Recent News

The Vatican’s China Syndrome

How long can the Vatican remain silent about the Chinese repression in Hong Kong and about reports of persecution and re-education camps for religious believers in the rest of China? Clearly, the figures in the Roman Curia (primarily Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin) who crafted the still unpublished accord with the Communist government have put themselves in a moral bind. If they speak out, they may jeopardize the agreement (which would not exactly be a tragedy, since it has only led to even more violent, more open acts against Christians in China). If they don’t speak out, they run the still greater risk of being accomplices, conspicuous accomplices, in the repression and potential liquidation of a heroic Catholic people of confessors and martyrs.

It didn’t have to be this way. Just as the Vatican PR machine is able to gin up campaigns to promote Pope Francis’ preoccupations about the environment, immigrants, the death penalty – and now nuclear weapons – it could also have made crimes against Christians, particularly Catholics, far more visible, and an urgent priority for anyone, anywhere in the world who pays attention to the moral leadership of the Church. And not only in China, because persecution of Christians exists in various hotspots around the globe and there are increasingly anti-Christian attacks even in Western nations like France and the United Kingdom, to say nothing of our own country.

Many Catholics were rightly upset when Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Council of the Social Sciences, returning from a trip to China, said, “Right now, those who are best implementing the social doctrine of the Church are the Chinese.” That was so absurd – considering the religious repression, the environmental damage, the forced abortions, the Orwellian surveillance of their own people – that it doesn’t bear a moment’s thought.

Click here to read the rest of Bob Royal’s column at The Catholic Thing . . .

Joe and Jorge’s Excellent Adventure: “The Two Popes”

Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles’ City of God (2002) was not, despite the title, a religious film, but a gritty, semi-documentary drama about kids in Rio’s slums. Mr. Meirelles’ new film, The Two Popes, is also not religious.

The film claims to be “inspired by true events,” which at its heart is a lie, and it clearly doesn’t understand what’s going on in this mysterious thing called the Roman Catholic Church. Or if it does know, dislikes it intensely.

Written by Anthony McCarten, screenwriter of two very fine (and very different) films, Darkest Hour and Bohemian Rhapsody, The Two Popes imagines a 2012 meeting between Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce) and Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins). The cardinal has been summoned by the pope ostensibly to discuss the former’s resignation as Archbishop of Buenos Aires. As it happens, before receiving the pope’s summons, the cardinal had already bought a plane ticket to Rome in order to urge Benedict to accept that resignation. Kismet?

Pope Benedict is well aware that Bergoglio finished second in the 2005 conclave voting that had elevated him to the papacy, and therein lies the gambit: the pope really wants to discover what sort of man his likely successor is and what effect a Papa Bergoglio might have on the legacy of Benedict’s papacy.

Click here to read the rest of Mr. Miner’s column at The Catholic Thing . . .

Intimations of Immortality in the Americas

Intimations of eternity are rare in this life. I had one, about this time of the year, when I was in high school. I’m enough of a modern man to know how unreal the claim seems. But it’s true. I was walking with a few friends under autumn leaves. We’d just been reading Virgil together in Latin, during last period. From somewhere, there welled up in me an overwhelming sense of both geologic ages and the immense extent of human life. And something beyond even those. Years later, I came upon an Italian poem – L’infinito – that captures the experience.

I had a similar experience this past Saturday morning. Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco celebrated an Extraordinary Form Latin “Mass of the Americas” at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, accompanied by the music of Frank La Rocca, whom the archbishop had commissioned for that purpose.

But listening to the recording and even watching the video can’t even begin to convey what the Mass was like in the Basilica. To underscore just one element, Archbishop Cordileone celebrated the Mass on the main altar under the Baldacchino, way at the back of the church (instead of the new altar closer to the congregation). That had a marvelous effect. At least for me.

When he and the concelebrants processed to the far altar, near the imposing mosaic of Jesus as Pantocrator (“Ruler of All”), it was as if they were going deep into the divine mysteries. And later, when the priests came forward to distribute Communion, it was as if they were bringing the Body and Blood to the congregation from the depths of God Himself.

