Catholic Culture Overview
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All Catholic commentary from October 2019

What’s wrong with popular causes (and with clerics who ride them)?

Let me speak frankly. It is a symptom of flabby, secularized Christianity to witness primarily in favor of popular and prudential causes. Yet from Pope Francis on down, this symptom is widespread among Catholic leaders today. Five significant mistakes are made by Christians whose witness in favor...

A bid to understand the police raid at the Vatican

A shocking, unprecedented scene: Vatican police raiding the offices of the Vatican’s own Secretariat of State, seizing documents and electronic devices. As usual the Vatican is tight-lipped about this latest scandal, disclosing only that the Vatican’s top prosecutor has been...

Revised: Non-ordination of women: Not a dogma?

[October 4, 2019: In response to many questions from those who had trouble with the argument, I have revised this essay from earlier in the week. If you found it confusing, I hope you will read it again.] One of the key drafters of the working document for the Amazon Synod, Bishop Erwin...

This week: A curious media silence about a blockbuster Vatican story

This week’s most important CWN headline was not a big story. It was a huge story, a sensational story, a blockbuster. To be honest, I’m at a loss to explain why it hasn’t been given headline coverage throughout the media world. Police—the Vatican’s own police,...

In the Buffalo diocese, the wrong sort of investigation?

Hat tip to Siobhan O’Connor, the Buffalo whistleblower, for calling attention to the fact that the Vatican’s apostolic visitation of that diocese is “not subject to the recent instruction of the Holy See, Vos Estis.” Here’s one more demonstration that the Vatican...

The ‘spirit of timidity’ that thwarts evangelization

Years ago, at an inter-religious conference, I was befriended by a Muslim cleric who, when he learned that I had never met my father-in-law, promised to do his best to bring us together. (He fulfilled that promise, to no avail.) However, he also felt obliged to give me a warning. “My...

A serious theologian’s fear of schism

Father Thomas Weinandy has long been a perceptive and courageous analyst of the current confusion that is spreading from Rome. And he has paid a price for his honesty. In 2017, the Capuchin theologian gave up his position as consultant to the US bishops’ doctrine committee, after making...

Pressures on the Faith in the American Civil War. And now?

In an intriguing new book by Fr. Charles P. Connor, the Catholic position on slavery leading up to and during the American Civil War (1861-1865) is explored in considerable depth. What we learn from it is how much cultural conditioning and competing interests can modify or “slant” the...

St. John Henry Newman—Trailer: Newman on the Fathers

Happy feast of Saint John Henry Newman! Today it is fitting to drop the trailer for one of’s new podcast series, which will take Newman for its patron. Every week, Catholic Culture Audiobooks will be bringing you...

Does Pope Francis profess the Nicene Creed?

Did Pope Francis really really say that Jesus is not God? Eugenio Scalfari, who made this sensational claim, cannot be treated as a reliable witness. He is an atheist, a Marxist, not a Christian. Although he has interviewed Pope Francis several times, he has not recorded the sessions or taken...

This week: So what DID the Pope say about Christ’s divinity?

Yet again, an unexpected and unsettling news story snatched top billing from the Amazon Synod in the week’s Catholic World News coverage. Last week it was the police raid on the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. This week it was the stunning claim, by an influential Italian journalist,...

Are Marian devotions excessive?

We all have an abiding desire for maternal affection. The history books of the American Civil War are replete with touching accounts of dying soldiers in agony calling upon their mothers like little boys. Even the toughest among us grasp for the love of a mother at the hour of death. Prayers...

The Acts of the Apostles are for the whole world

The main reason the Holy Spirit inspired St. Luke to write the Acts of the Apostles is crystal clear in the pages of that book. But I wonder how many of us who have read and listened to readings from the Acts have realized what that purpose is. Things can be missed when we hear them piecemeal, and...

St. John Henry Newman—The Salvation of the Hearer the Motive of the Preacher

"It requires nothing great, nothing heroic, nothing saint-like ... it requires nothing more than faith, a single purpose, an honest heart, and a distinct utterance."

The next Vatican scandal: don’t say I didn’t warn you

Back in June 2016 I made a prediction about the next Vatican scandal: This time the subject will not be sex, but that other rich lode of corruption: money. Then the police raid on Vatican offices was followed by the resignation of the Vatican’s top police official. We still...

The Pachamama or the Virgin: which does the Synod revere?

Questioned about the Pachamama icon that has become the most visible symbol of the Amazon Synod, Father Giacomo Costa told reporters that it was an image of “an indigenous woman who brings life.” The Synod spokesman added: “Nobody said it was the Virgin Mary.” I beg to...

St. Ignatius of Antioch—Letter to the Romans

"I am God's wheat; I am ground by the teeth of the wild beasts that I may end as the pure bread of Christ."

At the Synod, the blind lead the blind

Two noteworthy columns today by veteran Vatican-watchers covering the Amazon Synod: John Allen of Crux explains how German prelates have outsized influence in the discussions of the Amazon Synod—particularly when the subject is priestly celibacy. And Sandro Magister of...

