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Catholic commentary and analysis on contemporary events and trends by Phil Lawler, Director of Catholic World News.

What Bishop Jugis did NOT say about Sister Jane Dominic's talk by Phil Lawler - Apr 10, 2014

Charlotte’s Bishop Peter Jugis has finally issued a statement regarding the unseemly controversy at Charlotte Catholic High School. In that statement the bishop clearly affirms the teachings of the Catholic Church. But he does not affirm Sister Jane Dominic Laurel, whose presentation of...

Corrected: Priests unhappy with new Mass translation? New survey proves nothing. by Phil Lawler - Apr 9, 2014

Yesterday in this space I posted an article criticizing a survey of Catholic priests and lay parish leaders regarding the new English translation of the Mass. My comments, I’m afraid, were based on a misunderstanding. The CARA survey that I criticized asked eight questions about the...

Sister Jane Dominic: one strike and she's out? by Phil Lawler - Apr 7, 2014

We still don’t know exactly what Sister Jane Dominic Laurel said at Charlotte Catholic High School to provoke such an angry reaction. No recording has been produced; no text of her talk has been released. We have only second-hand reports. We do know that the school and the Charlotte...

Can the Supreme Court duck the central issue in the Hobby Lobby case? by Phil Lawler - Mar 28, 2014

In the the Hobby Lobby case, a key question facing the Supreme Court is whether a corporate enterprise qualifies for the same religious-freedom protections as an individual. At first glance that seems a very simple question. It is a long-established principle of Anglo-American law, set forth...

Be Prepared: What you need to know before Pope Francis meets President Obama by Phil Lawler - Mar 26, 2014

Count on it: Immediately after tomorrow’s meeting between Pope Francis and President Obama, the spinmasters of the Obama administration—the same talented propagandists who successfully portrayed an inexperienced junior senator as a political savior—will be working furiously to...

Should Catholic politicians oppose legal contraception? Yes; prudently. by Phil Lawler - Mar 20, 2014

Is a Catholic politician morally obligated to oppose the legal distribution of contraceptives? That question has come to the fore because of a surprisingly contentious Congressional campaign in Virginia. Austin Ruse presented the argument to readers outside Virginia in February, with a Crisis...

Dangerous dilution of Church teachings: making the exception the rule by Phil Lawler - Mar 12, 2014

Ask a dozen Catholics drawn at random from a typical American parish, and all twelve will tell you that the faithful are no longer expected to abstain from meat on Fridays, except during Lent. Not so. “Abstinence from meat, or some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is...

Will conservative Catholics help media skew Church discussions on marriage? by Phil Lawler - Mar 5, 2014

Seven months before the Synod of Bishops meets to discuss pastoral care for the family, one can easily foresee how the mass media will cover the prelates’ discussion. It is not easy to predict which themes will emerge as most prominent in the Synod fathers’ debates. But it is very easy...

The dangerous pressure for change in Church teaching on divorce and remarriage by Phil Lawler - Feb 24, 2014

As the October meeting of the Synod of Bishops draws near, we’ll hear more and more about one question: Whether Catholics who are divorced and remarried should be allowed to receive the Eucharist. Clearly this is the question on the minds of reporters, the question being posed by liberal bishops,...

A bit of fair treatment, please, in handling accusations against priests by Phil Lawler - Feb 14, 2014

TheMediaReport.com is offering 5 practical suggestions for journalists covering the sex-abuse story as it relates to the Catholic Church. TheMediaReport is a site that doggedly defends the Church against accusations, and in some cases, I think, ends up defending the indefensible. But in this case,...

How contraception undermines our national security by Phil Lawler - Feb 12, 2014

“There are signs,” observed Muammar Qaddafi in 2006, “that Allah will grant Islam victory in Europe—without swords, without guns, without conquests.” Qaddafi himself is now dead, the victim of the Islamic fervor he helped to arouse. But his prophecy may be coming true...

On transparency in handling abuse charges, Vatican is facing a big test by Phil Lawler - Feb 11, 2014

Reacting vigorously to a nasty public attack by a hostile UN committee, Vatican officials have repeated that the Holy See has nothing to hide on the issue of sexual abuse. That’s good to hear. But after a decade of scandal, a skeptical world wants to see action to back up those...

Please, some honesty from the Vatican about the health of religious life by Phil Lawler - Feb 7, 2014

The life of consecrated religious communities worldwide “is really enjoying good health at this moment,” Archbishop José Rodriguez Carballo, the secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for Religious, has reported. His evidence? The archbishop told an EWTN interviewer that in his travels...

