Recent News

1968 at 50

A wise priest/professor at Notre Dame told me recently that the great Catholic historian Philip Gleason (now emeritus at ND) often counseled people to keep calm: “Remember, at least it’s not 1968.”

I’m not so sure. We’ve just had an archbishop, head of two pontifical councils, praise a nasty Communist China with a recklessness not seen since Hanoi Jane Fonda visited Communist North Vietnam. We’re seeing the return of priests, bishops, and cardinals teaching contradictory things, sometimes even claiming that what was once “intrinsically evil” is in some cases now required – and certain they’re riding a new outpouring of Spirit. Centuries of moral theology seem in peril when the pope steps on a plane. And the message out of Rome hasn’t been so confusing since Paul VI.

A remark I just came upon by a well-known American priest (not Fr. James Martin) took me back to those troubling days. He claims that belief that human beings are divided into male and female is the product of our “binary” minds.

This priest’s other work has some spiritual heft and, until I look further into what he meant, I’m not going to name him. Besides, my concern is less with him personally than with a way of moral reflection that now seems everywhere in the Church, from ordinary laypeople in the pews to Rome.

Because it’s important to recognize that some people now think such statements are a Christian approach to neuralgic sexual conflicts. For time out of mind, the question never even came up; it was settled “by inspection.” Our creative species has produced some exotic blooms across cultures and millennia, but never until now LGBTQQIAAP. . . .


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

Five Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution, Part I

Academics vary about their definitions of the sexual revolution, but here’s one straightforward, uncontroversial formula. The “revolution” refers to the changes in sexual behavior and mores following the widespread adoption and approval of reliable contraception over a half-century ago. The first accelerant here is the birth control pill, approved by the FDA in 1963, and widely dispersed in the population thereafter. The second accelerant is the legalization of abortion on demand in 1973 via Roe v. Wade – a development that approval of the Pill made all but inevitable. Modern contraception and legalized abortion changed not only behavior but also attitudes. Around the world, social tolerance of non-marital sex in all its forms has risen alongside these other changes, for logical reasons that I’ve talked about elsewhere, including in my book Adam and Eve after the Pill.

Except for the Internet, it’s hard to think of any other single phenomenon since the 1960s that has re-shaped humanity around the world as profoundly as this particular revolution. Some of the resulting record is very well known indeed: four years ago, on the 50thanniversary of approval of the birth control pill, there was an outpouring of commentary and reflection, most of it in a positive vein. The revolution, it was claimed – and acclaimed – by TIME magazine and most other secular sources, had leveled the playing field in the economic marketplace between women and men for the first time in history; it had conferred freedom on women such as they’d never known before.

All true, so far as it goes. But there’s another side of the record that’s been mostly ignored by a mainstream society saturated with the revolution’s pleasures. With every passing year, more evidence accumulates that must someday change that predominant, happy storyline. Towards that end, I would like to discuss five ways in which the revolution has re-configured human reality as we know it, five seeming paradoxes that point to the revolution’s power – in particular, to its awe-inspiring destructive power.

Click here to read the rest of Mrs. Eberstadt’s column at The Catholic Thing . . .

The Apostolic Secession

An axiom in the legal profession is that a lawyer should never ask a question in court to which he doesn’t already know the answer. Getting an answer you don’t want can be embarrassing and may even harm your case.

Pope Francis has asked young people to write to him with their concerns. This is part of the lead up to October’s synod: Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment. Reading that text, you may be surprised that every papal document cited is by Pope Francis. No Paul VI, no John Paul II, no Benedict XVI? This somewhat narrows the catholicity of the Catholicism framing the upcoming discussions.

In addition to the request for letters to the pope, there are surveys being circulated in every diocese – all designed to take the temperature of Catholics in their teens and twenties, who are, of course, the “future of the faith.”Perhaps not coincidentally, a recent report by Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) about why young people leave the Church states flatly that: “eighty-seven percent of these former Catholics [in their teens and twenties] said that their decision to leave the Church is final.”

We may wish to chalk that up to the arrogance of youth, but 87 percent is an impressive number. As Crux summarized the shocking takeaway: “More Catholics are leaving the faith than ever before – more so than in any other religion . . .” and also at ages younger than ever.

Of course, it has long been the case that, as the Pew Research Center put it a few years back: “Americans change religious affiliation early and often.” One expects young people to wander, whether it’s Christian kids off to college or Amish kids on their Rumspringa, although there’s also the expectation that they’ll return. But will this new generation of Catholic youth come home?

