Fr. George W. Rutler

Fr. George W. Rutler is a contributing editor to Crisis and pastor of St. Michael's church in New York City. A four-volume anthology of his best spiritual writings, A Year with Fr. Rutler, is available now from the Sophia Institute Press.

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The Dangers of Canceling Culture

In the ethnic tradition of Anglo-Saxons, the “patter songs” of Gilbert and Sullivan have been the equivalent of contemporary rap music. Learning the repertoire was part of the expected rites of passage and, in the 1960s, I did my duty, even attaining to the heights of playing Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd, a baronet disguised as young … Read more

The Bondage of Cultural Illiteracy

“We could have a summer of love.” — Jennifer Durkan, Mayor of Seattle “At last I am free!” declared Martin Niemoller, holding a small book as the prison door was locked behind him. He had been allowed to keep a Bible, and his words would have been an inscrutable paradox only to those who do … Read more

Who Will Guard the Guardians?

Six or seven centuries “are like an evening gone” when tracing the course of common sense, and so James Madison found no anachronism in conjuring the shades of Juvenal and Cleon, more than six centuries apart, to make a point about the perils of the right and wrong manipulation of human will. He asked with … Read more

Why Holy Week Is Holy

When a lady complained to the great short story writer that her works “left a bad taste” in her mouth, Flannery O’Connor replied that what she wrote was not meant to be eaten. For the conventional palate, those often-macabre stories can be distasteful, but Miss O’Connor deliberately wanted to avoid the sentimentalism of much pious … Read more

On Sport and Sacrifice

The Feast of the Presentation recalls the old man Simeon chanting thanks for having lived to see the Messiah. His Nunc Dimittis—“Let thy servant depart in peace”—is part of the Church’s evening prayers. In 542 in Constantinople, the Emperor Justinian placed it into the Eastern Liturgy. This year the Feast fell on Super Bowl Sunday. … Read more

Pollyanna Among the Prophets

Gerbert of Aurillac and Bi Sheng of Hubei were roughly contemporary (946–1003 and 990–1051), but Europe and China are far from each other. It is a pity that these men could not meet, for it would have been a unique match of minds. Gerbert became the first French pope—as Sylvester II—with an intelligence “off the … Read more

Fifty Years On

The year of 1969 was a time of the finest and the worst, when most institutions, equipped with the polished trophies of new science, seemed to be having a mental breakdown. A man walked on the moon. But there were riots, protests, and a moral fragmentation whose detritus now controls the seminal arbiters of culture. … Read more

Our Patient and Indulgent Mother Church

A few decades ago, I had lunch with Daniel Carroll in Howard County, Maryland, during which he used a pop-up toaster in his grand dining room, which was hung with ancestral portraits. There were many such portraits, for Dan was a direct descendant of the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll … Read more

A Grammar of Dissent

Analytical psychology provided a virtually limitless opportunity for Carl Jung to play with the canonical vocabulary, expanding it to describe what he thought to be wider realms of human consciousness. An example of his creativity was his concept of Synchronizität. This “synchronicity” described what he perceived to be “meaningful coincidences,” by which he meant events … Read more

How to Write Your Own Encyclical

The cracks in the Axis powers became clear when the Armistice of Cassibile was announced on September 8, 1943, after the Italian government broke with the Nazis and joined the Western Allies. The National Socialists under the codename Unternehmen Alarich tried to take over the Italian zones of occupation in southern France and the Balkans … Read more

Pontifical Chic

In 2013, Pope Francis sonorously and rightly enjoined the bishops of the world: “Avoid the scandal of being ‘airport bishops’!”  An almost obsessive compulsion of some prelates to travel beyond their own dioceses evokes the absenteeism of the Middle Ages, when many bishops and abbots were seldom seen among their own people. The Pope travels … Read more

Infandum: 18 Years On

Editor’s note: this article originally appeared in the November 2001 print edition of Crisis. In 1789 George Washington prayed in St. Paul’s Church, on what we now call lower Broadway, on the day of his inauguration as the first president of the United States. The churchyard was already old. On September 11, 2001, several new … Read more

Nothing new under the sun: St. Bernard’s advice to a pope

From a natural perspective, the difference that God makes is evident in whether human existence is cyclical or linear. Some eminent classical philosophers made sense of human experience only as repetitious, and that view migrated from Plato up to moderns like Spengler and Santayana. The cyclical theory subjects human will to fate; but, as the … Read more

Fr. Rutler’s Guide to Virtue-Signalling

Truths become truisms by being true. Shakespeare may have got some of his Aristotle through Ben Jonson; in any case, he has Polonius quoting the philosopher’s truism about night following the day. This is a roundabout way of saying that certain untutored impulses are inevitable, and one of them now is the annually predictable petition … Read more

An Immodest Proposal

A fad for picturesque ruins grew luxuriantly in the Romantic Revival from the end of the eighteenth century to about the mid-nineteenth, and where there were no real ruins, “follies” recreated them. Real ruins remain in a kaleidoscope of times and climes: Machu Picchu in Peru, Ayutthaya in Thailand, Stonehenge in England, Luxor in Egypt … Read more

Bastille Day and Other Convenient Myths

Centenarians are not as rare as they used to be and one can profit from their memories. In California, I spoke with a woman who had traveled there from Missouri in a covered wagon. I visited another woman in a retirement home who was the first to hear her English professor at Wellesley College, Katherine … Read more

U.S. Bishops Approve the Pope’s Capital Punishment Ban

Sæva indignatio. Few writers in the history of English letters could express “savage indignation” at human folly as did Jonathan Swift who wrote those words for his own epitaph. Our times give ample opportunity to empathize with him, and that is never more so than when clerics get together in large numbers. Bishops have many … Read more

The Strange Case of Dr. Biden and Mr. Hyde

Bishop Miler Magrath (Maolmhuire Mag Raith) of Ireland (1523-1622) wrote his own epitaph for the tomb in Cashel in which he was finally laid in his one-hundredth year.  The syntax is convoluted as was his life: “Here where I am placed I am not. I am not where I am not. Nor am I in … Read more

The Mendacity of Public Officials

My grandfather’s nickname was David Lloyd George because he looked and spoke rather like the man. I was three days old when the former prime minister died, on the day that would have been my late grandfather’s birthday. After the Versailles Conference, where he had sat between Woodrow Wilson and Georges Clemenceau, Lloyd George commented … Read more

Science and the Ascension of Christ

A legion of publishers will attest that Father Stanley Jaki (1924-2009) did not suffer fools gladly, and under that category he filed virtually all editors. He wrote in perfect English but with a discernible Hungarian syntax so that his footnotes could be longer than the main text, and verbs often were fugitive. His patience with … Read more

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