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The City Gates

Brief, off-the-cuff observations and announcements.

If not a religious war, what is it?

Secularists routinely ignore—or worse, deny—the influence of religious beliefs on political affairs. So when secular leaders like President Obama deny that terrorists are inspired by Islam, I can almost understand. But when Pope Francis makes essentially the same claim, I am...

Will this murder fuel a French Catholic revival?

How will France react to the murder of Father Jacques Hamel? I don’t mean the country’s political leaders, who will naturally condemn this brutal act of violence. I mean the ordinary people of France: a country that was once a great bastion of Catholicism, and is now so thoroughly...

Please don't call it 'senseless' violence

The latest atrocity by the Islamic State—the brutal murder of an elderly priest, carried out during the holy Sacrifice of the Mass—was not a senseless act. Abominable, yes. Disgusting, surely. But senseless? No. It was premeditated. It was intentional. It was part of a larger...

Is your family life an adequate school of marriage for your kids? Think about this now.

Have you had the facts-of-life discussion with your kids? If so, it is just one step along the way. Even more important is giving them the formation they need to properly approach relationships with the opposite sex, including dating, courtship and matrimony. Ideally, sound parental attitudes...

Making religion matter again

The statistics out of Germany are very sad. 180,000 Germans left the Catholic Church last year. But over and above those baptized as infants, fewer than 10,000 entered the Church. Yet Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich insists that the Church in Germany is “a strong force, whose message is...

Quick Hits: Analyzing Trump and the Democrats, questioning Vatican support for internationalism

First Things is not a political journal, yet in the past week the magazine has provided me with two of the most insightful perspectives on a bewildering American presidential race. Matthew Schmitz reminds readers that the religious outlook of Donald Trump was formed by Rev. Norman Vincent...

Quick Hits: Building a cathedral, single-handed

Thomas Van, who is currently fulfilling a different set of obligations overseas, has not lost his knack for finding intriguing Catholic points of interest on the web. The other day, he sent me a link to a brief video about a 90-year-old man who has been building a cathedral in Spain, essentially...

Cardinal Sarah's speech: a stealth success?

You might say—many commentators have said—that with the quick Vatican smackdown of Cardinal Sarah's proposal for ad orientem worship, Rome has spoken and the case is closed. I disagree.  On the contrary, Cardinal Sarah has reopened a much-needed discussion about how to...

Quick Hits: mayor judges prelate, the real Archbishop Cupich, confusion in Brazil

Philadelphia’s Mayor Jim Kenney, who identifies himself as a Catholic, has scolded Archbishop Charles Chaput for confirming the Church’s age-old teaching that Catholics who divorce and remarry cannot receive the Eucharist unless they agree to abstain from sexual intercourse....

Quick Hits: Cardinal Sarah's speech, the Pope and his critics

Yesterday CWN reported-- and I celebrated -- the wonderful suggestion by Cardinal Robert Sarah that priests should celebrate Mass ad orientem. Today there’s more good news: the text of Cardinal Sarah’s address to the Sacra Liturgia conference is now available online, and...

When the state decides if you're the baby's parents

This Indiana court ruling, requiring the state to list both members of a same-sex couple on a child's birth certificate, nearly escaped our notice. It's not the first such court ruling; it won't be the last. And the implications are frightening. When the Supreme Court unilaterally...

If the right to life is unalienable, assisted suicide is unconstitutional

When we think of “unalienable rights”—as we often do, on the 4th of July—we usually think of rights that cannot ever be taken away from us without injustice. But an “unalienable” right is something more: it is a right that we cannot give away freely without...

Debate tactics for embattled Christians: retreat, engage politely, or take the offensive?

My theme for today is debating tactics. What is the most effective way to challenge the reigning liberal/secular ideology, at a time when Christians are being steadily pushed toward the margins? Should we retreat into protected enclaves? Or continue to insist-- politely but forcefully-- on our...