Episode 1—First Steps on the Way of the Fathers

With this episode author Mike Aquilina begins his twice-monthly series on the lives, times, and works of the early Church Fathers. The Way of the Fathers begins with answers to basic questions. What is fatherhood? And who are the...

This week: Synod debates and declining numbers

The discussions of the Amazon Synod continue, with calls for the ordination of married men gaining support. The final votes on the Synod’s proposals are still a week away, and the daily press briefings do not convey the full story of what has happened inside the Synod hall, so it may be...

Episode 52—Off-Broadway play accurately portrays conservative thought: zoology or spiritual wisdom?

Is Heroes of the Fourth Turning a zoological exhibit for progressives to gape at, or something deeper? Is it ultimately more unsettling to a perceptive Catholic viewer, for whom Arbery’s troubled characters might function as an indictment of a Catholic conservatism that can be focused more on ideas and temporal concerns than on the reality of Christ?

Pope St. John Paul II—Letter to Artists

"Artists are constantly in search of the hidden meaning of things, and their torment is to succeed in expressing the world of the ineffable. How then can we fail to see what a great source of inspiration is offered by that kind of homeland of the soul that is religion?"

Robert Cardinal Sarah’s dilemma, and our own

Cardinal Sarah works hard at creating the illusion that he is following up lines of thought proposed by Pope Francis himself.... But in fact, the grand alliance of what we might call “The Friends of Pope Francis” constantly tries to bring against Cardinal Sarah this charge of opposition to the Pope, precisely because it is so obvious that Sarah’s constant recommendations are seriously at odds with much of what Pope Francis says.

Pagan idols aren’t harmless, and ‘dialogue’ is not an absolute goal

If the Pachamama images were pagan idols— set up before the altar of a Catholic church— then it was right and just to destroy them.

The subversive ambiguity of Father Martin and friends

Father Martin is consistent in his own way: always challenging the Church’s authoritative teaching obliquely, always encouraging others to question or to ignore that teaching, yet always innocently protesting that he is merely raising “interesting” questions, not answering them. He uses studied ambiguity to undermine orthodoxy. And now, when challenged, he takes refuge behind the authority of other, more powerful prelates— who are using the same subversive technique.

Conversion: of the Amazon, or of the Church?

"If God’s dream is the redemption of humanity,…" Thus begins a telling sentence in a semi-official Vatican journal. God's dream??

St. John Henry Newman—Hope in God, Creator

"God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another."

This week: Pachamama and other scandals

Yet again the Amazon Synod— controversial though it is— has been bumped off the top place in our list of the week’s headline stories by a stunning and scandalous development at the Vatican. In fact, two stunning and scandalous developments.

A noisy minority with an outsize influence

If I could call on dozens of tenured professors from Notre Dame, Georgetown, Fordham, and Villanova to defend me at a moment’s notice— with all the PR machinery of their schools behind them— I wouldn't worry too very much about the “outsize influence” of some lone critic with a blog.

Quick Hits: After the Synod, praying for a miracle

“Faced with such an evident scandal, it is impossible that a Catholic bishop would remain silent,” he writes. Yet most bishops ARE silent.

The Didache: Teaching of the Twelve Apostles

"Do not abandon the commandments of the Lord, but keep what you have received, without adding or subtracting."

Clerical secrets

From a Gospel perspective, there is little incentive to enter into a “holier than thou” contest.

Synod hopes and fears: The difference that matters

We will urge married clergy on the Amazon not primarily because they cannot understand sexual abstinence but because the secularized affluent West as a whole cannot understand it. We will urge some form of formal female ministry in the Amazon not because it would be impossible to call, inspire and send zealous males but because the secularized affluent West demands—even as it insists on sexual activity—the obliteration of distinctions between male and female.

Episode 53—God Made Us For Order and Surprise—John-Mark Miravalle

A conversation on our moral obligation to delight in beauty, why we are moved by the combination of order and surprise, and the proper way to delight in the beauty of the human body.

Episode 2—The How & Why of Studying the Fathers

What drives people to read the Fathers? They’re delightful to read. They fill us with hard-won wisdom. They’re apologetically useful. They inspire conversions. They tell riveting, dramatic stories. They teach us how to keep a good sense of humor. Best of all, they draw us closer to Jesus Christ. Over the centuries they've changed the lives of Christians as great as John Henry Newman, Erik Peterson, Louis Bouyer, Robert Louis Wilken. Hear about it in this podcast.

Keystone Crooks: the Vatican’s latest financial scandal

Is it possible that the Vatican’s financial affairs could be so chaotic, so imprudent, so palpably corrupt? The entire story offers a portrait of blundering, amateurish crooks.

St. John Henry Newman—Use of Saints’ Days

"We crowd these all up into one day; we mingle together in the brief remembrance of an hour all the choicest deeds, the holiest lives, the noblest labors, the most precious sufferings, which the sun ever saw."

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