By Dr. Jeff Mirus
Showing most recent 200 items by this author.
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.
Now Available: Liturgical Year Ebook for Ordinary Time after Easter
We have just released the fifth volume in the 2021-2022 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Final Liturgical Year volume for 2021-22 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.
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!
CatholicCulture.org ended 2021 with income and expenditures breaking even at $446,000. As the 74-year-old founder, I can see we need to get to $500,000 for all of my major duties to be offloaded. But that is a remarkably low budget for an apostolate as resource-productive, far-reaching and available around the world as CatholicCulture.org. Few organizations can match our low cost per person served. Please pray for the success of our Catholic mission, and contribute financially if you can.
Truth? Pinterest censors opinion on climate change!
The only organization that has a rational claim to be able to settle difficult questions is the Catholic Church, and even she confines her certainties to what has been disclosed through Divine Revelation. Her competence depends on a privileged source of information concerning the plan of God. Our understanding of the material conditions of life in this world, by contrast, relies entirely on human study, which is prone to honest mistakes, subjectivity, cultural conditioning, and special pleading.
Never minimizing sin, Jesus offers true freedom
In response to a person’s sins, some priests will say, “Don't worry about it. No big deal. Don't let your conscience bother you. Move on with your life.” But they haven't really helped the person. They have swept it under the rug.
Edmund Campion: A more than academic English martyr
From Edmund Campion’s favous “brag” against the Elizabethan functionaries who executed him for his priestly ministry: “I know perfectly that no one Protestant, nor all the Protestants living, nor any sect of our adversaries (howsoever they face men down in pulpits, and overrule us in their kingdom of grammarians and unlearned ears) can maintain their doctrine in disputation.”
Mike Aquilina’s new book series on the Fathers of the Church
Mike can cover more material in these books, which also make better long-term references for family and friends, without sacrificing his trademark entertaining style.
Military preparedness is not a sin
Doubtless everyone would prefer that their taxes be used for the benefit of families, healthcare, work and to fight poverty and hunger, instead of for military spending. But families, healthcare, work, and material well-being in Ukraine are currently being destroyed because the Ukrainian government did not put itself in a position to deter a Russian invasion.
Bishop Conley’s bid to foster apostolic Catholicism
James Conley, Bishop of Lincoln, grasps the reality that in today’s world, everything is seen on a material plain, as a series of elements subject to material manipulation to get whatever we want. Manipulation of “nature” is in high demand, but genuine personal fulfillment remains elusive. People do not even understand what a person is. In such a culture, the Church must commit herself once again to a truly Apostolic form of mission.
New Apostolic Constitution: He who has ears, let him hear!
The inaction of the Curia should never be an excuse for a bishop to do nothing or to do the wrong thing, any more than the action of the Curia should be an excuse to disclaim any responsibility. Every bishop should both defend and advance the Catholic faith as the very core of his mission, and must recognize that curial structures make comparatively little difference in the exercise of that responsibility.
Maurice Baring’s C.
Given C.’s upbringing, which was minimal, and the lack of parental affection shown him, which was in many ways normal for the class and the period, this lack of drive is understandable. Clearly there is much of Maurice Baring in C., and key traits of many other characters are thought largely to have been borrowed from Baring’s friends. Baring himself insisted that he took personality traits from a great many people, and combined them differently in his characters.
On the blasphemy of prayer for victory in war
Most people on the winning side regard military victory as self-justifying. If they do not believe in Providence, of course they prefer victory. And if they do believe in Providence, they generally prefer whatever reading of the meaning of Providence is most favorable to themselves. But of course the victory of one nation over another tells us absolutely nothing about God’s active will. All we know is that He has at least permitted this conquest so that some good can be realized from it.
Christian shame, and Christian hope
One of the great problems in the life of the Church is the assumption that the disasters inevitably brought on by sin are so far off that sinners need not worry about the adverse consequences of their actions. Of course, a Christian ought to see the consequences all around him. But those who rationalize (as most of us do when we sin) are often protected from despair by a blindness to the deep consequences of their infidelity.
Can Joseph cure the Church of today’s chronic infidelity?
Why, I wonder, have recent popes not put St. Joseph in charge of the Church’s effort to cleanse herself from the oppressive worldliness within—not the ordinary worldliness of laziness and personal comfort but the extraordinary worldliness of a professoriate and clergy profoundly infected by Modernism, liberalism, relativism, secularism? Or make it positive: Why not a Josephine campaign to restore Joseph’s most important role throughout the Church: The security of the those within.