Archbishop Wenski delivers a deserved rebuke to a fellow bishop

When a priest criticizes a bishop by name, that's unusual. But when one American bishop criticizes another, in a public statement, that's nearly unprecedented.  Writing for Catholic World Report, Father Mark Pilon has explained why Bishop Lynch should be forced to resign his...

Dan Brown's theories at Harvard Divinity School: the tale of a scam

If you enjoy a good real-life detective story, I strongly recommend this excellent article from The Atlantic, by Ariel Sabar. It’s a fine piece of investigative journalism, exposing an astonishing scam. The scam was possible, I submit, only because so many people—and particularly people who...

Caring for truth

Speaking of papal homilies, there is this: It is true that the Church always has a duty to try to obtain a deeper understanding of the unfathomable mysteries of God (which are so rich in their saving effects) and to present them in ways even more suited to the successive generations. However,...

A different perspective on the Syrian refugee crisis

Most of the people who were living in Syria in 2011 are now refugees. That's the stark message of a new report from the Pew Research Center. The impact of the Syrian refugee crisis is unprecedented in our era, Pew reports. Iraq was never like this. Even Rwanda, during the bloodbaths of...

The archbishop's failure of charity

Archbishop Cupich has written to the LGBT community of Chicago, announcing that they should "know this: the Archdiocese of Chicago stands with you. I stand with you."  If you find that statement disturbing and even scandalous, as I did, read this excellent piece by Elliot...

Quick Hits II: The autonomous individual who creates himself and kills himself

Robert Reilly can write with impressive authority on a variety of topics. He is the author of what might be the best currently available books on radical Islam (The Closing of the Muslim Mind), modern music (Surprised by Beauty), and the campaign for acceptance of homosexuality (Making Gay...

Quick Hits I: A caution on letting the states decide, a prophetic statement on violence against homosexuals

In years of debate over the Roe v. Wade decision, some earnest American pro-lifers argued that the best resolution would be to restore the power of the individual states to regulate abortion. More recently, defenders of marriage have made the same argument: step aside from a heated national...

Troubles facing the Pan-Orthodox Council confirm the need for the Petrine office

In preparations for the Pan-Orthodox Council that is scheduled to open in Crete on June 19, Orthodox leaders have underlined the importance of the event by saying that such a meeting has not been held for over 1,000 years. Yes, and something else has been true about the Orthodox churches for the...

If gravity caused Creation, Who caused gravity?

This is an old story, but somehow it popped up again in my news feed today: In his book The Grand Design (co-authored by Leonard Mlodinow), the renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking argues that there's no need to posit the existence of God in order to explain Creation, because the birth of...

Don't blame Benedict for the 'two-pope' confusion

Jeff Mirus rejects the theory-- tentatively suggested in an interview by Archbishop Georg Gänswein-- that Benedict XVI continues to serve in the Petrine office, albeit now in a quiet, contemplative way. There can be only one Pope, Jeff argues. George Weigel emphatically agrees. And Ed Peters...

Thinking incorrectly about Pope Emeritus Benedict

A couple of weeks ago, there was a report on the Veritas Vincit website suggesting that the Petrine ministry now has two components—an active element embodied in Pope Francis and a contemplative element embodied in Pope Benedict. If the reporting is accurate, this idea was...

Notes on the sorry condition of Irish Catholicism

Ireland, once a great bastion of Catholicism, is in our news today for several reasons—none of them good. When Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam remarks that the Church “is no longer the dominant intellectual influence in society,” that seems a considerable understatement. Bishop William Crean of...

The thing about mercy…

…is that you have to want it. It is an offer. You have to be willing to reorder your loves to receive it. Pope Francis has increased the emphasis on mercy which was begun by John Paul II, and that’s a good thing. But at times we lose sight of the fact that the purpose of...

Quick Hits: Gender ideology destroys freedom, Catholic apologetics needed, a liberal writer fears conspiracy

Catching up on some important essays from last week: Stella Morabito has set herself the important but unhappy task of warning us about the dangerous consequences of gender ideology and especially “transgender” ideology. Her latest offering, A De-Sexed Society is a De-Humanized...

