Recent News

Synod 2018: An Intermediate Reckoning

A few days ago, I promised one last report on the Synod and its final document, but only after I had taken time to read the whole text – which still only exists in Italian – and to consider it carefully. There were many quick journalistic reactions, useful in themselves, but they tend to focus on the usual controversial points and stir up emotions that are then forgotten within a couple of news cycles. If we want to be a Church, however, that does more than just try to grab onto a few shreds of truth among the swirling digital and spiritual waters around us, we owe it to ourselves to make a serious effort – even in online forums such as TCT – whenever we can to move more deliberately, dive more deeply.

Still, it’s less than a week since the final document was approved, so this is only an “intermediate-range” assessment. More, much more, will need to be said and done in coming days because the fallout from this synod will probably be with us for decades.

But at least I’ve done a first, penitential slog through all 25,652 words now – which is mercifully about 10,000 fewer than the original Working Document – though partly through the fog of jet lag and despite several mishaps in the course of traveling home. (A New Commandment I give unto you: Do not trust NJ Transit to get you from Manhattan to Newark Airport.)

Click here to read the rest of Dr. Royal’s report at The Catholic Thing . . .

Which Future for the Church?

A formerly evanescent creature called “Synodality” has been spotted with increasing frequency in these last days of the Synod on Young People, Faith, and Vocational Discernment (to give the synod its full working title). The bishops vote on the final document later today – and several crucial questions remain in play.

The cynical among observers in Rome say that the emergence of “synodality” as a theme at this late hour is no accident. The explicit LGBT language that was in the Working Document, written prior to the Synod, was effectively blocked early in the process by the firmly expressed opposition of dozens of African bishops and others from around the world.

The first draft of the final document still contains a paragraph about young people being confused and wanting “clear and open” discussion of male and female, sexual orientation, etc., which – if it survives into the final document – could still perpetrate great mischief.

Which is why the Synod Fathers must stand strong when they vote this afternoon against this fallback language as well, because it’s clear that this is a Trojan Horse. Some of the most prominent figures in the Vatican hope to pursue what they are calling a deeper “elaboration” of these themes in anthropological, theological, and pastoral terms.

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

A Serious Struggle Starts Today

The past three weeks of the Synod were a mere prelude to the main event, which begins as the final week opens today. Tomorrow will be particularly important: the bishops receive the first draft of the final Synod document. So the wrangling will really start, and we will see whether everything that has happened to date is relevant or has just been for show.

In its dalliances with LGBT questions, the Synod has already changed things, just as Amoris laetitia, for all its ambiguities, has gravely changed – and harmed – the understanding of marriage.

Immigration, the role of women, the formation of young people, and their active participation in the Church’s mission, digital evangelization, and various other common synodal topics could have been discussed at the diocesan level.

As we’ve known from the beginning, however, the one subject in the Synod of real significance to the universal Church is homosexuality and the radical challenge the whole LGBTQ+ ideology presents to our Christian anthropology.

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

The Mouse That Roared: a Review or “Romero” (1989)

A man can only take so much.

Fr. Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez, among the Church’s newest saints (along with Paul VI and five others canonized today), was basically a scholarly type. In his homily upon installation as archbishop of San Salvador, the bespectacled Romero said apologetically, “I come from a world of books.” He was thought to be a church mouse, aligned with the Salvadoran establishment, and chosen to be archbishop for just that reason. He was shy and considered a moderate as, perhaps, at the start he was.

But conditions in El Salvador in 1977 were wretched and growing more so: wide gaps in income and equality, with a military ready to use extra-judicial means (i.e., “death squads”) to maintain the status quo. Barely three years into his episcopate, Romero had had enough, and the moderate was radicalized. He became the voice of a kind of revolution, although he never embraced the Marxism that had seeped into several currents of Liberation Theology.

In any case, his last, thundering Sunday sermon would lead to his death.

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

What “Future” without Children?

The “future” has been a hot topic at the Synod on Youth, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment. Virtually everyone, bishops and lay people alike, works hard to find reasons to believe that, despite the dismaying statistics about young people turning their backs on Christianity and the mostly tepid stance of most of those who have not left, we should not give into pessimism or, worse, the sin of despair. There’s “hope” – they say – for the “future.”

But there’s a telling omission. Yes, adolescents and young adults represent the immediate future. Still, if they don’t start having children in greater numbers than the generation or two before them, “the future” is going to hit a demographic wall. And not all that far in “the future.”

All of this is connected, of course, with a topic that Archbishop Bruno Forte – author in 2014 of the scandalous passage in the mid-term report at the Synod on the Family about “valuing” homosexual relationships – said yesterday has not been discussed explicitly in the first ten days: Humanae Vitae, whose 50thanniversary the Church is not exactly celebrating, but kind-of-sort-of remembering this year.

