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Extended commentary and thoughtful Catholic essays on complex topics.

Church Fathers: The Other Greek Apologists by Thomas Van - Apr 19, 2015

We know the names and some of the works of several other second century Greek Christian writers besides those covered in the preceding two installments. Though all of these explained and defended the Faith as did St. Justin Martyr, either they were writers of lesser power and reliability or their...

Church Fathers: St. Justin Martyr by Thomas Van - Mar 31, 2015

St. Justin Martyr, generally considered the most important of the Greek apologists, was born between 100 and 110, the son of a pagan Priscus in Flavia Neapolis, Palestine. Justin tells us in his own writings that as a young man, he dallied with a few different schools of philosophy, yet found...

Church Fathers: Introduction to the Greek Apologists by Thomas Van - Mar 1, 2015

Parallel with the increasing influence of Christianity as a religion distinct from Judaism, the second century saw, along with sporadic State persecutions and anti-Christian riots, the publication of numerous works of anti-Christian literature. While Christianity would in subsequent centuries be...

Church Fathers: The Shepherd of Hermas by Thomas Van - Feb 13, 2015

The Shepherd (or Pastor) of Hermas, an important second-century Christian text, is categorized as an apocryphal apocalypse; it consists of a series of visions urging repentance and penance in preparation for the end times. It contains of three books containing five Visions, twelve...

O Canada! Assisted suicide, the Christian meaning of defeat, and King Alfred the Great by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Feb 10, 2015

Last week’s news that the Canadian Supreme Court had struck down Canada’s law against assisted suicide is an object lesson. The justices have become the latest poster children for what is wrong with the world. I wish to consider just two of these serious wrongs, and to identify one...

On the failure of history—and historians—without Christ by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jan 29, 2015

When I was a brash young graduate student in the very early 1970s, Professor Lawrence Stone tried to teach me that the English Revolution and civil war were essentially caused by social and demographic factors, and that the previous emphasis on religious differences was essentially laughable. I...

Church Fathers: St. Polycarp and St. Papias by Thomas Van - Jan 24, 2015

St. Polycarp, Apostolic Father The earliest extant detailed account of the arrest and martyrdom of a single individual is that of St. Polycarp (70-156), Bishop of Smyrna. According to St. Irenaeus, who had listened to Polycarp as a child, Polycarp himself had learned from the Apostle John...

Why believe in God? And why are some answers so unbearably thin? by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jan 8, 2015

I just spent a very enjoyable couple of hours reading a collection of essays from religious artists answering the question of why they believe in God. By religious “artists”, I mean religious persons who are involved in the arts—creative writing, the visual arts, and music. The...

Church Fathers: St. Ignatius of Antioch by Thomas Van - Dec 6, 2014

Tradition has it that the church at Antioch was founded by St. Peter himself, who served as its bishop for seven years before moving on to found the church at Rome. (Robert Spencer writes that “Gregory III Laham, the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, has joked that if...

Replacing problems with persons: Eve Tushnet’s new book, Gay and Catholic by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Nov 14, 2014

Over the last three days I’ve read Eve Tushnet’s remarkable book, Gay and Catholic. Tushnet, who is now in her mid-30s, realized that she was “gay” in middle school, admitted it to herself at age thirteen, and told her parents shortly thereafter. But while in college she...

Church Fathers: St. Clement of Rome by Thomas Van - Oct 28, 2014

Sometime towards the end of the first century A.D., two men made a journey from Rome to Corinth. Claudius Ephebus and Valerius Vito, a pair of freed slaves from the household of the deceased Emperor Claudius, carried a letter to the Christian community in Corinth from Bishop Clement of Rome...

Does the Kasper proposal undermine the New Covenant? by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Oct 2, 2014

In yesterday’s City Gates piece, Using the figure of Pope Francis for evangelization, I alluded to aspects of Pope Francis’ approach which keep us off balance and raise questions in our minds. But I also wrote that “Catholic doctrine is deep in his bones”. As Francis...

The Mystery of Music, Part III by Thomas Van - Sep 26, 2014

In the next world I shan’t be doing music, with all the striving and disappointments. I shall be being it. —Ralph Vaughan Williams Our experience of beauty and mystery is often most intense when dissimilar things are united; the supreme example of this is the Incarnation, in which...

