Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

By Fr. Jerry Pokorsky

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Friends and Enemies of Humor

Jokes based on enduring truths accentuate normal behavior, help tame resentments, and assist a spirit of mutual forgiveness. We laugh at many absurdities to retain our sanity.

The Sacrament of Certainty

Penance not only acknowledges the need to make amends; completing our penance is also a sign of a willingness for ongoing reparation.

Intelligence Report from Judas

We all know that a man with the power to multiply loaves and fishes in the style of Elijah is just the kind of messiah we’ve been waiting for.

Do We Believe Souls Are Worth Saving?

Governed by justice, charity, prudence, and God’s grace – and a desire for the salvation of souls -- conscience may require vulnerable subordinates to express disapproval of the manifest evil of their superiors.

Papal Participation Trophies

The Chair of Peter reminds popes of the parameters of their authority. Should they remove themselves from the Chair and depart from the teachings of Jesus, they relinquish their God-given papal delegation.

The Bishop Perceiver Interview

Bishop Dolan’s promotion of the “LGBTQ Community” logically denies the bodily Resurrection of Jesus and the Resurrection of the Dead. His view of the Catholic faith is an ideology embedded in a religious bureaucracy.

Awesome and Extraordinary

The Mass elevates ordinary encounters and lessons to the domain of heavenly glory.

Not Mere Cogs in the Divine Wheel

The Transfiguration puts a heavenly exclamation point on the teaching and healing ministry of Jesus. Absent the Transfiguration, we easily mistake Jesus for a functional rabbi, miracle worker, and even the promised messiah – on human terms.

Suffering and Death with Christian Dignity

Why do we desire to prolong our lives? Will we serve God and others? Or will the life-sustaining technology extend a living hell of suffering?

Paul the Great and André the Giant

None of us are insignificant members of the Body of Christ.

The Uncomfortable Parable of the Sower

Parents, with little or no regard for Christian education, send their children to government re-education facilities, also called public schools and colleges.

Cultivating Our Personal Relationship with Jesus in Ritual

The rejection of the importance of ritual has dangerous spiritual effects. Priests are susceptible to the narcissistic allure of the stand-up entertainer. The Mass becomes a vehicle of entertainment rather than profound prayer expressed in ritual.

A Concise Introduction to Marriage (with Addenda)

Rules have been given a bad rap since the 1960s. We need reminding why righteous rules are good for us and set us free. Practicing Catholics “play by the rules.”

Healthy and Hellish Curiosity

Indeed, the secular culture is more curious about Confession than are most Catholics. Ask any priest.

Metaphors of the Faith and Preparing to Meet God

Metaphors do not provide the precision of intellectual creedal definitions, nor does the poetry of the Scriptures and Catholic devotions. But metaphors complement doctrinal assertions and, like relaxing and watching TV, give rest to our souls.

The Mass in Need of Artists—Great and Small

Like the stained glass in great cathedrals, sacred images help tell the story of the Gospel and the Mass through the work of great artists -- or the scribbles of an aspiring Michelangelo or Rembrandt, young or old.

Constitutional Originalists, Marriage, and Decrees of Nullity

Events that transpire after the wedding are relevant only if they provide evidence of a significant defect at the time of the exchange rendering the marriage null.

Dare To Be Dull

Young college Catholics mock the Faith for its old-fashioned dullness. Of course, they haven’t seen the inside of a church since Confirmation and know barely enough of the routine to hold the Church in contempt.

The Spiritual Temperaments

“Know thyself” is an ancient Greek proverb. Knowing our emotional temperaments helps us proclaim and receive the Gospel as we understand personality strengths and bear with weaknesses.

Everyone is a Believer

Like all believers, atheists suffer deprivation and pain in this life. Hence, the last comfort of the atheist is the return to nothingness upon death. The atheist has no empirical evidence for this hope.

The Spirit is A-Movin in the pre-Synod Process

Let us pray that the Synod on Synodality represents the grand finale of the death throes of elderly and irrelevant post-Vatican dissidents.

How the Liturgy Will Save the Church and Souls

As the German bishops draw comfortable government salaries and perquisites, their loss of interest in the orthodox celebration of the Sacred Liturgy becomes increasingly evident.

Responding to Insults

The “woke snowflakes” are not alone. We too have become hypersensitive. Sometimes run-of-the-mill “bad people” are more responsive to correction than the self-righteous.

The Shortage of Theologians

Infallible papal pronouncements never undermine or reject constant Church teaching but extend its reach.

Changing the World

We measure our choices by the Ten Commandments that are, at once, inclusive and divisive: A culture either rallies around virtue or rallies around vice.

The Mysteries of Mary and the Mass

In the celestial wedding feast of the Mass, Mary’s words at Cana take on a new meaning: “Do whatever he tells you.” (Jn. 2:5) Mary’s last recorded words reinforce the words of Jesus during the Consecration: “Do this in memory of me.”

