Action Alert!

Search or Browse Commentary

All Catholic commentary from March 2015

Church Fathers: Introduction to the Greek Apologists

Parallel with the increasing influence of Christianity as a religion distinct from Judaism, the second century saw, along with sporadic State persecutions and anti-Christian riots, the publication of numerous works of anti-Christian literature. While Christianity would in subsequent centuries be...

Don’t touch that Smile! Helping CatholicCulture.org by shopping on Amazon.

Amazon SMILE is a nice program to support the charity of your choice. But it is all too easy to wipe the smile off the face of your designated charity if you try to help in the wrong way. The reason is that the SMILE program pales into insignificance if your favorite charity is also an Amazon...

Two links: moral relativism in elementary schools and charges that God is savage

Today I read two articles which should both be of interest to our readers, albeit for different reasons. First, in an NYT blog piece called "Why Our Children Don't Think There Are Moral Facts," philosopher Justin P. McBrayer shows that while we might think young people are...

Evangelization and the Gift of Meaning

Ever since Pope Francis said that we don’t need to talk about “these issues” all the time—referring to today’s most contested moral issues—Catholics have thought more deeply about evangelization. Whether we welcomed the comment or were appalled by it (a reaction...

Social Media’s Vanity Fair: Danger on every side!

When Russian Patriarch Kirill of Moscow criticized the vanity inherent in social media, he didn’t know the half of it. And that’s not a knock on social media; it’s a knock on life. Listen, there will always be people who go on endlessly about nothing (much as I’m doing...

Pope Francis prevails in Round I of battle for Vatican reform

Pope Francis has withstood the first major challenge to his campaign for reform within the Vatican. But the battle is not over. The Pope will face more challenges as that campaign continues. By approving the statutes of the Secretariat for the Economy with only a few minor modifications, the...

A thin-skinned Vatican spokesman harms his own standing

Father Thomas Rosica works with the Vatican press office, and is sometimes quoted by the English-speaking media as a spokesman for the Vatican. So you might take it for granted that he has some understanding of the field of public relations. You’d be wrong. Hounded by an obscure Canadian...

Opening Ourselves to Meaning and Purpose

If it is true that many or most people in our time are frustrated by a lack of meaning in their lives (see Evangelization and the Gift of Meaning), then it makes perfect sense for Christians to try to open their neighbors to the possibility of meaning. This will serve both as a genuine human...

The stumbling block of morality on Self-Deprecation Day

I proclaim today Self-Deprecation Day. I like ideas. God knows the reader must look hard to find commentary on concrete and newsworthy circumstances in my collected works. Even when I write about current events, I often manage to evade the responsibility of specific knowledge. Take last...

Are Sundays Part of Lent?

I clearly recall a Lenten sermon from my childhood during which the priest shared a statistic that chocolate stores are more profitable during Lent than the rest of year. At the beginning of Lent many people make the resolutions to give up sweets resulting in slow sales. By mid-Lent these...

On Pope Francis: Getting our heads out of the sand

Every pope is controversial, but not all are controversial in the same quarters. You may recall how controversial (indeed, how annoying and even appalling) Pope John Paul II was to all those who aspired to worldly sophistication (and to schismatic Traditionalists). How they loved to denigrate the...

On same-sex marriage, the Irish bishops are inoffensive

“Marriage is important—Reflect before you change it.” That, believe it or not, is the title of a statement released today by the Irish bishops’ conference, regarding the country’s May referendum on same-sex marriage. Nowhere in the full statement do the Irish...

Miscellany: on Irish nationalism, no-fault divorce, and a curious Vatican cover-up

Catching up on some interesting commentaries that have appeared recently on other sites: In the Irish Catholic, the always insightful David Quinn observes that Ireland’s major political parties are alienating Catholic voters, with interesting consequences especially in Northern...

Liberal liturgists try to explain away a key appointment by Pope Francis

Within a few weeks after the election of Pope Francis, rumors began to circulate in Rome that the new Pontiff would appoint Archbishop Piero Marini as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW). For liberal liturgists, these rumors were cause for celebration; for conservatives, for...

Gertrud von Le Fort: Tracing our tangled approach to God

The Baroness Gertrud von le Fort (1876 - 1971) was a remarkable German Catholic novelist and poet. She studied under the brilliant and highly-influential Protestant philosopher of religion, Ernst Troeltsch, whose works she edited. But von le Fort herself converted to Catholicism in 1926. Her...

And if you don't think things have changed for the better...

I cannot speak for the entire world, but if you don't think things have changed for the better in the Catholic Church in the United States, all you need to do is read this news story: Virginia bishops back pastor who broke with K of C council over honor for pro-abortion...

What is ‘meaning’ and where does it come from?

