By Phil Lawler

View author bio

Showing most recent 200 items by this author.

Courts give Congress a license to be reckless

At a time of deep national divisions and high political tensions— a time when teenage boys can become the objects of a nationwide hate campaign— the courts have given Congressmen a dangerous license to be reckless.

Malpractice in translation

The compleat contemporary liturgist is faced with a choice: He can use the words “thee” and “thine,” or he can suck the beauty out of the poetry. It’s no contest.

Will Catholics go back to Mass on their bishops’ orders?

Just a few weeks ago the archbishop effectively ruled that everyone had a rational basis for fears. Now he says that rational basis is gone. But it isn’t that simple. Many Catholics are still afraid, and the archbishop can’t flip a switch to turn off their fears.

Fear drives votes in this year’s presidential contest

Every four years partisans SAY they are frightened by the possibility that their rivals might come to power. This year I think they mean it. For faithful Catholic Americans, at least, there is reason to be fearful.

Farewell, Uncle Di: Father Paul Mankowski, RIP

He was unimpressed with academic colleagues who, he chuckled in wonderment, “wouldn’t even know how to change a shock absorber.” Then again he was also unimpressed with his own academic achievements, and congenitally incapable of self-promotion.

Sister Deirdre’s ‘old-fashioned’ religious witness

Whatever their weaknesses, the nuns who taught my grammar-school class also adhered to Sister Deirdre’s vision. There was never any doubt in my mind— because the sisters reminded us often— that they wanted all of us, their students, to go to heaven; and that they saw their teaching mission as their own way to get there.

Discovered: liturgical abuse leads to invalid sacraments

Archbishop Vigneron said that the Second Vatican Council had “established that no one ‘even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.” I beg to differ. That’s what Vatican II SAID. What was actually established was precisely the opposite.

Bishop Bransfield’s disgraceful non-apology

Did I mention that Bransfield is a protégé of the disgraced former cardinal, Theodore McCarrick? And did I mention that we are still waiting for the Vatican’s promised report on how McCarrick rose to power and influence?

McCarrick’s legacy in the Biden-Communion debate

McCarrick claimed that he had the support of Cardinal Ratzinger. He said that the Vatican official “clearly leaves to us as teachers, pastors, and leaders whether to pursue this path.” That was false.

The US bishops’ one-sided ‘dialogue’ with Joe Biden

The Catholic bishops who say that Biden should still be allowed to receive Communion— and they are, apparently, still the majority in the US bishops’ conference— argue that it is wrong to politicize the Eucharist. That is certainly true. But when the issue of Communion has been politicized— by a candidate who trumpets his Catholic faith, who runs advertisements about the inspiration he receives from that faith— how should prudent bishops react?

Our culture is attempting suicide

The public meetings that build up our culture— the concerts and parades and lectures and religious rituals— are still banned or tightly restricted. The public events that tend to destroy that culture are allowed.

The English bishops’ pre-emptive surrender on Covid vaccine

When a Covid vaccine becomes available, this statement by the English bishops will be quoted by zealous lawmakers campaigning to make the vaccine mandatory—and thus to deprive the English people of the freedom to make their own medical decisions for themselves and for their children.

Practicing Catholics without the faith

Years ago, a friend who is a priest explained why he had run into difficulties with the archbishop in a different diocese. “If he’s a Catholic, I’m not,” my friend said. “And if I’m a Catholic, he’s not.”

A shocking Vatican perspective on the pandemic

Despite stretching to well over 4,000 words, the Vatican document does not mention God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Church, the sacraments, prayer, or even charity; even the word “Christian” does not appear in the text.

An answer to Catholic critics of the American Founding

This is a very important discussion for American Catholics during a time of national crisis, and America on Trial is a very important book. It belongs on the syllabus for any source about the American Founding.

Quick Hits: On law and metaphysics; discovering the TLM; overcoming a pandemic of fear

This judicial logic scoffs not just at the Arkansas law, “but at what nature and nature’s God have wrought.” Pay careful attention to that phrase: nature and nature’s God. Because it’s a reminder that this legal madness strikes at the very foundation of the American Republic.

The ‘respectable’ sponsors of anti-Catholic violence

There’s a strong tang of anti-Catholic bigotry in the air these days. The hostility can take overt and brutal forms (beating people as they pray), or it can take subtle and sophisticated forms (issuing regulations that effectively prevent public prayer). The one nourishes the other.

Quick Hits: American society in disarray

Sohrab Ahmari (who knows something about the topic, having lived through the Islamic revolution in Iran), charges that today’s leftist activism is not really a revolution at all, but “a reactionary putsch.”

The Supreme Court decision could end the government-school monopoly

After Espinoza there’s no longer an excuse. Educational choice is an issue whose time has come.

