Catholic Church History

The Tyranny of Tolerance

When the Supreme Court re-defined marriage in the Obergefell v. Hodges decision to include same-sex relationships, it was immediately clear that this sea change would create a conflict between this newly-discovered constitutional right, and the first freedom listed in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights: the right of religious liberty. Everyone from pundits [...]

Does History Repeat With Amoris Laetitia Confusion?

The Holy Father actually said to the College of Cardinals: “In a matter of such importance it seems right that Catholics desire to follow one single law propounded authoritatively by the Church. So it seems advisable to recommend that for the present no one should arrogate to himself the right to take a stand differing [...]

What History May Tell Us About Amoris Laetitia

Today cardinals and bishops are intensely divided over whether or not invalidly married Catholics living in adultery can receive Holy Communion. Fifty years ago, this kind of question would have boggled the minds of Catholics everywhere, because the answer would be both obvious and simple: “No!” The question has arisen today because a recent and [...]

The Tradition Speaks With One Voice on Divorce & Remarriage

The vocation of the Church historian and historical theologian is similar to that of the Catholic philosopher: to serve as a handmaid to theology, the queen of the sciences. Church history is distinct from secular academic history in that—as a subset of theology—it has the ability to incorporate the insights of revelation. In Church history [...]

Reminiscences of a Catholic Girl in Wartime Holland

In honor of Thanksgiving and in anticipation of the Christmas season, I offer this story of gratitude and faith concerning the experiences of a Catholic girl in Amsterdam during World War II. The girl, now enjoying her golden age ensconced on a quiet suburban street in northern Virginia, is my neighbor Mrs. Stien van Egmond. [...]

The Banners of Lepanto

A British explorer ship that sank in the Arctic in the 1840s while searching for the Northwest Passage, was located this year on September 3, remarkably intact under the ice. The HMS Terror was one of the ships that attacked Fort McHenry in Baltimore in 1814. Some of the “bombs bursting in air” may have [...]

When Jesuits Ignore Papal Decrees

On September 1, John J. DeGioia, the president of Georgetown University confirmed and published the recommendations of the university’s Working Group on Slavery, Memory and Reconciliation. For almost a year the members of this group have been studying the ties of the Georgetown Jesuits with black slaves, and particularly, with the sale of 272 slaves [...]

An Apology for Catholics of the Past

When teaching survey courses in French and Western literature, I sometimes note a student’s puzzled reaction to the thoughts of medieval writers. Novice readers will eagerly dive into an Old French text hoping to discover a paean to Catholic life from an age when Christendom was still mostly united, and the Church integrated into every [...]

Deaconesses and the Dangers of Antiquarianism

“Huge news: The female diaconate is not only an idea whose time has come, but a reality recovered from history.” ∼ Father James Martin, SJ With one “tweet” celebrating the new commission appointed by Pope Francis to study the possibility of the ordination of women to the diaconate, Father James Martin, SJ managed to perfectly encapsulate [...]

Why King Richard Did Not March on Jerusalem

When we look back on the Third Crusade (1189-1192) it is all but impossible not to be struck by how close King Richard and the Christian host came to decisively defeating Saladin and re-taking Jerusalem. Twice during the campaign—in January 1192 and again in July 1192—the crusaders advanced to within a dozen or so miles [...]

Visiting the Site of England’s Conversion

Landing in London the other day, we wasted no time in locating the first available train to Minster Abbey, a lovely little place where the monastic life has been around for almost fourteen hundred years, its inspiration owing to a fellow named Benedict, who pretty much founded Western Monasticism. We planned to stay a week [...]

Rediscovering the Ideal Healthcare Plan

There is a prevailing idea that healthcare plans are necessarily complex and expensive schemes. There was, however, an ideal healthcare plan in the distant past that was amazingly simple. The plan did not list its benefits, clinical metrics or financial data. The main emphasis of this plan was not so much on a plan but [...]

Hedge Schools and Classical Education in Ireland

The first Tuesday of the first full week in May is National Teacher Day, so this seems an opportune occasion to recall a courageous, but little-known group of teachers and schoolmasters who sacrificed comfort and security for the sake of truth, goodness, and beauty in seventeenth-century Ireland. From very early days, classical education was highly [...]

Should Christians Apologize for the Crusades?

One of the more ignorant bits of political correctness subverting our cultural memory is the movement to ban the Crusader mascot from schools. A number of schools already have caved in to the pressure to eliminate such a “divisive” or even “racist” mascot, and some, I am quite sure, were happy to lead the way [...]

The Crusades: A Response to Islamic Jihad

Following 9/11, there was renewed interest in the Crusades as explanations were sought for the brutal attacks. As terrorist attacks have continued throughout the years, and now with the rise of the Islamic State, this interest in the Crusades has not abated. Unfortunately, increased interest has not necessarily translated into increased knowledge. Prof. Thomas F. [...]

Church Reform: An Endless Task

The Book of Gomorrah, written in the eleventh century by St. Peter Damian, has now been published in a modern translation by Matthew Cullinan Hoffman, a journalist and graduate student at Holy Apostles College. To the original book Hoffman has added a useful introduction and copious notes. The book manages to be both scholarly and [...]

Owen Chadwick Remembered

When the church historian Owen Chadwick died last July at the age of 99, still writing almost to the end, still with ideas to share, still pondering the historical and moral lessons of a lifetime, he seemed a figure from an earlier, more heroic age of Christian scholarship. His life had been laden with honors—at various [...]

The Pope’s Off-the-Cuff Remarks in Turin

My intention to spend a soporific afternoon welcoming the Summer Solstice was disrupted by a query from a friend about remarks made by Pope Francis in Turin the day before. Happily, the Holy Father was able to pray before the mysterious and moving Shroud of Turin and also the tomb of the patron of young people, [...]

St. Louis Expels De Smet from Campus

American universities have long been citadels of political correctness but, in the past year, the noose has gotten even tighter. In many places, classic literature and great books have been banished or at least subjected to the prior censorship of “trigger warnings,” lest their content prove discomforting to some students. “Microaggressions” are practically universal. “Speech [...]

Everyone Expects the Spanish Inquisition

It is almost fifty years since the “Spanish Inquisition” sketch by Monty Python’s Flying Circus was first aired on British television. Today its catchphrase, “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition,” has an enshrined place in popular culture. It is, however, ironic that the well-known catchphrase contradicts the grim reality of life in our increasingly secular culture. [...]

A New History of the Crusades Obama Should Read

Steve Weidenkopf, lecturer at Christendom College’s graduate program, has written a readable, story-like book that provides a blow-by-blow account of the Crusades that simultaneously counters many of the myths that have sprung up around them. Yet he does so without ignoring the crusaders’ missteps. In the process, he makes a major contribution to addressing the [...]

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