Africa’s Catholic Moment

According to an old Vatican aphorism, “We think in centuries here.” Viewed through that long-distance lens, the most important Catholic event of 2014 was the dramatic moment when Africa’s bishops emerged as effective, powerful proponents of dynamic orthodoxy in the world Church. Continue Reading »

Who Am I To Judge?

At noon I have to be at the local Catholic school—let’s call it St. Dismas—to train altar servers. I will arrive a few minutes early, and by 12:05 most of the kids will have trickled in. We are in Southern California, so most of the boys at St. Dismas wear short pants year-round. Students are required to attend one Mass per month with the school, but it has never occurred to anyone, not their parents, not the pastor, not the teachers, and certainly not the students, that they should wear pants to Mass. The girls wear skirts that in 1966 would have been described as “micro-minis.” When I told the boys’ parents that I expected them to wear their uniform pants to Mass when they become servers, the school principal—a genial thirty-something man who insists on the rigorous use of the title “Dr.” but often wears sweatpants and flip-flops to work—cornered me outside his office for a talk. He warned me that I might get some pushback from parents on the pants requirement. “We are only a medium-Catholic school,” he informed me. “We’re not really that Catholic.” Continue Reading »

Government Marriage

A constitutional right for men to marry men and women to marry women is a done deal. That’s how I read the ­Supreme Court’s decision not to hear cases in which lower courts ruled that marriage laws in various states that recognize unions only of a man and a woman are . . . . Continue Reading »

Stephen Colbert and the Southern Catholic Charism

Forgive us if we pack the streets around Ed Sullivan Theatre next spring, searching the sky for plumes of white smoke. True, the transition from David Letterman to Stephen Colbert hardly calls for a conclave, and the future of the Late Show has little to do with the life of the Church worldwide. Even so, it feels like a momentous occasion for Catholics, who despite constituting the largest religious body in the country, usually search in vain for signs of communion in popular culture (that second-largest religious body—lapsed Catholics—offers a more populous field of celebrity ambassadors). Continue Reading »

Reformation Day

It was around two o’clock in the afternoon on the eve of the Day of All Saints, October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther, hammer in hand, approached the main north door of the Schlosskirche (Castle Church) in Wittenberg. There he nailed up his Ninety-Five Theses protesting the abuse of indulgences in the teaching and practice of the Church of his day. In remembrance of this event, millions of Christians still celebrate this day as the symbolic beginning of the Protestant Reformation. October 31 is not a day for the ghosts and ghouls of Halloween but a time to remember the Reformation, especially what Luther wrote in thesis sixty-two: “The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.” Continue Reading »

Diversity as Slogan and Reality

There’s a mainline congregation I walk past on my way to the local Starbucks. The church’s advertising signals a key priority: “We value our inclusivity—whether you are young, old, gay, straight, single, married, partnered, all walks of life and all backgrounds and cultures—we welcome you!”There’s a mainline congregation I walk past on my way to the local Starbucks. The church’s advertising signals a key priority: “We value our inclusivity—whether you are young, old, gay, straight, single, married, partnered, all walks of life and all backgrounds and cultures—we welcome you!” Continue Reading »

Explosive Business in North Dakota

The “Official Portal for the North Dakota State Government” lists that commonwealth’s nicknames as the Peace Garden State, the Flickertail State (something to do with squirrels, evidently), and the Roughrider State. Most Americans know today’s North Dakota as the Fracking State, where fortunes are being made in the energy industry. Catholics in the United States may soon know North Dakota as the cutting edge of Catholic higher education reform. Continue Reading »