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All Catholic commentary from June 2010

'Defrocking' priests: the media keep asking the wrong question

When you ask the wrong question, you're likely to get the wrong answer. In a story that appeared in hundreds of American newspapers earlier this week, the Associated Press claimed that in 1989, "The future Pope Benedict XVI refused to remove a US priest from the ministry." That opening...

the theology of rising hemlines: a new approach to 'revelation'

The next time some Catholic scholar recommends a fresh consideration of the possibility of ordaining women, think of these words of wisdom from our separated brethren: I am an Episcopal priest in my early 50s who has three tattoos. Two of them are visible when I wear a skirt above my...

intended complications

Writing for US Catholic, Patrick McCormick-- a religious-studies professor at Gonzaga University-- reveals a great deal about his attitude toward Church authority as he delivers his opinions on the Phoenix abortion case. Bishop Olmsted and the Vatican claim that every "direct"...

cool your jets

Good morning! This is Acme Air Charters. How can I help you? [We cannot hear the other party to the phone call] Oh, yes! I've just been reading the headlines.  ...... Of course, sir. That plane is prepared; we're ready to fly on 15 minutes' notice. You have your own helicopter...

What the Pope knew, and the investment bankers didn't

Late in the summer of 2008, the price of shares in Lehman Brothers went into a terminal decline. Richard Fuld, the chief executive of the investment bank, was desperately working the phones, looking for new investors to shore up his supply of working capital. The firm was fundamentally sound, Fuld...

Having Children: Anatomy of a Cultural Strategy

The West’s demographic winter may finally be striking fear where fear should be struck. While news of falling birth rates has plagued Europe for a long time, there seems to be a growing interest in actually doing something about the problem. And now, for the first time, the birth rate in the...

Coach John Wooden, RIP

One of the most influential voices in my adult life has been John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach who died Friday night. I never met the man, but his writing spoke to me very personally, and he unknowingly assumed a mentor's role in my life. The book Wooden on...

What the West can learn from the Synod for the Middle East

The working document for the October 2010 meeting of the Synod of Bishops, devoted to the Church in the Middle East, should be an eye-opener for comfortable Christians in the West. Informed Christians in Europe and North America realize that the Church in the Middle East is suffering: from...

HAL the malicious computer goes where ICEL fears to tread

Pope Pius XII did not use a computer word-processing program. We know that with certainty, since the programs weren't available in his lifetime. But if MicroSoft Word had been on the market in 1954, when Pius XII released his encyclical Sacra Viginitas, it would be easier to explain some passages...

firing squads or lethal injections?

The public statement by Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, objecting to a firing-squad execution in Utah, caught my attention because it raises a question that has often troubled me.  Set aside, for the moment, the arguments for the abolition of capital punishment. If the state...

Science, faith, and the meaning of the universe: what works?

Interviewed by Diane Sawyer on ABC television, the noted cosmologist Steven Hawking said: "There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, [and] science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works." We've heard the...

give to gain: a shocker?

I have done a fair bit of business networking over the years in which the "give to gain" concept is the driving theme of the networking group. Indeed, this concept is understood and practiced by the vast majority of successful business networkers. The motto of Business Network...

The Pope speaks 'for the first time'-- yet again

 Addressing the sex abuse crisis for the first time from the seat of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI begged forgiveness on Friday…  That's the opening line of a New York Times report on the Pope's homily during the closing Mass of the Year for Priests. Did your...

tick, tock

A California court has ordered the public release of depositions by Cardinal Roger Mahony and other officials of the Los Angeles archdiocese in a notorious sex-abuse cases. Stand by. The grand jury

the ultimate minority-- or, 'quick, think of a new euphemism'

Non-white babies accounted for 48.6% of all the births in the United States between July 2008 and July 2009, the Census Bureau reports. That figure was up 1.8% from the previous year. If the trend continues, this year, for the first time, the majority of American newborns will be from racial...

a day in the life of the Boston archdiocese

   Thursday morning, June 10, 2010     The leading fundraiser for Boston's Catholic schools tells the press that he's delighted the...

the judicial war on marriage and fatherhood

When you sign a contract-- to take a job, or buy a car, or sell a house-- you should feel secure. As long as you have read and understood the document, and you know that you can fulfill your responsibilities, you can be confident that the other party will do his part as well. Even if he is not a...

how the fox got into the henhouse

The Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts, is still recovering from the embarrassment of learning that a counselor in a program endorsed by the diocese was a former priest who faced “credible” sex-abuse charges. “We dropped the ball,” said diocesan spokesman Mark Dupont....

