Joan Frawley Desmond

Joan Frawley Desmond has written for the Wall Street Journal, First Things, and the National Catholic Register, among other publications.

recent articles

A Girl’s Lament: Sex, Love, and America’s Teens

Forty years ago, the sexual revolution broke through the last barricades of Victorian propriety. A whole generation drifted toward moral anarchy in its fitful pursuit of sexual liberation. At the end of the day, the casualties of this revolution surround us—AIDS patients, aborted children, and single mothers. But only recently have the intellectual elite come … Read more

Shusaku Endo’s Borrowed Faith

The tension between art and faith in the work of a novelist who happens to be a Catholic is nothing new. But there is something deeply compelling about the working out of this tension in the stories of a Japanese novelist who was also a Catholic. Shusaku Endo, the much-decorated Japanese writer who died in … Read more

Fathers and Sons

Losing Mum and Pup: A Memoir Christopher Buckley, Twelve, 272 pages, $24.99 And Noah, a farmer, planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk and was uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Cannan, saw his father uncovered and he denounced him to his two brothers outside. And Shen and … Read more

The Twilight of Clint Eastwood

During the post-Vatican II push for more “relevant” religion classes, students in my high school “Theology of the Film” course trooped off to see Dirty Harry — the 1971 drama starring Clint Eastwood as the police lieutenant who violates the law, including the torture of suspects, to protect San Franciscans from a wily serial killer. … Read more

From Darkness into Light

Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession Anne Rice, Knopf, 256 pages, $24 A decade ago, Anne Rice — the best-selling author of gothic tales of nocturnal bloodsuckers — found herself “Christ-haunted.” Statues of the saints, half-ruined Catholic churches, and the crucified Christ reignited the long dormant piety that suffused her New Orleans childhood. Flannery … Read more

Resisting the Temptations of Power

Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life Charles J. Chaput, Doubleday, 258 pages, $21.95 Twenty years ago, Richard John Neuhaus foresaw a new era of Catholic engagement with American society and politics. “This can and should be the moment in which the Roman Catholic Church in the United … Read more

Grabbing Religious Voters

For decades, Republican presidential candidates have been winning over some religious voters practically by default, facing little competition from Democrats. This revolution began in 1969 when antiwar liberals used the McGovern Commission to hijack the presidential wing of the Democratic Party and, except for the Carter and Clinton presidencies, has continued the same through the … Read more

The Bonds of Friendship

Great biographical memoirs can arise from lucky coincidence: familial bonds, old school ties, or professional postings allow the narrator unrivalled access to his famous subject. Dark secrets, character insights, and historical footnotes enlarge and challenge the readers’ understanding.   A Life with Karol: My Forty-Year Friendship with the Man Who Became Pope Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, … Read more

Losing Our Religion: The Crisis in Catholic Education

Early in 2007, the Washington Post heralded the remarkable academic and financial turnaround of twelve inner-city parochial schools in Washington, D.C., operating as the Center City Consortium (CCC). But the hard-won triumph for the consortium’s administrators and donors was short-lived: By late summer, eight of the CCC schools were on the block, part of a … Read more

Lightning Rod: The Return of Rick Santorum

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania) knew he had lost his re-election fight at 5 P.M. on Election Day. After receiving the news, he joined his wife, Karen, and their six children at their hotel suite. The Santo- rums always planned to “finish well.” Now, that meant taking their children with them when they voted at the … Read more

The War Room: What We Have Learned About Confirming Good Judges

Members of the “war room” had gathered for their hectic daily routine of legal analysis, damage control, and playing offense for Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., President Bush’s Supreme Court nominee. In the middle of the now-familiar hysteria of the nomination proceeding, one war-room denizen received critical intelligence— Mrs. Alito had begun to cry and … Read more

Anti-Science? Pro-Life Dream Team Confronts Embryonic Stem-Cell Juggernaut

Pro-lifers fumed during the 2004 presidential race when John Kerry attacked opponents of embryonic stem-cell (ESC) research as “anti-science” ideologues who sought to block life-saving cures “right at our fingertips.”   “This is not the way we do things in America. Here in America, we don’t sacrifice science for ideology,” Kerry argued in an August … Read more

Anti-Science? Pro-Life Dream Team Confronts Embryonic Stem-Cell Juggernaut

Pro-lifers fumed during the 2004 presidential race when John Kerry attacked opponents of embryonic stem-cell (ESC) research as “anti-science” ideologues who sought to block life-saving cures “right at our fingertips.” “This is not the way we do things in America. Here in America, we don’t sacrifice science for ideology,” Kerry argued in an August 2004 … Read more

Weighing Doubt: One Playwright’s Measured Look at the Crisis in the Catholic Church

Faced with the lurid, tragic landscape of the Catholic Church’s child sex-abuse scandal, some of the laity have posed the question: Where were the nuns when this was going on? Playwright John Patrick Shanley offers a rich, multi-layered response to this and many other related matters—theological, psychological, and moral—in Doubt, a Parable. Shanley’s critically acclaimed … Read more

(In)Tolerance Education

Until a few years ago, the gay-rights movement kept its distance from my life in suburban California. I followed the movement’s progress in the media and analyzed its claims in theology papers, but none of these matters directly intruded on my family’s life and thus did not prompt any direct response. Then one morning, as … Read more

A Girl’s Lament: Sex, Love, and America’s Teens

Thirty years ago, the sexual revolution broke through the last barricades of Victorian propriety. A whole generation drifted toward moral anarchy in its fitful pursuit of sexual liberation. At the end of the day, the casualties of this revolution surround us—AIDS patients, aborted children, and single mothers. But only recently have the intellectual elite come … Read more

Endo’s Borrowed Faith

“I’m going to be baptized next month.” Suguro felt no elation of any kind. So his books had given direction to the life of one individual. . . . He felt like a hypocrite and stared at the ground. He had not written a single story with the intent of instructing others. He had not … Read more

Our Moment: A Lutheran Pastor’s Call for Catholic Leadership

America has traditionally been a Protestant nation with a history of suspicion, if not outright prejudice, against Catholics. Until fairly recently Catholicism was, in this country, considered a dubious theology and a suspect participant in the political arena. Yet, in a remarkable new book, the distinguished Lutheran pastor and author Richard John Neuhaus contends that … Read more

Reflections on John Paul II in America: John Paul, the Media, and Dissenters

Catholicism Remains a Good News Story Because it Stands for Something A few weeks before Pope John Paul II returned to the United States for his second tour, the New York Times Sunday Magazine published a cover story about American Catholics. The article focused on the feisty independence of affluent Catholics at a Greenwich, Connecticut … Read more

Liberation Through Reconciliation

Reconciliation Theology Has Made a Difference in El Salvador. It Has Yet to Be Tried in Nicaragua. EL Salvador 1980. The place and the time conjure   up a nightmare of violence: death squad killings, the martyrdom of a Catholic bishop and four churchwomen, massacres of peasants and other innocents seeking nothing more than a measure … Read more

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