Search or Browse Commentary

All Catholic commentary from August 2015

Douthat unmasks the moral cowardice of PP defenders

Two weeks after his excellent op-ed "Looking Away from Abortion," Ross Douthat has delivered another blow to moral cowardice. In his latest NYT blog piece,...

Why can't Planned Parenthood live without its abortion clinics?

Thomas Van has already called attention to the argument by New York Times columnist Ross Douthat that effectively demolishes the most common defense of Planned Parenthood. But it bears repeating: this is an essay you’ll want to read. The argument that Douthat shreds is that people who oppose...

With Archbishop Cupich, the 'seamless garment' jumps the shark

The late Cardinal Bernardin muddied the waters of Catholic social teaching with his “seamless garment” argument, suggesting that opposition to abortion was no more important than opposition to the nuclear freeze. But Archbishop Blaise Cupich, who now sits in Cardinal Bernardin’s...

Evangelism in a Glass

In my last post I shared some simple ideas on ways to bring different wines to enhance adult celebration of the Liturgical Year. Those thoughts were originally scribbled on the back of an envelope 10 years ago. My husband and I have enjoyed inserting a bit of the "liturgical" in sharing...

Eugene Genovese, a Communist turned Catholic

Eugene Genovese (1930-2012) was a historian of the American South, known especially for his landmark book Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made. He was also a Marxist and, in his own words, "a supporter of the international movement and of the Soviet Union until there...

The most important topic(s) for the Synod

What will be the single most important topic on the agenda when the Synod of Bishops meets in October? If you follow the news headlines, you’re likely to respond that the top priority will be the question of Communion for Catholics who are divorced and remarried. Or possibly you’ll say the...

The 'seamless garment' may wear thin in the age of the laity

Recently in this space I argued that Archbishop Blaise Cupich of Chicago had pushed the “seamless garment” argument much too far, by suggesting that support for the death penalty is morally equivalent to dismembering unborn babies and offering the parts for sale. This is—or should be—a familiar...

The enigma that is Pope Francis: a few new clues

Are you still trying to understand Pope Francis? Join the club. For those of us who are struggling to understand the Holy Father’s way of thinking, Nick Miroff of the Washington Post has provided a few very useful insights. First he cited the influence of Argentina’s Juan Peron, a populist...

What's your diocese doing for the campaign to defund Planned Parenthood?

Pro-life activists are complaining about the lack of coverage in the mainstream media for Planned Parenthood fetal-tissue trafficking. There’s ample reason for those complaints; the silence of the major news outlets is a second scandal. But really, are you surprised? The major secular outlets...

Henri de Lubac's fascinating notes on Vatican II

Here I explore the notes made by the French theologian Henri de Lubac as he prepared for and participated in the Second Vatican Council. I will gradually add revealing excerpts and comments from successive stages of de Lubac’s involvement. Each stage will be linked below. They will be...

Another papal resignation on the horizon?

Karl Keating, the founder of Catholic Answers, raises an interesting question: A New Pope in 2016? This is not a prediction, he emphasizes; it’s a sort of mental exercise. Pope Francis has referred to the resignation of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, as “a beautiful gesture of...

The Popes, the Pill, and Climate Change

Politics can be unpleasant. And Church politics, for most thoughtful believers, can be the most unpleasant of all political logrolling. To be “political” suggests a kind of relativism, pandering to this or that group for support, a pandering that is incompatible with the objective...

What I learned on my vacation, about God and man

I returned to my desk full-time yesterday after spending a couple of weeks denying, as much as possible, that my desk even existed—attempting to slip quietly from routine into refreshment. Everyone knows that this process has inescapably limited results. The reason is found in a variation on...

De Lubac's final notes on the Second Vatican Council

I have just posted the final installment of my highlights from Henri de Lubac's notes on the Second Vatican Council. De Lubac’s notes reveal something of the theological differences, objectives, conflicts, maneuvering and humor involved in the conciliar effort to chart a course of...

Are religious people happier? Why yes, yes they are.

I have not read the whole study, but the news is good: Those who participate in religious organizations are happier than those who do not, even if they are active in other political or social organizations. Our story links to the website with the full text. Many might find this surprising,...

Is Catholicism Biblical? That question is backwards!

