15 Years of Crisis: 1982-1997

Compiled by Del Torkelson, a journalist in El Dorado, Kansas.


The first issue of Catholicism in Crisis is published at the University of Notre Dame by Ralph Mclnerny and Michael Novak.

Ralph McInerny announces the mission of Catholicism in Crisis: A Journal of Lay Catholic Opinion:

Catholicism in Crisis will provide evidence of the special knowledge and authority of lay people in a wide range of areas where the voice of the prelate has been of late too often heard. Lay opinion, it will be clear, is far from homogenous. Intelligent Catholics differ on the many issues that press upon us now, and in these pages they will do so with civility and charity. There is seldom a single solution to vexed issues, a fact which should forestall premature adoption by members of the hierarchy, singly or en masse, of one view as the Catholic one. (November)


Cofounder Michael Novak defends U.S. nuclear deterrence against a statement by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops:

We do not consider the present situation of nuclear deterrence ideal; we consider it a moral choice involving the lesser evil. When we look to the future, we see both creative possibilities and even greater dangers. The greatest danger is spiritual. Democratic peoples find protracted danger and sacrifice more onerous by far than do the members of totalitarian states. The latter benefit by military mobilization; the former find it a threat to democracy itself. Again, successful deterrence buries the evidence that brought it into play to begin with, and a free people must take up the argument ever anew. (March)

Vincent Fitzpatrick dissects the women’s ordination report commissioned by Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland:

The reader can judge for himself why none of the task force’s citations of the vision of Vatican II is anchored to a quotation from the Council, or why the task force so favors woolly expressions like “focused on,” “based in,” and “marked by.” He might also note, for what it is worth, that in these few paragraphs it happens that the task force never uses the words “faith,” “charity,” “teaching,” “governing,” “sanctifying,” or “sacred,” while the Council never uses the words “vision,” “role,” or “equal.” (June)


Paul Johnson lays out the strategy of John Paul II to strengthen the Church:

It is important that John Paul’s restoration should not be misunderstood. He is not a reactionary pope. He had not striven to reverse the Johannine revolution and has hotly defended the memory of his patron, Paul VI. No one played a more creative part in the work of Vatican II or has taken more trouble, either as diocesan ordinary or pontiff, to give practical shape to its principles. He accepts the liturgical changes and the downgrading of Latinity, though he regrets both. He has never sought to limit free discussion within the Church; he has, in fact, publicly expressed regret for past errors in this respect, notably in the Galileo case. There is a strong libertarian side to John Paul’s character, nurtured not the least by his experiences under two totalitarian tyrannies, the Nazis and the communists. (September)

Michael Novak locates the holes in Joseph Cardinal Bernardin’s “seamless garment”:

Cardinal Bernardin’s seamless web seems to show quite lumpy and visible seams. For example, there is no true parallel, as he asserts there is, between taking 1.5 million innocent lives through abortion each year, and finding current U.S. defense budgets unacceptably high. . . . In both cases the principle is that innocent life should never be taken. But in the second case, the conclusion is not that there should be lower defense budgets; rather, that nuclear weapons ought never to be used. To get to Cardinal Bernardin’s position on defense spending, one needs to do some pretty heavy stitching. (December)


Russell Hittinger locates the source of Vietnam nostalgia a decade after the withdrawal of U.S. troops:

Although some of this Viet chic is nothing more than a fad, there is also something intrinsically interesting about the Vietnam veteran that is liable to arouse curiosity for years to come. As a symbol, he is the bridge back to his parents’ generation, who fought World War II, as well as a bridge to his own peers who lost faith in the liberal ideals of their parents. On the campus at which I teach, for example, groups as divergent as ROTC students and new wave punk rockers have taken to wearing Vietnam-era camouflage fatigues. For some, the veteran is viewed as a misunderstood victim, whose camouflage fatigues and losing cause serve as the equivalent of the leather jacket and Confederate flag. Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now—with its fusion of psychedelic music and helicopter gunship action—is regarded on campuses not as an anti-war movie, but as a glamorization of everything forbidden about the war. (February)