The Putin enigma
Some Catholics in the United States, anxious to find a worldly power—any worldly power!—sympathetic to their own moral concerns, like to think of Vladimir Putin as a kind of Christian knight. But Putin himself rose to prominence as a KGB foreign intelligence operator and he is now, well, a politician. It is difficult to know when politicians really mean what they say. It is even more difficult to assume that because a politician favors one good thing he must also favor other good things.
Liberalism and the fundamentals of Catholic politics
Liberalism—which is the dominant theory behind politics as operative in the world today—trivializes the Real in the same way it trivializes both tradition and religious belief, that is, by positing that every belief outside of politics is purely personal and idiosyncratic. Thus there are no truths readable either through nature or Revelation which can command more than a private commitment; there is simply nothing there which is essentially public and belongs to the common good.
The truth about our present crisis: Providence then and now
The Book of Lamentations teaches us one of the primary ways in which Providence works. God can bring it about that any person or group should experience any kind of good—or any kind of evil—in order that this person or group should have the maximum opportunity to turn to the Lord and be saved. But there is an inescapable connection between succumbing to worldly temptations and drifting away from God. As societies decline spiritually, rebellion and a corresponding desolation increase.
Arriving at St. Joseph
It is not too much to say that my own pilgrimage to Joseph was similar to that of the whole Church, which came only slowly to develop a strong devotion to Our Lady’s protector and Our Lord’s foster father—and has remained a little confused about how best to portray Joseph in both prayer and art.
Pope Francis on the Priesthood: True or false closeness?
Moreover, since we are all baptized priests in the universal sense, every lay person should also be able see the importance of these patterns of “closeness”—to God, to our bishop, to our priests, and to others for whom we bear responsibility—and apply them to his or her own life. We must make no mistake about this: Such closeness, in all four aspects, is an essential component of what it means to be not only a priest but a Catholic.
Synodality: A coming tribulation?
There can be no question, of course, that the response to the call for synodality ought to be a missionary response by Catholics, on every level, both to the larger society and to the non-believers who choose to remain within the Church. Such a response would clarify matters almost immediately, since so many who seek to remake the Church in their own worldly image would be prompted to either convert or depart.
A Lenten reading list
These recommendations are listed in alphabetical order by the last name or the saint name of the author. I provide a link to the web page where each item is thoroughly described and available for purchase (or, in the case of one video series, for streaming). By following these links you can get full details and decide whether or not to place an order. Plan ahead to get some extra spiritual sustenance for Lent!
Why there is no obedience crisis with your (bad) bishop
Regardless of our state in life, we may have good reason to believe that a religious superior—a priest, a bishop, even a pope—has placed a restriction on us for very bad reasons, or has even denigrated the service we hoped to perform. But the bare fact of the matter is that in this and a million other cases, the superior in question has not commanded us to do something evil; he has simply indicated that, for whatever reason, he does not want us to do one particular good thing, but something else.
Ersatz Prayers of the Faithful
Sometimes liturgical petitionary prayers can miss the mark. They can be ill-conceived—perhaps trivial, offered for the wrong things, influenced by contemporary fashions, spiritually shallow, or even an apparent effort to instruct God.
Catholic reinterpretation: From fruitfulness to sterility
The the world, the flesh and the devil are defended and advanced always in the same way: By enlisting the schools, the media, and the law to inculcate, publicize, and justify the worldview of those who control prosperity, position, and power. As a general rule, only those who are willing to decline in prosperity, position, and power will follow Christ honestly in thought, word and deed.
Say what? The love you never hear about today
Ask Paul in the first century, or Augustine in the fifth. Ask Francis of Assisi in the thirteenth century or Mother Teresa in the twentieth. Apart from their source of love, we can offer only broken slivers of the good.
Listening must give way to love, and hearing to sacrifice
In the Christian scheme, we listen for two reasons: (a) To understand another’s need; and (b) To express love for another through both material and spiritual assistance. We never listen as an excuse for not proclaiming the Gospel, for not adhering to the truth of Christ, or for opening up greater opportunity (as some will seek to do in a more “synodal” Church) for those who refuse to accept Christ as the way, the truth and the life.
Main violators of religious liberty? State…and Church!
The Council noted that religious liberty must always be upheld within the limits of the common good. To assert, as many Western states do now, that religious liberty can be allowed only privately, without broad public expression, is in fact to deny religious liberty nearly altogether. On this view, religious liberty is properly upheld as long as a person can hold a religious view in his mind and heart without expressing it, which makes nonsense of both the word “religious” and the word “liberty”.
