One of the attractions of Catholicism for me was its promise of freedom from the puritanical deposit in the Protestant traditions. I mean this broadly, of course. We tend to reduce Puritanism retrospectively to prudishness about sex and drink, because modern man has had sex on the brain and perhaps too much to drink. The [...]

One of the attractions of Catholicism for me was its promise of freedom from the puritanical deposit in the Protestant traditions. I mean this broadly, of course. We tend to reduce Puritanism retrospectively to prudishness about sex and drink, because modern man has had sex on the brain and perhaps too much to drink. The [...]

The Jewish Holocaust of World War II is a story of human tragedy, with real victims, real villains, and real heroes. Important questions often relate to how individuals are to be categorized. In recent years, much attention has been given to Pope Pius XII and other leaders of the Catholic Church. Rabbi David Dalin, however, [...]

In the old days when Italians still had children, the mother of any large family, if she was devout, would single out one of her sons and pray that someday he would become a priest. In this tradition, my grandmother chose the gentlest and most intelligent of her four sons and encouraged him to be [...]

The Church in the United States and in other Western countries is in crisis. The challenge this presents to the Catholic laity is clear. They are called to do more than struggle individually against the temptations that come from the sinful world around them in hopes of saving their souls (although certainly they need to [...]

“Chu lai! Chu lai!" Luang-Zhong Gu awoke in the pre-dawn hours, bathed in the sweat of a balmy Shang-hai September. Unfamiliar voices barked, "Come out! Come out!" Lights overhead flashed on. The cold steel snap of ammo clicked into machine guns. Fists pounded at the doors lining the long corridors of the Xujiahui Seminary, normally [...]

Forty years ago, on January 25, 1965, at the age of 91, Winston Churchill died at his home in Kensington. At his state funeral, one of the grandest ever mounted, 300,000 people passed by his bier in Westminster Hall. For many, like Clement Atlee, he was simply "the greatest citizen of the world of our [...]

Mark Belnick was a 50-year-old Wall Street lawyer living in wealthy Westchester County, New York, when Mother Angelica reached him in 1997. Belnick was so high up at Tyco International that when the courts began their aggressive targeting of corporate crime in recent years, he almost got caught in their net— while top executives of [...]

There's an old trick that seems to be hardwired into the brain of every child: When he doesn't get his way about this or that, he threatens to leave home. Possibly for the circus. I did this myself, once actually packing a bag before I was lured back by the irresistible draw of cookies and [...]

St. Francis of Assisi famously advised us to put extra straw in the barn at Christmas, for otherwise, how would the dumb animals know it was time to rejoice in Our Lord? Perhaps the same argument could be made in defense of the commercialization of Christmas. Granted, the spectacle of wallowing materialism is crass in [...]

Roman Polanski, a fugitive from American justice, has recently released his much-anticipated adaptation of Charles Dickens's second novel, Oliver Twist. This project has aroused a great deal of interest over the past few years for two reasons. The first was perhaps the most obvious: Why bother? During the last 80 years, there have been more [...]

What should I get myself for Christmas? An immodest question, you may suppose, but my family and friends will not buy me classical music CDs as gifts. They think I already have "everything" or, in the case of family, "enough." The former is the product of envy, the latter of a storage problem and the [...]

As my Cantonese is not what it would have been had I been present at Pentecost, in 1999 I led the intercessory prayers in French and Latin at a Solemn Mass on the 70th priestly ordination anniversary, 50th episcopal anniversary, 20th cardinalatial anniversary, and 98th birth anniversary of Ignatius Kung (Gong) Pin-Mei in his home of [...]

Over the years, I have enjoyed doing a Christmas column in this Sense and Nonsense series. But since columns usually need to be submitted a couple of months before publication, I find I am writing something about Christmas not on the Night Before Christmas, but sometime in September or October, not very Christmas-like months. Having [...]

The sailors among you will know what that title is all about. But it is not with those marine technicalities that I am going to start. Rather, I have in mind that painting by Georges de la Tour of a young woman (I seem to recall that it is the Magdalene) staring at a skull [...]

The long-awaited apostolic visitation of American seminaries is now underway, and that's very good news. It's no secret that priestly formation in the United States suffered in the 1960s and 1970s, when fidelity to authentic Catholicism often took a backseat to the social and theological fads of the age. While things are clearly better now, [...]

It is a mystery to any hack writer, filling space between the ads in the daily fishwrappers, when one of his columns takes a life of its own and begins flitting through Christendom on little electronic beetle wings. (Well, okay, spreading through America.) Let me bashfully tell you I wrote such a thing, which appeared [...]

"It is not what we would like the Council to have said that must determine our course, but what the Council really said." —Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger History will judge 2005 an extraordinary year in the life of the Catholic Church: It marks both the start of a new papacy and the 40th anniversary of the [...]

We tend to take the current military, economic, and technological superiority of the West relative to the Islamic world for granted and project it onto earlier centuries. With the luxury of hindsight, many Western historians look back at the expansion of Islam in the context of a decaying Byzantium; the medieval Crusades are seen as [...]

It's the same argument we've heard so many times before, except now with increasing frequency and intensity: The world's troubles are caused by religion. If only people would at last abandon these silly superstitions and get with the times. Late this summer Zenit, the international Catholic news agency, reported on an increasing tendency in the [...]

I am relaxing on a teak chair on the promenade deck of a luxurious cruise ship, a drink in one hand, a paperback in the other. An elegant new hat is keeping the late afternoon sun out of my eyes. Back home in Maryland, snow is falling on a dreary landscape; here in the Caribbean, [...]

Americans tend to find Britain's electoral system frankly bizarre. That is understandable. Here in Britain we "stand" for Parliament, while in America, you "run" for office—a difference of vocabulary that reflects a difference of speed, tone, and effort. An election campaign in the U.K. runs officially and at full throttle for no more than six [...]