I have already argued that we must learn again to trust our own native ways of knowing, our own holistic human perception of reality, if we are going to discover meaning (see Opening Ourselves to Meaning and Purpose). Given a basic acceptance of our own humanity and a corresponding trust in...

Fasting and Mercy

The theme of conversion is a thread that runs all through Lent, but conversion takes on different aspects throughout the phases of Lent. The first two and a half weeks focused on the interior turning of hearts; the liturgy urges the faithful to reflect and examine consciences thoroughly. The...

Want to fix the liturgical music in your parish? Here's how.

The news that Jean Vanier has won the 2015 Templeton Prize reminded me that my friend Paul Jernberg met Vanier years ago, and the encounter was instrumental (no pun intended) in rousing Paul’s interest in sacred music, and his appreciation of chant. Long-time readers of the Catholic Culture...

Priests need defense against false accusations

A Catholic priest who is falsely accused of sexual abuse can’t count on his bishop to defend him. That’s the unhappy conclusion one reaches after reading informative article in the Homiletic and Pastoral Review by David Shaneyfelt and Joseph Maher. Twenty years ago, diocesan...

The Pope's conservative critics: Douthat's useful taxonomy

Who Are Pope Francis’s Critics? asks Ross Douthat of the New York Times. At the start of his perceptive analysis, he points out that while the blogosphere is alive with the angry words of conservative/traditionalist Catholics who distrust or even despise the Pontiff, there is no evidence that...

Compensation for eugenics victims: Good, but what of present evils?

When the Virginia General Assembly voted to compensate victims of forced sterilization in February, Virginia became the second State to make payments to those who had been harmed by the eugenics laws that were so popular in the early 20th century. Over 30 states forcibly sterilized those they...

The Apostolic Age opens Easter night on NBC

Following the massive popularity of the 2013 miniseries The Bible, NBC will air a 12-part sequel, A. D. The Bible Continues. The original series, produced by husband and wife team Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, aired in 2013 on the History Channel. A. D. The Bible Continues will premiere this...

The early printing press: not just a means of spreading Protestantism!

Catholic artist Daniel Mitsui has begun a series of articles "On the Catholic Art of the Printed Book," which illuminates (pun intended) yet another beautiful genre of art from the Catholic late Middle Ages and Renaissance. There are two parts in Mitsui's series so far. The...

The Great Saints of March: Patrick and Joseph

I always look forward to mid-March. My birthday falls on March 16 and it marks the beginning of a series of breaks from the Lenten focus and a little festivity. Not everyone is celebrating my birthday, but the Church honors two very popular saints, Patrick and Joseph, within three days (and...

Climate-change heretics and Al Gore's inquisition

In today’s America, no one—not even one of those nasty old Christian fundamentalists—would propose punishment for people who do not accept the truths of the Bible. Yet Al Gore—who was very nearly elected President of the United States just a few years ago— has now...

Our Failure to Penetrate Reality: The Role of the Examined Life

When I explored the nature and sources of meaning in our lives (see What is ‘meaning’ and where does it come from?), I emphasized that the answers were largely self-evident. But if that is so, why do the men and women of our age have so much trouble embracing them? Part of the...

If a parish worker is under investigation: a pastor's dilemma

Today’s headline story leaves some key questions unanswered, and the problem outlined below might not apply. So let’s make this a purely hypothetical case: Imagine that you are the pastor of a Catholic church. You are notified by local police that one of the teachers in your...

The Church of Williamson and the Futility of the Necessity Defense

Bishop Richard Williamson’s ordination of a new bishop for his relatively new breakaway church is a case study in the separatist principle, and an illustration of the absurdity of the “necessity defense”. This is not the first splintering among those who fail to understand the...

Are atheists afraid?

Writing in the Guardian on March 3rd, John Gray addressed what is becoming an increasingly common theme: The concern among atheists that religion is growing, not diminishing, around the world. Along the way, Gray skewers not only the idea that atheism is the wave of the future but the notion that...

Lenten Conversion and Repentance: The True Vine and the Sacrament of Reconciliation

On Ash Wednesday the Church exhorted us to “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” The ashes were the sign of the turning of our hearts back to God. The main themes throughout Lent are 1) baptism and 2) conversion and repentance. Not all of us are catechumens preparing to receive Baptism...

Pope Francis on the death penalty

When Pope Francis addressed the International Committee against the Death Penalty on March 20th, he emphasized: “Nowadays the death penalty is inadmissible, no matter how serious the crime committed.” This raises the question of whether the Pope is prepared to further develop the...

The Pope's unconvincing arguments against the death penalty

Full disclosure: I oppose the use of the death penalty in America today, for prudential reasons that I may explain in another essay. When Pope Francis said execution is always inadmissible, I was not dismayed by his conclusion. But I was dismayed by the logic he used to reach that...

Christianity, Poster Child for the Examined Life?

