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Brief, off-the-cuff, and sometimes light-hearted Catholic commentary, observations and announcements.

Federal debt as a social-justice concern by Phil Lawler - Friday

If the head of an ordinary household deliberately and continually spends much more than the family earns, we describe him as irresponsible—yes, and sinful. So Father Jerry Pokorsky asks why the same moral standards are not applied to government spending. Writing for The Catholic Thing, Father...

Another side of Francis: US-Cuba role shows Pope's diplomatic muscle by Phil Lawler - Thursday

Nobody saw it coming. All sorts of things, good and bad, have been written about Pope Francis. But nobody predicted that he would break a 50-year stalemate in relations between the US and Cuba. Cuba was obviously on the Vatican’s diplomatic agenda during the previous two pontificates. Both Popes...

Silly season: a Christmas approaches, a scholar questions whether Jesus ever existed by Phil Lawler - Thursday

Christmas is coming soon. How can you tell? Because you notice the nip in the air, the smiles on the faces of shoppers, the merry tunes of carolers… and the silly articles appearing in mass-media outlets, about the “historical” Jesus. But now Raphael Lataster, who teaches religious studies at...

The Complexity of Reforming Religious Communities by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Wednesday

Like many readers, I am disappointed that Pope Benedict and Pope Francis have not taken a harder line with American women religious, following the Apostolic Visitation which began in 2009. On the other hand, as Phil Lawler noted yesterday, there is an ongoing effort to reform the Leadership...

The best possible preparation for Christmas by Phil Lawler - Monday

Today is “Reconciliation Monday” in the Archdiocese of New York. Cardinal Timothy Dolan explains: In each of the 365 parishes of this archdiocese, priests will be hearing confessions from 4-8 p.m. Our unprofessional polling tells us that last Advent 60,000 people approached the...

Overreacting to what the Pope doesn't say: a case study by Phil Lawler - Monday

Today Pope Francis did not denounce baseball's designated-hitter rule.  This is unfortunate, in my opinion, because the DH rule is a violation of natural law. But Pope Francis-- like Pope Benedict XVI, and in fact like every other Pontiff in history-- has never said a word on the...

Dogs go to heaven? The Pope never said that. by Phil Lawler - Dec 13, 2014

By now I’m sure you’ve seen dozens of stories about the Pope’s remark that dogs go to heaven. They’re all wrong. He didn’t say it. My friend Richard Chonak has checked the facts-- something that dozens of reporters evidently failed to do. He’s posted the...

Financiers can't exploit the Vatican anymore. But politicians can. by Phil Lawler - Dec 12, 2014

“The days of ripping off the Vatican are over,” Cardinal George Pell has announced. The Australian cardinal, who is now the no-nonsense prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, explained that for generations, Vatican officials made their own decisions about money matters, without...

Case Study: How Churchmen impact conscience by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Dec 11, 2014

In Pope Francis’ message on climate change, made public today, he implicitly taught and explicitly applied a moral principle. “The time to find global solutions [to global warming] is running out,” Francis wrote. “There is therefore a clear, definite and urgent ethical...

The proverbs of Henri de Lubac by Thomas Van - Dec 10, 2014

Henri de Lubac (1896-1991), a French Jesuit priest, is widely regarded as the most influential faithful theologian of the twentieth century. De Lubac is most known for his insistence that theologians must escape from the formulaic theology of the Thomist schools and return to the sources. In...

We're losing the next generation(s) of Catholics by Phil Lawler - Dec 4, 2014

In the past few days I’ve spoken to two friends who work as musicians in two different parishes. One friend had a story that sounded very familiar. The older parishioners die, and when their middle-aged children come to bury them, they’re completely lost during the funeral. They...

Two beautiful books to give as Christmas gifts by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Dec 3, 2014

Since Advent is now running along fairly briskly, I want to call your attention to two attractive Catholic books which will make perfect gifts for those you love when we celebrate Christ’s birth. One is a new Bible; the other is a coffee-table book about Mary. Both are from Ignatius...

Archbishop Cupich on Face the Nation: A Mixed Performance by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Dec 2, 2014

We can learn something about the new archbishop of Chicago, Blase Cupich, from how he answered the questions posed to him during the November 30th episode of Face the Nation. Guests on this program must be evaluated through a kind of television-induced haze of graciousness. The utility of such...

