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The City Gates

Brief, off-the-cuff observations and announcements.

Quick Hits: The case for rigor; the New Jansenists; Pope Benedict’s birthday strudel

On the theory that late is better than never, let me call attention to an excellent little essay by Father Gerald Murray, for The Catholic Thing, debunking the notion that some of God’s commands are “ideals” that we cannot be expected to meet. “God does not permit, let...

The Modesto Statement: playing politics, bishops are conned again

The statements adopted by the First US Regional Meeting of Popular Movements are, for the most part, fairly predictable leftist boilerplate: a condemnation of President Trump, a focus on the evils of racism and exploitation, a claim that the few are growing rich on the suffering of the many....

The circus comes to town

There was a circus performance at the Pope’s audience today. No, really. It’s true. There was a juggler so skillful that he could balance six different interpretations of Amoris Laetitia. And a contortionist who could reconcile the German bishops’ interpretation with...

OTG: Pro-life crowdfunding and Catholic Netflix

I’d like to call our readers’ attention to two worthy new enterprises which look to fill significant gaps in the Catholic internet. First is a pro-life crowdfunding site called WonderWe. At first I wondered what the need for such a site would be, but as it turns out, mainstream...

Theologians’ conflicts of interest

Gregory Baum, one of the influential theologians who led the charge against Humanae Vitae, has now revealed that he is, and has been since the 1960s, an active homosexual. Are you surprised? No; it’s a familiar story. A theologian writes that it’s unrealistic to expect people to live in sexual...

Liturgical Year Volume 3 Released: LENT

Lent (the only liturgical season with a name that is also a four-letter word!) begins on March 1st, and so the Lenten volume of our ebook series for the 2016-2017 liturgical year has been released in our ebooks download area. This third volume in the annual series covers the entire season of Lent,...

Judging God’s law by human standards

For the 2nd time this week, the day’s Gospel reading provides a clear and direct answer to a question that must be on the minds of many serious Catholics. What should one do when someone—even an esteemed Church leader—seems to be judging an important question by purely human...

Vatican follies, continued

First the Vatican calls a press conference to announce the publication of a book by Cardinal Coccopalmerio. With their ears to the rumor mill, journalists covering the Vatican report that this book will be a response to the dubia—thus the excitement. But then Cardinal Coccopalmerio does...

Unrest at the Vatican; reassurances backfire

What in the world is going on in Rome this week? First the Vatican press office issues a statement from the Council of Cardinals, supporting the Pope. It would certainly be news if the Council of Cardinals did not support the Pope. But why was this statement newsworthy? Why did the Council...

Pope Francis welcomes criticism—he says

“It’s good to be criticized,” said Pope Francis to religious superiors. “I have always liked this.” That’s good to know. What a relief to think that all those stories we’ve been hearing—about the Vatican officials called in for tongue-lashing...

Catholics Confronting Hitler

Back in October of 2016, I praised and recommended Mark Riebling’s brilliant and exciting book, Church of Spies: The Pope’s Secret War against Hitler. Riebling focused almost exclusively on the relationship between the Vatican and the network of those within Germany who were seeking to...

Quick Hits: Vatileaks defendants targeting Cardinal Pell, adapting the Extraordinary Form

Francesca Chaouqui, the flamboyant publicist who was convicted in last year’s “Vatileaks II” trial, has published a book about her experiences inside the Vatican bureaucracy. John Allen has reviewed the book, reporting that it is self-serving and, despite a great deal of...

Is a rational, civil debate about immigration still possible?

Donald Trump is in the White House today in large part because he was the only presidential candidate willing to tackle the immigration issue. For years, politicians on both sides of the aisle had avoided serious discussion of the topic, knowing that if they took a clear stand, they would inflame...

Marcus Aurelius on living in denial

Through one of those apparent quirks of Divine Providence, my son Peter gave me a copy of the Meditations of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius for Christmas. This struck me as “quirky” for two reasons: First, Peter found the book on my Amazon wish list yet I have no idea how it got...

