The City Gates

Brief, off-the-cuff observations and announcements.

Quick Hits: Vatican trial’s intrigue; the archbishop as bystander

Having spent many years covering Vatican affairs, John Allen writes with authority when he reports that the Vatican press corps is not accustomed to handling criminal trials. However he remarks—and goes on to demonstrate—that a Vatican trial can have its own special sort of intrigue....

I’m right; you’re wrong: the Spadaro-Figueroa approach

Marcelo Figueroa—the co-author, with Father Antonio Spadaro, of that astonishing Civilta Cattolica essay—is not dismayed the critique offered by Archbishop Charles Chaput. On the contrary, he tweets: “Esto me confirma que escribimos lo correcto.” If you say he’s...

Quick Hits: Catholicism in the movies

I’ve long appreciated the movies of Joel and Ethan Coen, and finally got around to viewing their most recent, Hail, Caesar! The film is already among my favorites by the brothers—it’s one of their most warmhearted, a humorous portrayal of a Hollywood studio in the 1950s. I...

Did the Pope himself wonder whether Amoris Laetitia was orthodox?

Pope Francis has referred to Cardinal Christoph Schönborn as the “authoritative interpreter” of Amoris Laetitia. So when the Austrian cardinal spoke to an Irish audience about the controversial papal document, people naturally paid careful attention. According to Austen Ivereigh’s account: ...

The question Father Martin keeps dodging

In his book Building a Bridge, the popular Jesuit author, Father James Martin, argues for acceptance of homosexuals in the Catholic Church. Remarkably, in a book dedicated to that topic, he manages to avoid the obvious question. So in a trenchant First Things review of the Martin book, Father...

Avoid despair over Church problems, even those made worse by the Pope.

Over at onepeterfive.com, Maike Hickson reports some (alleged) details surrounding Pope Francis’ decision not to renew the term of Gerhard Cardinal Müller as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Nobody knows whether these details are authentic. Indeed, if you read...

Cardinal Müller’s exit: the official ‘term-limits’ explanation strains credulity

Cardinal Gerhard Müller is understandably unhappy with the way he was dismissed as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. But he insists that he has never been, and will never be, a critic of Pope Francis. He has repeated the official explanation for his removal: that the...

The truth about the Vatican sex-and-drugs scandal

If you’ve been following the news this week, you’ve probably seen sensational reports about a gay-sex-and-cocaine ring at the Vatican. The stories, alas, are true. But the details have been thoroughly garbled in virtually every media report. What actually happened? Last week a...

Another Vatican ‘reform’ cast in doubt

The timing isn’t perfect, unfortunately, for the Vatican’s offer of free treatment for Charlie Gard at Bambino Gesu Hospital—just after an AP investigative report uncovered serious problems with medical care at the Vatican-run institution. But there is solace in the news that the...

The improbable claims of Cardinal Pell’s accusers

We cannot guarantee that Cardinal George Pell is innocent of all wrongdoing. But we can say with confidence that at least to date, the charges that have been aired against him are extremely unconvincing. Julia Yost makes that case persuasively for First Things in a devastating review of...

As Cardinal Müller’s term expires, the liturgy offers a reminder

Did you notice? On July 2—the day when Cardinal Gerhard Müller’s term expired a prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith—in the Collect for Sunday Mass we prayed “that we may not be wrapped in the darkness of error but always be seen to stand in the...

Quick Hits: Four fallacies that tempt Catholic leaders

The interchangeability fallacy: As an addendum to Wednesday’s commentary (The problem with doctrinal obscurity), allow me to notice that those who tend to favor a very loose approach to Catholic teaching on faith and morals typically place a great deal of weight on what they regard as...

The state-imposed death of Charlie Gard: not just a tragedy but an injustice

Charlie Gard is going to die. His death will be a tragedy, like the death of any young child. He and his parents deserve our prayerful sympathy. But there’s more to this story, and it’s doubly tragic that neither the bishops’ conference of England and Wales nor the Pontifical...

At last Cardinal Pell can—sort of—face his accusers

If you’re surprised by the criminal charges against Cardinal George Pell, you haven’t been paying attention. For two years now the Australian cardinal has been the primary focus of an aggressive media campaign, with rumors about a police investigation constantly leaking into the...

Bishop Paprocki and his critics: someone here is unhinged

Liberal Catholics are badly rattled by Bishop Thomas Paprocki’s decree that Catholics engaged in same-sex marriage cannot receive the sacraments in his Springfield diocese. So badly rattled, in fact, that… The excitable Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter argues...

A papal commission reconsidering Humanae Vitae? No, but...

The good news is that, contrary to a widespread rumor, Pope Francis has not ordered a commission to reconsider the teaching of Humanae Vitae in the light of Amoris Laetitia. The bad news is that the commission exists. Call it a “study group” if you prefer, but there is a scholarly...

The Vatican auditor resigns—another crushing blow for financial reform

You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to follow the sequence of events leading up to the resignation of the Vatican’s auditor general Libero Milone. In May, Milone and Cardinal George Pell co-signed a letter to Vatican officials, telling them that they need not comply with a directive from the...

Quick Hits: Lay involvement in choosing bishop? Assisted suicide vs. manslaughter; A political prediction

As a chaotic week (for me, at least) comes to a close, forgive me if my thoughts are a bit disconnected. But: The word from Rome is that Pope Francis wants lay Catholics to be involved in the process of choosing new bishops. But which lay Catholics would be invited to take part in the...

No, not every lifestyle is sinful

“Pretty much everyone’s lifestyle is sinful,” Father James Martin told the New York Times. That statement is outrageous. In a sane world, Father Martin’s Jesuit superiors would order him to apologize. We are all sinners; we are all sinful. But we are not all engaged...

