On The News

Analysis of news events and trends.

Should Pope Francis resign? I say No... but...

Should Pope Francis resign? Like my colleague Jeff Mirus, I say No. Since I have often been critical of the Pope—not least in my book Lost Shepherd—I’m sure many readers will be surprised by my answer. Let me explain my reasoning. If public pressure forces Pope Francis...

The track record supports the Vigano testimony

At several points in his bombshell testimony, Archbishop Vigano explained where the corroborating evidence could be found: in files at the Vatican or the offices of the apostolic nuncio. If those files are made public—or even vetted by a reliable, objective investigator—we would all...

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”...

There are only 2 things an American bishop can say now...

The Pennsylvania grand-jury report was released on the very day that I had chosen (long beforehand) to begin a week-long vacation. I had vowed that it would be a real vacation—that I wouldn’t hop back to post news items on this site—and I held to that vow. Still I could not...

Pope Francis on capital punishment: doctrine built on shifting sands?

How can a fixed moral principle be dependent on a contingent practical judgment? How can a doctrine be based on shifting circumstances? The Pope can say—indeed Pope John Paul II did say—that it is always wrong, in every case, deliberately to take the life of an innocent human being....

Pope Francis and the death penalty: another dose of confusion

Once again Pope Francis has given the world reason to believe that the teachings of the Catholic Church can and will change. Was the Pope’s decision to revise the Catechism’s teaching on the death penalty a change in Church teaching, or a development of existing doctrine?...

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....

Orthodox leaders headed for a showdown over Ukraine

If you care about ecumenism—if you care about the restoration of Christian unity—you should be aware of a current dispute about the status of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Most Catholic Americans, I realize, rarely pay attention to the debates among the world’s Orthodox...

The McCarrick scandal & the gay lobby: a problem the bishops won’t address

The news that Cardinal McCarrick has been credibly accused of molesting a young man—and the subsequent revelations that “everybody knew” about the cardinal’s homosexual activities—have raised new and important questions about the silence of other American bishops....

The neglected root of the Church sex-abuse scandal

Two new episodes in the festering sex-abuse scandal have called attention to a facet of the problem that has long been understood (at least by some analysts), but routinely neglected if not actively suppressed: the connection between sexual abuse of young people and a widespread homosexual culture...

If ‘everybody knew’ about Cardinal McCarrick, the corruption runs deep

Now at last the truth about Cardinal McCarrick’s misconduct has become public knowledge. If my email traffic is any indication, many more stories will soon emerge. But Rod Dreher drives right to the central point in his follow-up column, entitled “Cardinal McCarrick: Everybody...

The immigration debate: a plague on both houses

Now that President Trump has signed an executive order ending the separation of families by immigration agents, I hope that one of the most appalling political arguments in recent American history will come to an end. But I doubt it. I suspect the argument will continue, because both sides are...

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...

The Vatican in disarray

The past few weeks have brought several positive signs from Rome: The Chilean bishops resigned as a group after meeting with Pope Francis, thereby raising hopes that the Holy Father is finally following up strong statements with strong action against bishops who cover up abuse. In a talk...

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...

Ireland’s vote: the fruit of years of Catholic complacency

On the eve of Trinity Sunday, the people of Ireland voted to amend their constitution. Just to put the vote in context, here’s how the preamble to that constitution begins: In the name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of...

Behind the Chilean bishops’ resignations: a very hopeful sign?

Although many questions remain about the mass resignation of Chile’s Catholic bishops, last week’s bombshell announcement brought one very promising development. We still don’t know whether Pope Francis demanded, requested, or even encouraged the bishops’ resignations....

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”...

Low liturgy and high camp: the Met Gala fiasco

Without exception, the people with whom I spoke on the issue agreed that it was spectacularly foolish for the Vatican to become involved with the Met Gala. They all saw the problem coming, long before the headlines and photo-spreads appeared. So how did it happen? Why didn’t Vatican...

My father’s death, and Alfie’s

My father was an extraordinarily fit 93-year-old when he went into the hospital for minor surgery. He was still working, still taking breaks to do push-ups on the floor of his office, still taking the stairs two at a time. But a painful ear infection would not respond to treatment, and as the...