James Hitchcock compares the Crisis lay letter on the U.S. economy with the bishops’ letter:

The lay letter can also be called more spiritual in that it situates economic issues in the widest cultural context, implicitly affirming that economics is not sovereign nor wholly autonomous and that economic values are not ultimate. The bishops, on the other hand, choose to hew very closely to economic issues and, although they do not say so and would no doubt make a disclaimer if asked, seem indeed to imply that economics ought to be the major concern of morally sensitive people. The spiritual quality of the lay letter is manifest chiefly in two ways: in the attempt to situate economic activity and economic values in a broader human context, and in the frequent reminder that there are indeed higher goods than economic ones. (February)


Dinesh D’Souza questions those Catholic bishops who speak out on policy matters despite a lack of expertise:

Interviews with these bishops suggest that they know little or nothing about the ideas and proposals to which they are putting their signature and lending their religious authority. The bishops are unfamiliar with existing defense and economic programs, unable to identify even in general terms the Soviet military capability, ignorant of roughly how much of the budget currently goes to defense, unclear about how much should be reallocated to social programs, and innocent of the most basic concepts underlying the intelligent layman’s discussion of these questions. (January)

For James V. Schall, the encyclical Dominum et Vivificantem, reaffirms the awesome importance of each person:

This sense of challenge, of excitement about what we human beings are, can indeed be turned against our own good. This is just another way of emphasizing the dramatic importance of our particular existence. No human life, including the unborn, is so insignificant that it does not touch upon some ultimate almost daily. What John Paul II again teaches us is that the unfolding of each life cannot be understood unless and until it is seen in the context of its divine destiny, for that is why it exists. We are not to become gods. We remain men, human beings, yet we live for an eternal life even amidst our limitedness, sins, concrete loves, and actions. (September)

Reviewing a book by Peter Berger, Robert Nisbet comments on the hostility of intellectuals toward capitalism:

Peter Berger is surely right in his emphasis on the importance of myth. Capitalism, unlike socialism, has no handy, all purpose, immediately available myth to give it legitimacy and righteousness. It offers its people the highest standard of living ever known, or even so much as dreamed of a century ago; a degree of economic as well as political freedom unparalleled in history; and a measure of liberation from the potential tyrannies of class and community that is also novel. But, as Tocqueville foresaw, to be echoed brilliantly by Schumpeter a century later, capitalism by its very nature arouses the hostility of its intellectuals and the guilt feelings of its principals. And unlike socialism, capitalism has no real theology, no dogmatics, no doctrine of grace, above all, no eschatology. It can and does outproduce socialism in the tangibles, but never in the intangibles of stentorian prophecy. (November)


Congressman Henry J. Hyde exposes the spiritual bankruptcy of liberation theology:

The Gospels are not rejected, but are rather reinterpreted in Marxist terms with national liberation as the new salvation. Liberation theology forcibly merges religion and politics. It accomplishes this feat by manipulating the Gospels in an effort to reconcile Marx with Christ. Indeed, some liberation theologians make the audacious claim that the Christian and Marxist views of mankind are compatible, if not identical. (January)

The novelist Walker Percy declares his affection for the universal Church:

I know Catholics who consider the clergy far too liberal, a few who see all priests from John Paul II on down as agents of an authoritarian Roman hierarchy. Most Catholics around here are four-square behind the contras, but I know a couple who see the Sandinistas as the true Christians and point with pride to the priests in the cabinet. Most laymen are like me, glad to have any priest show up, liberal, conservative, black, Vietnamese, or Cajun. I know Catholics who think it all went to pot when we lost the Latin Mass, who roll their eyes when the choir-combo bangs out “Amazing Grace,” who look ironic when it comes time to shake hands with fellow worshippers. I know one lady who closes her eyes and goes into deep meditation when hand-shaking time comes. Others laugh, hug, and smack each other with sure-enough kisses of peace. I’d as soon hug or not hug. The only Catholics who give me a royal pain—and they’re mostly not laymen—are the Küngs, Currans, and O’Briens. This is because of their intellectual pride and intransigence. But the Church has survived worse. I get along fine with all other members of the Mystical Body, liberal and conservative, Latinist mutterers and vernacular shouters, huggers and nonhuggers. (February)