Archbishop Vigano’s challenge on Vatican II

So today the “spirit of Vatican II”— which may or may not reflect the teaching of the Council, but is certainly not in continuity with perennial Catholic doctrine— is in the ascendant. But this situation could not have arisen if the defenders of Catholic tradition had not failed to insist on authentic Church teaching.

It’s Religious Freedom Week. Do you know where your bishops are?

Would you like to hear what the US bishops’ conference has said about the most immediate threats to religious freedom?

First they came for Father Moloney...

The chaplain didn’t say that Floyd’s death was NOT prompted by racism. He simply remarked that the evidence is not conclusive. For that he was banished from the campus. For that he was given a public reprimand by his own archdiocese, which announced to the world that his statements “were wrong.”

Censorship and the future of e-readers

Suppose, at some future date, the panjandrums of public opinion decide that certain books should no longer be available. With a few keystrokes, Amazon (or its competitors) can make that happen. Is there anything about the recent behavior of large tech companies that gives you confidence this could never happen?

Contact tracing vs. the rights of the faithful

If you went to Mass last Sunday, or visited Grandma in a nursing home, and now you’re worried about a persistent cough, you can be tested— at your own expense. The results will NOT be confidential.

Bostock: living a lie

Here's the most important argument against the Bostock decision: not that it is a usurpation of Congressional authority (although it is), nor that is will produce disastrous public policy (although it will), but that it is patently false.

Why do Americans fear their children?

Children are a product of love, a sign of hope, an indication of faith in Providence. To fear children is to succumb to the culture of death.

What does ‘always’ mean? A reflection on the rights of the faithful

Was it explained to the lay faithful, in terms that they could understand, why they could not enjoy their rights? Absolutely not. Apparently no one has felt it necessary.

Baffling and reprehensible

Do you want to know what I find baffling and reprehensible, Archbishop Gregory?

It’s an issue

“The men that came to the program were there because they had sexually abused young boys,” the psychiatrist said. He didn’t say they abused young people. He said young boys.

Church leadership: managing the decline?

During the past several weeks loyal Catholics that there is a tension— at the very least— between the edicts of public-health officials and the independence of the Catholic Church. The USCCB apparently hasn’t noticed.

After the lockdown, a great Catholic revival?

Then something happens. Something that brings things back into perspective. Something like the Eucharistic famine of the past few months. Suddenly the provision of manna is no longer routine; suddenly attendance at Mass is exceptional. We reach what catechists today call “a teachable moment.”

Rendering to Caesar in an epidemic: the limits of authority

For the past forty years liberal Catholics have told us that the pro-life cause is not sufficient reason to deny anyone the Eucharist to prominent Catholics. Yet for the past forty days we have been told that the pro-life cause IS sufficient reason to deny the Eucharist to everyone.

Improving the odds for an ethical vaccine

Would you be comfortable taking a vaccine that was derived from placental cells? tobacco leaves? bone marrow? insects? or the dismembered bodies of aborted children?

Vatican finances: the fox in the henhouse

There is a clear and obvious explanation for the drop in contributions to the Peter’s Pence collection, quite apart from the worldwide recession. Prudent donors are leery of sending high-dollar contributions to the financial equivalent of the Keystone Kops.

Quick Hits: More Vatican financial woes; and when will churches reopen

The Vatican needs money. The donors need answers. If the Vatican doesn’t give, the donors won’t, either.

Cardinal Pell does not deserve scapegoat status

“I heard that there were problems at St. Pat’s College,” Cardinal Pell recalled in his 2016 testimony. He chose to keep his silence about those problems. In much the same way, in the 1980s and 1990s, dozens if not hundreds of informed Catholics (myself included) “heard that there were problems” with “Uncle Ted” McCarrick’s handling of seminarians in the Newark archdiocese. We had no direct evidence, and the problem was not our direct responsibility, so we too kept our silence.

Still no transparency in Vatican financial investigations

So we know that something has been done to some employees, because of something those employees had done. And that’s all we know— or rather, all we would know, if we relied on official Vatican sources for our information.

Two crucial tests for home schooling

The idea that parental authority is subject to State control is repugnant to the common sense, to Christian teaching, and to American law.

No, bioethicist did NOT approve a vaccine using fetal tissue

The OSV headline conveyed the impression that a bioethicist had given the green light for Catholics to use a CO19 vaccine derived from fetal tissue. That that is not what the bioethicist said

‘Social distance’ between husband and wife?

Is the bishop serious? Does he expect husband and wife to remain a sterile 2 meters apart? Does he know what marriage is?

The bitter fruit of the secret Vatican-Beijing accord

That “fruit of friendly encounter” that Cardinal Parolin cited may taste sweet for Communist Party officials— and for Vatican officials intent on pursuing the same policy— but for many thousands of Catholics it is bitter.

