January 23, 2017
Even before the election, 2016 had been a strange year for the politics of abortion. After that contest’s surprising results, the upheaval is only more pronounced, and activists on each side are likely to underestimate the twists and turns of the road ahead. Both camps are ready to press their own advantages, but they do not yet seem to have developed plans for engaging voters on the opposing side.
The Republican primaries elevated Donald J. Trump, a recent convert to the pro-life...
January 23, 2017
Donald J. Trump stirred hope in the hearts of longtime Washington watchers by holding high-profile meetings after his election with Democrats like Al Gore and Rahm Emanuel; he even sprinkled some praise on the opposition leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer. Those of us who believe in the institutions of government grab at any hint that an effort is afoot to make them work again.
But do not expect a return to the days when comity could be coaxed with a little (or a lot) of bourbon and...
January 2, 2017
Last month I spent a week in Rome and met someone important.
Despite what you might suspect of the travel habits of Jesuits, I’ve not visited Rome frequently. All told, I traveled there for the first time after graduating from college (“Look! The Coliseum!”). Twenty years later, on my way back from two years in Nairobi, I spent a week in Rome and visited with my mother’s family in Sicily. Finally, in January, I was there on business for our editor in chief, Matt Malone, S.J. Last...
December 19-26, 2016
This Christmas season comes as the breath between two battles, the political battle that just ended with the election of a new president and the one sure to begin once he takes office. For some opponents, who see the election as a call to mobilize, there is no letup. But for many Americans, this interregnum is a respite, a time to turn away from the clash of ideas, interests and agendas we have just experienced as a nation. It overlaps a holy time...
November 28, 2016
In the years following my baptism as a teenager, I had a lot to learn in order to pass for a Roman Catholic follower of Christ—prayers, motions, habits of mind. I had to cultivate friendships with saints, acquire rosaries and read Flannery O’Connor. I had to figure out what to say when people asked why I believed in God. But it wasn’t long before I noticed that merely being Catholic would be insufficient. One has to be a particular kind of Catholic.
As much as my newfound co-...
November 21, 2016
Pilgrims to the Oratory of Saint Joseph on Mount Royal, the highest point in Montreal, must ascend 283 steep steps to reach the church. I spent most of the climb on our visit last month trying to distract my wife from just how out of breath I was, and got lucky when she stopped to read the French sign on the 99 wooden steps located between the two sets of concrete stairs: Réservé aux pèlerins qui montent à genoux : “Reserved for pilgrims climbing on their knees.”
It was a reminder...
November 14, 2016
I was addressing a diocesan women’s conference when the mother of a teenage girl asked me a difficult question. If I do not have a better answer next time—and if the church universal does not have more answers to offer soon—I wonder how we will engage girls of the 21st century.
Her daughter wanted to know how to relate to a church where a father God sends a son whose good news is proclaimed most visibly by a male hierarchy.
I am not a theologian. Bummer. But I did the best I...
October 31, 2016
Why are some Catholics so hateful on social media?
The most common reactions to this question are these: First, “I know what you’re talking about. I see that all the time on Facebook!” Second, “I’m not on social media that much. What are you talking about?” And third, “Don’t be so sensitive. Criticizing doesn’t make someone mean.”
For those who don’t frequent social media, here’s a primer. Certain Catholics consider it their bounden duty to correct, admonish and attack others...
October 24, 2016
Americans used to be big supporters of international law. It was President Woodrow Wilson who proposed the League of Nations after World War I. Politics kept the United States from joining, but after World War II the United States played a leading role in creating the United Nations as well as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and a host of other international organizations. Because of new international trade and investment agreements, intellectual property accords and treaties...
October 17, 2016
I’ve only ever met one person of my generation—just barely young enough to be millennial—who claimed a calling to be a deacon. He was an Episcopalian. He was studying for a master of divinity degree at an eminent university more accustomed to producing graduates who aspire to lofty titles like chief executive officer and bishop. But he spoke about the deacon’s special role as a bridge between the hierarchy and the people, and about the humility and holiness of the calling. He spoke about it...