On the Culture

Commentary and reflection on Catholic life.

Modern culture in denial: Nothingness reigns in Argentina, too.

It is not news that those who are in favor of abortion—and especially those who regard it as a human right—are living in denial. You can always tell this is the case whenever deliberately deceptive language is reflexively adopted to obscure reality. “A woman’s right to...

A touch of whimsy for Catholics

I don’t know about you, but there are days when I just want to enjoy myself. It is unhealthy to spend all of our time moaning about the state of the Church and the world when so many other pursuits are possible. There was once a young priest in our parish who, according to legend at least,...

German Catholic women, in thrall to the world, boycott Mass

This may be stating the obvious, but there is a great deal wrong with the widely-supported decision of German Catholic women’s groups to boycott Mass and refuse Church work in order to protest episcopal inaction on (a) sex abuse, and, wait for it, (b) women’s ordination. It is one more...

Cardinal Müller on the Truth

Gerhard Cardinal Müller, who served as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 2012 to 2017, has sometimes been compared with his great predecessor, Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI), who not only appointed him but filled that position himself from 1981 until his election...

Even at Easter? On spiritual fasting, according to St. Francis de Sales

At the very end of Lent I discovered the sermon given on Ash Wednesday of the year 1622 by St. Francis de Sales. Better late than never! This sermon was given as part of a series to the religious women in the Order of the Visitation, or the Visitandines, which St. Francis founded with St. Jane...

The tragic hope of the flames of Notre Dame

Even I was saddened by the fire at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. I say “even I” because I am utterly unable to escape the symbolic density of a cathedral burning in the midst of Europe’s profound loss of Faith—a cathedral that has been maintained for centuries more...

Benedict’s Analysis: What impressed me most

There are several things which I found particularly intriguing about Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s analysis of the roots of the contemporary Church’s problem with clerical sexual abuse. And there is one thing that I found most impressive going forward. First, it was both intriguing...

Feedback time (Yes, if possible, this means you!)

It is time to ask for feedback on three of our initiatives. The insights and opinions of our users are very important to getting things right. To offer your ideas on these three topics, simply click the email link at the top of this commentary, to the left of my name. This will open our contact...

2 Maccabees: Judaism in readiness

As I mentioned previously, 2 Maccabees does not extend the history of Jewish resistance to Greek conquest recorded in 1 Maccabees. Instead, it focuses more tightly on one portion of that history. While the second book provides additional details, its chief merit is an exploration of the motives...

Redeeming the time: Christianity for knaves and fools like me

I don’t know about you, but I frequently flash back to particular times in my life when I behaved foolishly or even sinfully. I’m pretty sure I remember every moment of youthful arrogance in which I treated others badly, and perhaps it goes without saying that I still have skeletons...

1 Maccabees: A shift in understanding salvation history

The two books that close the Old Testament, 1 and 2 Maccabees, are among the most enjoyable to read and the most difficult from which to draw lessons. They are enjoyable because they are all action adventure, covering the remarkable exploits of a priest named Mattathias, along with his sons and...

Life Is Worth Living: The Message of Fulton Sheen

In the mid-1950s, Bishop Fulton Sheen became the Catholic voice of America with his groundbreaking television series, Life Is Worth Living. But there was a second series with the same title, recorded only in audio in 1965 and released just after the close of the Second Vatican Council. The...

The minor prophets: Varied voices, including our own

In discussing the twelve “minor prophets”, I began last time by treating the three who were active in the eighth century before Christ. This time I will take up what I call the four “exilic” prophets, that is, those whose mission fell during the period just before or during...

Are those who experience same-sex attraction prone to abuse?

I noticed on our Facebook page that there was a brief discussion of whether or not those who experience same-sex attraction are predisposed to sexual abuse. Without considering the distinction between abuse that is legal and abuse that is illegal, the answer is “yes” of...

The Orchestra Analogy: One Divine symphony, no restarts

That great twentieth-century evangelist, Bishop Fulton Sheen, had a brilliant ability to come up with examples and analogies to make Catholic teaching easier to understand. One example is the analogy of the orchestra that he used to explain Original Sin. We all understand that the sins of Adam and...

The Church and ourselves: Changes for a more effective mission

The year of Our Lord 2019 promises to be momentous for the Catholic Church. My goal is to make it also the most effective year yet for CatholicCulture.org’s mission of fostering authentic Catholic renewal. What do I mean by both of these statements? 1. The Church I am under no...

The “minor” prophets: Highly relevant today

The twelve so-called “minor prophets” under the Old Covenant are traditionally grouped at the end of the prophetic books, even though they range chronologically from the 8th to the 4th century before Christ. This is probably because they are short, anywhere from one to fourteen...

Sin Taxes: Is pornography next?

It has long been common in the United States to single out products regarded as “sinful” or “addictive” for higher taxes. The logic is that consumers who lack self control are a good source of government revenue. Classic examples include alcohol and cigarettes. Closely...

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...

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