In this epidemic, what we don’t know is killing us

On the basis of our pitifully inadequate knowledge of this disease, we have embarked on the most radical set of public policies—apart from all-out war— in the history of the human race.

This week: Vatican ambitions, Vatican vulnerabilities

Cynics might question why the Vatican would be offering proposals to restructure the global economy, at a time when the Vatican is having so much trouble putting its own financial affairs in order.

Why the ban on the parking-lot Mass?

Archbishop Listecki has said that since it's impossible to distribute Communion in parking lots with appropriate safety and reverence, parking-lot Masses should not be celebrated. That's a non sequitur.

The ideology that favors a long national shutdown

Michael Pakaluk notices that political leaders, if they follow fashionable opinions, will have a strong inclination to continue the national shutdown indefinitely.

Silence: closed churches and mixed messages

In a typical parish church dozens of people could attend Mass without violating “social-distance” guidelines, and in some of our cavernous cathedrals that number could safely be multiplied.

This week: Canonical conflicts over access to the sacraments

Another conflict of authority has arisen: a conflict between the undoubted authority of the bishop to set standards for ministry in his diocese, and the equally certain right of the laity to have access to the sacraments.

The night Pope John Paul died, and the crowd kept vigil

And when that announcement finally came, another unique response: a ripple of somber applause ran through St. Peter’s Square. Applause for a life well lived.

When our churches open again...

Just a few months ago, at the Amazon Synod, we heard pleas for the ordination of married men, based on the argument that the faithful must have access to the sacraments. Why wasn’t the same imperative felt during the pandemic: the need to take special measures to ensure that the sacraments were available?

Act now to ensure a morally acceptable CO19 vaccine

There is no scientific reason why we can’t have a morally acceptable vaccine. The question is: Will we demand it?

This week: Astonishing responses in a time of crisis

In a climate of hysteria, a fresh and balanced perspective— in particular, a distinctly Catholic perspective— is especially valuable. So I’m pleased to pass along something from Thomas More College.

The US bishops’ weak defense of their overseas-charity agency

Bishop Strickland: “This report by the Lepanto Institute must be proven to be false. If what Lepanto says is accurate then we should call for a thorough investigation of CRS.”

Blind fear of death should not guide policy

Even as we make sacrifices, even as we fight to ward off a deadly epidemic, we should bear in mind two essential truths. First, all of us will die. Every victory over death is only a temporary one. Death is a part of life. Second, there are things worse than death.

Wanted: spiritual leadership during a medical crisis

Why is it that at a time when many pious Catholics are begging for a chance to participate at Mass, and many conscientious pastors are willing to oblige them, our bishops are steadily pumping the brakes?

In a crisis, our odd priorities show a lack of faith

Day-care centers-- very efficient mechanisms for spreading infection-- are expanding services, while churches are closed. Thus we show our priorities.

Just don’t take away the Mass

The role of the Church is to remind a confused and panicky population that the Lord is in charge— that our encounter with Him is infinitely more important than a possible encounter with a virus.

Pope prays Chinese Catholics will be ‘good citizens’—by Beijing’s standards?

Why make it so easy for the Beijing regime to turn a papal prayer into a propaganda tool?

On a threat to leave the Catholic Church

Ireland’s former president, Mary McAleese, has written to Pope Francis, warning that she will leave the Catholic Church if she finds that the Vatican failed to warn the world about abuses at the L’Arche community. Her threat prompts several thoughts.

This week: Should clerics vote? Is bankruptcy a disgrace? And more.

It’s theoretically possible that some energetic researcher could search the voter rolls and determine which percentage of the local clergy chose to participate in the primary of a party whose leadership is firmly committed to legal abortion on demand, same-sex marriage, and gender ideology.

Escape from the flames

Having escaped from a self-destructive lifestyle, a former homosexual asks why the Church did not help him earlier-- and why priests still encourage other young men to explore the same perilous path.

This week: the confessional seal; the Pope and progressives; and more

A frontal assault on religious liberty, and a grave challenge for Australian priests.

Want a liturgical revival? Start with repentance.

Every believing Catholic recognizes the Eucharistic liturgy as the source of his spiritual life. But do we think of the Sunday Mass in our parish as the summit of our spirituality? Is this the best we can do? Really?

Of aircraft safety and Catholic doctrine

Boeing fired an executive whose subordinates apparently took the company's mission lightly. If only Catholic bishops were held-- or, better, held themselves-- to the same standard!

Pope has spoken, but celibacy debate is not finished

In short, Pope Francis did not, as some journalists reported, “close the door” on the possibility of ordaining married men. He left the door precisely as it was: ajar.

