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All Catholic commentary from September 2013

In the modern world, what does it mean to lose one’s faith?

In response to my previous On the Culture essay (“Marginalization Gamesmanship” and Catholic Love), I received a very thoughtful message wondering whether I had been unfair to the sisters in dissident religious institutes. This question was raised on three grounds: (1) It seems to be...

Vision Book Cover Prints

Don't blame the bees

As an amateur beekeeper I am troubled by this report that thousands of bees “took over” a Catholic church in Texas. First, the bees were outside the church, up near the steeple. They were no threat to the people on the ground or the worshippers inside the building. The bees were in residence...

On Melting Snowflakes and Saving Babies: The State of the Question

The debate continues on the morality of embryo adoption, often called the adoption of “snowflake babies”. What is at issue here is whether it is moral to transfer a frozen embryo created through some other procedure into the uterus of a woman who is willing to carry the child to term...

More kudos for CWN correspondent

For the 2nd time in recent weeks, a veteran Catholic World News correspondent has been recognized for his work exposing the savage violence against Christians in India’s Kandhamal region, and their heroic faith. Anto Akkara, who was named in July as this year’s recipient of the Titus Brandsma...

Inoffensive Catholicism: further thoughts on Bottum and the acceptance of same-sex marriage

It’s flattering, I suppose, to be singled out for special attention. At Commonweal-- the magazine that published Joseph Bottum’s much-discussed essay, The Things We Share: A Catholic’s Case for Same-Sex Marriage, which I discussed here last week --associate editor Matthew...

The Brightness of the Church: Leaving No Part Dark

As Catholics, we are so often the Church’s worst enemies. When we ask why the Church has so much trouble leading men and women to salvation throughout so much of the world, we can frequently find more answers in the mirror than anywhere else. I would not want to minimize other factors,...

Pope Francis on the Phone

I see Pope Francis has done it again, making telephone contact with an ordinary troubled person who has written to him for advice—first a rape victim, now an unwed mother. The two instances may be reviewed here: Unwed mother stunned by Pope's sympathetic phone call Pope Francis...

Finally, an accurate secular report on Roman Catholic Womenpriests

At last, a secular newspaper has provided an accurate report on an “ordination ceremony” staged by the group known as Roman Catholic Womenpriests. The story in the Cleveland Plain Dealer begins: About 200 people filled the pews at Brecksville United Church of Christ on Saturday when Ann...

Ministry under duress: a sympathetic look at a priest coping with tragedies

The Boston Globe offers a moving profile of a priest who faced multiple challenges in the wake of the Marathon bombing in April. Father Sean Connor—who was a police officer before becoming a priest—was chaplain to the Boston police department, so he was called immediately to the...

Church in Crisis: What is wrong? Why? Can we fix it? How?

If you had to pick one central factor to explain both the collapse of Western civilization and the contemporary crisis of the Catholic Church, what would it be? For Martin R. Tripole, SJ, that factor is the shift in the modern world from the primacy of faith over reason to the primacy of...

Pastoral wisdom from an unlikely source

The Washington Post is not ordinarily a source of authentic Catholic wisdom. But today, if you read the column by Father I. Michael Bellafiore, “10 ways to revitalize the Catholic Church“, that’s what you’ll get. There’s nothing particularly new among his suggestions, but there’s enough to...

When Pope Francis says Christ is the Winner…

Our little news story on Pope Francis’ homily from Tuesday morning may raise more questions than it answers but, hey, it is not our fault. Remember that the points the Pope wishes to make in these weekday homilies are available to us only through reports by Vatican Radio, with no...

'Marriage inequality' is more important than income inequality

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) has released an interesting new study: Cohabitation and the Uneven Retreat from Marriage in the U.S., 1950-2010. It no surprise that the NBER finds cohabitation more commonplace in America today than in 1950. But the statistics show a revealing...

A Remarkable Catholic Lecture Series on the Arts in NYC

Let’s see if I’ve got this right. The Catholic Artists Society is an association of artists and media professionals, centered in New York City, working for the greater glory of God and the common good. The Catholic Center is a ministry of the Dominican Order at New York...

Rash Judgment and Vatican II: The Antidote

First let me demonstrate an important principle: An Irish bishop was severely faulted in the Murphy Report in 2009 for mishandling allegations of sexual abuse as an auxiliary between 1982 and 1996. He had already recognized, as early as 2002, that, while he handled things in the manner...

Revealing comments from Vatican Secretaries of State, old and new

Both the outgoing Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and his incoming successor, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, have made interesting public comments recently. Let’s take a closer look. Cardinal Bertone defended his own performance, and lashed out at the “crows and...

Dealing with Darkened Intellects on Marriage

When the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) earlier this year, it ruled that it is unconstitutional for Congress to interpret “marriage” and “spouse” as applying only to heterosexual unions. The majority opinion, written by Justice Anthony...

English newspaper headlines twist the Pope's words—again

The Pope’s actual words were that “the mercy of God has no limits if one turns to him with a sincere and contrite heart.” The headline for the story in The Independent was: “Pope Francis assures atheists: You don’t have to believe in God to go to...

Why should faith have primacy over reason?

In my review of Fr. Martin Tripole’s excellent book, Church in Crisis (Church in Crisis: What is wrong? Why? Can we fix it? How?), I mentioned that I would return to his insight that we must reunite faith and reason. In fact, to escape the current crisis in the Church (and, to be sure, in...

At last: one bishop holds another accountable

This is unprecedented—a giant step forward in the Church’s response to the sex-abuse crisis! For more than a decade we’ve been learning about the failings of Catholic bishops. In some cases the prelates were guilty of personal misconduct; in other case they were only guilty of...

