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All Catholic commentary from November 2019

On purpose: Four blows against scientism to lift your spirit

The so-called scientific experts are fond of telling us that the world and all that is in it are not the result of an intelligible process caused by an intelligent agent but rather the result of random combinations of elements. These people think that God creates as we do, by recombining elements to make new things. But that is not at all what they must explain. What they must explain is why there is something rather than nothing at all.

Vision Book Cover Prints

St. Ignatius of Antioch—Letter to Polycarp

"Copy the ways of God in speaking to each as an individual person... Not every wound is healed by the same salve."

Self-Esteem

It’s hard to “like ourselves” in a morally healthy way without the guidance of a few basics of the Catholic faith.

One good thing about all these synods…

What one cannot debate, however, is that the best scholarship on the many complex topics addressed at these synods is produced by scholars whose Catholic identity is very firmly rooted, who are deeply committed to authentic renewal of the Church.... It is not only the best publishers and the best authors who are willing to step into the breach and do the necessary work, instead of merely going with the flow. This is what all seriously-committed Catholics do, each in his or her own sphere.

Unfinished Business

The world is going to laugh at us anyway. So it’s better to be laughed at for what seems (to the unbelieving world) an excess of piety or compunction or zeal, than for leaving the one truly important project undone.

Know when to ask for help. Often.

Prayer brings us together, in ways that we do not fully anticipate or understand. So I conclude that we should all be asking for prayers more often.

German bishops leading the Church—over the cliff?

But what if your goal is to spread the Catholic faith? Then the German bishops are, as a group, miserable failures. Mattingly notes that 216,078 Germans formally renounced their Catholic faith last year.

St. Polycarp—Letter to the Philippians

"The letter of Ignatius sent to us by himself and all the others we have here we send you... and from them you will greatly profit."

How to explain Pope Francis without making things worse

Commentators must strive for a consistency of analysis of this pontificate: Justifying each response in terms of each particular incident; exhibiting a deeper understanding of the whole problem which leads to reasoned commentary, without emotional outbursts. Now, anybody who talks to anybody else has, in this sense, a public persona. Regardless of the mood of the moment, all should maintain a consistent wisdom—a wisdom that fully admits all aspects of the truth.

Does Pope’s representative hope to silence US bishops’ questions?

If the papal nuncio convinces American bishops to swallow their concerns and stifle their questions, that would be a grave disservice both to the Pope and to the faithful Catholics of the US.

The Martyrdom of St. Polycarp

"The uproar in the stadium was such that nobody could be heard at all."

The mystery letter of St. Paul to the Romans

You can imagine the importance of this truth in a period in which God’s chosen people, the Jews to whom Christ came, thought of themselves as a people set apart and made righteous by the Law. But Paul explains that the Law, while good in itself, actually awakens us to sin, and so the Jews turn it into an occasion of sin, even while the Gentiles, who do not have the Law, actually know the moral law through nature, and likewise are guilty of transgression.

Episode 54—Fostering Responsible Elites—Jonah Bennett

Today’s guest is Jonah Bennett, editor-in-chief of a fascinating new online magazine called Palladium which is devoted to constructing what could be called the post-liberal synthesis. Palladium Magazine seeks to foster the perspective of a responsible elite, with high-quality, non-ideological coverage of everything from geopolitics to video-game addiction to the crisis in Ivy League institutions.

One year later, still no answers from Vatican on McCarrick scandal

We know where to look for the documents in question. They’re in the files of the apostolic nuncio in Washington, and/or the offices of the Roman Curia. It shouldn’t take a year to dig them out.

Episode 3—Clement of Rome: The Earliest Christian Author after the Apostles

Clement of Rome led a church in turmoil. And it was only 67 A.D. His letter is the earliest piece of literature outside the New Testament whose author we can name with confidence. Clement knew both Peter and Paul and carried their mission forward. His letter gives a snapshot of earliest church life and reveals the origins of apostolic succession, Roman primacy, and the unity of the Old Testament and the New. It was considered Scripture in some ancient churches.

