Recent News

Pope Francis’ Call to Holiness

Among the many sad consequences of the divisions Pope Francis has exacerbated within the Church, we’re now forced to live with an undeniable reality: even when he says good things – and there are many such in his new Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate (“Rejoice and Be Glad: On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World”) – they inevitably get drawn into the trench warfare he helped create.

His supporters often argue that opposition to the kind of changes he made in a document like Amoris laetitia stems from something like Franciphobia, an irrational dislike. It’s true that some Catholics now show a kind of blind fury at what they believe he is doing. But for many more, as Ross Douthat explains in his must-read book To Change the Church, it didn’t have to be this way.

That’s quite evident in how Rejoice and Be Glad invokes many traditional elements of Catholic spirituality and shapes them for current use. The pope states early on that he hasn’t written a comprehensive treatise on holiness, though in his meandering and sometimes self-contradictory way, he touches – helpfully – on almost everything.

The overall aim is exactly right: “The Lord asks everything of us, and in return he offers us true life, the happiness for which we were created. He wants us to be saints and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence.”

And most of the pages that follow show ways we can all –whatever our state in life – walk that path.

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

The Shadow: a Review of “Chappaquiddick”

Directed by John Curran with a script by Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan, Chappaquiddick – which opened last Friday – tells a story most people over the age of 60 will recall. Whether or not it will appeal to younger generations I can’t say, although the studio has a hashtag for that: #thisreallyhappened.

To jog your memory: In the early morning hours of July 18, 1969, the junior U.S. senator from Massachusetts, Edward M. Kennedy (hereinafter, Teddy), left a party in the company of a former aide to his late brother Bobby, and – almost certainly under the influence of alcohol – drove his car off a wooden bridge and into a tidal pond. Teddy managed to escape from the sunken automobile; his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, did not. It’s unclear whether she drowned or suffocated inside the Oldsmobile Delmont 88, probably the latter (she may have survived for four hours).

What happened next is both unclear and yet damning. In the film, we see Teddy sitting on the bank of the pond in the immediate aftermath of the crash. Then we see him walking along the road that leads back to the beach-house party where six – now five – single women (the “Boiler Room Girls” of RFK’s ’68 presidential campaign) and six – counting Teddy – married men continue their rather sad revels. Teddy (brilliantly and flawlessly played – with minimal but effective makeup – by Aussie actor Jason Clarke) tells an aide to fetch his cousin, Joey Gargan (superbly played by Ed Helms). Then Teddy climbs into the backseat of a waiting car. He says: “I’m not going to be president.”

Together with a former U.S. Attorney, Paul F. Markham (Jim Gaffigan), the three return to the scene of the accident. Gargan and Markham strip down and dive into the dark water, fruitlessly attempting to save Mary Jo. Teddy then insists that they commandeer a rowboat to take him back to Edgartown on the mainland so he can return to his hotel. Gargan and Markham, both lawyers, urge him to call the police as soon as possible. Instead, Teddy calls his father, Kennedy patriarch Joe, who whispers one word of advice: “Alibi.” Teddy’s first contact with the police came nine hours later.

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

A Very Long Lent

Lent has ended, but not for me.

I have cancer. At the start, we feared it was stage-four lung cancer, though I’m a non-smoker. This was because metastatic cancer was found on the left side of my neck and, simultaneously, a shadow appeared on my right lung. When cancer crosses the body’s midline, it’s bad news.

But the lung issue turned out to be non-cancerous. And of the “cutaneous and sub-cutaneous” cancer in my neck, several doctors said, “You can live a long time with that!” – the assumption being the metastases were either a treatable basal-cell or a squamous-cell carcinoma.

But after neck surgery in January, the cancer was labeled “aggressive,” and this led to interviews with doctors at major New York cancer centers, the choice of one, and the start of therapies: chemo and radiation every Monday followed by radiation Tuesday through Friday – for six weeks (week three begins today).

I do get the weekends off.

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

Two Youths

Yesterday, Palm Sunday, 2500 students drawn from 150 universities around the globe gathered in Rome for UNIVFORUM 2018, a week-long deepening of their understanding of Catholicism and its relationship to the future of the world. Opus Dei has organized a meeting of this kind yearly since 1968. Delegates will participate in a papal audience, present the Holy Father with funds they’ve collected for relief efforts and with a mosaic of Mary Mother of the Church (for Christians in Syria). Their deliberations end Easter Sunday.

These are not – to be clear – the 305 young delegates invited by Pope Francis for the pre-Synod planning meeting that took place at the Vatican last week, which I described in an earlier column. Those young people concluded their activities yesterday by presenting the pope with a report, helpful in some ways, predictably conflicted and heterodox in others, particularly in its occasional hopes that Church doctrine can somehow adapt itself – Scripture, tradition, the very words of Jesus notwithstanding – to current ways of life in stark contrast to historic Christianity.