How secular media exploit the 'Francis effect'-- another prime example by Phil Lawler - Feb 4, 2014

Yesterday I called attention to a very perceptive critique, by Bishop James Conley, of the Rolling Stone cover story about Pope Francis. The purveyors of pop culture aren’t interested in reporting what Pope Francis thinks, Bishop Conley warned; they’re interested in promoting...

Challenge for a religious journalist: how to handle a report about exorcism by Phil Lawler - Jan 30, 2014

How should a news service like CWN, dedicated to providing a Catholic perspective on current events, handle a story like this one, about a reported exorcism in Gary, Indiana? It is a complicated story, with a very confused religious background. There are hints of dabbling in the occult,...

Rooting out corruption at the Vatican: unfinished business by Phil Lawler - Jan 23, 2014

Pope Francis came into office with a clear mandate to clean up corruption in Rome. He’s working on it, but there’s a great deal still to be done. For instance: Msgr. Nunzio Scarano, who was arrested last year for attempting to bring €20 million into Italy illegally, now...

400 priests defrocked for abuse? There's more to the story by Phil Lawler - Jan 20, 2014

Some thoughts on the story that AP broke late Friday afternoon, reporting that Pope Benedict had approved the laicization of nearly 400 priests during the last 2 years of his pontificate: This is only the tip of the iceberg—but not in the way you might think. The AP story covers just...

Are all Catholics truly 'in communion' with the Church? by Phil Lawler - Jan 17, 2014

What does it mean to be “in communion” with the Church? The phrase is not often used among American Catholics, but it is highly relevant to ecumenical discussions. We say that we are not “in communion” with the Orthodox churches. We profess essentially the same faith,...

The problem of non-believing Catholics by Phil Lawler - Jan 15, 2014

Back in September, Damon Linker wrote in the New Republic that liberal Catholics were likely to become disillusioned with Pope Francis, because the Pope was not likely to change Catholic doctrines. Now, writing in The Week, he reports that he’s even more concerned, because liberal Catholics...

With new cardinals, a few surprises by Phil Lawler - Jan 13, 2014

It was no surprise when Pope Francis named the first cardinals of his pontificate at his Sunday public audience. And considering how often the Holy Father had tossed aside conventional thinking, his choices were not terribly surprising, either. As expected, the Pope’s 19 selections...

If homosexuals aren't sinners, they're not like the rest of us by Phil Lawler - Jan 10, 2014

The old Christian injunction to “hate the sin, love the sinner” no longer cuts it, Mary McAleese has announced. The former Irish president explains: “If you are a so-called sinner, who likes to be called that?” Since active homosexuals don’t want to be called sinners, McAleese concludes that...

Countercultural Catholic, chapter 8: Habits of Clericalism by Phil Lawler - Jan 6, 2014

In June 2013, Pope Francis said that he longed for a Church “without a life of its own.” He explained that curious remark by saying that ideally the Church should live only the life of Christ. The Church, he said, should be “the mysterium lunae which has light from her Bridegroom...

Countercultural Catholic, chapter 7: Ritual Purity by Phil Lawler - Jan 2, 2014

When roughly half of all marriages end in divorce, is it reasonable to expect that couples are preparing for marriage with a proper understanding of Christian matrimony? When surveys show that most Catholics do not believe in (or at best do not understand) the Real Presence, is it logical to...

Countercultural Catholic, chapter 6: The Enemy Within by Phil Lawler - Dec 31, 2013

In the military world, no effective force ever tolerates traitors, deserters, or informers. Today, in the midst of our “culture wars,” the Catholic Church can ill afford to wage a two-front battle: against militant secularists on one hand and renegade Catholics on the other. The first...

Countercultural Catholic, chapter 5: False Diagnosis by Phil Lawler - Dec 16, 2013

Ask a dozen Americans to explain the decline in the public influence of the Catholic Church, and at least ten will say that the sex-abuse scandal is the root cause. That standard narrative is handy but it’s wrong. The sex-abuse scandal did catastrophic damage to the standing of the Church;...

Countercultural Catholic, chapter 4: A Heritage Stolen by Phil Lawler - Dec 10, 2013

Even judged by purely human standards—even setting aside the immeasurable treasure that is the supernatural gift of faith—the riches of the Catholic tradition are staggering. Think about the literature and the oral traditions: the stories of martyrs and confessors, saints and heroes....

