Pope Francis Turns the World’s Words Back at It

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One chapter of Strange Gods is entitled, "Through the Looking Glass: Super Idols and Language", and part of it entails looking at how we use, over-use and misuse certain words -- or, sometimes, completely co-opt language -- in order to facilitate the creation of idols.. . . when we render words meaningless -- especially powerful words like peace and love -- our understanding of them becomes warped. Then, as when a teenager flings his stuff thoughtlessly and lazily about the house -- … [Read more...]

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A Female Cardinal? Not a New Idea, Really

It's always struck me as interesting that when Tiepolo painted Saint Thecla, here portrayed at prayer for plague victims, he imagined her in what appears to be an old-fashioned Cardinal's robe.Our Orthodox and Byzantine brothers and sisters call Thecla "the Protomartyr, Equal-to-the-Apostles". I've always thought of her as first in a long line of women -- from the earliest days of the church until today -- who were headstrong in their obedience.One of my favorite writers, David Gibson … [Read more...]

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Pope Francis and Strange Gods: “A Meme on the Rise”? – UPDATED

I'd generate a meme, if I knew how...

Yes, we've been joking for some time about how Pope Francis and I appear to be in some kind of mind-meld on the subject of idols -- he talks about them almost every single week, and brought them up in his encyclical, Lumen Fidei*. In today's homily, Pope Francis really hit hard on the theme:Once again, the liturgy of the Mass elicits from Pope Francis a reflection on the traps that punctuate the life of faith: To become an apostle of one’s own ideas, or a devotee of one’s own well-being, rat … [Read more...]

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Lino Rulli: “Perfect people don’t inspire me…”

Lino press kit

Okay, I've been very upfront about it, so we already know that I am an idolator!But perhaps you didn't know how bad it has become.Take a look:Aye, that's not just a copy of Lino Rulli's new book, Saint: Why I Should be Canonized Right Away, but a medal, and a prayer card and, yes, an I-mean-business 7-day candle.Let's call it what it is: The Shrine of Saint Lino de Sirius-ly Imperfect, patron of "Catholic Guys" and Gals, Bookies, and People Who Expect Every Flight to End … [Read more...]

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Christianists, Proselytizing and the Encounter with Christ

Recently there was a dust-up among some Catholics who wondered what exactly Pope Francis meant when he, during an interview with La Repubblica editor Eugenio Scalfari said that proselytizing was a "solemn nonsense".Clearly, what he meant was that preaching at people doesn't work; while being a reflection of Christ among us is powerful evangelization.If anyone needed the proof of it, recall the ill-reception proselytizing Christians received in 2008, when -- instead of living and working … [Read more...]

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“We are Church.” As self-referential as the Curia.

You might think it takes a peculiar sort of mind to find common themes uniting an interview with Antonin Scalia and an exhortation from Pope Francis, and you'd be right. My piece at First Things this week brings these two divertingly counter-cultural men together on the subject of narcissism and idols:After his election to the papacy, notes were released outlining the pre-conclave intervention delivered by Jorge Mario Bergoglio, which many of the Cardinal-electors said impressed them … [Read more...]

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Taming “The Constant Francis”

Seriously, I'm beginning to feel like all I do is read, write, and dialogue about Francis, all day long and all night; other work is slipping deadlines -- book reviews; interviews; transcriptions; writers who need beatings; editors who also need beatings -- all because of The Constant Francis whose impact on American Catholics is overstuffing my in-boxes, my comboxes, my social media threads.I will need to tame this Constant Francis or I'm never going to get anything else done. I literally … [Read more...]

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If we “get” Francis, we have to absorb his lessons

One aspect of fallen human nature is that we, in a weirdly paradoxical way, tend to become precisely what it is we do not like. Saint Paul decried this tendency in himself, "I do not understand myself; all that I hate I am become" (Romans 7:15).In attempting to walk with people who still processing our new pope and trying to understand him, or trying to understand themselves and what matters within the depths, I've had a lot of time to ponder that line of scripture. It is so easy for those … [Read more...]

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Re Translating Francis’ Interview with Eugenio Scalfari – UPDATED

Pope Francis called Eugenio Scalfari, the atheist editor of La Repubblica, and said, "how about an interview" and Scalfari, no fool, took him up on it. Reading the first English translation found online this morning, I cursed my poor Italian and kept thinking, "this must be a sloppy translation -- some of this isn't even making sense."Well, "Nunblogger" Sister Anne Flanagan, a Daughter of Saint Paul, saw issues too, and since she reads Italian well, she has become a piecemeal translation … [Read more...]

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Müller on Francis: “Don’t get hopes too high”

Interesting, from the UK Tablet -- full text of an interview between Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller and the German Catholic News Agency:KNA: Can former liberation theologians who have been reprimanded (by Rome) now hope to be rehabilitated?Archbishop Müller: (laughing) I myself haven't reprimanded any! Contrary to widespread popular opinion, the two instructions of 1984 and 1986 were not a big 'No' to liberation theology. They merely discussed certain aspects of it. Its most important … [Read more...]

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