John Paul and Francis at Yad Vashem

As that familiar parody of bad fiction has it, “it was a dark and stormy night”—March 21, 2000, to be precise—when I made my way from the Jerusalem Hilton to the Notre Dame Center, to meet a Senior Vatican Official who had promised me a diskette with the addresses John Paul II would deliver during his epic visit to the Holy Land. The diskette was duly handed over, and back in my hotel room I browsed through the upcoming speeches, paying particular attention to what the Polish pope would say when he came to the Holocaust Memorial at Yad Vashem—a meeting about which there had been considerable controversy, involving considerable yammering. Continue Reading »

Innocents Abroad

Seeing as the Catholic Church has itself been the victim of a damaging disinformation campaign, one might expect that Church leaders would be careful not to allow themselves to be drawn into a similar slander operation. But, although the Church is still defending itself against charges of wartime anti-Semitism, many Church leaders seem to see nothing wrong with current efforts to vilify Israel. Continue Reading »

On Thinking with the Church

Gerald McDermott has been prosecuting a case against a certain version of evangelical theology over the past few years (see here and here). His fundamental point is the need to recover the Great Tradition within Evangelicalism and thus to read scripture in and through the lens of the church spread out through time. To fail to read scripture in this way, according to McDermott, is to hold to nuda scriptura in which the interpretation of scripture is reduced to the application of current sensibilities that reinforce the autonomy of the late-modern individual. When personal interpretation trumps the tradition, McDermott wonders how one can ever move beyond a new kind of Babylonian captivity, the captivity of interpretation to a modern cultural milieu. Continue Reading »

The Pope and the Patriarch

On Sunday Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will join one another in their pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Fifty years after the historical meeting of Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul VI, this new meeting aims to do more than commemorate the past. Continue Reading »

The Smoke of Satan Returns

In 1972, on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Pope Paul VI delivered a sermon that startled the world. Describing the chaos then consuming the post-conciliar Church, he lamented: “From some fissure the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God” … Continue Reading »

Why Papal Approval Ratings Are Absurd

Approval ratings remain high for the Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the Vatican City State, Servant of the servants of God, . . . . Continue Reading »

James Joyce: Right About the Church?

In the opening line of James Joyce’s Ulysses, stately, plump Buck Mulligan bears “a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.” Holding the bowl aloft he declares, “Introibo ad altare Dei.” Mulligan, in this symbolic action, expresses Joyce’s critique of Christianity: a combination of sadism, the razor, and narcissism, the mirror . . . Continue Reading »