John O’Malley’s book on Trent is especially welcome; it is beautifully written, richly but manageably detailed, and unostentatiously learned.
Jacques Dupuis was not a likely suspect for the charge of endangering the church’s doctrine. But at the end of his career he found himself ensnared in doctrinal disagreements that took a personal toll.
Last fall, the Archdiocese of Boston released an ambitious plan designed to stem the decline it has experienced—in priests, Mass attendance, and treasure—since the 2002 wave of sexual-abuse scandals. Whether the plan will work remains an open question. That something needs to be done is a sentiment shared widely among Boston-area Catholics.
Pope Francis looks poised to address Vatican reform with his appointment of an international panel of cardinals charged with making recommendations to improve the Roman curia. Bringing outsiders in for a close look seems to be the point, but it’s not the first time this has happened.
Religious Freedom & State Power
Pope Francis’s choice of title and his actions in his first days as pope indicate that he places humility and compassion for the marginalized at the heart of his ministry—“servant leadership,” in today’s church parlance.
Catholics at both ends of the ideological spectrum look to a new pope for encouragement. And from the moment he made his first appearance on the balcony of St. Peter’s, Francis seems to have given nearly everyone a reason to cheer. But whatever the direction in which the new pope steers the church, U.S. Catholics struggling to make a life of faith in what is admittedly a vertiginous moral and cultural landscape will continue to take surprising turns, confounding the usual categories.
Virtually everyone in Latin America (and North America as well) has every reason to be thrilled with the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio to the papacy. Still, there are some who continue to raise questions about his actions during Argentina's guerra sucia.
In winning election as Pope Francis, Jorge Mario Bergoglio defied the papal pundits, even though they should have seen him coming. His rise marks the decisive shift within Roman Catholicism toward Latin America and the developing world.
What can the next pope learn from Benedict, and what should we seek from him? Our special series concludes with new stories from William L. Portier and Richard R. Gaillardetz.
The humility of Benedict's decision to give up power will affect future papacies, all to the good.
John Thavis presents many stories that will make you laugh. Others may make you cry.
Divisions in the church are usually seen as mimicking those of secular politics. Conservatives or traditionalists are pitted against liberals or progressives. But Timothy Radcliffe, a Dominican friar and the former head of his order, suggests a more fruitful way to understand the Catholic split.
Evaluations of Benedict's tenure have balanced the pros and cons of his deeds according to the lights of the balancer. What is untallied, except for his failure to unmistakably demand accountability in regard to clerical sexual abuse, is what has remained undone. Underlying conditions like the limitations of the clergy or the eroding credibility of church teachings on sexuality are no better than when he took office.
Even Benedict's most ardent supporters concede that his papacy has been marred by too many scandals and too many gaffes. And the courtly secrecy surrounding the deliberations to elect the next pope provides a reminder of the lack of transparency and accountability in the operations of the entire hierarchy.
Now It's Rome's Turn
Benedict, Eight Years Later
This is the long-term historical context of the papacy Benedict XVI will resign: one that became more monarchical in the nineteenth century (as a reaction against the democratization of modern political systems), and that is now more centralized than ever before—despite Vatican II.
Benedict is a traditionalist who was affected by modernity. He would not be troubled that he had to reach far back to find a precedent for papal resignation. He knows that a pope hobbled by sickness and weakness would be a dispiriting symbol in a media age. Then again, perhaps his traditionalism inclined him to this decision.
Garry Wills wants to eliminate priests from Catholicism, arguing that there is only one priest as such in the New Testament, Jesus Christ—and that even the scriptural designation of Christ as priest (in Hebrews) is problematic.
To understand dissent, you first have to understand authority. Authority in the church must be based on truth. Episcopal authority is not the source of truth, as some would have us believe.
In October 1963, Bishop Luigi Bettazzi addressed the Second Vatican Council on the need for collegiality. He was the newest bishop participant and, at thirty-nine, one of the youngest. Now eighty-nine, Bettazzi is the most active of the five surviving Italian participants, keeping faith with the council by writing and lecturing about it tirelessly.
The Catholic Right’s False Nostalgia
In the fall of 1965, I worked in the final session of the Second Vatican Council. A young priest and doctoral candidate, I was tasked with distributing documents and collecting votes and amendments from my assigned section of bishops. Almost half a century later, a bound set of those documents holds a prized place in my library—and the events and personalities of those days hold a prized place in my memory.
How a Young Priest Helped Me Hear Jesus
In the days after Vatican II, confession slipped its old juridical moorings, with its distinctive laws, regulations, judgment, and penance. At the moment it is searching for new moorings. What will confession look like once it finds them?
After I published a piece on Alison's suggestion that Benedict XVI was preparing for a change in church teaching on homosexuality, the theologian sent me a kind note. So began an exchange that led to this interview. Wouldn't it be interesting for him to be interviewed by someone like me—sympathetic to the plight of gay Catholics, but unconvinced by arguments to change church teaching? Here's what he had to say.
To write a biography of Avery Dulles is to enter the vitriolic conflict over interpretations of the legacy of Vatican II, the current state and future prospects of Catholicism in the United States, and the health of Catholic theology. There is much to be said for Carey’s way of organizing the myriad events and scholarly works in the life of a very public intellectual. Yet it finally fails to capture the complexity of the figure that emerges in the pages of this book.
