church and state

The Confessional State, Catholic or Liberal?

Why am I allowed to attend Mass on Sundays? Is it because God has commanded that I worship him, and having a social nature I must do so in union with my fellows within the bounds of the Church founded by Christ for that purpose, on the day he rose from the dead? Or is [...]

The Narrowness of Martyrdom

A broad justification for martyrdom is preferable to a narrow one. A person would prefer to die for something grand, sweeping, and generally held. Perhaps world peace, or what used to be called the fellowship of man. Martyrdom is in practice narrow. When St. Thomas More died on a scaffold in Henry VIII’s kingdom, it [...]

Liberalism, Conservatism, and Catholicism

We all talk about liberalism and conservatism, and about liberal and conservative Catholics, but what does it mean? Some say it doesn’t mean much at all. They say these are labels attached to arbitrary and even contradictory collections of positions. Liberals say they want lots of freedom and lots of regulations. Conservatives say they want [...]

What a Pastoral Church Looks Like

Now more than ever, there are calls for a more pastoral Church. That's a good thing. It's the clergy's job to be our pastors, and who could object to priests, bishops, and popes doing their job? “Pastor“ means shepherd, so we find what pastors should do by looking at what shepherds do, especially in the [...]

The Best Way Forward For the Church

Things look bad in the Church and Western world just now. The Church, humanly speaking, seems to be destroying herself through unresisted absorption in a secular world with which she has ever less in common. What was once her real, though imperfect, reflection—the civilization of the West—is also destroying itself through willful rejection of moral [...]

Why Thomas More is the Patron Saint of Statesmen

Wolf Hall, the recent novel-turned-television-series, raises the question of who is right about the actions and legacy of Thomas More (1478-1535) and Thomas Cromwell (1485-1540). The stakes are higher than many realize. As Mark Movsesian explains: In its biased portrayal of More, British history’s great example of religious resistance to state orthodoxy, Wolf Hall is [...]

Vatican II Followed Ottaviani on Church and State

For many people, Alfredo Ottaviani—head of the Holy Office (later the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) from 1952 to 1968—is the epitome of intransigent, pre-Vatican II Catholicism. He is what the Council had repudiated and moved beyond, or so it is supposed. Indeed, the sentiment expressed by the motto of Cardinal Ottaviani’s coat [...]

Untethering Sacramental Marriage from Civil Marriage 

Months ago, I watched as some Christians took to the internet opposing R. R. Reno's position in “A Time to Rend,” in which he calls for a separation of sacramental marriage from civil marriage. Much of the criticism made accusations of disengagement with, and abandonment of, the culture. One Protestant even went so far as [...]

A Catholic Patriotism

How should we be good Catholics and good Americans? Until recently that did not seem to be an issue to most of us. Separation of Church and State appeared to reconcile the Faith with a secular pluralist public order. The arrangement seemed to leave room for each to be what it is, do what it [...]

Great Political Ideas are Sustained by Great Religious Ideas

I do not normally read the New York Times. No normal person normally does. But every once in a while I make an exception. Which is also a normal thing to do. The article I read astonished me, especially the following passage: America had a great political idea, but it had a small religious idea. [...]

The Last Catholic King of Ireland

Recently, whilst traveling through Ireland, I passed over a small bridge. The river was easily crossed but I was conscious that the waters below were those of the River Boyne, and that upon its banks had been fought a battle that was to prove calamitous for the Catholic faith in these islands. And yet, for [...]

A Proposal from Milan: Making Space for Religion

Christendom may have begun with an edict from Milan; now, in the waning days of Christendom, another voice from Milan, Angelo Cardinal Scola, in his little book Let’s Not Forget God: Freedom of Faith, Culture, and Politics, “brings back to our attention the issue, more relevant than ever, of religious freedom.” Initially a speech celebrating [...]

When Teaching Truth Stops Being a Church Priority

Basic issues have basic importance. Does God exist? If he does, what is he like? If he doesn’t, can an objective moral order survive his absence? It seems obvious that such questions are crucial to all aspects of life, including our life together in society. That conclusion has inconvenient implications. Christian societies, Muslim societies, and [...]

What is the Church’s Political Role?

For more than 1500 years the Church was a major influence on Western politics. That is how it should be. Ultimate standards matter, and if the Church doesn’t explain what they are and how to apply them someone else will. It’s not an improvement when her authority gives way to that of journalists, advertisers, TV [...]

Cardinal Kasper’s Challenge Distracts from the Real Problem

As the Synod of Bishops on the Family convenes this week, the Catholic Church has a heaven-sent opportunity to atone for one of the biggest failures in modern ecclesiastical history and in so doing to take a major step in resuscitating the Christian faith in the daily lives of millions of people. The provocative challenge [...]

Was Robert Bellarmine Ahead of His Time?

In Empire of Souls, Stefania Tutino offers a fresh perspective on the central role Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621) played in the development of post-Reformation Catholicism, and its relationship to the early modern state. Tutino complements her study with a newly published collection of writings, never before translated into English, that she believes best represents Bellarmine’s political [...]

Why We Are Arguing About Religion

Most of us have been told from a young age that religious beliefs cause strife. The early modern “wars of religion” are portrayed as merely the most overt form of what happens when religion is allowed too much influence in public life. Of course, Protestant and Catholic forces fought on both sides of these conflicts. [...]

Prayer as a Political Problem: A Classic Reconsidered

When Groucho Marx announced that he would never want to join a club that would have someone like him as a member, it obviously hadn’t crossed his mind that he had just made an excellent (if unwitting) case for membership in the Roman Catholic Church.  A club where the admissions policy is so perfectly promiscuous [...]

Why St. Thomas Becket was Martyred

Many people who venerate the name of Thomas Becket (and/or love the movie with Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole that carries his name) likely do not understand the cause for which he was martyred, and if they did learn it, would likely be scandalized given our current presuppositions concerning the prerogatives of the omnipotent State [...]

Lenten Meditations on Politics

Lent is a time of personal transformation, so it is a time of inwardness. It nonetheless has an outward-turning aspect. Man is social, and God is other than ourselves, so in addition to fasting to help us put our attachments in their place, Lent encourages prayer and almsgiving to increase our love of God and [...]

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