January 11, 2021

Near the end of G. K. Chesterton’s play “The Judgment of Dr. Johnson,” the hero, 18th-century writer and curmudgeon Samuel Johnson, is talking to the (fictional) American revolutionary John Swallow Swift. Swift has just learned that France has entered the war on the side of the Americans, and prophesies that this is the beginning of the triumph of republicanism all over the world. Johnson replies: it is true that I am of an older fashion; much that I love has... Read more

December 1, 2020

However reluctant many Trump supporters are to admit it, it now seems quite clear that Joe Biden is going to be the next President of the United States. And clearly American Catholics are deeply divided in their attitudes to this prospect. On the day of the election, when the result was very far from certain, Catholic convert and natural law theorist Hadley Arkes wrote an article for The Catholic Thing on the potential Presidency of Joe Biden. Arkes regarded the prospect... Read more

November 29, 2020

Over the past few weeks, during Year A of the Eucharistic lectionary, we’ve been hearing a series of parables from Matthew told by Jesus shortly before his crucifixion. Many of these are of a rather threatening nature. The foolish bridesmaids are shut out in the dark. The slave who didn’t invest his master’s money is, again, thrown out into the darkness. The “goats” who didn’t recognize the King in the person of the “least of these” are cast into the... Read more

November 1, 2020

Some of my conservative evangelical friends have been upset (or perhaps even gleeful?) this past week over the rather old news that the Pope said that atheists could go to heaven. Apparently an article from the Independent in 2015 has been circulating on social media, no doubt because it was originally published in October. I mistakenly thought it was something new the Pope had said, at first. But it’s still worth commenting on, since this weekend is when many Protestants... Read more

October 27, 2020

Progressives are understandably in mourning due to the confirmation yesterday of Amy Coney Barrett as an associate justice of the Supreme Court. I have mixed feelings about the confirmation myself. I will shed no tears if she votes to overturn Roe v. Wade, which I think is a badly argued decision and a serious obstacle in the path of any just and reasonable resolution of the abortion controversy. (I also am under no illusions that reversing Roe is a panacea,... Read more

October 6, 2020

My trusty colleague and sparring partner in matters of Biblical interpretation, “Fellow Dying Inmate,” wrote a post back in August on the book of Revelation that upset a number of readers. Of course, writing on Revelation is bound to upset a lot of people. I would have thought that Catholics would be less inclined to go ballistic on these subjects than evangelical Protestants, but alas, I’m no longer sure that’s true. Four Gospels or four constellations? FDI argued, in particular, that the... Read more

August 23, 2020

During my 19 years of being an Episcopalian, this particular Sunday in the church year was always  uncomfortable for me. Every three years Matthew 16 would roll around and the priest would explain why “we” didn’t read this passage the way the “Roman Catholics” did. And almost invariably, the explanation would strike me as rather feeble. It was part of my general sense that as an Episcopalian (and as a Protestant generally) I wasn’t signing on to full-throated, unequivocal Christianity... Read more

August 21, 2020

One of my grandmother‘s favorite medieval Catholics was, as it happens, St. Bernard of Clairvaux. He wasn’t the only Catholic she admired, but he was perhaps the only medieval or post-medieval canonized saint who meant a lot to her spiritually. And for good reason. The emphasis on a “personal relationship with Jesus” that means so much to modern evangelicals was, to a great extent, a product of Bernard’s theology and the Cistercian movement to which he belonged. The warrior Christ... Read more

August 16, 2020

I love the fact that the Old Testament readings at Mass correspond, as a general rule, to the Gospel readings. There’s something to be said, to be sure, for the approach of the Protestant “Revised Common Lectionary,” which provides a continuous reading of the Hebrew Scriptures. For study purposes, that is of course the best method. But for Mass, I think it’s not ideal. As Catholic Christians, we read Scripture liturgically and intertextually. Scripture is a vast organ whose stops... Read more

August 5, 2020

It’s becoming more common for conservative Catholics to criticize Vatican II. Most recently, Anthony Esolen has written a piece for Inside the Vatican calling for Catholics to ignore Vatican II and “move on.” Esolen refers to an earlier piece by Archbishop Vigano, also published in Inside the Vatican. Vigano, in turn, alludes to criticisms of Vatican II made by Khazakh bishop Athanasius Schneider published on the LifeSiteNews website. The three pieces have their differences. Schneider’s is by far the most... Read more

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