What the Pope Should Do. We’re Waiting

Not for many generations has the Church amassed as much prestige as it has under John Paul II and his successors. They underline (or have so far) the formidable quality of church leadership. Since John Paul II’s elevation in 1978, no nation on earth has been led better. That prestige ought to be used in an important cause, and one where it will matter. There is a desperate cause right under the Pope’s nose. What is he doing in the Philippines and South America at a moment when, throughout Europe, Christianity is dying? Continue Reading »

Why I’ll Miss Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney was an unprincipled politician. He was an opportunist and a pragmatist. Still, it’s a pity that Romney won’t be running for president in 2016. A Mitt Romney­­–Jeb Bush fight might have split the Republican “establishment” and allowed an anti-establishment candidate to win. But Romney could have done more than split one faction of the Republican party. He could have nudged the platform of the Republican party’s establishment faction closer to the beliefs of grassroots conservative voters—and closer to the views of the general public. Continue Reading »

Evangelical Challenges for Vatican Diplomacy

The bilateral diplomacy of the Holy See is unique in world affairs, in that it has little or nothing to do with the things with which diplomats typically occupy their time: trade issues, security matters, visas. Rather, the reason why the Vatican engages in bilateral diplomacy is to secure the freedom of the Catholic Church to be itself in the countries with which the Holy See has, or wishes to have, diplomatic relations. To be sure, in crisis situations, the Holy See’s representative in a crumbling or violence-ridden state can also serve as an honest broker amidst contending local parties, or a voice for persecuted Catholic communities, or a channel for humanitarian assistance. But whatever the situation, the first task of the pope’s representative to another sovereignty is to help maintain free space for the Church’s evangelical, sacramental, educational and charitable missions, all of which are essential to what it means to be “the Catholic Church” in any human situation. Continue Reading »

When We Turn Inward

The followers of Jesus Christ must manifest a confidence that the truth that sets us free is everyone’s truth, and not just a subjective truth peculiar to our own community. We should, in short, not be content to turn inward but ought always to reach out to the larger world. Continue Reading »

An Apology for the Catholic Church’s Patriarchy

Patriarchy refers to rule by men. It is an accusation often levelled at the Catholic Church, an institution led by a class of male-only priests distinct in status. Priests decide on disagreements over dogma, administer God’s forgiveness of sins through the sacrament of confession, and institute the Eucharist at Mass—some of the most important Church activities. For most people, this is patriarchal and unwelcome in our age of gender equality. Continue Reading »

Pope Francis and the Hidden Path to Holiness

Five years ago the Catholic Church had a Year of the Priest, and now Pope Francis has declared a Year of Consecrated Life. To mark this year, he has issued an Apostolic Letter, building upon Vatican II’s decree on religious life, Perfectae Caritatis (1965), and St. John Paul II’s post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Vita Consecrata (1996). While everyone seems to have a concept of the priestly ideal, the unique charism of consecrated life, especially for men, is more obscure. In particular, religious brothers tend to have lower profiles than do priests and nuns. Continue Reading »

A Fourth Francis

When Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected pope in March 2013 many wrote about the significance of the choice of his papal name, Francis. Commentators insisted that this symbolized his indebtedness to the ideals of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Francis Xavier, the famous Jesuit missionary. He himself explained his choice of name with his profound veneration of St Francis of Assisi. But there may be an overlooked “third” Francis: St. Francis de Sales (1567–1622), the great master of spirituality, Doctor of the Church and bishop of Geneva. What do I mean? For both Pope Francis and St. Francis de Sales, Continue Reading »