An Open Letter to the Editor Who Fired Mark Shea

Dear ____: Several days ago, National Catholic Register announced that it had dismissed Mark Shea, the blogger, pundit and apologist. As a faithful Catholic, longtime Register patron, and minor pundit in my own right, I consider this decision both unmerciful and short-sighted. I write now in the hope of persuading you to reverse it. The announcement stated that Mark was let go, not because of the views he expressed in his columns, but because “his writings and engagement on other... Read more

Lessons from Erdoğan’s Victory

The mighty Turkish army foiled by the cast of Les Miz? That seems one likely takeaway from the military coup attempt that crashed and burned last Friday. After troops seized key locations in Istanbul, Ankara, and other cities, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made a personal appeal to his countrymen via Facetime, ordering them to “take to the streets,” in the name of democracy. And they did. Footage shows crowds trapped by the army in Istanbul Atatürk Airport marching out... Read more

Mamma Mia! Emergency Baptism at 30,000 Feet

You may have noticed, reader, that I haven’t blogged much lately. There’s a reason for that: I’ve been turning my hand to fiction. My chief talent, such as it is, is for storytelling. Blogging, when it attempts to rise above simple news aggregation, tends to become opinion writing. At least it does if it means to earn page views and money for the blogger. In such an enterprise, storytelling is of limited use. As everyone knows, the plural of anecdote... Read more

My First Orthodox Liturgy: A Blast for A Rainy Day

Strolling through Moscow in the spring and summer of 1997, you couldn’t lose sight of the sacred if you wanted to. The municipal government was working doggedly to rebuild the Cathedral of Christ the Savior – at 103 meters, the tallest Orthodox church in the world. With a bone-white exterior and domes of blinding gold, it looks like Paris’ Sacre-coeur basilica might have looked had its design been entrusted to Mr. T. Even under scaffolding, the thing had a way... Read more

Bursa Suicide Bombing and the Return of History

You can’t keep a dog in downtown Bursa. The people are too pious. Or maybe “traditional” is a better word. In either case, they believe dogs are unclean and the enemies of angels. A Colombian friend of mine who has a golden retriever – named “Athena,” after a pagan goddess and a Greek to boot – felt obliged to relocate before his neighbors were able to talk the police into writing him a ticket for violating some zoning law or... Read more

Amoris Laetitia and the Family Road Trip

A confession: I’m in no hurry to get through Amoris Laetitia. Two hundred, sixty-four pages is a lot of Pope Francis to dive into all eagerski-beaverski and heedless-like. The first two chapters, however, have gone down smoothly enough. As usual, the pontiff demonstrates a firm grasp on How We Live Now, but he addresses those trapped in modernity with more compassion than passion. In plain English, he isn’t hollering at us. One sentence in particular leaped out at me. “On... Read more

A Little Blood Never Hurt Anyone

Shortly after recovering from a nervous breakdown that culminated in a suicide attempt, William Cowper composed a hymn titled “Praise for the Fountain Opened,” which begins with the following verses: There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins; And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains. Running six stanzas, it proclaims essentially the same message as “Amazing Grace,” which it predates by several years. But its tone is more abject, its language closer to... Read more

Je Suis — I mean, Ich bin ein Jan Böhmermann

In 1998, Istanbul Mayor Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was sentenced to 10 months in prison for violating a law against inciting religious hatred. The nature of his violation? He read a poem that included the lines “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers.” The poem didn’t have a thing to say about literal soldiers or bayonets, but Turkey’s judiciary, anxious to preserve the state’s secular character, found metaphor to be... Read more

Muslim Student’s Grounding Proves We’re Getting to Know Each Other

My friend Khalid’s mother, a native of Karachi, was named “Shaheda.” She stressed the first syllable and pronounced the middle vowel like a schwa. One day while she and her husband were tending the family liquor store, a woman in her early 20s sauntered in wearing a halter top with the same name picked out in big puffy letters. “Ah!” Exclaimed the husband, beaming. “My wife is also a Shaheda.” With much rolling of eye and neck, the customer put... Read more

Keeping My Brother — Exp. Not Nec. but a +

. When I first saw the guy groping his way down the aisle with his eyes fixed on the carpet, I thought he was blind. Then, after he settled gingerly into the pew in front of mine, I smelled the truth: he was blitzed. He exhaled a bouquet of domestic beer – the kind you can buy cheap by the case when you want to self-medicate. Drunks at Mass have always been a rarity in our parish. The single specimen... Read more
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