On not seeing the goodness for the sins
Chesterton’s topsy-turvydom was rooted initially in his strong sense of the fundamental nature of things, so often distorted in our minds and hearts through wayward human desire; and it was rooted ultimately in his deep Catholic faith. For Chesterton recognized a fundamental goodness which is everywhere defaced by sin, both original and personal. It was precisely because he could see the goodness that he could see the sin; and also precisely because he could see the sin that he could see the goodness.
Catholic trials and joys: Collected essays since 2019
Most of the commentaries I wrote over the past three years that remain relevant deal with the problems in the Church today, the ways in which we all feel trapped in the current ecclesiastical and cultural situation, and observations which (I hope) make it easier for all of us to live each day full of Christian hope. These emphases are reflected in the titles of the three new ebooks, all free, into which these essays have been collected.
Diplomacy in the Church, in light of the Gospel
As the last vestiges disappear of a civilization substantially formed through Catholic influence, it is an anomaly that the Church still has a small territory and still retains a diplomatic role which is generally recognized around the world. This presents a routine way for the Church to advocate with most governments for peace, the enhancement of the common good, and the recognition of her own spiritual liberty. But what if it never goes beyond common ground?
Ariel beware: The Church, its suffering, and its victory
But we must remember that a great deal of what we find in the Old Testament, which is true of God’s activity in Israel historically, is also a foreshadowing of Christ and the Church. Moses is a foreshadowing or “type” of Christ; Israel and Jerusalem are foreshadowings or “types” of both the Church and of Heaven itself. This is why we can read many distressing things, especially in the prophets, as referring to the situation of the Church on earth now, even in our own time.
“Radical change is coming in the Church”
Archbishop Farrell places his hope in the “synodal pathway” advocated by Pope Francis. But slogans based around new catch-phrases never accomplish anything. What is lacking in the Church in the West is, more than anything else, the Faith. The vast majority of Catholic leaders (cardinals, bishops, priests, religious, professors, and even politicians) are unwilling to embrace, preach and teach the hard sayings of the Gospel, beginning with Our Lord’s claims about His own Body and Blood.
On the humanity of Jesus Christ
To me, in the context of Psalm 110, the phrase “therefore he will lift up his head” implies not merely victory but worthiness of victory. The one who can “lift” or “hold” up his head is the one who has no cause for shame. This last verse seems to say that Our Lord, so often described in the Psalms in terms of his rejection, disfigurement and passion, will now be able to “lift up his head” precisely because he will have drunk “from the brook by the way”.
The ten commandments of liturgy
These ten principles capture an essentially Catholic understanding of how we are to respond to the Sacred Liturgy—an understanding which ought to reduce our own personal preferences in liturgical matters to just exactly that—preferences which, on careful study and consideration, can be recommended to the Church for her official consideration; but preferences which we do not allow to obscure or diminish our own reception of the Divine Liturgy as made available to us through the Church herself.
…but it matters whether you are right or wrong!
In other words, we are bound to follow our consciences—to do what we grasp as good and avoid what we grasp as evil. But we are not off the moral hook unless we also take seriously the profound moral obligation to form our consciences as fully and accurately as we can. Not caring to do that is already a grave evil, and few can go very long down this path without willful complicity in this failure.
Coming to a metaverse near you
The line between personal experience and virtual entertainment is continuing to blur. Major virtual reality companies are now in the process of creating interconnected “realities” in which you and others can live and move and have your being through everything from virtual reality glasses to gloves with “haptic feedback” (transmitting sensations to your fingers which enable you to touch and feel things in virtual reality). The interconnected system of virtual reality is called the “metaverse”.
Why is persecution of Christians on the rise?
But as the Church cannot at one and the same time be herself and avoid a continuing witness against the paganism she finds all around her (and even among her own members), the Church will always be a scapegoat for those who despise her mostly because they must, as a matter interior comfort, close their ears to moral commitments which extend beyond the demands of the general culture of which they are a part.
Pope Francis stresses importance of democracy. Why?
All governmental forms can be used for either good or evil, and this is almost completely dependent on the virtue of those who govern. The ancient Greeks already knew that monarchy could be good or bad depending on the monarch, that aristocracy could easily degenerate into oligarchy, and that democracy can degenerate into mob rule or even, in a direct mockery of monarchy, into tyranny itself, as when a “strong man” arises in the name of setting things right.
The shallowing of Notre-Dame de Paris
The interior design proposed for the renovation of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris is reported to be nothing short of “politically correct Disneyland”. You’ve heard of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, and you’ve also heard of the seven capital sins. Here I am going to suggest seven conceptual juxtapositions that must be successfully navigated by Catholics, both in Church design and in life.
