News Flash: Catholics and Jews Still Largely Cool

In one of the Simpsons’ earlier seasons, Marge writes to the producers of Itchy and Scratchy to complain about the show’s rampant and graphic violence. After some finagling she gets what she wants — in spades. A typical episode of the new, socially responsible Itchy and Scratchy finds the former antagonists sitting side-by-side on a [Read More...]

Water and Gin: A Selective History of London Riots

You know you’re in a country with a solid civil-rights tradition when, four days into a massive riot, the authorities begin to talk about using water cannon. British Prime Minister David Cameron announced today that “we now have in place contingency plans for water cannon to be available at 24 hours’ notice.” Meanwhile, the rioting, [Read More...]

Newsweek’s Cover: Not Sexist, Just a Slap

The cover of this week’s Newsweek features Michele Bachmann. As many observers noted, it is not a flattering photo. Anyone old enough to have seen the movie Hot Resort, starring a very young Johnny Depp, will recal a minor character who is in thrall to some Maharishi figure. The expression she wears when venerating his [Read More...]

The Loopy Fun of Popular Piety

In today’s Patheos column, I write about popular piety, how the forms of devotion that go viral, so to speak, among the people run to the melodramatic, the sensational and the sentimental. It’s easy to wince at this kind of thing, but easier still, sometimes, to wince at the people who are wincing. In his [Read More...]

Riots and the Antisocial Media

Whether reacting to the welfare cuts in Prime Minister David Cameron’s new austerity budget or gripped by simple lust for mayhem, Londeoners have carried their rioting through its third straight night. Parliament’s recess has been cut short; the England-Netherlands football match has been cancelled. Police — of whom 16,000 are now patrolling London’s streets — [Read More...]

The Habit of Bachelorhood

Dusclaimer: I believe I’m going to take the unprecedented step of distancing myself from, and apologizing for, this posting. Blogging isn’t as easy as the best bloggers make it seem. In my case, an entire weekend went by without any sign of news that I felt competent to comment on in any depth. There are [Read More...]

America’s Financial Future: A Dirt Sandwich?

Today in Slate, William Saletan that our country’s left-right ideological divode will soon be rendered irrelevant — by its creditors, of all people. The deal they force on America will involve both tax hikes and entitlement cuts — in other words, the worse of both worlds. As he explains: Their message was delivered on Friday [Read More...]

Clerical Narcissism: Myth or Mess?

“Narcissist” is the new n-word. Unmatched for versatility, it can mean everything from “won’t text me back” to “queer as a three-dollar bill.” Once upon a time, disagreeable people could hope to be labeled neurotics or paranoiacs; no longer. Members of my generation are fully committed to watching each other watch themselves. Just recently, Irish [Read More...]

How to Have a Good Spiritual Childhood

My RCIA class held the three-hour retreat that preceded Easter Vigil, and our admission to the Sacraments, at a Montessori school, whose grounds spilled back from the street over a couple of grassy, well-shaded acres. The day being Saturday, no students were present, but judging by the height of the tables and chairs, the youngest [Read More...]

Big Revolutionaries Don’t Cry

Of all the responses to Joe Biden’s alleged comparison of Tea Party Republicans to terrorists, I like Rand Paul’s the best. The Kentucky senator tweeted: “I would prefer to be known as a freedom fighter.” That’s my idea of taking ownership. Under scrutiny, the truism that one nation’s terrorists are another’s freedom fighters turns out [Read More...]

Obama’s Base Boos

Ross Douthat is a good sport. In today’s column, he dissects President Obama’s mistakes with an objectivity, even a sympathy, that few conservative commentators would bother to muster. Indeed, the project doesn’t seem to have taken much brain sweat at all. In each of the year’s crises, from Libya to the debt ceiling, Douthat sees [Read More...]

Buddhists Need Own Dallas Charter

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that Buddhist monks are facing allegations of sex abuse; that monastic authorities have established no system for tracking the movements of the accused, and appear in some instances to be stonewalling investigators. According to Meghan Twohey, in 2000, a 12-year-old girl accused a monk named Camnong Boa-Ubol of assaulting her [Read More...]

St. Anthony and the Contact Lenses

Readers have noted, with varying amounts of good and ill-will, that some of my blog entries are afflicted with typographical errors. It’s true, and there’s a good reason for it. My contact lenses, which I cannot at the moment afford to replace, are finely coated with what a friend says is protein — not the [Read More...]

How to be a Non-Communing Catholic

A certain daydream comes upon me whenever some ranking churchman makes a sally in the culture war that leaves me stranded behind enemy lines. I am lying in a hospice, days or hours from death. A priest comes to my bedside and offers to anoint, absolve and feed me the Blessed Sacrament. Without rancor, and [Read More...]

A Long Chat with Archbishop Chaput

Did you hear about the bishop who was so conservative that he wanted Congress to investigate corruption in the hypostatic union? Okay, I made that joke up. But if any lizard in an all-Catholic lounge were to tell it, his audience would probably imagine The Most Reverent Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap, who is preparing [Read More...]

A Second Chance for PTSD Patients

It’s rare that any institution shows signs of having a heart. Across America, certain jurisdictions are struggling to graft one on, experimenting with special courts to try veterans whose alleged criminal offenses appear to have been triggered by post-traumatic stress disorder. Today’s Times reports on the case of Brad Eifert, an Iraq War veteran and [Read More...]


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