More sensible Catholic commentary from the Washington Post (!)

What’s happening at the Washington Post? And how can we make it happen at other American newspapers? For the 2nd time in less than a week the Post has published an eminently sensible op-ed piece about the Catholic Church. This time it’s by Georgetown undergraduate Kevin Sullivan, who points out...

Climate Change? The IPCC Retreats

On September 13th, the Wall Street Journal reported on the latest 5-year report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. You may recall that the previous IPCC report, while revealing some changing data, was still fairly panicky, which caused a great many people to dismiss...

Follow us on Twitter: @FormTheCulture

Phil Lawler and I have been tweeting notices of our commentary under personal Twitter accounts for some time, with no fanfare, and that will continue. But we have now finally set up a Twitter handle for CatholicCulture.org:@FormTheCulture. This is the handle you should follow if you want to...

There’s our work and then there’s Christ’s: Spinning Straw into Gold

Perhaps you remember the fairy tale of Rumpelstiltskiin? It’s the one where the miller’s daughter has to spin straw into gold for the king. You may also remember the famous words of that intellectual giant among saints, Thomas Aquinas, whose judgment on his own work was that, compared...

Could the classic New England church be adapted for Catholic worship?

Have you ever taken a drive through the New England countryside, and admired the beautiful old churches that are so often (as in the town where I live) set on picturesque town greens? I have always loved the elegant simplicity of those little white church buildings. When I was a little boy I...

The US Bishops are standing firm against the HHS Mandate, but they could say more

In addition to our news story on the American bishops’ continued opposition to the HHS Mandate, we also have the full text of yesterday’s letter from Cardinal Timothy Dolan to his brother bishops on this subject. At the heart of the bishops’ concerns are three important points,...

What the Pope did NOT say in the interview

Here’s what Pope Francis did not say in the provocative interview published today: He did not say that the Church should stop speaking out about homosexuality, abortion, and other contentious issues (although he did say that the focus should not be obsessive). He did not call for a more...

Latin Americans Give Jesus for Christmas

Editor’s Note: During this Year of Faith, when Catholics from all walks of life have been called to participate in the “new evangelization,”’ a question naturally arises: What sort of evangelization works? Are there any proven programs, that have demonstrated the power to...

The Pope’s interview is a challenge to everyone—including me!

Let’s face it, Pope Francis thinks outside the box. This is very evident in the long interview by Antonio Spadaro, SJ which has just been published in major Jesuit journals around the world, including the English translation in America magazine. The Holy Father’s remarks are at...

The key to understanding Pope Francis: the 99 lost sheep

If the Pope’s main responsibility is to keep us all comfortable, then Pope Francis is failing miserably. But that’s not really the Pope’s job, is it? For the past several weeks—and more than ever in the past 24 hours, since the release of the Pope’s blockbuster...

Yet another Vatican PR debacle

Whether you think The Interview was a coup or a disaster—or something in between—we should all be able to agree that the Vatican’s handling of the Pope’s blockbuster was another public-relations debacle. Ironically, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications was...

Five Reasons to Think Differently about Pope Francis

I’ve been surprised and even angered by the criticism of Pope Francis in the wake of his famous interview, but I’ve been forced to admit that a significant number of serious Catholics found his words upsetting. That’s not something that should be dismissed lightly. It could, of...

The new martyrs of Nairobi?

Reports from Nairobi indicate that before killing shoppers at the Westgate mall, terrorists gave them an opportunity to make an Islamic profession of faith. Those who were willing to recite the Muslim formula—“There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet”—were allowed leave unharmed....

Another bit of fallout from the Pope's interview

My friend Ed* wanted to talk with me yesterday about the Pope’s interview. Ed and I run into each other regularly, 3 or 4 times a week, in the course of our everyday work. I wouldn’t say that we’re close friends—we rarely see each other apart from our business...

Pope Francis in The Interview: facing a pastoral emergency

One more thought—and it probably won’t be my last—about that papal interview: Just before the passage that has drawn so much critical attention, the Pope made this arresting observation: “I see the Church as a field hospital after battle.” In the Pope’s...

The University of St. Thomas: A Failure to Love?

In her first academic convocation address at the University of St. Thomas, new President Julie Sullivan chose to express concern about diversity and, in particular, the need for a welcoming attitude toward gay and transgendered persons. Her university, located in St. Paul, is not to be...

No, Jesus didn't tweet

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, one of the most quotable prelates at the Vatican, has captured popular attention once again with his comment that Jesus “used tweets before everyone else.” The president of the Pontifical Council for Culture explained that Jesus made statements that were “brief and full...

Contrasting Francis with Benedict: How’s that again?

So now certain “conservative” Catholics are up in arms about the “liberalism” of Pope Francis. They are alarmed especially by the views he expressed in his recent interview. They have mounted their high horses and charged forward to chastise the Pope. They are...

Rewriting the 'constitution' of the Catholic Church

No, no, no, no, no, no, no! I don’t expect secular agencies to be completely accurate in covering stories about Vatican reform, but there’s a difference between inaccuracy and absurdity, and this Fox News headline falls into the latter category: Pope Francis, eight cardinals set...

Keeping Up with Books: Five Promising Titles that Didn’t Make My Cut

For serious improvement, I’ll take a good book over a great movie or documentary almost any time. Even for pure entertainment, I’ll usually prefer a book to any visual medium except for a few favorite magazines (though along with billions of other people, I confess a weakness for...

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