Papal Strategy/Style

When Suns Collide

Americans like to think of themselves as living in a classless society, and historically this is largely, but not entirely, true, with a large middle class dominating the country’s economic, political, and social life. In the traditional social model, there was a small and moneyed upper class above the middle class, typically marked by its willingness [...]

Tear Down this Papal Wall of Silence

In the dark of an August night in 1961, the Russians threw up a barrier between East and West Berlin which came to be known as the Berlin Wall. On June 12, 1987, Ronald Reagan stood at a podium in Berlin and delivered his famous speech, in which he said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this [...]

The “Francis Effect” Five Years Out

In his recent book on Pope Francis, Lost Shepherd, Philip Lawler reminds us that the papacy should be a source of Church unity. However, as Lawler points out, under the current pontiff this is not so. He lays out two reasons why: the first is Francis’s autocratic style and the second is the divisive program [...]

Why Be (or Continue to Be) Catholic?

On a recent book review TV interview program called Q/A, Ross Douthat, author of To Change the Church, was asked about his own beliefs. He responded quite frankly that he was a Catholic. When asked why, Douthat replied that, as far as he could see, a divine intervention did take place in this world around [...]

Put Not Your Trust in Trusting Souls

Considering how much emphasis modern churchmen put on trust, it’s worth noting that the Bible does not have much to say about trusting others. Of course, the Bible tells us to trust in God, but there is no corresponding command to trust our fellow men. Of the six references to “trust” in the RSV Reader’s [...]

Climate Trumps the Unborn

Catholics and pro-lifers who were shocked at the “knighthood” of Dutch politician and abortion activist Lilianne Ploumen into the Vatican’s Order of St. Gregory the Great by Pope Francis, shouldn’t have been. True, Ploumen’s militant support of abortion and homosexual rights (which includes raising $400 million for a “reproductive health” NGO she helped launch) is [...]

On Papal Popularity

A new poll shows that among Americans, Pope Francis remains very popular. The Holy Father has a 68 percent approval rating overall, and 88 percent approval among Catholics. Impressive numbers—certainly to be envied by most politicians in the US. But why inquire about the popularity of a religious figure to begin with? We know the [...]

Is a “Winnipeg Statement” Lurking in Amoris Laetitia?

Hey, Amoris Laetitia, the 1968 Canadian bishops phoned and they want their strategic ambiguity back. That line may not mean much to anyone who isn’t familiar with the Canadian Conference of Bishops’ statement in response to the birth control encyclical Humanae Vitae. Dubbed the “Winnipeg Statement” for the last 49 years, it represents in the [...]

On Pope Benedict’s Final Insights and Recollections

“If a pope were only ever applauded, he would have to ask himself whether or not he was doing things right.”  ∼ Benedict XVI, Last Testament, 2016. “The bishops (at Vatican II) wanted to renew the faith, to deepen it. However, other forces were working with increasing strength, particularly journalists, who interpreted many things in a [...]

Intercommunion: The Next Step in Theological Ambiguity?

A recent issue of the Italian daily Avennire suggests the next possible front in the effort to accommodate the sacraments to “pastoral” problems (at least as Cardinal Walter Kasper sees them): intercommunion. The December 9 issue features a brief interview in which Kasper reflects on Pope Francis’s October 31-November 1 visit to Sweden to mark the [...]

The “Concern”

A relative recently wrote an e-mail to me in which he made the following off-handed comment: “What do you think of the pope’s recent course change on abortion?” Now, unless I missed something, on this subject the pope has not changed anything. He has, no doubt, indicated that he wanted to downplay its relative importance [...]

Pope Benedict is Still Misunderstood in Germany

In Germany, reality and media-hype are worlds apart when it comes to Pope Benedict’s latest book-length interview called Last Conversations (Letzte Gespräche) in German (and Last Testament in English). Accused of lacking tact, of wanting to interpret his own pontificate when this should be left to others, and of bashing the German hierarchy when he [...]

The Church Cannot Reverse Past Teaching on Capital Punishment

Pope St. John Paul II was well-known for his vigorous opposition to capital punishment. Yet in 2004, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger—the pope’s own chief doctrinal officer, later to become Pope Benedict XVI—stated unambiguously that: [I]f a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment … he would not for that reason [...]

An Apology for Catholics of the Past

When teaching survey courses in French and Western literature, I sometimes note a student’s puzzled reaction to the thoughts of medieval writers. Novice readers will eagerly dive into an Old French text hoping to discover a paean to Catholic life from an age when Christendom was still mostly united, and the Church integrated into every [...]

Must Catholics Believe that Islam Is Peaceful?

The Apostles’ Creed (updated version): I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, and the peaceful nature of Islam. Amen. Or, anyway, that’s how it ought to read according to Monsignor Stuart Swetland, President of Donnelly College in Kansas City. No, Msgr. Swetland didn’t actually [...]

The Church and Islam: The Next Cover-up Scandal

“#NotMyPope.” In the wake of Pope Francis’ equivocal response to the murder of a French priest by two Islamic jihadists, that’s the top trending hashtag in France and in Belgium. Which raises a question: Is the Pope doing more harm than good by continuing to deny—in the face of a mountain of evidence—that Islam has [...]

Does the First Amendment Protect Warrior Religions?

After every Islamic terrorist attack, whether in Europe or the U.S., people ask what can be done to prevent it from happening again. But when the obvious solutions are proposed, they are invariably met with the objection that “you can’t do that,” or “that’s unconstitutional,” or words to that effect. Some of the obvious solutions [...]

The Problem of the Unofficial Francis

It has become a commonplace in Catholic circles in the pontificate of Pope Francis to discuss, debate, and interpret the pope’s writings, speeches, and (most controversially) off-the-cuff remarks. Yet with this, we have seen an accompanying phenomenon: we find ourselves talking not only about the pope’s recorded words, but about his alleged words as well. [...]

The Pope is Right for the Wrong Reasons

On June 26, the anniversary of the legalization of same-sex "marriage" in the USA, Pope Francis made controversial comments on his return flight from Armenia. He said that the Catholic Church and all Christians should apologize to homosexuals for failing to protect and accompany them. In truth, there is likely an apology due to persons experiencing [...]

On Pope Francis and Church Integrity

"The Church's practice always results from what she receives and contemplates in revelation. Pastoral ministry cannot be detached from doctrine."  ∼Robert Cardinal Sarah, Silent Action of the Heart (July 2015) I. In the Path to Rome, Belloc remarked that as one gets older he becomes more concerned with the human side of the supernatural Church. [...]

Thoughts on Some Papal Sayings

We have a different sort of pope today, one more interested in raising issues than settling them. He speaks informally, in ways that are often puzzling to those looking for a voice of steady authority rather than one of exhortation, dialogue, and immediate personal response. What he says is strongly grounded in his experience as [...]

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