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All Catholic commentary from January 2022
“Radical change is coming in the Church”
Archbishop Farrell places his hope in the “synodal pathway” advocated by Pope Francis. But slogans based around new catch-phrases never accomplish anything. What is lacking in the Church in the West is, more than anything else, the Faith. The vast majority of Catholic leaders (cardinals, bishops, priests, religious, professors, and even politicians) are unwilling to embrace, preach and teach the hard sayings of the Gospel, beginning with Our Lord’s claims about His own Body and Blood.
A Mother’s Love
Tiny tots instinctively run to mom for help, and brave men usually do the same when traumatized. It’s only natural.
The Pope’s stalled Vatican reforms
By making so many decisions personally, without consultation, the Pope is systematically draining off the autonomy— and thus the authority— of the Roman Curia.
Ariel beware: The Church, its suffering, and its victory
But we must remember that a great deal of what we find in the Old Testament, which is true of God’s activity in Israel historically, is also a foreshadowing of Christ and the Church. Moses is a foreshadowing or “type” of Christ; Israel and Jerusalem are foreshadowings or “types” of both the Church and of Heaven itself. This is why we can read many distressing things, especially in the prophets, as referring to the situation of the Church on earth now, even in our own time.
Compare and contrast
In the US, over the Christmas season, umpteen Catholic bishops were photographed smiling alongside politicians who support public funding for abortion on demand. Unborn children were not available for comment.
The backward logic of Traditionis Custodes
If the Vatican is looking for an explanation of the heightened divisions within the Church, and particularly for the latest escalation of the “liturgy wars,” the search should begin, alas, on Peter’s Throne.
Our favorite books and films of 2021
As usual at this time of year, Catholic Culture's staff lists the books (and in some cases, other media as well) they enjoyed most in 2021.
“Everything is yours”—Dekalog: Ten (1988)
James and Thomas finally conclude their look at Dekalog, the series of short films inspired by the Ten Commandments which Krzysztof Kieslowski made for Polish television in the late 1980s. The series ends on a lighter note, with two sons fighting over their deceased father's stamp collection. The film continues the series' preoccupation with the sins of father, making the rueful observation that we often understand and compassionate our parents only after falling into their same vices.
Diplomacy in the Church, in light of the Gospel
As the last vestiges disappear of a civilization substantially formed through Catholic influence, it is an anomaly that the Church still has a small territory and still retains a diplomatic role which is generally recognized around the world. This presents a routine way for the Church to advocate with most governments for peace, the enhancement of the common good, and the recognition of her own spiritual liberty. But what if it never goes beyond common ground?
Jesus is Not an Alien
Parents, ask your kids if they have learned anything practical about human nature the next time they report they’ve watched one of Hollywood’s horror pictures.
55—Isidore of Seville: Last of the Red-Hot Latin Fathers
Isidore of Seville lived at a time when the memory (or fantasy) of a homogeneous Roman culture was rapidly fading. The conquering “barbarians,” the Visigoths, had now been ruling in Spain for centuries. They were no longer foreigners. Rather, a new culture was forming, a “melting pot” of Roman and northern elements. A man of holy ambition, Isidore laid strong foundations for the medieval European culture that would follow.
J.R.R. Tolkien—From a Letter to His Son, Michael
"The only cure for sagging or fainting faith is Communion."
Funding students, not school systems: a proposal
A $1,000 voucher does not nearly cover the cost of tuition at private or parochial schools. True. But it helps— perhaps more than appears at first glance.
122—Minor Indignities—T.C. Merrill
T.C. Merrill's debut novel, Minor Indignities, is an evocative portrayal of the vanity of undergraduate life at an Ivy League university. Its protagonist, a freshman consumed with what others think of him intellectually, socially and sexually, only makes a fool of himself the more he strains to impress. The novel ultimately becomes a richness of embarrassments whose final catastrophe illustrates the saying of St. Bernard: “Humiliation is the way to humility.”
Just what we don’t need: Catholic ‘fact-checkers’
When every major media outlet is pounding out the drumbeat of incessant and unquestioning support for the vaccination campaign, perhaps there is no great demand for a “Catholic” version of the same fare.
Catholic trials and joys: Collected essays since 2019
Most of the commentaries I wrote over the past three years that remain relevant deal with the problems in the Church today, the ways in which we all feel trapped in the current ecclesiastical and cultural situation, and observations which (I hope) make it easier for all of us to live each day full of Christian hope. These emphases are reflected in the titles of the three new ebooks, all free, into which these essays have been collected.
Expect a Miracle!
