Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

By Dr. Jeff Mirus

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Psalm 80 reveals a flawed faith in Israel, the Church…and us

To Christians, it may seem a paradox that fidelity must be purified under duress—but it is not at all a contradiction. To put the matter bluntly, there is little personal conviction in praising God only when His protection and His care and His favors are grandly manifest. With an improper understanding and a faulty commitment, our path to union with God turns into a series of detours created by our own wayward desires, our own passions.

Fulton Sheen’s new book on the demonic

Fr. Tomaszycki spent a total of four years identifying and tagging everything that Archbishop Sheen had written about the demonic and organized all the material to create a set of chapters which would amount to something akin to the book which the famous bishop had intended to write.

Diabolical assault and the absence of witnesses for God

Who can doubt the ferocity of the attack in a culture which glorifies sexual depravity, gender change, and abortion? Thus does diabolical activity reduce itself to mere temptation when Christ is present yet increase into manifest and even possessive manipulation among persons, groups and societies whenever they fall into a rejection of Christ and His Church. This is the story of both child sacrifice to Ba’al several thousand years ago and child sacrifice to Santa Muerte in our own day.

The disturbance of patriotic hymns on July 4th

One of the powers and the dangers of music is that it stimulates our emotions. That’s fine when the purpose is to engage us more fully as human persons in the worship of God. It is not so fine when the purpose of that engagement is to enhance a primarily secular message or even a good message that is so obviously politically correct.

Working under the sun…with Christ

For the “Preacher” who is the voice of this inspired book, the key lesson is that everything in human affairs is vanity. This is so because we see neither the origins nor the ends of anything; we can do nothing to resolve this problem; and so we must be content with the simple goods of life and not worry ourselves with things far too great for mortal man. But it is surprising, of course, that the Book does not refer to what we can know from Divine Revelation up to that point.

Culturally punished into the light of Christ

Most of us can still remember (or are aware of) the massive public shift that occurred in the 1960s when Western public cultural habits were still largely and fairly frankly oriented toward Christian principles, even if they were overwhelmingly honored in the breach. And most of us are still bewildered by the rapidity of the cultural shift away from any public approval of these principles. This bewilderment has left us grasping at straws, and at theories.

Decisions, decisions…and the strenuous art of making good ones

Merely by looking at yesterday’s news—in this case the news reported on the Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist, who so courageously decided to bear an unceasingly provocative witness to Christ—we see immediately that, even in Catholic affairs, good decisions can be thin on the ground.

Just beachy—and the gift of friendship in families

To brag about blessings is to suggest they are of our own making, when typically all they require is our cooperation. Each member of a joyful Catholic family knows he has received more than he has given. After all, ultimately in our human weakness we can only do so much, and the rest must come from our bountiful Father in Heaven in accordance with the particular plan by which He chooses to draw each and all of us to Himself.

In the midst of confusion: Rethinking the “synodal way”

This is why I describe a proper concept of synodality as the Church firing on all cylinders. That’s a modern and mechanistic image, of course, but despite this deficiency it implies that the Church runs most smoothly when each member understands his or her proper role and assumes the responsibilities proper to that role in obedience and service to Christ the head—who in turn is most perfectly represented in the universal Church by the successor of Peter, and in each local church by the bishop.

Teach your children well

The first thing one noticed was that there were nine priests concelebrating the graduation Mass, each of whom had spent time over the past six years helping to form the graduating students in their Faith. For the students, this was a leave-taking from a spiritually formative school environment, and at least to some extent a parting from close friends who had played their own role in that formation.

Drunk on temptation? The Book of Proverbs can help.

Poking fun in the right spirit is salutary, and wisely laughing at our own weaknesses (rather than foolishly defending them) is actually a step toward sanity. Seeing how our sins make us stupid is one way of recognizing that we really do not wish to be fools. Most of us like jokes, but we have no wish to be one. Poking gentle fun is one form of correction, especially if we can poke fun at ourselves.

Mushrooms and other fungi—and our sins

The purpose of spiritual exercises is to develop and strengthen good interior habits. Others may join me in remembering times when we have enjoyed imagining temptations to sins which we were theoretically determined not to commit. But this is pure folly! Some of us may have learned to substitute mental prayer for such imaginings whenever they arise, until they are no longer nearly as troubling as once they were.

News coverage in the whirlwind, or theater of the absurd?

This was an important clarification by Cardinal Fernéndez, given the steadfast omission of any moral judgment on homosexual activity in Fiducia supplicans.

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy

I suspect that even most believing Christians somewhat undervalue the importance of keeping the Sabbath, or more than a few special Christian feasts. This widespread neglect has even been officially reflected in the deemphasis of pre-Communion fasts, the reduction of Friday penitential practices, the increasing emphasis on Saturday evening Masses (so that Sunday can be a “day off”), and the reduction of Holy Days of Obligation (and their frequent conflation with the Sundays that follow them).

The ten commandments of Catholic apostolic work

Here are my Ten Commandments for those who claim to engage in Catholic apostolic work.

Which “spirituality” is for you? A place to start

Everyone ought to commit to certain types of corporate prayer, and certainly it is not possible to set that aside as a Catholic. But each one needs to cultivate private prayer as well, and the exact pattern of fruitful private prayer will vary widely. It will generally be a combination of standard structured elements (prayers and spiritual reading) and at least some effort to place oneself in the presence of God through a paradoxical combination of interior relaxation and interior focus.

Now Available: Liturgical Year Ebook for Ordinary Time after Easter

We have just released the fifth volume in the 2023-2024 Liturgical Year series of ebooks. Volume five covers the first half of the long stretch of Ordinary Time between the close of the Easter Season on Pentecost and the beginning of Advent. Like all CatholicCulture.org ebooks, this volume is downloadable free of charge.

The Church and the transgendered
(Part 3 of Thinking it through: The Church and “gender change”)

Since gender change is typically an objectively serious public sin, regardless of the degree of personal culpability, the Church might well deal with it as she deals (or is supposed to deal with) divorce and remarriage without an annulment—that is, by exclusion from the reception of Communion until such time as the person repents of the change and does as much as possible to restore himself or herself to the Divinely-willed condition.

Male and female He created them
(Part 2 of Thinking it through: The Church and “gender change”)

All of mankind has recognized maleness and femaleness as a fundamental pattern of nature, and for the Christian, and especially for that Church which was intended by Christ to teach the truth about what it means to be human, the fundamental goodness of the distinction between male and female can neither be ignored nor treated as a flaw in the human design.

Nullifying differences
(Part 1 of Thinking it through: The Church and “gender change”)

One is reminded of the story about a thoroughly modern woman who proudly told her four-year-old daughter that she “could be anything she wants to be when she grows up”. The daughter blurted out, “I think I would like to be a horse.” The great problem with this totally arbitrary approach is that it denies the fundamental reality of God’s creation—that our sexuality (including our often loose and wayward concept of “gender”) is determined by our embodiment as demonstrably either male or female.

Mike Aquilina hits the road, on a pilgrimage—with you?

Mike Aquilina’s pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi is being offered by the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology through the services of the experienced Catholic pilgrimage company 206 Tours. While Mike, who is the executive vice-president of the St. Paul Center, will serve as Group Leader, the Spiritual Director for the tour will be Fr. Jihoon Kim of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Thinking it through: Francis on “false human securities”

Sometimes we cling directly to the false human securities of our own sins. But anyone who has sincerely sought spiritual growth in Christ has learned that the very greatest impediment is our tendency to reject the good because the world labels it as a false human security. Immense numbers of Catholics down through history have clung to genuinely false human securities initially because the world taught them that the true Christian securities were as false as pipe dreams.

Mothering Sunday: The baptismal holiday we missed in America

In the recollection of particular sacramental events in our lives, we are reminded to give thanks to God and pray for those who started and led us along the Catholic way. This itself is an important way of “going home again” to our baptism, precisely because it is a way of “going to God” through the blessings He has bestowed, not only in the sacraments themselves but in every good thing which has enabled us to love God and serve His Church.

In the Psalms: A peculiar argument to win God’s favor

The deeper reality is that without having suffered, it is very difficult to learn to praise God, for it is suffering that teaches us we are not self-sufficient. It is suffering that forces us to reflect on the the ultimate meaning of human existence. And it is suffering that makes us realize how much we need help.

Catholicism Everywhere:

You may well know of the Catholic origins of hospitals, but did you know that April Fools Day originated from the persistence of certain “April Fools” who insisted on continuing to celebrate the new year on April 1st even after Pope Gregory had promulgated the Gregorian Calendar that we still use today?

