Action Alert!

By Phil Lawler

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This week: The US bishops test relations with Rome

So clearly there IS some resistance in the US hierarchy— if not to the Pope’s leadership, at least to the rhetoric being churned out by papal supporters.

One year later, still no answers from Vatican on McCarrick scandal

We know where to look for the documents in question. They’re in the files of the apostolic nuncio in Washington, and/or the offices of the Roman Curia. It shouldn’t take a year to dig them out.

Does Pope’s representative hope to silence US bishops’ questions?

If the papal nuncio convinces American bishops to swallow their concerns and stifle their questions, that would be a grave disservice both to the Pope and to the faithful Catholics of the US.

German bishops leading the Church—over the cliff?

But what if your goal is to spread the Catholic faith? Then the German bishops are, as a group, miserable failures. Mattingly notes that 216,078 Germans formally renounced their Catholic faith last year.

Know when to ask for help. Often.

Prayer brings us together, in ways that we do not fully anticipate or understand. So I conclude that we should all be asking for prayers more often.

Unfinished Business

The world is going to laugh at us anyway. So it’s better to be laughed at for what seems (to the unbelieving world) an excess of piety or compunction or zeal, than for leaving the one truly important project undone.

Keystone Crooks: the Vatican’s latest financial scandal

Is it possible that the Vatican’s financial affairs could be so chaotic, so imprudent, so palpably corrupt? The entire story offers a portrait of blundering, amateurish crooks.

Quick Hits: After the Synod, praying for a miracle

“Faced with such an evident scandal, it is impossible that a Catholic bishop would remain silent,” he writes. Yet most bishops ARE silent.

A noisy minority with an outsize influence

If I could call on dozens of tenured professors from Notre Dame, Georgetown, Fordham, and Villanova to defend me at a moment’s notice— with all the PR machinery of their schools behind them— I wouldn't worry too very much about the “outsize influence” of some lone critic with a blog.

This week: Pachamama and other scandals

Yet again the Amazon Synod— controversial though it is— has been bumped off the top place in our list of the week’s headline stories by a stunning and scandalous development at the Vatican. In fact, two stunning and scandalous developments.

Conversion: of the Amazon, or of the Church?

"If God’s dream is the redemption of humanity,…" Thus begins a telling sentence in a semi-official Vatican journal. God's dream??

The subversive ambiguity of Father Martin and friends

Father Martin is consistent in his own way: always challenging the Church’s authoritative teaching obliquely, always encouraging others to question or to ignore that teaching, yet always innocently protesting that he is merely raising “interesting” questions, not answering them. He uses studied ambiguity to undermine orthodoxy. And now, when challenged, he takes refuge behind the authority of other, more powerful prelates— who are using the same subversive technique.

Pagan idols aren’t harmless, and ‘dialogue’ is not an absolute goal

If the Pachamama images were pagan idols— set up before the altar of a Catholic church— then it was right and just to destroy them.

This week: Synod debates and declining numbers

The discussions of the Amazon Synod continue, with calls for the ordination of married men gaining support. The final votes on the Synod’s proposals are still a week away, and the daily press briefings do not convey the full story of what has happened inside the Synod hall, so it may be...

At the Synod, the blind lead the blind

Two noteworthy columns today by veteran Vatican-watchers covering the Amazon Synod: John Allen of Crux explains how German prelates have outsized influence in the discussions of the Amazon Synod—particularly when the subject is priestly celibacy. And Sandro Magister of...

The Pachamama or the Virgin: which does the Synod revere?

Questioned about the Pachamama icon that has become the most visible symbol of the Amazon Synod, Father Giacomo Costa told reporters that it was an image of “an indigenous woman who brings life.” The Synod spokesman added: “Nobody said it was the Virgin Mary.” I beg to...

The next Vatican scandal: don’t say I didn’t warn you

Back in June 2016 I made a prediction about the next Vatican scandal: This time the subject will not be sex, but that other rich lode of corruption: money. Then the police raid on Vatican offices was followed by the resignation of the Vatican’s top police official. We still...

This week: So what DID the Pope say about Christ’s divinity?

Yet again, an unexpected and unsettling news story snatched top billing from the Amazon Synod in the week’s Catholic World News coverage. Last week it was the police raid on the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. This week it was the stunning claim, by an influential Italian journalist,...

Does Pope Francis profess the Nicene Creed?

Did Pope Francis really really say that Jesus is not God? Eugenio Scalfari, who made this sensational claim, cannot be treated as a reliable witness. He is an atheist, a Marxist, not a Christian. Although he has interviewed Pope Francis several times, he has not recorded the sessions or taken...

A serious theologian’s fear of schism

Father Thomas Weinandy has long been a perceptive and courageous analyst of the current confusion that is spreading from Rome. And he has paid a price for his honesty. In 2017, the Capuchin theologian gave up his position as consultant to the US bishops’ doctrine committee, after making...

The ‘spirit of timidity’ that thwarts evangelization

Years ago, at an inter-religious conference, I was befriended by a Muslim cleric who, when he learned that I had never met my father-in-law, promised to do his best to bring us together. (He fulfilled that promise, to no avail.) However, he also felt obliged to give me a warning. “My...

In the Buffalo diocese, the wrong sort of investigation?

Hat tip to Siobhan O’Connor, the Buffalo whistleblower, for calling attention to the fact that the Vatican’s apostolic visitation of that diocese is “not subject to the recent instruction of the Holy See, Vos Estis.” Here’s one more demonstration that the Vatican...

This week: A curious media silence about a blockbuster Vatican story

This week’s most important CWN headline was not a big story. It was a huge story, a sensational story, a blockbuster. To be honest, I’m at a loss to explain why it hasn’t been given headline coverage throughout the media world. Police—the Vatican’s own police,...

A bid to understand the police raid at the Vatican

A shocking, unprecedented scene: Vatican police raiding the offices of the Vatican’s own Secretariat of State, seizing documents and electronic devices. As usual the Vatican is tight-lipped about this latest scandal, disclosing only that the Vatican’s top prosecutor has been...

This week: German bishops rush in, where Americans fear to tread

Pope Francis asked them not to do it. Two top Vatican officials told them they would be violating canon law if they did it. But this week the German bishops decided to do it anyway. And some people say that the threat of schism

So is political proselytism OK, your Holiness?

Here’s what Pope Francis did NOT say, speaking to a group of Jesuits in Mozambique: Today I felt a certain bitterness after a meeting with young people. A woman approached me with a young man and a young woman. I was told they were part of a slightly leftist movement. She said to me in perfect...

Institutionally overweight? A diet plan for dioceses

Last week I asked which of the countless diocesan and parish programs and agencies is more crucial than the staff, bag, and spare tunic that our Lord told his apostles they did not need on their evangelizing mission. [Lk 9:1-6] Now I have a follow-up question. See if you can find the official...

Wanted: a new St. Augustine, to challenge bad pastors

“God will call the bad shepherds to account for his sheep and for their deaths.” Thus St. Augustine, in his sermon On Pastors. Do Catholic priests in America still read the Divine Office regularly? (I’m afraid I know the answer to that question. According to a recent survey,...