Catholicity, Complementarity, and Communion

The DEI religion rejects human and historical structures and expressions of Tradition. The mission of Jesus is incoherent and often devoid of substance and sacramental realities.

Outwitting Death

A requiem Mass affirms the sorrow of death and is an occasion to overcome the ambivalence of life and death.

Honest Tenacity; Tenacious Honesty

The man cured of his blindness could escape from the clutches of the Pharisees with a few teeny-weeny white lies. Instead, he refuses to budge, doubles down on the truth, and bears the consequences.

The Failure of the Persuasion Strategy

Young priests usually overestimate the power of their persuasive abilities. They soon discover that some people protest their homilies when the remarks touch upon the hot-button topics of the day

Do We Have Sufficient Evidence to Make an Act of Faith?

The Apostles’ Creed is “inclusive” – universal -- and excludes heretical content (including that of prominent prelates in our day). Regardless of personal belief, its realism spans the history of mankind, from creation to redemption and salvation.

The Methods of the Red Supremacist

Turn those stones into bread, he demands of Jesus. The Devil hates nature, God’s handiwork. But the miracles of Jesus do not violate nature.

A Very Short Course in the Catholic Faith

Our eternal destiny is no longer of the world because, after the fall, it is under the rule of the demonic Prince of the World.

The Parable of Heart Ablation

Although Baptism washes away the stain of Original Sin, the effects continue, just as genetic predispositions continue.

The Light of the World and Ritual Mutilation

Too often the narcissism of the priest smothers generosity and eclipses the light of Christ…. Mass versus populum (facing the people) is lawful and far more common today but requires the effort to avoid the absurdity of clerical celebrity narcissism

The Mystery of Sleep

Children in their simplicity are particularly susceptible to religious and mystical experiences as they sleep.

The Sanhedrin Intelligence Agency

"Fishermen, tax collectors, and several other no-names. Almost all of them are those awful Galileans. Rough, ill-educated -- hardly revolutionary timber."

Clerical Gossip

"They say he preaches something like, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.” Nice thought, that."

Holy Curiosity and Our Heavenly Double

The Magi's philosophy was deficient, but their curious inclination and honesty expanded their spiritual horizons.

Mary Sees Her Son in Us

Innocence can be lost, but we cannot destroy it because it is of God. So Divine Innocence rises again to attract us to Him, or to condemn us for refusing His gifts of grace and healing.

A Sentimental Christmas Homily

The denial of the existence of God does not only violate healthy human sensibilities. Dodging the abundant evidence is unreasonable and exhausting, even amidst the turmoil of every life.

The Lord of History

Even high-ranking Church officials suggest, with breath-taking arrogance, that modern anthropological studies will change historical Church teaching.

Hope amidst Hopelessness

During the Macedonian Greek occupation, many upper-class elite Jews, anxious to get along, covered up the marks of their circumcision and joined the Gentiles for fellowship and job opportunities. Many Catholics also cover up the marks of their Baptisms and join an anti-Catholic culture.

Man Found Dead in Graveyard

It is fair to speculate that John the Baptist even refuses the "prophet" label. It waits until Jesus confers it on him.

Confession and the Art of Boiler Maintenance

Saint Thomas teaches that the Sacrament raises imperfect contrition – fear of punishment – to perfect contrition and provides a clear and serene conscience.

War Dispatches from the Incredible Shrinking Man and the Good Thief

Death is inevitable. But is death a dead end?

The Art of Killing a Conscience

If you plan to kill your conscience, do NOT read Psalm 51. Ever.

The Iron Triangle of Revelation

Theological studies that expand our understanding of doctrines are helpful. But theological judgments require our faithful assent only when the Church recognizes them as doctrines rooted in Tradition and Sacred Scriptures.

A Pharisee’s Examination of Conscience

The number of hostile encounters in the Gospels suggests the failures of the Pharisees pose a more deadly threat to the teachings of Jesus than the Herodians and Romans.

God, I thank thee that I am not like devout Catholics

“But woe to you, devout Catholics, hypocrites!"

How the Threat of Damnation Protects the Doctrine of Natural Law

The “fundamental option” hypothesis undermines the Church’s traditional teaching on the loss and restoration of sanctifying grace.

Gratitude and Apocalyptic Shock Treatment

God has made it relatively easy for a thoughtful Catholic to obtain forgiveness with the certainty that Penance provides. But penitents are often (usually?) oblivious to the gravity of the favors granted.

Reason without the Search for Faith is Insanity

The Old Testament explains what happens when we lose faith. Every sin is unreasonable.

The Mystery of Punishment and Suffering

Some suffering is innocent, the mysterious result of Original Sin. God allows suffering to test us; we cannot rule out demonic activity with innocent suffering.

Politics from the Pulpit

The lack of clerical restraint in maintaining the distinction separating religious principles from political prudential judgments advances the false sense that “everything is politics.”

