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All Catholic commentary from May 2014

What? A papal tweet without a furor?!

The Pope’s Twitter message for today is: I ask everyone with political responsibility to remember two things: human dignity and the common good. Thus far I haven’t seen anyone, on the Catholic right or left, claiming that this is a radical departure from traditional Church teaching. But...

Vision Book Cover Prints

The Pope as loose cannon: a balanced view

For several months now, on my daily tours through the Catholic blogosphere, I’ve read posts by the persistent critics of Pope Francis: the people who are appalled, outraged, and insulted by nearly every statement the Holy Father makes. It’s disheartening to see so many Catholics who jump at each...

Smaller Church, Bigger Faith 6: Our Responsibility

I intend here to complete my series on improving the Church’s membership. The improvement is to be desired both for the sake of the members and—in the particular context of this series—so that the Church is not so often her own worst enemy for the New Evangelization. In the...

Mexican evangelists making gains in Ohio

In Columbus, Ohio, a campaign of door-to-door evangelization, conducted by a small group of religious sisters from Mexico, has produced remarkable results in bringing lapsed Catholics back to church. Working in Hispanic neighborhoods, the sisters bring a contagious enthusiasm for the faith, Father...

Another first for Episcopalians

Gene Robinson is now the first member of the Episcopalian hierarchy who has divorced one partner of each sex. So he speaks from experience, if not from authority, when he offers this curious testimony to the revised understanding of marriage: Love can endure, even if a marriage...

The Church’s Jurisdiction Today: Action Trumps Inaction

Two stories in the news today demonstrate problems with the jurisdiction of the Catholic Church as it is currently understood and implemented. The first concerns attacks on the Vatican by a UN Panel charged with implementing the UN Convention against Torture. The second concerns the rebellion...

Divorce, remarriage, Communion, and the sense of the faithful

Some critics of Pope Francis (and some critics of yours truly) seem to think that it’s only a matter of time before Pope Francis endorses the the Kasper proposal, and gives the green light for Catholics who are divorced and remarried to receive Communion. Some traditionalists are already...

Should the Church refuse court-mandated abuse settlements?

From time to time I’ve emphasized that the Church is a public institution in her own right, with a legitimate spiritual and moral jurisdiction not only over her own members but over every single human person. She is, after all, the continuation of Christ’s mission on earth, His ongoing...

Tortured reasoning: the UN case against the Vatican

In the Wall Street Journal, two former officials of the US Justice department make a powerful argument against the claim that the Vatican should be held responsible, under the UN Convention against Torture, for sexual abuse by Catholic priests. David Rivken and Lee Casey see the obvious wisdom in...

May: The Month of Mary

I must confess that even though I have been a practicing Catholic all my life, devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary has never come easily to me. Growing up our family always practiced devotion to Mary in various ways. We would daily pray five decades of the rosary, wear the Brown Scapular, pray...

Bishops can't always be blamed for abusive priests [updated]

From Seattle comes this unusual story about a priest who, when removed from public ministry because of sexual abuse, ignored the order from his archbishop and continued functioning as a priest. Apparently the Seattle archdiocese only recently learned about his disobedience. But even if the...

Cardinal Kasper's public support for dissent undermines his own proposal

In a May 5 interview broadcast by WYNC radio in New York—in which he was repeatedly identified by host Brian Lehrer as “the Pope’s theologian”—Cardinal Walter Kasper made the striking statement: “The Church is not against birth control at all.” As...

I can see clearly now: The gifts of the Holy Spirit

Have you ever wondered why whole systems of thought can seem to be internally consistent but lead to exactly the wrong conclusions? The current justification of gay marriage, based on a theory of rights, is a good example. Or have you noticed how whole cultures can be blind to fundamental human...

Are 50% of Marriages Invalid?

In his updated essay on Cardinal Kasper’s public support for dissent, Phil Lawler reports Kasper’s claim that Pope Francis thinks 50% of today’s marriages are invalid. Along with Phil and Edward Peters, “I am stunned by the pastoral recklessness of such an assertion”...

