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All Catholic commentary from December 2023

Why we are—or are not—so often in the wrong

In most periods of Church history there have been significant divisions over one issue or another, divisions that boil down to the respective mindsets of the parties who are wrestling with a particular problem. Certainly, security lies in a proper understanding of what the Church has taught formally in the past about the various issues at stake; and clearly, those who think Church teaching can be changed to suit the desires of the dominant culture have substituted the ideas of the dominant culture for the Holy Spirit.

Introduction to Terrence Malick: Badlands and Days of Heaven

This is the first episode of a series covering the complete filmography of Terrence Malick, who is arguably both the most important Christian filmmaker working today and the most important filmmaker working today, period. What sets Malick apart from a number of other directors whose work deals with a religious search, is that his films are not just about searching indefinitely with no answer, but they come from the perspective of a sincere believer who actually has a positive proposal about life's meaning.

God’s Supremacy: an Examination of Conscience

Do I measure my behavior against the capital sins of pride, anger, lust, sloth, avarice, envy, and gluttony? Have I abided by the precepts of the Church? Do I have a healthy fear of God in preparation for my Day of Judgment?

Liturgical kid stuff: Real or imagined?

There are two reasons for my opinion that roles at Mass should be reserved for those who have been confirmed and are at least in their mid-teen years. The first is that this will typically upgrade the quality of the liturgical celebration, changing it back from “kid time” to a serious Catholic spiritual responsibility. The second is that our culture has the transition to adulthood backwards. If kids have already “been there, done that”, they are less likely to be drawn in to a life of faith.

In the Vatican’s landmark trial, no one can win

The prosecution has painted a very unflattering portrait of Cardinal Becciu. He could easily be convicted of incompetence as a money-manager and arrogance as a bureaucrat. But did he break any laws?

What will happen if we stop taking ourselves for granted?

Look, it is one thing to throw up our hands and say we just don’t know why there should be something instead of nothing. But that uninterested dismissal simply won’t do in the face of the question of why we, alone among all material beings, are persons. For while we seldom have occasion to worry about how things came to exist in the first place, the intricacies and peculiarities of our personhood occupy us, with or without active reflection, at every moment of our lives.

The REAL miracle of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Dating from the original Pentecost, the early Church took more than 300 years to build up a membership of 9 million worldwide. How did it happen in Mexico in the space of a decade? _That_ is the great miracle of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The Violence of Peacemaking

Both the violence of the Maccabees that protected Jewish worship and Roman violence that maintained peace prepared the Chosen People to receive the Prince of Peace “in the fullness of time.”

Repentance and righteousness in all of Scripture

We do get the impression at times that the Old Testament is an unremitting testimony to judgment and condemnation and that we must look exclusively to the New Testament for forgiveness and mercy. Bearing this in mind, it is particularly helpful to come across unexpected Old Testament texts which remind us that God the Father has exemplified from all eternity the manner in which His Christ would draw those lines.

4.2 The Heresies—Judaizers and Ebionites: Denying Christ’s Divinity

Is Jesus Christ God? Is he a man? Is he both? Spoiler alert: the mainstream Church answered with the both/and, but the factions on the fringes tended to choose one or the other. For our first heresy, we take a look at the Ebionites, and their New Testament-era predecessors, the so-called Judaizers. These concluded that Jesus Christ was a mere human. A human who became a prophet perhaps, but just a human.

St. John Henry Newman—The Idea of a University | Knowledge Viewed in Relation to Religion

"True Religion is slow in growth, and, when once planted, is difficult of dislodgement; but its intellectual counterfeit has no root in itself: it springs up suddenly, it suddenly withers."

171—St. Jerome’s Letters to Friends in Mourning—David G. Bonagura, Jr.

A new collection of letters shows the tender side of St. Jerome, as he writes to console various friends on the death of their loved ones. Translator and editor David G. Bonagura, Jr., joins the podcast to discuss Jerome's Tears: Letters to Friends in Mourning.