Michael A. Scully profiles Clare Booth Luce—”Woman of the Century”:

She had as well an eye for the comic, and a passion to amuse. She learned during one of her wartime assignments that her host, the American ambassador in Egypt, had a keen interest in architecture and a proclivity to lecture on the subject of the pyramids, which one could see from the balcony of the ambassador’s residence. Thus, when invited to a party at the residence, she anticipated the ambassador’s movements and positioned herself on the balcony. When the ambassador reached her, he was greeted with the question: “Mr. Ambassador, what are those strange-looking objects?” (December)


Bernard Cardinal Law calls the question of woman’s ordination closed:

On the matter of ordination of women to the priesthood, it is, as far as I’m concerned, closed. It’s not a matter for negotiation and discussion. Again, from the theological point of view, a lot more has to be done, to reflect upon this in terms of the kinds of contemporary questions that are raised about the role of women in church and society. We have to wrestle with those questions in terms of our traditions. (May)

William Bentley Ball asserts that the “religion” of secular humanism is by passing the establishment clause:

Plainly identifiable state-funded and state-enforced programs of secular is indoctrination, invasive of the personality of the child, of familial privacy, of sexual privacy, deliberately engineering the most destructive psychological results and supplanting traditional morality, are becoming universal in the public schools. The secularist view of the structuring of society and of the desired global order are being firmly implanted in the minds of millions of our children today. One has but to read Edward. L. Ericson’s The Humanist Way, or the prolific writing of Paul Kurtz, in order to realize that the question is not whether secular humanism is a religion, but whether it is the one religion that is not subject to the limitations which . . . the ACLU, and others say the establishment clause commands. (July/August)

Janet E. Smith recalls the predictions of Pope Paul VI regarding artificial contraception:

The pope first noted that the wide-spread use of contraception would “lead to conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality.” That there has been a widespread decline in morality, especially sexual morality, in the last twenty years is very difficult to deny. The increase in the number of divorces, abortions, out-of-wedlock pregnancies, and venereal diseases should convince any skeptic that sexual morality is not the strong suit of our age. It would be wrong to say that contraception is the single cause of this decline, but it would also be unthinkable not to count contraception among the contributing factors. (September)


Michael Warner debunks liberal myths about the “Spirit of Vatican II”:

Before we can understand the Council we must understand its father, Pope John XXIII. Good Pope John is an almost saintly figure for progressive Catholics, and the aura that surrounds him has its origins in their need to explain how the reactionary Catholic Church suddenly matured. John called the Council, and thus he must have been different from the popes he succeeded, the progressives imply. The only problem with this interpretation of John’s papacy is that it dissolves on contact with history. (May)

Donna Steichen exposes the paganism of the New Age movement:

The central theme of all New Age groups is the depiction of God as a limited, changing, and impersonal force, coextensive with the created universe. God is not seen as a transcendent Trinity of Persons, partially known because he has revealed himself and because his glory is reflected in his creation. Instead he is held to be the immanent consciousness of the evolving universe, which we can all know by direct experience, because we are part of it. (July/August)

Robert H. Bork anticipates a plague of judicial activism:

There is no satisfactory explanation of why the judge has the authority to impose his morality upon us. Various authors have attempted to explain that but the explanations amount to little more than the assertion that judges have admirable capacities that we and our elected representatives lack. The utter dubiety of that assertion aside, the professors merely state a preference for rule by talented and benevolent autocrats over the self-government of ordinary folk. Whatever one thinks of that preference, and it seems to me morally repugnant, it is not our system of government, and those who advocate it propose a quiet revolution, made by judges. (December)


Joseph Sobran encourages pro-life candidates:

