Recent News

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 . . .

House of God

If you were a medieval Jew in Colmar, a lovely town in the Alsace region of north-eastern France, you knew you might be attacked and robbed at any moment. You were an easy target, because you lived among your co-religionists in just one area of town – mostly on a single street, la rue des Juifs – and because you were devoted to your faith and its practices and dressed accordingly. You had nowhere to hide.

But you could hide your valuables, which is what one Jewish family did, creating what amounts to a safe deposit box: a terracotta pot containing their treasures placed in a hole in the wall of the house, then plastered over. However, some calamity caused them to leave their treasures, only to be discovered in 1863 right where they left them – nearly 400 years later.

As the catalog for “The Colmar Treasure: A Medieval Jewish Legacy,” a new show at New York’s Metropolitan Museum Cloisters, explains, the exhibit “revives the memory of a once-thriving Jewish community that was scapegoated and put to death when the Plague struck the region with devastating ferocity in 1348–49.”

The “discoverers” of the cache, which includes “silver coins, silver table ware, and gold and silver jewelry including elaborate belt buckles and fifteen silver rings,” probably used a finders-keepers ethos, selling some portion of what they uncovered. What has survived to be seen and loved by future generations is mostly at the Musée de Cluny in Paris, also known as the National Museum of the Middle Ages, which is a source, via loan to the MET, of several of the objects at the Cloisters.

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

The Shire and the Amazon

I’ve been hiking West of Oxford this past week – a late vacation after a busy summer – passing through some of the villages where J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis walked together. Tolkien had this landscape partly in mind in creating the Shire. I even had a pint and a bacon-and-cranberry sandwich Saturday at Moreton-in-Marsh’s The Bell Inn, Tolkien’s model for “The Prancing Pony” in Lord of the Rings – where the hobbits first meet Aragorn, later the true King of Gondor.

All quite beautiful and uplifting in ways it would be difficult to express unless you had the imagination of Tolkien himself. The region is both the same and – no doubt – quite different than when he and Lewis walked here.

There are tourists and television now. (We accidentally stumbled into the church in Blockley, the village where the Fr. Brown TV detective series – a theologically neutered version of Chesterton’s Fr. Brown – was filmed.) Still, the hills and fields, scattered farms and stone towns, take you out into a different world.

The exact nature of that world often gets lost in our current environmental debates. We have great power over nature now. The large strides in pure science and the near-miraculous developments in technology – especially medicine – are great blessings, to be sure, but also great challenges.

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

“The Divine Plan”: a Review

In 1970, the Russian dissident Andrei Amalrik published a short book, Will the Soviet Union Survive Until 1984? Another, more famous refusenik, Natan Sharansky, has said that when he was in a Soviet prison in 1984 and Amalrik’s prediction came up during his interrogation, his KGB guards laughed: “Amalrik is long dead, but we are still very much present!” Amalrik had died in 1980.

Well, as history would show, Amalrik was wrong, though only by a few years. He had believed the Soviet bureaucracy with its brutality, the USSR’s ethnic diversity, its economic stagnation and simmering social unrest would be the death of the Beast. All true. And he thought a war with China was imminent and would devastate Russia. That was wrong, of course, but substitute Afghanistan for China, and he looks more prescient.

Like most dissidents, Amalrik was frustrated by the Western policy of détente. Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Carter had all met with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev to little avail, and all liberty-loving Russians (and their millions of allies behind the Iron Curtain) knew there could never be freedom of speech or religion or in economic activity as long as communism ruled.

Amalrik died just eight days after Ronald Reagan was elected as America’s 40th president, so he didn’t live to see how an alliance between Reagan and Pope John Paul II would become the force – joined to the others Amalrik had identified – that would lead to the Soviet Union’s collapse.

The story of that alliance is told superbly in Robert Orlando’s new documentary, The Divine Plan: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Dramatic End of the Cold War.

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