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All Catholic commentary from November 2011

Lily: Real Life, Real Literature

I agreed to read the Lily Trilogy by Sherry Boas with some misgivings. The promotional literature asserts: “The books have a pro-life thread throughout and also deal with other problems perpetuated by the culture of death” including “the breakdown of marriage, promiscuity,...

Learning to be grateful while the lights are out

During this week I have had daily—no, hourly—reminders of how much we comfortable Americans take for granted, and how many things we should be grateful for. I hope I remember them all at Thanksgiving. This week, you see, a freak storm wiped out the electrical power in our region of...

Parsing Beleaguered Words: The Perils of Getting Things Wrong

Under duress, people say the darndest things. Often these comments help shape the world, for better or worse. But to get real value from these incidents, you have to parse the text; you have to grasp what is really being said. Here are four examples from recent news: The SSPX and the...

An intriguing episcopal appointment. Next: an overdue resignation?

The Vatican announced one intriguing appointment yesterday. I hope that another significant appointment is announced tomorrow. Father Charles Morerod was named on November 3 to become Bishop of Lausanne, Switzerland. A native of Switzerland, Bishop-elect Morerod is certainly qualified: he...

Pope Paul VI on Vatican II

From time to time I still see comments to the effect that the authority of the Second Vatican Council is problematic because Pope Paul VI said it did not promulgate any dogmatic definitions. This citation is thought to settle the matter. But it does not settle things in the way those who cite it...

Continuing in Austria: Modernist Abuse of Vatican II

If you look at today’s report of new dissidence in Austria, you’ll see yet another example of the Modernist abuse of the Second Vatican Council. Hans Peter Hurka, the leader of the We Are Church movement there, claims his group will conduct liturgical ceremonies in which lay...

Abortion, the Poisoning of Social Justice, and the Rush to Judgment

I have a theory. I cannot provide statistical evidence to support it, but I still think it explains a good deal about why contemporary social services and anti-poverty initiatives, even in the Catholic Church herself, so often seem to be tainted by the culture of death. My theory is that the...

The Personhood Initiative: Mississippi voters fail a reality check

Yesterday the people of Mississippi voted not to amend their state constitution to declare that human life begins at conception. Nevertheless the scientific fact remains: Human life begins at conception. Unless I am mistaken the Mississippi constitution is silent on the law of gravity. Perhaps...

Joe Pa, Meet Cardinal Law

Nobody knows exactly who is guilty of what in the Penn State child sex abuse scandal. In 2002 a graduate assistant coach saw Jerry Sandusky sexually abusing a ten-year-old boy in the showers. Sandusky was, at the time, a former assistant coach who for a long time had been Joe Paterno’s right...

The Pope's aching joints; the Vatican's odd silence

Today CWN passes along the report that Pope Benedict suffers from a degenerative joint condition in his legs. Although I am sorry for his suffering, I must say that I’m relieved. The news might have been much worse. But if the report is accurate—and the journalist who made the...

Penn State sends a message. US bishops, take notice.

At Penn State, a month after the revelation of a sex-abuse scandal, four top executives have been ousted. In the American Catholic hierarchy, a decade after the exposure of hundreds of sex-abuse cases, just one bishop has resigned. So now the American bishops know what it looks like when an...

Christian Social Services of Illinois: martyrs need not apply

Remember the Maccabees? And the king sent letters by messengers to Jerusalem and the cities of Judah; he directed them to follow customs strange to the land…[1 Mac 1:44] Mattathias responded directly: We will not obey the king's words by turning aside from our religion to the right hand...

None So Blind: Obedience is an Antidote to Stupidity

Except with infallible doctrines, obedience is not an infallible safeguard. But it can go a long way toward knocking the stuffing out of us, by which I mean the sheer stupidity we generally fall into when we are too fond of our own judgment and our own will. To paraphrase Psalm 14:1: The fool says...

Are the US bishops gearing up for a lawsuit against HHS?

If you read one day that the US bishops’ conference had filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration, would you be surprised? Don’t be. You already know (if you’ve been paying attention) that the Department of Health and Human Services declined to renew a grant to the US...

