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All Catholic commentary from March 2014

The Circumcision Circumstance: High Stakes?

Last week I wrote a little City Gates piece on the meaning of the Council of Florence’s condemnation of circumcision (see Against Circumcision: A Classic Out-of-Context Danger). Little did I know that this would ignite a firestorm of controversy on our Facebook page. It seems several...

Douthat's grim prediction on the crusade for acceptance of same-sex marriage

Here’s an insightful and sobering op-ed column by Ross Douthat of the New York Times, who fears that the US Supreme Court will eventually follow “the logic of its own jurisprudence” and redefine marriage to include same-sex couples. Starting out from that grim prediction, Douthat predicts...

Bought with a Price: The Gold Standard for Dealing with Pornography

Today, Bishop Paul S. Loverde of Arlington released a new and expanded edition of his 2006 Pastoral Letter, Bought with a Price (see the original edition in our library). The new edition—available in a very attractive booklet or downloadable as a PDF file—is advance-dated to March...

The Crisis of the German Hierarchy Comes to a Wrongheaded Head

Sadly, the German cat is now rather obviously out of the bag, at least for those who thought it was still in the bag: German bishop demands change in Church teachings on sexuality. Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier is using the recent survey in preparation for the Synod on the Family to prove that...

Will conservative Catholics help media skew Church discussions on marriage?

Seven months before the Synod of Bishops meets to discuss pastoral care for the family, one can easily foresee how the mass media will cover the prelates’ discussion. It is not easy to predict which themes will emerge as most prominent in the Synod fathers’ debates. But it is very easy...

Synod Gamesmanship: Raising Expectations to Create Pressure

As Phil Lawler reminded us yesterday, during and after the Second Vatican Council there was a deliberate effort on the part of many theologians and bishops to use the press to encourage Catholics to expect Church teaching to change. Phil also noted that the same process is beginning again. It is...

Developments in the Orthodox world bear great ecumenical promise

Pay close attention to the latest news about the effort to convene a meeting of all the patriarchs of the world’s Orthodox churches. This could be a truly historic development. ”The All-Orthodox Council has not convened for more than 1,000 years,” remarks the Interfax news...

Lenten Wake-up Call

Plunging into Ash Wednesday with fasting and abstinence is such a "rude" awakening of the senses to Lent. No matter how hard I try to "ease" into fasting, the day is always very difficult. The Ash Wednesday sermon of Pope Francis zings right at the heart of Lent: We are...

Are we tempted beyond our strength?

We have all heard from the time we were knee-high to a tadpole that God never permits us to be tempted beyond our strength. If we’ve done any spiritual reading, this axiom has been drummed into us by more than one author. Sometimes its very repetition can make us feel guilty or spiritually...

What's left for the Legionaries?

What do you do with a religious order that has lost its mission? In a revealing interview last week with the Catholic News Service, the new leader of the Legionaries of Christ spoke about how the order’s founder, the late Father Marcial Maciel, had covered up his criminal...

Idle questions for Monday musings

If you say that you’re not going to judge someone, can you then say “Bravo” about his public statements? Isn’t it perfectly acceptable to judge someone’s public statements (as opposed to his private actions, or the state of his soul)? And isn’t...

Cloistered: The Inside Story

It is very interesting to see how secular publishers deal with our contemporary cultural objection to serious religious engagement. An author cannot advocate Christianity, but he can do a study of somebody else’s theology. An author cannot urge fallen-away Catholics to return to the Church,...

Homosexuality and Marriage: Channeling your inner Dolan is not enough

On Sunday night’s “Meet the Press” (NBC television), it was predictable that Cardinal Timothy Dolan would have been asked some pointed questions about gay marriage, civil unions, and homosexuality. I haven’t seen the entire transcript, but the Yahoo! News story we...

Mercy for the Divorced and Remarried

Another high-ranking Churchman, this time the President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, has emphasized that the status of divorced and remarried Catholics “should be looked at with a merciful eye.” This is certainly something we all need to keep in mind, but the $64,000...

Dangerous dilution of Church teachings: making the exception the rule

Ask a dozen Catholics drawn at random from a typical American parish, and all twelve will tell you that the faithful are no longer expected to abstain from meat on Fridays, except during Lent. Not so. “Abstinence from meat, or some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is...

Doctrinal changes wrought by Pope Francis

On the anniversary of the papal election, John White has an interesting post on the Catholic Vote site, with an exhaustive list of all the Church teachings that have changed during the first year of this pontificate. If you get your information from Rome via the secular media, you might find...

The best appraisal of this pontificate on its 1st anniversary

Among the many articles that I have seen assessing the first year of this pontificate and attempting to explain the unusual appeal of Pope Francis, my favorite is this one by Father Bernardo Cervellera, the director of the AsiaNews service. A missionary priest and a veteran Vatican observer,...

