Protestant Reformation

Towards a Catholic Nationalism

From the beginning of Donald J. Trump’s quixotic presidential campaign, political and media elites have attempted to browbeat the “dangerous” new nationalist movement like an unruly child. First, it was National Review’s “Conservatives against Trump” symposium, which excommunicated its Trump-voting readers for their infidelity to the dogmata of movement conservatism. Now a similar proclamation has [...]

The Reformation’s Legacy in the Birthplace of Calvinism

I got to Geneva too late. I should have gone ten years earlier, back when I was what is called in the Calvinist world “TR”—“Totally Reformed”—meaning a diehard, uncompromising Calvinist. I was once a student at a prominent Reformed seminary, reading the brightest lights in the Calvinist world, including, of course, the great Genevan theologian [...]

Church Scandal Through the Eyes of St. Thomas More

And he said, “Sit down here while I go over there to pray.” And he took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee with him. He began to feel sorrow and grief and fear and weariness. Then he said to them, “My soul is sad unto death. Stay here and keep watch with me” (Matt. [...]

You Do Not Know What You Ask

The other day, when I probably should have been working, I read with interest more outrageous remarks from Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines. So that good may come of evil, and my procrastination bear fruit, we do well to ponder those remarks, since they disclose all that is lost when we repudiate the [...]

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 [...]

The Spiritual Roots of Working Class Woes

Secular readers have seen J.D. Vance’s recent best-selling Hillbilly Elegy as the prophetic book of the political year, explaining if not predicting Trumpism, and even as the most clear-eyed, dismal report on the moral state of the new American millennium, zeroing in on our national “family and culture in crisis.” Vance’s personal memoir knows that deep [...]

When the “Reformers” Abandoned the Eucharist

The first lines of Belloc’s 1936 book, The Characters of the Reformation, are these: “The break-up of united western Christendom with the coming of the Reformation was by far the most important thing in history since the formation of the Catholic Church fifteen hundred years before.” We live in a time when the Reformation is [...]

Protestantism, Modernism, Atheism

“The reality of the apostasy of faith in our time rightly and profoundly frightens us,” said Cardinal Burke in honor of Fatima’s centenary. In 1903, Pope St. Pius X declared himself “terrified” by humanity’s self-destructive apostasy from God: “For behold they that go far from Thee shall perish” (Ps. 72:27). How much more “daunting,” said [...]

Calling a Spade, a Spade

I can forgive Protestants and Protestantism for most things. I can forgive Protestants for the Know-Nothing Party and their murderous Philadelphia Nativist Riot, the Intolerable Acts, Bloody Monday and the Orange Riots in New York City in 1871 and 1872. I forgive them for the "Blaine Amendments" which forbade tax money be used to fund [...]

Enemies of Christianity at the Time of the Reformation

Nearly everyone knows the basics of the Reformation, the first being that 500 years ago, it began with Martin Luther nailing his Ninety-Five Theses to the Wittenberg castle door on October 31, 1517—except that scholars now think that what probably happened was that Luther mailed them, not nailed them, to his archbishop, Albrecht of Brandenburg. [...]

Sola Scriptura and the Secularization of America

During her confirmation hearing last September, Notre Dame law professor, Amy Coney Barrett, was openly interrogated about her faith. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) brazenly uttered the now infamous words, “the dogma lives loudly within you,” and went on to explain why that is “of concern” to her. This is but one manifestation of a new [...]

How Protestants Still Get Justification Wrong

The Protestant Reformation’s 500th anniversary is likely to inspire the usual appraisals of where Protestants and Catholics have lingering disagreements and where there is now common ground. In the former category are the Eucharist, Mary, and the pope, among other areas. In the latter often goes the doctrine of justification. It shouldn’t. The agreement over [...]

The Protestant Origins of Dysfunctional Education

As a former boarding school teacher, this time of year brings memories of enormous frustration at the chaos, moral and intellectual, that is contemporary American education. While the general disorder is the fault of Adam and Eve, the particular mess has much to do with Luther and Calvin, who not only spawned the Protestant Reformation [...]

How to Think About Luther?

Traditionally, Catholics have viewed Luther as a heresiarch, and the Lutheran break from Rome as a religious and civilizational catastrophe. More recently, in line with current ecumenical and pastoral initiatives, that view has softened. The softening has been quite noticeable during the current pontificate. The pope recently took part in a joint liturgy with the [...]

Martin Luther: Defender of Erroneous Conscience

Two trials, two appeals to conscience. Trial 1: I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen. Trial 2: If the number of bishops and universities should be so material as your lordship seems to think, then I [...]

The Profit to Be Gained from Praying for Holy Souls

Sometimes you hear stories too good to be true. This was just such a story. It returned to my mind this month as it involves a spiritual work of mercy—praying for the dead. Indeed, as I was to discover, the reported tale was even better than I had been told. We all know what we [...]

Luther Looks at Islam

Martin Luther cut a figure of such massive importance that reflections on him are a Rorschach test for theologians and historians alike. In few instances have personality and principle been so melded. If the Dominican Aquinas argued contra and sed contra, the former Augustinian would settle his case by slapping the table: “Dr. Martin Luther [...]

On Royal Pilgrimage

The hour was early and the season summer. In the brightness of the morning air, and with the silence of the city streets all around, I set out. In this Year of Mercy, I was on pilgrimage. The place in question is visited by many, but merely as a curiosity. I was going there for [...]

A Model of Spiritual Courage for Our Time

Quanto plus afflictionis pro Christo in hoc saeculo, tanto plus gloriae cum Christo in futuro. (The more affliction we endure for Christ in this world, the more glory we shall obtain with Christ in the next.)   ∼ Words inscribed by Philip Howard upon the wall of his cell. When he first entered the fastness of that grim London [...]

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 [...]

Protecting God’s Word From “Bible Christians”

"Stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours." ~ St. Paul to the Thessalonians A former student of mine is thinking of becoming a Catholic, and she had a question for me. “I don’t understand the deuterocanonical books,” she ventured. [...]

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