Influencing the Church, monetarily

As the spiritual stability of the Church has been undermined by the current papacy, a number of groups have engaged in the spiritual work of counseling the doubtful while consistently ignoring the spiritual works of bearing wrongs patiently and forgiving offenses. Some are also more prone to condemn than to instruct, counsel, admonish and comfort. This can never foster authentic Catholic renewal; all it can do is make angry Catholics feel better about themselves without spiritual growth.

This week: The US bishops test relations with Rome

So clearly there IS some resistance in the US hierarchy— if not to the Pope’s leadership, at least to the rhetoric being churned out by papal supporters.

St. John Henry Newman—Martyrdom

“The unseen God alone was their Comforter, and this invests the scene of their suffering with supernatural majesty, and awes us when we think of them.”

Episode 55—The Hundredfold—Anthony Esolen

Having honed his skills translating Dante, Tasso and Lucretius, well-known Catholic cultural commentator Anthony Esolen has now published his first work of original poetry. The book-length poem The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord is centered around twelve dramatic monologues set during and shortly after the time of Christ, complemented and illuminated by dozens of lyric poems and hymns.

Church troubles: What good Catholics may and may not do

The time is ripe because, at least in my opinion, too many ostensibly “good Catholics” are going to extremes in what they mistakenly believe is a service to orthodoxy, extremes that are now becoming mirror images of what has long been advocated on the side of heterodoxy. So let me make some distinctions.

One more damaging blow to the Pope’s credibility

If you can concoct an innocent explanation for Pope's involvement in the Zanchetta case, please let me know. I can’t.

Christmas can’t come before Advent

The Advent season builds up naturally toward the explosion of joy on Christmas Day. But when the bright lights go on in early December, Advent fades into the background.

Sedevacantism: An attack on the Church’s Authority Principle

For one reason or another, we conclude—based on our own purely private judgment of a pope’s character or impact on the Church or faith or morals—that this person who calls himself “the pope” has either ceased to be the pope or must never really have been the pope. We decide this, then, not by the historical fact of his election, but based on our own understanding of faith and morals, and of what God will or will not permit to happen in his Church.

Pope St. Clement I—Letter to the Corinthians

"But, if some shall disobey the words which have been spoken by Him through us, let them know that they will involve themselves in no small transgression and danger."

This week: the unfolding Vatican financial scandal

The Vatican had claimed a substantial victory when the Egmont Group admitted the Vatican agency as a participant in the international exchange of information about suspected money-laundering. Now that victory has been reversed.

The Age of Cynicism

If the Devil had a capacity for love, he would love cynics. Dismas saw the soldiers laughing and ridiculing human misery. “And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching; but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!’ The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him vinegar, and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’” (Luke 23:35-38)

Episode 4—Ignatius of Antioch: To Know “Jesus Christ Our God”

Ignatius of Antioch is the first of the Fathers to leave us abundant writings. His seven letters were written in 107 A.D. as the aged bishop traveled to his appointed death in Rome. They give witness to many of the early Church’s beliefs and practices: Jesus’ true humanity and true divinity; his real presence in the Eucharist; and the Church's hierarchy of bishop, priest, and deacon. The host of this podcast, Mike Aquilina, confesses Ignatius to be his favorite among the Fathers.

Episode 56—Vindicating Authority—Aquinas Guilbeau, O.P.

Modernity has attempted to do away with authority. It does this not most commonly by advocating anarchy. Rather, it justifies its own established powers in terms of a fictive self-rule, and purports to replace the arbitrary dictates of power--and much of what makes us human--with scientific rationality. But authority is necessary to human life, and not just as a medicine for weakness and evil. It arises from and serves what is noblest in us.

St. John Henry Newman—Christian Reverence

"In heaven, love will absorb fear; but in this world, fear and love must go together."

At last: a bishop denounces his predecessor’s behavior

The punishment of Bishop Bransfield is "for his own spiritual good and his own healing as a man who professes to follow Christ."

St. John Henry Newman—A Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!

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