Quick Hits: new perspectives on the abortion debate and on Amoris Laetitia

Among many excellent analyses published in time for the March for Life, “When Abortion Suddenly Stopped Making Sense,” by Frederica Mathewes-Green, deserves special mention. The arguments are familiar—how could they not be, after 44 years?—but she offers some new...

Here’s how Trump could energize the pro-life movement

If I were advising President Trump (which I am not), I’d tell him to start leaking the name of his Supreme-Court nominee on Friday, during the March for Life. The President has said that he’ll announce the nominee next week. That’s fine; hold to that schedule. Actually...

Quick hits: the illusion of Catholic feminism and more

Pro-life feminist groups have been in the news this week because of their pointed exclusion from the Women’s March on Washington. While we should reach out for common ground with anyone who is fighting abortion, the idea of Catholic feminism is problematic. The Catholic feminist movement is...

When 300% growth is not enough: the measure of African evangelization

This news item from Nigeria today is food for thought. Archbishop Mathew Man’Oso Ndagoso of Kaduna is concerned, because he sees “no sense of urgency to proclaim the Gospel.” The archbishop fears that “complacency, lethargy, and nonchalance” are choking off the...

Benedict XVI faces his toughest critic: himself

Toward the end of his 4th (and presumably final) book-length interview with Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, Last Testament, journalist Peter Seewald asked the now-retired Pontiff to name his own greatest weakness. Benedict replies: “Maybe clear, purposeful governance and the decisions that...

The Maltese bishops’ message: something lost in translation?

Archbishop Charles Scicluna, answering critics of the Maltese bishops’ guidelines on Amoris Laetitia, insists that they did not say that divorced and remarried Catholics could receive Communion if they feel “at peace with God.” He has a point. The Maltese guidelines stipulate...

The Maltese bishops lower the bar

Here are some headlines that you haven’t seen recently: Bishops of Malta: Mafia hitmen should receive Communion if ‘at peace with God’ Bishops of Malta: pedophiles should receive Communion if ‘at peace with God’ Bishops of Malta: IRA terrorists should receive...

Quick hits: encouraging trend in France, interviewing Ratzinger’s interviewer, the Pope’s governing style

There are very encouraging developments in the public life of France, from a Catholic point of view, observes Samuel Gregg in a First Things essay. The presidential candidacy of Francois Fillon, who unabashedly appeals to Catholic principles, is confirmation of a revival in Catholic influence...

Have someone in mind?

Peter Seewald, who has worked with Pope-emeritus Benedict on several book-length interviews, spoke to Catholic World Report about the former Pontiff, whom he characterizes as “one of the most misunderstood personalities of our time.” The world saw Pope Benedict (through the eyes of the...

Going with the flow: Amoris Laetitia and the secular temptation

Imagine three Catholic priests, each with his own parish: Father X has lost his faith. He continues serving as a pastor, going through the motions, because he’s accustomed to the work and he thinks he helps people. That is, he thinks he helps people, with his counsel and encouragement....

Quick Hits: A devastating rebuttal on Amoris Laetitia, propaganda for Silence, trouble with the Knights of Malta

Last week Crux posted an argument in support of the Kasper proposal, presented by Father Paul Keller in the form of a fictitious case involving an immigrant woman who was abandoned by her (first) husband. Canon lawyer Edward Peters quickly responded with the most devastating rebuttal...

Liturgical Year Volume 2 Released: Ordinary Time before Lent

The second volume of our ebook series for the 2016-2017 liturgical year has been released in our ebooks download area. This volume covers the initial period of Ordinary Time between Christmas and Lent, from January 10 through February 28. It may be downloaded free of charge in the following...

Spadaro’s irrational faith

Father Antonio Spadaro, the Italian Jesuit who has been identified as “the Pope’s mouthpiece,” frequently uses his Twitter account(s) to belittle all those who have questions about Amoris Laetitia. But this gem from yesterday might have a boomerang effect: Theology is no #Mathematics. 2 + 2 in...