Misunderstanding? No, Vatican understands the LCWR all too well

Commenting on the blunt scolding they recently received from the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, representatives of the Leadership Conference of Women religious have acknowledged that “mistrust has developed” in their dealings with the Vatican. And how could that...

The difference between divorce and annulment

A great many people have trouble understanding the difference between divorce and annulment. Some even refer to annulments as “Catholic divorce”. The confusion has been exacerbated by abuses in the annulment process. Whenever the discontents of the couple after marrying lead a...

Laying the Foundation: The Little Oratory

The family is the root of society, and a miniature reflection of the Mystical Body, the family of God. We can all agree there is a crumbling of the traditional family. Oftentimes the family is isolated, no longer having the support system of grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins or even...

Douthat, Kasper, and Communion—continuing a conversation

Ross Douthat, whose thoughts prompted one of my several recent reflections on the Kasper proposal, has continued the discussion with another good post, in which he asks and tentatively answers this important question: When it seems that the pope is considering what seems like a doctrinal...

Tonight at Harvard: the answer to Satanism

Paul Dudley may be spinning in his grave this evening. An astonishing event will be happening at Harvard. No, make that two astonishing events. Dudley, who was attorney general of Massachusetts some 300 years ago, endowed a series of annual lectures at which a leading religious scholar was to...

Have the Popes Written Enough? A Sharp Turn in Renewal

In a discussion with family members gathered for Mother’s Day yesterday, the question arose as to why modern popes have tended to write so much. One of our number suggested that perhaps enough had been written, and it was time for something else. The discussion then turned to whether Pope...

The ongoing absurdity of WomanPriests

A CBS report on Roman Catholic Womanpriests in Los Angeles avoids some of the usual pitfalls, acknowledging at the outset that the Catholic Church does not recognize the women as priests. Still the report only runs a few paragraphs before tumbling into absurdity: These devout Catholics, who...

The practical dangers of the Kasper proposal

Last week when I insisted (not for the first time) that Pope Francis is not going to change Church teaching on remarriage and Communion, one reader gently suggested that I might be answering the wrong question. “I believe,” he tweeted, “the main concern is not that Francis will...

Making Gay Okay: Robert Reilly Explains How and Why

Ignatius Press has recently published an excellent book by Robert R. Reilly, entitled Making Gay Okay: How Rationalizing Homosexual Behavior Is Changing Everything. The focus is on the extraordinary rapidity of the change from social rejection to social affirmation of homosexuality. The author...

Young Catholics were the driving force for Eucharistic adoration at Harvard

A young priest who participated in the Eucharistic procession across Cambridge on Monday night has an interesting perspective on the event. As excited as he was about the “big event,” Father David Barnes suggests that it should remind us all to be more careful about the “little” events that...

The Myth of the Consent of the Governed

Recently I came across an effort to demonstrate the immorality of slavery based on natural rights. The text read as follows: “No feeling can justify the enslavement of another human being, because a human being has the inalienable right to consent in his rule. This, of course, is the problem...

Surprise: The Kasper book doesn't really argue for the Kasper proposal!

You know that Cardinal Kasper has advanced a proposal that seems to call for a radical change in Church teaching on marriage. You’ve heard that Pope Francis has praised Cardinal Kasper’s new book. So you conclude, not illogically, that Pope Francis agrees with the German cardinal’s proposal. I’m...

The Hound of Heaven Never Rests

Stories of conversion or reversion to Catholicism are very captivating. I love to read how God works His grace and unfolds His plan; we are seeing the Hound of Heaven in active pursuit. I respect those who make those big leaps of faith and answer God's call. I often wonder if I would be able...

Why I can't identify with Bishop Galantino

So Bishop Nunzio Galantino can’t “identify with the expressionless person who stands outside the abortion clinic reciting their rosary”? Well, I can’t identify with Bishop Galantino. If the people praying on the sidewalks don’t look jolly, maybe it’s because...

What’s Wrong with Historical Criticism of the Bible?

When Pope Benedict XVI wrote his trilogy of works on Jesus of Nazareth, one of his purposes was to blend the useful aspects of historical criticism with a neglected tradition of Patristic exegesis. He wanted to suggest the limits of modern historical criticism and call new attention to the...