Wait: Is human dignity NOT infinite?

It is a serious problem of the current pontificate that we must take so much trouble to distinguish between those occasions when Pope Francis seems to recognize our radical dependence on God and those when he seems to bless the rejection of that dependence—either by criticizing those who insist upon it very strongly in the moral sphere or by affirming those who patently redefine it to allow for certain culturally-approved sins.

Dignitas Infinita: Not a perfect text, but a strong one

The text concludes with the cry of Pope Francis in his 2015 encyclical Laudato Sí: “I appeal to everyone throughout the world not to forget this dignity which is ours. No one has the right to take it from us.” Moreover, the full text has happily avoided the common contemporary mistake of downplaying the Christian realities which are so critical to a full grasp of this truth. While recognizing sound natural and philosophical insights, it has not pretended that these will ever be sufficient for the kind of conversion which alone makes a coherent commitment to human dignity possible.

Reflections on the Resurrection from St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI

Our library also includes an interesting reflection by the second-century apologist Athenagoras of Athens On the Resurrection of the Dead. And of course you can find other works of interest in our collection of the Fathers of the Church. But here are seven brief homilies and general audiences reflecting on the Resurrection by Pope St. John Paul II and fifteen by Pope Benedict XVI—ideal for reading, reflection and prayer as part of your routine for the Easter Season.

Fidelity through time: “Apostles are harbingers of popes”

Along with the authoritative terms in which a Divine Revelation was of necessity expressed, there must be a corresponding Divinely-established authority to ensure that, in response to the different human insights and pressures characteristic of changing times and places and conditions, our understanding of the same doctrine would be sure to develop in ways which clarify and corroborate the original teachings rather than undermining and corrupting them.

Better than the movie? A biography of Mother Cabrini

Based on the film controversy, of course, it is Frances Cabrini’s personality which we want to discern here. To begin with, we may note that her health was never good; she was rejected for that reason by the religious community to which she first applied. But her strength of character, perseverance, humility and charm made an extraordinarily successful combination.

Easter volume released: Free ebook

The Easter volume of our ebook series for this liturgical year has been released in our ebooks download area. This fourth volume in the annual series covers the entire Easter season, from the Easter Vigil through Pentecost. It may be downloaded free of charge in the following formats: .mobi (Kindle), .epub (Nook and other standard ereaders), and .pdf (most computer devices).

Salvation and redemption in the Psalms, and in our hearts

There is a greater emphasis in the psalms on the difference between evildoers and those who keep God’s covenant, with the latter needing rescuing from the former, than there is on the recognition that we all sin and must all repent. Nonetheless, personal responsibility for sin and the need for repentance among all who take God’s ordinances seriously does find sufficient expression to get our attention.

A fundamentally sterile papal autobiography?

Surely a papal autobiography is ill-advised if only because it is not a “good look” for a successor of St. Peter: Even if such a step does not infallibly signal hubris, it necessarily raises serious questions about humility. To the best of my knowledge, no other pope has taken such a step, and few bishops or cardinals. At the very least, it is astonishing for a pope to take time away from his extraordinarily heavy responsibilities to write the precious story of his own own life.

On the sacrifice of telling the truth

Surprisingly, one of the biggest sacrifices we can make nowadays is to tell the truth. Consequently, when others assert incredibly stupid or deliberately negative things about God, the Church or morality as known through both Divine Revelation and the natural law, our most common response is likely to be silence.

Psalm 18: For Christians, a caricature of God’s mercy?

We are, of course, supposed to be very grateful to God whenever He extracts us from harsh human troubles, but the Christian is also supposed to understand that if God chooses to relieve our suffering, it is not owing to our own righteousness. In the first place, it is just as likely—nay, certainly more likely at some point—that He will ask us to bear a cross; in the second place, honesty compels us to admit that it is not only our opponents and our enemies who have sinned.

Benedict XVI’s gift of wonder to the Church

A number of writers have attempted to express their thanks for Pope Benedict XVI&rsquop;s remarkable life of service to the Church. The latest effort, by Robert Cardinal Sarah, may well be the best. Sarah’s book is simply titled He Gave Us So Much, and even this title is an understatement when considering the late Pope’s theological and spiritual legacy. That legacy is marked by a depth which matches its enormous breadth, and is undimmed by the passage of time.

Strange news that makes you think strange things...

Sometimes the news can appear to be just plain strange. Sometimes the point becomes clear on further reflection. Sometimes it doesn’t. And sometimes it is clear that the figures in the story are missing the point altogether.

What happened to the Christianity of the apostles?

There is a popular mythology to the effect that we must build only on what we have in common, which is less and less, instead of offering to others precisely what it is that they lack, which is more and more. The result, as the demons again gain in power over mankind, is a constant accommodation with the demons. The situation has gotten so bad that huge numbers of Catholics actually no longer know what to do about it even if they want to do something about it.

On Chesterton’s thrilling (and accurate) account of man

Of all of G. K. Chesterton’s books, I should say that by far the best is The Everlasting Man, in which he presents the human religious impulse as being fulfilled in Christ just as all the combined hopes of Judaism and Greco-Roman Civilization were, like an immense wave, curling into a thunderous collapse.

Taking the grace of God in vain? Lent can help.

Even after we admit the truth of Christ and begin to pay attention to him in His Church, I am sure that most of us squander at least some of the graces we receive. Therefore, St. Paul’s plea, “We entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain”, becomes a wonderful point for meditation during Lent.

Our Lady of Guadalupe and preparing the Americas for Christ

There is a poetic tradition in Mesoamerica stretches back many hundreds and perhaps even thousands of years. The very forms of expression traditionally used to refer to God, and the gods, and the paradise to which they held the key, made it difficult for the sixteenth-century Catholic missionaries to express Christianity clearly and effectively in ways that would not be confusing to the native peoples. Then everything changed.

Hypocrisy in opposition to Fiducia supplicans?

We use the term “love” to mean anything from sexual attraction to sacrificial self-giving. Marriage, of course, usually incorporates multiple aspects of the potential meaning of the word “love”, but I am pretty sure that everyone reading this understands that there is a great difference between sexual passion and authentic love, which always means willing the good of the one we love.

On the nakedness and temerity of Job—and ourselves

A piety which assumes God offers material happiness to the righteous in this world, but punishes sinners, is common (though hardly exclusive) in the Old Testament. The same mistaken strain of piety runs through various brands of Protestantism, including the prosperity Gospel preached by televangelists. But Job continues to suffer while remaining steadfast in professing his own innocence. And he learns something new when he insists that God Himself answer his questions and judge his case fairly.

A simple example of how apologetics works

Those who have made a careful study of apologetics have conveniently used three Greek terms to highlight the three keys to a successful defense of the Faith. The first is “ethos”—that is, the “trustworthy character” of the apologist. If those who defend the faith are cantankerous or mean-spirited, or indulge in cheap rhetorical tricks, or use various kinds of pressure, then they will not project a trustworthy character, and their audience is unlikely to give them a sincere hearing.

Free Liturgical Year Volume 3 Released: LENT

Our liturgical year ebooks include all the liturgical day information for each season just as it appears on CatholicCulture.org. These offer a rich set of resources for families to use in living the liturgical year in the domestic church. Resources include biographies of the saints to match each feast day, histories of the various celebrations and devotions, descriptions of customs from around the world, prayers, activities and recipes.

On playing the game of Common Good with a crooked deck

Call this Practical Social Principle 101: Organizations and movements which find themselves in opposition to Christ cannot promote the common good. Or let me put it in a more practical human way: Organizations and movements which, in carrying out their missions, reject or undermine the moral teachings of the Catholic Church, as known through Divine Revelation and the natural law, cannot promote the common good.

Why we must pray for the Church, and one way to do it

Now, if we groan inwardly as we await our salvation, we must therefore struggle in union with all the members of the Church. Thus must we also pray unceasingly that the Church’s work may be completed in each one of us, even while recognizing that this great Church is made up here on earth solely of sinners, the salvation of whom will not be secured without their own cooperation.

Catholicism: The glory of God and the horror of sin

The Church agrees with St. John Henry Newman that it is better for each one of us that we should endure the most serious temporal suffering rather than commit a single deliberate sin.

The complexity of assessing a pontificate

It is evident that good people can be spiritually and morally misled, mistreated and injured even within the Church. It is evident also that we do not always receive the leadership we want. But it is far from evident, in God’s providence, that as adults we do not usually receive at least leadership from which we can benefit, if only through spiritual adversity, by leading lives of prayerful docility to the Holy Spirit.

What sacrament means the most to you?