Mary: Terrible as an Army, Arrayed for Battle

The holiness of Mary provides a stark argument in favor of the truth of traditional Judaism. Indeed, Mary illustrates how Jewish belief complements the Catholic understanding of the Old Testament.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Who are we to judge? We are Catholics who believe in the Catholic faith as it has been given and received for some 2000 years. Judge, we must.

The Hubris of a Tax-Code System of Morality

The authoritative decrees of a papal document could not substitute for a healthy Catholic conscience formed in a Catholic culture, nor could it heal consciences deformed by moral expedience.

Dabbling with the Devil

Follow your dreams and self-identify as you will.” Alas, some dreams are nightmares.

A Little Catechism to Fortify Our Faith in Troubled Times

The Magisterium cannot be disassociated from Scripture and Tradition. There can be development of doctrine and deeper understanding of doctrine but not contradictions of doctrine.

Going the Wrong Way with Studied Ambiguity

The cardinal said it was time for a fundamental revision of church teaching, and suggested the way Pope Francis had spoken about homosexuality in the past could lead to a change in doctrine.

Editing the Declaration of Independence

The dogma of the founding fathers that God "created all men equal" is a recipe for perpetual turmoil. The disdain for inequality fuels endless attempts to achieve equality: a fool’s errand.

Déjà vu All Over Again

At a minimum, we need not treat the crude paradigm shift opinions of the Pontifical Academy of Life with respect.

Sodom Sunday

Just as the prophets of Baal had no realization of the horror of their self-mutilation, our Godless culture is unaware of its madness.

Losers and Generosity

Imagine that. Imitate an unbeliever.

How the Papal Pelosi Scandal Affects Priests

When the Archbishop of San Francisco put Nancy Pelosi on notice, he lifted the spirits of hard-working priests in the confessional… The papal Pelosi scandal provokes priests to question their ministry. Why bother hearing Confessions?

A Tribute to Pro-life Determination

There never was a Constitutional right to abortion. The false flag of the presumed right took the lives of at least 63 million unborn babies over the last 49 years. A disproportionate number of the killings were of Blacks and Hispanics – by racist design.

The Eucharist and Other Enemies of the State

When the philosopher Descartes declared, “I think therefore I am,” he concluded that our awareness of our existence – perhaps existence itself -- depends upon our capacity to think. He had it backward.

The Little Shop of Horrors

Where do we discover the building blocks of dependable self-knowledge and identity? What is the seed of every authentic human community?

The Divine Symphony

In recent years, we have seen authorities at the highest levels of the Church proposing changes to Catholic doctrine that would pit the Holy Spirit against the Father and the Son.

Tossing us the keys to His Kingdom

During the Ascension, Jesus tosses us the keys to His Kingdom. Drive safely.

Archbishop Cordileone & Speaker Pelosi in Perspective

A courageous celibate provides doctrinal air cover for Catholic troops on the ground. Clergy who fail to use their celibacy for the fearless proclamation of the Gospel become selfish comfortable bachelors.


The Gospel provides the pithiest of organizational mission statements: “Go forth and baptize all nations.”

Peter’s Tumultuous Vocation and Ours

During the Passion, Peter’s crash-and-burn is complete: his cowardly threefold denial; his bitter sorrow; indeed, his self-loathing.

A Stylist Manual for Confessors

Confession is a somewhat peculiar arrangement: Human instruments – all sinners in their own way also in need of forgiveness – hearing, judging, and forgiving the sins of their brethren

The Cure for Our Fears, Real and Imagined

The Cross helps us confront our fears; the Resurrection and the promise of eternal life help us overcome them.

The problem of sin, suffering, and death

We will never exhaust the terrible mystery of human freedom, sin, suffering, and death. During Holy Week, it is sufficient for us to ponder our sins and realize that we desperately need a Savior.

Opposition Research

We all feel the need for allies to protect our reputations from abuse and distortion… After returning to his family, the Prodigal Son needed such an ally.

The Act of Contrition and Personal Health

Schedule a Confession with your annual medical exam. There are usually several doctors and priests to choose from. Choose competence and doctrinal orthodoxy. Or schedule your annual physical with your Lenten Confession.

Surveillance Spirituality

Our excessive responses, sarcastic quips, and uncharitable remarks have dangerous ripple effects.

The Opium of the People

“We are going to establish policies, procedures, and programs to ensure that [fill in the blank] never happens again.” The promise is unrealistic – with a subliminal denial of Original Sin -- and dangerously expensive.

The Scandal of Church Abuse

Not all cultures and behaviors have equal dignity. Some of our differences are rooted in sin. Some cultural patterns are degrading. Need evidence? Turn on the television.

The Silent Compliant Majority

The national debt rarely attracts the attention for the injustice that it is. Yet it remains the outward sign of the devastating bureaucratic top-down American economic and cultural restructuring.


Among the heresies of the body are Hollywood obsessions, horrible mutilations of our sexuality, and the destruction of unborn babies.

