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All Catholic commentary from August 2016

Don’t discount meaning. It leads to happiness.

I’m gazing out a window overlooking Willsboro Bay on Lake Champlain. I have an opportunity to do this for a few days most Summers, because my mother-in-law has a “camp” up here. Each time I do so, I am struck by the beauty of the place. And each time I experience this beauty, it...

Understanding the Vatican’s structure for financial management

Over the last several years, the effort to make the administration of Vatican funds more transparent—and the administrators more accountable—has reached center stage in the ongoing process of curial reform. Economic and financial reform have become increasingly important with rising...

Three questions on Biden's latest display of contempt for the faith

A Catholic who participates in a ceremony at which a woman claims priestly ordination is subject to the penalty of excommunication, because that ceremony is a parody of a sacrament. So what about a Catholic who participates in—in fact, officiates at—a same-sex wedding, which is also a...

Is Catholic-Muslim dialogue possible? Yes, but...

This week began with the striking statement from Pope Francis that Islam should not be regarded as the source of terrorist violence. The Pope's statement, suggesting that Islam is no more or less prone to violence than other faiths (including our own), is one in a long line of simliar claims,...

On papal language: Fundamentalism, my foot. Or Christ’s feet, hands and side.

At first I tried to laugh off Pope Francis’ remarks about Islamic violence, during the in-flight interview following World Youth Day in Poland. These comments were made in response to a question raised by Antoine Marie Izoarde of i.Media: “Why do you, when you speak of these violent...

The Transfiguration: August 6

The Feast of the Transfiguration carries my thoughts to grape jelly and weddings. Because the cycle of the Liturgical Year repeats annually, the seasons of the year and family life and memories become intertwined with our celebrations...

Is there any hope left for the renewal of the Church?

Throughout the West, it is not hard to see how far authentic Catholic renewal still has to go before it can have a significant cultural impact inside or outside the Church. Indeed, the Church very often continues to form a secular culture even among her own children, as she has done since I was a...

Restoring a Catholic Culture through Liturgical Cooking: Early August Thoughts

A repost from August 2014, with ideas for St. Dominic, St. Lawrence and St. Clare: I’m currently reading Eternity in Time: Christopher Dawson and the Catholic Idea of History edited by Stratford Caldecott and John Morrill. It is a collection of essays by various authors honoring...

Will Catholic bishops really lead an ongoing Catholic renewal?

I wrote yesterday that Catholic renewal is not dead, but that under Pope Francis its center of gravity has shifted from the pope to the bishops. I proposed that the vacuum created at the top of the hierarchy during this pontificate could well spur bishops around the world to take greater personal...

Catholic bishops 'don't get it'—the fundamental problem is a corrupt clerical culture

“Who is going to save our Church? Do not look to the priests. Do not look to the bishops. It’s up to you, the laity, to remind our priests to be priests and our bishops to be bishops.”                          ...

Episcopal renewal: The thin line, and our response

Two other questions were raised by the correspondent I mentioned yesterday, concerning whether or not the world’s bishops are likely, in the absence of effective papal leadership, to take a greater responsibility for furthering authentic Catholic renewal in their own dioceses. The first of...

When everybody else 'gets it'—the bishops' blind spot

My column yesterday, on how bishops “don’t get it,” has prompted some revealing responses. Without a single exception, the lay people who have taken the time to respond to me have agreed with my basic point: that our bishops are unaware of the extent to which they are the...

Feastday Highlights: The Assumption

From the archives, originally written in August 2014. Please Note for 2016: August 15 is not a holyday obligation in the United States. The diocese of the United States celebrate only six Holydays of Obligation during the Liturgical Year. In most provinces the Solemnity of the Ascension is...

Islam: When the Church can speak authoritatively, and when she cannot

This would be hilarious if it weren’t evidence of confusion in the Church. It seems that Relevant Radio carried a debate between Robert Spencer and Msgr. Stuart Swetland on this question: “Is Islam violent?” Spencer runs the website jihadwatch.org and Msgr. Swetland, who holds a...

Is 'corruption' the right way to describe the dysfunction of the Catholic hierarchy?

Several readers have questioned my use of the term “corruption” to describe the current state of the Catholic hierarchy. Few if any bishops use their positions for illicit gains, my friends write; so it is not accurate to say that they are corrupt. I see the point, but I disagree. Let...

So, is Christianity 'over'?

There are days, I confess, when the news gets me down. But I hope that I’ll never be so discouraged that I’d say this: I think we have to accept the fact that Christianity—in the sense of Christianity as the common religion, with a mass following—is...