Neutral Catholic bishops: The real eighth wonder of the world?

Here’s a story that deserves to be imitated widely throughout the hierarchy of the Church: British religious leaders: vote to stay in EU. Why is this worthy of note? Because the Catholic bishops of England and Wales are officially neutral on the question. What you will find if you...

Do 'child-protection programs' increase your confidence?

In the last 12-month period for which full statistics are available, the US bishops spent a bit more than $49 million on child-protection programs.  That's a whole lot of money. Imagine how many parishes and parochial schools you could re-open, how many teachers and nurses and...

Omigosh! People want to become Catholics. What should we do?

The Catholic bishops of Austria are worried that some migrants might not have the right motives for their desire to enter the Catholic Church. That's a valid concern, no doubt—although to my mind it would seem less urgent than questions about 1) why so few native Austrians are interested...

Quick Hits: Bad news about that 'flash of light,' beware priests who don't want to be 'set apart'

Many pro-lifers ( including yours truly) were captivated by the recent announcement that a flash of light occurs at the moment of human conception. Unfortunately it’s not true. Stacy Trasancos explains in this cautionary piece in the National Catholic Register that the light was...

Papal ambivalence? Not really; he's just plain negative about Americans.

John Allen has an interesting piece on the Crux site today, in which he remarks that Pope Francis shows "a distinct ambivalence about the United States and about Americans."  However if you read the piece-- which is informed, reasoned, and generally convincing, as usual with...

Why is the Vatican audit still on hold?

A month has passed since the Vatican Secretariat of State abruptly announced the suspension on an external audit. After Cardinal George Pell-- who, as prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, had authorized the audit—revealed that he was "a bit surprised" by the sudden...

Quick Hits: Bishops on Brexit, debate on deaconesses, transgenderism vs. women

England’s most prominent Catholic prelates have been actively (if not formally) discouraging the movement to pull Great Britain out of the European Union. Writing in the Catholic Herald, Damian Thompson questions their reasoning. Yes, it’s true that the drive for a European...

Quick Hit: Petition to Impeach Obama

Shortly after I began my series on gender ideology (see Gender ideology and our fatal empire of desire), Robert  Marshall called my attention to his petition to impeach those in the US Federal government who are attempting to force the states to ensure the access of transgender individuals to...

Down to earth

Theologians might raise questions about the Pope's decision to study the possibility of ordaining women as deacons. Since the Pontiff did not make his remarks on an airplane, it is not clear whether he intended to make an authoritative...

Remembering a victory at Harvard: Satan defeated, the Eucharist enthroned

Are you fed up with bad news? Tired of hearing about assaults on the Catholic faith? Then let me give you some good news, to boost your spirits heading into the weekend. This is, admittedly, an old story; I posted it two years ago today. But it recounts one of the most exhilirating events I...

Quick hits: Anti-Catholic bias among historians, Pope Francis breaks with predecessors on European secularism

Catholic World Report carries a must-read interview with Rodney Stark, a leading sociologist who concentrates on religious history. Stark, who is not a Catholic, sees anti-Catholic bias as a pervasive problem in historical studies, skewing the public understanding of topics such as...

Quick hits: Losing the argument on marriage; losing the unity of the European Union

When the arguments against same-sex marriage are so convincing-- the natural-law arguments, the arguments from tradition, the arguments from social science-- why do we keep losing the public debates? Writing in the Claremont Review, Robert Reilly offers a possible explanation, in reviewing...

Cardinal Marx, did you forget something?

When your only tool is a hammer, they say, every problem looks like a nail. So when the cardinal-archbishop of a major European city reflects on the challenges that face Europe today, you might expect him to lead with a comment on the loss of faith.  That's the insight that St. John...

Ebook for Ordinary Time after Easter Released

We have just released the fifth volume in the 2015-2016 Liturgical Year series of ebooks. Volume five covers the first half of the long stretch of Ordinary Time between the close of the Easter Season on Pentecost and the beginning of Advent. Like all CatholicCulture.org ebooks, this volume is...

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