Expect a Miracle!

When we make our requests for miracles, we must be careful not to expect Jesus to dance to our tune

Jesus is Not an Alien

Parents, ask your kids if they have learned anything practical about human nature the next time they report they’ve watched one of Hollywood’s horror pictures.

A Mother’s Love

Tiny tots instinctively run to mom for help, and brave men usually do the same when traumatized. It’s only natural.

Life Stinks. Merry Christmas!

You are on the verge of an honest and humble confession of sin. You ruined the gifts God gave you, and Jesus will help you start anew. He came into the world to save you from your sins. He also created you for a purpose.

Destined For Destruction

The historical defiance of the Jews despite the destruction of the Temple points to a poignant and enduring reality. Some temples are immune to destruction because human hands do not build them.

The Magisterium of the Martyrs

Priests generally live in a comfort-zone bubble, surrounded by friendly parishioners. Most parishioners, in contrast, enter daily into the lion’s den of a hostile secular workplace. So the very least a priest can do is support the faithful with orthodox teachings.

Christ, the Great King

Herod the Great is the very model of a modern tyrant. He spent a lot of taxpayer money, generally abused his subjects, and left a historical legacy uniquely his own. His example inspires us to pray: “God, save us from great leaders.” But Jesus is also a great King -- the King of kings.

The Widow’s Almsgiving Budget

The sort generosity displayed by the widow— generosity that exceeds the requirements of justice— is far more common among the poor and in concentration camps

A Little Catechism on Politics and So-Called Catholic Pro-Abortion Politicians

There should be no objection to public opposition to the pro-abortion views of politicians such as President Biden, House Speaker Pelosi, and Virginia Gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe.

The Electronic Jesus

Our fixation on an easily accessible electronic Jesus – and lust for the religious consolations – threatens to undermine authentic liturgical sensibilities.

White Knuckles

The papal pilots had a steady hand, keeping the Church on course. But in recent years, the Church has entered into the white-knuckle phase of extreme turbulence.

Cashing in on the Devil?

We view diabolical special effects with horrified fascination. But mortal sin should terrify us more than any demon or any suffering in this life.

Follow the Science

The term "embryo" denotes its change of location, but the entity is the same: a human baby.

Natural Law to the Rescue

But the details of public policy involve the prudential judgments of the laity in the political arena. Church authorities overreach the limits of their competence when they endorse views that exclude reasonable alternatives.

“You’re Only Human”

Our humanity – and all of God’s good creation – offends the Devil’s pride. The Devil delights when we despoil our body or hold it in contempt.

How DARE you?

Or maybe we're not much different from the ancient Israelites or the fat and happy disciples looking for endless entitlements from the Lord.

Sacramental Hunger

he compassionate objective of eliminating starvation becomes the “politics of hunger” through crass self-interest, greed, and power politics.


During a brief period in the 1980s -- with the onslaught of AIDS – a rollback of the sexual revolution seemed possible. But it failed to materialize.

How to Conquer the World

That all politics is local is generally true, at least during an election year. But the works of mercy that conquer the world are always personal

Agent Provocateurs for the Unborn

In the coming months, many Catholics and non-Catholics alike will be refusing vaccines on prophetic moral grounds. Is there a better way of expressing horrified disapproval of the immorality of human vivisection and using aborted remains for medical research and development?

Faith is Personal, not Ideological

Secular religions also use prayers that summarize their ideologies. But the slogans are manipulative with a fearful symmetry.

Undermining the New Communist Menace

What should a priest say to his people today as they head into the gale-force winds of cultural upheaval, a new cold civil war?

The Book of Normal

After bestowing all the dignity on us throughout the entire Bible, why would the Father send Jesus into the world to ruin it all by commanding us to do things that violate our happiness? But such is the view of woke culture, which condemns Christianity as a hate group. Why? Because we refuse to call evil good.

Little Italian Grandmothers

In our culture, it doesn’t take much to be a celebrity – or at least a narcissist. But it takes a whole lot more effort (with grace) to be like our little devoutly Catholic Italian -- or Polish or Irish or Filipino -- grandmothers.

What Segregation, White Guilt, and Black Power Can Teach Catholics

Racism came under new management. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan called it: “The soft bigotry of low expectations.”

Jesus is Not a Dictator

Without the brutal communism of the 20th century (and the emergent leftist tyranny in our country today), perhaps we would not as readily appreciate the absolute need for the Ascension of Jesus and the descent of the Holy Spirit.

The Ten Commandments and Systemic Clericalism

Bishops often distance themselves from aggressive Catholic lay endeavors (such as pro-life groups), effectively undermining the rightful role of the laity in the political arena. The general impression is that chanceries, not the laity, orchestrate Catholic political action.

Don’t try to put Jesus on Valium

The moral integrity of Christian character reconciles our internal disposition to outward words and appearances. Keep this in mind the next time a Catholic holds up his rosary and claims he’s a devout Catholic.

