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Liturgy and Interchangeable Sexes

First Timothy 2:12–14 is one of the texts most commonly cited in debates over women’s ordination: “I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, then Eve. And not Adam was deceived, but the woman being deceived fell into transgression.” Continue Reading »

How to Do Things with Words

A friend and I are arguing over the word traditionalist as applied to Catholics. He criticizes “traditionalists” but means only the “cranks,” he insists: No “sane person” would call himself a Catholic traditionalist; only cranks do that. When he writes “traditionalist,” my friend has in mind a careful definition that excludes the likes of Cardinal Burke and Pope Emeritus Benedict, but the word in general circulation has a broader range than that, and many gentle souls get caught in its net. Continue Reading »

That Nothing May Be Lost

This spring I was out of the country for a week. Attending Mass shortly after my return, I went forward to receive the Eucharist and opened my mouth in the traditional way. But I received, instead of Jesus, a frown, a shake of the head, and silence. Distressed, I opened my hands questioningly, and the priest pressed the Host into my palm. Back in my pew I watched as this small drama was reenacted with other communicants. Afterward, on a back table I found a letter from our archbishop, outlining “temporary precautions for the celebration of Mass” due to the spreading of swine flu.

When I entered the Catholic Church in 1996, I was taught by an energetic, abrasive, and intensely orthodox Dominican priest. He taught mostly from memory, stalking about in a theatrical way, fingering a large rosary that hung from his waist. His teaching was both unsystematic and vivid, and when he spoke about the Eucharist I remember he urged us to receive Communion on the tongue—because, he said, we should be as docile and receptive as children being fed by their mother.

The idea alarmed me, like the idea of kissing a crucifix on Good Friday or viewing a corpse at a wake. Open my mouth and stick out my tongue? Let the priest see the inside of my mouth? Continue Reading »

The Church and the City

Since the official validation of Christianity in the fourth century, ecclesiastical leaders have built places of worship in central and highly visible locations. They were not motivated just by grandeur and power. In addition, they sensed that, to be authentic, Christian presence in the world must . . . . Continue Reading »

In Defense of Disbelief

A healthy dose of Christian disbelief or “holy skepticism” would serve as a much-needed antidote to the soft-core spirituality that saps much of contemporary Christianity, especially in its evangelical expression. An anti-doctrinal sentimentality often rules the worship and the art of our . . . . Continue Reading »

The Grammar of Baptism

Feminism has become a truly significant force within American culture. Its presence and power is felt in all areas of our common life, and perhaps nowhere more keenly than in our use of language. We have all become sensitized to the need to be “inclusive” in our speech. Certain usages, . . . . Continue Reading »

The “Mabelized” Church

Exploring the influence of televangelism on American religion in his book The Struggle for America’s Soul, Princeton sociologist Robert Wuthnow presents a typical, though hypothetical, case study: Mabel Miller. Mabel lives alone, thousands of miles from her family. She grew up in a . . . . Continue Reading »

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