Republicans in general have inferred that the lesson of 1989 is that the pro-life position is a loser— just the conclusion their opponents want them to reach. Lee Atwater, the Republicans’ national chairman, got it right when he said that the real lesson is: Whatever position you take, don’t waffle! Then Atwater himself waffled, by saying that the Republican Party can accommodate both points of view. Even President Bush echoed this feeble line, a virtual retraction of recent Republican platforms. Already, it seems, the Republicans have forgotten how Ronald Reagan won two landslide victories. (January)

Pastor Richard John Neuhaus explains his conversion to the Church of Rome:

I have always understood that, as I was baptized into Christ, so was I baptized into his one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. It was therefore my desire and duty, as a Western Christian formed by the Reformation tradition, to be in full communion with the fullest and most rightly ordered reality of that Church through time. I am persuaded that that reality subsists in the Roman Catholic Church. I can readily attest that, in the words of the Second Vatican Council, “many elements of satisfaction and truth can be found outside the Church’s visible structure.” Lumen Gentium continues, “These elements, however, as gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, possess an inner dynamic toward Catholic unity.” The inner dynamic of the catholic substance I knew in Lutheranism has compelled me to become a Roman Catholic. (October)

Anne Husted Burleigh argues that gender feminism is irreconcilable with the Church:

Although strident feminism is now mostly frowned on as counterproductive, feminist principles have from the earliest grades embedded themselves so deeply in our educational system that even the tiniest children are absorbing a view of men and women and family that is far different from the traditional Judeo-Christian conception. Every instruction in Western life, including the churches, is now encrusted with feminism, so that feminist ideology is built into the bureaucracy, where it has become so powerfully entrenched as to assume the self-anointed mission of changing the language to be inclusive. Nothing, of course, more signifies metaphysical upheaval in a society than the drastic overhaul of the meaning of words. Ideologues now are forcibly imposing upon us inclusive language, invading not only secular but sacred usage. (December)


Michael Fumento exposes Paul Ehrlich’s myth of overpopulation:

Elsewhere, in what was presented as a plausible scenario of events by the year 2000, Ehrlich had no fewer than sixty-five million Americans starving to death. To prevent such a calamity, he suggested that forced sterilization and the injection of birth control drugs into water supplies might be necessary.

As we now know, hundreds of millions of people did not starve to death in the 1970s, and to the extent there was starvation it was the result of flawed political and economic policies, as in the case of the Ethiopian famine of the 1980s. As to those sixty-five million Americans, with only nine years until the millennium, they’d better get going. (February)

Tracey Lee Simmons interviews Shelby Foote about historians who indoctrinate young minds:

I think that the main thing is the lack of good teachers, which is probably the whole problem with education, anyhow. I didn’t really have highly competent teachers myself. I remember in high school a history course in “Modern Europe,” I think. The only thing I remember about the whole course was being required to memorize the thirteen steps of the Treaty of Utrecht—that puts you off good and thoroughly…. The best classroom teacher I ever had was a man named Philip Russell, at Chapel Hill. And it was a course in medieval history, which on the face of it sounds like it might be the dullest program on the earth. But it was a superb program. I understood the founding of the modern world. And he taught it as a lecture—he came walking into the room, said Good morning, gentlemen, he never asked anybody a question, there was never any discussion, he did a straight lecture—and it was totally fascinating. But that was because he was such a good teacher. Now, how you solve the problem of finding good teachers, I’m not too sure. (December)


Russell Hittinger forecasts a dark future under Planned Parenthood vs. Casey:

By any clear and honest reckoning, Casey is a disaster. It sets back the legal challenge to abortion by making the right less vulnerable to principled argument. It represents the adoption by the “moderate” wing of the court of the most radical theory held in the law schools. It contains jurisprudential time bombs, waiting to be triggered by litigation over the claims of progressives on other lifestyle issues. In this regard, it gives precedent for the feminist, and homosexual agenda in the culture wars. Insofar as section five of the Fourteenth Amendment gives Congress enforcement powers, the notion of liberty in Casey not only gives judicial sanction for congressional codification of abortion rights, it even more ominously encourages Congress to exercise its section-five powers to prohibit the states from enacting laws that uphold traditional morals in any number of areas. (September)