Click here to read the rest of Mr. Miner’s column . . .

The China Syndrome

In several decades of living in Washington DC, I’ve met my share of scamps and scalawags, fabulists and outright liars. It would take a modern Dante to determine which circle of Inferno each type of misbehavior merited. But of one thing, I am certain: at least in my own my own experience, I’ve never encountered more brazen and manipulative liars than Communist Chinese officials responsible for relations with religious believers.

Which is what makes it so disturbing that last week reports surfaced that the Vatican asked two underground Chinese bishops, loyal to Rome, to step aside in order to allow two bishops of the Patriotic Church, submissive to the Communist regime, to take their places. That news drove the heroic 86-year-old former Cardinal of Hong Kong Joseph Zen to go to Rome without an appointment, stand outside the Casa Santa Marta, and ask to be allowed to present a letter from the underground believers – who are willing to resist despite personal costs – to Pope Francis. Reliable sources say the pope received the letter and promised to read it.

Cardinal Zen has been energetic in warning about the unreliability of agreements with the Communists. Asia News, a publication of the Vatican, itself reacted to last week’s news with a warning about substituting “illegitimate” bishops for “legitimate” ones. The ChiComs (as we used to call them during the Cold War) are smart and shrewd. They know how to manipulate Western values, in this case, “unifying” the churches, i.e., the religious inclination to think we can fix all problems with dialogue, building bridges, diplomatic arrangements.

Meanwhile, China continues to cut crosses off church buildings, close some, dynamite still others. The New York Times reported just two weeks ago that China had destroyed the Golden Lampstand church – with 60,000 worshippers the largest evangelical community in the country. The reason: the large, conspicuous edifice had been “secretly” constructed, had failed to get official building permits, etc. These are the usual fig leaves of tyrannical regimes all over the world when they attack religion. I’ve heard top Chinese leaders blame local authorities for “excesses and errors,” but these seem to recur with a suspect regularity that no one seems to take steps to stop.

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

Journalism of peace?

Raymond Arroyo and Faith & Reason Institute’s Robert Royal discuss the pope’s recent comments about journalism (the Serpent in the Garden of Eden spread the first “fake news”), the Holy Father’s sex-abuse comments in Chile, and the Vatican’s decision to replace validly appointed Chinese bishops with state-sponsored ones.

Why the Pro-Life Movement Will Live Long and Prosper

At First Things magazine, FRI’s Senior Research Fellow reflects on the future of the movement and its goals. The situation may seem dark indeed, but as Mary writes:

. . . there’s a light on the horizon that pulses brighter with every passing year. One area we shouldn’t worry about when we worry about secularization is this: the fate of the pro-life movement itself. And that is so for three reasons.

Click here to read the whole article.

Hillbilly Thomists

I grew up in the Midwest. My folks were both well-educated people. In fact, both were Phi Beta Kappa – a standard to which I failed to ascend – and my father was a professor and department chairman at THE Ohio State University. The Miners and my mom’s people, the Earnharts, were all Buckeyes, unto the fourth generation. I’m the only Catholic.

Ohio is not Kentucky. Think of Ohio and maybe you think of the Rust Belt. Think of the Bluegrass State and you may think of the South, although Kentucky was not secessionist during the Late Unpleasantness, despite the fact that the sympathies of many Kentuckians leaned that way.

Anyway . . . Bluegrass music (hereafter capitalized to distinguish it from the stuff that carpets lawns and grows on the infield at Churchill Downs) also apparently evokes the South. And that’s about half right because Bluegrass is Appalachian; if you look at a map you’ll see that Appalachia is pretty much bisected by the old Mason-Dixon line, except there’s actually a bit more of it in the North. West Virginia, you know, is northern, as are Western Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio, and Southern New York.

Click here to read the rest of Mr. Miner’s review . . .

Catholicism in the 21st Century

Fr. Thomas White talks about his new book on Catholicism, In the Light of Christ, and the challenges and promise of Catholicism in the 21st century, followed by comments and conversation with Mary Eberstadt and Robert Royal.

The Light of Christ provides an accessible presentation of Catholicism that is grounded in traditional theology, but engaged with a host of contemporary questions or objections. Inspired by the theologies of Irenaeus, Thomas Aquinas and John Henry Newman, and rooted in a post-Vatican II context, Fr. Thomas Joseph White presents major doctrines of the Christian religion in a way that is comprehensible for non-specialists: knowledge of God, the mystery of the Trinity, the Incarnation and the atonement, the sacraments and the moral life, eschatology and prayer.