Catholicism and sanctity: Jumping to the bottom line
If the contemplation of the four last things—death, judgment, heaven and hell—does not press us toward a deeply Catholic outlook on life, it is doubtful that anything can do so short of a spontaneously grateful participation in Divine love. Fortunately, that possibility remains up to the point of death, and it typically requires very little more than a genuine humility. We must all recognize our extreme human poverty, a poverty that can be eliminated only by a Divine gift.
Guidelines for episcopal investments: Too much of a good thing?
Should the Church have investments at all? Ideally, or so I suppose, the Church would collect contributions more or less continuously for its Catholic spiritual and material purposes, and regularly use up all it collects for these purposes. One does not make investments, after all, unless one has a surplus, and there is an important sense in which the Church ought not to have a surplus. As important as this question is, however, it offers a warning more than a definitive answer.
RC Branding is BAAAACK!
The original developer of the RC brand has decided to create a new set of merchandise to be sold through CatholicCulture.org, so you will see RC-branded items advertised once again on the website. You can purchase them through one of the “print on demand” services which have been developed over the years to provide branded merchandise to organizations of all kinds. Trinity will get a percentage of the proceeds to plough back into the work of CatholicCulture.org.
COVID ebook (free): A chronicle of Catholic catastrophe
So many Catholic leaders have used the threat to physical health safety as an excuse to minimize spiritual health and spiritual safety.
Banning (or allowing) religion-related groups? Not so fast!
Unfortunately, the same social pressures which led to religious liberty in modern Western circumstances also led to widespread religious indifference. Intractable religious disagreements seemed to “prove” any or all of the following: (a) that any authoritative establishment of religion is presumptuous and damaging; (b) that religious or spiritual truth really cannot be known; and (c) that, in any case, religion is irrelevant (at best) or even damaging (at worst) to public peace and security.
Stating the obvious, with some help from grace
What struck me most forcefully during my current re-reading is the advanced understanding reflected in the text of key matters which we regard as having been fully clarified only in the light of Christ. Yet here, even before Christ, we see an inspired Biblical text expressing the amazing depth of the Jewish understanding of the moral life and of the glorious destiny of the righteous for all eternity with God.
Ransoming our children: Church-subsidized education
Our Lady of Ransom Scholarship Fund sets an important precedent. This approach to Catholic education, along with many variations, needs to be followed everywhere. Parishes are the logical centers for this dynamism, though they are not the only possibility. There may be many communities that do not have an existing Catholic school and cannot start one, but can still support parents in the decision to home-school their children, and to help form a home-schooling association.
So the best we can offer is “encounter” and “dialogue”?
Nobody would argue that courtesy and an effort at mutual understanding, along with an emphasis on our common humanity, should be ignored in the relationships we attempt to develop with others, regardless of their background. But it is interesting to note that the very age in which Catholic mission work has rapidly declined, and in some places disappeared, is the age in which all we can find to emphasize to each other is humanistic ideas which may not even rise above the level of human platitudes.
Coherent Eucharistic discipline: An unfathomable mercy
Ever since politicians began to commit themselves to both the expansion of the “right” to abortion and enforced financial support for it, the bishops in the afflicted countries have, with very rare exceptions, lacked the courage to withhold the Eucharist. Political leaders who self-identify as Catholics while publicly advocating and enacting into law such grave moral evils have almost always been able to present themselves for Communion without fear of refusal. Our reaction ought to be that of St. Paul.
Pope Francis urges Biden to receive Communion
Joseph Biden felt free to report that Francis had called him a “good Catholic” and encouraged him to keep receiving Communion. Many hoped, perhaps, that the deliberate Vatican privacy imposed on the meeting indicated the Pope’s willingness to offer hard sayings for the President’s serious consideration. But there have been no precedents in this papacy which could have led anyone to that conclusion.
Helping the poor, intelligently
The first distinction concerns why we ought to help others. This obligation does not arise by virtue of some ideological vision of the perfect world. We learn from both nature and Christianity that we cannot achieve perfection in this world, and that the effort to fit everyone into some ideological mold in the name of “perfection” is just another way of attempting to remake the world in accordance with our own theories—which we neither have the wisdom nor the ability to do.
Seeing the Church and world as they are, short of heaven
Sometimes we catch an unconfused glimpse of reality here on earth, though I admit this is rare. The occasional news story, appearing at precisely the right moment, can speak volumes about the state of the world. Usually we find this in accounts of unprecedented evils which are not even recognized as evils by those doing the reporting. But occasionally a clear-headed report actually rises to the top.