In short, in these two weeks before Easter in Rome, we have two very different visions of how to approach young people. There are, to be fair, advantages and disadvantages to each.

UNIVFORUM 2018, like almost everything organized by Opus Dei, is carefully thought through, with a clear focus. It includes organizations and individuals that my sometime colleague George Weigel has argued should be at the October Synod, given their proven successes in youth ministries. This year’s program looks pointedly at the 1968 youth rebellion, with its utopian expectations, and raises questions about whether, a half-century later, it delivered on its promises of freedom and human happiness.

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

Burning Men: a Review of “Paul, Apostle of Christ”

Regular TCT readers know of my passion for good movies, the corollary to which is my distaste for bad ones. Most recent Biblical films (those released since TCT began ten years ago this coming June) have usually been less than praiseworthy, and some readers have complained that it’s un-Christian of me to pan any work whose Christian filmmakers, after all, mean well. But that’s not the way this reviewing thing works.

In any case, it’s very good to be able, finally, to have a film I can recommend wholeheartedly, although it’s impossible for me not to be a little querulous.

Andrew Hyatt’s Paul, Apostle of Christ is a winner overall. It’s a faithful, faith-based retelling of the Book of Acts (with some bits from Corinthians, Romans, and Timothy) that manages to overcome its narrow, theater-like presentation and its dependence on narration and exposition. Mr. Hyatt knows more about moviemaking than I do, yet I’ll suggest that – for next time – he remember that in directing and screenwriting (he ably does both on Paul) rule #1 is: show don’t tell.

In a recent interview, Mr. Hyatt, said: “We just stay with Scripture as the only source material.” That’s fine, as far as it goes, and many viewers will be pleased to recognize God’s word when they hear it. It’s just that Paul is overly wordy. In fact, much of the action of the film takes place “off stage.” We hear about the persecution of the Early Church, but we don’t see it – not much of it anyhow.

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

God Save Them

It’s a verifiable fact that not all politicians are hypocrites. When they begin to worry, publicly, about what’s happening “to the children,” some are genuinely concerned. Public talk about young people, however, is often a form of ventriloquism – by which the opinions (or alleged opinions) of “youth” are used as a voice to advance things that people in authority already want to do.

The Vatican is organizing a Synod on Youth (scheduled for this October) and I’m convinced that the percentage of the people involved who are sincere is quite high, relative to the typical crop of democratic politicos. Which is why it’s counterproductive when they start using the cant of politicians about “listening,” not just doing something “for” but being “with” youth.

When I was young, I would have found this sort of thing – adults acting like they needed to learn something from me – pathetic, indeed highly suspect. Maybe young people have changed deep down, but somehow I doubt it.

Listening to young people can be a good thing – depending on who’s doing the listening, and why. Fr. James Martin “listens” to young people with various sexual disorders, particularly at events like “IgnatianQ” conferences, which are sexual and gender diversity events organized now at Jesuit universities. They’re intended to make young people think that LGBTQetc. is just fine – even fine with Jesus Himself. And that people who think otherwise are bigoted, hate-filled, un-Christian.

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

New Saints: Paul VI and Oscar Romero

The Vatican announced last week that Paul VI and Archbishop Oscar Romero will be canonized in October. My immediate reaction, on both counts, was satisfaction – though I’ve been trying to explain to myself exactly why.

Saints, of course, can have serious shortcomings. The Apostles abandoned Jesus when He needed them most, and Peter even denied knowing Him. But we sense that it had to be that way: Jesus had to be abandoned by all mankind, and it seemed, almost by the Father Himself, to reach the furthest depths – and thereby bring back up everyone and everything.

More recent saints, though, may give us pause. About Paul VI, for instance, there’s much that – to me – was of doubtful value. A cautious man by nature, he had Vatican II dumped in his lap when John XXIII died and he was elected pope. That and the whole mess of the 1960s and early 1970s was not something that a man of his background and character was well suited to face. Yet he’d been elected pope. Amletico – “Hamlet-like” in his indecision – is a phrase I’ve heard Italians use about him.

And they’re surely right, to a degree. He allowed himself to be used – and openly lied to – by liturgical reformers like Annibale Bugnini. (In his memoirs, Louis Boyer calls Bugnini “a man as bereft of culture as he was of basic honesty.”) When Paul finally saw the light, he sent Bugnini as pro-nuncio – to Iran. But it was too late. Our liturgy was wrecked and is still waiting for renewal.