Countercultural Catholic, chapter 3: With Apologies to the Martyrs by Phil Lawler - Dec 2, 2013

In the mid-17th century, the leading cause of death among the Jesuits working in North America was martyrdom. This is an abbreviated version of a chapter in a new book I am developing on building a Catholic counter-culture in a post-Christian world. Comments are...

Countercultural Catholic, chapter 2: The Worst of Both Worlds by Phil Lawler - Nov 19, 2013

In September, Pope Francis caused an international sensation when, in an interview, he said that the Catholic Church “cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods.” Instead, he proposed, the Church should emphasize “what...

Countercultural Catholic, chapter 1: The Sign of Jonah by Phil Lawler - Nov 15, 2013

This is a book about how the Catholic faith shapes American culture. We cannot read into the secret depths of human souls, so we cannot measure how much influence the faith has on individuals. But we can observe how society has changed, especially regarding the issues that the Catholic Church...

Why the media keep getting Pope Francis all wrong by Phil Lawler - Nov 7, 2013

Readers beware. The quality of reporting on the Vatican by the secular news media—never high—has plummeted to an all-time low in recent weeks. Scarcely a day goes by without some sensational new headline. The Pope is going to appoint a female cardinal! He’s going to poll the...

Countercultural Catholic, Introduction: The Cult and the Culture: Part II by Phil Lawler - Oct 25, 2013

Very few people, I trust, would dispute my contention that Catholic influence has declined precipitously in American society over the past 50 years. No American prelate commands a prime-time television audience, the way Archbishop Fulton Sheen delighted millions with his preaching a generation...

Countercultural Catholic, Introduction: The Cult and the Culture: Part I by Phil Lawler - Oct 21, 2013

Have we been looking for help in all the wrong places? For decades now faithful Catholics, hoping for signs of a genuine revival in the American Church, have looked anxiously to the traditional indices of Catholic vitality: the rate of attendance at Sunday Mass, the number of young people...

The key to understanding Pope Francis: the 99 lost sheep by Phil Lawler - Sep 20, 2013

If the Pope’s main responsibility is to keep us all comfortable, then Pope Francis is failing miserably. But that’s not really the Pope’s job, is it? For the past several weeks—and more than ever in the past 24 hours, since the release of the Pope’s blockbuster...

Revealing comments from Vatican Secretaries of State, old and new by Phil Lawler - Sep 12, 2013

Both the outgoing Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and his incoming successor, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, have made interesting public comments recently. Let’s take a closer look. Cardinal Bertone defended his own performance, and lashed out at the “crows and...

'Marriage inequality' is more important than income inequality by Phil Lawler - Sep 10, 2013

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) has released an interesting new study: Cohabitation and the Uneven Retreat from Marriage in the U.S., 1950-2010. It no surprise that the NBER finds cohabitation more commonplace in America today than in 1950. But the statistics show a revealing...

Inoffensive Catholicism: further thoughts on Bottum and the acceptance of same-sex marriage by Phil Lawler - Sep 5, 2013

It’s flattering, I suppose, to be singled out for special attention. At Commonweal-- the magazine that published Joseph Bottum’s much-discussed essay, The Things We Share: A Catholic’s Case for Same-Sex Marriage, which I discussed here last week --associate editor Matthew...

To defend marriage, the truth is enchanting enough by Phil Lawler - Aug 28, 2013

Although my few personal dealings with Joseph Bottum have been friendly enough, I cannot say that I really know the man. So I will not join those who have questioned his motives for writing “The Things We Share: A Catholic’s Case for Same-Sex Marriage, which appeared this past weekend...

Chris Christie, theologian? by Phil Lawler - Aug 21, 2013

New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie, who is Catholic, acknowledged that he was ignoring Church teaching when he signed a law banning “reparative therapy” for young homosexuals. Regrettably, Christie has shown a very poor understanding of the Church teaching that he chooses not to follow. In a...

Does your parish really welcome potential converts? Here's a test. by Phil Lawler - Aug 14, 2013

What does Pope Francis mean when he speaks critically about the “self-referential” church? The Pope has warned repeatedly against thinking of the Church as a club, a benevolent group, or a non-profit organization. He has insisted that the Church cannot be understood solely in terms...

The Pope of Mercy? Yes, and there's more to that message by Phil Lawler - Aug 2, 2013

In his weekly column for the National Catholic Reporter, John Allen argues that if the message of Pope Francis can be summed up in a single word, it is “mercy.” He’s right. Something is lost, of course, when a Pope’s message is boiled down to a single word. So while I...

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