Dennis Prager blames the Rodney King debacle on modern liberals:

This is my j’accuse to the liberal world: You have stated, in essence, that America deserves to be burned. That has been your reaction to Los Angeles and that was the way you portrayed America prior to it. We deserve to be burned, and the burners need to be heard. That is the liberal heritage we have received over all these years. (September)

Karl Zinsmeister defends Dan Quayle’s Murphy Brown speech:

Fatherless families and the children living in them tend, as is well known, to have a lot of problems. One reason for this is simply that the solo-mother family is short-handed. One brain, one mouth, one pair of hands and eyes can’t do as much parenting and providing as two could.

But there are also problems associated specifically with the lack of masculine presence. These disadvantages shake out differently according to the reason for the father’s absence: a father’s withdrawal usually produces more damaging effects on children than his death. (October)


Michael Medved argues Hollywood is out of synch with ordinary Americans:

My central argument is that Hollywood is so grossly out of touch with the convictions of millions of Americans that it also is damaging if not destroying its own interests. Why is this point so uncomfortable for people in the movie business and their apologists? Because it removes their primary excuse for doing what they do. Time and again moviemakers tell us that sleaze and gore is what the country wants and will pay to see. We’re a perfect capitalistic candy machine, they say…. In other words, Hollywood filmmakers insist, “Don’t blame us, blame yourselves. We’re just holding up this ugly mirror to your own ugly reality in this corrupt, horrible country, where all major institutions, as we well know, are in total meltdown.” (March)

Leon J. Podles rejects President Clinton’s policy on homosexuals in the military:

The simplest objection is unanswerable: Isn’t putting a homosexual in continuous physical intimacy with young men in the barracks or on a ship the same as putting a heterosexual man in continuous intimacy with young women? Human nature being what it is, and young men (heterosexual and homosexual) being what they are, there is going to be trouble, either in the form of homosexual activity or of vehement objections by heterosexuals being propositioned by homosexuals. But these considerations obviously are not the deep emotional foundation for the massive public repudiation of Clinton’s first attempt at social engineering. Rather, Clinton’s plan to admit open homosexuals to the military has correctly been seen as an attack on the nature of masculinity itself. Since masculinity is still the ideal by which most men try to live, Clinton has attacked the very principle— the heart—of American manhood. (July/August)

Mary F. Rousseau reports on the young Catholics who attended World Youth Day 1993 in Denver:

“The real story here is the kids, not the pope.” It was a bishop friend of mine speaking, in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency in downtown Denver on Saturday afternoon, August 14, 1993. The lobby was a sea of cassocks, red sashes, and skullcaps, with an occasional flash of cardinal’s purple. He was not minimizing the impact of the pilgrimage of Pope John Paul II to World Youth Day, but his remark went to the heart of things. The comments heard time and again from Denver. merchants, police, and the other locals, expressed an amazed delight at the behavior of the 170,000 or so certifiably young who had made a pilgrimage to their city. Well-behaved, polite, easy to deal with, happy, exuberant young Catholic believers had come to the foot of the Rockies for their day, and their leader had come to serve them. They brought their host-city’s crime rate down for a week. (October)


With the promulgation of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Helen Hull Hitchcock declares the issue of women priests dead:

No room for doubt here—no question about what is being said, nor by what authority. Under ordinary circumstances, one might think this reaffirmation of a core Church teaching would cause about as much controversy as an announcement by the conductor of a symphony that all members of the orchestra are to play the same piece of music at the same time. But these are not ordinary times, as the statement accompanying the pope’s letter suggests. This restatement of the “constant and universal Tradition of the Church and the teaching of the Magisterium” was made necessary because “at the present time in some places it is … considered still open to debate.” And sure enough, the document had barely time enough to roll out of the fax machines before the reactions began. (July/August)

Fred Barnes asserts that the GOP, and everyone else, needs the religious right:

The Republican Party does not stand a chance of becoming a majority party in America or electing another president without the religious right. Vast numbers of Americans are alienated from the Democratic Party, yet are leery of the Republican Party. What attracts them to the GOP is not supply-side economics or hawkishness on foreign policy but serious moral and social concerns. I understand the reluctance of millions of former Democrats to become Republicans—the thought of being a Republican makes even me wince. But the religious right’s cluster of issues attracts many of them. (July/August)

William E. Simon, in a special issue honoring the Order of Malta, applauds those who stand up for principle:

Not long ago, at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Clinton sat only a few feet from Mother Teresa. Her head was barely visible over the lectern when she said, “Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want.”