Does the world want salvation? The victory of faith
In the regions in which Christianity gained the most traction, its very worldly success seemed to breed not an increase but a diminution of the Faith. Christianity frequently expressed itself through, and then degenerated into, a set of cultural identifiers. In time, the spirituality beneath these identifiers could not sustain them. Now, throughout the once-Christian West, the faith is dwindling away. What are those who remain faithful to make of all this?
Friendship and evangelization
More than any other topic, the Fathers of the Church constitute Aquilina’s persistent and extensive expertise. This is a happy choice of specialties because we find in the Patristic writings such a wide variety of topics and styles that there is always something available to engage and even captivate readers of almost any background or interest.
Catholic political influence: The elected…and the elect
Ecclesiastical discipline matters not only to the heath of the Church but also to the Catholic impact on the secular order, including the outcome of political elections. All “progressive” Catholics understand this instinctively, which is one of several reasons they are horrified by discipline. After the inevitable pruning process and some time for new growth, the impact of a well-disciplined Catholic Church would—as it has sometimes in the past—actually make a calculable difference at the polls.
Cardinal Turkson: Biden should not be refused communion. Say what?
I am sick and tired of the theological sleight-of-hand so often practiced by prelates with no discernible counter-cultural Christian commitments. They resort to a kind of verbal trickery to undermine the effort to restore discipline within the Catholic Church, which is vital to forming existing Catholics and to attracting those outside who respond positively to a witness that must be Christian because it cannot be mistaken for anything else.
My battle cry for Church renewal? Debureaucratization!
With essentially no supernatural tendency to bureaucracy, the Church is so constituted that the pope, bishops and priests ensure the transmission of both sacramental grace and the truths of the Faith within the Church herself, while the laity, by their inescapable presence as leaven through the whole world, act creatively to shape all of human culture in accordance with the light of Christ.
Thankless lepers: On San Marino and the Church today
While San Marino did lag over forty years behind Italy in getting on the abortion train, its bid to “catch up” illustrates very clearly the failure of the Catholic Church in this era of Western civilization’s spiral into paganism. A key feature of this illustration is the ease with which people can self-identify as Catholics while voting to legalize the murder of unborn children.
Spiritual symbiosis: What it takes to be a good priest
Each vocation has its own built-in parameters, its own clear channels of prayer and action, its own kinds of grace, its own triumphs of love and responsibility, its own particular forms of loss and failure, and its own temptations to inaction and even despair. This means that every vocation can experience its own doldrums—periods of drifting slowly and aimlessly, with no sense of progress or fulfillment.
A guide to resources in apologetics, including two new ones
Of course, apologetics in itself is designed to clear away the obstacles to belief, so that those with concerns and questions about Christ and the Church can become more open to evangelization, which (taken in full) is the proclamation of the mercy, love and redemption offered to all by Jesus Christ through His body the Church. And both evangelization and apologetics must be further distinguished from catechesis, which is simply teaching the Catholic faith to those who already believe.
Francis knows the Church is in a rut. But does he know why?
I am interested in the positive aspects of Pope Francis’ desire to shake things up. We already know, I think, that this desire is full of contradictory elements which make it very difficult to fulfill in any consistent way. There is still something substantial in the Pope’s consistent message of going outside our comfort zones. But if the Pope is right about the Church being inside a box, does he also understand how this box was made, and what it really takes to break out of it?
On being rooted in the Kingdom of Heaven
She then recalls how much Christ in his earthly ministry wanted to be loved, wanted helpers, wanted friends—and how often he was refused: “When He gave gifts, when He cured ten and was thanked by only one, He revealed to us His suffering human heart: ‘Where are the nine?’ And yet, she explains, “We do not find Jesus saying the equivalent of, ‘Well, that is that! That is the last time I shall ever do anything for lepers. What is the use? Why scatter gifts to people who do not even thank me for them?”
Synodality and the evasion of responsibility
Though some at Vatican II hoped Synod of Bishops could gain something like a permanent conciliar status, they were preempted by Paul VI’s establishment of a synodal mechanism that is purely advisory to the Pope. The benefits grow murkier when the topic to be vetted by the Synod is synodality itself—a favorite word of Pope Francis, but one that is almost infinitely malleable. This topic is encapsulated in a single world which nobody understands because, in fact, it has no set meaning.
State control of sex, or Eucharistic Coherence?