Is the Catholic Church institutionally overweight?

A reflection on the Gospel reading from this morning’s Mass: “Take nothing for the journey; no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics.” With those instructions—not to mention to drive out demons and cure diseases—the Lord sent the Apostles...

A Catholic novel, about a lost Catholic world

Last week, at a friend’s suggestion, I reread The Edge of Sadness, by Edwin O’Connor. It’s not a great novel, but it’s a good novel, written from an unmistakably Catholic perspective. Of course, since the main character is a Catholic priest, it would be different to have...

This week: the real threat of schism comes from Germany

Last week, the hottest topic for discussion in Catholic circles was the Pope’s response to speculation about an American schism. This week the story shifts to Germany, where the episcopal conference is threatening to defy the Vatican, and make its own “binding” decisions on...

Who benefits from all this talk of schism?

Why are we even talking about schism? Who began this extraordinary conversation, and whose interests are served by it? Ross Douthat of the New York Times admits that he used the term “schism” long ago, as a theoretical possibility—which he now (rightly) regards as remote. But...

Quick Hits: Provocative questions—on suicide and schism, the USCCB and a diocesan tribunal

Writing for First Things about the Seattle suicide scandal, Father Paul Mankowski, SJ, puts his finger on the problem: the fact that the Eucharistic liturgy was used as a stage for a cause, with innocent children as bit actors. The priest involved says that he was not acquainted with the...

Lay activism: a modest proposal

Although I was appalled by the Pope’s statement on the prospect of an American schism, one passage from that statement merits a bit more thought: The schismatics always have one thing in common: they separate themselves from the people, from the faith of the people of God. And when there was...

Don’t blame ‘others’ or ‘cycles of violence’ for the 9/11 attacks

On September 11, while Americans remembered the victims of an Islamic terrorist attack, Pope Francis met with a members of a joint Catholic-Islamic committee dedicated to peaceful dialogue. (This is the group whose formal statement, endorsed by the Pope, proclaimed: “The pluralism and diversity...

A Pope who doesn’t fear schism may cause one

“I am not afraid of schisms,” Pope Francis told reporters during his latest airplane press conference. Well, I am. And I’m afraid of any Roman Pontiff who isn’t afraid of splitting the universal Church. Which means that, yes, I’m afraid of Pope Francis. As we...

Quick Hits: On Annulment tribunals, the Ahmari-French debate, and [censored]

• Leila Miller, who has made some important contributions to understanding the disastrous effects of divorce, has now turned her attention to diocesan marriage tribunals, and the unmistakable problems associated with routine declarations of annulment. She has posted a revealing interview with...

Quick Hits: The Pope, the US, and Ukraine; background on Cardinal Pell’s case

Foreign Affairs carries an interesting analysis of Vatican foreign policy under Pope Francis, with a focus on the conflict in Ukraine. Victor Gaetan notes that the Ukrainian Catholic Church, led by Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevcuk, has been extremely critical of Russian intervention, while the...

Pope Francis: ‘honored’ by criticism?

In the latest effort to explain away an unguarded utterance by Pope Francis, Matteo Bruni, the director of the Vatican press office, told reporters how they should interpret the papal remark that “it’s an honor that Americans attack me.” In an informal context, the Pope...

No ‘slow news day’ today: hints of paranoia, real causes for alarm, and two cardinals’ deaths

August is traditionally a slow month for news, and then things heat up quickly in September. That’s certainly been the case this year. In today’s Catholic World News headlines you’ll find: Hints of paranoia: Former cardinal McCarrick denies wrongdoing, says his...

The new cardinals: Pope Francis bids for ‘irreversible change’

Having named 13 new members of the College of Cardinals, Pope Francis will—as of October 5—have named a majority of the cardinals who will elect the next Roman Pontiff. At least on paper, then, he has had a chance to ensure that the next conclave will elect a prelate who shares his...

The Seattle suicide: not ‘confusion’ but grave scandal

After the publication of an an AP story about a man who received a blessing in a Catholic church just a few days before committing suicide, the Seattle archdiocese released a statement that read in part: The Associated Press story about Mr. Fuller is of great concern to the Archbishops because...

Routine annulment as ‘cynical duplicity’—a non-Catholic’s perspective

David Bentley Hart begins his Commonweal article by stating that he is not a Catholic, and he proceeds to give “traditionalist” Catholics a drubbing. But if you persevere to the end of the piece, you find some refreshingly blunt analysis of the prevailing Catholic approach to marriage...

The Pell Case: Australia’s Dreyfus Affair?

The conviction of Cardinal George Pell on sex-abuse charges, despite the complete absence of evidence against him, was a shock and a black mark against the Australian justice system. The decision by an appeals court to uphold that verdict compounds the problem and the disgrace. The cardinal

Sample a beautiful new musical setting for the Mass in English

When was the last time you heard new Catholic liturgical music that was beautiful, reverent, accessible, and easy to learn? Since the talented composer Paul Jernberg is a friend and neighbor, it happens to me often. Do yourself a favor, and watch at least the trailer for a video recording of a...

Reason, faith, and the pursuit of wisdom

“However secularized a civilization may become,” writes Samuel Gregg in his excellent new book, “it can never entirely escape from the burden of its spiritual inheritance.” The civilization of the Western world is the product of a singularly fruitful marriage between faith...

Please, stop talking about ‘values’

This week I have received a political flyer aimed at “values voters,” heard a fundraising pitch from an organization that upholds family “values,” and sat through a sermon about maintaining Christian “values” in a secular world. The constant references to...

Understanding an ideological purge at the Vatican

Pay careful attention to the statement by Msgr. Livio Melina regarding the radical change in orientation at the John Paul II Institute, where he, until recently, served as president: If the decisions taken by Archbishop Paglia are not revoked, then what they are saying is: ‘The interpretation...

Remembering the day when the ‘politics of personal destruction’ began

“The growing plague of offense and disrespect in speech and actions must end,” says Archbishop Wilton Gregory in his highly publicized response to President Trump’s remarks about squalor in Baltimore. “I fear that recent public comments by our President and others and the...

That money-making ‘pro-choice’ scam

First let’s put together a coalition of groups involved in airline travel: the airlines themselves, aircraft manufacturers, airport executives, unions representing pilots and flight attendants, air-traffic controllers, TSA agents, etc. Now let’s write a manifesto for them, demanding...

Sick of the Scandals? Here’s what I plan to do (Part II)

Yesterday I announced that I’m finished reporting on the scandals in the Catholic Church. The question naturally arises: then what will I do? (Before I answer that question, let me pause just a moment to thank the many people who have sent me supportive and complimentary messages....

Sick of hearing about scandals in the Church? You should be. (Part I)

I quit. For more than 25 years now, I have been reporting and writing about scandal within the Catholic Church. Yesterday, as I wearily wrote one more article about episcopal corruption, I realized how much the topic has come to nauseate me. I can’t do it anymore. Since the 1990s I...