Quick Hits: Scorsese’s Silence, leftists look to the Pope, ‘room at the inn’ in the Bronx

A few last-minute reading assignments before the Christmas break: Steven Greydanus, an insightful film reviewer with a reliably Catholic perspective, offers his thoughts on Silence, the new Martin Scorsese film based on the novel by Shusaku Endo. The novel is heart-wrenching, profoundly...

John Labarbara’s surprising take on “knowing God’s love”

This afternoon I skimmed through a book recently published by Sophia Institute Press. The title is Knowing God’s Love, and the subtitle is “8 Essential Truths Every Catholic Should Know”. Imagine my surprise, then, when I found that author John Labarbara shifts his discussion...

The absurd argument of the dubia critics: an illustration

One more quick comment on the dubia debate, and then—I hope, unless I’m unduly provoked—I’ll turn my attention to happier thoughts of Christmas. The argument against the dubia, if I understand it correctly (which is not certain, since it is never made explicit), runs...

A stunning new volume of spiritual reading

Are you still looking for a Christmas gift for a serious thoughtful Catholic? Or do you need some new spiritual reading for yourself? For either purpose I heartily recommend The Wellspring of Worship, by Jean Corbon. Last year I found this book under the Christmas tree: a gift from my wonderful...

On pastoral accompaniment to nowhere

In a brilliant column entitled ”The Obedience of Faith” posted on The Catholic Thing, Fr. Robert Imbelli captures what is wrong with the kind of pastoral accompaniment which assumes that people are doing the best they can when they still refuse to turn away from sin. Imbelli...

OTG: Catholica Summer Program in Rome: Highly recommended for young men

Joe Long contacted me over the weekend to let me know about the new Summer Program he is running in Rome for young men aged 14 to 18. Joe is a good friend of one of my sons and a graduate of Christendom College (the four-year Catholic liberal arts college I helped to establish way back in 1977)....

Quick Hits: Appalled reactions to Canadian bishops’ tepid stand on assisted suicide

For readers still stunned by the directive from bishops of Canada’s Atlantic region, leaving open the possibility that people planning assisted suicide could receive the sacraments, two columns provide useful perspective: Writing for First Things, in a short but powerful essay that...

Diminishing two signs of Faith: The Eucharist, the Crèche

A priest has decided not to continue the tradition of setting up a Nativity scene in the public cemetery in the Italian city of Cremona. Since the crèche would be visible from a section of the cemetery used by Muslims, Fr. Sante Braggie fears it “could be seen as a lack of...

Quick Hits: Friedkin, Scorcese, Tolkien, Lewis

Several things that caught my eye over the past two months: Some big names in the world of film have been getting an inside look at Catholicism. Earlier this year William Friedkin, who directed 1973’s The Exorcist, received permission from the late Fr. Gabriele Amorth to witness and...

Divorce, remarriage, and sin: a hypothetical case

Imagine that you are a priest hearing confessions. Penitent #1 says that he was drunk last night. He is a struggling alcoholic, he tells you. He’d kept sober for a while, but yesterday he fell into bad old habits. He has sought help with his problem, he’s in a program, and he vows...

Three things the Pope can’t say

Within the Catholic Church, the authority of the Roman Pontiff is considerable. But even papal authority—and especially papal infallibility—has its limits. The Pope speaks with authority when he sets forth the deposit of the Faith, explaining—in union with the college of...

Quick Hits: the most perceptive columns on Amoris Laetitia and the dubia

Many gallons of ink—or maybe I should say millions of pixels—have been spent in analysis of the heated debate over Amoris Laetitia and the dubia raised by the four cardinals. Among the most useful analyses (leaving aside several that have already been posted on this site) are...

The Rex Mottram approach to Amoris Laetitia and the dubia

“I believe that the pope has spoken,” said Cardinal Kevin Farrell, regarding the question of whether Amoris Laetitia has changed Church teaching on the admission of divorced/remarried Catholics to Communion. But to be fair, Cardinal Farrell made that remark more than a month ago,...

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