Our bishops cannot be trusted with a ‘yellow-check’ system

Under Bishop Barron's proposal, the bishop is not asking: “Does this site contradict established Catholic doctrine?” Instead he is asking: “Do I approve of this site’s approach?” The difference is enormous.

Archbishop Gänswein, ‘redistributed’ out of the picture

Welcome to the new, transparent Vatican regime, the regime of dialogue, the regime of accountability.

Behind the European bishops’ reluctance to acknowledge Brexit

Having been joined to the EU since its creation, COMECE takes that the existence of that political body for granted, and any suggestion that the EU should be abandoned is, implicitly, a suggestion that COMECE might be disbanded as well.

This week: the stories within the stories

Questions that might have been asked about Cardinal Sodano can now be asked about Cardinal Sandri, and those questions will linger over the next conclave.

Will Catholic bishops hamper the pro-life cause?

What worries me about the USCCB initiative is the possibility that the bishops will set up their own guidelines for the CPCs that seek their support. Inevitably those guidelines will exclude some CPCs and encourage others.

Most Americans disapprove of Roe decision, polls show

It might not be easy to find the political middle ground on the abortion issue, but it is easy enough to find the extreme. Because thanks to Roe— with a nod to the complicity of the liberal media— the extreme is now the status quo.

How Nicholas Sandmann made the March for Life safer

The leftists might still be out in force this week, doing their best to disrupt the March. But at least now the mainstream media will be aware that if they choose to promote the “two-minute hate,” that decision could prove costly.

This week: A surprise in the Pope’s ‘State of the World’ address

This grand papal plan— a response to what Pope Francis called an era of “epochal change”— would involve a serious bid to address climate change, to protect the environment, to stimulate “ecological conversion” of the sort contemplated by the Amazon Synod.

When bishops tell lies

Has anyone ever heard a bishop apologize for a lie?

Bishops and Bribes

That’s nearly $1 million in gifts— large cash gifts— provided by two prelates who are now living in disgrace, to other prelates who remain in good standing.

A second reading of the ‘ecumenism of hate’ essay?

His 2017 essay on the “ecumenism of hatred” was an embarrassment to the Vatican: a vitriolic piece, marred not only by its tone but also by its spectacular ignorance about American political affairs.

Guess whose Name is missing?

Could someone please explain to me why, on the day that we celebrate the name of Jesus, we don’t celebrate the name of Jesus?

The Vatican’s financial bait-and-switch

For years the Vatican has asked the faithful to support the Pope’s needs, emphasizing his charitable projects— and then invested the returns in London real estate, a shady Italian bank, a bankrupt hospital, and, yes, a film about Elton John

The single factor that endangers our society’s future

After decades of misbegotten family policies, the US now leads the world— by a wide margin— in the one category most likely to produce societal disaster.

Don’t just defend the fort. Attack!

When a new acquaintance tells you that he was raised as a Catholic but drifted away, because “I had some troubles with what the Church teaches,” you don’t immediately suspect that he is a monophysite.

Who is most likely to succeed Pope Francis?

The Pope could be thinking about ways to ensure that his policies will survive beyond his death or resignation— that he will ensure the "irreversible change” that his supporters hoped he would bring to the Church.

Here’s how to end the CCHD scandals

The moral argument against the CCHD has been made again and again and again and again. Every year the US bishops’ conference insists that the problems have been addressed, and yet every year there are fresh scandals.

The Sheen beatification debacle: Why?!

You might not have believed that plans for the beatification of a revered prelate could be turned into another reason to mistrust the hierarchy. But our bishops have managed to do it.

In a remote Indian village, a victory against persecution

During a frenzy of anti-Christian violence, seven illiterate men were convicted of killing a Hindu leader-- despite the fact that Maoist rebels claimed credit for the murder. They remained imprisoned for years, their appeals ignored by local officials in a region dominated by Hindu nationalists. Now-- thanks largely to the efforts of a CWN correspondent-- the nation's high court has ordered their release.

The real reason for postponing Archbishop Sheen’s beatification

The purpose of the ceremony is to provide encouragement for the faithful. As things stand, regrettably, this beatification would more likely to cause discouragement.

At last: a bishop denounces his predecessor’s behavior

The punishment of Bishop Bransfield is "for his own spiritual good and his own healing as a man who professes to follow Christ."

This week: the unfolding Vatican financial scandal

The Vatican had claimed a substantial victory when the Egmont Group admitted the Vatican agency as a participant in the international exchange of information about suspected money-laundering. Now that victory has been reversed.

Christmas can’t come before Advent

The Advent season builds up naturally toward the explosion of joy on Christmas Day. But when the bright lights go on in early December, Advent fades into the background.

One more damaging blow to the Pope’s credibility

If you can concoct an innocent explanation for Pope's involvement in the Zanchetta case, please let me know. I can’t.

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 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...

Want more commentary? Visit the Archives.