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All Catholic commentary from May 2022

Peter’s Tumultuous Vocation and Ours

During the Passion, Peter’s crash-and-burn is complete: his cowardly threefold denial; his bitter sorrow; indeed, his self-loathing.

The scandal of Russian Orthodoxy, and our own scandals

There can be no true religion that does not incarnate within itself the authority of Christ. Here we find the correction of a misguided territorial Orthodoxy, the correction of Protestantism’s dependence on private and personal judgment, and even the correction of Catholics—when we listen to our own “interpretations”, forgetting that not a single one of us has merited the promises of Jesus Christ.

Apocrypha Now! On the Myth of the Lost Gospels

Why is it big news when someone claims to find a fragment of a lost "gospel"? Why do people say that these ancient apocrypha threaten to overturn everything Christians believe? In the second century, some of these pseudonymous books appeared and quickly landed in the remainder bin, called into question by giants such as Irenaeus and Tertullian. They're news today because of a modern myth, crafted by one of the renowned literary critics of the 20th century.

Rolling your own understanding of Revelation? Don’t.

It is the Magisterium of the Catholic Church which infallibly protects us against the arbitrary “choices”, by which, in rejecting the richness of the whole, we can and do distort the mystery of Christ. Like undisciplined children, we proceed even to the point of using our own opinions as reasons to reject the ecclesiastical authority Our Lord established to help us! The result is always either our own peculiar ideas or a slavish adherence to fashion.

Liturgical Living: Part One, Liturgical 101

"Liturgical living” or “living the Liturgical Year” are unofficial labels of popular piety, which are ways of living the liturgy and feasts of the Liturgical calendar in ways that might be more tangible and accessible, incorporating the different senses. It's a popular trend, but becoming a little too commercial and materialistic. Why do we try to live the liturgical year in the domestic church?

St. John Henry Newman—Knowledge of God’s Will without Obedience

"If you hate your own corruption in sincerity and truth, if you are really pierced to the heart that you do not do what you know you should do, if you would love God if you could, then the Gospel speaks to you words of peace and hope. It is a very different thing indolently to say, "I would I were a different man," and to close with God's offer to make you different, when it is put before you. Here is the test between earnestness and insincerity."

On the sad—but inevitable?—demise of the Catholic News Service

The world of Catholic news coverage has changed enormously in the past generation, and CNS is a victim of the changes. But the need for a distinctive Catholic perspective on current events is greater than ever. I shall be sorry to see CNS leave the field.

Non-Conformists

The Gospel provides the pithiest of organizational mission statements: “Go forth and baptize all nations.”

Natural piety: The Burmese Harp (1956)

Kon Ichikawa's 1956 classic The Burmese Harp is, oddly, a World War II film from the Japanese perspective. It's an anti-war film, and a film about piety toward the dead, but it's also about vocation and how it relates to membership in a community.

The most astonishing item in the Sermon on the Mount

Throughout the sermon, a positive spirituality eclipses (without minimizing) avoidance of the most obvious sins: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder... But I say to you that everyone who is angry with this brother will be liable to judgment’” (5:21-22). And so it goes throughout the text. But there is a glimpse of something far more dramatic than that.

Through Hymns, With Hymns, In Hymns: The Fathers & Music

Music formed the early Christians in faith. It catechized them. Inspired them. Unified them. Healed them. The Fathers — from Ignatius of Antioch to John of Damascus — testify to this fact. Many of them wrote music. Augustine wrote a book about music. At a time when most people could not read, music was the most effective delivery system for doctrine. The decisions of the councils would have been dead letters apart from their placement in musical settings.

Red flags in the Vatican financial trial

Even on the most benign reading, the story that Cardinal Becciu told the Vatican tribunal is a tale of unsupervised, even reckless investing, without even a hint of proper accountability.

132—Technology and the Artist: Glenn Gould in the Studio

"The justification of art is the internal combustion it ignites in the hearts of men and not its shallow, externalized, public manifestations. The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenaline but is, rather, the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity."

The Vatican’s craven response to Cardinal Zen’s arrest

Rather than denouncing the unjust arrest of a Prince of the Church, the Vatican complimented the security forces for the way they had treated him!

The decline and fall of the bureaucratic state

The denial of reality is the operational mode not only of government but of academia, the mass media, and corporate life. And if the simple repetition of abject nonsense is not sufficient to brainwash everybody, then everybody must be subject to increasing bureaucratic control, so that independent speech and independent action are regulated out of existence, leaving an ever-narrowing space even for critical thought.

A French Vatican observer ponders the ‘end of the regime’

“The Vatican is buzzing with the most alarming rumors” about the surgery last July, from which the Pontiff recovered slowly.