All seven of the Church’s sacraments are extraordinarily powerful occasions of grace for those who receive them, but I suspect we all have our favorites. For example, an adult convert might single out baptism as having a powerful impact on his life, whereas a cradle Catholic might appreciate baptism only somewhat more “theoretically”, since he or she cannot remember receiving the sacrament and may not particularly associate graces received with that blessed foundation.

God’s election for your fallen family: Never too late!

The whole history of the Jews recounted in the Book of Nehemiah seems incredible to us, not so much because of the dramatic miracles which the Jews experienced in their Exodus from Egypt (and even afterwards through the prophets), but mainly because of how quickly the people and their leaders forget what God has done for them and fall into precisely the sins God has forbidden. Really, though, we should not find this surprising, for much the same thing happens in the Catholic Church today.

Welcome your guardian angel! (He’s stuck with you.)

Christ Himself refers with some frequency not only to “the devil and his angels” (e.g., Mt 25:41) but to the angels who do God’s will in Heaven. In fact, Our Lord testified specifically to the existence of personal guardian angels when He warned: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Mt 18:10).

The most troubling aspect of Fiducia supplicans

It is certainly more troubling that this document has tied itself explicitly to the justification of blessings for a particular class of persons who are identified by their commitment to an objectively sinful lifestyle. If eyebrows are not raised as Catholics discern the primary purpose of this exercise, then Catholics are oblivious to what ought to be obvious. This is true even if the text is as spiritually legitimate in its strictest interpretation as it has already proved illegitimate in its more easily predictable implementation. But even this is not what troubles me most.

Liturgical Year Volume 2 Released: Ordinary Time before Lent

This liturgical year ebook includes all the liturgical day information for the period of Ordinary Time before Lent just as it appears on CatholicCulture.org. It offers a rich set of resources for families to use in living the liturgical year in the domestic church. Resources include biographies of the saints to match each feast day, histories of the various celebrations and devotions, descriptions of customs from around the world, prayers, activities and recipes.

Spiritual mapping, in the Church, and through the minefield

The first step, I suppose, is for each of us to purchase a spiritual compass that points in the right direction. I say “purchase” because this acquisition costs something in humility and spiritual commitment. We must give up our own claim to be a lodestone and instead strenuously cultivate a spirituality which points always to Christ at the heart of the Church. Such a compass must be calibrated not to personal preferences but to the Church’s own teachings and sacramental discipline.

The Christmas gift of hospitality

It is important to allow the hospitality which is so natural to the season to include as many family members as possible, particularly those who are no longer actively practicing their Faith. Gatherings in a home firmly grounded in Jesus Christ and the remembrances of the Church at this wonderful time of year serve not only as reminders of love but also as reminders of Love—that is, of Christ Himself and His infinite love and care for all of his brothers and sisters in our estranged world.

Bishops can turn the new “blessings text” into a virtue

The Church needs bishops who are proactive in caring for their dioceses—in which they too are vicars of Christ—without disobeying Rome. The devil, we like to say, is in the details. But it is the local bishop who is in the best position to discern how this new instruction on blessings can be implemented in his diocese for the good of souls. And it is the job of the bishop to do this through rock-solid priests while remaining very much in communion with Rome.

Blessings for same-sex couples: An elephant in the room?

There is an important distinction that is not made in the document. Questions arise: What about the pro-abortion Catholic politician who makes a photo-op out of asking the priest to bless him in the pursuit of his political objectives? Indeed, modern ideological pressures place a broad range of such motives into the blessing mix. What about the desire of a same-sex couple to use the blessing as personal validation?

Perils of “the vote”: Must all government be bad government?

I believe that one of the greatest socio-political errors of Church leaders, from the pope on down, is their constant stress on an unthinking respect and veneration for democracy—as if democracy has ever, in and of itself, solved a single political problem. This stress on democracy blurs the reality that it is not a particular “constitution” or “governance arrangement” but a true moral compass which determines both the proper ends of government and the means by which these ends may be pursued.

Repentance and righteousness in all of Scripture

We do get the impression at times that the Old Testament is an unremitting testimony to judgment and condemnation and that we must look exclusively to the New Testament for forgiveness and mercy. Bearing this in mind, it is particularly helpful to come across unexpected Old Testament texts which remind us that God the Father has exemplified from all eternity the manner in which His Christ would draw those lines.

What will happen if we stop taking ourselves for granted?

Look, it is one thing to throw up our hands and say we just don’t know why there should be something instead of nothing. But that uninterested dismissal simply won’t do in the face of the question of why we, alone among all material beings, are persons. For while we seldom have occasion to worry about how things came to exist in the first place, the intricacies and peculiarities of our personhood occupy us, with or without active reflection, at every moment of our lives.

Liturgical kid stuff: Real or imagined?

There are two reasons for my opinion that roles at Mass should be reserved for those who have been confirmed and are at least in their mid-teen years. The first is that this will typically upgrade the quality of the liturgical celebration, changing it back from “kid time” to a serious Catholic spiritual responsibility. The second is that our culture has the transition to adulthood backwards. If kids have already “been there, done that”, they are less likely to be drawn in to a life of faith.

Why we are—or are not—so often in the wrong

In most periods of Church history there have been significant divisions over one issue or another, divisions that boil down to the respective mindsets of the parties who are wrestling with a particular problem. Certainly, security lies in a proper understanding of what the Church has taught formally in the past about the various issues at stake; and clearly, those who think Church teaching can be changed to suit the desires of the dominant culture have substituted the ideas of the dominant culture for the Holy Spirit.

If your only tool is a hammer: A problem of focus

Most of our preoccupations are colored not only by our own faulty commitments but by the unrecognized temptations which too often affect our goals and our behavior. Or, to approach this from a different point of view, the combination of our preoccupations and our gifts may make us either suitable or unsuitable for the accomplishment of particular goals which require, for success, abilities which go beyond mere spiritual commitment or holiness.

Conversion to end child sacrifice: In ancient Israel and now

“The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” This seems to be the hallmark not only of William Butler Yeats’ early twentieth-century world but of our world today. We look to media and find that the most aggressive and widespread presentations merely purvey the values of a corrupt human culture. We look to politics or we look to business and we find pressure from both to extend that corruption. The list goes on, and the only solution is conversion of heart.

On distinguishing temptation from personal identity

In other words, our desires and reflexive behaviors are not definitive of who we are, precisely because we are actually persons with powers of both intellect and will by which we may, astonishingly, control and guide both our desires and our behavior in accordance with our evaluation of the good.

Providential prospects for Christian unity

While the Catholic Church has been rocked by secularistic infidelity at every level in a host of distressingly human ways, many of the old Protestant churches are no longer recognizable, or are dramatically reduced in size, or have all but disappeared. As Christian bodies go, if you think the Catholic Church has problems, you haven’t seen anything yet. The Catholic Church is still receiving large numbers of converts from the levelled trenches of Protestantism: Providence, I believe, at work.

Advent-Christmas Ebook released for new liturgical year

Our free liturgical year ebooks offer a rich set of resources for families to use in living the liturgical year in the domestic church. Resources include biographies of the saints to match each feast day, histories of the various celebrations and devotions, descriptions of customs from around the world, prayers, activities and recipes.

Is there a Providential trajectory in the last seven popes?

Pope Francis is indeed a massive failure, a failure seemingly designed to increase the secularism of the remaining susceptible clergy and laity throughout the Church. But whereas the leadership at the top under John Paul II encouraged a new generation of priests and bishops, the failure of leadership under Francis has made a great many bishops recognize that they are not called to be branch managers of a multi-national corporation, but to be vicars of Christ in their own dioceses.

Ultimate clericalism: Not what you think

The greatest of all the sins under the heading of “clericalism” is any abuse of office which deliberately undermines confidence in what the Church teaches about Christ, about Christ’s continued ministry to us through the Church, and about the manner of life He calls us to live.

Spitzer in One: Scripture, History, Science, Reason, Faith

This book covers a lot of the same ground as his previous studies, but with two differences. First, it is organized primarily around questions that arise specifically in relationship to our reception of the Bible and the realities which the Bible recounts. Second, it is presented in question-and-answer form, which makes it easier and quicker to find succinct treatments of the particular issues which may be of greatest interest. This also makes the book more accessible to the general reader.

Is “listening” overrated? (or, Are we all second-graders?)

The most disturbing aspect of this year’s Synod is the puerility of its ecclesiastical posturing. The post-synodal Letter reeks of a childish self-congratulation in its testimony to a magnificent experience of mutual sharing and listening that has made the Synodal process so deeply meaningful, and in its tendentious assurance that each participant feels—oh, so very, very deeply—that he or she has “lived this blessed time in profound communion with all of you”, the People of God.