Another overdue resignation

Yesterday a minor detail in a CWN news story caught my eye. During his visit to Benin this weekend, the story reported, Pope Benedict XVI will visit the tomb of Cardinal Bernardin Gantin. The African cardinal had been Dean of the College of Cardinals, the CWN story reminded us, until he...

A simple solution to unauthorized parish vigils

In the Archdiocese of Boston, plans to close and sell parish churches have been stymied by disgruntled parishioners who have been holding vigil at several churches. This week one such vigil came to an end. Even after the archdiocese sold St. Jeremiah church in Framingham to a local community of...

Purgatory in Scripture: New Developments

The Catholic doctrine of Purgatory and the Catholic practice of prayers for the dead stretch back to the earliest Christian period, but the emphasis on salvation by faith has typically caused Protestants to deny the existence of Purgatory. They also believe that Purgatory is unscriptural. Yet the...

Grace and Rationalization: Closely Linked

In studying the Catholic doctrine on grace, a fascinating connection emerges between rationalization and grace—or rather resistance to grace. I believe this explains quite a bit of what we instinctively sense about those who live and foster immoral lifestyles. It explains why those who are...

Cardinal Law replaced: the Vatican has sent a message

There’s something very curious about the replacement of Cardinal Bernard Law in his post at a Roman basilica. Cardinal Law is no longer the Archpriest of St. Mary Major basilica. That much is clear from today’s Vatican announcement. Archbishop Santos Abril y Castello now has that job....

Cardinal O’Malley, Resisting Gay Pressure, Stands by His Editor

Something is very wrong when priests join forces with gay activists in any cause whatsoever. The presumption must be that the priests in question are sympathetic to gay activism, and this constitutes scandal. That’s why I was glad to see Cardinal Sean O’Malley stand by the editor of...

The Spiritual Tradition of Catholic England

Now here’s a real prayer for you: The holy Body of Christ Jesu be my salvation of body and soul. Amen. The Glorious blood of Christ Jesu bring my soul and body into the everlasting bliss. Amen. I cry God mercy; I cry God mercy; I cry God mercy; welcome my maker; welcome my redeemer; welcome...

The Moral Obligation of Reality

If a person feels depressed and wishes to commit suicide, does it amount to a personal attack if I urge him to resist his inclination, to understand that his depression is a disorder, and to seek to remedy it? If a young man experiences an intense desire for a one night stand with every voluptuous...

Downsizing won't save the Irish hierarchy

According to the Irish Catholic, the Vatican is considering a radical reform of the Irish hierarchy, perhaps calling for the elimination of half of the country’s 26 dioceses. George Weigel applauds the idea. I don't understand. The need for some sort of reform in the Irish Church is...

The ideal Thanksgiving dinner

Turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce are essential; the rest is negotiable. Pecan pie, apple pie, or pumpkin pie? Whatever you prefer; you can’t go wrong. But that’s not what I mean. I’m talking about the ideal meal, the perfect offering: the Eucharist. Thanksgiving is my...

The Moral Obligation of Reality, II

In a Sound Off! comment on my last essay (The Moral Obligation of Reality), bservaes4399 explains that he does not see how my argument moves from what is to what ought to be. This question is not to be taken lightly. I have frequently raised it in my own mind as well. I’ll try here to make the...

A Catholic Shift on Sexual Abuse?

Saturday’s address by Pope Benedict XVI to the U. S. Bishops of Region II may mark a turning point in the Catholic response to sexual abuse. I’ve been saying for years that the Church has been unfairly singled out and rapaciously prosecuted for what is an extremely widespread social...

An Inside Joke about Teilhard de Chardin

Teilhard de Chardin was something of an inside joke himself. A French Jesuit who dabbled in both paleontology and theology in the first half of the twentieth century, Teilhard wrote a variety of small books spinning out a bizarre theory of evolutionary spirituality which, despite a...

The troubling rise of 'Msgr. CB'

Let’s suppose that in the town where you live, a mid-level manager at the largest local corporation was arrested. Let’s say that he was caught in a neighborhood known as a homosexual enclave, suspected by police of cruising for teenage boys—and that his defense was that he had...

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