David Cameron Updates Christ

“If our Lord Jesus was around today,” says the youngest British prime minister in the last 200 years, “he would very much be backing a strong agenda on equality and equal rights, and not judging people on their sexuality.” Thus does David Cameron justify his support of...

coming soon to a bookstore near you

 The paperback edition of The Faithful Departed is going to the printers today. Look for it later this summer. You can even pre-order, if you like-- and get a sneak preview of the cover-- by following the link to Amazon's page for the...

what they didn't know and when they didn't know it

The argument is now as familiar, as depressing—and, yes, as unhealthy-- as a bout with the flu. Cardinal Mahony said that back in the 1980s he put a predatory priest back to work (and withheld evidence of the priest’s crimes) because he didn’t know then what he knows now about...

a prayer is more than a 'few nice words'

In Springfield, Massachusetts, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) is dissatisfied with Bishop Timothy McDonnell. Bill Nash, a member of SNAP, said, “There's so much more that he needs to do and for him to just pray for us, that's not good enough." We...

doom, gloom, and-- worst of all-- boredom

A prominent Australian microbiologist, Frank Fenner, predicts that mankind will be extinct within a century. Are you yawning? Probably. Not only because we’ll pretty much all be dead within a century anyway, but also because we’ve heard so many of these gloomy predictions in the past....

Christopher Hitchens’ Beef with God

I couldn’t help but notice The Week’s June 4th sidebar on Christopher Hitchens, the English-born author of the 2007 book God is Not Great. The Week’s claim to value is that it summarizes what everybody else is saying—from a variety of viewpoints—about the many...

a Catholic identity for Catholic University

 When he introduced John Garvey as the new president of Catholic University, Archbishop Allen Vigneron, the chairman of the board of trustees, told the Washington Post that he expected Garvey to continue the work begun by his predecessor “to reclaim a Catholic identity” for the...

Caution: Cardinal George, the CHA, and the terms of the debate

Cardinal George is very unhappy with the Catholic Health Association, and rightly so.  But before wholeheartedly endorsing the cardinal's complaint against the group that helped mute Catholic opposition to the health-care reform bill, take a careful look at his logic. Insofar as Cardinal...

same news, different perspectives

Pondering the news that American taxpayers contributed $1 billion in funding for pro-abortion organizations between 2002 and 2009, David Gibson makes a pointed observation on the Commonweal blog: That period, for those with short memories, generally corresponds to the two terms of a certain...

Pell? Ouellet? Don't make any large bets

You've seen the reports: that Cardinal Pell has been blocked from an appointment as prefect of the Congregation for Bishops; that Cardinal Ouellet will be given the post.  Don't count on it. After a series of phone calls to informed sources, I'm willing to make 3...

Vatican II on Priestly Training

The eighth document issued by the Second Vatican Council, on October 28, 1965, was the Decree on Priestly Training (Optatam Totius). This simply sets forth basic principles to guide the establishment of more specific programs for priestly formation in the different countries and rites throughout...

How to keep the media honest in coverage of the Church

In troubled times, the news is more important than ever. And we live in troubled times—especially for the Catholic Church. Think about it: Sometimes reading the paper or watching the newscast is a form of entertainment. (Who’s pitching for the local team tonight?) Sometimes it’s a spectator...

A Father's Day Tribute to My Dad

My dad has been the biggest personal and business influence in my life. For better or worse, the composition of a man is significantly shaped by his father; in my case, decidedly for the better. I’ve been blessed with a number of strong father figures in my life—including my...

A 'scandal' the Vatican should love

With all the nasty reports in circulation these days, you'd think a weary Vatican PR team would snap at the opportunity for a change of pace. Here's the recipe: a light, funny, personal-interest story, on a subject that Italian columnists would love; a story that doesn't involve any...

Scratch a Myth, Find a Jesuit

They’re at it again. In direct defiance of a directive from New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, Fr. Joe Costantino, pastor of the Jesuit-run Saint Francis Xavier parish, is insisting that the parish remain involved in promoting and participating in the Gay Pride march in New York on June...