In a society which, at the adult consensual level, typically defends all manner of sexual abuse as “love”, those who “love” children in the same ways may well perceive themselves as riding the next great wave of positive change. May they not reasonably hope it is only a matter of time before their own form of abuse is recognized as liberating, wise and good? They cannot help but recognize that the opprobrium heaped upon them alone, for their own sexual desires, is not fair.
Not guilty? Bad spiritual advice still hurts you.
Spiritual growth is undermined by bad spiritual advice. This may even harden a person in serious sins of which he is unaware. It unquestionably reduces the accuracy of the person’s perception of reality. Moreover, while the guilt attributable to sin is conditioned by knowledge of the evil and consent to it by the will, the evil done through the sin to others is not lessened, nor are its disordering consequences for the sinner eliminated.
Following your conscience? 2. The COVID problem
So what do we know from the actual clarifications of the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church? We know that, on the one hand, if you have conscientiously decided to take the vaccine, you are not to be dismissed as deficient in your Catholicism. And, on the other hand, if you have conscientiously decided not to take the vaccine, you are not to be dismissed as deficient in your Catholicism, and further that it is immoral for any Churchman to tell you otherwise, or any civil authority to force you to take it.
Following your conscience? 1. Not a blank check
As persons possessed of both intellect and will, we are morally obligated not only to follow the promptings of our consciences but also to continuously form our consciences with an ever-growing understanding of the Good, and to strengthen our own ability to respond correctly to the promptings of conscience through the cultivation of virtuous habits. We also need to learn to discern the difference between the genuine promptings of conscience and mere rationalizations.
The quest for wisdom (or) When will we ever learn?
Understanding cannot be purchased with gold; silver cannot be weighed as its price. It cannot be valued in precious onyx or sapphire. Gold cannot equal it, nor can it be exchanged for jewels. We need not even mention coral or crystal—the price of wisdom is beyond pearls! The finest topaz cannot compare with it; it cannot be valued even with the rarest of jewels set in gold.
Smugness and spiritual progress (or the lack thereof)
To one extent or another, we all partake of the characteristics of “nominal” Catholics, or worse. Converting these alter egos is a lifelong battle. We struggle to know ourselves as God knows us, just as we struggle to grow out of our poor spiritual habits even after we recognize them. In ways often hidden even to ourselves we are resistant to union with God.
Parents beware: A Catholic statement against gender ideology
It should be one of the highest priorities of parents either to homeschool their children or to send them to (faithful) Catholic schools. Insofar as Catholic parents send their children to public schools, as a general rule they are subjecting them to constant indoctrination in falsehood. Gender ideology is only the latest in a long line of falsehoods that are deliberately inculcated in children through state-controlled education.
Can’t live forever without Liturgical Temporal Cosmology
Besides matter and space, the cosmos involves time, because space and time came into existence simultaneously. And if matter glorifies God, then we will not be surprised to find that time does, too. There is a temporal component to the adoration of God in the cosmic liturgy. Even if creation had only existed for one brief flash, like a lightning strike in the darkness, sandwiched between a nothingness on both sides, that momentary blaze of being would have honored God.
Structural sin is personal sin deflected and justified
Most socio-political and economic “orders” are unjust in significant ways. It is to temper such injustices that the prophets of the Old Testament so frequently reminded the Israelites to care particularly for those who fell through the gaps in the prevailing order—especially widows and orphans. We think about this as modern society evolves into a perpetually “managed” society, not so much because of a brutal power group as because of the shared values of the dominant commercial/political class.
Liturgical sensibilities, liturgical understanding
As you might imagine, this is a challenging book. We should never minimize the challenge of the liturgical action of the Church, because it creates the most complete connection possible between God and ourselves here on earth, and it will actually continue with that purpose in Heaven, in what is perhaps an even more mysterious yet also far more experiential and even intelligible way.
Advice that cuts both ways (or Ecclesiastical Gamesmanship)
The whole problem of the Catholic Church is that, one way or another, it is her lot to side with the ultimate underdog—the Crucified—against the constant tantrums of worldly people who will not be associated with Him unless He approves and encourages their desires. Accordingly, these same worldly people criticize witness to Christian Faith as a flight into pure doctrine and witness to Christian Morals as (all together, on 3) DIVISIVE.
Pandemic paranoia: What must never happen again
I will let you in on a secret: We live in an all but worldwide society which is now generally conditioned to being “taken care of” by bureaucratic states, and in which people are now very uncomfortable with the prospect of making their own fundamental decisions about anything, lest, by exercising personal responsibility, they will be held responsible. In other words, there is a marked psychological tendency toward totalitarianism almost everywhere today.