In West Virginia, another bewildering Vatican appointment

Every day, it seems, I resolve not to write another column about corruption in the Catholic hierarchy. And then another story crosses my desk that makes my shake my head… and tackle the same tired old topic again. Take today’s news, that the Vatican has named Bishop Mark Brennan to...

A bishop disciplined: why keep it quiet?

In our CWN news coverage of the Vatican’s disciplinary action against Bishop Bransfield, we called attention to the fact that the announcement was made late on a Friday afternoon in July. If you’ve ever devoted any time at all to the study of public relations, you recognize the...

When a theologian accuses his archbishop of schism,...

Massimo Faggioli teaches in the theology department at Villanova (when he is not trolling conservative Catholics on social media). Villanova is—or claims to be—a Catholic university. Those who teach in theology departments at Catholic universities are obliged to obtain the...

50 years later: coming back to earth after the moon landing

Sunday, July 20, 1969. Millions of Americans were in front of their television sets, watching coverage of the historic Apollo 11 mission. But it was a lovely afternoon in Boston, the Red Sox were hosting the Baltimore Orioles, and cheap seats were available in the distant right-field grandstand...

At the Vatican, two mysteries—one probably easy to resolve

Just a few days after announcing that excavations inside the Vatican yielded no evidence to shed light on the disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi, the Vatican has now said that some human remains were found, and the investigation will continue. What’s going on here? The short answer: in...

Unearthing more corruption at the Vatican

Pause for a moment, and think about what it means that the Vatican is excavating two tombs at the Teutonic Cemetery. The Vatican today confirmed what was already apparent: that the excavation of these tombs has been prompted by an investigation into the mysterious disappearance of a teenage girl...

The ‘new evangelization’—discarded?

Yesterday’s CWN headlines included a remarkable interview with Cardinal Jozef De Kesel of Brussels, in which the cardinal welcomed the arrival of secularism in Europe. Read the whole interview (if you have the stomach for it), and see if you can detect therein any statement, any argument,...

The reigning Pontiff of confusion: a continuing story

“The Vatican is now sending ambiguous messages on issues that were considered crucial only a few years ago.” I might have written that sentence, but I didn’t. It comes from an op-ed column in the New York Times—yes, that’s right, the New York Times—by the...

Faithful Catholics: don’t accept confusion about sexual morality

“Pride Month” has come to an end. And for the first two days of July, the first readings at Mass told the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. I’d call that a coincidence—if I believed in coincidences. Just after the middle of the month, Joseph Sciambra posted a very...

Quick Hits: Priest-pundits mince no words, on death penalty and McCarrick scandal

Today two priest-pundits offer essays that really cannot be missed: Father George William Rutler is at his best, which is very, very good, as he analyzes the US bishops’ discussion of capital punishment for Crisis. He focuses attention on the decision by Pope Francis to change the...

Mr. Catholic Boston, RIP

My friend Jim dropped by on a Sunday afternoon to let me know that Phil Crotty had died. We spent a few minutes swapping stories about Phil—who was a memorable man—and I found myself wondering why, although I missed him already, I was not saddened by his death. Was it because Phil...

It ain’t news ‘til it happens

This isn’t serious complaint. It’s more of a pet peeve. Still… Here at CWN, I have a firm editorial policy: News isn’t news until it happens. If you have a story about something that is going to happen soon, save it. Sure, there are exceptions. Sometimes the mere mention of a forthcoming event...

Exit, voice, and loyalty in the Catholic Church

Different people react in different ways to the crisis in our Church. Reflecting on that fact, I find myself thinking about a little classic of a book that was published almost 50 years ago: Exit, Voice, & Loyalty, by Albert O. Hirschman. At a glance you might say that Hirschman’s...

Cardinal Cupich’s counterproductive advice

Cardinal Cupich explains why he will not deny Communion to pro-abortion politicians, despite the clear mandate of Canon 915: I think it would be counterproductive to impose sanctions, simply because they don’t change anybody’s minds, but it also takes away from the fact that an elected...

Making abortion unsafe and legal

The headline read: Maine governor signs abortion bill allowing non-doctors to perform procedure Thought experiment: Take the word “abortion” out of the headline, so that it reads: Maine governor signs bill allowing non-doctors to perform procedure You’d still...

Scandal in the West Virginia diocese: ‘there is no excuse’

Yesterday I wrote that Archbishop William Lori had done the Church a real service by providing a detailed account of the corruption that had been uncovered in the Diocese of Charleston/Wheeling, West Virginia, under former Bishop Michael Bransfield. It was, I wrote, the first time—at least...

A whole new scandal—financial this time—looms for the Catholic hierarchy

Another week, another story about massive corruption in the Catholic hierarchy. But there is some relief as well. First, this week’s scandal is not about sexual misconduct. Well, not primarily about sexual misconduct. In his report to the faithful of Charleston/Wheeling, West Virginia,...

Does Bishop Tobin deserve our support, or do we deserve his?

Here’s the narrative, as I’ve seen it presented: An American bishop made a bold statement against the celebration of Gay Pride Month. When he was denounced and abused for doing his job, the bishop expressed regret that his statement had created controversy, but held firm on its...

When the headline is the editorial

The headline on a Boston Globe story read: Providence bishop faces backlash for homophobic tweet. Here’s the story, in its entirety as it appeared on the Boston.com site: Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin took to Twitter Saturday to tell Catholics not to celebrate Pride Month this...

Don’t call me Father

John Dew thinks that Catholics should stop addressing priests as “Father.” I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: “Who cares what he thinks, and why can’t you guys spell ‘John Doe’ correctly?” But you see it’s not John Doe....

The unjust punishment of a scholarly papal critic

Last year when he issued new rules for the governance of pontifical ecclesiastical faculties, Pope Francis called for a “culture of encounter” that would encourage “wide-ranging dialogue.” But there are limits, apparently, to how widely the dialogue should range. This...

New interview, new revelations damage Pope’s credibility

In his latest interview Pope Francis says that he does not remember whether or not Archbishop Vigano told him about Theodore McCarrick’s sexual misconduct. He also insists that he knew “nothing, obviously, nothing, nothing” about McCarrick’s misconduct. Those two claims do...

Quick Hits: Questioning the priesthood, dangerous ‘proselytism’, new rules on abuse

When The Atlantic published an essay entitled, “Abolish the Priesthood,” everyone who saw the magazine’s cover knew instinctively that the author, James Carroll, was writing about the Catholic priesthood. That’s a point that Father Paul Mankowski makes in the opening...

Don’t call me ‘Doctor Lawler’—yet

When I was asked to deliver the commencement talk at Thomas More College, I accepted the invitation immediately because I love the place. Only later did I learn that I would also be receiving an honorary doctorate, and I probably can’t convey how delighted I was by that honor. Many years...

The ‘distraction’ of priestly celibacy

In the five weeks that have passed since Pope-emeritus Benedict published his letter on the roots of the sex-abuse scandal, critics of the former Pontiff have been remarkably successful at repressing his message. Their strategy has been to question the propriety of Benedict’s...

