2012

On Memorial Day, appropriately enough, I finished reading a new history of World War II: The Storms of War, by Andrew Roberts. Having examined some of the strategic errors that Hitler made, and traced their consequences, Roberts concludes by reminding his readers that the war could have turned out...

On the mandate, a dangerous crack in the bishops' united front by Phil Lawler - May 25, 2012

The counter-attack has begun. You knew it was coming, didn’t you? For weeks now the American bishops have been marching in lockstep unity, completely unanimous in their opposition to the HHS contraceptive mandate. The Catholic hierarchy has been headed into a showdown with President Obama,...

How Civilizations Die: an ambitious, brilliant book by Phil Lawler - May 24, 2012

Europe is “wounded,” Pope Benedict XVI told an assembly of Italian bishops today. What if the wound is fatal? We know that European culture is in distress. What if it cannot recover? Civilizations rise and fall; they do not last forever. In an ambitious and fascinating book, David Goldman has...

Parish 'ministry' and parish closings by Phil Lawler - May 23, 2012

In the Boston Herald, a report on the latest failed attempt to persuade the Vatican to stop parish closings came with this headline: Minister holds out faith decades-old Hub church will reopen Minister? At a Catholic parish church? The Church’s influence isn’t what it once was in Boston, but...

Is the New York Times protecting dissident Catholic priests? by Phil Lawler - May 16, 2012

The perceptive religion reporter Terry Mattingly noticed something that had escaped me, in a New York Times story about religious attitudes toward same-sex marriage. The Times reported:   The Roman Catholic Church teaches that homosexual behavior is a sin, but there are Catholic priests...

On federal spending, the US bishops' advice fails a moral test by Phil Lawler - May 15, 2012

Do the American Catholic bishops think it’s morally acceptable to bounce checks? Because that’s what will happen, you know, if Congress follows the bishops’ advice on federal spending. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has repeatedly criticized proposed budget cuts in...

On 'brain death,' a response to a rebuttal by Phil Lawler - May 11, 2012

Last month, when I questioned whether “brain death” is a valid justification for removing vital organs for transplant, many readers expressed a keen interest in the debate. Soon thereafter I posted a rebuttal by one reader, Dr. Michael DiPietro, who argued strenously in favor of using the...

USCCB statements on other political topics are harming the campaign for religious freedom by Phil Lawler - May 4, 2012

In March the US bishops’ conference (USCCB) announced that “we will not rest” until Congress ensures that religious freedom is protected in the federal health-care reform program. The USCCB followed up that clear and forceful message a few week later with a new, statement...

Secular commentators completely misunderstand the Vatican-LCWR conflict by Phil Lawler - May 2, 2012

When secular commentators turn their attention to the Catholic Church, they typically make two mistakes. First, they assume that religious questions can be understood in political terms. Second, they assume that the Catholic Church should be placed on the conservative end of the political...

Congressman Ryan and his Catholic (and media) critics by Phil Lawler - Apr 27, 2012

Congressman Paul Ryan spoke at Georgetown about how his Catholic faith informs his political thinking, and thus his budget plan. The headline on our Catholic World News story read, “Ryan defends compatibility of House budget with Catholic teaching.” But the headline on a report from...

A PR blunder by the Irish bishops' conference by Phil Lawler - Apr 26, 2012

Last week the PR office of the Irish Catholic bishops’ conference demanded an apology from a popular radio personality, Ray D’Arcy, for his attack on the Catholic Church. Bad idea. D’Arcy, whose Today show claims nearly a quarter-million listeners, had said that “the...

Seven years ago, and today by Phil Lawler - Apr 19, 2012

Do you remember what you were doing on this date in 2005? I sure do. It was a quiet day here, but I was on edge, jumpy with anticipation, waiting for news from Rome. The papal conclave had just begun, and April 19 would be the first day of actual voting. It seemed unlikely that the cardinals...

European liberals, American conservatives, and the 'social issues' by Phil Lawler - Apr 18, 2012

Now that the contest for the Republican presidential nomination is effectively over, we can expect the presumptive winner, Mitt Romney, to tack leftward as he prepares for the general election in November. While he was wooing the true believers of his own Republican party, and trying to allay the...