In Gratitude for Joe Biden

Biden’s insistent claim that he is a devout Catholic forces an unavoidable choice. We either: stand with the Church and her sacraments and reject Biden’s iconic culture-of-death policies, or we join those who celebrate Biden’s flouting of Church teaching.

Defining Racism

A vicious racial slur is racist. Attacking police because they are white (or black) is racist... Suggesting that racism is everywhere, like the air we breathe, is racist

Happy warriors

Many of you have been fighting the good fight for years... So some of you may think you have a special right to a paralyzing and devastating discouragement. No, you don’t.

No Sympathy for the Devil

Can there be anything more maddening for an evil spirit than Transubstantiation?

The Church’s Policies on Families

We need care, compassion, and understanding— Gospel teaching and the sacraments. We need the hard work that comes with imitating the virtues of the Holy Family. But let’s not try to redefine reality.

Virtual Indulgences?

Witnessing the celebration of a Mass on the internet is not real participation. The live-streamed Eucharist is a mere electronic image. There is no “Real Presence” in the pixels on the screen, so the devotion cannot be the same.

Spiritual Strategic Planning

"I firmly resolve, with the help of thy grace, to recalibrate my vision, set appropriate goals, gather and analyze information, and formulate and implement a strategy..."

The Continuing Scandal of the McCarrick Doctrine

While Joe Biden and other pro-abortion Catholics continue to risk their salvation by presenting themselves for Communion, the prospect of a more extensive scandal affecting the unity of Catholic moral teaching remains.With Joe Biden as the prospective president, the American bishops have an opportunity to nullify the McCarrick Doctrine.

The Communist-Diabolical Conspiracy

The Devil’s purpose is to replace the sacramental life and parish life with new structures of centralized power, with Church teachings presented as mere policy statements, responsive to the winds of cultural change.

No Exit

Death, than which nothing is more certain. Judgment, than which nothing is more strict. Heaven, than which nothing is more delightful. Hell, than which nothing is more terrible.

The End is Near—Maybe

It’s not “the economy, stupid.” It’s our culture, and our sloth.

Priest Parables

So an unprecedented dilemma confronts many priests who can no longer ignore the Pope’s frequent and clearly erroneous comments during his casual conversations.

Maintaining Christian Charity in Times of Upheaval

Without sentimentality, we must not forget the fundamental human dignity of our enemies, even as we reject their evil actions.

Who Lost the Culture?

Our cultural decline may have begun as far back as 75 years ago, in the skies over Hiroshima when the Americans dropped history's first atomic bomb on that city.

Avoiding political labels

As the old joke has it, do not allow 95% of lawyers (or doctors, politicians, or clergymen) to give the rest a bad name.

Reckless transparency

What began as episcopal mendacity and patterns of cover-up, has led to a transparency that we should more accurately describe as “systemic detraction.”

Remedies for Discouragement

If you find yourself discouraged by the attack on truth, goodness, and beauty, be a cancel-culture subversive.

Models of Political Meddling by Clerics

From an orthodox Catholic point of view, intrinsically evil actions are mortal sins. So it’s fair game for a priest to play the part of John the Baptist and identify the proponents— including Catholic politicians who promote these evils— for the brood of vipers they are.

Catholic nudism, the USCCB, and bid to ‘eradicate’ evil

So here’s a good rule of thumb: When activists want to “eradicate” a problem, they’re likely up to no good.

Faith seeking understanding

Try as we might, we cannot improve by adding to, or subtracting from, the precepts of the Ten Commandments. “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple….”

Is Catholicism an ideology?

Many think Catholicism imposes an ideal system on the life of the faithful. According to this ideological view, for Church teaching to remain relevant, it must continually evolve to keep up with human progress.

The dangers of proliferating Communion services

The response by many bishops to encourage brief Communion services instead of Masses in response to the Covid-19 pandemic may accelerate liturgical practices that have long-term deleterious doctrinal implications on the nature of the priesthood and the Mass

The dangers of live-streaming Masses

The growing recourse to live-streaming Masses may, at first, appear as a reasonable interim means to keep parishioners connected to their pastor and the daily celebration of the Mass. But there are distinct dangers.

When the lights go on again

Did the external structure of the Faith collapse because too many people abused or obstructed God’s grace?

Pondering the Pandemic

Sorry, Governor. Regrets, Your Honor. The celebration of the Mass is non-negotiable and none of your business.

How Mary crushes the head of Satan

The Magnificat, recited every evening in the Divine Office, continues to crush the head of the Devil.

Seven lessons in forgiveness

Our capacity to forgive depends upon the totality of Christian virtue, and forgiving enemies is the crown jewel of martyrdom.

Conscience counterfeits

Ubiquitous sexual-harassment and child-protection programs, presuming to replace the authority of the Ten Commandments, are indicative of a culture that has lost its moral compass.

