A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors


New stories now on the homepage

Now featured on the website, the editors on negotiating with Iran, and the first in our special series on raising kids Catholic (more on that below).

From the editorial “The Threat of Peace”:

Iran insists that its nuclear industry is intended only for peaceful purposes. But it would be irresponsible to take Iranian promises at face value. … Still, almost by definition, most efforts to avoid war involve dealing with dangerous and untrustworthy foes. Consequently, confidence-building steps are necessary. Led by Secretary of State John Kerry, the international community has proposed an interim agreement to test the regime’s real intentions…. Prime Minister Netanyahu has been a vociferous opponent of any interim deal, claiming that if sanctions are lifted even temporarily it will be impossible to re-impose them. Netanyahu and some in Congress want the sanctions tightened further, arguing that only the harshest pressure can force the Iranians to make meaningful concessions. Given his previous objections to the administration’s Iran policy, Netanyahu’s new-found faith in sanctions is curious, to say the least. …

Diplomacy rarely succeeds unless each party offers the other a way to save face with hardliners at home. In that light, the sort of interim agreement Secretary Kerry is proposing seems worth the limited risks involved.

Also live, the first in our multipart series “Raising Catholic Kids,” in which we asked parents to discuss and reflect on their experiences in “rooting family in faith.” We’ll be posting new installments on a regular basis in coming days, and we’ll be packaging the series so that as new articles go live they’re collected all in one place. Featured today, J. Peter Nixon:

I have two children of my own now. Many parents react to perceived deficiencies in their own childhood by leaning violently in the other direction. I am no different. I have done everything in my power to give my children the deep roots in the Catholic tradition that I did not have. My wife and I have made the financial sacrifice to send our children to Catholic school, a sacrifice that will become all the more difficult as they enter (God willing!) the local Catholic high school. Both of us pursued graduate work in theology and we are deeply involved in a wonderful parish where we are active in a variety of ministries.

Aside from the investment in their education, I did not do most of these things for my children. I did them because they seemed at least a meager return for what God has done for me in Jesus Christ. But I have also tried to live my faith in a way that would make it truly attractive and credible to my children.

Every now and then I feel that it’s working.

Read the whole thing here, and remember to check back at the homepage as we post additional pieces. And as the series concludes, we’ll be featuring as an online exclusive some reflections by young people (who to some might still count as kids) on what they learned being raised in Catholic families. 

About the Author

Dominic Preziosi is Commonweal’s digital editor.



Commenting Guidelines

  • All

Very interesting article by J. Peter Nixon. Another possibility for him: ask for the help of St Monica, patron saint of parents whose children are turning away from the faith.


I know Peter and, tangentially, his wife.  If any children are being raised properly it is and will be their children.

They are at the early rebellious ages.  (I say this as a non-parent but one regularly subjected to the nastiness of way too many children)  Maybe the problem is not with the children nor the parents but, rather, the quality of masses to which they have been exposed ... subjected?

I wonder if those 12- and 14-years old youth, who can surely read and write, could be convinced to sign in and give a comment with their own side of the story? 

The Men's Club at the local parish has been talking about "doing something with the young people" of the parish. The "something" they have in mind is to recruit as many of them into helping with the fundraising breakfasts and Friday fish fries. Some of the kids enjoy the work. Some of them complain about being "galley slaves" (their exact words). 

Most of my kid's religious education (such as it was) took place at home because the CCD program was a perfect storm of middle-aged women tired of the job trying to get through the material in the workbooks to "process" (their exact word) the kids for the next sacrament versus children from 6 to 14 who balked at the memorization and workbooks that seemed so much like school.

He will be 18 in a few weeks. As we look back at our many failures as parents, his poor religious education looms large on our list. I'm sure the Recording Angel is taking note and we'll get ours in the Hereafter.

And yet there are indications that maybe something stuck: The kid is solicitous of the sick, has a strong sense of social justice, is concerned with doing the right thing (and what "right") means, and loves St. Francis and all the animals. He can still say his prayers. Sometimes I ask him to pray for me. 