Doctrinal Development on Religious Liberty

One of our generous supporters, Jonathan Liem, has asked me to examine the Second Vatican Council’s teaching on religious liberty in order to resolve the questions some have expressed about how the Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae) can be reconciled with certain preceding...

the Apocalypse, by popular demand

A Pew Research Center poll finds that 41% of all Americans believe that Jesus Christ will return by the year 2050. That’s an interesting datum, insofar as it offers a glimpse of American religious beliefs. But coming as it does, in the middle of a report in which average Americans offer...

The Christian faith that our world cannot accept

In a single phrase—a single word, really-- last Sunday’s Gospel reading reminded us how completely the path of Christ diverges from the expectations of our society. The Gospel was taken from the 9th chapter of Luke, verses 18- 24. In the standard US lectionary, taken from the New American...

Apocalypse, Again

It’s fascinating that so many Americans (41%, apparently) believe the Second Coming is imminent. This no doubt reflects two things: First, the importance of various forms of Protestant fundamentalism and Catholic apparitionism in the United States; and, second, a general feeling that...

make yourself comfortable

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who has devoted so much of his episcopal career to the effort to make everyone comfortable, is approaching his 80th birthday, and already the celebrations have begun. (No, I don’t mean the celebrations of the fact that as of July 7, “Uncle Teddy”...

don't be embarrassed

What is the source of the current distress about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church? An insufficiently positive public-relations campaign. That’s the message from Bishop Donal McKeown, an auxiliary of Ireland’s Down and Connor diocese. Following the lead of Archbishop Wilton...

Top 10 Business Books

Here are ten brain-teasing, thought-provoking, self-helping books that I feel would be helpful to any Catholic in the workforce. If you don't have one of them, consider picking it up through Amazon.com using one of the links below. A portion of the sale (as much as 10%) will go to support...

when sexual exploitation is fashionable

 If a Catholic priest persuaded a 10-year-old boy to host a homosexual rally, the outrage would be universal, and it would be deserved. But since it wasn't a Catholic priest who appointed Will Phillips as grand marshal of the Northwest Arkansas Pride Parade, only the American Family...

If all roads lead there, why can't People magazine find it?

People magazine, with its usual breathless excitement, lets us know that American film starlet Mena Suvari was “married Saturday in a private church in Vatican City, Italy.”  Say what?! First of all, if it’s “Vatican City,” then it’s not...

Police raid on the Belgian hierarchy: first battle of a long war?

Were you shocked by the police raid on the headquarters of the Brussels archdiocese? If so, brace yourself to be shocked again. This sort of thing is likely to happen again. Last week’s stunning police action in Belgium was the product of two major trends: rising hostility toward the...

Can the Pope be compelled to testify? What the Supreme Court did—and did not—say

Despite the impression created by dozens of headline stories, the US Supreme Court did not issue a decision against the Vatican yesterday, nor have sex-abuse victims won the right to take testimony from the Pope. In fact, the Supreme Court did not issue any decision at all. The justices decided...

Christian Legal Society v. Martinez: The Issues of Freedom

In Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled yesterday that if a Christian student group wishes to be officially recognized at an American university, then it does not have the right to restrict its membership and/or leadership to practicing Christians. The case arose...

a novel legal defense

After a bizarre traffic incident that led to his arrest, and an even more bizarre appearance in court, a Massachusetts man objected vigorously when someone questioned his sanity. The accusation apparently centered on a claim that the defendant, Alejandro Serra, had identified himself as the...

the Vatican's self-inflicted PR wounds

It’s bad enough that the mass media love to attack the Catholic Church. It only makes things worse when the Vatican’s own clumsy PR efforts cause self-inflicted wounds. Consider the latest case of ham-handed press strategy. After media outlets reported that Italian civil authorities...

light summer reading

 Yes, I know what you're thinking, and I feel exactly the same way.  We'll all sleep better tonight, knowing that even while the Belgian police are raiding the bishops' headquarters, and a majority of Austrian priests embrace heresy, and Indian schoolchildren are being questioned by...

never mind your news; here's my news

Question: How do you insert a mention of the sex-abuse scandal into a story about new appointments to the Roman Curia? Answer: Gratuitously. AP takes the prize, for putting the reference to the scandal in front of the actual news in the lede: Preoccupied for months by the clerical sex abuse...

a rebuke for Schönborn, a revival for Sodano

The news stories have been flowing out of Rome in such a torrent this week, I am only now finding the time to comment on Monday’s remarkable report about the Pope’s meeting with Cardinal Schönborn. Never before, in more than 25 years of covering Catholic news, had I seen the...

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