Paul was also deeply naïve, I believe, about global affairs. Populorum Progressio (1967) is a Jekyll/Hyde concoction: sound in its Catholic social principles, progressive to the point of uselessness in its (gratuitous) policy recommendations. Happily, all that disappeared without affecting much of anything.

But Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae the very next year.

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

Up from Orphanism

Pope Francis has allowed to be published a “book” about what a priest in my parish calls “our family prayer,” Our Father: Reflections of the Lord’s Prayer, which arose from a TV interview he did with an Italian prison chaplain, Marco Pozza.

This hastily thrown together little book – made up of fragments from that interview as well as remarks from general audiences and his Angelus talks – presents Francis at his most capricious. Thus the pope’s Preface opens:


Without saying this word, without taking it to heart, we cannot pray.

To whom do I pray? Almighty God? Too far away. I cannot feel that he is near. Even Jesus did not refer to God as “the Almighty God.”

He goes on in this anodyne fashion for 120+ widely spaced pages, constituting ten chapters, each devoted to a phrase from the Lord’s Prayer.

Of the prayer’s title and its opening phrase, Fr. Pozza asks the pope to explain “what it feels like for you pray the Our Father.”

The pope responds that he finds the prayer “reassuring;” that it reminds him he’s not an orphan. He has a “dad.”

God is a dad who warns, “Pay attention, look out for this,” he is saying. . . . I think that today the world has somewhat lost the meaning of fatherhood. It is a world sick with orphanism. . . .Jesus says to us that it will be the poor, the sinners, the prostitutes, the discarded who enter before you into the kingdom of heaven, all.

That’s a direct quote from the pope’s chat with Pozza, but the lack of editorial attention here is appalling. Perhaps in speaking the pope added that “all” at the end of his words (an oral tic), but why on earth should that have made it into the published version?

The pope’s point is that God is not one’s “private property,” which is why the word “Father” is preceded by the word “our.” This lacks the intellectual depth of his two predecessors, but I suppose one ought not to dwell on that.

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

Three Crises – and Three Opportunities

A wickedly funny website on matters Catholic, Ignatius His Conclave, recently pointed out that, in the currently casual logic of the Church, Communion for the divorced and remarried is:

1) a conscience matter (Cardinal Blase Cupich in February), or

2) subject to local regulation, which may lead to differences among bishops and national bishops’ conferences (the pope in Amoris laetitia and various spokesmen at various times), or

3) that “there are no other interpretations” than that of the Argentine bishops, since the papal letter saying so was published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis (June 2017).

Which of these mutually exclusive possibilities is now normative, or will be at some future date, is anybody’s guess.

Note that this mess is a mere administrative question, that does not (yet) touch the radical recasting of marriage and the Church’s understanding of the Eucharist and her very self. On those things, the field is so tracked over with inconsistencies that it’s difficult just to formulate the problems. Though the Dubia still do a pretty good job.

But let us be of good cheer. As the old adage says, there is both crisis and opportunity here, and this creates a propitious moment for us to become more deeply acquainted with the authentic Catholic tradition.


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

The Haircut: a Review of “Samson”

In 1935, Cecil B. DeMille paid Harold Lamb, a writer of historical novels, the 2018 equivalent of $150,000 for a “treatment” (a dozen-or-so pages) of the story of Samson from the Book of Judges – such was the popularity of the Biblical epic. And DeMille’s Samson and Delilah would become a huge success, although it wouldn’t reach the screen until 1949. It became the highest-grossing film of 1950 and was the precursor of DeMille’s even more successful The Ten Commandments (1956), itself a remake of his own 1923 film of the same name. (His 1927 King of Kings is, in my opinion, one of the best silent films ever made.) DeMille, who pretty much founded Hollywood, never stopped looking to the Bible for inspiration.

Reviewing The Ten Commandments for the New York Times, Bosley Crowther wrote:

This is unquestionably a picture to which one must bring something more than a mere wish for entertainment in order to get a full effect from it. But for those to whom its fundamentalism will be entirely credible, it should be altogether thrilling and perhaps even spiritually profound.

By “fundamentalism” one assumes Mr. Crowther meant the film’s respect for its Biblical source, and he would probably have agreed with Variety’s take on Samson and Delilah: “a fantastic picture for this era in its size, in its lavishness, in the corniness of its story-telling and in its old-fashioned technique.”

Those are fair judgments about most Biblical epics – at least until Franco Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth (1977), which was a bridge between what Variety, two decades earlier, had called the “smarties and the hinterlanders.” I’ll get to Mel Gibson in a minute.

It’s surprising that the story of Samson wasn’t retold in the era of bodybuilder wannabe-epics. I mean: Schwarzenegger: Samson!

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