Making the best case for that open letter on papal heresy

John Rist, perhaps the most distinguished scholar among those who signed the open letter charging Pope Francis with heresy, has explained his action in an interview with the National Catholic Register. I would strongly urge all concerned Catholics to read the entire interview. Rist is an...

The most inspiring story I have covered

From time to time someone asks me to name the biggest story that I have covered (probably the death of Pope John Paul II), or the most surprising story (easily, the resignation of Benedict XVI). Only rarely am I asked to name the most inspiring story. My answer to that question might surprise many...

Good points and bad in new Vatican sex-abuse guidelines

The new canonical norms for the handling of sex-abuse complaints, issued by Pope Francis today, resolve some of the problems that have contributed to the scandal. Other important problems, unfortunately, remain unresolved. The bulk of motu proprio, Vos Estis Lux Mundi, is appropriately...

Harassment at an abortion clinic

Congratulations (of a sort) are due to Rep. Brian Sims, a Democratic member of Pennsylvania’s state legislature. He has done something that other pro-abortion fanatics have failed to do. He has captured videotape of harassment outside an abortion clinic. Hasn’t it ever struck you...

Is the Pope a heretic? The danger of asking the wrong question

Was it sheer frustration that prompted a group of Catholic scholars to issue their open letter charging Pope Francis with heresy? If so, I can understand. I share the frustration. The silence of the Catholic hierarchy, in the face of confusion that is tearing the Church apart, is maddening. If...

The cardinal who clings to power

Cardinal Angelo Sodano met with Pope Francis today in a private audience. Which gives us another occasion to note that Cardinal Sodano remains the Dean of the College of Cardinals, at the age of 91. Since the new Code of Canon Law came into effect in 1983, and with it the expectation that aging...

Why a ‘superdicastery’ for evangelization is not a good idea

After six years and 29 working sessions (each stretching across three days), the Council of Cardinals is finally ready to unveil its plan for reorganizing the Roman Curia. A preview report, based on interviews with two of the cardinals on the Pope’s advisory committee, the new plan...

Joe Biden, Catholic candidate or non-Catholic minister?

For several decades now, pro-life Catholics in the US have been asking why our bishops don’t impose canonical penalties on politicians who support abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, and other policies that clearly violate the Church’s teachings. The standard dodge employed by...

Mandatory vaccination: a danger to religious freedom

If I told you that police in New York had been ordered to bar Jewish children from public places, would you be alarmed? You should be. And it happened. No one said that the order was directed specifically at Jewish children. But that would be the primary effect of a policy announced last month...

Books that deserve revived interest

Each year around Christmas time, many publications ask contributors to name the best new books they have read that year. I find those lists helpful; invariably I add a few books to my own reading list, and gain a few thoughts about Christmas presents for friends. But what about books that are...

How we stole a Vatican treasure

Well, okay, we didn’t actually steal the treasure. But we definitely did profit from the stolen goods. The breathtaking Miserere was written by Allegri exclusively for the Vatican: to be performed only in the Sistine Chapel, and only during Holy Week. The music remained under lock and key...

Benedict’s powerful message—and the bid to suppress it

After six years of public silence, broken only by a few mild personal comments, Pope-emeritus Benedict has spoken out dramatically, with a 6,000-word essay on sexual abuse that has been described as a sort of post-papal encyclical. Clearly the retired Pontiff felt compelled to write: to say...

Will God punish society for abortion? No, the punishment has already begun.

“If the state fails to protect the child in the womb,” said Pope Pius XI, “let them remember that God is the Avenger of innocent blood that cries from earth to heaven.” Pro-lifers often voice the same fear: that our society will suffer severe punishment for allowing...

New Vatican rules on abuse encourage whistle-blowers—like Archbishop Vigano

Credit Father Raymond de Souza with spotting an important point about the new Vatican legislation on sexual abuse. The rules require all Vatican personnel to report any evidence of sexual abuse to prosecutors. The legislation applies directly only within the territory of the Vatican city-state,...

Archbishop Gregory’s appointment: ‘safe’ in the hands of the mainstream media

Reacting to the appointment of Archbishop Wilton Gregory to the Washington archdiocese, Michelle Boorstein, the religion writer for the Washington Post, commented on her Twitter account: “Largely a very safe choice. It will primarily piss off only the far-right.” That’s true...

Archbishop Gregory promises us the truth. Here’s how...

At today’s press conference formally announcing his appointment to head the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, Archbishop Wilton Gregory promised: “I will always tell you the truth as I understand it.” Good. “The only way I can serve this archdiocese is by telling the...

The message of the death of St. John Paul II, 14 years later

Fourteen years ago today we witnessed an unprecedented phenomenon: a worldwide vigil. The eyes (and television cameras) of the whole world were focused on a single location, St. Peter’s Square, as we waited for the inexorable announcement that Pope John Paul II had died. Then when the...

The bizarre ring-kissing controversy

A few quick comments on the Papal Controversy of the Week: the odd refusal to allow people to kiss his ring: First, understand that Pope Francis often does allow people to kiss his ring. The video captured during his trip to Loreto went viral in large part because it was unusual, in several...

Following up: might cardinals have been authorized to disclose conclave secrets?

Responding to my post from Monday, about cardinals who violate their oaths by disclosing the secrets of a papal conclave, several readers have made the observation that it’s possible Pope Francis gave permission to one or more cardinals to speak about the voting process. That is at least a...

Cardinals violating their vows: a ho-hum story?

America magazine is running a story about the conclave of 2013. The story—excerpted from the forthcoming The Election of Pope Francis, by Gerard O’Connell—includes a precise account of the voting on the cardinals’ first ballot. Do you have any doubt that...

A wretched ‘tell-all’ Vatican exposé that tells us only one thing

“I don’t often talk about my own life in my books,” writes Frederic Martel, near the close of his sensationalistic In the Closet of the Vatican. Reading that phrase, I laughed out loud. The humor was unintentional; Martel takes himself very seriously. Still in light of the...

Pope Francis shows no regret over a shocking appointment

Was Pope Francis sending a subtle message to his critics this week? Or have I become a bit paranoid about papal statements? You decide. In a statement of condolence after the death of Cardinal Godfried Danneels, Pope Francis summed up the ecclesiastical career of the Belgian prelate in two...

Tongue-tied bishops—is it fear of retribution?

John Allen of Crux does his best to be balanced, but he can only do so much. When he suggests that “Vigano may have made it harder to get to the truth on McCarrick“, he can’t avoid implying that many American bishops are keeping their silence, rather than demanding a thorough...

A statement the Tennessee bishops shouldn’t have made

The Catholic bishops of Tennessee have recommended against support for a “Heartbeat Bill,” on prudential grounds. The bishops may be right in their political judgment. But even if they are, they had no business issuing their statement. In that statement, the bishops make it quite...

