On the Culture

Commentary and reflection on Catholic life.

Sanctity under fire: Fr. Willie Doyle and the rest of us

Sometimes we benefit from practical examples of how to grow in holiness. That’s why we turn to the lives of the saints. But one drawback is that so many of those who are canonized followed particular paths of life to which the vast majority of us are not called. A gap in understanding arises...

Beyond abortion: Responding to the deeper crisis

The day of the March for Life in Washington, DC always prompts reflection. While the grave evil of abortion is an important civilizational rallying point, the recognition that abortion is wrong does not begin to exhaust the moral crisis of our time. Our civilization was once rooted in an...

The Catholic Faith: Are we looking for challenge or change?

I admit it: I am getting so jaded that I initially misread one of yesterday’s Catholic World News headlines: CDF, Asian bishops to discuss challenges to Catholic doctrine. I thought it said “CDF, Asian bishops to discuss CHANGES to Catholic doctrine”. Perhaps this suggests a...

Love of God is known by the courage of correction, against the world

In his homily at daily Mass today, Pope Francis preached on the reading from the first Letter of John which emphasizes that whoever loves God must also love his neighbor. He contrasted genuine love with the spirit of the world, which creates division, and he offered three signs of a lack of such...

Msgr. John Sanders, the priest who played with Duke Ellington

Update Jan. 8, 2019: Msgr. Sanders’s nephew wrote to me to let me know that his uncle has died. This article was first posted on Sep. 13, 2018. May God grant him eternal rest. Earlier this week, I made a visit to Our Lady Queen of the Clergy Retirement Home in Stamford, CT to interview...

Ezekiel the Watchman: Terror, and Hope

The ministry of the prophet Ezekiel overlapped that of Jeremiah, and his Book is the last major prophetic work in the Old Testament—unequaled until St. John’s Book of Revelations. It begins with apocalyptic visions and offers throughout a dramatic denunciation of the Israelites for all...

Eleanor Nicholson drives a stake through Bram Stoker’s heart

Since gremlins are currently inhabiting my computer, I’m willing to believe just about anything. I’m using an old light-duty laptop to limp along without most of my software until a stake can be driven through the stony heart of my usual machine. Or at least that is what I expect...

Should women be “meek and mild” like Mary?

I’ve noticed a recurring theme among self-described “Catholic feminists,” to this effect: “I always heard about Mary being meek and mild and felt pressured as a woman to be that way, but that just isn’t my personality. Feminism taught me that I don’t have to...

Crime and punishment: A papal bull in the Church’s china shop

Pope Francis has decided not only to raise questions about the prudence of capital punishment in our world today but also to cast into doubt centuries of previous Catholic moral teaching on the subject. It is true, to give Pope Francis his due, that there is no single definitive teaching by the...

The best books we read in 2018

Jeff, Phil and I thought it would be fun to do a review of our favorite reading of 2018—not only books published this year, but which we encountered for the first time or which made a new impression on us. This doesn’t only include the specifically Catholic material we would ordinarily...

Greater use of audio? Now 3 tests. Feedback requested.

I’ve been thinking about ways to make a more personal connection with those who use our website. One way to make that connection is to use the human voice in some of the resources we provide. I’ve been experimenting just a little with the creation of audio material. At the same...

The abuse crisis: Sacrificing ourselves for the Church?

In the second of his interviews with Thomas V. Mirus on the abuse crisis, Fr. Roger Landry explains how we can all contribute to a solution, even those who are not guilty. Perhaps especially those of us who are not guilty: The guilty, after all, are far less likely to contribute to the...

Baruch: Jeremiah’s scribe, against hopelessness and idolatry

The Old Testament Book of Baruch is very brief, just six chapters, but it is still divided into three sections, each one fascinating in its own right. The book was nominally composed by Jeremiah’s scribe, Baruch, who had to write all of Jeremiah’s visions and prophecies in a scroll,...

Hardened sinners? Perhaps more than you think.

In last week’s commentary (Church in crisis: The scourge of a sycophantic society), I called a significant portion of the nominally Catholic laity “hardened sinners”. As I explained it: A “sycophant” is a “servile flatterer”. So a sycophantic community...

Church in crisis: The scourge of a sycophantic society

If I do say so myself, what a title! A nice, round sixteen syllables. Pleasingly alliterative. Hissingly sibilant. You could call it both sinister and sassy at the same time. Of course it helps if the reader actually knows what it means. A “sycophant” is a “servile...

The problem with “human dignity” as a moral argument

Pope Francis’ revision to the Catechism on the death penalty says, among other things, that “there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the human person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes” and that “the death penalty is inadmissible...

A modern lamentation, or jeremiad, on Church governance

When I am not lamenting how tough it is to raise funds for CatholicCulture.org (which is all too frequent this time of year), I’m lamenting the governance of the Catholic Church. As Hilaire Belloc told the Anglican bishop William Temple, it is a sign of the Church’s divine character...

Send The Smoke of Satan to your bishop. Really. Do it.

Phil Lawler’s new book, The Smoke of Satan, is more than a superb analysis of what has gone wrong in the Church that has led to our current crisis. It also gives you something simple you can do all by yourself to help right the barque of Peter. And you really should take advantage of that....

When politics is not local, the antidote is natural law.

Many experienced political campaigners stress that all politics is local. This is a useful axiom when both the freedom and the ability to engage politically are relatively widespread. In these situations, the building blocks of political victory are local building blocks, so much so that a...

Jeremiah had nothing on us.

Jeremiah is the classic prophet of doom in the Old Testament. He also promised relief in return for repentance and an ultimate restoration of Israel, but since almost nobody paid attention to his prophecies of the destruction of Israel for its sins, Jeremiah had very little opportunity to talk...

