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All Catholic commentary from September 2023

Only the living swim upstream

Indeed, since rationalization itself depends on at least a limited apprehension of reality, it reinforces the same point: In an intellective being, the only alternative to at least some significant apprehension of reality is insanity. In the end, therefore, the human person is always faced with a choice in the midst of the flow of the human culture in which he finds himself: He can drift downstream with the prevailing cultural current…or he can prove he is alive by swimming against it.

No need for facts when criticizing the Church

The Canadian government still asserts, as a matter of fact, that more than 200 children were buried on the site of a residential school in Kamloops, although excavations there have failed to substantiate that claim. But it IS a matter of fact that dozens of Catholic churches in Canada have been torched or vandalized, presumably by people reacting to those unproven stories.

Do We Believe Souls Are Worth Saving?

Governed by justice, charity, prudence, and God’s grace – and a desire for the salvation of souls -- conscience may require vulnerable subordinates to express disapproval of the manifest evil of their superiors.

Islam and Catholicism

The point Benedict wishes to make is that, while Islam really is “a religion of the book”, Christianity simply is not. It is impossible to engage constructively in Christian-Islamic dialogue without understanding this fundamental point.

166—Poetry of St. John of the Cross w/ Carla Galdo

St. John of the Cross is not only one of the Church’s greatest mystics, but also one of the most important figures in the Spanish literary tradition, especially for his mystical poetry. A new book of translations of St. John’s poems, brought into English by contemporary bilingual poet Rhina Espaillat, gives us a chance to discover or rediscover this singular spiritual and artistic master.

Synodality: the one issue this Synod won’t touch

Pope John Paul II, in his ardent desire for ecumenical progress, once said that he would be willing to return to model of the papacy that prevailed in the first Christian millennium, before the Great Schism, if that would allow for the restoration of Christian unity. What would that first-millennium model look like, brought forward into the 21st century. Certainly that question is worth discussing, and just as certainly the Orthodox world would follow the discussion with keen interest.

The Age of Innocence (1993)

The Age of Innocence merely depicted the cruelty of social norms and mores stifling forbidden love, it would be of limited interest. Yet as the story develops, it doesn't allow itself to be reduced to a critique of the past. Indeed, though not without ambiguity, it shows the value of strong social rules and institutions - because often, if we follow our passion, we destroy ourselves and others.

On the Church and the Jews

In his essay, Benedict specifically examines the concept of “substitution” with respect to what he considers the individual elements of Jewish election: cultic worship, cultic laws concerning the individual, the legal and moral teachings of the Torah, the Messiah, and the promise of land.

Intelligence Report from Judas

We all know that a man with the power to multiply loaves and fishes in the style of Elijah is just the kind of messiah we’ve been waiting for.

Time for a Papal Intervention

Bishops are understandably loath to acknowledge serious divisions in the Church, and rightly reluctant to criticize the Roman Pontiff. But in any household, when the father’s behavior is causing serious harm to the family and even to himself, the most loyal and respectful of children realize that the time has come for an intervention.

The Sacrament of Certainty

Penance not only acknowledges the need to make amends; completing our penance is also a sign of a willingness for ongoing reparation.

Don’t be fooled: Loving neighbor depends on loving God first

It is quite simply impossible to respond properly to the demands made on our time and energy unless that response begins with love of God expressed and strengthened through regular personal prayer. We are not done with either discernment or spiritual growth until we die—meaning that, if we are to love our neighbors well, we must take very seriously both personal prayer and the sacraments of the Church.

St. Francis de Sales—Introduction to the Devout Life | Pt. 3 (Ch.11-22)

"In the world those who aim at a devout life require to be united one with another by a holy friendship, which excites, stimulates, and encourages them in well-doing."

3.10 Cities of God: Constantinople (Not Istanbul)

In a short span of time, in the fourth century, Byzantium made the leap from a relatively insignificant harbor city to the de facto capital of the world. Constantine moved there from Rome and gave his empire a new (and Christian) founding. He also laid the foundations for a political milieu that made "Byzantine" a byword meaning complicated, bureaucratic, and corrupt. Constantinople's laws, for better and worse, circumscribed the movements and actions of many of the later Fathers.

167—Early Feminism Was Worse Than You Think—Carrie Gress

Catholic critics of feminism often start with the assumption that the "first wave" of feminism, led by 19th-century figures such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, was basically a good thing and compatible with Catholic teachings; only later in the 1960s and 70s, according to this narrative, was the movement "hijacked" by "radical feminists". Yet a look at these early figures reveals much continuity with the so-called "radical hijackers".

Is Anyone Listening?

If the Pope removes Bishop Strickland despite his refusal to resign, it would reinforce the false impression that bishops are in effect branch managers, serving at the pleasure of the Pontiff, rather than successors to the apostles and not subordinate to the Pope but (as Cardinal Müller recently put it) “his brothers in the same apostolic office.”

Through the Year with Tomie DePaola

Review of "Through the Year with Tomie de Paola" published by Ignatius Press and Magnificat, text by Catherine Harmon and John Herreid. Book covers the current Liturgical Calendar/General Roman Calendar and uses images from Tomie DePaola's "Art Mail."

Awakening the souls

Pope Benedict sought a renewal that goes far beyond the defense of the Church’s institutional stability, instead demanding an outcome which he himself found expressed in the words of Romano Guardini, who nearly a hundred years ago had expressed the hope that “an event of inestimable importance had begun; the Church is awakening in souls.”

Friends and Enemies of Humor

Jokes based on enduring truths accentuate normal behavior, help tame resentments, and assist a spirit of mutual forgiveness. We laugh at many absurdities to retain our sanity.

Eyes on Christ, or beating our heads against the wall?

Part of the problem (or so I hope and believe) is that we are becoming spiritually more sensitive, spiritually more alert, more accustomed to the Presence of God as we grow. But particular bad habits are not the only things that die hard; old tendencies are similarly tenacious, and not always for the best.

The debt limit as a moral test

The overall federal debt has just reached $33 TRillion. Who owes that debt? The US government. And who constitutes the US government? “We, the people.”

The stalwart media guardians of this Pope’s legacy

One scandal after another can be traced to the doorway of the St. Martha Residence. If reporters followed them there, they would undoubtedly change public perceptions of this pontificate. Will they? Not unless they radically alter their approach.

Mind Your Own Business

If we look for trouble, we’ll find it. St. Francis of Assisi prays, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.” As busybodies, we often pray the opposite: “Lord, make me an instrument of your wrath.”

Bishops helping Congress: The one thing needful?

One wonders why the Episcopal Conference should have a specific political agenda at all, or why it should offer its own political brilliance to avert a government shutdown. Far better to do a good job at evangelization, instruction in the Faith, and moral formation—in short, conversion—and let politics take care of itself. Or, as Our Lord put it: “Let the dead bury their dead.”

3.11 Cities of God: Ravenna, Capital on the Swamp

From Rome to Milan to Ravenna, the Western capital moved — searching for the site least vulnerable to barbarian incursion. And wherever the capital moved, there was monumental art and literary culture. In Ravenna there were great figures such as Galla Placidia and Peter Chrysologus. Today, the early Christian art and architecture of Ravenna are among the world’s great treasures. 

Slavery yesterday and today

When Americans think of slavery they typically have in mind the slavery in the American South, especially in the nineteenth century, which was one of several differences between North and South which led to the American Civil War. But estimates of the number of persons currently enslaved around the world range as high as 25 million.

October 2023: Pope Francis faces his toughest tests

If he hopes to bring about the “irreversible change” that his supporters seek, Pope Francis is running out of time. He knows that, and so do both his allies and his critics in the hierarchy.

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