I hope Peter Nixon and his kids do, too.

Jean, not to diminish your son's accomplishments, but most teenagers have a strong sense of social justice and care about what's right; and many love animals. I'm not sure why most youth, taken individually, seem destined to become such great people, and yet most adults are so disappointing in comparison.

But your son, at almost 18, is surely od enough to read and write for himself as well. Why doesn't he comment here, so that we hear a voice from the other side? Jean's son: what's your view of all this parental chatter?

Here's one expression of appreciation for the editorial "The Threat of Peace." Well done.

Contrary to parental belief, I think that most kids, including those who "lose their religion", do not want to criticize their parents in public for their individual failings.  They would prefer not to embarass them.  But if the kids could send in their emails to Grant or Dominick who would then post them, they would be welcome and we won't know who is being criticized in particular.

I don't have children and I didn't go to Ctholic schools, but I would think the best influence on children would be the example of how their parents live their lives.  I have to admit I don't see the benefit in Catholic schools beyond teaching Catholic doctrine ... the teaching of ethics and values, including Christian ones, isn't exclusive to religious schools, and lots of what we would call 'good' Catholics didn't go to Catholic schools (like Fr. James Martin SJ).

Crystal - as another data point, my wife Therese who has many spiritual gifts (more than me, I believe) went to public schools, too.  

The most ardent teens I run across, the ones most on fire, are home schooled.  I am not sure what to make of that. 

Jean, what you say about kids getting roped into helping with fundraising and work details brings up some things I have been thinking about.   I have noticed a trend in my locality the past few years; I think it started with the generation of kids we call the "Millennials".  For Confirmation they have to earn Living the Faith Points (or whatever moniker one's parish/diocese sticks on it). To graduate from the local Catholic high school, they also have to rack up a certain number of "service" points.  My kids are older than Millennials, they are actually Gen-X, so they missed out on this.  (I can't complain, they are practicing Catholics and fine human beings.) But it seems like we are more interested in this inane point system than actual faith or charity. Formerly youth groups would take on projects, such as raking an elderly person's leaves, or helping serve a dinner at the homeless shelter, and the emphasis was just on doing something good, rather than "points". I think this idea of having to earn something such as the sacrament of Confirmation, probably is a big turn-off for many of them.  It just feeds into the idea of God as the big accountant in the sky. And as a society we have managed to pile so much more in the way of expectations on kids now that we don't leave them any space for quiet or down time, which is necessary to develop a mature faith.

Katherine, yes, those points are dreadful, but I do realize that it's a response to parents who demand Confirmation without bothering to send their kids to the program with any regularity.

We were required to sign sternly worded pledge that made it clear the kid would be denied the sacrament if we missed more than two meetings per year (it was a two-year prep). When my dad died midway through the process, my son had to do make-up good deeds. (Last time I looked, praying for the dead and comforting the grieving were spiritual works of mercy, but that didn't count.)

The whole thing was like being on parole.



Not need to make anything of it, it's already made.

Mark Proska (to Jim Pauwels): > Not need to make anything of it [ardent behavior/belief of home-schooled young people], it's already made.  [interpretation of antecedent added, mjl]

I would have said that ardent beliefs by adolescents are very much worth exploring.   In my acquaintance with home schooling, which is primarily associated with evangelical Protestant families in the Middle West and Plains, ardent religious beliefs are clearly the product of limited exposure to alternative ideas, to alternative teachers of ideas, and to peers who have alternative notions.  If one’s educational goal is to reinforce specific beliefs and expressions of belief, controlling the educational process through the home is well understood to be highly effective.  Very similar outcomes are seen without home schooling in religiously homogenous communities such as among the predominantly LDS or Orthodox Jewish commmunities, or amongst the Muslim Malinke people with whom I have worked in rural Guinea. 

Mark L.

Add new comment

You may login with your assigned e-mail address.
The password field is case sensitive.

Or log in with...

Add new comment