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

Robert Royal Reports from Rome

Robert Royal is in Rome for the Synod on Young People, Faith, and Vocational Discernment. CLICK HERE to read all of his Synod Reports, from the most recent and back (including the 2015 and 2014 Synods on the Family.

Drowning Man

“Where’s Watanabe?” Louis Zamperini asks of an American officer standing next to him. Kneeling on the floor in front of them are several dozen haggard Japanese men, guards from the prison camp where Zamperini had been held, harassed, and tortured by one particular guard, Mutsuhiro Watanabe.

So begins director Harold Cronk’s Unbroken: Path to Redemption, a prequel to Angelina Jolie’s 2014 film of author Laura Hillenbrand’s 2010 book about Olympic runner Zamperini’s experiences as a WWII POW in Japan. The film’s main title card says: “A True Story.” Well, maybe so by Hollywood standards, but whereas Zamperini would return to Japan to seek out Watanabe, he did not do so circa 1950 as the film suggests.

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

“These Vulnerable Creatures”: a Review of “Gosnell”

There have been notorious murderers brought down for reasons other than their most horrific crimes. Al Capone, mob boss, was felled by tax evasion; Dr. Kermit Gosnell, abortionist, by illegally selling prescriptions for painkillers.

I’d be surprised if there are any readers of The Catholic Thing who don’t know who Gosnell is, but just in case: he’s the former operator of a Philadelphia abortuary, who was a specialist in late-term and “partial-birth” abortions. He would regularly take babies born alive (his clinic’s procedures were slapdash at best) and cut their spinal cords at the neck.

Al Capone was a better person.

Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer is in some ways like an hour-and-three-quarter length episode of Law and Oder: SVU– although the best-ever episode.

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

The Elephant in the Sacristy, Revisited

Sixteen years ago, at the height of the 2002 clergy sex scandals in the Catholic church and on the eve of a meeting of bishops in Dallas, The Weekly Standard published an essay of mine called “The Elephant in the Sacristy.” It included an in-depth look at some of the most notorious clergy abuse cases of the time. Back then, like today, the plain facts of the scandals were submerged in what we now call whataboutism. According to these evasive maneuvers, the wrongdoing was supposedly explained by reference to clericalism, celibacy, sexual immaturity, and other attributes invoked to avoid the obvious. I examined and dismissed those analyses, offered up an alternative, and made several recommendations for cleaning up the Catholic church of the future. The scandals, I wrote, were:

a cluster of facts too enormous to ignore, though many labor mightily to avert their eyes. Call it the elephant in the sacristy. One fact is that the offender was himself molested as a child or adolescent. Another is that some seminaries seem to have had more future molesters among their students than others. A third fact is that this crisis involving minors—this ongoing institutionalized horror—is almost entirely about man-boy sex.

Like most people, I could hardly bear to read what needed to be read about the cases. As well, anyone back then who described the facts in unadorned English was guaranteed vituperation, and got it. But I wrote it anyway because of the conviction that “the most important mission facing the bishops and, indeed, all other Catholics . . . is the responsibility of doing everything in one’s power to prevent this current history, meaning the rape and abuse of innocents by Catholic priests, from ever being repeated.”

That was then. Here we are now.

Click here to read the rest of Mrs. Eberstadt’s column at The Weekly Standard . . .

Drowning Man

“Where’s Watanabe?” Louis Zamperini asks of an American officer standing next to him. Kneeling on the floor in front of them are several dozen haggard Japanese men, guards from the prison camp where Zamperini had been held, harassed, and tortured by one particular guard, Mutsuhiro Watanabe.

So begins director Harold Cronk’s Unbroken: Path to Redemption, a prequel to Angelina Jolie’s 2014 film of author Laura Hillenbrand’s 2010 book about Olympic runner Zamperini’s experiences as a WWII POW in Japan. The film’s main title card says: “A True Story.” Well, maybe so by Hollywood standards, but whereas Zamperini would return to Japan to seek out Watanabe, he did not do so circa 1950 as the film suggests.

Louis Zamperini was raised in California (Torrance) by very Catholic parents, immigrants from Verona. In high school, he took up running, at one point setting the world scholastic record for the mile. At the Olympic Trials in 1936, he tied for first in the 5,000-meter race and headed to the Games in Berlin, where he finished eighth.

In World War II, he became an Army Air Force bombardier and ended up surviving a 1943 crash in the Pacific Ocean, floating on a raft for forty-seven days before being captured by the Japanese.

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