Recent News

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 . . .

Church, Clericalism, Corruption

Ezra Pound, the American poet, once wrote of the Catholic Church: “Any institution that could survive the picturesqueness of the Borgias has a certain native resilience.” True, but cold comfort. Survival is one thing – even assured by Jesus Himself. But at this moment, everything beyond mere survival seems in doubt.

To shape the future, we need to understand the past, but in a Catholic way. And for that, we should follow Dr. Johnson’s advice to “clear your mind of cant.” It’s cant, he told Boswell, when we say things not quite true in public: “You may talk in this manner; it is a mode of talking in Society; but don’t think foolishly.”

There are three “Cs” in our discussions about the abuse crisis that must be cleared of cant: the Church, clericalism, and corruption.

It’s cant, in my view, when we say “the Church” failed in handling abuse. Still worse, that “we’re all responsible.” The “Church” did not fail.  Specific individuals committed specific acts. Other specific individuals either passively ignored what they knew or actively covered up. They failed, sometimes aided by networks, formal or informal. Not “the Church.”

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

Unknown Caller: a Review of “The Apparition”

French director Xavier Giannoli has been making feature films for a dozen years. L’Apparition is his latest, and it’s likely to follow his other films in garnering a best picture nomination in next year’s César Awards, the equivalent of our Oscars.

The Apparition, which opens this week in a limited American release, is a very Catholic film, although not along the lines of Henry King’s Song of Bernadette (1941) or John Brahm’s The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima (1952). Those films told the stories of the two most famous apparitions of Our Lady – 1858 in France and 1917 in Portugal – and they depicted actual events. Giannoli’s film is wholly fiction, and – as you might expect from any 21st-century movie – it expresses skepticism.

Or does it?

In a village in France, a teenage girl named Anna Ferron (Galatéa Bellugi) claims to have seen the Blessed Virgin, who has spoken to her and also given her a mysterious bloodstained cloth. Such claims must be taken seriously, and they are.

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

A Cleansing Fire

As virtually the whole world now knows, Carlo Maria Viganò, the former papal nuncio to the United States, has published a blockbuster 11-page letter, naming names of people involved in sexual abuse and cover-ups in America, and their enablers in Rome, up to the very highest levels, including Pope Francis. He provides dates and details and information on where the relevant documents may be found; speaks of persons who can corroborate his story; and has called on everyone implicated, including the Holy Father (who already knew about McCarrick in 2013 and did nothing, he says), to respect the Church’s Zero Tolerance policy, become an example to others, and resign.

I knew Viganò somewhat in Washington and always liked him; he was the best Vatican ambassador we’ve had in recent years. My esteem had grown, even prior to this letter. At Rome’s Marcia per la Vita (March for Life), bishops do not participate (the Italian bishops’ conference, displaying deeply misplaced faith, thinks it should work through elected politicians, not public demonstrations). At the last one, I saw Cardinal Burke and Bishop Athanasius Schneider; as for other bishops – only Viganò.

Many call him a man of honesty and integrity. This comes through clearly in passages from his letter such as this:

My conscience requires me also to reveal facts that I have experienced personally, concerning Pope Francis, that have a dramatic significance, which as Bishop, sharing the collegial responsibility of all the bishops for the universal Church, do not allow me to remain silent, and that I state here, ready to reaffirm them under oath by calling on God as my witness.

Defenders of the pope have already raised questions about specific details of the letter

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