And, as it was reported, the room stood and cheered, while a visibly uncomfortable president sipped his water and whispered to a stone-faced first lady. (October)


Hadley Arkes celebrates the victory of pro-life candidates in the 1994 congressional elections:

The Republican sweep came on the tenth anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s landslide reelection, when the Gipper carried forty-nine states. After the election, my friends at the National Review began their next issue with this lead: “Heh, heh, heh.”

Pro-lifers would be amply justified in permitting themselves the same full savoring of these latest results. For there was nothing the least bit equivocal about the pattern, or the meaning, disclosed in these returns. Take them from any angle: Not a single pro-life Republican incumbent was dislodged anywhere, in the House, the Senate, or the gubernatorial chairs. On the other hand, pro-abortion incumbents were defeated in about twenty-nine seats. Overall, the estimates are that the pro-life contingent in the house was enlarged by about forty votes. In the Senate, there was a net gain of six pro-life members. (February)

Robert Royal refutes the myth that the ancient Greeks admired homosexual activity:

Nevertheless, it appears that when we litigate over homosexuality now, the names of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Xenophon, and Demosthenes may become—if not as common in our mouths as household words—almost as common as references to Kinsey, Hite, and Masters and Johnson. Yet classical scholarship will not settle these issues. A subject as complex as homosexuality and Greek society, when studied closely, will, of course, reveal subtleties and differences that are not captured by rough historical characterization. On the one hand, the current assumption that homosexual desire was common and accepted within certain social classes in ancient Athens is right—anyone who has ever read Plato’s Symposium knows that. On the other hand, the claim that homosexual lifestyles as currently practiced were also common and accepted is wrong—or at best highly misleading—and should be known to be such by any careful student of the ancient world. (March)

Deal W. Hudson reaffirms the wisdom of the name Crisis:

But I, for one, don’t think the name of this magazine is necessarily dated—there are still crises aplenty in the culture and the Church, and still the need to address them. Our culture has not yet reached it nadir; things are going to get worse before they get better. For example, if you don’t think that PC and MC (multi-culturalism) have become main-stream, just wait until Disney’s new animated feature Pocahontas opens next summer. Assuming the preview is representative of the rest, we will soon be watching the deconstruction of Western Man set to music for our children to hum on the way out of the theater. Pocahontas promises to do for Eurocentrism what Bambi did for hunting. (March)

Robert R. Reilly heralds the new sacred music of composers Gorecki, Part, and Tavener:

If you have heard of the new spirituality in music, it is most likely on account of one of these three somewhat unlikely composers who have met with astonishing success over the past decade: Henryk Gorecki from Poland, Arvo Part from Estonia, and John Tavener from England… . Anyone who has tracked the self-destruction of music over the past half-century has to be astonished at the outpouring of such explicit religious music and its enormously popular reception. Can the recovery of music be, at least partially, a product of faith, in fact of Christian faith? A short time ago, such a question would have produced snickers in the concert hall, howls in the academy, and guffaws among the critics. In fact, it still might. In a recent New York Times review, a critic condescended to call the works of the three composers nothing but feel-good mysticism. (May)

Actor/Director Liv Ullmann talks about filming Sigrid Undset’s great Catholic novel, Kristin Lavransdatter:

I never could have made Kristin if I did not also write the screenplay, because it is so personal, and affected by the way I walked into Sigrid Undset’s books. I think that is why the film is such an incredible success in Norway. I have never had a movie in Norway that was such a success, and I was so scared because everybody has their own view of Kristin Lavransdatter and there would be so much disappointment. In the end I thought, I cannot make everybody happy. I just had to walk into it myself, make it big and slow and long, and let this music happen. (December)


