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Episode 3—Clement of Rome: The Earliest Christian Author after the Apostles

Clement of Rome led a church in turmoil. And it was only 67 A.D. His letter is the earliest piece of literature outside the New Testament whose author we can name with confidence. Clement knew both Peter and Paul and carried their mission forward. His letter gives a snapshot of earliest church life and reveals the origins of apostolic succession, Roman primacy, and the unity of the Old Testament and the New. It was considered Scripture in some ancient churches.

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.

Episode 54 —Fostering Responsible Elites —Jonah Bennett

Today’s guest is Jonah Bennett, editor-in-chief of a fascinating new online magazine called Palladium which is devoted to constructing what could be called the post-liberal synthesis. Palladium Magazine seeks to foster the perspective of a responsible elite, with high-quality, non-ideological coverage of everything from geopolitics to video-game addiction to the crisis in Ivy League institutions.

The mystery letter of St. Paul to the Romans

You can imagine the importance of this truth in a period in which God’s chosen people, the Jews to whom Christ came, thought of themselves as a people set apart and made righteous by the Law. But Paul explains that the Law, while good in itself, actually awakens us to sin, and so the Jews turn it into an occasion of sin, even while the Gentiles, who do not have the Law, actually know the moral law through nature, and likewise are guilty of transgression.

The Martyrdom of St. Polycarp

"The uproar in the stadium was such that nobody could be heard at all."

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.

How to explain Pope Francis without making things worse

Commentators must strive for a consistency of analysis of this pontificate: Justifying each response in terms of each particular incident; exhibiting a deeper understanding of the whole problem which leads to reasoned commentary, without emotional outbursts. Now, anybody who talks to anybody else has, in this sense, a public persona. Regardless of the mood of the moment, all should maintain a consistent wisdom—a wisdom that fully admits all aspects of the truth.

St. Polycarp—Letter to the Philippians

"The letter of Ignatius sent to us by himself and all the others we have here we send you... and from them you will greatly profit."

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.

One good thing about all these synods…

What one cannot debate, however, is that the best scholarship on the many complex topics addressed at these synods is produced by scholars whose Catholic identity is very firmly rooted, who are deeply committed to authentic renewal of the Church.... It is not only the best publishers and the best authors who are willing to step into the breach and do the necessary work, instead of merely going with the flow. This is what all seriously-committed Catholics do, each in his or her own sphere.


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

St. Ignatius of Antioch—Letter to Polycarp

"Copy the ways of God in speaking to each as an individual person... Not every wound is healed by the same salve."

On purpose: Four blows against scientism to lift your spirit

The so-called scientific experts are fond of telling us that the world and all that is in it are not the result of an intelligible process caused by an intelligent agent but rather the result of random combinations of elements. These people think that God creates as we do, by recombining elements to make new things. But that is not at all what they must explain. What they must explain is why there is something rather than nothing at all.

St. John Henry Newman—Use of Saints’ Days

"We crowd these all up into one day; we mingle together in the brief remembrance of an hour all the choicest deeds, the holiest lives, the noblest labors, the most precious sufferings, which the sun ever saw."

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.

Episode 2—The How & Why of Studying the Fathers

What drives people to read the Fathers? They’re delightful to read. They fill us with hard-won wisdom. They’re apologetically useful. They inspire conversions. They tell riveting, dramatic stories. They teach us how to keep a good sense of humor. Best of all, they draw us closer to Jesus Christ. Over the centuries they've changed the lives of Christians as great as John Henry Newman, Erik Peterson, Louis Bouyer, Robert Louis Wilken. Hear about it in this podcast.

Episode 53—God Made Us For Order and Surprise—John-Mark Miravalle

A conversation on our moral obligation to delight in beauty, why we are moved by the combination of order and surprise, and the proper way to delight in the beauty of the human body.

Synod hopes and fears: The difference that matters

We will urge married clergy on the Amazon not primarily because they cannot understand sexual abstinence but because the secularized affluent West as a whole cannot understand it. We will urge some form of formal female ministry in the Amazon not because it would be impossible to call, inspire and send zealous males but because the secularized affluent West demands—even as it insists on sexual activity—the obliteration of distinctions between male and female.

Clerical secrets

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

The Didache—Teaching of the Twelve Apostles

"Do not abandon the commandments of the Lord, but keep what you have received, without adding or subtracting."

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.

St. John Henry Newman—Hope in God, Creator

"God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another."

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.

Robert Cardinal Sarah’s dilemma, and our own

Cardinal Sarah works hard at creating the illusion that he is following up lines of thought proposed by Pope Francis himself.... But in fact, the grand alliance of what we might call “The Friends of Pope Francis” constantly tries to bring against Cardinal Sarah this charge of opposition to the Pope, precisely because it is so obvious that Sarah’s constant recommendations are seriously at odds with much of what Pope Francis says.

St. John Paul II—Letter to Artists

"Artists are constantly in search of the hidden meaning of things, and their torment is to succeed in expressing the world of the ineffable. How then can we fail to see what a great source of inspiration is offered by that kind of homeland of the soul that is religion?"

Episode 52—Off-Broadway play accurately portrays conservative thought: zoology or spiritual wisdom?

Is Heroes of the Fourth Turning a zoological exhibit for progressives to gape at, or something deeper? Is it ultimately more unsettling to a perceptive Catholic viewer, for whom Arbery’s troubled characters might function as an indictment of a Catholic conservatism that can be focused more on ideas and temporal concerns than on the reality of Christ?

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...

Episode 1—First Steps on the Way of the Fathers

With this episode author Mike Aquilina begins his twice-monthly series on the lives, times, and works of the early Church Fathers. The Way of the Fathers begins with answers to basic questions. What is fatherhood? And who are the...

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...

St. Ignatius of Antioch—Letter to the Romans

"I am God's wheat; I am ground by the teeth of the wild beasts that I may end as the pure bread of Christ."

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...

St. John Henry Newman—The Salvation of the Hearer the Motive of the Preacher

"It requires nothing great, nothing heroic, nothing saint-like ... it requires nothing more than faith, a single purpose, an honest heart, and a distinct utterance."

The Acts of the Apostles are for the whole world

The main reason the Holy Spirit inspired St. Luke to write the Acts of the Apostles is crystal clear in the pages of that book. But I wonder how many of us who have read and listened to readings from the Acts have realized what that purpose is. Things can be missed when we hear them piecemeal, and...

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