Cardinal Schönborn on changing the Catechism

Pope Saint John Paul II incorporated what he regarded as improvements in the Latin typical edition, a clear indication of the proper understanding of the text as a “sure guide” only in this more general sense, especially compared with the rampant publication of various catechisms throughout the world which more or less deliberately distorted Catholic doctrine in the years between Vatican II and the publication of this official text.

Pastoral practice must foster Faith, not split hairs

One question we might also ask is whether the Church’s ministry has tended to expand when her teachings have been presented precisely or when her teachings have been blurred. As a case in point, we might ask whether her ministry has expanded under John Paul II or under Pope Francis.

On our cheerful “descent” into apostolic Christianity

Few bishops are remembered at all (and most of these are martyrs commemorated in the liturgical calendar); few religious orders have been established without significant controversy; and no religious order has ever survived long after its founding without periods of significant infidelity and decline. We might also recognize that only a handful of the nearly 270 popes leading the Church since Jesus Christ have ever been called “the great”. When, we may well ask, was the Christian life not a struggle?

Extrapolating God from Science

Fr. Spitzer knows that the physical sciences cannot prove the existence of God, because the physical sciences can study only material things. He also knows that we must beware of the “God of the gaps” fallacy—that is, the fallacy that if we do not know how something in the physical universe came about, then we can conclude that God must have intervened directly to make that something happen. This understanding explains the author’s choice of his title: Science at the doorstep of God.

Synod: The Church’s being is Christ, her ecology the Gospel

In the initial Synod addresses, too much is about having an “acceptable” attitude on random contemporary hot-button issues, such as ecology, homosexuality, racial prejudice, and religious hostility regardless of content, as if the Catholic Faith really is, as Western governments now believe, merely a sentiment, and not something that inescapably fosters the divisions which Christ Himself predicted.

On Catholics speaking truth to power

Wherever Catholic leaders claim to be emphasizing the Church’s “closeness” in “accompanying” others in acts, associations and organizations which are formally sinful in their purposes, the leaders in question do an immense disservice not only to those they bless but to those who witness or learn of this blessing, and to the Church as a whole. Even if they are so clueless as not to intend it, they are engaging in a witness against Christ and the Church, a witness which wounds rather than heals.

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.

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.”

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.

Awakening the Church...in 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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

True Renewal: Why is it so hard to grasp?

But the stakes are far higher for those who see in the Church the fullness of Christ’s Presence in this world and the source of the grace they need for themselves and their children to know, love and serve God now and forever. These, in growing desperation, may be so appalled by the tepid contemporary institutional presence of the Church as to seek refuge in allegedly Catholic alternatives which are prepared to adopt a more militantly counter-cultural profile. This is extraordinarily dangerous.

Final Liturgical Year volume for 2022-23 available now

Our liturgical year ebooks include all the liturgical day information for each season just as it appears on CatholicCulture.org. These offer a rich set of resources for families to use in living the liturgical year in the domestic church. Resources include biographies of the saints to match each feast day, histories of the various celebrations and devotions, descriptions of customs from around the world, prayers, activities and recipes.

Rigidity in reality: On Pope Francis’ use of the term

The main issue here is that the worldly way of assessing the tendency toward rigidity means that those who defend what is now out of favor culturally are routinely condemned as inflexible or rigid (in other words, “closed”), while those who change their spots with every cultural shift are praised as flexible or responsive (in other words, “open”).

Independent Catholic schools foster Catholic communities

I am sure our readers can alert me to (and remind me of) other successful foundations which have stimulated the development of healthy Catholic communities. It wouldn’t hurt in the least to make a list of those that get several reliable recommendations.

“Well-versed” in Patristic preaching? Look again.

It was frequently the case that deacons were the preferred material for the episcopate (or even for the papacy). Sometimes early ordination as a priest was a signal that a candidate lacked the administrative ability to run a diocese. In St. Ephrem’s case this took a strange turn: He did not want to be a bishop, but he had to feign madness at one point to escape selection.

Sing of Mary, 6: Mary’s song is…not about Mary

Our loving Father works always through this law of the gift. His gifts are always for others. And the gifts we receive are always for others as well. Christ is of course the Father’s supreme gift and so His supreme sacrifice. Every gift Mary received demanded an assent to sacrificial love. Every gift we receive makes the same demand.

Mary’s coffee table: Intelligent, beautiful and inspiring

Of all the very recent Catholic books, perhaps the broadest appeal belongs to a new, lavishly illustrated coffee table book from Gazegorz Górny and Janusz Rosikoń: Mary, Mother of God: In Search of the Woman Who Changed History, jointly published by Rosikon press and Ignatius Press.

How not to let go…

I do not need to tell any of my readers that frustration is a universal experience in our highly-impersonal big-corporation and big-government bureaucratic culture. Indeed, almost every change we make with any major organization is like pulling teeth, taking time and attention that far exceeds the energy it took to set up the commercial or governmental relationship in the first place. This makes letting go very hard to do.

A multi-generational defense of the Mass

Nor is it spiritually healthy for any soul deliberately to disobey the Church’s duly promulgated liturgical norms. In a priest, this is always a violation of the rights of the faithful, whatever the faithful’s preferences may be. We do not have the right to the form of the ritual that we prefer. What we have a right to is what the Church currently prescribes or permits.

Do not panic! God uses evil for good, even in the Church.

We cannot escape the purification of suffering—even as a Church or as an individual soul. The wheat and the tares can be separated only by God, and that at harvest time. Meanwhile, we are called not to reinvent the plan of salvation but to fidelity. We may see evil everywhere, and we must certainly combat some evils, but we are never called to separate from the Church, or to pretend that the Church can be divided into a bad part and a good part, according to our own lights.

Passing away, immortality, ourselves and those we love

With opportunities to renew our acquaintance with even natural beauties at intervals, to see them fresh, and so to witness not only to what has been created but to the Creator: This is in fact a human instinct, built firmly into our nature, and it is only through either serious pride, severe confusion, or an enculturated rebellion against being that we succeed in denying what must otherwise be obvious to even the meanest intelligence.

With the Fathers, we are forced into constant battle

St. Jerome was far from perfect. He had to struggle early on against temptations of the flesh. He remained his whole life very caustic in his attacks on those who undermined the Catholic Faith. But for his troubles, not only was St. Jerome constantly attacked and denounced in high places by the confused and frequently heretical writers of his day, but his most beloved achievement—the double monastery named Eustochium—was burned to the ground by his theological enemies.

Earth to WYD: God permits, not desires, many religions

Pope Francis, in speaking so much about the dangers of Christian proselytism, has given Catholics an excuse not to do what they should have all along felt called to do, namely to preach Christ and Him crucified. That this attitude should surface so clearly in the cardinal-designate who is in charge of World Youth Day would be beyond the bounds of belief—if the groundwork for such attitudes had not been so carefully laid over the past ten years.

Patristics: Fr. Nichols’ astonishing Singing-Masters

The errors these great Catholic thinkers sought to correct—and the opposition they experienced both in the social order and within the Church herself—put our own problems into perspective. Nobody who studies the Fathers can regard the turmoil of the Church in our own time as unique, or even unusually difficult. Nobody who has read the Fathers can for a moment regard our twenty-first century after Christ as unusual in either its propensity for error or its ecclesiastical upheaval and division.

In a Nutshell: Protecting your children in a digital world

While this article covers the problems presented by cell phones, clearly children should generally not have their own computers; rather, they should be accessing family computers as needed only in a public place in the home. The same goes for any television or other viewing or listening device which allows access to broadcast or online content. These must be password protected, and the passwords must be changed frequently. The parent should be logging in and queueing up whatever is to be viewed!

Feeling disconnected from the Church?

The dysphoria we feel in some historical moments—in this case “a state of unease or generalized dissatisfaction with life” specifically in the Church—is primarily due to our ecclesiastical marginalization, the constant pounding we take within a Church in which orthodoxy, clear thinking and effective discipline seem to be on holiday, even at the highest levels.

Will Teilhard’s Catholicism never stop evolving?

We may need a Hopkins center in Paris, but we do not need a Teilhard center. The Catholic poet Gerard Manly Hopkins—who unlike Teilhard de Chardin refused to publish his work once he was ordained a priest—was also a Jesuit. Yet he had a much saner understanding of the ways in which God manifests His glory, that glory which is the perfect antidote to the twin poisons of absolutizing the material and evolutionizing the spiritual. The latter was the attraction and the downfall of Teilhard.