Mary Jo Anderson witnesses first-hand the dissident agenda of Call to Action:

The concluding “mass” is too painful for these pages. It is enough to report that only at the words of consecration did a man appear on the “altar.” Bishop Gumbleton strode to the table in his street clothes and spoke the words to the Ultimate One. Only women were vested. Peasant bread was blessed and made available at the aisle terminus for communicants to break off and pass back to the next in line. (February)

Karen Iacovelli explodes Hillary Rodham Clinton’s vision for the New Age government nanny:

Missed by critics of Mrs. Clinton’s book, It Takes a Village, is the possibility that the contents of the book are intentionally irrelevant. It is the title that counts. The ploy to make this slogan mainstream by publishing a book authored by the wife of a U.S. president was a brilliant marketing strategy. The origin of the phrase is unsubstantiated, but its purpose is clear—implant into the American consciousness the concept that parents should no longer be the primary caregivers of their children. Only the government and its cooperative hubs should raise a child. (April)

Raymond Arroyo profiled Mother Angelica, the foundress of EWTN:

Two minutes before show time Mother enters the studio. Despite two aluminum crutches and a brace that runs from the middle of her back to the sole of her foot, she maneuvers with amazing agility. “Hello, and where are you from?” she says quietly, greeting the adoring flock. The voice is a soft whisper, not at all the voice of a woman capable of sending shock waves through Catholic liberals everywhere. Everything about the woman is unexpected. (April)

Lewis Lehrman compares Dred Scott and Roe vs. Wade:

Many still argue that, since the Casey decision, the Supreme Court finally has settled the matter—with few restraints—in favor of abortion on demand. The conventional elites and some Supreme Court justices, echoing the proslavery Dred Scott opinion of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, are saying that two decades of pro-abortion Supreme Court rulings are themselves the supreme laws of the land. Americans have always responded with respect for Supreme Court holdings in particular cases. But to ask the American people, the sovereign authority, to be quiet about first principles of the Constitution is unacceptable. (September)

Father George W. Rutler takes a withering look at The Jesus Seminar:

We are not superior for seeing through the sentimental unwinding of the nineteenth century that gave us the Teutonic Christ. We may be more culpable at the end of the twentieth century for replacing the stolid modernity with a capricious postmodernity, and coming up with a Californian Christ who sounds like a hybrid of Ralph Nader and Maya Angelou. Whimsy builds upon whimsy, and we are told with half-concealed pathos that Judas was not a betrayer, and that this Jesus-Lite had several siblings noticed in the past only by a few Nestorians. This passes as scholarship in the Flamingo Resort Hotel in Santa Rosa. (September)

George Sim Johnston speaks plainly about teaching Natural Family Planning:

Each month, to test our courage, my wife Lisa and I stand before an auditorium full of couples about to marry in the Catholic Church and explain to them the Church’s teachings about sexuality.

We tell our restive audience that what they are about to hear is counter-cultural. We try to pique their curiosity: What arguments can there possibly be against using the pill? Proof texts are lacking in Scripture and we wouldn’t use them anyway. The last thing you do with a crowd of post-baby boom Catholics is argue from the top down. What we have to do is persuade them that getting rid of their pills and diaphragms will actually make them happier. Then, gently, we can slip in a few natural law arguments about sex and babies. (October)

Admiral Jeremiah Denton reflects on his return to the U.S. after eight years as a P.O.W. during the Vietnam War:

My culture shock began with a bang while I was riding with Jane into Norfolk from the Naval air stations where I had been reunited with her and our children. I had been familiar with downtown Norfolk from 1943 to 1965. It used to look staid and old-fashioned, but prosperous.