Remembering Peter Gomes
Must the church always call evil plainly by its proper name, whatever the consequences? Can her priests keep silent in the face of abomination, in the hope of rescuing something positive from chaos, or so that tyranny may bear down a little less cruelly on those who must endure it? Those were the dilemmas confronting Eugenio Pacelli, pope during the Second World War, a diplomat who found himself sitting in the seat of prophecy.
My friend the exorcist
Robert Barron's 'Catholicism'
How a rectory saved me
The trouble with the new Roman Missal
The liturgical wars heat up
How not to write about the cardinal & his time
If George Weigel had lived in nineteenth-century France, he would have been termed an ultramontane—one who looked beyond the Alps to Rome. Instead, he looks from Washington to Rome.
A homilist's education
It was in Rome during the heady days of Vatican II. There was to be a meeting of the Consilium, the commission for the reform of the liturgy, where the subject of deaconesses was raised—and not one woman was in the room.
Lisa Sowle Cahill’s middle way
Benedict & condoms
If we forget the Bible, in what sense are we Christian?
What was Pius XII's opinion of the Jews?
Letter from Sierra Leone
In the summer of 1983 my favorite day was Tuesday, when Fr. Stu would pick me up at my aunt’s house and take me golfing and then to lunch. Fr. Stu was from Las Vegas, which may explain why he was the source for my knowledge of how a point spread works. Almost all of our bets that summer were restricted to the golf course.
Could the vogue for Herbert McCabe portend a renaissance of liberation theology and the revolutionary spirit of the ’60s? His admirers have not linked his Catholic faith and his socialist politics, and McCabe himself denied an intrinsic connection. Still, there exists a bond between his theology and his radicalism, a bond particularly worth examining today.
This book is sensible, judicious, well written, and filled with aptly chosen quotations, from Newman himself, and from friends and foes alike.
Newman's recent beatification has occasioned several appreciative essays in secular publications. But for Christians, Newman is something more, one of the finest religious minds of his century, whose work exerted a profound influence on the Second Vatican Council and thus on twenty-first-century Catholicism.
A short & unfinished history
The legacy of Avery Dulles
In 1922, the Vatican issued norms for handling the canonical crime of the sexual abuse of minors by priests. The document was revised in 1962, and remained in force until 2001. Why did so few bishops know about it?
In his new book The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, Fr. James Martin tries to introduce a new generation of spiritual seekers to the Jesuit tradition.
A pope who can and cannot change
A selection of articles from Commonweal on Benedict XVI.
A profile of the ethicist Gilbert Meilaender
No, this “Year of the Priest” has not been the best for priests or for any Catholics. Just when some of us thought we might be turning the corner, moving on, re-establishing some level of trust, it turns out the wounds are far deeper and much more widespread than we thought.
Stanley Hauerwas & the Christian Difference
The New York Times's worldview is secularist and secularizing, and as such it rivals the Catholic worldview. But what makes the Times unique is that it is not just the nation's self-appointed newspaper of record. It is, to paraphrase Chesterton, an institution with the soul of a church.
A review of the book 'Oscar Romero and the Communion of Saints'
Much of Pope Benedict's good work in addressing the sexual-abuse crisis is now likely to be brushed aside as the history of his own negligence in handling an abusive priest when he was archbishop of Munich thirty years ago comes to light.
It is now clear that for more than two decades, simultaneous tragedies of episcopal malfeasance played out in both the U.S. and Irish churches, as bishops in both countries systematically mishandled allegations of child sexual abuse committed by their priests.
The church is already served by a “priesthood” of women, gay bishops, and good Catholics who have long ignored the preachments of the old boys on sexual matters. To be blind to what is while proclaiming what isn’t is not faith. It is denial. The church’s people have moved along, even if the prelates won’t.
If the priest is going to face east during Mass, so should everyone else.
Can they be saved?
The author of ’The Catholic Priesthood and Women’ and her critic square off.
A young priest speaks.
Scripture, history and women’s ordination.
A diagnosis and prescription
Are U.S. seminaries turning out intellectually formed, mature priests? Not often enough.
A new study of the recently ordained makes clear that the Catholic priesthood is at a crossroads.
Is Richard John Neuhaus, editor-in-chief of First Things, right about the Vatican Instruction on gay seminarians? Is Benedict XVI tolerating dissent, especially Jesuit dissent, on the gay issue? Will the pope’s “aversion to unpleasantness,” as Neuhaus calls it, lead to a crisis of church authority the likes of which haven’t been seen since Humanae vitae? In short, no, no, and no, argue The Editors.
Rome’s "Instruction" on gay seminarians is a failure of hope, writes theologian William McDonough. James Martin, SJ says the document will make gay men think twice about entering the priesthood.
"Given the church’s teaching that homosexuals are ’objectively disordered,’ barring homosexuals from ordination may be more charitable than subjecting them to the contradictory demands and rigors of an institution that morally chastises them." Rev. Paul Stanosz reports.
"Closing the priesthood to gay men, an orientation the church recognizes as involuntary and blameless, would be an extreme and unjust step to take," The Editors write. "Solving the ’problem’ in this way . . . is sure to drive gay priests deeper into a clerical closet, with all the potential that entails for moral and psychological damage and eventual scandal."
Rev. Gerard Thomas, a gay priest forced to write under a pseudonym, argues that banning homosexuals from the priesthood would represent a "serious moral error."
“After fifty-nine years of a happy and exciting priesthood,” Msgr. Harry J. Byrne finds that “celibacy has been more of a distraction” “than an enhancement.”