Fighting Heterosexuality: The Sin of Categorizing Persons

My title is not a slip of the pen; it is not supposed to be “fighting homosexuality”. But what could I possibly have against heterosexuality? The problems with this term were recently outlined by Michael Hannon in First Things. The argument is imperfect, I think, but it bears close...

Feastday Highlights: St. Patrick and the Paschal Feast

March 17 is the feast of St. Patrick, and almost everyone knows something about St. Patrick, ranging from some truths, some untruths, some exaggerations and some larger-than-life legends. He wrote very little, and there are prayers attributed to him, such as the Lorica or Deer’s Cry that he...

Impending Catholic debate on divorce: more serious than birth-control dispute

In the Light of the Law, the blog run by canon lawyer Edward Peters, is always informative and sometimes more. This post, on the “gathering storm” over the possibility that divorced and remarried Catholics might be admitted to the Eucharist, is more. Peters...

Pilgrimage - they don't make it like they used to

What’s the difference between a pilgrimage and a vacation? There was a time when going on a pilgrimage involved a great deal of sacrifice. Pilgrims traveled great distances to holy sites, often on foot, enduring great physical hardship to reach their destinations for some spiritual purpose...

A Strange Case: The Clash’s drummer-turned-chiropractor on music, healing, and his return to Catholicism

The Clash is one of those bands you’re almost guaranteed to have heard whether you know it or not. The seminal English punk act made a dent in the rock music scene in 1977 with their first, self-titled album, featuring a simple, aggressive style with political lyrics, exemplified by songs...

Synod 2014 on marriage: Lots of smoke, but hardly any mirrors

In my last Insights message, I prophesied that the media furor over divorce, remarriage, and the sacraments in the Catholic Church would not result, at the 2014 Extraordinary Synod and thereafter, in the same sort of breakdown in Catholic discipline that followed Vatican II (closing in 1965)...

Michael Fugee Laicized: What’s wrong with this picture?

Newark priest Michael Fugee has been laicized after violating an agreement with prosecutors to stay out of any ministry involving children. Contrary to the agreement, Fugee slipped into the neighboring Diocese of Trenton, without seeking permission, and participated in youth programs at two...

Solemnity of St. Joseph: A Family Celebration

Wednesday, the Solemnity of St Joseph, is always a bright and welcome celebration amidst the penitence of Lent, “Solemnities are counted as the principal days in the calendar.“ (General Norms for the Liturgical Year and Calendar). We put aside our Lenten purple. The priest dons white...

A simple rhetorical question

Edward Peters has done it again. My favorite canon-law blogger, again addressing the pressure for a change in Church doctrine regarding the indissolubility of marriage, wraps us another simple but informative post with an unanswerable question: “what do we suddenly know about marriage, human...

Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, Fidelity, Communion, Vocation

In response to Phil Lawler’s City Gates piece about the Impending Catholic debate on divorce (March 14th), a Sound Off! comment by “Dan” raises the question of whether we really want abandoned women to be barred from receiving the Eucharist. Here’s the full question: In...

An Open Letter to All of our Users

We’re a little over $30,000 short of meeting our expenses for the first quarter this year, which is the largest first-quarter deficit CatholicCulture.org has ever had. I do not know exactly why that is the case, since we are actually reaching more people than ever. Total individual users...

Should Catholic politicians oppose legal contraception? Yes; prudently.

Is a Catholic politician morally obligated to oppose the legal distribution of contraceptives? That question has come to the fore because of a surprisingly contentious Congressional campaign in Virginia. Austin Ruse presented the argument to readers outside Virginia in February, with a Crisis...

The Church’s catalogue of ills, according to S. H. Webb

I was amused rather than annoyed by Stephen H. Webb’s featured post over at First Things, entitled Why is the Catholic Church so Defensive? In this short piece, Webb is prompted, by his recent viewing of the Secrets of the Vatican documentary on PBS, to indulge in a personal lament over...

The Annunciation and Lent: Celebrating New Life through a Mary Garden

March 25 marks the second solemnity that falls during the Lenten season, the Annunciation of the Lord. God chose the Blessed Virgin Mary, having prepared her without sin to be a worthy vessel for His Son. The angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she shall be the Mother of God. At the moment Mary...

An Italian nun is a singing sensation, and I don't care.

During the past week, at least 100 people have sent me links to stories about the nun who has wowed a TV audience with her singing on the Italian version of the popular show, The Voice. Great. Wonderful. I hope she wins. If your cousin goes on that show, I hope he wins, too. But please...