The Mystery of Music, Part II by Thomas Van - Sep 22, 2014

Speak, you who are older, for it is fitting that you should, but with accurate knowledge, and do not interrupt the music. —Sirach 32:3 The task Labat sets about in The Song That I Am (see The Mystery of Music, Part I) is to consider “music as a language communicating an...

From simple husband to ascetical priest by Richard Cross - Sep 18, 2014

In my previous comments on asceticism (see Addressing the Root Cause of Clerical Homosexual Behavior and Pederasty), I proposed that each bishop live an ascetical life, and by his own example and directives, oversee the ascetical discipline of his priests. Ascesis, or the practice of...

On Not Settling for Less: The Cognitive Guide to Happiness by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Sep 4, 2014

This essay explores the relationship between human experience, human knowing, and human happiness. It grew to some six thousand words, so I divided it into sections, with a table of contents and links to jump between contents and text. It should be easy to read at intervals, in...

The Problem with Catholic Social Teaching by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Aug 21, 2014

Long-time readers will know of my respect for Samuel Gregg, director of research at the Acton Institute. Not only do we have a number of his articles on social-economic-political issues in our library, but I favorably reviewed his book Tea Party Catholic last December (see Political principles...

Church Fathers: The Didache and the Epistle of Barnabas by Thomas Van - Aug 19, 2014

The Didache One of the most important sources from the age of the Apostolic Fathers is “The Lord’s Teaching through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations,” commonly referred to by its short name, the Didache (Greek for “teaching”). While the Didache was lost until the...

Introducing the Church Fathers by Thomas Van - Jul 27, 2014

Several years ago, CatholicCulture.org processed and made available online a set of the writings of the Fathers of the Church. In order to make our readers aware of this under-used resource, and because the Fathers are still too little known despite their importance as a font of authentic...

Self-Esteem: Beyond Pop Psychology by Thomas Van - Jul 23, 2014

There are words and concepts in certain disciplines – philosophy, theology and psychology come to mind – which, as they enter the popular lexicon and become operative in daily life, lose their power to illuminate and require immediate clarification in order to retain their...

The ITC’s compelling exploration of the sensus fidei—the sense of faith by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jul 8, 2014

The International Theological Commission has just issued a study of “the sense of the Faith”—Sensus Fidei in the Life of the Church. The Commission, composed of up to thirty of the best theologians from around the world, each with a five-year term, was established by Pope Paul VI...

Speaking clearly about dangerously imperfect communion with the Church by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jun 18, 2014

Two recent stories involving membership in the Church have been at once consoling and troubling. Their titles appear in the following links: Archbishop Cordileone responds to critics on March for Marriage Following same-sex ceremony, Michigan man barred from parish ministries In the...

Principles of family life: A grandparent speaks by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jun 11, 2014

This past weekend, my oldest son, Christopher, arrived with his wife, Ellen, and their two-year-old son, Jeffrey Mirus, who (as you might wildly guess) is named after yours truly. They also have a new baby on the way. It’s their first visit here since Jeffrey was born, up from Irving, Texas,...

The Discernible Features of the Kingdom of God...in Us by Dr. Jeff Mirus - May 29, 2014

Last week in Entering the Kingdom of God: What Does this Mean?, I reviewed the relevant New Testament texts to suggest an answer to my title question. “Put simply,” I concluded, “entering the Kingdom of God means receiving the Holy Spirit.” And then I asked: What...

“You can always try to shoot a famous person”: Collin Raye on country music and the folly of seeking stardom by Thomas Van - May 22, 2014

Anyone who listened to country music radio in the 90s has probably heard a song or three by Collin Raye, who had a string of chart-topping hits as well as a number of platinum-selling albums. Raye’s rich voice is best-known from ballads like “Little Rock” and “Love,...

What’s Wrong with Historical Criticism of the Bible? by Dr. Jeff Mirus - May 19, 2014

When Pope Benedict XVI wrote his trilogy of works on Jesus of Nazareth, one of his purposes was to blend the useful aspects of historical criticism with a neglected tradition of Patristic exegesis. He wanted to suggest the limits of modern historical criticism and call new attention to the...

