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Insightful and in depth analysis of issues important to Catholics.
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“If bloodless means are sufficient”: The devil of capital punishment is in the details

08/10/2018 - 10:22am

In yesterday’s commentary on the recent change to the Catechism on the use of the death penalty, I passed over fairly quickly the tricky question of when the death penalty may be necessary to protect the community. This is an interesting question because it is not clear exactly what the official teaching of the Church intends to convey when it refers to improvements in our penal systems. But since the Magisterium is unlikely to clarify this any time soon, I raise it primarily as an academic question. It is hardly essential study material for all readers, and it is not for the faint of heart!

Welcoming the Catechism’s changes on the death penalty

08/09/2018 - 11:14am

A number of bishops around the world, including the episcopal conferences of Latin America and the United States, have welcomed Pope Francis’ recent revision to the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the use of the death penalty. But as Phil Lawler pointed out in commentaries posted on August 2nd and August 3rd, the revised text manages to be confusing without actually changing Catholic doctrine.

Discernment is important, so let’s not make a mockery of it.

07/20/2018 - 10:57am

It is easy to make jokes about the contemporary Vatican effort to eliminate problems through “discernment”, as if discernment by itself can eliminate objective patterns of evil. Part of this is simply the tendency of Church officials to reflect instantly the favorite ideas and expressions of the current pope, which is nothing new. But the attempt to discern problems away, instead of using discernment to see more clearly how best to address them, carries a risk of confusing processes with results. Unfortunately, a justified reaction to this confusion can lead to a counter-temptation, which is to dismiss the value of discernment altogether.

The perfectly legitimate public authority of the Church

06/15/2018 - 9:37am

In the first three essays in this series, I have been arguing against our modern cultural prejudice that all religions are essentially the same, that they are all merely different forms of a personal and private sentiment. Though it may not always have been obvious, I have been probing the nature of the Catholic Church as a legitimate authority in human affairs. In truth, the Church is the only perfectly (that is, unassailably) legitimate authority, as we will see.

Refuse to breathe thin air: Know the source of your convictions, challenge others on the source of theirs

06/12/2018 - 11:41am

I’ve written recently about the deliberate exclusion of informed religious faith as an influence in the political and social life of the West (see “Time to give the lie to a culture in denial” and “Dangerous! Both religious exclusion and religious common cause”). Since Catholicism is unique in basing itself on a manifest public Revelation from God, complete with a Divinely ordained authority to secure the authentic transmission of that Revelation over time, we must address this exclusion. How might we counter the powerful errors in our culture, manifested both privately and publicly, which contradict what any person of good will can know that God has taught?

Dangerous! Both religious exclusion and religious common cause

06/01/2018 - 9:55am

In my essay “Time to give the lie to a culture in denial?”, I suggested that we need to take seriously that Christianity is publicly revealed by God. Such seriousness is necessary to challenge one of the most deeply cherished and incontrovertibly false assumptions of our contemporary culture: That religions are all fundamentally the same, all without rational foundation, and therefore all inherently prejudicial to the common good.

Catholic renewal in the long defeat: Engaging Conor Sweeney

05/24/2018 - 10:17am

I’ve just finished a fascinating new book by Conor Sweeney from Angelico Press entitled Abiding the Long Defeat and subtitled “How to Evangelize Like a Hobbit in a Disenchanted Age”. While I do not think every emphasis in this book is directly on target, important insights leap continually off its pages, insights critical to an understanding of the chief obstacle to evangelization today, and how it must be overcome.

The Church’s latest foray into economics: Brief, clear, on point

05/18/2018 - 11:35am
[B]usiness management cannot concern itself only with the interests of the proprietors, but must also assume responsibility for all the other stakeholders who contribute to the life of the business: the workers, the clients, the suppliers of various elements of production, the community of reference. [Pope Benedict XVI, 2009 encyclical Caritas in Veritate, #40]

What IS the proper relationship between Church and State?

05/18/2018 - 7:54am

My last commentary (Crosses on public buildings: Yes or No?) indirectly raised the question of the right relationship between Church and State in a well-ordered society. This is a relationship that has been deeply distorted by the division of Christianity in the sixteenth century, and further distorted by religious conflict around the world. It is fairly easy to settle in theory, but much harder in practice.

Insistence on the Church’s authority is required for growth.

05/01/2018 - 12:53pm

Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my frustration gets such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s heads off—then, I account it high time to get to my word processor as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball.

Why can’t the Church stop harping on purity?!

04/27/2018 - 9:54am

In the wake of yesterday’s conviction of comedian Bill Cosby for sexual assault, we might well revisit what many regard as the obnoxious Catholic emphasis on purity. While we hear less about it in a secularized Church, everybody knows the traditional emphasis is always just beneath the surface. This is so obvious to outsiders that the Church has often been accused of not really caring about any other kind of sin. That’s not true, of course. But the barest whiff of Catholic emphasis on sins of the flesh is enough to send the world into paroxysms of denunciation.