A failed Vatican ‘summit’ only postpones the final reckoning

As I predicted a week ago, the ballyhooed Vatican “summit” on sexual abuse has produced little more than strong statements: statements of the sort that the Catholic laity have come to expect… and to mistrust. The bishops who gathered in Rome last week did nothing to address...

The preposterous case against Cardinal Pell

Cardinal Pell has been convicted of molesting two young men. One of those alleged victims, who is now deceased, denied having been molested. Think about that for a moment: the cardinal stands convicted of a crime that, according to the supposed victim, did not occur. There’s another...

This day in history—a windfall for the Saint Gallen Mafia

On this date—February 21, the feast of St. Peter Damian—18 years ago, at a Vatican consistory, Pope John Paul II raised 38 prelates to the College of Cardinals. Among the men who received red hats that day are the following, who are very much in the news this week, amid the discussion...

A Vatican meeting programmed for failure

Brace yourself. Tomorrow the Vatican begins a public-relations offensive in response to the sex-abuse scandal. Unless I am much mistaken, unfortunately, a public-relations effort is all that we can expect. If the long-awaited meeting on The Protection of Minors in the Church adheres to the...

Outraged Catholic laity forced action on McCarrick. But that’s just a first step.

The Natonal Catholic Register report on the laicization of Theodore McCarrick, by Edward Pentin, is excellent: thorough, balanced, and accurate. I strongly suggest that you read the entire piece. (Be sure to scroll down past the fundraising appeal.) Have you done that? Good. Now let me call...

Cardinal Farrell as camerlengo: an astonishingly ill-timed announcement

The selection of Cardinal Kevin Farrell as camerlengo was noteworthy—not because the cardinal will have new influence at the Vatican, but because the appointment confirms the influence that he already enjoys. However, the timing of the appointment was absolutely stunning. The role of the...

In the interests of transparency...

The Vatican has released new statutes governing the office of its Auditor General. Which would be nice, if the Vatican had an Auditor General. Sure, there’s an office of the Auditor General, and Vatican officials evidently considered it important to define the rights and responsibilities...

McCarrick may be sanctioned, but the cover-up continues

According to multiple reliable sources in Rome, former cardinal Theodore McCarrick will soon be laicized—defrocked—in punishment for multiple instances of sexual misconduct. The Vatican will announce the penalty, apparently, just before the long-awaited meeting of the sex-abuse...

Not all religions are part of God’s plan

Yesterday we celebrated the feast of St. Paul Miki, who, in the last moments before he died for the faith, said to the audience at his execution: The pluralism and the diversity of religions… are willed by God in his wisdom, through which He created human beings. Oh, wait; my mistake....

Swimming the Tiber from Teheran

Sometimes a good, long look in the mirror can set the stage for evangelization. When I look in the mirror I see a mortal man: a man who will die. But I don’t want to die. How can I escape that fate? When I look in the mirror I see a sinful man: a man who has done things of which he is...

How the new NY abortion law doesn’t change things, and how it does

Would it be much better, really, if the new law in New York—and similarly ghoulish legislation now advancing in Virginia and Rhode Island—allowed for legal abortion only up until childbirth? The internet has lit up this week, with anguished laments from pro-lifers, appalled by the...

Spin doctor, heal yourself

Andrea Tornielli, the new spin doctor for the Vatican’s communications team, has harsh words for some Catholic media outlets. Cindy Wooden of CNS captures the gist of Torniell’s complaint: The rise of media that call themselves Catholic but seem to exist only to judge others is less about...

The real reason why Cuomo won’t be excommunicated

“The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason.” T.S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral As the Washington Post (!) reported on calls for the excommunication of New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo, who had strongly backed and applauded the...

They came for Covington Catholic; next will they come for you?

It’s time for the pro-life movement to grow up. The disgraceful treatment of students from Covington Catholic—and by that I mean the pell-mell rush of pro-life “leaders” to condemn innocent young men—illustrates a potentially fatal flaw in the movement. For much...

In abortion debate, Washington Post wants to talk science. Good. Let’s.

The Washington Post (which publishes an awful lot of op-ed pieces in the “News” section) today features this interesting headline: Thousands flock to March for Life that bills its anti-abortion stance as ‘pro-science’ The thrust of the story is that while pro-lifers...

Please, bishops: act now; you’re running out of time!

The statement from Archishop Vigano, pleading with McCarrick to make a public act of repentance, was a dramatic—and sadly rare—display of bold pastoral leadership. God bless Bishop Strickland for joining in that plea. I hope and pray that other American bishops will...

The Zanchetta case: a fatal blow to the Pope’s reputation as a reformer

Last week the Vatican acknowledged that an Argentine bishop working at the Vatican faces sex-abuse charges. The story drew little attention from American media outlets, and understandably so: just one more in a long line of complaints against clerics, in this case involving a bishop whose name...

A bad day’s lament

Yesterday was “one of those days”—a day that found me hating my work, wishing I had some other sort of job. The first blow, and by far the worst, came with the news, released by the Washington Post Monday evening, that an old friend, Father C. J. McCloskey, had been...

Quick Hits: Important background on Vatican-China accord and Press Office turnover

The Vatican has struck a deal with China, which—although we still don’t know any details—apparently gives Beijing the power to nominate new bishops. Is there any precedent for such an agreement? Yes, there is. Writing for AsiaNews, Li Ruohan compares the Vatican-China accord with...

Pope’s message to US bishops: what NOT to do

In November, Pope Francis instructed the Catholic bishops of the US to table their plans for new responses to the sex-abuse scandal. Now, in his letter to the American bishops who are on retreat at Mundelein seminary this week, the Pontiff exhorts them to take action—but not, apparently,...

The top 20 stories of a painful year

2018 was a tumultuous year for the Catholic Church, and frankly, most of the news was bad news. With prayers for more positive headlines in 2019, here are my own selections for the 20 most important stories of the past year: #20. Pope’s address to the Roman Curia. In past years Pope...

At the Vatican, in February, the only question that matters just MIGHT be discussed

Father Hans Zollner, who heads the child-protection center at Gregorian University, suggests that the much-anticipated February meeting at the Vatican should produce “a clarification of procedures, which aren’t so clear.” Really? Sixteen years after the “long Lent”...

Are secular reporters finally ready to criticize Pope Francis?

“It was not a good year for Pope Francis,” says Sylvia Pogglioli of NPR. Nicole Winfield of AP is a bit more forceful: “It has been a wretched year for Pope Francis…” At last, reporters for the secular mainstream are waking up to the...

Quick Hits: Awaiting Pope’s speech to Curia, laity in leadership, a controversial funeral homily

John Allen of Crux is an honest reporter, and he clearly tries to avoid overt criticism of Pope Francis. But in a preview of the Pontiff’s annual address to the Roman Curia he is fairly blunt about the failure of promised reforms in this pontificate. The sex-abuse scandal continues, he...

Even in a bishop’s resignation, signs of waffling in Rome

“Now a bishop must be above reproach,” wrote St. Paul [1 Tim 3:2]. Apparently Bishop Alexander Salazar, whose resignation the Pope accepted today, was not above reproach. Yet he remained a bishop in active ministry, serving as an auxiliary in the largest archdiocese in the US, for more...