In my last installment in this series on the relevance of meaning to evangelization, I discussed the importance of self-examination as a counter-weight to human fallibility. I concluded that Christianity has a powerful claim to consideration as a source of meaning precisely because, as I put it,...

A blacklist for Catholic universities

Earlier this month, almost 400 U.S. corporations filed an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in favor of same-sex marriage. Since many universities give commencement honors to business leaders every year, the Cardinal Newman Society has released a statement urging Catholic schools not to...

The Solemnity of the Annunciation: the Moment of Incarnation in Our Lives

With the Church we celebrate a second solemnity in the month of March and also during the Lenten season: the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. This is such a pivotal feast in our Catholic faith, and unfortunately it seems overshadowed by all the celebrations for St. Patrick and St. Joseph...

Some cardinals may fear blackmail

Almost exactly a year ago, Robert Mickens was suspended from his post as Vatican correspondent for the London Tablet, after he showed his contempt for Pope Benedict XVI with a Facebook comment that he was looking forward to “the Rat’s funeral.” Usually Mickens was more discreet,...

Holy Week Preparation

This post was originally written for 2014. The links have been updated for this year. Holy Week is one of the busiest weeks of the year for our family. Preparing for Christmas, especially when we have to plan celebrations for both sides of the family and possible travel is also busy, but it...

Cardinal Kasper: Will flattery get him somewhere?

Did you notice the second half of our news story on Cardinal Walter Kasper’s request for prayers? The Cardinal was introducing a new book. Kasper wanted prayers “because a battle is going on”—the battle to shape a position on divorce, remarriage and the Eucharist...

Catholic movie watching is more important than watching Catholic movies

America magazine has published an interview with Catholic film critic Steven Greydanus. Greydanus, now a candidate for the permanent diaconate in the Archdiocese of Newark, writes for the National Catholic Register and 

A request for help from our unregistered followers

CatholicCulture.org faces an unusual challenge this month. We have critical bills that will cripple our apostolate if they are not met by March 31st. But we find ourselves $8,000 short of being able to meet those expenses. Those who interact with us primarily through social media are generally...

Scientific Evidence for the Creator

Back in 2012 I wrote an extensive review of Fr. Robert J. Spitzer’s impressive book, New Proofs for the Existence of God (see Proving God). Spitzer examined both scientific and philosophical proofs, and he did a brilliant job, but his book was not targeted at the casual reader. That’s...

Surrogate parenthood = exploitation of desperate women

Elle (“The Body”) Macpherson is expecting a baby, the tabloids tell us. The supermodel, who is currently married to a billionaire, is reportedly ready to expand her family. But there’s a problem. Elle Macpherson is now 51 years old: beyond normal child-bearing age. Ah, but...

Patricia Jannuzzi on gay activists: And the real problem is?

Anne Hendershott wrote a pretty good column on the Crisis website the other day (A Catholic School Removes Teacher for Defending Faith). She rightly identifies the excessive backlash (both popular and official) against Catholic priests, religious and teachers who put a foot wrong on the question...

Recognizing the Noonday Devil

If you had to guess the characteristic vice of our age, what would you pick? Some might say lust, and that’s certainly a big one, but it doesn’t seem to get to the root of the problem. The safe choice, perhaps, would be pride. It’s certainly true, but the same could be said of...

Praying in Rhythm with the Feasts and Seasons: The Rural Life Prayerbook

There were two Catholic publications printed in 1946 that were ahead of their time. The National Catholic Rural Life Conference (NCRLC) published a small booklet entitled With the Blessing of the Church, translated by Most Rev. J. H. Schlarman and Father Philip T. Weller published a Latin and...

Insights on the enigma that is Pope Francis

Two years after his election, millions of Catholics are still trying to understand Pope Francis. Two recent essays have provided useful perspectives: Writing for Crisis, Msgr. Hans Feichtinger, a priest of the Diocese of Passau, Germany, makes the important point that Pope Francis is not, like...

Cardinal Marx’s Devastating Misconception of the Church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx’s unfortunate assertion that the German bishops “cannot wait for a Synod” to approve Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics has drawn severe criticism from two other German cardinals. Clearly, there are significant divisions within the German...

Why homosexuals need not worry over the Indiana law

It’s fashionable this week to hyperventilate about Indiana’s new law protecting religious freedom. So it was refreshing to see a reasonable, sane assessment in an AP piece that began: Religious freedom laws like the one causing an uproar in Indiana have never been successfully used...

Church Fathers: St. Justin Martyr

St. Justin Martyr, generally considered the most important of the Greek apologists, was born between 100 and 110, the son of a pagan Priscus in Flavia Neapolis, Palestine. Justin tells us in his own writings that as a young man, he dallied with a few different schools of philosophy, yet found...

Want more commentary? Visit the Archives.