O Earthly Lord, vouchsafe to us high speed Internet. by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Nov 25, 2014

Ah, the glories of calling for government expenditures! It seems two USCCB committee chairmen have endorsed a proposal by the Federal Communications Commission for the United States to spend $1.5 billion more per year to ensure that all schools have high speed Internet access. Of course,...

No 'Francis effect' in Strasbourg by Phil Lawler - Nov 25, 2014

Jean-Marie Guénois, the religion correspondent for Le Figaro (and an old friend), has tweeted several perceptive observations about the Pope’s visit to Strasbourg today. Guénois has been a member of the Vatican press corps for more than 20 years, and been aboard the papal plane for more than 50...

What Pope Francis told European Parliament, and what Pope John Paul II said by Phil Lawler - Nov 25, 2014

If you are convinced the Pope Francis has made a radical break from the policies and pronouncements of his predecessors, I have two challenges for you: First, read the text of the Holy Father’s address to the European Parliament and pick out a sentence (other than the time-sensitive...

Art and theology, beauty and truth, work together in the New Evangelization by Phil Lawler - Nov 21, 2014

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty.” But the poet Keats is wrong; that is not all we need to know in life. In an unusual and rewarding new book, Father Robert Imbelli guides readers along the path of beauty toward the realization that all truth, all beauty, and all goodness reflects the...

Anatomy of Conversion by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Nov 21, 2014

Each person is drawn to God in slightly different ways. There are probably as many “motives of credibility” in the Catholic Church as there are personality types. But as I mentioned yesterday (see It is a failure of mercy to deny sin), most conversion stories turn on a moment when the...

Yesterday's news, tomorrow by Phil Lawler - Nov 20, 2014

“The Ordinary Council of the Synod of Bishops will meet on 18 and 19 November…” Thus opens an announcement issued by the Vatican Information Service today—which is November 20. It’s standard operating procedure for Vatican officials to hold a press conference to...

American influence at the Vatican and in the Synod by Phil Lawler - Nov 18, 2014

With the departure of Cardinal Burke from this role as head of the Apostolic Signatura, there is now not a single US prelate in a leadership position in the Roman Curia. Nor is there an American holding the #2 spot in any Vatican congregation or pontifical council (although Archbishop Augustine...

Advent-Christmas Ebook Released by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Nov 18, 2014

The Advent and Christmas ebook volume for the 2014-2015 liturgical year has been released in our ebooks download area. This is the first volume of the coming new liturgical year, which begins on November 30th, the First Sunday in Advent. It may be downloaded free of charge in the following...

Standing against the culture: Pope Francis, since Friday, on life, marriage and the Gospel by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Nov 17, 2014

1. On Human Life: To Association of Italian Catholic Doctors, November 14. The dominant thinking sometimes suggests a "false compassion", believing that it is: helpful to women to promote abortion; an act of dignity to obtain euthanasia; a scientific breakthrough to...

This year's best interview with an American cardinal by Phil Lawler - Nov 17, 2014

No, I don’t mean the troubling “60 Minutes” interview with Cardinal O’Malley. About that, the less said, the better. If you’re interested in a wide-ranging interview with an influential American cardinal who actually speaks his mind (and if you don’t want to be interrupted by commercials for...

Adding Trust to your Christmas list by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Nov 13, 2014

For those who love the Church's revived emphasis on Divine mercy, a beautiful and touching Christmas gift would be the new coffee table book on St. Faustina, simply entitled Trust. Anyone familiar with the enormously popular Divine Mercy Chaplet will understand the importance of St. Faustina...

An American martyr, overdue for recognition by Phil Lawler - Nov 13, 2014

Exactly twelve years have passed since the brutal slaying of Mary Stachowicz. Seven years have passed since I suggested the opening of a formal cause for her beatification. My own opinion doesn’t count for much, but Bishop Thomas Paprocki (who knew her well) agrees that “she died...

How many devils can dance on a pinhead? by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Nov 12, 2014

Though permission was granted on our comment form, simple charity demands that I withhold the name of the reader who submitted the following email in response to this story from November 4th: New York bishop bans travel to west Africa, citing Ebola threat. See if you can count the number of...

Catholicism, evolution and young earth creationism by Thomas Van - Nov 10, 2014

Pope Francis’s recent remarks that evolution and Catholicism are compatible caused great deal of excitement in the secular media. While this compatibility will come as no surprise to educated Catholics, it is not the same as saying that Catholics cannot be creationists. However, in an...