God-talk, naturally speaking
We know, simply from universal human experience and constant human intuition, the basic reality of the existence of God and His concern for the moral order. We can figure out much more about morality through reason, but we need some revelation from God to disclose more about His Being, His inner life, which transcends our own being and understanding. But these two perceptions, of the existence of God and a moral order, may reasonably be taken as the first two points of the natural law.
Natural Law as a basis for polity
These standards cannot come from the positive law, which simply reflects the human arrangements, arising from the relative intelligence and imperfect will, of human agents like you and me. They have a merely human authority, and they can be foolish or even evil arrangements. But the natural law, communicated to us through the things God has made, has a Divine authority, which explains the legal axiom of more enlightened ages that any positive law which contradicts the natural law is null and void.
American sources of truth?
The following question inescapably arises: Why should we prefer the vision of national polity adopted by our eighteenth-century founders to the dominant cultural vision of polity which is emerging today? Or, to put the question in somewhat broader but probably clearer terms, why should we think that the vision of the Common Good articulated by the American founders (who were the elites of their day) is superior to that represented by the proponents of the Equality Act (who are the elites of our day).
The challenge of personal memories
Without the human faculty of memory, we would experience life as a disconnected series of moments, not an intelligible whole. Without deliberately bringing our lives before God as partially embodied in our memory, we could not bring our lives before God at all, nor seek His counsel, nor grow in understanding and virtue through His help.
Churches burning, Satan out in the open: Overplaying his hand?
We are entering an historical cycle—indeed, we have already entered it—in which the most outrageous anti-social and anti-religious attacks can be launched against Catholics, and indeed against society itself, because the diabolical hatred of the Good has been able to come out in the open and reveal itself in all its ugliness.
The likelihood of a “Eucharistically coherent” Church
Those whose consciences are malformed or dead do not recognize grave sin. They are intellectually and morally enslaved to the dominant culture. They are (often willfully) blind to reality—even in flight from reality—and they are seeking to strengthen what we might call an anti-culture to shield them from uncomfortable reminders of the true and the good. The Church must make clear that their advocacy of evil is an attack on the Good, on Christ, on His Church and on the souls entrusted to her care.
Confused about public apologies for the past? I’m not.
It seems that an apology is demanded whenever some horrendous wrong is discovered to have been committed in the distant past by Catholic priests and religious, on the one hand, and/or agents of the State, on the other hand. By distant past, I mean a period of time far enough back that nobody in the present Church and/or government is responsible for it.
Contra ambiguity: Francis, Biden, and the US bishops
It is not a priority of any kind for Catholics to eliminate sinners from the Church; we are all sinners. Nor is it a top priority to eliminate suffering for Christ; we are all called to carry the Cross. But it is a very high priority indeed to eliminate ambiguity; for we are also called to let our yes be yes and our no be no—simply because anything else comes from the Evil One (Mt 5:37).
Why (and how) did God inspire Sacred Scripture?
If you are looking for a way to understand the Bible better, and to make the Word of God more fully your own, I recommend a careful reading of Jeremy Holmes’ new book, Cur Deus Verba: Why the WORD became Words. Holmes, who is Associate Professor of Theology at Wyoming Catholic College is a highly credentialed theologian who has put his wisdom at the service of helping us to understand Sacred Scripture, and what it means to incorporate it into our lives.
A Church dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century
The generally misunderstood strategy of synodality is selectively advocated by its proponents. Clerics such as the high-ranking Blase Cardinal Cupich promote it only when it promises to be a path toward the approval of their own ideas. For deeply secularized Church leaders, in fact, you can lay it down as an axiom that synodality is perceived as a “tactic from below” to change the Church in accordance with the spirit of the times. But that is not what it should be.
Embarrassed over the Church’s response to COVID?
For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.
The Church and social policy: When less is more
There is a big difference between “policy” and “virtue” and, choosing between these two, the Church’s business is virtue. A similar difference exists between “facts” and “truth” and, again choosing between the two, the business of the Church is truth. But if what I have just declared were really the case, why would so many ecclesiastical statements over the past fifty years concern themselves with social, environmental and managerial facts and policies? And so little with faith and morals?
The road to heaven is paved by a healthy Church
Although a straightforward paganism is growing today with the decline of Christianity in the West, most contemporary leaders would not admit to any formal pagan worship or the consultation of sorcerers and soothsayers. But their continuous record of latching onto convenient moral lies is a parallel case. Paganism was essentially religion without morality. It is the same today, except that our leaders do not typically refer to their oracles as “gods”.