The ‘New Paradigm’: Old Errors, Same Tactics

Cardinal Cupich recently gave a talk in Cambridge in which he, like Cardinal Marx and other revisionist prelates and theologians, promotes a “New Paradigm” for understanding Catholic morality. The trouble is, the paradigm isn’t true, and it’s not even new. The “New...

The New York Times on this papacy: confused yet revealing

An April 28 report in the New York Times, entitled Pope Francis in the Wilderness, presents what seems at first a puzzling perspective on the papacy, but actually reveals a great deal about how the secular media see the Catholic Church. Right from the start of his pontificate, Pope Francis...

Yes, the Pope is a Catholic. But he’s confusing other Catholics.

Blogger Mark Mallett has done a real service—and I mean this sincerely—by a long list of links to statements by Pope Francis voicing clearly orthodox Catholic beliefs on topics important to conservative Catholics, including abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, population control,...

Blasphemy tests the limits of tolerance at Holy Cross

A confession: During the past few weeks, as the result of my own editorial decision, we have not fully informed our readers about the scandal created by a blasphemous theology professor at the College of the Holy Cross. Chastise me if you like, but I don’t regret my decision. With...

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...

Confusion—now about hell—is the hallmark of this pontificate

Okay, Pope Francis probably did not say: “There is no hell.” But that’s the headline story for today—for Holy Thursday. And while maybe the interviewer is responsible for an inaccurate quotation, the Pope himself is responsible for the ensuing confusion. The Vatican,...

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...

Papal continuity or discontinuity? The Vatican PR team scores on its own goal

Last week the Vatican published a series of short books on the theology of Pope Francis. You probably haven’t heard much about those books. But you’ve heard quite a bit about the controversy that erupted after they were unveiled. If the Vatican had only announced the publication of...

St. Patrick: the patron saint of parish closings?

(This column, written six years ago, is re-posted annually by popular demand.) Needless to say, there is no patron saint of parish closings. The closing of a parish is a tragedy. A parish church is more than just a building. It is a repository of memories: of the children baptized there, the...

Quick Hits: Catholicism in China and Germany; Cardinal Sarah’s intemperate critics; a demographic disaster

Catching up on must-read articles, after a whirlwind week of travel and interviews, punctuated by a snowstorm that knocked out our electricity for a day: My friend Father Bernardo Cervellera, the director of the AsiaNews service, explains that skepticism about a proposed Vatican deal with...

The Pope and the Vatican’s top power broker

For the first time in my life, I find myself in substantial agreement with Robert Mickens, who now covers Vatican affairs for La Croix. In his most recent column there, Mickens examines the enormous and enduring influence of Cardinal Angelo Sodano. It’s an eye-opener. Cardinal Sodano...

A rough week for the Holy See

Today is an unusually good day to pray for Pope Francis and for the Holy See. Not only because it’s the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, but also because it’s been an unusually rough week at the Vatican. Consider: It’s very unusual—well, you might say that usually...

Will we sacrifice Marines to advance feminist standards?

Americans today—in sharp contrast with their behavior during the years of the Vietnam war—show great respect, bordering on reverence, for members of the armed forces. President Trump has good reason for proposing a grand military parade; he knows that we love to applaud our...

What’s happening in Vatican-China talks? The necessary background

By all accounts, the Vatican is moving quickly toward a diplomatic agreement with China. But the situation is complicated, and the reports from China often contradictory. What should interested Catholics know about the developing drama? Let me do my best to answer some basic questions. The...

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....

My book on Pope Francis—available for pre-order now!

Although I can’t claim to have predicted that criticism that has suddenly arisen around Pope Francis, I think it’s fair to say that anyone who had read my new book, The Lost Shepherd, would have been prepared. Did Pope Francis overlook charges that a Chilean bishop had ignored...

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,...

In talks with China, the Vatican seems too willing to sacrifice principles—and the faithful

In reporting on the Catholic Church in China, it is often difficult to establish the real facts. Some bishops of the “underground” Church practice their ministry openly, with the tacit consent of local government officials, while some bishops of the government-sponsored...

For conscientious priests, the Pope just made marriage prep much more difficult

If you’re a Catholic priest who tries to be conscientious about preparing couples for marriage, Pope Francis just made your life much more difficult. You’re doing your best. You tell couples that they should think seriously before taking vows. If they are cohabiting, you ask them...

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