The secularization of Christ: A case study

Yesterday, in my seismographic essay on the Youth Synod, I argued that the crisis of the Church today was rooted in the secularization of Catholicism, that is, the secularization of the message of Christ in ways that please our dominant culture. “This is why,” I wrote, “so many...

Measuring the Synod on Youth: Whose seismograph?

The Synod on Youth is destined to become a microcosm of the battle between Catholics who are rich in faith and those who have become secularized. Some readers bridle when I say things like this, but while secular attitudes affect all of us to some degree, the crisis of the Church in our...

Bias in Artificial Intelligence? The irreplaceable riddle of man.

Because I run a website and depend on computers, I keep up with basic technology news. That’s how I know, for example, that so-called “smart” watches have provided data to help convict killers (see Fitbit Data Ties 90-Year-Old Man to Murder). A man visited his daughter-in-law and...

Golden threads of Wisdom in the Book of Sirach

In late August, I examined one of the difficult passages in the Book of Sirach (see Did the Book of Sirach pinpoint the Church’s abuse crisis?). Now it is time to give Sirach its place in my series on the books of the Bible. Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus) is part of the Wisdom literature,...

“Accusers”, Archbishop Viganò, and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit

Do we really have to explain these things? I received a clearly unfriendly email from one of our registered users arguing that the Pope had rightly dismissed the Viganò testimony without addressing its claims, because this testimony was a series of baseless and mean-spirited charges...

The removal of the Church’s Cone of Silence

In response to my commentary “In denial about not ordaining homosexuals?”, a reader insisted on an interesting point in Sound Off: “I don’t usually do this but—you’re wrong. The problem is not clerical homosexuals…. Secrecy is the problem.” We do...

The surpassing relevance of Mary’s Jewish roots

Brant Pitre just won’t quit, and we should be grateful. Image Books (Random House) has just sent me an uncorrected proof of the fourth in his series of books exploring the Jewish understanding of key Messianic texts at the time of Christ. The purpose of the books is to shed greater light on...

The Wisdom of Solomon: Written for the 21st century?

Although I jumped into the Book of Sirach briefly to make a point about the abuse crisis, my intermittent series on the books of the Bible saw its last installment—on the Song of Solomon—back in July. It is time now for the Wisdom of Solomon, usually referred to simply as...

Pope Francis: The resignation scenario

I am currently reading a detective novel by David Hewson, A Season for the Dead, which touches in part on deep financial and sexual corruption within the Vatican. It was published in 2004 when the financial corruption was well-known though not, perhaps, the other. But the two often go hand in...

I’d rather be an angel...or would I?

For CJP who, with the courage of friendship, has advised me to have a heart. On the way to Mass this morning, I was reflecting (as is my wont) on the idiocy of all those who do not see things as I do. Fortunately, I find it difficult to maintain a completely self-righteous posture in my sleepy...

On the abolition of women…and men

Fiorella Nash, a bioethicist in the United Kingdom, has a new book out entitled The Abolition of Woman. It’s a valid thesis. But I want to take it further, because even though more women than men are being physically destroyed, it is not just women who are being abolished, but men as...

Alas, poor Cupich. I knew him, Horatio.

I trust most readers will recognize my title as a modified line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the graveyard scene in which Hamlet and Horatio come across the late court jester’s skull. As a child, Hamlet had known and liked the jester, whose name was Yorick. Hence the line delivered while...

Did the Book of Sirach pinpoint the Church’s abuse crisis?

“What is the difference between the scandals of the Church of the 16th and 17th centuries and the Church of today? The lust, narcissism, pride, and abuse of power are pretty much the same. The difference we see now lies in the nature of the lust. We are forced today to face the tragic...

A serious rapid-fire credit card attack in late July

To help us cover the costs of strengthening our defenses, please make a donation now. The last three weeks have been “interesting”. On July 27th and 28th, while I was innocently visiting the family of my oldest son in the Dallas area, CatholicCulture.org suffered a sustained...

The managerial class: Top companies are usually our enemies

Most people who fully accept the teachings of the Catholic Church tend to be conservative politically. Insofar as there is a strong strain of conservative thought in favor of the natural law, this is generally a good thing. Insofar as there is also a strong strain of conservative thought which...

Marshalling our forces: Politics in America today

I am sure Robert G. “Delegate Bob” Marshall is sick of bad puns on his last name, but full disclosure forces me to reveal that I’m a friend…so he’ll have to live with it. Happily, Marshall has just had a new book published by TAN entitled Reclaiming the Republic....

Catholic parents taken unawares? Not any longer.

My visit to my oldest son’s family in the Dallas area this week leads me to reflect on family life as it is lived daily, not as it is lived in the head of a grandfather posting cultural commentaries online. In this case we are talking about Mom and Dad and two boys, ages six and three (and...

Successful societies are (always) rooted in the family

Creating the ideal society through individualistic emancipation is a fool’s project. It cannot be done. That is why the more our politics emphasizes the freedom of each individual to pursue his own vision of reality, the more government control is necessary to keep the social order from...

The Song of Songs: Yearning for fulfillment

St. Augustine’s great insight into the spiritual life is perhaps most aptly captured by this famous statement which he addressed to God: “You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You” (Confessions, Book 1). If we were asked to identify a...

Vanity of vanities, all is vanity: Ecclesiastes

The Book of Ecclesiastes offers fascinating insights into what the Jewish intellect had grasped of the purpose of life two or three hundred years before Christ. The voice of the book is that of Ecclesiastes, or “the Preacher”, who was King over Jerusalem, and who may be construed in...

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