On brain death, a reader's rebuttal by Phil Lawler - Apr 11, 2012

My last comment on “brain death” and organ transplants drew a strong response from one reader, Dr. Michael DiPietro, who has considerable expertise in the field. Because his argument was quite cogent, and because my goal here is to stimulate debate on an important subject, I asked for...

Organ transplants, 'brain death,' and Church teaching by Phil Lawler - Apr 4, 2012

Responding to my recent On the News post about organ transplants, reader James Anderson posed a question that requires more than just a quick answer: I thought that I recently read where the Church said that determining when a person is dead falls under the purview of the medical community, not...

Ethical questions about organ transplants by Phil Lawler - Mar 29, 2012

The news that former vice president Dick Cheney has received a heart transplant prompts NPR’s “Morning Edition” to examine one set of ethical issues involving the transplant of vital organs. But there is another deeper, more troubling set of questions to be asked. The questions...

The Pope in Cuba: too many concessions to the Castro regime? by Phil Lawler - Mar 28, 2012

Some analysts worry that Pope Benedict’s trip to Cuba might help prop up the Castro government. Others believe that the papal visit could prove the tipping point that finally leads to the collapse of a bankrupt regime. There are intelligent arguments on both sides. Since the plans for the...

'Creative' publicity for the Obama mandate by Phil Lawler - Mar 21, 2012

When a seasoned politician issues a public announcement late on Friday afternoon, you already know that he’s trying to hide something. Politicians usually want the maximum publicity for their statements. On Friday afternoons, beat reporters are headed for happy hours, chanting...

The patron saint of parish closings by Phil Lawler - Mar 17, 2012

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 happy couples married, the parents mourned and buried. It is a testimony to...

The betrayal of Father Guarnizo by Phil Lawler - Mar 15, 2012

In an earlier column on all the things we don’t know about the case of Father Marcel Guarnizo, I failed—as many critical readers pointed out—to take account of the apology issued by the Washington archdiocese soon after the fateful incident in which Father Guarnizo refused to...

The removal of Father Guarnizo—what we still don't know by Phil Lawler - Mar 13, 2012

Catholic Culture readers are understandably concerned about the status of Father Marcel Guarnizo, the priest who has been placed on administrative leave by the Washington archdiocese after he denied Communion to a lesbian woman. While I fully share that concern, I submit that it’s...

The noise-to-signal ratio at the USCCB by Phil Lawler - Mar 7, 2012

During the past several weeks the US bishops have been engaged in a critical political battle over the HHS contraceptive mandate, and the USCCB has issued a series of strong statements on that subject. Good. During those same weeks, however, the USCCB has also issued statements on tax cuts and...

US bishops need a new strategy against Obama mandate by Phil Lawler - Mar 2, 2012

This weekend would be an ideal time for the leaders of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to reconsider the political strategy they have adopted in their fight against the Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate. In their bid to undo that offensive mandate, the bishops could...

Santorum, the media, and the religious test by Phil Lawler - Feb 22, 2012

Of course New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd thinks of Sen. Rick Santorum as a religious fanatic. That’s what one expects from Dowd, whose contempt for the Catholic faith is as strong as her political liberalism. But for the past few days the Drudge Report, ordinarily friendly to...

The Obama strategy: let's talk about contraception by Phil Lawler - Feb 15, 2012

Dick Morris, who was once the hardball political strategist for President Bill Clinton, has an interesting take on strategic reasoning behind the Obama mandate. Morris—who has undergone both political and religious conversions since his salad days in the 1990s— argues that the Obama...

HHS mandate might awaken the sleeping Catholic conscience by Phil Lawler - Feb 3, 2012

"In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences," said New York’s Archbishop Timothy Dolan about the Obama administration’s new mandate for contraceptive coverage in health-care policies. Sad to say, we Catholics have done it...

Declining birth rates make the Islamic world more dangerous by Phil Lawler - Jan 27, 2012

David Goldman, who writes online under the pseudonym Spengler, has a new book out: How Civilizations Die: (And Why Islam Is Dying Too). While I haven’t yet read the book, I recently happened across Goldman’s preface, and it’s brilliant. It’s a longish piece, and not always...

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