Abortion and preaching to the choir

The faith of the Catholic Church anticipated the results of modern medical research. A new human life begins at conception. Today, only the ignorant or superstitious (and those opposed to the medical science on ideological grounds) question this fundamental medical fact.


Perhaps the most corrosive effects of evolutionary theory occurs when lawyers misapply them to modern jurisprudence.

Hope and the Cycle of Life

All hopes are fleeting, except for our hope for salvation.

An Advent Meditation

"The priesthood is like Shane. You ride into town. You see a lot of bad. You do a little good, and you ride off into the sunset."

The Age of Cynicism

If the Devil had a capacity for love, he would love cynics. Dismas saw the soldiers laughing and ridiculing human misery. “And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching; but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!’ The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him vinegar, and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’” (Luke 23:35-38)


It’s hard to “like ourselves” in a morally healthy way without the guidance of a few basics of the Catholic faith.

Clerical secrets

From a Gospel perspective, there is little incentive to enter into a “holier than thou” contest.

Are Marian devotions excessive?

We all have an abiding desire for maternal affection. The history books of the American Civil War are replete with touching accounts of dying soldiers in agony calling upon their mothers like little boys. Even the toughest among us grasp for the love of a mother at the hour of death. Prayers...

The Artificial Santa

Jesus teaches, “You cannot serve both God and mammon.” We all know it’s easy to make a god out of money. Ebenezer Scrooge repels us, and we’re attracted to Santa Claus. But a counterfeit Santa Claus, despite a reputation for generosity, may be even more dangerous than...

Guardians of the natural law

As the classic Christmas hymn has it, with the birth of Jesus, God and sinners are reconciled. Jesus Christ is true God and true man: one Person, two natures. The mystery of the Incarnation provides us with the metaphysics of our reconciliation with God; the words and deeds of Jesus give the...

Healing an angry culture

News item: Less than 24 hours after yet another mass shooting in America…authorities said they were still seeking a motive. It seems the 19-year-old shooter gave us one. “Why are you doing this?” a witness heard someone shout. The response: “Because I’m really...

Tinkering with the Faith

Jesus teaches us, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62) Our life decisions in response to His call are irrevocable. Elijah’s disciple, Elisha, burned the bridge to his past— his plowshare, the implement of his livelihood— to guarantee that...

Rediscovering generosity

Children love to take things apart to figure out how they work. Before the advent of hi-tech cars, the average young man could work on an automobile, changing the fan belt or rebuilding the carburetor. Today, we just put gas in the tank, press the ignition button, and schedule routine servicing....

Dialogue with an Atheist

A famous atheist, British professor Richard Dawkins, holds that atheists are generally smarter than Christians. Atheists might be more humble than Christians, too. Dawkins, the world’s most famous atheist, supported a bus ad campaign with the relatively humble slogan, “There’s...

Courage at the Cross

We all have secret dreads. Soldiers may be brave in battle but dread the sight of a doctor’s syringe or a black snake in the basement. Courage is an elusive virtue and not particularly reliable. Depending on circumstances, we may be heroic in courage or cowering in fear. Let’s...

Self-serving Sorrow

Mothers spend a lot of time teaching their babies the meaning of "hot." “The stove is hot, don’t touch!” Soon the baby is running around pointing at items, announcing to the world that they’re "hot." At first, he has no direct experience of the meaning of "hot.” In time, the baby learns the wages...

The promise of the Catholic vision

Humans desire happiness. So it is normal to seek a place or state of things in which everything is perfect. But what can we realistically expect? Let’s consider two utopias: the Catholic vision or “Catholic utopia” and the secular vision, the Godless utopia. In Catholic...

Transfiguration and confidence

Self-confidence, properly understood, is spiritually healthy. With an honest and well-formed conscience, we should all strive for an unshakable faith and confidence, without arrogance, that is rooted in Jesus. A letter to the editor in Catholic World Report many years ago gave a wrenching...

The Bishops and their Confessions

Confession is good for the soul. A good Confession identifies every mortal sin (nature and number) to the best of one’s ability. The priest usually does not need to hear the details, unless certain circumstances are necessary for purposes of clarification. A penitent should provide...

Anatomy of the healing process

Healing—more than repentance—is on the mind of bishops everywhere. Reporting the recent laicization of former Cardinal McCarrick, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the present of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a statement: “No bishop, no matter how influential, is above the...

Appealing to the better angels of pastors

Years ago, a priest friend of mine was assigned as a parochial vicar to a very liberal dissident parish. A parishioner threatened to reduce his contributions in response to his orthodox preaching. The priest pointed to the air conditioning unit and said, “Before the electrical bill is paid,...

Ending rule by the ‘McCarrick Doctrine’

It cannot be denied that a large number of Catholic bishops and their vicars lied, covered up, and abused their positions and faith. The sexual abuse and exploitation of children and young people were not only the result of the dereliction of duty of bishops in governing but in several cases...