Will new Vatican commission on abuse answer the one crucial question? (a re-run)

Now that Pope Francis has named the members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, I think it's relevant to mention the question that I raised when the Holy Father first announced plans for the commission. The post that follows originally appeared last December...

The Singing Nun

Ah, Phil, Phil, curmudgeonly Phil. Did you really have to say, “An Italian nun is a singing sensation, and I don't care”? When the whole world is brimming with hope that Sister Cristina Scuccia will make people love nuns again, as well as stimulating vocations, did Phil really have...

Fun with statistics

The Society of Jesus has released an internal census, showing that there were 12,298 Jesuit priests in the world last year, and 17,287 members of the Society as a whole. In 1975, those figures were 20,627 and 28,856, respectively. Under normal circumstances we’d call that a steep decline....

The Clash of Law: Parsing the Modern War against Catholics, Catholicism and the Church

Opposition to Catholicism in the modern West is brought to a head almost universally through the pressure of today’s legal systems. Typically our neighbors do not, all on their own, dislike Catholics enough to harass or bully them. We do not, as Catholics, fear walking down the street, or...

Be Prepared: What you need to know before Pope Francis meets President Obama

Count on it: Immediately after tomorrow’s meeting between Pope Francis and President Obama, the spinmasters of the Obama administration—the same talented propagandists who successfully portrayed an inexperienced junior senator as a political savior—will be working furiously to...

Mother Teresa, the Enigma

Is David Scott’s biography of Mother Teresa of Calcutta a disaster or a smashing success? It’s published by Sophia Press, so there are no qualms there. It is spiritually sound, even illuminating, so there are no qualms there, either. But like every other study of Mother Teresa, it...

Obama meets the Pope: the spin begins

Speaking to reporters after his meeting with Pope Francis, President Obama said that Church concerns about religious freedom and individual conscience were “not really a topic of conversation” during the exchange. That’s funny. The Vatican summary of the discussion mentioned “questions of...

Pitfalls Surrounding Catholic Consideration of the Arts

Several of us who set the direction for CatholicCulture.org have been discussing the obvious connections between “culture” (which is part of our name) and “the arts”. These connections are always of interest, of course, but in fact we have done very little with the arts...

Understanding Our Family's High Feasts

The Church just celebrated two solemnities in March within a week of each other, the Solemnity of St. Joseph and the Solemnity of the Annunciation. While there are other solemnities throughout the year, no other part of the Liturgical Year does a solemnity stand out in such marked contrast to the...

Homosexuality, divorce and remarriage: Will a Catholic school in North Carolina set the tone for the Church?

A continuation of one of the most important Catholic stories of the past decade is unfolding at a Catholic high school in Charlotte, North Carolina. Parents and students at that school are divided in response to a presentation critical of homosexuality at a school assembly. The resolution of this...

Pope continues meetings with heads of debtor nations

This week Pope Francis met with the leader of a nation whose proud tradition of democratic government is now endangered by a crippling national debt—a nation whose political leaders have done nothing to alleviate that debt, despite repeated warnings from abroad. The next day, the Pope...

Can the Supreme Court duck the central issue in the Hobby Lobby case?

In the the Hobby Lobby case, a key question facing the Supreme Court is whether a corporate enterprise qualifies for the same religious-freedom protections as an individual. At first glance that seems a very simple question. It is a long-established principle of Anglo-American law, set forth...

Two great, chart-topping Benedictine chant albums

Weeks ago, we reported the unusual phenomenon of two chant albums reaching the top of Billboard’s traditional classical music chart. I say this is unusual, but not unheard of, because it seems to happen every few years since the ‘90s chant craze was kicked off by the 1994 rerelease of...

Noah: far from a natural disaster

Darren Aronofsky’s Noah lets us know within the first thirty seconds that it isn’t a literal translation of the Biblical account. In the course of a text opening that quickly recounts the story of Eden, the fall of Adam and Eve, and Cain’s murder of Abel, we learn that Cain and...

about that 'pedophilia' crisis...

Yet again an accounting of sex-abuse charges against American Catholic priests shows that 80% of the reported victims were male, with the largest number of victims coming from the 10-14 age group. What do you call a man who makes adolescent boys the object of his lust? To control the language...

The deaths of 2 heroes: one military, the other literary

This past weekend I learned—in one case very belatedly—about the death of two great men, from very different walks of life. Senator Jeremiah Denton was a war hero before he became a US Senator. The bravery that he displayed while a POW in Vietnam was so striking that in its...

A Life Hidden in God

This year I have been using Bishop Jaques-Benigne Bossuet’s Meditations for Lent. I’ve found it uniformly helpful, and some of the individual meditations have touched me deeply. Here is an example, the meditation for the Fourth Sunday in Lent, entitled “A Life Hidden in...

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