Moses the rationalizer? (So like us.)

Like the rest of us, however, Moses did not always like the punishments he received for failing to follow God’s will both whole-heartedly and, as we might say, to the letter. We are all prone to shave off some of the harder bits, or take credit for the good that is primarily God’s doing. The most we can do, if we are honest, is to cooperate with God’s plan. We cannot write the script.

Straight to heaven…by Scripture alone?

Obviously these topics can be made either interesting or dull, depending primarily on the manner of presentation. For example, one could not only organize them in the form of a basic catechism (which Fr. Morrow has done very well) but also treat them in accordance with a kind of rote memorization of formulaic statements (which Fr. Morrow has avoided very well). The book is written not only to instruct but to engage and inspire. The presentation is not formulaically memorizable: It is simply memorable.

On spiritual fat—and is an unborn child a person, or not?

But the sloppiness remains, and it is both vexing and tiresome. Without even making any negative judgment of Pope Francis’ intentions, we are faced with ever-growing evidence of his fundamental inability to be careful about either his choice of words or his willingness to make their meaning clear within each context. This is both sad and trying, and should be brought to prayer.

Inner peril: Reflections on the “Catholic sobriety test”

Perhaps it is just as well that I spent some of my time crawling around checking wires and connections this time out, but (blast it) I had said a Rosary before my appearance on the set, and all I can say is that the whole thing brings to mind St. Teresa of Avila’s famous quip when, on one of her journeys to her various convents as a nun, she fell into a muddy stream, got up, and said to her Lord and Savior, “If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few.”

The Catholic sobriety test: livestream with Mirus & Lawler, May 22nd

Jeff Mirus and Phil Lawler discuss their approach to writing responsible, sober commentary during a time of crisis in the Church.

Is paganism dead? Or are we just living in denial?

There are an increasing number of common bodily sins and abuses today which were associated with pagan cults that were absolutely forbidden to the Jews. They were forbidden not only because they involve a betrayal of the Lord, but because they are a fundamental violation of the relationships which are naturally proper to the human person and to a healthy society. Were we not blinded by both sensual lust and the demand for untrammeled “personal expression”, we would see these same actions as serious sins today.

What’s wrong with synodality today?

The current synodal process is very like a fishing expedition, designed to bring to light not what we might call Gospel problems but personal discontents. Whatever is uncovered is conveniently redacted and sent up the global chain until it reaches some who have no idea what to do with it, and others who will use it as evidence that Church teaching, and the Divine Revelation on which it is based, must be “reinterpreted” to fit the spirit of the age. The problem is that we all know the script.

Looking at the world with courage to look first at Christ

Larry S. Chapp, a former professor of Catholic theology who came to the fulness of faith through the Catholic Worker movement, offers a unique perspective on the spiritual landscape today, with plenty of good ideas about what it means to be a truly cruciform Catholic.

A corrected review

There is a much improved review available.

The Protestant principle and the Catholic authority principle

You may not believe the claims of the Catholic Church, but the Catholic Church is unique among all the religions of the world in claiming both that it is revealed explicitly by God and that the Church carries within it a Divinely revealed and Divinely established authority by which disputes over this Revelation can be authoritatively settled. These two claims are so important that it is a wonder that anyone would accept a religion that did not make them.

Religious sisters lead revolt against climate crisis. Wow?

All is vanity without Christ. All is vanity unless and until Christ is taken up as the ultimate corrective and the ultimate hope, so that we might fulfill the destiny to which we are called, a destiny which far surpasses even our concern about the fallen state of the earth and its oceans. Only we Christians know that all of creation, as St. Paul put it, “has been groaning in travail together until now.” And only we Christians know why.

Does Archbishop Paglia illustrate the “lessness” of Francis?

Believing Catholics must continually ask themselves whether the Faith is not the Faith at all. They must continually wonder why, after all these centuries, it is now perfectly acceptable for Catholics to ignore or explain away the dangers posed by the world, the flesh and the devil. They must assume that the right way to evangelize is to paste a Christian veneer over whatever the world wants to hear at each particular moment.

Does Moses foreshadow Christ AND each of us?

Moses—the single greatest figure under the Old Covenant—was excluded from the Promised Land. This suggests something that I believe I see elsewhere in Scripture as well, namely that Moses is not only a type of Christ for us as we read the Scriptures forward to their fulfillment, but he is also a type of each of us—namely, an imperfect man who struggled to grow into perfect trust in and dependence on God’s love and grace.

Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, a violent woke “Catholic”?

It is the advocates of our new “woke” culture—with its destructive notions of sex and gender and its insistence that the natural law is in itself a violent attack on human liberty—who increasingly wink at violence against believing Catholics and their churches. The news is full of violence against pro-life centers, Catholic churches, and Christian believers who publicly express opinions contrary to the latest fantasies about the human person as championed by the secular State.

When I am weak I am strong: Beating Paul at his own game

Paul’s ministry, of course, bore great fruit, not only while he was still on earth, but ever since. And yet, as far as we in the West can tell, he must be as frustrated as the rest of us are (were that possible in Heaven) by how that fruit has declined and rotted in our own time.

Why each and every marital act must be open to life

One must conclude that there is a key moral difference between the two approaches to this particular question—that is, whether engagiing in the marital act when it is less likely to result in conception is the same thing as using contraceptives to make conception impossible (assuming a general overall openness to having children). But it is difficult for many people today, living in a world characterized by intense technological control, to grasp this difference.

Politics vs. Salvation: Catholic priorities?

If we think that our fundamental personal morality is just fine as long as we resist the public, political effort to legalize, promote and fund more widespread sexual sin, then (as my parents used to say) “we have another think coming”. And if the Church thinks that the crux of today’s moral challenge is to avoid having our taxes used to fund immorality, the Church is suffering under a severe spiritual delusion.

Ratzinger: Grasping God’s plan as told in Scripture

The book insist that we humans are precisely God’s special project, the summit of His creation, called to a glorious destiny which only we can thwart. Ratzinger’s point is that the whole of Divine Revelation in Scripture is designed to illuminate this project so that, instead of rebelling against it in the continued estrangement of Original Sin, we can participate fruitfully in it as the sole way of happiness.

Papal contentment with bland secularities

It is difficult to explain the complexities in Francis’ character and commitments, and we have no choice but to live with them. But Francis’ most obvious tendency as Pope is an insistence on addressing those who do not share the faith in almost exclusively natural terms, with an ever-diminishing willingness to actually proclaim the Gospel.

The confessional seal will remain inviolable.

It is certainly good to know that the Church stands remarkably firm on the seal of the confessional even when she seems incapable of standing firm on almost anything else. It is a powerful grace, I think, which defends this sacrament, and with it the privacy of those who confess their sins. It is a grace so signally impressive, in fact, that the Sacrament of Penance is experiencing something of a comeback wherever it is emphasized, even in the secularized West.

Aids to perception: Three long and three short books

When I was in college and newly in love I learned the difficulty of concentrating on the things I read simply because they were assigned. Again and again, I would emerge from some imaginative ramble to find that I was twenty pages on in the reading of some book, and had absolutely no recollection of what was on those pages. So I’d go back and read it again, usually (at least) with better results. But to this day I cringe when I receive a really long book for review.

Placatory proselytism? Obscuring the challenge of Faith

The foundation of authentic religion is what God knows, not what we perceive. Divine Revelation, through which we come to know what God knows, is not to be bartered away in a continuous adjustment of Christian principles to suit the vagaries of time and place, influence and ascendancy. A placatory Christianity is a Christianity unfaithful to Christ. At the very moment the concession is made, it ceases to be Christianity, and so ceases to matter at all.

The family: Not for production or consumption, but joy

Societies and their economic engines can be organized more or less beneficially to the life of the family. When this develops in less beneficial ways, we end up with widespread personal instability and distress, the normalization of many individualized forms of immorality, the decline of the family and close-knit societies, and the consequent loss of natural communities of support.

Fourth free ebook on Faith in series by Fr. Pokorsky

The last decade has seen the acceleration of errors in Catholic doctrine. Church officials seem increasingly unable to distinguish between their sacred duties as pastors in promoting Catholic principles and the indispensable role of the laity in applying those principles in everyday politics. Maybe these clusters of articles will help reaffirm our faith and desire for heavenly glory.

Cardinal McElroy’s refusal to speak the truth

The Catholic Church does not regard herself as a club through which sinners may grow in social acceptance. She regards herself as a Divine institution for the reclamation of sinners and their transforming incorporation into Christ. Those who refuse to accept her authority cannot benefit from her ministry. Those who act in public defiance of her teachings cannot remain in full communion with her. This does not arise from her changeable decision but by virtue of what she is.