The madness of non-practicing Catholics: boycotting the feast

If you attended Mass today, you probably heard the parable of the king’s banquet. And if you read the CWN news headlines, you learned that Mass attendance has plummeted in the Pittsburgh diocese. This is the story about the life of the Catholic Church in our day. And it isn’t just...

The intrusion of secular values: A mysterious case study

I’ve noticed a great many negative cultural trends in the course of my life. In fact, from the Catholic perspective, very few trends in Western culture have been positive. It distresses me that I have not managed to leave a healthier cultural environment to my children and grandchildren. But...

I Would Rather Be a Peasant: Contemplating the Rural Life

The month of July is just a recent memory. With the change of months, I reluctantly switched my Magnificat to the August edition. I will miss the July issue and its inspiration. While I was recuperating from this summer’s foot reconstructive surgery, my father (in his role as Eucharistic...

The Womanpriests fantasy: installment 614

If you're a regular reader, you know by now that I take a special interest in the contortions that journalists go through when they report on the bogus "ordinations" of Catholic women. Reporters will usually concede that the Catholic hierarchy does not recognize these...

On guard against ourselves: The problems of aging leadership

One of the reasons Saint John Paul II was so remarkably popular was because he was a comparatively young man when he was elected Pope. He was just 58 years of age, which in our day falls some years shy of being elderly. Fifty-eight may well be the new forty-five. In any case, while he had many...

The French burkini ban is... too revealing

On beaches in France, where topless sunbathing is common, police are now forcing some women to strip, enforcing a ban on the Muslim burkini. If this seems like madness—and it does—the reasoning behind the policy is even crazier. French officials are reacting—quite...

Back to Amoris Laetitia: When do we owe “religious submission of mind and will”?

A Spanish ecclesiology professor, Fr. Salvador Pie-Ninot, has asserted in L’Osservatore Romano that Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia is an act of the ordinary Magisterium which requires religious submission of mind and will. Speaking very generally, he is right that...

Reading Mother Teresa: A Public Service Announcement

With the canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta coming up on September 4th in Rome, there is renewed interest in her life and work. On the other hand, Mother Teresa was so famous during her lifetime that many of our older readers will already be very familiar with her story, which has been told...

Is the Vatican, under Pope Francis, moving away from teachings of John Paul II on life and marriage?

Yesterday’s top CWN headline story, about problems with the sex-education guide issued by the Pontifical Council for the Family, sheds more light—or perhaps I should say, casts a darker shadow—on a story that appeared earlier this month, about new appointments to the Roman...

Quick Hits: What works—in attracting priestly vocations, in reviving Catholic liturgy

Last week we reported on the collapse of vocations to the Catholic priesthood in Germany, where only 58 men were ordained last year. There were just 96 new seminarians in 2015—in a country where the Catholic population is officially listed at about 50 million. By contrast there are about...

Fighting yesterday’s battles: A real-world political example

When I wrote On guard against ourselves: The problems of aging leadership, I referred to the danger (which we all face) of getting locked in to the way we perceive problems and solutions in our 20s and 30s, but failing to become aware of important shifts in the challenges we face as we grow older....

The Better Pastor: Learning to really manage your parish

Patrick Lencioni is a well-respected business author, writing primarily about team leadership and management. The magic of his popular books, written in the fable format, is that he uses storytelling to engage the heart and the mind—and unbeknownst to either, to begin the change...

Quick Hits: a 700-year-old tattoo parlor, voting for Jesus, the Tolkien Professor

In this country, tattoos have always been associated with alternative lifestyles of various kinds. But you should know that for a a lot longer than that, getting some ink has traditionally denoted the alternativest of lifestyles: that of the medieval pilgrim. If you don't...

Did you know who's behind the Go Topless movement?

Yesterday (in case you missed it) was Go Topless Day: the day when thousands of feminists all over the world protest being treated as sex-objects, by encouraging men to stare at their bodies.  I am not making this up. The Go Topless movement was founded by a man—a...

Are you grieving? Here is hope and consolation.

I’m a sucker for old Catholic books. Not having been written in the midst of our own controversies, they have an air of solidity. The authors do not typically fall all over themselves responding to the least sensitivities of our modern naysayers, and in most cases they were written during a...

Quick Hits: the confusion of the 1970s, the necessity of telling right from wrong

Two essays that appeared online over the weekend fall squarely into the “must-read” category: Writing for The Catholic Thing, Father Robert Imbelli discovers “A Pure Distillation of 1970s Catholicism” in an article by Jim Purcell that appeared in the National...

More “programs” or Divine fire? The Catholic choice

Unlike a great many other societies throughout history, our society still seems to place considerable value on helping the poor, particularly in terms of social justice. This arose as a direct result of Christianization, but we are now in an interim stage of spiritual decline in which our concern...

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