Click here to read the rest of Robert Royal’s column at The Catholic Thing . . .

72 Hours: a Review of “Midway”

It’s Veterans Day, which you know and which I mention to explain why I’m reviewing a film that has little to do with Catholicism explicitly, but everything to do with the kind of self-sacrifice Christianity, more than any other religion, has made central to its teaching and finds its strongest secular counterpart for us in those who have served our country.

German director Roland Emmerich has made the best film about Americans in World War II since Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan (1999), although not at that level of achievement. His Midway – a tense, action-filled movie that is very much better than the star-studded 1976 film of the same title – is a welcome reminder of why we celebrate those who serve.

Midway begins with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Those sequences are good, although one is conscious of the video-game-like computer-generated imagery (CGI), partly because its execution is at times imperfect (that’s the world we live in), and partly because you know the dive-bombing and strafing Japanese Zeros and extravagant explosions and burning ships cannot possibly be live-action. Imperfect though it is, it puts you smack-dab in the action – much more so than Michael Bay’s 2001 film, Pearl Harbor.

Click here to read the rest of Mr. Miner’s column at The Catholic Thing . . .


On Joe Biden and Judging Souls

The political season, alas, we always have with us now, but last week it took a turn in earnest.

Father Robert E. Morey, a courageous priest in South Carolina, denied former Vice-President Joe Biden Holy Communion owing to the longstanding public scandal of his support for unlimited abortion. To my mind when Biden, as vice-president, performed the wedding ceremony for two gay White House staffers, it was a cynical move for LGBT support, but far more importantly another brazen scandal demanding a response from the Church. He has been essentially defying the American bishops for decades, knowing that it’s highly likely they won’t dare put him on the spot.

Reactions to that priest’s act fell, as always happens, along the usual political lines. But this is not a political matter. It’s a question of whether the Church, as it claims, takes seriously the most serious things, namely the nature of the Eucharist and what it means for someone to receive the Body and Blood of Christ.

There have been various dodges from the Church hierarchy on this matter. New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan, for example, remarked that he would never judge the state of someone else’s soul. But that’s not what is involved in the Biden case and many others like it.

Click here to read the rest of Robert Royal’s column at The Catholic Thing . . .

Miracle in Poland: a Review of “Love and Mercy”

It’s a remarkable thing that the visions of a 25-year-old Polish nun would, after years of suppression by the Vatican, become what is now a major feast day in the Catholic Church: Divine Mercy Sunday.

Sister Maria Faustyna Kowalska (born Helena Kowalska in 1905) was a nun of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Plock, Poland when she began receiving instructions from our Lord, including that she arrange for a painting of Him as she saw Him in her visions that would include the phrase “Jezu, ufam Tobie” (“Jesus, I trust in you).

We might wish to know more about this woman, the feast she helped inspire (in 2020 it will fall on April 19), and the Divine Mercy chaplet and its promises. And now we can know, thanks to a new docudrama by director Michal Kondrat.

Love and Mercy is an odd but valuable film. I say this 90-minute movie is odd – that’s often true of docudramas (films that intermingle actors performing dramatic sequences with interviews of non-actor experts) – because the documentary scenes are unexceptional, although informative, and the dramatic reenactments of Faustina’s life are truly fine cinematic work.

Click here to read the rest of Mr. Miner’s review at The Catholic Thing . . .

“By the Grace of God”: a Review

The abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church haunt us, and not just in the United States. No nation with Catholic churches has been spared. True, the worst of the actual crisis – of priests sexually abusing little boys, teens, and young men – appears to be all but over. But have the right lessons been learned? Is the storm over? Or are we simply in the eye of the hurricane?

I have no answer, but Pope Benedict XVI tried to give one in 2005 in his instructions concerning seminary education. We may hope those guidelines are being effectively implemented.

Yet we continue to witness ongoing struggles by victims for justice . . . and more attempts by bishops to avoid accountability, which is why French director François Ozon’s new film, By the Grace of God, remains timely and important.