Top intellectual approaches to unbelievers
Enumerating these six possibilities does not exclude others. As I suggested above, the barriers for some may simply melt away through exposure to the penetrating vision so consistently present in great Christian works of art. And of course, there is no getting away from the simple witness of apparently ordinary men and women to whom gravitate for no other reason than that they radiate some Presence which is greater than themselves.
The random Catechism: Right here, right now!
I found myself thinking today of the various saints throughout history who had discerned their future course by opening up a Bible at random and reading that page—or perhaps opening the Bible, plunking their finger down on the page, and reading that verse. I’ve tried this myself from time to time, with no discernible result.
One soul at a time: The scandal of order is resolved in love
It is one of the most peculiar characteristics of post-modernity that the dominant culture has a love-hate relationship with the concept of “order”. On the one hand, the contemporary mindset seeks to justify every desire that was formerly considered “disordered” through the assumption that the universe is the product of chaos; on the other, this same contemporary mindset insists upon a socially uniform, consistent and orderly stance against challenges to this assumption.
Vindicating the Holy Shroud
I have previously called attention to Gerard Verschuuren’s latest book on the Shroud of Turin. But having finished a careful reading of his argument, I decided it would be useful summarize the main points.
David’s choice: Falling into the hand of God
We might also have expected some very good preaching during the Pandemic to the effect that we ought not to be particularly fearful in times like this, but rather to express a simple confidence in God, knowing that whatever He permits to happen will draw us closer to Him, if only we will trust Him with our entire lives as we should. Searching my memory, I don’t think I heard any preaching to that effect ever, not even once. That seems strange to me, perhaps even ominous.
Contagious Faith in a Church that saves
Right out of the gate, in an introduction entitled “Living Dangerously”, Lawler poses the ultimate questions of life and death which are (or ought to be) answered so differently by pagans and Christians. This sets the stage for an examination of the Catholic response to Covid—a response which, whatever it may do for the body, certainly chills the soul.
The inexpressible sadness of Christian failure
We can pick any period of the Church’s history and we will find, along with any obvious successes, the following three characteristics: The Church ran into trouble with worldly power wherever she was true to her mission; serious Christians experienced frustration far more often than not; and wherever the Church appeared to be culturally dominant, or tried to cling to cultural dominance, she was in grave need of reform.
Out of the past, three surprise books, all occasions of grace
Reading any or all of these books will be far too little to alter the course of history, or the progressive slide into ever-increasing infidelity on the part of the once-Christian West. For that a far-deeper conversion is needed than can come from reading alone—but also a far more widespread conversion, in God’s own time, inspired and nourished now by the few who lead the way.
Why can’t you just be “more loving”?
Catholics have a traditional expression which captures the proper attitude: “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” But more often than not, the person who hates the sins loved by the dominant culture is rebuked for being uncharitable, narrow, unfeeling, judgmental, and dogmatic. In other words: Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong. The explanation of all this is blindingly obvious. It is rooted in that “respect of persons” which causes us to praise what our “betters” approve and to denounce what our “betters” condemn.
God exiles His people when He must. What about us?
God never acts in ways that are bad for us. But He does reach a time when, on any given trajectory, He knows He has done all He can do. He reaches a time when He recognizes our definitive refusal to take refuge in the shadow of his hand (Is 49:2)—a time when He can only lament for us, for the Church we claim to honor, and for the nation we inhabit, as he lamented for Jerusalem, “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you would not!”
Taking offense at Christ: Must we explain Him away?
Suppose instead that we stop playing games with the Christ of our own imaginings. Suppose we really do place Christ in His own concrete, human historical context. Suppose we figure out what the Jews of the first century understood Him to do and to say and to mean, and why their leaders were so sure they had to crucify Him. Suppose we find Him thus, receive him thus, recognizing rightly that it is the shoddiest of all methodologies to refabricate Him as a myth in order to explain Him away.
On the frequent fatuity of scholarship
The danger of scholarship lies not so much in the intelligence and diligence of scholars as in the bully platform which society affords them as “voices” on radio, “talking heads” on television, and “quotes” in newspapers and magazines—not to forget, of course, the rights of the fraternity to pass along its strictly uniform values and theories to countless students. There is nothing, for sheer intellectual conformity, like the modern university.
On the Good: Catholic webinar on Equality Act, March 22
Since the Equality Act is directly aimed at the destruction of distinctions between male and female and restrictions of the liberty of Christians who must uphold the fundamental realities of God’s creation, CatholicCulture.org welcomes this important initiative to inform everyone of the problems with this Act, advanced by those in the United States, including the Biden Administration, who deny not only Divine Revelation but the natural law which is knowable by all.
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