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All Catholic commentary from August 2021

Advice that cuts both ways (or Ecclesiastical Gamesmanship)

The whole problem of the Catholic Church is that, one way or another, it is her lot to side with the ultimate underdog—the Crucified—against the constant tantrums of worldly people who will not be associated with Him unless He approves and encourages their desires. Accordingly, these same worldly people criticize witness to Christian Faith as a flight into pure doctrine and witness to Christian Morals as (all together, on 3) DIVISIVE.

111—Sir Gawain and the Green Knight—Anthony Esolen

Today we discuss one of the greatest Arthurian tales, told by one of the most virtuosic poets in the history of English, an anonymous priest of the 14th century. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight tells us a lot about courtesy, original sin, and grace, all bound up in an enormously entertaining story about a giant, decapitation-surviving green knight. Poet and critic Anthony Esolen joins the show to discuss the poem, its Middle English dialect, and the tradition of alliterative verse.

How DARE you?

Or maybe we're not much different from the ancient Israelites or the fat and happy disciples looking for endless entitlements from the Lord.

On vaccination, NY archdiocese tramples the rights of the faithful

To say that it is “morally acceptable” to be vaccinated is not the same as saying that it is morally obligatory. With this memo, unfortunately, the archdiocese threw its weight behind the campaign to make vaccination morally obligatory.

Liturgical sensibilities, liturgical understanding

As you might imagine, this is a challenging book. We should never minimize the challenge of the liturgical action of the Church, because it creates the most complete connection possible between God and ourselves here on earth, and it will actually continue with that purpose in Heaven, in what is perhaps an even more mysterious yet also far more experiential and even intelligible way.

Resetting Point: The Feast of the Transfiguration

By Jennifer Gregory Miller The Feast of the Transfiguration is a time to contemplate the heavenly glory, a little boost as we come down the mountain at the middle point of Ordinary Time.

St. Edmund Campion—Campion’s Brag

“The expense is reckoned, the enterprise is begun; it is of God; it cannot be withstood. So the faith was planted: So it must be restored.”

45—John Cassian, Monk on the Move, Solitary in the City

The great ascetic movement was in its first years of explosive growth when John Cassian journeyed from West to East. He visited the communities of monks and hermits in Palestine and Egypt. Though he sought a quiet life, he got caught up in international intrigue and adventure. In his later years he drew together the memories of his years in the desert, and composed two works on the cultivation of virtue and the practices of prayer.

Structural sin is personal sin deflected and justified

Most socio-political and economic “orders” are unjust in significant ways. It is to temper such injustices that the prophets of the Old Testament so frequently reminded the Israelites to care particularly for those who fell through the gaps in the prevailing order—especially widows and orphans. We think about this as modern society evolves into a perpetually “managed” society, not so much because of a brutal power group as because of the shared values of the dominant commercial/political class.

112—Walker Percy’s Angelic-Bestial Future—Jessica Hooten Wilson

"Now in these dread latter days of the old violent beloved U.S.A. and of the Christ-forgetting Christ-haunted death-dealing Western world I came to myself in a grove of young pines and the question came to me: has it happened at last?" Literary scholar Jessica Hooten Wilson joins the show to give a general introduction to Walker Percy and one of his most beloved novels, the "panoramic satire" Love in the Ruins.

Three rhetorical questions about Vatican II and Tradition

Did the Council wish for the Church to engage with the modern world, or to be guided by the modern world?

The Mission (1986)

It's remarkable that as recently as 1986, we had a hit movie, with A-list stars (Jeremy Irons, Robert De Niro) and an A-list composer (Ennio Morricone), that takes a nuanced look at a controversial historical subject, European Christian missionary activity. The Mission could not be made today. 

Can’t live forever without Liturgical Temporal Cosmology

Besides matter and space, the cosmos involves time, because space and time came into existence simultaneously. And if matter glorifies God, then we will not be surprised to find that time does, too. There is a temporal component to the adoration of God in the cosmic liturgy. Even if creation had only existed for one brief flash, like a lightning strike in the darkness, sandwiched between a nothingness on both sides, that momentary blaze of being would have honored God.

The Solemnity of the Assumption: Adding in Marian Wonder

This Sunday, August 15th, is the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Since we are in Ordinary Time, the solemnity supercedes the Sunday liturgy. If the Assumption fell during the liturgical seasons such as Advent, Lent or Easter, those Sundays would take precedence and the...

“You’re Only Human”

Our humanity – and all of God’s good creation – offends the Devil’s pride. The Devil delights when we despoil our body or hold it in contempt.

Do the media hate Cardinal Burke—or the faith he represents?

Why is Cardinal Burke so unpopular with these reporters? Is it simply because he adamantly defends the moral teachings of the Church— because he has become the leading exemplar of Catholic resistance against the overweening pressures of secular liberalism?

Parents beware: A Catholic statement against gender ideology

It should be one of the highest priorities of parents either to homeschool their children or to send them to (faithful) Catholic schools. Insofar as Catholic parents send their children to public schools, as a general rule they are subjecting them to constant indoctrination in falsehood. Gender ideology is only the latest in a long line of falsehoods that are deliberately inculcated in children through state-controlled education.

Highlights: Garrigou-Lagrange, Dana Gioia, Tolkien’s metaphysics, and more

Clips of highlights from episodes 38-41 and 44 of the Catholic Culture Podcast.