Click here to read more and watch a video of the event.

Where the Revolution has Led: An Interview with Mary Eberstadt

Flynn: What are identity politics?

Eberstadt: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines identity politics as “political activity and theorizing founded in the shared experiences of injustice of members of certain social groups.” This is not politics as usual. It’s instead an assertion of identity with one or another group that’s said to be oppressed. Believing oneself to be a victim is part and parcel of “identifying” in this way.

Identity politics, as scholars note, has only come into existence in the last thirty years, meaning that it is mostly younger people who believe this is what’s meant by “politics.” The results include theatrical repercussions that we’ve all seen in person or in the news – violent protests, increased numbers of speaker shut-downs on campus, other disruptions on the quad and elsewhere – whose common denominators are emotionalism and unreason.

I wrote the essay not to dismiss the primal nature of identity politics, but instead to try and understand where all that deeply felt irrationalism is coming from.

What do we lose because of the surge in identity politics?

For starters, we’re losing an elemental piece of Catholic and other theology: The idea of free will. Identity politics says that biography is destiny – that how you’re born determines your political and moral interests in life. Nothing could be further from the idea that we are made in God’s image, and given the unique power of freely choosing good – or, as the case may be, evil.

The anthropology behind identity politics amounts to a crabbed, crippled, unfree view of the human person. It divides the world into victims and oppressors, leaving no room for free agency or redemption. For that reason alone, Christians above all should be wary, and reject this new way of looking at the world.

Beyond Christians, though, identity politics is toxic across society. The decibel level of unreason makes it hard to advance a civil, rational case about anything. And the Manichean division of the world into victims and oppressors leaves little space for nuance or anything else. All identity politics, all the time, makes for a dumbed-down, dreary conversation out there – just one more reason why figuring out the attraction of such politics in the first place seems like work worth doing.

Click here to read the rest of Mr. Flynn’s interview with Mary Eberstadt . . .

Saving Babies and Time Off in Purgatory

As I write, Washington lies under light snow and, with wind chill, is 90 F. In most of the country, not too bad for January. In Washington – between the incompetence of government and a population that rarely encounters (read: “drives in”) snow – it means near paralysis. During the Cold War, I used to say that the Soviets were wasting money on nukes and sophisticated weaponry; a few well-placed snow machines would have crippled the capital of the West. But as decades of experience have proven, none of that will stop tens of thousands of people from showing up tomorrow for the March for Life, one of the most selfless public causes on the planet.

None of them comes for personal gain. But this year you can get a plenary indulgence for participating in the events. What a great, good thing: save innocent babies and get time off in Purgatory, too.

Pope Francis has recently – and rightly – been warning the world about the dangers of nuclear war. In Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two relatively small atomic bombs killed almost 250,000. Today’s numerous and powerful weapons would be much more deadly. But for those of us marching tomorrow, it’s hard to overlook the undeniable fact that we’ve basically had four Hiroshimas and Nagasakis – 1,000,000 dead every year for the past forty-five years. And that’s in America alone, where abortion is still contested, even limited in many states, compared with the past, thanks to heroic public witness and action.

It’s a puzzle why the pope, energetic as he is on many good causes, has been so relatively quiet on this one. He speaks against abortion occasionally and sometimes forcefully (see Notable in column to the left), but he set the tone quite early in his pontificate in an interview with La Civiltà Cattolica about contraception, abortion, and homosexuality that left many pro-lifers speechless: “The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.” Presumably, this reflects some experience of the pope’s. But I know a fair number of pro-lifers – leaders and the ordinary folks who, generously, seeking no personal benefit, turn out every year in the cold and remain active back home throughout the year – on abortion, but also helping the poor, visiting the sick, and much else. The pope’s description doesn’t fit them. And what he calls “disjointed” seems to many consistent and comprehensive Catholic teaching that needs to be emphasized as such.

It’s doubly painful to learn this year, just days before the Pro-Life March, that Lilianne Ploumen a Dutch politician and prominent promoters of homosexuality, contraception, and abortion, not only in Europe but around the globe, was given a medal making her a Commander in the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great. She claimed in an interview that it was in recognition of her work and that “the Vatican, especially under previous popes, had a rather rigid attitude when it came to girls’ and women’s rights.”

Click here to read the rest of Dr. Royal’s column . . .