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Commentary and reflection on Catholic life.

Personal testimonies: Effective ways to deepen faith

I suppose everyone is interested in personal religious testimonies, whether conversion stories or anecdotes which provide glimpses of the presence of God. Such accounts have a personal element which is not typically present in apologetical arguments or academic theology. For most people they are...

The Don and Hil Show: Overcoming our addiction to politics

When I recommended that we should avoid wasting our energies on the 2016 US presidential campaign, I didn’t say much about the common good. I didn’t mention it in my initial salvo, Politics is dead: This year, avoid the quadrennial silliness. And I mentioned it only once in...

The deeper meaning of Amoris Laetitia, and the challenge it presents

Suppose you lived in a place and time when the faithful had great confidence in the orthodoxy, charity, zeal and even counter-cultural courage of their bishops and priests. Now suppose the Pope issued a statement exhorting the faithful to closely examine the difficulties facing those in broken...

Divorce and remarriage: Why has Pope Francis chosen to leave one door open?

I haven’t finished reading Pope Francis’ synodal apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia. It is a sweeping document, and I want to take my time with it. But I can suggest one very understandable reason for Pope Francis’ decision to emphasize a case-by-case approach to integrating...

Jeremiah’s message: A tough sell

I am going through Jeremiah again, and I find it easy to see why the Jews of his day didn’t listen. You will doubtless recall that in the seventh and sixth centuries before Christ, Israel boasted whole companies of prophets. It was apparently nice work if you could get it, and the vast...

The scandal of the particular: The Christian essence of human culture.

Pierre Manent is regarded by many as the foremost socio-political theorist of our time. He retired from his directorship of L’École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris in 2014. Since then he has been finishing up a book entitled Beyond Radical Secularism: How...

A Catholic sci-fi classic: Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun

Published in four volumes between 1980 and 1982, Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun is considered by many to be the greatest science fiction novel ever written, and by some to be one of the great works of twentieth-century literature. It is also well known to be a significantly Catholic work....

On the proper transformation of Islam, in light of India

The effort to interpret Islam in a manner consistent with our natural understanding of human dignity has been underway for some time. It is a feature of American policy, of course, which is hardly rooted in a respect for truth. But a challenge to Muslims to find ways to blend reason into Islam was...

This Holy Week, let us end the complacency of our do-it-yourself Christianity. (Yes, ours.)

The great thing about Revelation is that it takes the guesswork out of religion. The great thing about a Revelation which includes the establishment of an infallible authority is that it takes the guesswork out of Revelation. And the great thing about eliminating the guesswork, is that it reduces...

Holy Week viewing: Pasolini's Gospel According to St. Matthew

How is it that a man who was an atheist, a Marxist, and homosexual came to make what is considered by both secular critics and the Vatican to be one of the greatest Jesus movies ever made? It was the fruit of Pope St. John XXIII’s invitation to dialogue with non-Catholic artists. Inspired...

On praising Obama and other relativists: Is a discreet silence really so bad?

One tires of L’Osservatore Romano, whose editors too often seem overeager to ingratiate themselves with our world’s cultural elites. Over the past few years, we have seen the paper find reasons to praise the legacy of various musicians, writers and entertainers who have no significant...

George William Rutler, always attentive to words—and to the Word—made flesh

With intense enjoyment, I’ve just finished reading Ignatius Press’ new collection of essays by George William Rutler, convert, priest and man of letters. The name will be familiar to most readers through his fame as a preacher and his many recorded talks. As a writer, Fr....

Beware the great foot-washing scandal!

I confess that I find the brouhaha over whether women can have their feet washed on Holy Thursday to reflect rather badly on Catholics who let this get under their skin—either way. Now that this is an approved option, I’d like to explain why there is no reason to be upset about it on...

Will the Justice Department now protect religion? Let’s see.

It used to be that government itself could be routinely guilty of hate crimes. But for that to be the case, there has to be a standard of morality higher than human law. Since our government no longer recognizes anything higher than its own laws, the US Department of Justice’s new initiative...

Reclaiming Catholic Universities: The Challenge of Phase 1

Clearly we are in the first phase of reclaiming prominent nominally Catholic universities for Christ. In this first phase, bishops—including the local bishop—feel free to speak out against the more obvious decisions of the university administration that undermine the Faith. This...

The Mexican response to perceived papal criticism: A shot in the foot?

An editorial on the website of the Archdiocese of Mexico City blames bad advisors for the Pope’s insistence that the Mexican bishops should not be like “princes”. I suspect this reaction was prompted by skewed interpretations in the media of the Pope’s remarks, because...

Pope Francis tells exploitative employers to keep their donations: Questions?

Continuing his catechesis on mercy at his Wednesday audiences, today Pope Francis emphasized that true conversion is “not the ritual of sacrifice but rather of justice.” And, indeed, this message appears again and again throughout both the Old and New covenants. The Pope went on to...

To what is relativism relative? On the inescapable tyranny of desire

The question raised by Phil Lawler resonates. On Monday, in “The irony behind the Oscar for Spotlight”, Phil drew attention to the credibility gap between AMPAS giving child-abuser Roman Polanski an Oscar with a standing ovation in 2002 while giving Spotlight the Oscar for Best Picture...

Contrary to popular belief: Relativism cannot enlighten; it can only darken the mind.

We live in a culture in which people brag about their enlightenment. The logic for this self-delight is surprisingly thin. There is the fallacy of progress, of course, which leads us to assume that the latest developments in human thought and attitudes are invariably the best. And of course there...

Effective evangelization: Initiation into the Church

We are beginning to grasp the proper relationship between the quest for religious unity and evangelization. The quest for religious unity and ecumenism are the logical way to break down barriers, to stimulate mutual understanding, and to forge friendships. They are therefore a kind of prolegomena...

