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...
October 17, 2016
One of the more dispiriting debates that never ends in our political system is about who has the right to vote. One school of thought holds that if an American citizen does not have a driver’s license (with his or her current name on it), it is only fair to require that person to work a little harder, to fill out some extra forms and pay a few fees, in order to cast a vote. Voter identification laws are tied to concerns about voter impersonation fraud, a virtually nonexistent phenomenon, but...
October 3, 2016
If you work in Catholic publishing, it’s a certainty you’ve been asked one question at cocktail parties: Whatever happened to the Catholic novel? The tone of the query usually betrays declinist sympathies—Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?—even for folks who are otherwise glad to be rid of the subculture from which Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene and J. F. Powers arose. Many who yearn for those classics might be horrified to discover that four of the authors...
September 26, 2016
Popular media in the United States continue to approve the Catholic Church’s social justice voice on poverty or the environment, but they dismiss its voice on sex, marriage and parenting. This is intensified by the contemporary framing of the latter issues in terms of “equality,” “freedom” and scientific rationality. In other words, social justice categories are applied to sex and family questions, and the church is found wanting.
Nothing motivates me to try to bridge this divide...
September 19, 2016
Like many of you, I am not embarrassed to say that I wept when I read the story of the terrible murders of two Catholic sisters who had served the poor in central Mississippi. They were stabbed to death in their house in Durant, Miss., by an intruder on Aug. 25.
I know that many people suffer violent deaths throughout the world, in places like Syria and Sudan, and even in the inner cities of the United States. And I...
August 29-September 6, 2016
While in Europe for a few weeks, I’ve been listening to what people say about the refugee problem. To be a Muslim anywhere is to be regarded as suspect; to be a Muslim refugee is to be persona non grata. Even friends and acquaintances I regard as broad-minded remarked that they think it a mistake for a society to accept large numbers of refugees from a very different culture. This was said in a European Union country that thus far has accepted a total of four Syrian refugees.
August 15-22, 2016
After a talk I gave in Melbourne, Australia, this past June, a friend introduced me to an elderly man who had been in the audience. The man had something he wanted to say. He came close to me and began to speak, from which I recollect only one crucial word: formation.
Formation—yes. I could feel my neurons forming new pathways around that bit of Catholic jargon, and suddenly a bunch of puzzling stuff made sense....
August 1-8, 2016
Somewhere around a quarter of a century ago, I found myself sitting down at a table in my high school gym to take the A.P. English IV test. I had an extraordinary teacher for that class, so I should have been ready; but I had spent months obsessively rereading Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 , with the occasional break for a Tom Clancy novel, and so was blindsided by the essay question: “Many famous novels feature a close relationship between a protagonist and his/...