When we make our requests for miracles, we must be careful not to expect Jesus to dance to our tune
On not seeing the goodness for the sins
Chesterton’s topsy-turvydom was rooted initially in his strong sense of the fundamental nature of things, so often distorted in our minds and hearts through wayward human desire; and it was rooted ultimately in his deep Catholic faith. For Chesterton recognized a fundamental goodness which is everywhere defaced by sin, both original and personal. It was precisely because he could see the goodness that he could see the sin; and also precisely because he could see the sin that he could see the goodness.
Could Catholics find middle ground on vaccination?
Every argument for vaccination is based on the assumption that the vaccines will curb the spread of Covid. That assumption is now questionable; in fact, it is becoming increasingly difficult to defend.
St. Ignatius of Antioch—Letter to the Trallians & Letter to the Philadelphians: Obey Your Bishop
“When you are obedient to the bishop as you would be to Jesus Christ, you are living, not in a human way, but according to Jesus Christ…”
123—The Nature of Middle-earth—Carl Hostetter
Carl Hostetter, editor of a new volume of J.R.R. Tolkien's unpublished notes, The Nature of Middle-earth, joins the show to discuss Tolkien's metaphysics, his theology, and some of the startling revelations about Tolkien's creative process found in this and other books of Tolkien's notes and drafts.
Main violators of religious liberty? State…and Church!
The Council noted that religious liberty must always be upheld within the limits of the common good. To assert, as many Western states do now, that religious liberty can be allowed only privately, without broad public expression, is in fact to deny religious liberty nearly altogether. On this view, religious liberty is properly upheld as long as a person can hold a religious view in his mind and heart without expressing it, which makes nonsense of both the word “religious” and the word “liberty”.
There is No Fear in Love
Mid-January New Year Resolutions. Following St. John's First Letter we need to strive for perfect love, since there is no fear in love.
Review: Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth
James improvises an impassioned dramatic monologue about the inadequacies of Joel Coen's new adaptation of The Tragedy of Macbeth, starring Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand. Orson Welles's 1948 version, he argues, is aesthetically similar but far superior. Thomas sits and listens.
Then and now: Archbishop Roche vs. Archbishop Roche on the TLM
The traditional Latin Mass, Archbishop Arthur Roche said in 2015, is a “valid expression of the Church’s liturgy.”
Among the heresies of the body are Hollywood obsessions, horrible mutilations of our sexuality, and the destruction of unborn babies.
Censorship and samizdat on the internet
The mainstream media are now determined to shape opinions directly, telling people what they must think, suppressing contrary evidence and dissenting opinion.
Listening must give way to love, and hearing to sacrifice
In the Christian scheme, we listen for two reasons: (a) To understand another’s need; and (b) To express love for another through both material and spiritual assistance. We never listen as an excuse for not proclaiming the Gospel, for not adhering to the truth of Christ, or for opening up greater opportunity (as some will seek to do in a more “synodal” Church) for those who refuse to accept Christ as the way, the truth and the life.
56—John of Damascus: Last Witness to a Lost World
John of Damascus, the last of the Fathers, was born into a world newly conquered. John was able to provide a rare outsider's view of Islam when it was new on the world scene. In Christian history he is known as the great defender of the practice of venerating images. In more than a millennium, his compact, complete treatises on the subject have never been surpassed. But his work includes much more: sermons, hymns, and a handy compendium of philosophy and theology.
Vatican justice system is on trial in finance case
Cardinal Becciu retains his title, but not his privileges as a member of the College. He retains his legal right to the presumption of innocence, but not the right to be immune from accusations of criminal behavior.
Say what? The love you never hear about today
Ask Paul in the first century, or Augustine in the fifth. Ask Francis of Assisi in the thirteenth century or Mother Teresa in the twentieth. Apart from their source of love, we can offer only broken slivers of the good.
Candlemas: The Feast of Light and Hope
The Feast of Candlemas or Presentation of the Lord falls 40 days after Christmas. It is a feast of the Lord in the Temporal Calendar, therefore takes precedence when it falls on a Sunday. Although it does not fall in the Christmas season, it is a "Christmas" themed feast, although it also points ahead to Lent and Easter. It is a feast of light and includes blessing of candles. It is a feast of hope, for we, like Simeon, place our Hope in the Lord.
St. Thomas Aquinas—Beware of the False
“Hypocrites seduce souls in order to have followers and honors."
On the Waterfront (1954)
Elia Kazan's 1954 film On the Waterfront is included on the Vatican's film list in the Values section. The film broke ground in its gritty, realistic production and acting style, particularly manifested in Marlo Brando's unforgettable performance as low-down dockworker Terry Malloy. It offers a vision of how we can be transformed by attending to the demands of conscience, articulated in fully Christian terms in a classic monologue by one of the greatest movie priests in Hollywood history.
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