July 8, 2022

This is part of a series responding to the 100 most common questions people have about various religious traditions. In the case of Catholicism, naturally one of the things people want to know about is our belief regarding what we call the Eucharist and the question calls “communion.” The terminology is important to clarify at the start. Most Protestants refer to the ceremony of praying over and sharing in bread and wine as “communion,” and there’s a reason for this... Read more

June 14, 2022

Is the Trinity an embarrassment? One of the many reasons why Christians should talk to Muslims is that doing so makes us think more seriously about the distinctives of our faith, particularly the Incarnation and the Trinity. It was in conversation with a Muslim at the age of 20 that I first really came to an understanding of the importance of the Incarnation for my own faith. And similarly, Muslims’ persistent belief that the Trinity must be some kind of... Read more

April 19, 2022

  Every year during Advent and Christmas, punchy Catholic dudebros who think themselves clever clutter the Internet with memes about St. Nicholas. No, not the lovely story about how he saved three girls from being sold into sexual slavery. Much less the charming if often consumeristic modern mythology that has clustered around him as “Santa Claus.” No, what really impresses these valiant knights of social media is that St. Nicholas supposedly punched Arius at the Council of Nicea. He was... Read more

November 29, 2021

  Mark Shea’s excellent primer on Catholic social teaching has the catchy but rather odd title The Church’s Best-Kept Secret. I don’t blame Mark in the least for the oddness. He’s right that many people, both Catholic and non-Catholic, don’t understand the shape of Catholic social teaching. In particular,  conservative American Catholics of the past few decades, proudly declaring themselves “faithful to the Magisterium” and denouncing “Cafeteria Catholicism,” have bought into the notion that Catholic social teaching is fundamentally about a... Read more

November 8, 2021

  This is the time of year when people talk about the Reformation because of the “Reformation Day” celebration many Protestants observe on Oct. 31. Since I was trained as a Reformation scholar, I naturally have a lot to say about the Reformation. I’ve written a number of Reformation Day posts in the past, chronicling my own journey from disgruntled Catholic-leaning Protestant to disgruntled Protestant-hankering Catholic. Last year I defended Pope Francis against criticisms of his generous statements about atheists... Read more

September 19, 2021

  One of the weirdest aspects of this endless pandemic is the political polarization of responses to it. It’s not surprising that people disagree over how to respond to a new disease. But it doesn’t, on the face of it, seem obvious that conservatives would oppose shutdowns and mask mandates and even vaccines while liberals would support those things. Once upon a time, a very long time ago, in March of 2020, First Things editor Rusty Reno landed in a lot... Read more

March 6, 2021

  This past Sunday, the Catholic lectionary juxtaposed two famous Biblical stories. In the Old Testament reading, we had the powerful and troubling story of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. Our Gospel reading, in contrast, was the transfiguration of Jesus. By putting these stories together, the lectionary is inviting us to think about them in connection with each other. In both stories, a “beloved son” goes up a mountain. In both stories, there’s some kind of divine acknowledgment of a special... Read more

February 21, 2021

In grad school, I read a book called Veiled Threats by Michael Carroll, a Canadian scholar has written a number of books about popular/folk Catholicism in several different cultures. This book, like its predecessor Madonnas that Maim, focused on the role of the Virgin Mary in southern Italian Catholicism from the fifteenth century to the present. Carroll describes a common practice in southern Italy of covering statues of the Virgin Mary (and I believe sometimes other statues as well) with veils and... Read more

February 16, 2021

Did Christ become a human being or a man? According to the German bishop Franz-Josef Bode, the first answer is the correct one. At a forum he chaired on the role of women in the Church, Bishop Bode stated, about a year ago, that Christ became a “human being” rather than a “man” in the Incarnation. This shocked his episcopal colleague Bishop Strickland of Tyler, Texas, who called Bishop Bode to repent of his heresy. Due to the way Facebook... Read more

January 23, 2021

Many Catholics claim that a wide variety of issues are “prolife.” I am one of them. We affirm as Catholics that God has made all human beings in His image. Therefore, all human beings have inalienable dignity. When we encounter a difficult moral issue, the first question we should ask is whether a given position affirms or denies that dignity. This requires us, among other things, to make the protection of human life a paramount ethical priority. Anything that harms and... Read more


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