The meaning of the clash between McElroy and Paprocki

The modern experiment has been one of marginalizing the unpleasantness of the important. The result has been not liberty but enslavement to wayward human desire: The selfish championing of the “individual”, if he is from the right group, or possesses the right wealth, or is eager to sing the right tune for his supper.

The ERA’s manipulation of thought and culture

Modern politics, as brilliantly exemplified in the Equal Rights Amendment, is radically influenced by the tendency (derived in part from a woefully incomplete Personalism) to believe that we must be forever rebuilding our “thought world” from our own personal subjectivity—a process which, given ever-shifting cultural pressures and the difficulty we find in conforming our impassioned minds to reality, makes us prey to one ideology after another.

In a fallen world, we work miracles only blindly, in faith

We are navigating through a time of widespread secularization and even apostasy right within the Church. Sometimes the strain of swimming against this powerful current can make us forget that there are still plenty of other currents within the Church that we can swim with. There are a great many things wrong, and we have to know what is wrong. But if we do not also immerse ourselves in what is good, we risk becoming cranks or slipping into disillusion and despair.

Suffering in ourselves, family members, friends…and Lourdes

In the face of the paltry character of our own interventions, we are forced to take prayer more seriously, along with resignation to God’s will. These are two excellent lessons which may not seem to do much here and now, but can make all the difference in eternity. Nonetheless, we have both a natural and a spiritual yearning for something that will be effective in this world: One of those things may be a pilgrimage to Lourdes.

Renewal 101: Episcopal rule is personal, not bureaucratic

If in significant doubt about the implementation of curial policy, a diocesan bishop might appeal directly to the pope. Or he might discern that he is within his rights in following the letter of what the Pope has promulgated, regardless of the interpretations of curial officials. And of course he might use his legitimate authority to suspend or modify disciplinary laws for the good of his own diocese, recognizing rightly that this is a decision with which a pope ought not lightly to interfere.

Exhausted by intractable evil? Our Lord has already won.

No matter the discouragement we may occasionally feel, we can offer it to Our Lord and Savior, and hear Him reply that He too has, in his human nature, felt just as we do. Wildly tempted? The Devil toyed with Him as if he were a fool. Humanly ineffective? The scoffers had Him enormously outnumbered. Exhausted? He preached and healed so incessantly that he fell asleep in a tossing boat....

Tragi-comic news: When all we can do is laugh

Today’s news illustrates the increasing trend toward stories which, did they not reveal such a degree of tragic human failure, would be absolutely hilarious. The news today must invariably cover stories of the “You will never believe this!” variety.

McElroy: Communion for ideological sinners in denial?

We should all be extremely tired by now of the constant disingenuous verbal game-playing, and particularly tired of those ecclesiastical figures who use loaded language, worthless theological arguments, and even contrived ecclesiastical processes to advance agendas at odds with the grace and teaching of Christ.

The next pope’s dilemma—and ours

When those who reject or hate what we might call the revealed reality of the Church approve of the Pope (and those who embrace and love the revealed reality of the Church typically do not), we know that the Church is, humanly speaking, undergoing a severe crisis. So let’s say that you really are looking forward to the next papal election, at the very least because it is exceedingly unlikely that things at the top could be worse than they are now. What is the next pope’s great dilemma?

Without marriage and family, no better world

Where that bond of love is continually chopped up into pieces that are either scattered or deliberately thrown away, not only do those who were once a family become deeply scarred but society as a whole begins to crumble. When people lose the nurture of the family that makes them whole—whether grandparent, mother, father or children—they are prone to find inadequate substitutes, and they have an ineluctable tendency to be overcome by sadness, anger, a sense of failure or worthlessness, and despair.

Rooted in Christ: It starts with conversation.

I’ve set hourly chimes on my clock or phone to pull me out of my daily routine and remind me to think of God, to consider Him present, to say something—that is, to raise my mind and heart to God in a very human way. And I have also failed even to hear the chimes when they ring, forcing me to set them louder or come up with other techniques. But if we persevere, awareness of God will become a habit. This is the practice of the presence of God.

Request for feedback: Use of photos to grab attention

We are considering changing our home page design to emphasize a few key news stories, commentaries and podcasts with accompanying photos. Most websites do this today, in order to draw more attention to featured items. But it means there would be a smaller number of links to our news stories, commentaries, podcasts and liturgical day material on our home page, and it would not be as convenient to scroll down to see all recent material. We would appreciate your feedback on this possibility!

Ordinary Time, again: 10 questions, or maybe 5, and 1 rule

In other words, it is we who ought to be grateful, not God.

Divine circularity in the first letter of St. John, and in us

This is why theologians differ on the question of how many will be saved—that is, they differ because there are unseen realities behind both the profession of faith and its denial, behind both living in accordance with the truth and falling short of that. I have often proposed an analogy with the problem of piercing the corporate veil when there is wrongdoing in a business. The key questions for the board of directors are: What did you know? When did you know it? And what did you do about it?

Not conservative or liberal, but faithful or unfaithful

It does absolutely no good to point out the difference between conservatism and liberalism. The only thing that matters is the difference between truth and falsehood—or in Catholic terms, the difference between fidelity and infidelity. I mean the difference between following Christ on the principle that no servant is greater than his master and that His kingdom is not of this world, and aspiring instead to be accepted by the cool kids in the class—the class that dominates the world.

Merry Christmas, according to the Letter to the Hebrews

Many Christians are not worried about losing their salvation, because they have been raised in the “I’m OK, you’re OK” culture of therapeutic, secularized Christianity. They rely on the notion that we are all simply too nice to be damned—and who would want to be with a God who would damn anybody anyway? But this is to look at the whole problem backwards. God has redeemed all of us through Jesus Christ. The question is simply: Who wants to take advantage of that, and who does not?

Moral clarity is a requirement of love

If we grow spiritually and morally as human persons, then over time we learn to recognize rationalization and dismiss it through a combination of sound moral analysis, deepening convictions, and strong habits. We become persons in which all faculties act together in harmony—that is, persons of integrity. But if we decide to roll with the rationalizations, we gradually descend into intellectual darkness.

Computer hacks, Providence and really helping others

Nature alone may do in a pinch, but it is nowhere near all that we have. And if Our Lord cannot reach souls even through those who can offer the fullness of truth and grace, then surely nature alone will never be enough.

The refusal to preach purity in the face of sexual license

This incident reveals how determined our modern secular culture is to assert the control of personal desire over being, as long as the desires in question are destructive of both our human nature and our relationship with God. Transgenderism simply extends the litany of the confused sexual desires which afflict our fallen nature, and which must be re-ordered through a combination of respect for reality, self-discipline, grace, and human growth—including spiritual growth.

St. Paul Center: Impressive, spiritually nourishing new books

Here is a winning list of books published by the St. Paul Center over the past couple of months.

Religious liberty: A bad political tactic?

The thing that bothers me is that arguing adherence moral issues on the basis of religious liberty is already a concession to those who deny reality.

Even Catholic social transformation must be rooted in prayer

In a culture with the intensely secular first rule that religious belief is merely a personal sentiment, so shut up about it, the plush slipper is always on the other person’s foot. Granted that it is also dangerous when the plush slipper is on the Catholic foot, our own battered and uncomfortable boots today appear to be good only for walking away, or perhaps occasionally stomping away. We wonder in every aftermath whether our ineffective witness is worthy of anything but the Confessional.

The moral beauty of Catholicism: Reversing the perspective

Considering the motives of credibility that might attract others to the Church before they accept her doctrines, is it possible that those who have sought to live an authentically Catholic life now for many years can see within themselves something mysteriously compelling that they could not possibly wish to be without? This question may produce genuine insights into the nature of the dreadful chasm that separates the way of Christ and the Church from every other possibility.

The reception of mercy begins with repentance

All the blather about cheap salvation without an interior change of heart is damaging. At the same time, we need to understand that the primary motive for growing constantly closer to God ought not to be fear but love. If we think we may be damned, that is a motivation to overcome evil habits. But a far greater motivation is love of God because He created us and destined us for eternal glory if we would but accept it. Love leads to a far greater share in the Divine life, both now and forever.

The Church: Mere exclusion, or inclusion through mission?

We are baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection as priests, prophets and kings. Baptism is not only the conferral of a Divine benefit but a personal immersion into the saving work of Jesus Christ—that is, an immersion into Christ’s mission. Insofar as the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ are obscured in the life of the Church through worldly aspirations, the missionary nature of each Catholic’s configuration to Christ is obscured, sometimes to the point of becoming barren.