But new to my eyes were block after block of tawdry-looking massage parlors. . . . There were X-rated movies and sex-oriented shops. I had to ask Jane what “massage parlor” and “X-rated” meant. Over the next few months, I was to absorb the picture of how far our country had strayed from its moorings during the time I was gone. (December)


Nina Shea uncovers the world-wide plight of persecuted Christians:

Early this year, Hollywood launched a protest on behalf of religious liberty. Dustin Hoffman, Goldie Hawn, Oliver Stone, Larry King, and thirty other celebrities sponsored newspaper ads throughout Europe vehemently denouncing Germany’s exclusion of Scientologists from government jobs, comparing the discrimination with the practices of the Nazis. Within hours, the U.S. State Department issued a public statement rebuking Germany, while appealing to the stars to tone down the rhetoric. Never has anything similar been done on behalf of Christians facing not simply discrimination, but real terror in Sudan, China, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, and numerous other places. Not even Catholics know about their bishops in China’s religious gulag, about the enslavement of Catholic children in Sudan, or the impediments to the Church as an institution in Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, and North Korea. If Catholics in America do not speak up for the persecuted Church, no one will. (March)

Michael M. Uhlmann regrets Archbishop Levada’s extention of spousal benefits to homosexuals in San Francisco:

The ordinance [was] cosmetically, but not substantively, modified: An employee might designate any legally domiciled member of his or her household as spousal beneficiary, i.e., the category would still include, but not be limited to, live-in lovers. Bishop Levada blinked. Notwithstanding multiple offers of free legal assistance, he took the fig leaf, declared victory, and went home.

The result is a disaster for the diocese, for the Church, and for the nation. The San Francisco compromise may hereafter mark the outer-most limit of “reasonable” opposition to the gay-rights agenda. Certainly, any bishop who takes a firmer stand will have Levada’s concession hurled in his face as the officially sanctioned position of the Church. (March)

George Weigel warns of a Protestant mentality in Catholic America:

A denomination is something we create by joining it: A denomination is an expression of our will. But here, precisely, is the rub. For the Church, according to Lumen Gentium, is a divinely ordered and spirit-sustained reality into which we are incorporated by sacraments of initiation. Which is to say, the Church is first and foremost an expression of Christ’s will.

Sociologically speaking, American Catholicism will be a denomination (in the sense of a voluntary association) for the foreseeable future. But the temptation to “denominationalize” Catholic self-understanding and the exercise of teaching authority within the Catholic Church must be resisted. (April)

Harry Wu reveals the violence within present-day China:

I interviewed a Catholic priest. He had spent thirty-five years in a prison camp. His crime was that he was a priest. He could have left prison immediately if he had signed a paper that cut off his relationship with the Vatican. He said to them, “I can’t.” He was put in solitary confinement for punishment. I described to him my solitary confinement—three feet wide and six feet long and three feet high, it was like being in a cement coffin. He said his was four by four and ten feet high. I said, “So, you were better off than I. At least you could stand.” But he said he couldn’t sit because there was water on the ground a foot deep. Why such punishment? “Because,” he said, “I’m a priest and I believe in God. They didn’t allow me to pray, so I just found a small place to do my praying, but my inmates reported it.” (April)

Samuel Casey Carter places the human person at the center of environmental ethics:

It is precisely in making people equal to the planet, that ecological policies are made ecocentric. Rain forests, everglades, and endangered species, while good in themselves, are not ends in themselves: They are ordered to the good of the human person. When we speak of the good of the environment as an end in itself, we expose ourselves to all of the errors for which radical environmentalism is famous. (June)

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput puts the question of euthanasia into perspective:

Second, terminally ill persons seeking doctor-assisted suicide usually struggle with depression, guilt, anger, and a loss of meaning. They need to be reassured that their lives and their suffering have purpose. They don’t need to be helped toward the exit. We should also remember that in helping the terminally ill to kill themselves, we’re colluding not only in their dehumanization, but our own. Moreover, the notion that suffering is always evil and should be avoided at all costs is a very peculiar idea. Six thousand years of Judeo-Christian wisdom show that suffering can be—and often is—redemptive, both for the person who suffers and for the family and friends of the one in need. In any case, it is very odd to try to eliminate suffering by killing those who suffer. (October)

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