Eye to eye with Mother Teresa (farewell to Scripps Howard)

Mother Teresa was having a bad press conference. Journalists gathered for her 1989 Denver visit seemed determined to ask a litany of questions about her views on every imaginable issue in world affairs and American politics. The soft-spoken, yet often stern, nun seemed confused and kept stressing that her Missionary Sisters of Charity would always focus on the needs of the needy and the sick, including those suffering from AIDS. One television reporter even asked if the day’s main event… Read more

The man from Buenos Aires vs. dead Catholic museums

BUENOS AIRES — It’s hard to wrestle with the crucial moral and cultural issues in modern Argentina without getting Catholic and Protestant leaders into the same room. During one tense gathering, some Catholic speakers kept referring to decades of rapid growth by “evangelical cults” in Latin America. The assumption seemed to be that evangelical Protestants were all the same, with no real differences between, for example, the freewheeling “prosperity Gospel” preachers and ordinary Protestant flocks. This went on and on… Read more

C.S. Lewis: Still too popular after 50 years

Even though it has been 50 years since his death, the faithful at Headington Parish Church in Oxford, England, are constantly reminded of the loyal, but rather quiet, parishioner who always occupied the same short pew hidden by a sanctuary pillar. Going to church was never easy for C.S. Lewis, even before he became one of the world’s most famous Christian writers, noted the Rev. Angela Tilby, in a recent service in memory of the Oxford don’s death on Nov…. Read more

Guess the winner: Woodstock vs. religious liberty

Blame it on Woodstock. Cultural changes unleashed by the sexual revolution are affecting how millions of Americans understand religious liberty, according to University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock, speaking at a recent Newseum symposium marking the 20th anniversary of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It doesn’t help that disputes about the free exercise of religion have increasingly turned into bitter partisan battles pitting Republicans against the majority of mainstream Democrats. What is happening? It helps to remember that churches… Read more

Classic Billy Graham, at 95 years of age

The Rev. Billy Graham has been worried about the state of America’s soul for a long, long time. So it wasn’t surprising that — when preaching what could be his final sermon — the 95-year-old evangelist looked straight into the camera and talked about sin and tears, repentance and salvation. And the cross. “Our country’s in great need of a spiritual awakening. There have been times when I’ve wept as I’ve gone from city to city and I’ve seen how… Read more

‘The Exorcist’ — Taking incarnate evil seriously for 40 years

In the middle of a New York Magazine dialogue on heaven and hell, damnation and salvation, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia offered this theological zinger: “I even believe in the Devil.” The Devil is a major player in the Gospels and faithful Catholics know that, he said, before adding: “Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history.” The principalities and powers of elite America were shocked, shocked by his confession. But one veteran Hollywood scribe pounded… Read more

‘Backsliders’ and the ‘unchurched’ equal the ‘Nones’?

Old-school preachers used to call them “backsliders,” those folks who were raised in the pews but then fled. Sociologists and church-growth professionals eventually pinned more bookish labels on these people, calling them the “unchurched” or describing them as “spiritual, but not religious.” Pollsters at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and similar think tanks are now using a more neutral term to describe a key trend in various religious traditions, talking about a sharp increase in the percentage… Read more

Unusual challenge from a Greek Orthodox bishop

It happens all the time: Church leaders stand at podiums and urge members of their flocks to go and share their faith, striving to win new converts. These speeches rarely make news, because they are not unusual. But something very unusual happened earlier this month in Brookline, Mass. “You will surely agree that our mission … is to lead our brothers and sisters — both inside and outside the church — to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” said the… Read more

Military chaplains on Sexual Revolution front lines

It was in 1775 that General George Washington authorized chaplains in the Continental Army. “Purity of Morals,” he wrote, three years later, provided the “only sure foundation of publick happiness in any Country” and thus was “highly conducive to order, subordination and success in an Army.” “Purity of Morals” might have provided unity during the American Revolution, but chaplains face more divisive issues decades after the Sexual Revolution. “No Catholic priest or deacon may be forced by any authority to… Read more

A growing hole in the middle of American Jewry

There is a Yiddish saying about the mysteries of faith, family and fellowship that, loosely translated, proclaims: “You cannot make Shabbat by yourself.” “The point is that you need the presence of other Jews around you to live out the dictates of your Jewish beliefs,” said sociologist Steven M. Cohen, of the Jewish Institute of Religion at Hebrew Union College. Shabbat creates that circle of support. Beginning minutes before sundown on Friday, it involves a day of rest, prayer, ritual… Read more