The inexplicable conviction of Cardinal Pell

Through bitter experience over the years, I have learned never to proclaim that some trusted figure couldn’t possibly be guilty of sexual abuse. I have learned to wait, to weigh the evidence, and if a court finds the man guilty, to accept that finding. Since I don’t know the facts,...

Oh, good. In February the Pope might make a statement about abuse

Give John Allen credit for honesty, in his analysis (for Crux) of what we can expect from the February meeting at the Vatican to discuss the sex-abuse crisis. Not much: Almost by definition, Americans are likely to be frustrated with what may seem the scant results of the February...

Coming soon: a religious struggle for control of the internet?

“We only have one message for those who seek to push hate, division, and violence: You have no place on our platforms. You have no home here.” That was the message of Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, Inc., in a recent address to the Anti-Defamation League. And that would be...

Does ‘America’ have ‘dubia’ about Pope’s remark on homosexuality?

Evidently caught off guard by the Pope’s expression of concern about widespread homosexuality in the clergy, America magazine has rushed to reassure readers that the Pontiff’s remarks must be understood in the proper context. Father James Martin, the editor-at-large of the Jesuit...

Abu Dhabi, but not Argentina?

Today’s announcement that Pope Francis will soon visit the United Arab Emirates rekindles my interest in another question about papal travel. Pope John Paul II visited his native Poland less than a year after his election. Pope Benedict XVI traveled to his native Germany just a few months...

If the Catholic Church were run like a business...

Imagine that you have invested all your savings in a chain of restaurants, and the chain is not doing well. Customers don’t like the food. Diners are staying away in droves. Franchises are closing. Now you receive the annual statement from the chief executive, who says that he is not...

Closing churches, losing faithful? Don’t be anxious, the Pope says

The observation that many churches, which until a few years ago were necessary, are now no longer thus, due to a lack of faithful and clergy, or a different distribution of the population between cities and rural areas, should be welcomed in the Church not with anxiety, but as a sign of the...

This time, we’re told, the Vatican is serious about abuse. Really.

Archbishop Scicluna says that the February conference on sexual abuse will be “the start of a global process“ to plan a worldwide response to the scandal. The start? You mean the process didn’t start when Pope Francis formed the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of...

Missing: a sense of urgency

In Rome, a friendly reader reports, they’re saying that the house is burning down, and the firemen are coming—in February. And that’s the good news. The bad news is that the firemen won’t bring pumps or hoses or ladders or axes. Or water. Kerosene, maybe....

Cupich appointment shows: February conference in Rome will be damage control

If you held out any hope that the Vatican might finally respond effectively to the sex-abuse scandal—that the February meeting could possibly prompt some real action—those hopes should have been shattered by the stunning announcement that Pope Francis had appointed Cardinal Blase...

Explaining the angry tone of today’s Catholic news coverage

Another American diocese is headed for bankruptcy court. Did you even notice our story on Monday? When I founded Catholic World News, back in 1996, it was inconceivable that a Catholic diocese would seek bankruptcy protection. I can vividly recall the first tentative discussions of the...

Just wait. The bishops are going to take action. Pretty soon. Probably. Trust them.

The American bishops told us that they had dealt decisively with the sex-abuse scandal at Dallas in 2002. This year it became painfully apparent—to everyone who didn’t know already—that they hadn’t. Then the bishops told us that they would deal decisively with the...

Cardinal Tobin still doesn’t get it. Nighty-night, baby.

If the scorching address by Francesco Cesareo, calling for negligent bishops to resign voluntarily, produced the most encouraging moment in the USCCB meeting, the low point might have come when Cardinal Joseph Tobin spoke, and made it abundantly clear that some prelates still don’t...

Did you notice? Review Board chairman urged bishops to resign

Chances are, you’ve only seen quick summaries of the address by Francesco Cesareo, the chairman of the National Review Board, to the US bishops’ meeting this week. I strongly recommend reading the whole text. It’s remarkable. Notice first the tone of the address. Cesareo...

Beware a false diagnosis of the crisis in the Catholic hierarchy

Ask a dozen Americans to explain the decline in the public influence of the Catholic Church, and at least ten will say that the sex-abuse scandal is the root cause. That standard narrative is handy but it’s wrong. The sex-abuse scandal has done catastrophic damage to the standing of the...

Quick Hits: Exhortations to bishops—and by bishops

Jayd Henricks, who once served as a senior staffer for the US bishops’ conference, hits a number of nails on the head in a blunt but respectful open letter to the American bishops as they head into their November meeting. He fully recognizes, and names, the powerful forces that might...

The crisis in Church governance

Priests and especially bishops are called to teach, to sanctify, and to govern. “So, how are we in Holy Orders doing?” Asks Msgr. Charles Pope in this must-read column for the National Catholic Register. He answers his own question: “By any reasonable measure,...

The all-purpose press release

Introducing the “All-Purpose USCCB Press Release.” Based on actual release that was sent out by the USCCB recently, this statement illustrates how the American hierarchy could respond promptly to any problem. It’s so easy to be contrite! By filling in the blanks, this release...

Despite stage-managing, Synod highlighted confusion in Rome

Remember back in 2014 and again 2015, when angry bishops protested that the Vatican staff was manipulating the Synod of Bishops? This year, when the Synod met to discuss youth and vocation, the complaints were different in tone. The participating bishops could no longer claim to be surprised by...

The Smoke of Satan: an excerpt from the introduction

The following, an excerpt from the opening chapter of my new book, The Smoke of Satan, will give readers an idea of what the book holds in store. In Jerusalem, just outside the walled Old City, stands the church of St. Peter in Gallicantu: St. Peter as the Cock Crows. Catholic churches are...

Why was Bishop Holley removed? Another failed transparency test.

Pope Francis has removed an American bishop from office. There’s just one problem: We don’t know what the story is. The Vatican announcement, released on October 24, reads thus: The Holy Father Francis has removed from the pastoral care of the diocese of Memphis, United States...

The third Vigano testimony: for a change, a pastor who talks about saving souls

“This is about souls,” Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano states solemnly in the third installment of his remarkable public testimony. This third letter, far more than the two that preceded it, is a pastoral message. Archbishop Vigano explains that he has spoken out because he is concerned about the...

Why are they leaving Honduras, Cardinal Maradiaga?

Just for a moment, let’s set aside the debate about American immigration policy, and ask a different question: Why are thousands of people willing to leave their homes in Honduras and walk 1,500 miles to reach the US border, knowing full well that they can’t enter Texas legally?...

How NOT to restore trust in the Catholic hierarchy

The Roman rumor mill is notoriously unreliable, so readers should not panic—yet—about the reports that Cardinal Joseph Tobin is a front-runner among the candidates for appointment as the next Archbishop of Washington, DC. But if the reports are accurate (and they are widespread, for...