Inclusive Church, uncertain trumpet

In everything the Church in all her members is compelled by mission to preach the truth to all who have not yet received it. Of course, many potential missionaries are put off by embarrassment at preaching Christ, or fear of an adverse reaction to honest evangelization. The word has gone out through all the world that it is far nicer simply to welcome everyone regardless of what they believe and that, besides, anyone who claims a superior grasp of the truth is an unChristian blowhard.

The case for excommunication today

Public excommunication has three purposes: First, it places the excommunicated beyond the reach of the Church’s sacramental grace until the ban is lifted; second, it is a solemn statement designed to bring that person to his spiritual senses through repentance; third, it puts the Catholic faithful on notice that the behavior which incurred excommunication is so serious as to admit no possibility of participation in the life of Christ until repentance permits the lifting of the ban.

He’s back! Diogenes Unveiled

Diogenes cites a “Catholic” publisher who asked whether it is not possible “that the Catholic Church still has it wrong on sexual morality and needs to reconsider church attitudes and teachings?” This would require...becoming a more humble church, perhaps one with less sweeping claims to infallibility.” In response, Diogenes compares infallibility to a calculator, which people discard if it makes less sweeping claims to accuracy; and he compares Catholic dissenters to...tapeworms.

Catholic Exclusion: Drive out the wicked from among you.

The one who does evil is actually depriving himself and others of the good. Thus, evil is always an attack on the Good and on those who uphold the Good. For this reason, we find that there is a moral necessity to exclude from the community of the Church those who repeatedly and unrepentantly attempt to obscure or eliminate what is Good.

More on Cardinal Czerny’s Hurricanes

The Journal of Climate has published a graph of hurricanes over the past 50 years, which demonstrates that there is no trend toward more frequent and more devastating huricanes.

On the futility of modern bureaucratic states

Bureaucratic management is how modern cultures not only provide for but promote a general lack of awareness of, commitment to, and capacity for choosing the Good. Bureaucratic management is the absolutist regime’s substitute for morality, and it makes no difference whether that regime is in some distant technical sense a democracy. Finally, bureaucratic management always becomes increasingly totalitarian. It substitutes for what Christianity accomplishes through the theological virtues.

In the news: No sense of Catholic office or duty

The substitute for personal rule is always bureaucratic rule, and bureaucratic rule always invites two debilitating evils because of the personal anonymity fostered by all its layers, policies, and procedures. These evils are (a) inefficiency, because of the sheer weight of the institutional arrangements; and (b) the abuse of positions for gain by those who know how to manipulate the sheer weight of the institutional arrangements.

Holiness

We are expected to participate fully in the transformation God seeks to effect in us, but there is a “catch” in the classic human problem of devaluing what becomes familiar. It takes a well-balanced soul not to take God’s presence for granted. We stumble over our own big feet—our own worldly expectations and preoccupying plans through which we so often keep God at bay, conveniently boxing up God’s mysterious and sometimes terrifying love in the dusty attic of our souls.

On avoiding repentance

If we have escaped final Divine punishment for our sins thus far, it is because God’s mercy is intended to prompt in us contrition and a change of heart. Fools say in in their hearts that there is no God (Ps 14:1), or that God does not see (Ps 94:7; Ps 10:11), or that the only thing we need to know about God is that He loves us. But the lesson we are supposed to draw from God’s forbearance is that He wants each of us to repent, so that we can take advantage of His help to amend our lives.

Cocksure or losing heart? Confidence, despair, and prayer

For those of us who regard Catholicism as the supreme corrective to diabolical ways of thinking and deadly temptations, some painful self-reflection or self-examination is likely to intrude on our certainties from time to time simply because we want to ensure that it is not ourselves but Christ who is the source of our confidence. In fact, if we do not experience such moments, it is a good sign that we have not “put on Christ” as fully and as thoroughly as we imagine.

Correct the Pope? Or assist him in his Catholic mission…

Self-evidently, if we credit Pope Francis with even this rudimentary understanding of the meaning of “faith” (a living definition, as it were, apart from a scholastic definition or common usage in theological manuals), then it is wholly gratuitous and even bizarre to assume that he intended the term in some common “natural” sense. And as I have indicated, even in our “natural” use of the term today, the argument fails utterly.

Getting it right: On religious differences and God’s will

But there is only an attenuated sense in which all religions are willed by God, and it is an assertion which no Catholic can accept apart from this attenuated form. In other words, we know that nothing whatsoever can happen outside the will of God. Everything that happens is encompassed in either God’s active or God’s permissive will. Therefore, it is through God’s permissive will that every religion on the face of the earth exists. But what of God’s active will?

Peace or a sword? Is the whole truth always out of season?

There are good reasons to avoid unnecessary conflict and to seek legitimate accommodations to minimize hostility. But surely this cannot always be the Christian approach to potential conflict, which is rooted above all in sin. Christians cannot content themselves with a merely worldly peace—that is, the absence of conflict at any cost—the refusal to offer the challenge of the Gospel, since there is no solution to human relationships apart from the acceptance of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Pius XII & Critical Race Theory: New books tell the truth

Some readers may find themselves in a battle against those who wish to use the Holocaust to defame the Church or to adopt Critical Race Theory as the latest “all-embracing insight”.These are wonderful ways to dismiss previous generations as amoral and unreflective knaves and fools. If you would like to understand either issue more completely, or if you are in a position to expose the preposterous misrepresentations of reality that both claims entail, then these are the books for you.

Hopefulness and the assessment of Pope Francis

With respect to the difficulty of striking the right balance in ecclesiastical criticism, please note that scandal can be given either by calling attention to a problem of which someone was happily unaware; or by encouraging delight in those who, already aware of the problems, are are not only relieved but somewhat gleeful to see a bright light shining on the deficiencies they abhor.

Again I say, “Discern!”

After Francis issued Amoris Laetitia in 2016, many Catholics asked for clarifications. These requests frustrated the Pope immensely; in fact, they made him angry, and he never answered them. But in occasional outbursts, and without offering any guidance, he stressed that what he was asking bishops and priests to do was to discern. His response seemed to indicate that if discernment were required, no hard and fast rules were possible.

Tom Hiney: Raging toward stillness in God

His accounts of the various figures—the “lives of rage and stillness” in which the purifying work of the Holy Spirit burns—make for an immensely dramatic and entertaining book. Tom Hiney is now preparing for ordination as a Catholic priest.

God-talk in a culture without clothes

It reveals a great deal about the materialist prejudices and desires of our intellectual “elites” that the discoveries of modern science over the past century have not driven the “intellectual establishment” back to an apprehension of the existence of God in the same way that the nineteenth-century theory of evolution was, in its very under-developed infancy, used to help drive the “intellectual establishment” into the denial of God.

Renewal and Restoration: That nothing may be lost

There seems to be a presumption among our advanced modern thinkers that nobody before the late twentieth-century understood natural law, temptation, sin and rationalization; and that nobody could make distinctions between inclinations and acting on those inclinations. And yet if you read even very ancient literature, we find that, in truth, people had at least as thorough an understanding of these deeply human issues two or three thousand years ago as we have today.

On the restoration of poetry: In Church, in life, in Christ

Gioia is correct that Christian poetry can make a comeback. First, “it never entirely went away. Although its role in worship and education was curtailed and its music flattened…, there was simply too much of it to vanish.” Second, the necessary change in attitude has already gotten slowly underway: a growing “conviction that perfunctory and platitudinous language will not suffice, an awareness that the goal of liturgy, homily, and education is not to condescend but to enliven and elevate.”

Synodality: A Church “Too harsh and out of step”?

The Church may have many members or few; she may have great worldly influence or almost none. That is largely hidden in the Providence of God. But to the degree that she is not significantly distinguishable from the larger human culture that surrounds her, she is burdened by a depressing human baggage which has blurred her essential identity, undermined her essential claims, and subverted that synodality which is the very strength of her mission in the world.

The Ravages of Sin

Our Guardian Angels can be of enormous help. We can pray to our angels, asking them to allow concern about any sin we have not yet confessed to come through and prick our consciences, and also to make us see anything we have already confessed as a cause to renew our joy in the surpassing mercy of God.

Aidan Nichols on Sigrid Undset: Readers of the heart

Undset saw the spiritual disease of the modern period very clearly. For her, conversion entails a deliberate embrace of reality, and the rejection of Satan’s pomps, or empty promises, which are quite simply the antithesis to what is real. This perverse pattern of diminishing reality led Undset to disdain not only overt secularism but even Protestantism, which Undset saw as a vain effort to flee from reality in such a way that Christianity could mean whatever people wanted it to mean.