Perils of “the vote”: Must all government be bad government?

I believe that one of the greatest socio-political errors of Church leaders, from the pope on down, is their constant stress on an unthinking respect and veneration for democracy—as if democracy has ever, in and of itself, solved a single political problem. This stress on democracy blurs the reality that it is not a particular “constitution” or “governance arrangement” but a true moral compass which determines both the proper ends of government and the means by which these ends may be pursued.

Cardinal Gregory and the ‘dominant’ rite

Cardinal Gregory could not go on to say that the people didn’t want the TLM, because— Well, if nobody wanted the TLM, the question would never have been asked, Traditionis Custodes would never have been written, the whole issue would be moot.

Popcorn with the Pope: Word on Fire on the Vatican Film List

Word on Fire has published Popcorn with the Pope: A Guide to the Vatican Film List, with essays on all 45 films by David Paul Baird, Fr. Michael Ward, and Andrew Petiprin. The three authors join the show to compares notes with James and Thomas about their overall evaluations of the list, great religious films made by non-religious directors, what makes a good saint movie, and their personal favorite items on the Vatican Film List.

A Vatican document that undermines itself

The Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith allows (encourages?) Catholic priests to maintain a sort of ritual purity, saying that they have not treated a homosexual union as a marriage, while in the eyes of the world they have done exactly that.

The Patron Saint of a Drop of Water

The greatness of John the Baptist lies in his understanding of his insignificance without Jesus.

Blessings for same-sex couples: An elephant in the room?

There is an important distinction that is not made in the document. Questions arise: What about the pro-abortion Catholic politician who makes a photo-op out of asking the priest to bless him in the pursuit of his political objectives? Indeed, modern ideological pressures place a broad range of such motives into the blessing mix. What about the desire of a same-sex couple to use the blessing as personal validation?

War is hell

The Fifth Commandment forms the basis of St. Augustine’s just-war theory, the Geneva Conventions, International Humanitarian Law, and many other international agreements concerning the rules of war.

Our obligation toward private revelations

A selection of citations from Catholic theological authorities pertaining to the obligations of the faithful toward private revelations.

Fiducia Supplicans and the defense of ritual purity

This carefully crafted Vatican document gives liberal Catholic priests a way to show their sympathy for homosexual unions without actually contravening Church law. It even helps irresolute clerics, who might hesitate to bless same-sex partnerships, to go along, cautioning them against a stand “on the fixed nature of certain doctrinal or disciplinary schemes.”

Fiducia: the defense of incompetence

If you say that the document reaffirms Church teaching on marriage and human sexuality, you have a plausible case— although you won’t convince me.

Bishops can turn the new “blessings text” into a virtue

The Church needs bishops who are proactive in caring for their dioceses—in which they too are vicars of Christ—without disobeying Rome. The devil, we like to say, is in the details. But it is the local bishop who is in the best position to discern how this new instruction on blessings can be implemented in his diocese for the good of souls. And it is the job of the bishop to do this through rock-solid priests while remaining very much in communion with Rome.

Christmas Sentiments

Jesus teaches: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (Jn. 14:15) We express our love for Jesus when we follow Him and, if necessary, disagree with family and friends in favor of God’s law.

4.3 The Heresies – Docetics & Marcionites: Denying Christ’s Humanity

For the second heresy, Dr. Papandrea examines the opposite extreme from the first: these are the Docetics, including the most famous docetic teacher, Marcion and his followers. They concluded that Christ was a god, not necessarily any different from the many other gods or demigods in the Greco-Roman pantheon, but that he was not really a human.

Faithful History-Loving Flea-Flickers

There is merit in trusting experts according to the extent and limits of their expertise. But reason alone (solo ratio, to coin a heresy) – detached from the history of faith – is fraught with danger.

Unfinished business: the top stories of 2023

As another year draws to a close, and I survey the most important headline stories that we covered in 2023, I am struck by how many of those stories are still developing.

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