The other day I referred to Dave Armstrong’s fine collection of essays, Proving the Catholic Faith is Biblical (see What I learned on my vacation, about God and man). But anyone who demands that we prove that Catholicism is properly rooted in Scripture has his religious fundamentals all...

Breaking Bread throughout the Liturgical Year

This upcoming Sunday concludes a series of five Sundays with the Gospel taken from John Chapter 6, the discourse on the Bread of Life. Jesus was preparing the people for his upcoming greater gift of Himself in the Eucharist. Jesus recognized bread as a universal daily sustenance and staple of...

Convincing the World: St. John Paul II's Encyclical on the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit may seem, from a human perspective, the most obscure person of the Holy Trinity. He is certainly the least “personifiable” in an anthropomorphic sense, as is easily seen in countless depictions of the Trinity in Christian art. In the course of human history He has been...

A foolish mistake by pro-life demonstrators

How dumb was it for thousands of pro-lifers to wear that hi-tech reflective clothing on Saturday, so that when they gathered to demonstrate outside Planned Parenthood clinics, there were completely invisible to reporters from secular news outlets? Quite naturally the reporters, arriving on the...

Christian happiness is the key to cultural renewal.

In the August/September 2015 issue of First Things, James Kalb explored the possibilities for rolling back the technocratic culture which dominates the modern West. Technocracy is a problem because it is based on the belief that nature is something to be manipulated according to our own desires,...

Monica and Augustine: Glimpsing into the Unity and Vastness of Marriage and Family

As we reach the end of August, two of my favorite late August feast days are of Saints Monica and Augustine. Last year I discussed the familial example these mother and son pair provide. This year I have been dwelling further on their example of marriage and family, particularly living out...

The confusion, complexities and dangers of marriage annulments: A call to order

It’s a sad thing, a broken marriage. I am referring literally to a broken or severed marriage. Of course, all relationships can be broken or severed, and there is sadness in each case. But marriage is the most intimate and fruitful union of a man and a woman, the nexus of the family, a...

'Catholicism by osmosis is dead'—Weigel hits the nail on the head

Reflecting for Catholic World Report on the “smaller, purer Church” that Pope Benedict XVI foresaw, George Weigel makes one of those grand, sweeping generalizations that are so striking because they are so true: This same judgment—Catholicism by osmosis is dead—and this...

Intrinsic evil can't be evaluated on a case-by-case basis

Facing the threat of a lawsuit, Mercy Medical Center in Redding, California—a Catholic hospital— allowed doctors to perform a tubal ligation, sterilizing a woman, in what appears to have been a direct violation of Catholic moral teaching and the US bishops’ Ethical and Religious...

Just as you suspected, most polls are useless.

It is now safe to discount the results of almost any major poll which relies on user responses to polling questions. And if polling companies use other kinds of adjustments to attempt to make their data more correct, then there is much more than mere polling at work. Robert Wuthnow is a...

Legal pressure does not make sterilization moral

It is just plain wrong. I mean the decision of Mercy Medical Center Redding in California to perform a sterilization on Rachel Miller only after the American Civil Liberties Union challenged the Center’s initial refusal. Earlier, when refusing the sterilization, the Center cited the US...

No, the Pope did not endorse a gay-friendly children's book

The Guardian headline is an eye-catcher: Pope Francis sends letter praising gay children's book Wow! That’s newsworthy material for sure, isn’t it? Let’s take a closer look. Did the Pope write the letter in question? No. Did the letter praise the book? No. So what’s the real...

The intractable practical problems with the Kasper proposal

We all know that “the Kasper proposal” will be front and center in the October discussions of the Synod of Bishops. But what is the Kasper proposal, exactly? Cardinal Walter Kasper has suggested opening a “penitential path” for Catholics who have divorced and remarried,...

News Posturing: How the dramatis personae use each other

One of the reasons following the news is often so depressing is that so many of the situations that receive publicity are characterized by deep moral flaws. When I spoke about developing a “theology of the news” in a recent Insights Message, I pressed the case that we must...

Church Fathers: The Third Century and the School of Alexandria

The situation of Christianity in its third century was quite different from the second. The old paganism was in decline, not just because of the spread of Christian faith but because of other shifts in Greco-Roman culture. A number of new cults appeared as a result of encounters with Eastern...

Want more commentary? Visit the Archives.