When the party replaces the sacrament

If the party is the only reason for scheduling the sacrament, and if Church leaders meekly surrender when civic leaders proclaim that the sacraments are not essential, sooner or later apathetic Catholics are bound to realize that they can skip the ceremony and move straight to the party.

In the Catholic campaign, something extraordinary

The Christian life is a great paradox of suffering and joy. I don’t mean to claim that I have suffered a great deal—certainly not very much in comparison with many others! But the “triumph of the cross” is always on display in Catholicism, the power of resurrection shining through shortcomings and setbacks. Those who take Christ and the Church seriously nearly always have to experience the threat of failure before they can work at making things better for another season or so.

Archbishop Cordileone & Speaker Pelosi in Perspective

A courageous celibate provides doctrinal air cover for Catholic troops on the ground. Clergy who fail to use their celibacy for the fearless proclamation of the Gospel become selfish comfortable bachelors.

Pelosi and the archbishop(s): what next?

No one who actually reads the archbishop’s statement could fail to recognize his obvious pastoral concern for her spiritual welfare, his willingness to give her every benefit of doubt, his reluctance to take this disciplinary action.

Hail, Caesar! (2016) w/ T. C. Merrill

A discussion of the Coen brothers' most Catholic film, Hail, Caesar!, which deals with the problem of vocation and the spiritual value of art.

OT Jews, NT Christians: Why such a different moral code? Part 1

There was a great deal of law in the lives of the Jews as chronicled in the Old Testament, and of law quite different from our own religious laws today. But if we think Old Covenant morality was markedly different from New Covenant morality, we must ask ourselves what the most fundamental moral code for the Jews actually was. And then we realize at once that this law was spelled out in the Ten Commandments as revealed by God to Moses, the Law that was etched in stone on Mount Sinai.

Martyrdom and the Mass

In the first three centuries of Christian history, the practice of the faith was a capital crime, and many gave their lives as the ultimate testimony. The Church called them "witnesses" — in Greek, martures, whence we get the English word martyr. To speak of martyrdom, the early Fathers employed language usually reserved only for the Eucharist. So what does martyrdom have to do with the Mass?

133—Think Like a Poet—Ryan Wilson

In a wide-ranging and erudite interview, poet and translator Ryan Wilson joins the podcast to discuss how the poet makes use of the classical virtue of xenia or hospitality, what poets can learn from the work of translation, the "romantic turn" (inner vision) and the "classical turn" (communication/craft) in poetry, the great Latin poet Horace, and more. Ryan performs, in his dynamic style, classic poems by Horace and others, as well as his own poems.

St. John Henry Newman—The Power of Prayer: 3 Poems

In this episode from the archives, a selection of three of Newman’s poems is read, all of which were composed within a few days of one another and all reflecting on the efficacy of prayer.

OT Jews, NT Christians: Why such a different moral code? Part 2

Divine Providence will always be somewhat difficult to grasp. While the Jews had many poets and prophets who could offer considerable insight into what God was up to, there was always a tension between what we might call the spirit and the letter of the Law. Thus we may be able to look back and perceive the overall salvific situation of the Jews from afar, in order to understand the distinctive pressures under which they lived, and the Providential strengths and weaknesses of their response.

Cardinal Gregory cannot duck the Pelosi-Communion ban

Either it is right to bar Nancy Pelosi from Communion, in which case other bishops should follow the Cordileone decree; or it is wrong, in which case other bishops should protest. This cannot be just a matter of local policy.

Now Available: Liturgical Year Ebook for Ordinary Time after Easter

We have just released the fifth volume in the 2021-2022 Liturgical Year series of ebooks. Volume five covers the first half of the long stretch of Ordinary Time between the close of the Easter Season on Pentecost and the beginning of Advent. Like all CatholicCulture.org ebooks, this volume is downloadable free of charge.

Pope’s rebuke to Americans; prospects for the conclave

Some analysts have suggested that the choice of Bishop McElroy is a slap at the US bishops’ conference. It is more than that; it is a whole series of slaps

Tossing us the keys to His Kingdom

During the Ascension, Jesus tosses us the keys to His Kingdom. Drive safely.

Does Canon 915 mean anything at all?

We are all sinners, in need of the spiritual healing that the Eucharist offers. But most of us are ashamed of our sins. While we fall short of the Church’s high standards, we do not call press conferences to applaud gravely sinful actions.

OT Jews, NT Christians: Why such a different moral code? Part 3

Each of us must ask whether we are getting the Message, whether we are taking advantage of the Plan. What the Jews slid over by focusing on external prescriptions we may well slide over in the name of personal liberty, self-fulfillment and “what everybody knows”. If they used an externalized grasp of the law as an excuse to justify themselves, we may well use a dim awareness of the life of grace as an excuse to follow our personal inclinations, and so do whatever we wish.

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