Quick Hits: Catching up on comments about the Synod, the scandal

Most Catholic journalists have been busy recently, reflecting on the new spate of scandals. And since I’ve been writing a book on the subject (more on that soon; its publication is imminent), I’ve had trouble keeping abreast on the latest commentary. But several recent articles are in...

A Synod slap at home schoolers

From Patrick Reilly of the Cardinal Newman Society, via the National Catholic Register, comes this ominous warning: At the Youth Synod in Rome this week, one of the bishops’ discussion groups made some disappointing and ignorant comments about Catholic homeschoolers. In one of the...

How could you, Archbishop Vigano?

“How can you celebrate Mass,” Cardinal Ouellet angrily demands of Archbishop Viganò, “and mention the pope’s name in the Eucharistic Prayer?” An excellent question. It forces us to ask whether we have ever imagined that in praying for our shepherds we were...

On McCarrick scandal, Vatican responses are tardy, not reassuring

Finally there is some movement. This weekend the Vatican began responding to the dismay of the laity over the McCarrick scandal. The responses are certainly tardy, and still not terribly reassuring. But they are responses, at least; the “stonewall” approach is breaking down. The...

No jousting for these knights...

This Sunday will be October 7, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary and—not coincidentally—the anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto. It will be a good day to re-read Chesterton’s magnificent Lepanto, and a good day to recall the role that the Knights of Malta played in that epic...

Father Spadaro’s latest conspiracy theory

When Philip Pullella translated a Twitter post by Father Antonio Spadaro, the veteran Reuters correspondent found it necessary to add an editorial comment: “Don’t shoot the translator! (me)” It’s easy to understand Pullella’s caution, because if you thought these...

Choose sides! Archbishop Vigano puts two cardinals on the spot

One month after making his first damaging charges against Pope Francis, Archbishop Vigano has now ramped up the pressure on the Pontiff with a 2nd blast. Perhaps equally important, he is now also applying public pressure to other prelates, notably Cardinals Marc Ouellet and Daniel...

Grumbling among Vatican journalists: an ominous development for the Pope

Pope Francis gave his usual in-flight press conference on Tuesday, as he returned from a visit to the Baltic region. But the Pope did not make any shocking statements. Instead, reporters were mumbling about what the Pope didn’t say. Pope Francis didn’t answer questions about sexual...

Spadaro on the China accord: 2+2=5 again

Father Antonio Spadaro, the papal confidant who told us that in theology 2+2 can equal 5, has now turned to the study of music for an explanation of what is happening in the Vatican’s agreement with China: It is helpful to understand this agreement as a true harmony of notes. That is to...

Does the Pope want the truth? Now we know.

The most important thing about yesterday’s announcement from the USCCB is what it didn’t say. The leaders of the US bishops’ conference went to Rome to ask the Pope’s approval for an apostolic visitation. They came away empty-handed, and announced the steps that they...

Benedict XVI answers his critics—and drops a hint

Pope-emeritus Benedict has been scrupulously careful, these last five years, to avoid anything that could be construed as criticism of Pope Francis. At the same time, the former Pope has come under criticism—led by some of his greatest admirers—for a resignation that, in retrospect,...

Should Pope Francis resign? I say No... but...

Should Pope Francis resign? Like my colleague Jeff Mirus, I say No. Since I have often been critical of the Pope—not least in my book Lost Shepherd—I’m sure many readers will be surprised by my answer. Let me explain my reasoning. If public pressure forces Pope Francis...

Does the Pope want the truth? Thursday’s meeting will tell.

As Pope Francis meets on Thursday with leaders of the US bishops’ conference, one question looms more important than all others: Will the Pope authorize an apostolic visitation of the American hierarchy? An apostolic visitation—a full investigation, under papal...

A meeting of the world’s bishops to talk about abuse? Please, not more talk. Action!

Pope Francis has called the leaders of the world’s episcopal conferences to Rome, to “speak about the prevention of abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.” Great. The meeting will take place next February—more than five years after the Pope announced his plan to set up a...

Just an awkward headline?

The headline on the Associated Press story is provocative: Vatican Official: Sex abuse scandal is church’s ‘own 9/11’ But is the headline accurate? Read on: A top Vatican official says the clerical sex scandal is such a game-changing catastrophe for the Catholic Church...

When the topic is abortion, the facts don’t matter?

On his Twitter feed, Father Alek Schrenk calls attention to an editor’s note, appended on an article in The Atlantic. The article, written by Moira Weigel and published early in 2017, scoffed at pro-lifers who advocate ultrasound exams for pregnant women. After its publication, this...

The track record supports the Vigano testimony

At several points in his bombshell testimony, Archbishop Vigano explained where the corroborating evidence could be found: in files at the Vatican or the offices of the apostolic nuncio. If those files are made public—or even vetted by a reliable, objective investigator—we would all...

The Vigano report and the Kim Davis distraction

Pope Francis asked journalists to investigate the charges in the Vigano testimony, and draw their own conclusions. That’s fair enough—although it’s certainly surprising that the Vicar of Christ would not at least deny participating in what would amount to a repudiation of his own...

Dear bishops: please spare us waffling statements

Here’s a hot tip for any bishop considering a public statement on the current mess: Put some teeth in it. If you issue a mild, dispassionate statement—hoping to keep out of controversy—you won’t just sound wimpy. You’ll sound dishonest as well. Given the facts of...

Lady Dumbello’s discretion

For relaxation during these turbulent days, I’ve been reading Trollope’s Framley Parsonage. Toward the end, the novelist recounts the great success of Lord Dumbello, a peer of uncertain morals, who finds the perfect wife. She is beautiful, her bearing is stately, and best of all, while...

What I predicted, 25+ years ago

Yesterday I spoke at length with Al Kresta about the sex-abuse scandal in general and the Vigano testimony in particular. The whole interview is available here. Al is thoughtful, faithful, and literate; I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation, and I think you will, too. During the interview Al,...

There’s a quick way to learn the truth about Vigano’s accusations

Kudos to Father Raymond de Souza, who noticed something that the rest of us had missed. In a Catholic Herald column, Father de Souza explains how the release of the Vigano testimony affects the US bishops’ plans: The American bishops have already asked Pope Francis to appoint an...

So Pope Francis CAN act quickly on cover-up charges, when he wants to

Archbishop Vigano has responded quickly and effectively to the charge that he sought to squelch charges of sexual misconduct by Archbishop John Nienstedt. (I suspect that when he released his testimony, Archbishop Vigano knew this attack would be coming, and he was ready for it.) He notes that...

The Vigano bombshell: some perspectives

The testimony of Archbishop Vigano is, from my perspective as an editor, the most important Catholic news story since the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. (And by the way those stories now seem related.) The past few days have seen an unprecedented outburst of editorial commentary, and...

In a time of crisis, unfortunate tag lines

1) Introducing an interview with Cardinal Blase Cupich, a Chicago TV anchor referred to the “explosive allegations” in the testimony of Archbishop Vigano. But the cardinal himself told the interviewer that the Pope was “not going to go down a rabbit hole on this.” He...