The persistent influence of Cardinal Sodano

At the ripe old age of 94, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray—the 3rd-oldest living cardinal—has finally been replaced as vice-dean of the College of Cardinals. But Cardinal Angelo Sodano, whose own 90th birthday is coming in November, continues in his role as dean. The vice-dean of the...

A request to the priest-homilist

If you find yourself using the phrase “in a very special way” during your homily, please stop and ask yourself whether it might be better to explain what’s so “special,” and why. If you find yourself saying “in a very special way” twice during your...

Quick Hits: Biochemistry of sex, native martyrs, music & film

There is so much we don’t know about our own bodies, and none of it gets taught in sex ed. For example: A man gets vasopressin, a bonding hormone, when he has sex with a woman. This is not up to him; whether he thinks it is no-strings sex or not, he is now hormonally bonded to that...

The (not so) secret formula for attracting men to the priesthood

Are you surprised by today’s report that 69% of the American men being ordained to the priesthood this year had made a habit of praying the Rosary before entering the seminary? Or are you, like me, surprised that apparently 31% had not? For any Catholic with a devotion to Our Lady, the...

Quick Hits: Coming to Cardinal Pell’s defense, Still waiting for Vatican reform

Cardinal George Pell, the prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy, is suffering through an extended trial-by-media in his native Australia, and a few fair-minded observers recognize that the process has become grotesque. Amanda Vanstone—who has quarreled with the...

The YOUCAT Bible: A Fresh Overview of the Word of God

The YOUCAT Foundation has published another outstanding reference for Catholic young people. Having released question-and-answer versions of both the Catechism (2011) and Catholic social teaching (2016), the Foundation has now issued what it calls the “youth Bible of the Catholic...

The Pope’s enigmatic words on resignation

In his homily at Mass on Wednesday morning, commenting on St. Paul’s farewell to the Church at Ephesus, Pope Francis said: A shepherd must be ready to step down completely from his church, rather than leave in a partial manner…. All shepherds have to step down. There comes a...

When parochial schools make a policy to accept ‘transgender’ students

“Wherever possible, enrollment is the goal.” That’s the principle that guides a proposed policy in the Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri for deciding whether students from “non-traditional families” (that euphemism covers same-sex and cohabiting couples) should attend parish schools. A cynic...

Quick Hits: Francis & Kasper vs. Ratzinger/Benedict; finding harmony in 20th-century music

The fear that Pope Francis is deliberately trying to undo the work of his predecessors, and particularly the work of Benedict XVI, is an increasingly common theme for Catholic writers. Matthew Schmitz made an important contribution to that body of analysis last week with his short essay,...

When the Pope’s silence speaks clearly

Last Friday I remarked that John Allen had provided us with a very interesting way to measure the intentions of Pope Francis. The results are now in. Allen observed (near the end of a column mostly devoted to Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti) that during his May 27 visit to Genoa, the Pontiff would...

Quick Hits: reading the Pope’s intentions; censored PP video; packing College of Cardinals

At Crux, John Allen has a profile of Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, the new president of the Italian bishops’ conference. That’s interesting enough in itself, but Allen adds a good deal of spice by explaining how, on his visit to Genoa this weekend, Pope Francis “may accent the...

Ebook for Ordinary Time after Easter Released

We have just released the fifth volume in the 2016-2017 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...

Did Benedict just break his silence?

For more than four years, since his resignation took effect, Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI has very carefully avoided public comments on the state of the Church. For someone who was a very public figure and a very prolific author, his silence was conspicuous. When he announced his plan to resign,...

And here’s what the Pope didn’t say

During his latest in-flight press conference, on his return flight from Portugal, Pope Francis made important statements on several hot topics: Medjugorje, sexual abuse, his meeting with President Trump, the prospects for regularization of the Society of St. Pius X. Those comments have deservedly...

Quick Hits: Accepting Anglican orders, predicting Macron’s future, distracting a priest/author

“When someone is ordained in the Anglican Church and becomes a parish priest in a community, we cannot say that nothing has happened, that everything is ‘invalid’,” writes Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio in a new book. But isn’t that pretty much what Pope Leo...

Another profile in courage

A smiling Cardinal Sean O’Malley was on hand at the JFK Library last night, as former President Barack Obama was presented with the Profile in Courage award for his work on health-care reform. In his acceptance speech Obama mentioned how wonderful it was to see Cardinal O’Malley...

From the annals of a civilization in decay...

Which of these news stories is more frightening: A recorded episode of an “educational” television show by Bill Nye has been altered, removing a statement of scientific fact—that chromosomes determine gender—which has now become politically incorrect. Nye, who...

Quick Hits: the disappearance of melody, an app for chant, and more

Does it ever seem like there just aren’t any good melodies in contemporary pop music—say, since the 1970s? Or that there often aren’t any melodies at all? Well, it’s not just your imagination and you aren’t just getting old. Kurt Poterack, organist, composer and...

Another reality check on WomenPriests news coverage

Quiz for careful readers: Where’s the giveaway in this lede from a Charlotte Observer story? An international group defiantly opposed to the Roman Catholic Church’s ban on women priests Sunday ordained its first woman Catholic priest in the 46 counties that make up the Catholic...

Brace yourself; the Pope is taking another overseas flight

Pope Francis flies to Egypt on Friday. In the past faithful Catholics might have offered up a nervous prayer whenever they heard that the Pope was boarding a plane, because they worried about the safety of air travel. Today most of us feel reasonably confident about planes (although a quick...

The unhappy leadership history of St. Luke’s Institute

There’s irony in the news that a laicized priest, who once ran a counseling center, has agreed to counseling as a condition of his parole. In case you missed the story, Edward Arsenault resigned from his post as head of the St. Luke Institute in Maryland in 2013, after he was charged...

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