What the Overturning of Roe Means Outside America

The monumental Dobbs ruling will have an influence far beyond the shores of America.

The Age of the Laity…or the Latte?

So what will it be? A grande Latte... or Western Civilization? A scone with that... or the meat of doctrine? An extra shot of espresso… or the survival of families? A Moccachino... or the Mystical Body of Christ? Today, the price is the same.  Tomorrow the terms change.  Tomorrow there may be silence, apart from the [...]

The Coming Age of the Laity

To win the culture war, the Church is going to have to break a lot of bad habits. And old habits die hard. A new generation of bishops now recognize the perils of allying with the American government that Pope Leo XIII warned against a century ago.

Priests: “Resolve” to Love the Laity

The Church was also in need of change, but only to the extent that she needed to look again at how she could most effectively change the world. We have allowed a missionary council to be domesticated. The greatest failure of the post-Vatican II Church is the failure to call forth and to form a [...]

Credit Suisse Speaks Out on Patristics

With many intricate illustrations, John Henry Newman argued that the highest teaching office of the Church, cathedrated in Rome, is by paradox negative in the most positive sense. The Pope does not invent truths: he defines them against challenges. This is the essence of conservatism, not in a political sense, but in a pastoral ecology. [...]

The Lay Reform of Church and World

Two volumes recently published by Encounter Books address key issues in the New Evangelization. The first, Marcello Pera’s Why We Must Call Ourselves Christians, is another effort by a distinguished public intellectual to call our civilization back to its foundational senses. Pera, a philosopher of science, is also an Italian legislator who served for several [...]

Scourge Us

Lest there be any confusion, let me begin by admitting I am no liturgical expert. I have gone to some length to avoid becoming one, trying to shut controversies over the wording of the Mass out of my head while at prayer. As a convert from Anglicanism -- and very High Anglicanism at that, with [...]

From the Heart of the Church…

As the year for priests draws to a close, hindsight shows that Pope Benedict’s decision to devote this year to prayer for priests was prescient. On the dark side, it has been a year in which the scandal of abuse has dominated media headlines. But what hasn’t gotten media attention is the way the year [...]

Open Windows: Why Vatican II Was Necessary

On the third day of the conclave -- October 28, 1958 -- the white smoke signaled to the crowd in St. Peter's Square the election of a new pope, Angelo Cardinal Roncalli, patriarch of Venice, who took the name of John XXIII. The Roman crowd was momentarily silenced; it could not put a face to [...]

Roadblocks to Reform

  What's the biggest obstacle to positive reform in the Church? Reactionaries in the Roman Curia? Conservatives in the conference of bishops? The Code of Canon Law?   The correct answer is none of the above. The biggest obstacle to reform is the roadblock thrown in its way by self-styled reform groups themselves. By advocating [...]

A Language They’ll Understand

By now it should be apparent to anyone who follows Washington politics that the new administration is ideologically the most anti-life administration in the history of our nation. During the recent presidential race, President Obama's campaign was able to divide Catholics and forge a majority (54 percent) who voted against the teachings of the Church. [...]

Why Vatican II?

One of the many peculiarities of contemporary Catholicism resides in the fact that so many people on the extreme left and extreme right of the Church are in basic agreement about the Second Vatican Council. In fundamental ways, they insist, Vatican II was a sharp break with the Catholic past. People on the left generally [...]

Getting Past Clericalism

  At the altar, the priest presides. In the world, the laity preside. This is the basic principle that ought to govern all our thinking about the roles of the ordained and the laity in the mission of the Church.   Unfortunately, a huge number of Catholics don't think this way, because clericalism continues to [...]

On Reverse Clericalism

  A few days ago, Russell Shaw offered a thoughtful look at some of the causes, manifestations, and effects of what has been known as "clericalism": a spiritual and ecclesiastical "caste system" in which the few elite clergy are presumed to enjoy a native superiority -- in authority and due respect, in level of and [...]


A few years back, Russell Shaw wrote a terrific book called To Hunt, To Shoot, To Entertain: Clericalism and the Catholic Laity. It took its title from an amazing remark by a 19th-century English monsignor who loftily declared, "What is the province of the laity? To hunt, to shoot, to entertain. These matters they understand, [...]

A Crisis Symposium: Preparing for the Synod on the Laity

The notion that theologians constitute a second Magisterium more or less in rivalry with the first Magisterium of pope and bishops has fallen into abeyance, but some years ago a theologian of note discerned a new threat to the second Magisterium from what he called the third Magisterium. This third Magisterium was said to be [...]

Preparing for the Synod on the Laity

Amid the sharp, even acrimonious, differences that have shaken the Catholic Church in the last several decades, one observation seems to invite general agreement: the role of the laity will become increasingly important. Alas, the general agreement stops almost right there, and differences about what the role should be take over. As distinctions between functions [...]

Preparing for the Synod on the Laity

A recent trip to study the Italian lay movement Communion and Liberation led me to consider the self-imposed limits that most lay Catholics in the United States place on faith-inspired actions in American society and politics. It is time for lay Catholics in this country to establish a concrete Christian presence that will provoke a [...]

Preparing for the Synod on the Laity

While a synod on the laity isn't as dramatic as a re-examination of Vatican II, this one is probably even more significant. So much of the absurdity and pain in the Catholic Church today stem from massive confusion over the role of the laity. One of the best statements on the role of the Catholic [...]

Preparing for the Synod on the Laity

As with most things in post-conciliar Catholicism, the role of the laity in the Church has become problematic mainly because classical Catholic ways of thinking have been either forgotten or badly distorted. As a number of commentators have observed, in an odd way feminism has promoted a new clericalism. Spokesmen such as Rev. Richard McBrien [...]

Preparing for the Synod on the Laity

In 1946, Pope Pius XII asserted that the "laity are the Church" and thereby signaled an entirely new way of understanding the Church and her mission. Vatican II, of course, articulated that understanding and the ensuing years have added clarification and development. The establishment of the Council for the Laity and the new Canon Law [...]