Chastity: Cornerstone of holiness and happiness

Chastity is a way of life. Guidelines, codes of conduct, policies, and procedures governing interpersonal behavior may be useful in communicating acceptable workplace boundaries and defining legally abusive behavior. But the virtue of chastity cannot be reduced to a collection of rules and...

It could have been a wonderful life

On Christmas Eve 2008, in upstate New York, George Bailey contemplates suicide. Cynical jeers about him reach the underworld, where Mephistopheles Mouch, Fallen Angel 2nd Class, is assigned to George. George has been an unusually valuable asset. Hell has big plans for him. So if he is able to...

Clericalism and the Summer of Shame

Clericalism is said to be the main sin that has given rise to the sex-abuse crisis in the Church today. The official statements blaming clericalism rather than the “dirty little secret” of a gay network have often been met with cynicism. A recent joke making the internet rounds goes:...

Unwritten rules and the Great Compromise

The encounter of the rich young man with Jesus reveals the contrast and connection between written and unwritten rules. The rich young man had observed all of the Commandments since his youth. But Jesus calls him to a higher state of generosity by going beyond the Law of Moses. It is helpful for...

The crisis: Déjà vu all over again

[This is an abridged version of a letter I wrote to ecclesiastical authorities after the Boston Globe revelations in 2002. I received no response. I think the letter—after sixteen years—remains painfully relevant today after the McCarrick debacle.] The “priest crisis”...

Ministers, not masters, of life

As we ponder the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, we come to realize it is one of the most practical revelations in the Catholic arsenal because it provides the underpinnings of our relationship to God and the life God gives us. We come to realize why and how we are ministers of life, not the...

A few weak men

To a large extent, the men of the inner circle of Jesus were weak. During His Passion, Jesus is betrayed, abandoned, and denied by his apostles. Only one of them returns to the foot of the Cross. In selecting the apostles, Jesus did not choose those whom the world considers the best and brightest....

Just Call Me Jerry

With the Ascension of Christ to heaven—the departure of his identifiable physical presence—and with the descent of the Holy Spirit, Jesus becomes accessible to us only by faith. Through faith, we come to know Jesus in the Word of God. Through faith, we encounter Jesus in the...

A ‘personal relationship with Jesus Christ’

It’s easy to impose our own prejudices in evaluating our relationship with God. When we are asked if we truly have a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” the expression suggests an emotional, warm, intimate feeling of the encounter. Of course, as Catholics, we may easily...

Mary, not Misogyny

It’s fair to observe that women tend to be more religious than men. A typical weekday Mass almost always has a disproportionate number of women in attendance. Prayer and religious devotion seem to be much easier for the ladies than for the gents. (So much for the “male-dominated”...

The Magisterium of the Sacred Liturgy

Many people equate faith with superstition. For many, accepting Church teaching is like believing magic, or in flying saucers or voodoo. But in so doing, they neglect the crucial role that reason plays in our faith. So they invent an alternative narrative using their own dogmas on the meaning of...

Practical Atheism

We often hear people say they no longer believe in God because there are so much evil and suffering in the world. They may add that they find the deeds of Jesus inspiring, but He spoils it all by saying that “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will...

Leper Colonies

In the Gospel that we read on Sunday, leprosy is clearly a metaphor for sin. When a leper approaches Jesus for healing, the approach is a metaphor for seeking Jesus for his forgiveness in Confession. When we go off the rails one way or the other, we all want to be restored to our normal humanity....

Authority and Jesus

“And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.” (Mk 1:22) The teaching authority of Jesus is unique. Authority is conferred in various ways. Authority comes with appointment and position, with learning and credentials,...

Born That Way

We might imagine Ebenezer Scrooge settling down after the spooking he received over Christmas. He’s benign, no longer is indifferent to injustice. He continues to be frugal, but he’s no longer greedy. He has become a man of justice but does not go beyond the basic demands of justice....

Expecting Perfection

It’s a charming to consider that Jesus, like any son, carried the physical characteristics of his mother as well as some of her —and Joseph’s—mannerisms. The Incarnation is so wonderfully human, encouraging us to approach Him without fear. As we consider the beauty of the...


Advent is a time of anticipation, looking forward to the birth of Jesus on Christmas. Of course the anticipation is a liturgical fiction. Jesus was born into the world over 2,000 years ago. Are we playing childish games by entering into such a fictional season of anticipation? No! On the contrary,...

Death, where is thy sting?

Fall is a time of great beauty and many folks travel to the mountains and through the valleys to see the magnificent changing colors of the foliage. But let’s not overlook the obvious. Nature is going dormant, even dying, and this cycle of nature itself is foreshadowing our own deaths. The...

Funerals and divine worship

It is common nowadays to identify a leader as good and kind and humble simply because he is merely following the crowds. It is the same with priests and bishops. Clergy can be very adroit at keeping the customers satisfied, absorbing a good deal of praise and affection without being truly faithful...

