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All Catholic commentary from January 2021
Mel Gibson’s Santa dispenses justice in Fatman (review)
In Mel Gibson's countercultural Chris Cringle we have a father figure who understands and compassionates the childhood wounds of his adversaries, yet insists that wicked deeds require retribution both for justice's and for the evildoer's own sake.
No Sympathy for the Devil
Can there be anything more maddening for an evil spirit than Transubstantiation?
Mass in time of Covid: what 2020 revealed
The keepers of fashionable public opinion have encouraged us obsessively to put our trust in flimsy face masks, our hope in the pharmaceutical companies working to produce vaccines. What might happen if we put the same communal energies into prayer?
Discernment: The third rule is prayer
I daresay it is even important to learn to slow down and effectively listen in our discussions with those we regard as wrong or even sinful. Every form of listening is an act of humility, which leads to insight that reaches beyond ourselves. Bringing this back to prayer, silences in which we truly listen will become more frequent, and more fruitful for discernment over time.
In Belarus, Vatican diplomacy fails a religious-freedom test
In this pontificate, in Belarus as in China, Vatican diplomats seem anxious to preserve amicable relations with a repressive regime, even it means sending loyal prelates out to pasture.
The best books we read in 2020 (plus films, music, etc.)
It’s time for the annual article in which some of the Catholic Culture staff look back on their reading in the past year and recommend the best - plus films, podcasts and music.
The Pope’s video on fraternity? Let’s go deeper.
A video promoting universal fraternity, posted by the Vatican on Pope Francis’s Twitter account (Pontifex), has raised more than a few eyebrows. Because the video continues Pope Francis’ now common emphasis on reciprocal respect and charity among people of all religions, the video has prompted fresh discussions of the growing problem of universalism, or the idea that there are many paths to God, and all of them are valid.
31—Gregory of Nyssa: Zero to Hero
Gregory of Nyssa was born into a family of high achievers. His brother was Basil the Great; his sister was the eminent Macrina. In Gregory’s young life, however, he was a disappointment. It’s not that he was a sinner, but he seemed to lack the ambition and drive that were characteristic of his family. At Basil’s death Gregory suddenly emerged as a major player on the world scene — a master of theology, a leader at councils, a healer of divisions in the Church.
Bishops’ acquiescence makes restrictions on worship possible
If you believe that the emergency restrictions in place where you live constitute a violation of your right to worship freely, don’t be too quick to blame the civil authorities. The blame might lie with your bishop.
What if everyone will eventually be Covid-positive?
Catholics boldly proclaim that every human being has the right to life. But no one has a “right” to escape death.
Discernment’s Fourth Rule: Learn from your preferences
What is to stop you from continuing to discern God’s will by trying various things—perhaps various organizations in your parish devoted to different apostolic works, or various other forms of volunteer activities—in order to learn by experience whether you can combine genuine Christian service with genuine joy of serving in a particular way? This is a perfectly reasonable pattern of discernment, by trial and retrial.
5 things I regret that went uncorrected in 2020
It is hard to know how to handle a rant. As a general rule, I am convinced that it is better to use bad news as a motive to deepen our commitment to Christ, grow spiritually, and engage more fully in Catholic mission. That’s true even if mission depends increasingly on prayer as our public opportunities for success become more and more constricted.
A Short Film About Killing—Dekalog: Five (1988)
This film makes us confront on a visceral level the horror of taking a human life, even the life of someone we might find despicable. It is the fifth installment of Dekalog, the famous Polish TV series inspired by the Ten Commandments.
Many of you have been fighting the good fight for years... So some of you may think you have a special right to a paralyzing and devastating discouragement. No, you don’t.
Ways to protest morally-tainted vaccines—and why
One writer who has looked into this question closely and come up with a list of suggestions is Stacy Trasancos, who has advanced degrees in both Chemistry and Theology. Her article in the National Catholic Register earlier this month provides not only seven specific steps that might be taken but also excellent advice on how to keep properly informed so that we can offer a credible witness against the tainted vaccines.
St. Augustine—De Doctrina Christiana | Book 4 (Ch.17-31)
“I have discussed in these four books not the kind of man I am, because I have many failings, but the kind of man he should be who strives to labor in sound teaching, that is, in Christian teaching...”
Fear: the ultimate enemy of faith
Is Covid a dangerous disease? Absolutely! But once we have taken reasonable precautions, it is essential for us as Christians to stop worrying about a force that we cannot control.
Societal polarization: Dangerous but also a sacred duty.
Another kind of polarization arises from clear conflicts between good and evil. In the United States and in most nations around the world today, the primary polarization is between those on the one hand who uphold the clear moral principles all men and women can know through natural law and those, on the other hand, who deliberately subvert this moral order, even if they do so blindly. These primary polarizing issues are immediately tied to human sexuality, the family, and human life itself.
Bishops must act on—not just talk about—Biden’s abortion advocacy
We all know, at this point, what our bishops SAY about Catholic politicians who promote abortion. What we want to know now is what— if anything— they will DO.
95—Fighting Pervasive Religious Indifferentism—Ralph Martin
Ralph Martin, whose new book A Church in Crisis: Pathways Forward is a comprehensive spiritual diagnosis of our present situation, joins the show to discuss the many factors contributing to religious indifferentism. These include theological doubts about whether anyone really goes to hell (thanks, Balthasar), the therapeutic culture which has lost any sense of sin and justice, the focus on legalistic analysis of culpability rather than the need to change, and fear of human respect.
Literalism vs. Reality in The Mandalorian
We enjoy The Mandalorian more than any other recent Star Wars productions. But its second season sometimes doesn’t trust us to suspend our disbelief in certain respects, while elsewhere expecting us to accept, on ideological grounds, things that are unbelievable even in its fantasy setting. This prompts a discussion of the difference between the suspension of disbelief and unreality in a fantasy setting.
On the right side of history? A myth of moral progress
The modern West seems to be guided by the conviction that each shift in the values of the dominant culture constitutes moral progress. Anyone who studies history should know that this is not true, but the elites of nearly every era tend to be both proud and vain, rendering them certain that in their special case, every new desire is automatically accompanied by a superior moral sensibility. Thus it becomes ever harder to avoid confusion about what constitutes the Good.
32—Julian, the Apostate Who Aped the Church
There’s no anti-Christian like an ex-Christian, and there was no figure in antiquity like the Emperor Julian. He promoted the return of paganism as the official religion of the Empire. But it was a strange paganism, modeled on the Christian Church. Julian began by making it difficult for Christians to work in professions like education, law, and military. He knew that martyrs made Christianity strong. It was better to marginalize believers, pushing them out of public life and influence.
Biden: Undermining women’s sports, privacy, and safety
Biden’s policy will remove sports scholarships and other life-advancement opportunities from young women or girls and allow men or boys who “identify” as women to gain the upper hand and jeopardize the personal safety of women.
St. John Henry Newman—The Patristical Idea of Antichrist | Pt. 1: The Times of Antichrist
“Is the enemy of Christ, and His Church, to arise out of a certain special falling away from GOD? And is there no reason to fear that some such Apostasy is gradually preparing, gathering, hastening on in this very day?”
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