She’s Got the Whole World in Her Womb

It’s called a vierge ouvrante, or opening virgin, and the name doesn’t need much explaining. Like a one-window Advent calendar, this statue of the Mother of God pops open to reveal the Holy Trinity: an anthropomorphic, bearded God the Father hefting the horizontal beam of the Cross on which His comparatively tiny Son is being [Read More...]

“Sorry, Guys, Still Catholic”

On November 19, Salon ran a piece by a Catholic re-vert named Kaya Oakes titled “My Torment As A Catholic Woman.” The melodramatic title — probably the editors’ choice, not the author’s — does the work an injustice. When Oakes talks about the Church’s ban on women in the sacramental priesthood, it’s not so much [Read More...]

Muffled Drums

Okay, I get it — you don’t approve of him. You got sick to your stomach when you heard the speech where he talked about believing in absolute separation of Church and state. You break out in hives whenever you think about how he let Bobby bother those poor Southerners, the salt of the earth. [Read More...]

Vicino Riva’s Taste of Paradise

So it turns out the guy Pope Francis hugged and kissed to such great fanfare last November 6 does have a name. It’s Vicino Riva. It also turns out he has a history. Now 53, Riva lives in Vicenza, just west of Venice. His tumors began growing when he was 15; both he and his [Read More...]

Review: The Thorny Grace of It And Other Essays for Imperfect Catholics

They tell me Brian Doyle is a Catholic. And it seems he’s conned an awful lot of people, including the editorial staffs of Soujourners, Commonweal, and This Christian Century, three of the many places the proliic author has published. But I don’t buy it. At some point, he must have taken Jesus’ Sacred Heart down [Read More...]

Review: Bad Catholic’s Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins

Whoever first compared a surfeit of fun to a barrel of monkeys and not a barrel of Catholic intellectuals can’t have read John Zmirak’s Bad Catholic’s Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins. In his romping, discursive treatment of what he calls “the seven areas of life in which Jesus ruins our fun,” Zmirak riffs and [Read More...]

On the Joys of Hanging out with Normal People

When Rick and his wife, Yuna, start arguing, it is crucial not to interrupt them. Couples will unload on each other only when they feel completely at home; robbing them of the comfort they feel in your presence would amount to a betrayal of their trust. Plus, once they work up that much hostile energy, [Read More...]

Let the Strange Spartans Tell You…

One Friday night a few years ago, I was watching videos on YouTube with my headset unplugged. Someone knocked on my door. Actually, no — someone pounded on my door, with a force and urgency that comes more typically from a rifle butt or a booted heel. I opened the door and beheld a man [Read More...]

The Permanent Friend Zone

It’s not every day reading other Patheos blogs triggers a visceral reaction, but one of Katrina Fernandez’s latest all but made me chew straight through my poor tongue. In “Expressing Love Beyond Sex and the Single Life,” Kat writes: Probably the most wonderful thing about being single is having my definition of love grandly expanded, [Read More...]

A Nameless Dignity

Am I the only one feeling uneasy about the coverage of Pope Francis and the man with neurofibromatosis? It’s not that I mind seeing the man, whose neck and head are covered with benign tumors resembling boils or giant scales. But I do wish I knew more about him — his name, his nationality, his [Read More...]

Purgatory-Schmurgatory, As Long As You’re Hopeful

By the Council’s 25th session, when the Trent Fathers finally got around to the subject of Purgatory, they must have feeling tired and grouchy. After affirming that such a state exists, and that “the suffrages of the faithful” and “the acceptable sacrifice of the altar” work to detainees’ benefit, they drew a veil. “The more [Read More...]

The Ugliest Piece of Religious Art Ever

Here’s a sampling of Facebook comments on Pope Francis’ new ferula: “Okay, I think I know what it looks like: Remember those old magnetic things where there were contained iron shavings, and there was a picture of a guy’s face and you used a magnet pen to move the shavings onto the guy’s face to [Read More...]

Sick Note to the Saints

To all the saints in the Church Triumphant: Gang, I know this is your big day, and a Holy Day of Obligation for folks like me, but I have a hunch I’m going to have to call in sick. As you all know, I’ve spent the last seven or eight months on a fitness kick. [Read More...]

Pastoral Care for the Post-Nuclear Family

Unlike most bloggers, I don’t live in my parents’ basement. For that reason, last December, I missed out on my mother’s first wedding in 43 years. For almost 29 of those years, she and Bob, her new husband, have been together at one distance or another. Bob’s contribution to my mother’s life, and to my [Read More...]

Wherein I Finally Try Tolkien

“You sound gayer than the gayest elf in Mirkwood,” an angry reader once wrote me. I didn’t mind being reminded how waspish I can get — I do work pretty hard at it, after all. But the “Mirkwood” part really hurt. Like most New Yorkers, I hate L.A. Now, at last, I see how far [Read More...]

Yes, He’s the Burying Kind

We should have buried Erich Priebke. Or rather, since protesters in Albano Laziale effectively derailed Priebke’s funeral cortege, forcing officials to suspend the service, we should have tried. Whatever happened, the effort would have been worth it. Not that Priebke, who died in Rome October 11 at the age of 100, was a warm or [Read More...]


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