George Weigel is distinguished senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

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Václav Havel and Us

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Václav Havel, who died this past Dec. 18, was one of the great contemporary exponents of freedom lived nobly. His moral mettle proved true in both the world of ideas and the world of affairs; indeed, few men of the past half-century have moved more surely between those two worlds. In that respect, and for his personal courage, Havel reminded me of one of the American Founders”if, that is, one could imagine James Madison hanging out with Frank Zappa… . Continue Reading »

Converts and The Symphony of Truth

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Why do adults become Catholics? There are as many reasons for “converting” as there are converts. Evelyn Waugh became a Catholic with, by his own admission, “little emotion but clear conviction”: this was the truth; one ought to adhere to it. Cardinal Avery Dulles wrote that his journey into the Catholic Church began when, as an unbelieving Harvard undergraduate detached from his family’s staunch Presbyterianism, he noticed a leaf shimmering with raindrops while taking a walk along the Charles River in Cambridge, Mass… . Continue Reading »

Breaking Bad Liturgical Habits II

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As I remarked late last year, the introduction of the third edition of the Roman Missal and the new translations of the liturgical texts offer the entire English-speaking Church an opportunity to correct some bad liturgical habits that have developed over the past four decades. The point of these corrections is neither liturgical prissiness nor aesthetic nostalgia; there is no “reform of the reform” to be found in lace surplices, narrow fiddleback chasubles, and massive candles. The point of correcting bad habits is to celebrate the Novus Ordo of Paul VI with dignity and beauty, so that Holy Mass is experienced for what it is: our participation in the liturgy of saints and angels in heaven”where, I am quite confident, they don’t sing treacly confections like “Gather Us In.” … Continue Reading »

The Weakness of Tyranny

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Blessed John Paul II loved the Christmas season. Guests in the papal apartment during his pontificate found the seasonal decorations up early in Advent; and, following Polish custom, they stayed up until Feb. 2, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord. The Christmas meal was traditionally Polish. Every year, John Paul would call his lay friends in Cracow, all assembled in one apartment, and they would sing Polish carols together for hours, over the phone… . Continue Reading »

Christmas, the Infinite, and the Finite

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The title of Father Edward Oakes’ new book, Infinity Dwindled to Infancy, nicely captures the imaginative challenge posed at Christmas: the mystery of the infinite God become finite man. In truth, however, the challenge to our imaginations has less to do with the how of what the Divine Office calls this admirabile commercium [marvelous exchange] than with the why… . Continue Reading »

The Cardinal Down Under

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In the Baltimore of the 1960s, my canny pastor devised a neat scheme for getting “Father Visitor” (as the confessional doors read) to fill in during the summer for his vacationing curates: bring over newly-ordained Australians from their studies in Rome. There were no language issues (save for those of, er, accent); by the standards of student priests fresh from the Urban College of Propaganda Fidei, the young Aussies were recompensed handsomely and got to see something of the United States; it was win-win, all around… . Continue Reading »

Coercing Consciences

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During his homily at the Mass pro eligendo Romano Pontifice [for the election of the Roman Pontiff] on April 18, 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger cautioned his fellow-cardinals that John Paul II’s successor would have to deal with an emerging “dictatorship of relativism” throughout the western world: the use of coercive state power to impose an agenda of dramatic moral deconstruction on all of society… . Continue Reading »

Books for Christmas

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If memory serves, this past year saw electronic books top printed books in the sales figures at Amazon.com. Be that as it may, books”real books”still make wonderful Christmas gifts. Here are some recently published (and read) titles I can recommend with enthusiasm… . Continue Reading »

Downsizing-To-Grow in Ireland

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Catholicism is in crisis all over Old Europe. Nowhere is that crisis more pronounced than in Ireland, where clerical corruption and disastrous episcopal leadership have collided with rank political expediency and a rabidly anticlerical media to produce a perfect storm of ecclesiastical meltdown. The country whose constitution begins “In the name of the Most Holy Trinity…” is now thoroughly post-Christian. And while there has been no one cause of that radical secularization, the Church in Ireland had best look to itself, its sins, its errors, and its unbecoming alliance with political power as it considers how to begin anew… . Continue Reading »