Are 50% of Marriages Invalid? by Dr. Jeff Mirus - May 8, 2014

In his updated essay on Cardinal Kasper’s public support for dissent, Phil Lawler reports Kasper’s claim that Pope Francis thinks 50% of today’s marriages are invalid. Along with Phil and Edward Peters, “I am stunned by the pastoral recklessness of such an assertion”...

The Surprising Implications of Man’s Natural Ends by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Apr 9, 2014

Recently I’ve revisited the massive shakeup of Catholic theology occasioned by Henri de Lubac’s remarkable study Surnaturel (French for "supernatural"), published just after the close of World War II. The whole episode demonstrates the immense consequences that can...

Western rationalism vs. the commitment of the whole person to God by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Apr 4, 2014

Not long ago a Jesuit priest posted a reflection about the Catholic approach to truth in his personal blog. I am not going to quote, and I am not going to identify the Jesuit. It was an off-the-cuff sort of reflection (always a grave risk when blogging), and I have no desire to hold him to the...

Pitfalls Surrounding Catholic Consideration of the Arts by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Mar 27, 2014

Several of us who set the direction for CatholicCulture.org have been discussing the obvious connections between “culture” (which is part of our name) and “the arts”. These connections are always of interest, of course, but in fact we have done very little with the arts...

Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, Fidelity, Communion, Vocation by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Mar 19, 2014

In response to Phil Lawler’s City Gates piece about the Impending Catholic debate on divorce (March 14th), a Sound Off! comment by “Dan” raises the question of whether we really want abandoned women to be barred from receiving the Eucharist. Here’s the full question: In...

Are we tempted beyond our strength? by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Mar 7, 2014

We have all heard from the time we were knee-high to a tadpole that God never permits us to be tempted beyond our strength. If we’ve done any spiritual reading, this axiom has been drummed into us by more than one author. Sometimes its very repetition can make us feel guilty or spiritually...

God, Character, and Literature: Paula Huston’s Land without Sin by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Feb 20, 2014

As longtime readers may have noticed, I occasionally pick up and review newly published examples of what we loosely call “the Catholic novel”. Unfortunately, since Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy passed from the scene, there seems to have been a dearth of top-tier Catholic...

German bishops should emphasize mission, not change rules by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Feb 6, 2014

The assessment of attitudes on sexuality, marriage and family life by the bishops of Germany, while not surprising, is extraordinarily telling. In the end, the bishops ask for rule changes to admit divorced and remarried Catholics to Communion, as well as formal blessings for such couples. Some...

On the Spiritual Growth of Larry and Carl and...Us by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jan 28, 2014

I have a friend named Larry who is as secular and as liberal as they come. He thinks religious dogma divides people, preventing them from reaching out to each other in their common humanity. He is convinced that science is the key to human progress. I have another friend named Carl who is about as...

Death by Association: The Church Transcends Your Own Identity by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jan 14, 2014

One of the most significant perils within modern Catholicism is the tendency to regard the Church in an intensely individualistic way. In a rising crescendo over the past hundred years, we have seen one Catholic constituency after another subject the Church, her faith and her mission to...

Toward Effective Christian Witness: Making Room for the Gospel by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Jan 9, 2014

The concerns most often expressed about my writings on the New Evangelization fall into two categories. I’ve emphasized the importance of apostolates of service, both for their own sake and to attract and open others to the Gospel. Given this emphasis, it would be rather disturbing if some...

Can there be too many good Catholic writers? Four books on Catholicism by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Dec 20, 2013

In the most important sense, the question in my title can be taken rhetorically. “Certainly not!” we should reply, for it is eminently desirable that every person on the God’s green earth should be able to write, and write well, about the Catholic Faith. At another level,...

Political principles rooted in Christ? This is not easy. by Dr. Jeff Mirus - Dec 12, 2013

It is a rare treat amid all the December fundraising to sit back and reflect on deeper issues. Surely one of the most vexing of these is the strange relationship between Catholics and the left-right dialectic in American politics. When it comes down to individuals, this relationship is confused...

Persecuted Indian Christians Evangelize…by Forgiving by Various - Dec 12, 2013

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

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