Conservative prelates needn’t panic by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Nov 7, 2014

I have my own take on the question of whether Pope Francis is purging conservative prelates, and it may be useful to suspend my dislike of the terms “conservative” and “liberal” as Catholic descriptors just long enough to make my point. In the recent controversy over the...

Is the Pope purging conservatives? by Phil Lawler - Nov 5, 2014

“Does Pope Francis have an enemies list?” That’s the eye-catching headline on John Allen’s column for the Crux site. Allen notes that three bishops have recently placed under scrutiny by the Vatican: Bishops Rogelio Livieres Plano in Paraguay, Mario Oliveri in Italy, and Robert Finn in Kansas...

Radio silence? by Phil Lawler - Nov 5, 2014

Don’t you immediately see the problem with this headline from St. Louis Public Radio? Priest Silenced By Vatican Shares His Story If Father Tony Flannery is “sharing his story” on the air, he isn’t being silent, is he? As a matter of fact, if the Irish priest is traveling across the ocean...

Three Catholic thinkers on 'the rules' of art by Thomas Van - Nov 5, 2014

1. G. K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man: There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds. 2. Étienne Gilson, Forms and Substances in the Arts: Everything can legitimately be tried, given up, revived, varied, adorned or stripped of its adornments, for in...

Emphasis on the wrong syllable by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Nov 3, 2014

Every time a son or daughter of the Church criticizes a priest’s contradiction of Church teaching from the pulpit, for example, or rejects a self-proclaimed Catholic politician who supports abortion, “liberal” Catholics rally around and emphasize that such persons are wonderfully...

Yet another revealing 'error' in a Vatican translation by Phil Lawler - Nov 3, 2014

Surprise, surprise! When the Vatican finally released an English-language version of the final report from the Synod, the translation contained at least one blatant omission. And I bet you can’t guess what effect this “error” will have on readers’ understanding. Credit...

Standing 'gradualism' on its head by Phil Lawler - Nov 3, 2014

Father Frank Brennan, an Australian Jesuit who is currently teaching at Boston College Law School, is disappointed with the final document from the Synod. He was hoping for more dramatic changes. So he writes: For the moment, I would not see much pastoral point in sharing this document with...

And here's another very old story: the secular media don't understand Catholic affairs by Phil Lawler - Oct 29, 2014

In Time magazine (of all places), Elizabeth Dias scolds the many media outlets that gave top billing to the statement by Pope Francis that the theory of scientific evolution is compatible with Christianity. That might have been news 65 years ago, Diaz observes. But since Pope Francis was echoing...

How not to be persuasive by Phil Lawler - Oct 29, 2014

When I’m not busy reading and writing about Catholic affairs, I spend some of free time on local civic affairs. Recently a heated controversy has broken out in the town where we live, and I have played a small role in trying to resolve it. I’ll spare you the details, which are complicated and not...

Clarifying what it might mean for a pope to wish to change Catholic doctrine by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Oct 28, 2014

On Saturday, Phil Lawler wrote about the role of the faithful if Pope Francis should indicate a desire to “change the Church’s teaching” (see Could respect for the papacy mean resisting the Pope?). This was designed to clarify his position in response to a column in the New York...

Saving the 21st century? by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Oct 27, 2014

The title screams but the book is pretty good. I’m referring to The Race to Save our Century by Jason Scott Jones and John Zmirak. Recently published by Crossroad, this book explores (as the subtitle puts it) “five core principles to promote peace, freedom, and a culture of...

Could respect for the papacy mean resisting the Pope? by Phil Lawler - Oct 25, 2014

A challenging column by Ross Douthat in the New York Times prompts me to clarify my thoughts on the recent Synod and especially the Pope’s role in the October session. Douthat kindly links to my piece, “The Pope is not the problem,” as representative of efforts by...

Is Cardinal Kasper losing his grip? by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Oct 24, 2014

It may well be that the discussion of the Kasper Proposal will continue all through the coming year up to and including the 2015 Synod on the Family. I have expressed the optimistic hope that the proposal is actually now dead, except in the media, but time will tell. Meanwhile, one wonders whether...

Do not confuse sacramental discipline and Catholic doctrine. by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Oct 23, 2014

In the aftermath of the push for the Kasper Proposal at the 2014 Synod on the Family, some Catholics have fallen into the fairly serious error of confusing sacramental discipline with Catholic doctrine. It is Catholic doctrine, for example, that valid sacramental marriage is indissoluble,...

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