Russell Shaw

Russell Shaw is the author of Catholic Laity in the Mission of the Church (Requiem Press), Nothing to Hide: Secrecy, Communication, and Communion in the Catholic Church (Ignatius Press), and other works.

recent articles

Will the Bishops Go to the Mattresses?

A quiet, closed-door meeting in Washington next month will be of crucial importance in shaping the Church’s response to the nation’s biggest church-state crisis in decades. When some 40 bishops of the administrative committee of the national bishops’ conference gather March 14-15 at conference headquarters, they’ll be looking at the Obama administration’s January mandate to … Read more

Marriage’s Vanishing Act

Is it possible that secular liberals, some of them anyway, are starting to realize  that knocking the supports out from under traditional marriage may not be such a great idea? If so, and if their next step is to think seriously about how to halt this destructive process, it will be the dawning of a … Read more

Decentralizing the Church?

The following review originally appeared in the March 2000 edition of Crisis Magazine. The Reform of the Papacy: The Costly Call to Christian Unity John R. Quinn, The Crossroad Publishing Company, 189 pages, $18.00. The new year brought ugly news from Beijing. Chilling what had begun to look like a thaw in Vatican-China relations, the … Read more

Is the Nanny State a Lesbian?

An address by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on gay rights as a priority of U.S. policy deserves far more attention than it’s gotten up to now. As a statement of the views of the Obama administration, Clinton’s remarks were a remarkably candid—and remarkably chilling—exposition of official determination to make the world safe for LGBT … Read more

Shrugging Before the Manger

The problem many of us have with Christmas isn’t that we expect too much of it but that we expect much too little. My Christmas wish for all of us, myself included, is that we raise our sights and ask for all that God really wants to give us. If we can open ourselves to … Read more

The U.S. in Iraq: What Have We Gained?

As active U.S. military involvement in Iraq draws to a close, what does the moral scorecard on this adventure look like from an American point of view? Granted that a comprehensive weighing of results will only be possible some years from now, at the moment the picture is something like this. In a perverse way, … Read more

The “Quiet Car” of the Soul

I have to admit that it really didn’t impress me very favorably the first time I read it: “Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization”—that will be the theme of next May’s World Day for Social Communications, the Vatican announcement said. That’s really strange, I thought. After all, even as it stands World Communications Day isn’t … Read more

On this Crock

Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit, by Garry Wills, (2000) Doubleday, 328 pages, $25   When Pope John Paul II summoned Catholics to a “purification of memory” by facing up to faults, he spoke of a process that should engage us all. This stripping away of delusion and self-deception will be difficult, but it will be … Read more

An Out-of-Touch Pope?

Disappointment has been a common reaction from “progressive” sources inside and outside Germany in response to Pope Benedict’s September visit to his homeland. These disappointed progressives say they hoped Benedict would speak a good word for changes that they want in the Church, and he didn’t. Here, then, was an opportunity lost. “A number of … Read more

Unaccomodating

Two millennia into the Christian era, the niceness of Christians is on the way to becoming the biggest threat to Christianity. “I came to cast fire upon the earth,” Jesus famously said. The characteristic gesture of our religiosity may be the limp handshake of peace. “God doesn’t need ‘nice’ Christians,” Archbishop Charles J. Chaput writes … Read more

Waiting on the New Evangelization

If precedent is any guide, many good Catholic lay people are waiting to hear what their diocesan bishops and/or local pastors have to say about the new evangelization before they decide whether it’s something for them to get involved in. That’s the typical reaction of the clericalist mindset to something new in the Church: “What … Read more

Scandal Déjà Vu

A religion writer for a secular news organization and a retired church official were comparing notes on developments relating to clergy sex abuse. At the time, the Vatican was preparing to issue guidelines for bishops’ conferences in handling the problem (the American conference has had guidelines for nine years). The U.S. bishops were getting ready … Read more

Continuity and Change

Continuity and change are complementary principles in the Catholic Church, just as they are generally. In a living entity, it’s impossible to have one without the other. Continuity is a principle of identity. It’s what keeps a person or thing the same person or thing in the face of passing time and shifting circumstance. Change … Read more

Recovering a Catholic Subculture

On the eve of the last Super Bowl, two men were discussing the great American ritual of watching football on television. The older man admitted that he just didn’t do that anymore. In times past, he said, he’d seen his share of TV football, but twelve or fifteen years earlier he’d become aware that his … Read more

The Elephant in the Living Room

Contraception is the elephant in the living room of contemporary Catholicism: Everybody knows it’s there, but few people care to acknowledge the fact. Meanwhile, the accumulating pastoral damage that results from this state of collective denial is painfully real. Partly it arises from the circumstance that even churchgoing Catholics today live in a state of … Read more

He’s No de Tocqueville

Whether right or wrong or a bit of both, thoughtful foreign views of the American scene have a lot to contribute to our national self-understanding. Clifford Longley, a veteran columnist for the London weekly the Tablet, a journal of “progressive” Catholic opinion, is no de Tocqueville, but he’s an intelligent man who, despite his ingrained … Read more

The End of an Era

Fourteen years after the death of Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, the American bishops have put the Bernardin era in their national conference behind them. Among the multiple messages of their choice of Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, that may be the most important. The symbolism by … Read more

A Christian Ironist

Reviewing a novel by Martin Amis recently in the pages of The Weekly Standard, David Gelernter spoke of irony as a “glacier that has pinned modern culture under its massive arrogance.” A nifty turn of phrase, certainly. But surely it applies to irony as it is currently known and practiced, not to the irony of … Read more

The Problem of Secrecy

Finding the correct balance between secrecy and openness in the governance of any large institution is something like finding the right balance of ingredients in your favorite mixed drink: In the end, taste has a lot to do with it. Yet, as Gabriel Schoenfeld points out in his informative new book Necessary Secrets: National Security, … Read more

Marriage and the New Morality

Two men wearing tennis whites walk out on the court. Opening a folding table and chairs, they sit down and start to play chess. An attendant rushes up and says, “Sorry, gentlemen, this place is for tennis. You can’t do that here.” Looking up with a scowl, one of the men snaps, “This is how … Read more

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