Church hierarchy

Is Brett Kavanaugh the New Scalia—or Just Another Kennedy?

As the United States has grown more and more ideologically polarized, the divide has been magnified on the Supreme Court. The divisions on the Court made Justice Anthony Kennedy the most powerful man in America by 2018 because he was often the Court’s swing vote on important decisions. Where the swing vote of the Supreme [...]

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 [...]

A Proposal for Episcopal Reform

In many ways, the following is an attempt to respond to Pope Francis’s invitation to help reform the Church. Specifically, this short missive intends to shed light on a couple of the problems affecting the episcopacy and how we the faithful can support our bishops’ ministry. I believe there is a strong case to be [...]

What Should We Make of Bishop Barron?

In a recent essay in this magazine, I gave a basic, and somewhat oversimplified, taxonomy of priests and prelates in the Church. In this article, this has been slightly revised and expanded: Type A are the Zeitgeist Puppets. In America, Cardinal Cupich and Fr. Martin come to mind; across the Atlantic on the continent, no [...]

Good Bishops Willingly Defy Hostile Cultural Elites

How many tax collectors might have worked in first century Palestine? Every time Jesus of Nazareth associated with sinners, his pariahs of choice were tax collectors. He uttered the phrase “tax collectors and sinners” over a dozen times in the Synoptic Gospels and paired tax collectors and prostitutes—notably smacking the Pharisees with, “Truly I tell [...]

Will Bishops Coodle, Foodle, and Noodle Address the Crisis?

Look to the generals, the great patrons and architects, the captains of industry, and the princes of the Church for a gauge of an institution’s vitality. Virile epochs, however tumultuous, make way for a Charlemagne, an Abbot Suger, a Carnegie, or a Leo the Great. In effete, self-doubting times, froth and effluvium ride the waves [...]

Watchdogs and Wolves

“Do you not know,” says Saint Paul to the lax and factious Corinthians, “that we shall judge angels?” For they had ceded to the unbelievers around them the authority to judge a controversy between Christian brothers. But Jesus says, “Judge not, lest you be judged,” because the criterion by which we measure others will be [...]

Running the Church on Hail Marys

“This attitude of resignation with regard to truth lies at the heart of the crisis in the West, the crisis of Europe.”  ∼ Pope Benedict XVI "You can’t run the Church on Hail Marys.”  ∼ former Vatican Bank president Archbishop Paul Marcinkus As jarring revelations about the contemporary episcopacy continue to come to light, it [...]

Strengthening Faith in a Time of Crisis

A crisis that strikes so centrally at the integrity of the Church necessitates a response from each one us. There must be general reform in the Church, but I’d like to explore how each one of us can respond to the Church’s crisis with a commitment to stronger faith and personal reform. In focusing on [...]

Where Are the Bishops Who Will Defend Faithful Priests?

August 4, 2018 The Memorial of St. John Marie Vianney. It is hard to communicate to people the life of a priest. The inexpressible joys that we experience every day are so difficult to express, as is the privilege of journeying with people through the dark valleys in their lives with hope that we can [...]

When Bishops Lose Their Authority

While on the scaffold awaiting his execution, St. Thomas More famously declared, “I die the king's faithful servant, but God's first.” Throughout the controversy surrounding King Henry’s divorce and remarriage, More was adamant about one thing: he was a servant of the king, and accepted the king’s authority over the land. Although he could not [...]

What Scripture Says About the Reliability of Religious Leaders

The majority of saints canonized by the Church over much of her history are priests and bishops. I used to quip that this proves it is possible for a priest or bishop to get to heaven. This is no longer a playful quip but a wry truth. You may know by now that within the last month, [...]

Where Are the Churchmen With Chests?

To have been the proverbial fly on the wall during a conversation, one good time would have been during dinner in the White House on September 2, 1943 when Franklin Roosevelt was hosting Winston and Clementine Churchill with their daughter Mary and the newly appointed ambassador to the Soviet Union, Averill Harriman. The other dinner [...]

Honoring Rulers, Honoring Truth

Public opinion matters a great deal today. That situation creates a way in which all of us participate in public affairs, even in hierarchical settings like the Church. So we should try to understand what’s going on. But if we are to sit in judgment over public affairs, what attitude should we take toward social [...]

Sed Contra, Bishop Barron

Bishop Robert Barron’s work is the gold standard for Catholic evangelization. I met him while he was the theologian-in-residence at the North American College in Rome during my deacon year (2006-2007). He gave some outstanding conferences during his stay. I have read many but not all of his books and have seen quite a few of his videos. His [...]

Evangelization, Vatican II, and Censorship

Evangelization can be frustrating. After 25 years evangelizing in my personal life and in official roles with the Church, including as a diocesan Director of Evangelization, I know this well. Few Catholics, of course, would be surprised that evangelization can be arduous. They may be surprised, however, at the way censorship in the Church poses [...]

What Hierarchy Really Means

What is Pope Francis doing, with his gestures, interviews, and wild synods? To understand this pope, we first need to understand the papacy. To do that, let us consider two versions of what “hierarchy” means. In the first version, hierarchy simply means authority. Hierarchy means that the Pope is the main guy in the universal [...]

Are Church Leaders Unwittingly Promoting a Secularist Agenda?

Recent developments make me wonder if Church leaders and Catholic institutions in the U.S. are not, “on the unawares,” helping to further crucial parts of the secularist-leftist political and cultural narrative. Several months ago, on a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border one high-ranking prelate criticized “the xenophobic ranting of a segment of the population” on [...]

Is There Growing Confusion over Church Teaching?

I begin with a piece, spotted by Fr Tim Finigan and reported in his indispensable blog The Hermeneutic of Continuity, which had been published in Sandro Magister’s blog—not his English one, Chiesa, but his Italian language blog for L’Espresso, Settimo Cielo. A few days ago, Magister told the story of a parish priest in the Italian diocese [...]

Is the Church Inherently Conservative?

The great issue that separates progressive from more traditionalist Catholics is whether the Church will return to type. To answer that question “yes” is to say that the Church has an essential nature—a basic structure, set of beliefs, and way of functioning—that is sometimes obscured by corruptions or distortions but can be counted on to [...]

The “New” Tone of U.S. Bishops Sounds Very Familiar

In a frank interview with the Wall Street Journal last year, Cardinal Timothy Dolan conceded that the post-Vatican II Church in America has “gotten gun-shy” on hot-button moral issues. The Church’s encyclical on artificial birth control, Humanae Vitae, “brought such a tsunami of dissent, departure, disapproval of the Church, that I think most of us—and [...]

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