Year of Mercy-ing

I was struck by Jeremy Lott’s year-end piece at Real Clear Religion: “The Year of the Sinner.” Apparently, Pope Francis (it is so much easier for non-Catholics to have a pope without Roman numerals after his regnal name) caused a stir in some quarters by telling America that Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s basic identity is that [Read More...]

The Agony of Papal Exits

Pius VI, who died in exile from Rome

“How heavy the papal mantle weighs,” wrote Dante in his Divine Comedy.  The shepherding of some 1 billion Catholics is no simple business, so one cannot begrudge the frail Pope Benedict for stepping down.  Given the rarity of such an event, the recent media frenzy is understandable.  Much commentary has and will focused on Benedict’s [Read More...]

Two Anniversaries: Vatican II and the 95 Theses

Pope John XXIII who called Vatican II

Two noteworthy anniversaries are marked this month: the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, which occurred on October 11, 1962, and the 495th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, widely recognized on October 31, but transferred and celebrated by many churches as “Reformation Sunday.”  (This year it occurs on the 27th).  Admittedly, [Read More...]

Death with Dignity or Physician-Assisted Suicide?

Hippocratic Oath

  What happens out West does not necessarily stay there.  On November 6, voters in the State of Massachusetts, where I live, will have a “Death with Dignity” Act on their ballot, of the sort that has passed in recent years in Oregon and Washington State.  In an election year when economic issues seem to [Read More...]

THE DAMNATION OF THERON WARE

I recently described the problem of finding useful novels that could be used to teach on American religion, and particularly evangelicalism. As I remarked, some books are wonderful as sources, but they are anything but friendly to evangelical Christianity. As a case in point,  I cite Harold Frederic’s The Damnation of Theron Ware (1896), which [Read More...]

REFORMATION UNRAVELLED

I just got hold of Eamon Duffy’s latest book Saints, Sacrilege and Sedition: Religion and Conflict in the Tudor Reformations (Just published in Britain, and due out in the US in August). Duffy is a wonderful historian whose 1992 book The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400-1580 was a staggering evocation of [Read More...]

REAL HERETICS

You may remember from earlier posts that I was eagerly anticipating R. I. Moore’s book The War on Heresy, which I have now finally read and reviewed for Church History. The review won’t be out till next year but here is a quick summary of my impressions. The whole story raises critical issues for Christian [Read More...]

G.K. Chesterton and the Nightmare Goodness of God

Recently I read G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday, A Nightmare (1908), a roller-coaster of a novel, full of surprises and thought-provoking theological reflections. (It is also, happily, one of the public domain titles available for free on Kindle.) I don’t want to summarize the book because The Man Who Was Thursday is best read the way I did — [Read More...]

FUTURE CHURCHES

I am a great admirer of the journalist John L. Allen, whose 2009 book The Future Church I have praised highly as a guide to the “megatrends” shaping Christian denominations generally, and not just Roman Catholicism. Allen is a very well informed author, whose views are arguably prophetic. He is in fact the main reason [Read More...]


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