There are only 2 things an American bishop can say now...

The Pennsylvania grand-jury report was released on the very day that I had chosen (long beforehand) to begin a week-long vacation. I had vowed that it would be a real vacation—that I wouldn’t hop back to post news items on this site—and I held to that vow. Still I could not...

McCarrick: story the secular media don’t want to pursue?

Julia Duin, who worked for some years as the religion reporter for a secular newspaper, now wonders aloud why the mainstream media haven’t followed up obvious leads on the McCarrick scandal. The Catholic News Agency has found several priests to confirm that “everybody knew” about...

Time to hold prelates accountable at the Vatican, too

John Allen of Crux remarks that if the universal Church seeks to make prelates accountable, it’s unfortunate that Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who has a deserved reputation for trying to protect abusers and conceal evidence remains the Dean of the College of Cardinals. To be fair, Allen was...

Just how independent would this committee be?

Bishop Robert Barron has added his own proposal to the mounting pile. He proposes that the US bishops “petition the Holy Father to form a team, made up mostly of faithful lay Catholics skilled in forensic investigation, and to empower them to have access to all of the relevant documentation...

The bishops and ‘best practices’—does that sound familiar?

If you liked Cardinal Wuerl’s proposal—that the US bishops, having lost their credibility, should set up a committee to restore credibility—then you’ll probably love the follow-up suggestion from Cardinal Blase Cupich—who thinks that the bishops can find the...

An ‘independent commission’ to investigate the bishops? Here are the problems.

This week I have seen three separate proposals for the creation of a commission that would investigate the American bishops’ responses to the sex-abuse scandal. Unfortunately all three have serious flaws. Cardinal Donald Wuerl has suggested that the US bishops’ conference could...

Remembrance of Popes past

Today—August 6, the feast of the Transfiguration—is the anniversary of the publication (in 1993) of Veritatis Splendor, in which St. John Paul II reaffirmed a basic principle of moral reasoning: that “circumstances or intentions can never transform an act intrinsically evil by...

Pope Francis on capital punishment: doctrine built on shifting sands?

How can a fixed moral principle be dependent on a contingent practical judgment? How can a doctrine be based on shifting circumstances? The Pope can say—indeed Pope John Paul II did say—that it is always wrong, in every case, deliberately to take the life of an innocent human being....

Pope Francis and the death penalty: another dose of confusion

Once again Pope Francis has given the world reason to believe that the teachings of the Catholic Church can and will change. Was the Pope’s decision to revise the Catechism’s teaching on the death penalty a change in Church teaching, or a development of existing doctrine?...

None so blind...

Let’s dip once again into the archives, take note of what ‘Diogenes’ was saying years ago, and see how well it applies to the current mess. This week reporters are busily asking whether Bishop X knew that McCarrick was molesting minors. That’s the wrong question. The...

Why ‘policies and procedures’ won’t resolve the bishops’ problems

The push has already begun for a new set of “policies and procedures” from the US bishops’ conference, to prevent a repetition of the McCarrick scandal. You might call this the damage-control approach: an anodyne alternative to the painful necessities that would come with genuine...

It can’t happen. It can’t happen. It happened.

In November 2003, Kim Lawton of PBS interviewed then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan about the American bishops’ response to the abuse scandal. Lawton: Some groups fear the bishops’ energy and commitment may fade. Archbishop Dolan: Can’t happen. Can’t happen. We never,...

The McCarrick scandal: a roundup of different perspectives

This week I have been swamped with messages from loyal Catholics who have been shaken and disgusted by the latest eruption of the continuing sex-abuse scandal in the Church. I wish I saw some sign that our bishops recognized the rising tide of anger—righteous anger—among the most...

Orthodox leaders headed for a showdown over Ukraine

If you care about ecumenism—if you care about the restoration of Christian unity—you should be aware of a current dispute about the status of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Most Catholic Americans, I realize, rarely pay attention to the debates among the world’s Orthodox...

Coping with scandal: what everyone can do

Perhaps the most prescient article that I ever published in my years as an editor, and certainly the most controversial, is The Gay Priest Problem, by Father Paul Shaughnessy, SJ, which appeared in the November 2000 issue of Catholic World Report. The concluding section of that piece, offering...

A book about the McCarrick scandal? It’s already written

“Why don’t you write a book about the McCarrick scandal?” my friend asked me. I answered: “Because I already did!” True, The Faithful Departed doesn’t focus specifically on Cardinal McCarrick. But what this latest scandal has shown—the failure of the...

Get priests out of sacristies—and into confessionals

Bishop Robert Barron, who is widely regarded as one of the leading Catholic experts on evangelization, sees a problem with a parish-based approach. It’s not that he doesn’t appreciate parishes. “I love the parish and believe in its importance passionately,” he assures us....

The logic of Amoris Laetitia now infects Vatican diplomacy

The latest of a series of articles on Vatican-China talks* posted on the Vatican News site tackles the question of how the Holy See could recognize bishops who were ordained without Vatican approval, and thus subject to excommunication: The path to the legitimisation of the Chinese Bishops...

Does Humanae Vitae cause suffering, or does the National Catholic Reporter?

The National Catholic Reporter headline informs us: Humanae Vitae’s ban on contraception causes suffering The argument of the article is lame and familiar: based on the assumption that—what your parents told you about bird and bees to the contrary notwithstanding—Catholic...

What’s wrong with this picture?

Do others share my discomfort with this story? Catholic Charities office sues diocese in Minnesota (CWN, July 12) “We believe the complaint will be properly resolved through the judicial process,” says the spokesman for the St. Cloud diocese. And maybe it will. But then...

An answer to Cardinal Farrell, from Pope John Paul II

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, the prefect of the Vatican dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, fears that priests “have no credibility” when they attempt to prepare Catholic couples for marriage. St. John Paul II disagrees. From the introduction to his book, Love and...

Suggestion for the German bishops: wider access to sacramental Confession

The Code of Canon Law (#844—4) allows Catholics priests, when there is a “grave and pressing need,” to administer Holy Communion to Protestants who “demonstrate the catholic faith in respect of these sacraments and are properly disposed.” The German bishops, in their...

A question for Cardinal Farrell

If Catholic priests have “no credibility” for the task of preparing couples for marriage, how are they qualified (per Amoris Laetitia) to guide divorced-and-remarried Catholics through the “process of discernment” that would lead them back to...

Priests shouldn’t engage in partisan politics—except?

Bishop Michael Warfel of Great Falls-Billings has reprimanded four priests who appeared in clerical collars, as VIP guests, at a rally for President Trump in Montana. And rightly so, because priests should not take part in partisan political activities. At the same time, Cardinal Blase Cupich...

The mounting Italian influence in the Roman Curia

Last week, in commenting on two important appointments, I failed to make an obvious point: Both Bishop Nunzio Galantino (the new head of APSA) and Paolo Ruffini (the new head of the dicastery for Communications) are Italians. Vatican-watcher Andrea Gagliarducci sharpens the point: This is...

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