The virtue of the film is its emphasis on victims, unlike Tom McCarthy’s Oscar-winning American film, Spotlight (2015), where the focus was on the reporters who blew up the sex-abuse cover-up by the Archdiocese of Boston.

Click here to read the rest of Mr. Miner’s review at The Catholic Thing . . .

The Return of the King

NOTE: This the first of Robert Royal’s reports from Rome about the ongoing Amazon Synod.

Pope Francis is fond of saying that “synod” means “walking together.” In the right circumstances, it might mean that (though usually it just means a “meeting”). In the wrong circumstances, it can take on the less happy meanings of the original Greek synodoslike the “meeting” that happens when two parties face each other in a courtroom – or two armies clash.

That troubling meaning of “synod” has been quite evident in past weeks. Before the Amazon Synod even started – the bishops, vested in green, joined the pope for Mass at St. Peter’s yesterday and begin their work today – there was a swirl of passionate claims and counterclaims, the likes of which have probably never been seen in Rome at this kind of an event.

Quite a few Catholics have been appalled at the synod’s strange mixture of changes to the priesthood and roles of women with ecological concerns – and openings to pagan superstitions. And rightly so.

On Saturday, Pope Francis along with Brazilian Cardinal Cláudio Hummes and Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri (both leaders of the synod) attended an indigenous ritual, a tree-planting ceremony in the Vatican gardens. Participants danced around a mandala, spread soil from “symbolic places,” and bowed to two female fertility figures. A male figure with erect penis lay nearby. [Author’s Note: In the days since this article appeared, there has been same debate about whether it’s a penis or arm in the male figure. No Vatican voices has clarified this point, which leaves the ritual still quite puzzling.]

Click here to read this and all of Robert Royal’s Amazon Synod reports (newest at the top) . . .

A Wise Child’s Guide to the Amazon Synod

few days ago,, an official outlet, featured an article by a Brazilian Jesuit and theologian defending the mishmash of sociology and sophisms in the Amazon Synod’s Working Document using the most extreme terms imaginable. Father Adelson Araujo dos Santos called claims that the Synod was flirting with “theological errors and heresies” to be “a total distortion of the facts.” In his view, anyone making such claims is in “complete disobedience to the whole doctrine and magisterium of the church.”

Is this necessary now? To disagree with what is, by any normal reckoning, a strange Roman concoction – invocation of cosmovisions, rainforest primitivism, shamans, indigenous religious beliefs and practices (some quite shocking) – is defiance of doctrine and the Church’s teaching authority? Not merely a different view? Not even an error? But a revolt against the Faith?

Synod defenders argue that it merely continues the defense of Creation by JPII and Benedict. But this is, at best, misdirection. Any thinking Christian recognizes there are environmental problems stemming from a wrong idea of Creation, primarily that nature is mere matter and energy that we may use any way we wish. But Care of Creation is not in dispute; a mostly empty sentimentalism about indigenous cultures very much is.

It’s another feint to say that the Church has always understood the need to respect and understand native cultures – to “inculturate” the Gospel by finding openings in the cultures themselves. Quite true.

Click here to read the rest of Robert Royal’s column at The Catholic Thing . . .

On Being Tired

The title of this column is reminiscent of Father James V. Schall, S.J. – so many of our very dear, late contributor’s columns having begun with “On . . .”

Fr. Schall’s last column here was titled, “Who Are You?”, in which he wrote: “The history of the world records the judgments, wise and unwise, made by the human persons who live in this world for however brief or long a time.”

For however brief or long a time . . .

Readers of TCT may recall a couple of columns I wrote last year about having cancer, being treated for the disease, and then coming through it with no cancer detected anywhere in my body.

The principal test used to detect cancer is the PET scan (Positron-Emission Tomography), and I had another one at the end of this past August, and it was completely clear. But . . . there are places a PET can’t “see.”

Without going into details here, an MRI just last week indicates I may have cancer in one of those hidden places. An upcoming biopsy will confirm, but on a scale of 1 to 5, I’m apparently a 4.

One thing we know: if it is cancer, it’s not a recurrence of the type I was treated for in 2018.

Click here to read the rest of Mr. Miner’s column at The Catholic Thing . . .