Contraception and the doctrine of discovery

What St. Vincent was getting at is what St. John Henry Newman spelled out. Newman’s point was that each legitimate doctrinal development will tend toward greater precision. In other words, while this may sometimes serve to correct what some erroneously thought the doctrine to imply, it will do so by corroborating, confirming and more fully explicating the truth of the Church’s authoritative earlier form of expression.

On the papal apology for Church involvement in residential schools

Christian results simply cannot be evaluated in worldly terms: “My kingdom is not of this world” (Jn 18:36), said Our Lord. Worldly success for the Church is more often than not, in one respect or another, a serious failure, and the Church ought not to seek to ally herself with worldly powers.

Questions raised by Pope Francis’ document on the liturgy

The question here is whether the current form of the liturgy tends to be a kind of “vertical” (that is, transcendent) experience which draws us into the sacred mysteries which the liturgy celebrates and seeks to make present to us, or whether it tends to be a very “horizontal” (that is, immanent) affair which falls back into a celebration of a very human community not yet absorbed in these mysteries.

On effective compromise

Appropriate compromises in the face of conflicting perceptions of reality are extremely difficult. It is in fact impossible to compromise appropriately without the virtue of prudence employed in service to a genuine comprehension of reality, which is to say, in service to the truth. But these conditions can be created only through the development of self-control and discipline over our passions. The further difficulty is that these qualities are rare.

Constitutionalism, reality and the empire of desire

Another way of putting this is to observe that our culture now tends to insist that reality is determined by the human will rather than perceived as a given by the human intellect. Inescapably, this has led to the destruction of a human moral consensus, which leaves us to arrange our affairs as a people based on political and legal formulations which are very often divorced from the very realities from which they had once been abstracted.

On the demise of Roe

The only answer is that we must discern the moral structure of our being either through careful reasoning on the magnificent panorama of reality we did not create; or by learning what, if anything, the Creator has explicitly revealed about this moral structure. The first thing that we can say about those who are unwilling to do this is that they are not serious about discerning the difference between right and wrong, but only about fulfilling their own desires.

For the fallen away: The line between charity and cowardice

It is chilling to note our religious indifference today, as reflected not only in the celebration of “Christian” marriages (which often proceed without any real Christian commitment) but also in the celebration of “Christian” funerals (which often consist of vague but rosy Christian reflections relative to deceased persons who consistently refused to have anything significant to do with Jesus Christ during the course of their lives).

True Catholic leadership: Rooted in the fear of God

With each cultural shift, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain the illusion that the Catholic Church can enjoy a favored worldly status by living within the ever-diminishing space afforded by an increasingly corrupt culture. Sadly, a church that begins by speaking platitudes to power ends by giving few coherent reasons why anyone—Catholic, Christian or otherwise—should rally to her standard, or (more to the point) see in her the distinctive Presence of Jesus Christ.

Rationalization: On replacing moral darkness with light

Once our children are old enough to reason about their behavior, almost the first thing to which we must alert them is the problem of rationalization. This is important not only for their own moral understanding but so that they do not lose a contest which has extraordinarily high stakes. When the intellect proposes some good to the will, if the will is prone to reject that good, the will immediately asks the intellect to provide reasons why this undesired good is actually bad: Rationalization.

A way to stop school shootings: Taser drones?

The solution to the problem is approximately the same as the solution to all our problems: Christian families and communities which nurture and take care of their own, far better than any State or regime can possibly do. If we do not keep praying and working toward that, we deceive ourselves. This does not mean that we should not work on other specific, ad hoc solutions as well. It just means that we should not be fooled into thinking they will ever be enough.

The compelling vision of true religion

I was tempted a few times to stop the flow of my analysis in order to emphasize that most of us are not going to come to an initial position of Faith either by a general interpretation of God’s Providence or by a comparison of the Jewish and Christian understanding of morality. The shortest distance between God and ourselves is through the Person of Jesus Christ Himself. That is, we are unlikely to respond to anything with faith until the unique person of Jesus Christ becomes our focal point.

OT Jews, NT Christians: Why such a different moral code? Part 3

Each of us must ask whether we are getting the Message, whether we are taking advantage of the Plan. What the Jews slid over by focusing on external prescriptions we may well slide over in the name of personal liberty, self-fulfillment and “what everybody knows”. If they used an externalized grasp of the law as an excuse to justify themselves, we may well use a dim awareness of the life of grace as an excuse to follow our personal inclinations, and so do whatever we wish.

OT Jews, NT Christians: Why such a different moral code? Part 2

Divine Providence will always be somewhat difficult to grasp. While the Jews had many poets and prophets who could offer considerable insight into what God was up to, there was always a tension between what we might call the spirit and the letter of the Law. Thus we may be able to look back and perceive the overall salvific situation of the Jews from afar, in order to understand the distinctive pressures under which they lived, and the Providential strengths and weaknesses of their response.

OT Jews, NT Christians: Why such a different moral code? Part 1

There was a great deal of law in the lives of the Jews as chronicled in the Old Testament, and of law quite different from our own religious laws today. But if we think Old Covenant morality was markedly different from New Covenant morality, we must ask ourselves what the most fundamental moral code for the Jews actually was. And then we realize at once that this law was spelled out in the Ten Commandments as revealed by God to Moses, the Law that was etched in stone on Mount Sinai.

In the Catholic campaign, something extraordinary

The Christian life is a great paradox of suffering and joy. I don’t mean to claim that I have suffered a great deal—certainly not very much in comparison with many others! But the “triumph of the cross” is always on display in Catholicism, the power of resurrection shining through shortcomings and setbacks. Those who take Christ and the Church seriously nearly always have to experience the threat of failure before they can work at making things better for another season or so.

The decline and fall of the bureaucratic state

The denial of reality is the operational mode not only of government but of academia, the mass media, and corporate life. And if the simple repetition of abject nonsense is not sufficient to brainwash everybody, then everybody must be subject to increasing bureaucratic control, so that independent speech and independent action are regulated out of existence, leaving an ever-narrowing space even for critical thought.

The most astonishing item in the Sermon on the Mount

Throughout the sermon, a positive spirituality eclipses (without minimizing) avoidance of the most obvious sins: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder... But I say to you that everyone who is angry with this brother will be liable to judgment’” (5:21-22). And so it goes throughout the text. But there is a glimpse of something far more dramatic than that.

Rolling your own understanding of Revelation? Don’t.

It is the Magisterium of the Catholic Church which infallibly protects us against the arbitrary “choices”, by which, in rejecting the richness of the whole, we can and do distort the mystery of Christ. Like undisciplined children, we proceed even to the point of using our own opinions as reasons to reject the ecclesiastical authority Our Lord established to help us! The result is always either our own peculiar ideas or a slavish adherence to fashion.

The scandal of Russian Orthodoxy, and our own scandals

There can be no true religion that does not incarnate within itself the authority of Christ. Here we find the correction of a misguided territorial Orthodoxy, the correction of Protestantism’s dependence on private and personal judgment, and even the correction of Catholics—when we listen to our own “interpretations”, forgetting that not a single one of us has merited the promises of Jesus Christ.

One sows, another reaps: Against facile assumptions

There remain large numbers of good bishops, priests, deacons, religious and lay people who pray and work to renew the Church, bear witness to Christ, preach and teach the Faith, give courageous counter-cultural example, and invite others to make their own commitment to Christ and the Church. But all of these collide with the trends nearly everywhere: Baptisms are down, conversions are down, Mass attendance is down, and the influence of Christianity on human culture continues to decline. Why?

One job: Perseverance in the love of God

Even God cannot force us to love Him and still call it love. Therefore, the whole economy of salvation works for each of us only insofar as we cooperate with the graces we are given to know the truth and choose the good. When we open our minds and turn our wills to what we are given to know of God, this is true love, and it is just this that makes sense out of the verses cited above from Romans chapter 8, which begin “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him.”

When bishops disagree: Salvation, not inclusion

What is different this time around is that a growing number of Catholic bishops are willing to reject publicly the culturally-popular manipulation of Catholic faith, morals and practice, and (even better) to make a point of keeping their own dioceses firmly on a Catholic course. There are many countries with weak and even heterodox bishops, of course, but so far they have been able to dominate the synodal process only in a small number of places.

Three men in the wrong boat

But there is only one passage in Jerome’s book that brushes these heights and depths, so often tinged with the most poignant human folly, and the reader will see at once that the perception is entirely wrong—an opportunity lost not only for lightness but for light itself.

We need prayers, commitments for our Easter Challenge!

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