St. Ambrose of Milan—Letter to His Sister: State Authority Over Public Edifices, Not Sacred Ones

“We beg, O Augustus, we do not battle. We are not afraid, but we are begging. It befits Christians to hope for the tranquility of peace and not to check the steadfastness of faith and truth when faced with danger of death.”

Vaccination and conscience: a challenge to Church authority

So a conflict arises: between Catholics who cannot in conscience accept vaccination, for reasons the Vatican acknowledges; and public or private authorities who insist on compulsory vaccination, which the Vatican condemns.

Smugness and spiritual progress (or the lack thereof)

To one extent or another, we all partake of the characteristics of “nominal” Catholics, or worse. Converting these alter egos is a lifelong battle. We struggle to know ourselves as God knows us, just as we struggle to grow out of our poor spiritual habits even after we recognize them. In ways often hidden even to ourselves we are resistant to union with God.

Apology and Retractions about the Vaccine Episode

This is an apology for and retraction of some things that were said in Episode 106 of the Catholic Culture Podcast, a discussion of the morality of COVID vaccines.

Beware of the push to mandate COVID vaccination

Congress can decline federal funds to implement COVID vaccine mandates that do not make exemptions for self-determined reasons of conscience, religion and medical concern. If such measures are defeated, there will be a record vote to show the public where our representatives stand. But like Congress, state legislatures and county officials can prohibit state and local funds for implementing mandates that do not allow exemptions for reasons of conscience, religion and medical concerns.

The quest for wisdom (or) When will we ever learn?

Understanding cannot be purchased with gold; silver cannot be weighed as its price. It cannot be valued in precious onyx or sapphire. Gold cannot equal it, nor can it be exchanged for jewels. We need not even mention coral or crystal—the price of wisdom is beyond pearls! The finest topaz cannot compare with it; it cannot be valued even with the rarest of jewels set in gold.

46—Cyril of Alexandria: The Fifth-Century Man from Uncle

Cyril's uncle was the notorious Theophilus, a ruthless and fiercely competitive churchman — and the old man handpicked his nephew to be his successor as bishop of Alexandria. Cyril learned from Theophilus how to orchestrate an international incident and carry it through to the victorious end. But he was very much his own man: a towering intellect, the mastermind of the Council of Ephesus, a prodigious commentator on the Scriptures, and a saint of a different sort.

The misuse of Church authority on vaccination

My religion tells me that I cannot violate my conscience. If my conscience tells me that I cannot take the vaccine, then, doesn’t my religion tell me that I cannot take the vaccine?

Following your conscience? 1. Not a blank check

As persons possessed of both intellect and will, we are morally obligated not only to follow the promptings of our consciences but also to continuously form our consciences with an ever-growing understanding of the Good, and to strengthen our own ability to respond correctly to the promptings of conscience through the cultivation of virtuous habits. We also need to learn to discern the difference between the genuine promptings of conscience and mere rationalizations.

Following your conscience? 2. The COVID problem

So what do we know from the actual clarifications of the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church? We know that, on the one hand, if you have conscientiously decided to take the vaccine, you are not to be dismissed as deficient in your Catholicism. And, on the other hand, if you have conscientiously decided not to take the vaccine, you are not to be dismissed as deficient in your Catholicism, and further that it is immoral for any Churchman to tell you otherwise, or any civil authority to force you to take it.

113—Can a Novelist “Create” a Saint?—Joshua Hren

In his new book How to Read (and Write) Like a Catholic, fiction writer and editor Joshua Hren lays out an approach to Catholic literature that spans all the way from St. John Henry Newman called “a record of man in rebellion” to the other end of the continuum, which is a representation of the Beatific Vision.

Our Lady’s Thirty Days for Our Summer Malaise

The Feast of the Assumption, August 15, begins the Germanic tradition of Our Lady's Thirty Days, including Queenship of Mary, Nativity or Birthday of Mary, Naming of Mary and Our Lady of Sorrows.

Thérèse (1986), and What Makes a Good Saint Movie?

James and Thomas tackle Alain Cavalier's 1986 film Thérèse. It gives them a chance to ask the question: What makes for a great saint movie? One of the great strengths of the film is actress Catherine Mouchet's amazing physical resemblance to the Little Flower, but also the way in which she seems to inhabit her from the inside, shining forth a visible beatitude unique in cinematic portrayals of saints. She does this without ever falling into the "plaster saint" sentimentality one might fear.

St. Louis IX—Letter to His Son

“Therefore, dear son, the first thing I advise is that you fix your whole heart upon God, and love Him with all your strength, for without this no one can be saved or be of any worth.”

Not guilty? Bad spiritual advice still hurts you.

Spiritual growth is undermined by bad spiritual advice. This may even harden a person in serious sins of which he is unaware. It unquestionably reduces the accuracy of the person’s perception of reality. Moreover, while the guilt attributable to sin is conditioned by knowledge of the evil and consent to it by the will, the evil done through the sin to others is not lessened, nor are its disordering consequences for the sinner eliminated.

Natural Law to the Rescue

But the details of public policy involve the prudential judgments of the laity in the political arena. Church authorities overreach the limits of their competence when they endorse views that exclude reasonable alternatives.

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