The Power and Poverty of Words

In his confrontations with the Pharisees, Jesus repeatedly unmasks their hypocrisy—from their personal external observances, designed to be noticed, to their relentless critical evaluations of others. It is easy to pay lip service to God’s commands, but the measure of true obedience is...

God doesn’t need our advice

There is no servile veneration of Peter in the Gospels. Certainly, he’s first among the apostles. But he also suffers the harshest of the Lord’s rebukes. The rebuke takes place not long after Peter witnesses to the divinity of Christ and Christ responds by identifying him as the first...

Skeletons in Our Closets

It is fair to suggest that in time, most people have occasion to look back at their lives with regret for behavior that may rise to the level of an embarrassing “skeleton in the closet.” Robert Penn Warren, author of All the King’s Men, exploits the primordial fear of...

Agonizing Moral Restraint

Dialog includes bombast, and it tends to grab attention. Historically our politicians and generals certainly have put the “bomb” in “bombastic.” In response to North Korean nuclear threats to our country, President Trump warned, “North Korea best not make any more...

Living on Borrowed Time

In our day there are many medical “miracles.” As we grow older, we experience medical issues that are now routinely and successfully treated whereas they could have taken our lives a century ago. So we are cured and live to see another day—or many more years. But in fact, with...

Keeping the Faith

We live in troubled times: times that can challenge our faith. It is wearisome (but necessary because good Christians face reality) to be reminded of the renewal of the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, terrorism, uprisings, wars and rumors of wars and so on. In recent years even the...

The Reason for Human Reason

There is no contradiction between faith and reason, faith and science. Both share the same Author. Without contradiction, faith grasps truths that are beyond the reach of science. There can be no earthly scientific proof of the Resurrection of Jesus, for example, just as there can be no...

Freak Shows

It seems age brings an increase in flashbacks to childhood. My most recent childhood memory was that of the annual county fair during the hot and humid days of August, just before the beginning of the new school year. It was a favorite time: walking through the barns, checking out the champion...

I Don’t Want to Die

We’ve heard it countless times: “The safety of our [fill in the blanks] is our highest priority.” So various safety programs are put into place, with policies, procedures, and protocols—mostly burdening everyone except the perpetrators. A fire drill, in contrast, is a...


Those of us in the business know that the egos of some theologians—from the ancient Gnostics to the professional dissidents of our time—tower over Catholic doctrine. So it was refreshing to hear a very prominent theologian remark years ago, “The Church teaches doctrine, not...

Prayer and Puppies

In preparation for the Olympics held in Greece in 2004, thousands of possibly dangerous stray dogs were poisoned. But the stray dog problem continues to this day. A few years ago during a religious pilgrimage to Greece, our tour bus was confronted with a pack of wild canines emerging from the...

Fear of Holiness

Fear is a useful emotion. Under the control of reason, it is good to recoil in fear from a rattlesnake posed to strike. Other fears are more subtle. It’s easy to think of holiness as inaccessible and even indicting, and therefore intimidating when we encounter a person perceived to be...

Guardians of Common Sense

The teachings of Christ provide benchmarks to measure “normal” human behavior. It helps if we don’t kill each other, remain faithful in marriage, don’t lie and cheat, and so on. Common sense stuff. Christians of course do not have a monopoly on common sense. But the rapid...

‘How am I doin’?’

Years ago the popular mayor of New York, Ed Koch, was known to greet his constituents on the street with a question: “How am I doin’?” As political shticks go, it was a good one; the voters received the question with amusement, but Koch accepted their responses with an edge of...

Inauguration Day thoughts: Shining City on a Hill

Without God we labor in vain; so saith the Psalmist. Most of us, I suspect, easily forget the everyday need for the gifts of the Holy Spirit. So it is helpful to add the phrase, “with God’s grace” to our daily imperatives to remind ourselves that we can do nothing without Him. On...

An Undelivered Christmas Homily

In a J.F. Powers short story written shortly after the Second Vatican Council, a priest is asked, “Father, how can we make sanctity as attractive as sex to the common man?” It’s a provocative question and worthy of a thoughtful answer—perhaps not from the pulpit. After all,...

Rather Than Global Warming, Worry about Wormwood

Several years ago an article appeared in the Washington Post, of all places, on the history of contraception. The writer reported that wormwood—a kind of herbal derivative—was used as a contraceptive by the ancients. (The story came to mind after reading George Sim Johnston’s...

Fidel Castro, RIP?

God has given us an Advent meditation with the death of Fidel Castro, President of Cuba, politician, revolutionary, mass murderer. Here are examples of responses by world leaders: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a statement hailed Castro as a “remarkable leader” and a...


During my pop-philosophy years as a youngster, I happened to catch the “Longshoreman philosopher” Eric Hoffer on “60 Minutes.” Fascinated by his street wisdom I eventually got around to reading his book The True Believer where he wrote: “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business,...

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