The Deeper Issue at the Synod

Looking back on the controversy that preceded Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae, I get the impression that there was an even deeper issue in play than the question of the morally appropriate means to regulate human fertility. Underneath that debate, another issue was being contested: How should Catholics do moral theology? Continue Reading »

Dear Pope Francis: Remember the Standers

Pope Francis has spoken often about the problem of family breakdown. “The family is the fundamental cell of society,”the Holy Father told bishops, clergy and laypersons during the first year of his tenure. “Marriage and the family are in crisis,” he said shortly after bishops gathered in Rome last fall for the Extraordinary Synod on the Family. No-fault divorce has done more to fuel this crisis than any other factor. Although divorce rates initially skyrocketed after adoption of no-fault in the United States, they remain high. Meanwhile, single motherhood and cohabitation continue to rise, while marriage rates nosedive. And Pope Francis has acknowledged the link between marriage breakdown and society’s ills, including increased poverty, noting that it is children who usually bear the brunt. Continue Reading »

The Catholic Church's German Crisis

The 21st-century Church owes a lot to 20th-century German Catholicism: for its generosity to Catholics in the Third World; for the witness of martyrs like Alfred Delp, Bernhard Lichtenberg, and Edith Stein; for its contributions to Biblical studies, systematic and moral theology, liturgical renewal, and Catholic social doctrine, through which German Catholicism played a leading role in Vatican II’s efforts to renew Catholic witness for the third millennium. At the Council, more than the Rhine flowed into the Tiber; let’s not forget the Seine, the Meuse, the Potomac, and the Vistula. But the Rhine’s flow was strong. Continue Reading »

Priests Speaking Out

It's not a petition, strictly speaking. It's a statement of fidelity to the Catholic Church's historic teaching on sex and marriage. Originally signed by nearly five hundred English priests in March, it's now being circulated in the United States at and available for priest here to sign. Here's the statement: Continue Reading »

Despising Jean Danielou

Jean Danielou died in disgrace. In 1974, at age sixty-nine, the noted advisor to the Second Vatican Council who had been made a cardinal by Pope Paul VI was found dead in the home of a Parisian prostitute. France’s Catholic bishops, trying to calm rumors, published a letter in Le Monde saying that . . . . Continue Reading »

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 »

Distinctly Defamatory

In a self-destructive spasm of what we used to call Freudian projection, Michael Sean Winters claims that Archbishop Charles Chaput ought to apologize for and withdraw the remarks he made a week ago, in answering a question after his Erasmus Lecture, about the recent synod in Rome. . . . . Continue Reading »

“Confusion Is of the Devil” Indeed

I don’t often read Michael Sean Winters, who blogs at the National Catholic Reporter site, and his attack the other day on Archbishop Charles Chaput (which I discovered thanks to RealClearReligion) confirmed the wisdom of my habitual negligence. On the basis of a few words reported by another journalist who attended Chaput’s Erasmus Lecture hosted by First Things on Monday evening, Winters leapt to the most unjust and uncharitable conclusions, beginning with the proclamation in his headline that Chaput offered a “Remarkable Challenge to Pope Francis.” Since I was there Monday evening, I was interested in what “challenge” Winters could mean. Continue Reading »