Cardinal Bertone under investigation? The Vatican's not-so-complete denial

I have no information about the report that Cardinal Bertone is being investigated for possible embezzlement. My hunch is that the report, aired by Bild, is vastly overblown. Still I can’t help noticing that the Vatican’s response is not a clear blanket denial. “There is currently no...

The Church on Marriage and Family: Joining Battle

I confess that I was surprised by the response of Manila’s Cardinal Tagle to the preparatory work for the Synod on the Family. For Cardinal Tagle said he was “shocked” by the results of the worldwide pre-Synodal questionnaire, which revealed that in most places Catholics do not...

Is a call to 'update' Church teaching a call for doctrinal change? Nope.

From time to time you’ve probably noticed a news story on this site with the parenthetical note that the story has been “updated.” Did you think, when you saw that note, that we were repudiating our earlier version of the story? I hope not. When we say that we’re “updating” a story, that note...

The limits of academic freedom: final thoughts on the 'black mass' episode at Harvard

“The last temptation is the greatest treason: to do the right deed for the wrong reason.” —T.S. Eliot.  Harvard University President Drew Faust did the right thing when she announced that she would attend a Eucharistic holy hour on the evening when a black mass was...

“You can always try to shoot a famous person”: Collin Raye on country music and the folly of seeking stardom

Anyone who listened to country music radio in the 90s has probably heard a song or three by Collin Raye, who had a string of chart-topping hits as well as a number of platinum-selling albums. Raye’s rich voice is best-known from ballads like “Little Rock” and “Love,...

Entering the Kingdom of God: What Does This Mean?

The Kingdom of God is a fairly difficult concept to pin down. The phrase does not occur in the Old Testament, but we find it directly referenced some sixty times in the books of the New Testament, with even more references in slightly different terms. Five of the NT writers—Matthew, Mark,...

Sin vs. Attachment to Sin: A Critical Distinction

In yesterday’s On the Culture essay (Entering the Kingdom of God: What Does This Mean?), I cite several passages in St. Paul’s letters which indicate that certain classes of sinners cannot enter the Kingdom of God. But we are all guilty of at least some of the sins Paul identifies, and...

Patriotic Holidays: Catholic Misgivings

Each year in the United States, on both Independence Day and Memorial Day, I have decidedly mixed feelings. This is especially true at Masses which emphasize American “freedom” and honor all those in the armed forces who have “died for our freedom”. There is a certain...

The Same Government Makes Domestic and Foreign Policy

It’s an odd thing. In the United States, as a broad rule, liberals are certain that US social programs are good and that US military actions are evil. By the same broad rule, conservatives are typically certain that US social programs are evil and US military actions are good. These...

Sensitive Topics, Myself, Bishops, and Removing All Doubt

After several years of self-restraint, I finally gave voice to misgivings about what I regard as abuses in the otherwise legitimate celebration of patriotic holidays. In each previous year, I had decided not to borrow trouble. This year, on the US holiday of Memorial Day, I thought I could avoid...

Ideology vs. individual: a novel of ideas

One of the tragedies of World War II is that, as much as it was “the good war,” many of its winners never completely understood what they were fighting for. This is true even in an external sense – the British and Americans were simply unaware of much of what was going on in...

The Discernible Features of the Kingdom of God...in Us

Last week in Entering the Kingdom of God: What Does this Mean?, I reviewed the relevant New Testament texts to suggest an answer to my title question. “Put simply,” I concluded, “entering the Kingdom of God means receiving the Holy Spirit.” And then I asked: What...

A serious take on popular music

Musically inclined readers may be interested in a new blog, Critic's Corner, by Dr. Kurt Poterack, a composer who directs the choirs and the Minor in Sacred Music at Christendom College. Poterack worked as an editor on The Adoremus Hymnal and edited the journal Sacred Music for several years,...

Feastday Highlights: The Visitation

The Church closes the month dedicated to Our Lady with the Feast of the Visitation falling on the last day of May. This feast celebrates the events described in Luke 1:39-56, with the Blessed Virgin Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth after the Annunciation. The feast arose from medieval times,...

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