In this corner, Pope Francis; in that corner…Donald Trump?

As I mentioned in last week’s more serious piece on the question of contraception (Responding to the papal interview as if truth matters), “We may wish at some point to discuss the Pope’s incautious moral characterization of Donald Trump.” Loath as I am to defend Trump, who...

The meaning of Islam, and the deeper problem we must face

When a leading Lebanese Muslim argued that extremists misinterpret Islam, he raised a much larger question than he realized. The points he made are exceedingly important. But they must be considered on two levels. Muhammad al-Sammak is the Secretary-General of the Christian-Muslim Committee for...

How is this possible? Mercy and Justice are the same in God.

In the sixth of his Wednesday catecheses on mercy, Pope Francis explained that “God’s justice is mercy.” This is not a new idea, but it is worth our reflection. And since it is part of the mystery of God, there are definitely multiple ways of looking at it. The particular...

Is God humble?

A few weeks ago, I jotted down a question I thought might be worth writing about: How can God be considered humble? I remember that the question occurred to me while I was reading Scripture, but if I had a blazing insight I wanted to share, I have completely lost it now. Still, the question...

The quest for religious unity: The natural must not eclipse the supernatural.

As a first step to considering more deeply the relationship between the quest for religious unity and evangelization, we need to distinguish their ends. We will see that the quest for greater religious unity has a natural end, whereas the end of evangelization is supernatural. Once we grasp this...

Evangelization deformed or delayed: A danger of the quest for religious unity

Beginning in the mid-20th century, the leaders of the Catholic Church have chosen to place a high priority on forging stronger ties between Catholics and members of other religions. They have sought to emphasize shared beliefs, to increase mutual understanding, and to create a more cohesive...

Darkness: The practical result of our contemporary mythology

My primary goal was theoretical when I explored the modern mythology of “knowing” in a three-part series beginning with “Our mental prison: The myth of “objective” knowledge”. I wished to lay bare the intellectual root of contemporary misconceptions about...

The Death of Politics, revisited with critics in mind

I was happy to see a good crop of comments on last week’s essay, Politics is dead: This year, avoid the quadrennial silliness. And I was not surprised to see some comments which took strong and even heated exception to the position I outlined. As is usually the case with sensitive topics,...

Politics is dead: This year, avoid the quadrennial silliness.

2016 is a presidential election year in America. Most citizens will fasten their attention on the Republican and Democratic candidates. A minor third-party candidate may emerge. Even those with outstanding Catholic values will invent some reason for insisting it is absolutely essential to elect...

Business is a vocation; that’s why the Church won’t leave it alone.

Cardinal Turkson’s recent address to the University of the Andes in Chile made an extraordinarily important point about Pope Francis’ attitude toward “business”. The head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace insisted that “the Holy Father is not...

Modern “objective” knowledge is a circular system: Why?

I’ve already alluded to the groundbreaking work of Michael Polanyi in proving that a purely objective manner of knowing is impossible, for the simple reason that all knowledge is inherently personal. For background see Our mental prison: The myth of “objective”...

Isn't the Catholic Faith simply love unveiled?

Transmitting and teaching the Catholic Faith is a tricky business. The way you go about it depends on a number of prior assumptions. For example, we will emphasize certain things and present key concepts differently based on whether the audience doubts God’s existence or already accepts...

Why are we driven to distraction? (Or, how do saints keep their cool?)

Having just come through a long Christmas week of comparative relaxation and increased reflection, I’ve decided it is time to tell the truth about all the things that make me angry and tense. But let me admit right up front that I am drawing a larger lesson here. I am really talking about...

Our heart is wide: Christians distinguished by Christmas; Christmas distinguished by mercy.

The Devil is very clever. He stirs up just enough misguided Christians to acts of violence to make it easy for the world to condemn all religions as hothouses of terrorism—and all deep religious commitment as “fundamentalism”. A striking example is found in the recent violence in...

The Synod 2015 Final Report: Just how good is it?

When George Weigel finally wrapped up his “what really happened” account of the 2015 Synod on the Family, it was predictable that he would give it a positive spin if he honestly could. Those who follow my own comments on Catholic affairs know that I try, whenever possible, to do the...

Tastes in spiritual reading and devotional books (mostly mine)

I confess that, for spiritual reading, I don’t use much but Scripture any longer. This is hardly an indication of virtue, though it could be a sign of approaching death. Over the years I’ve read quite a few of the most famous spiritual works by saints and doctors, some of them more...

Can we accommodate a refusal? The limits of mercy

Under the influence of the last three popes, I have found myself trying to embody mercy more fully. In doing so, I become increasingly aware of the widespread abuse of mercy in the modern world. On the one hand, I know enough about myself to realize I have some anti-merciful tendencies. On the...

How do we know we are transcendent beings?

The second volume in Fr. Robert Spitzer’s “quartet” on human happiness is now out from Ignatius Press. I described the overall project and reviewed the first volume back in July (see Fr. Robert Spitzer on happiness: An effective approach to God?). Entitled The Soul’s Upward...

If you hope to see us in 2016, please act now.

As everyone has surely noticed, CatholicCulture.org has entered its peak fundraising season. The Fall Campaign makes or breaks us each year, and November is the key month in the campaign. CatholicCulture.org lost about $10,000 last year after three years of meeting the budget. As of...

A response to my critics: Has Pope Francis poisoned the well?

Regarding my essay “Francis on Communion: The Pope’s deeper questions and ours”, the vast majority of the responses were negative. The oddest thing about the responses, however, was that most of them criticized me for positions I did not take. When something like this happens,...

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