How to Survive Demonization

Whether the issue is abortion or spending, a fraction of African-American, Hispanic, and young voters are on the right when it comes to policy, but voted for President Obama. These voters are immersed in a milieu where they never hear the worst of the left, or the best of the right. But there’s hope. A lifetime of attitudes can change, but not all at once. Though no national candidate will be able to change such attitudes in the few months of a presidential campaign, such change has happened before on a more local level. Continue Reading »

His Eye is on the Minnow

I was probably the only person who thought of theologian Wayne Grudem while watching Noah, Darren Aronofsky’s controversial epic now flooding DVD players. (Spoiler alert.) Grudem involuntarily came to mind when Tubal-Cain, the villainous ark stowaway, jarringly bites into a sleeping reptile. A dumbfounded Ham says, “The beasts are precious. There are only two of each!” Tubal-Cain, chewing away, confidently replies, “And there is only one of me.” The much better looking Grudem, a professor at Phoenix Seminary and past president of the Evangelical Theological Society, had similarly jarred me two years before when, speaking at a fundraising dinner ostensibly focused on the stewardship of creation, he smilingly advocated the extinction of a species to satisfy human appetites. Continue Reading »

A Millennial Column

I’ve been writing op-ed columns for the Catholic press since 1979. In its present form, “The Catholic Difference,” I began this column in 1993 at the invitation of the late Kay Lagreid, then-editor of the now-deceased Catholic Northwest Progress in Seattle; the column went into national syndication shortly thereafter, with the Denver Catholic Register eventually succeeding the Progress as syndicator. This is the one-thousandth column in that series, which prompts some thoughts of a confessional nature. Continue Reading »

John Updike the Blogger

Every critic knows that John Updike was a gleeful child of his age, but did he rise above it? The common complaint against him is that the greatness of his style eclipsed the thinness of his substance, and Adam Begley’s new biography, full of insightful and sympathetic detail, does little to dim such prejudices. Begley portrays Updike as a man who could not stop writing and as a writer who could not stop thinking about himself. For Begley, in fact, Updike comes across as America’s first (and finest) blogger. Continue Reading »

The Scandal of Calvary

Is it possible for a film to capture the horror of the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church while at the same time presenting a case for the necessity of the institutional priesthood? Against all odds, this is exactly what Irish director John Michael McDonagh’s Calvary manages to do. Father James (played with magnificent presence by Brendan Gleeson) is a good priest, if a haunted one. He is a widower and an alcoholic with a suicidal daughter and a parish full of troubled townspeople in rural Ireland. One afternoon a parishioner confesses to him that he was serially raped by a now-deceased priest as a child, and as a way of taking revenge, he will kill Fr. James in a week. Continue Reading »

The Down Syndrome Community’s Death Debate

Let’s try an experiment: Imagine you are a high school junior just starting to think about college. You have your heart set on The Big Catholic Football School with A Good Academic Reputation. But your mom and dad want you to have options, so they make you go onto the websites of a few other schools and ask them to send you their application materials. When these arrive in the mail, you toss them into a corner where they sit for months and months. After all, your mind’s already mostly made up—there’s really only one school you’re thinking of going to. Continue Reading »

America’s War Against Catholicism

Anti-Catholicism was the driving force behind the Mexican-American War, argues John C. Pinheiro in his gripping new study. The evidence he carefully assembles suggests an even stronger point: that it was the defining attitude undergirding the early Republic and antebellum years. Continue Reading »