Thomas Baker

Thomas Baker is the publisher of Commonweal

By this author

Prophecy without Contempt – A Commonweal Event Monday, March 7 in NYC (and live online)

Next Monday, March 7, at 6:00 PM ET, don’t miss our Commonweal panel discussion Prophecy without Contempt: A Conversation about Religious Discourse in the Public Square. Can religious speech bring dialogue and reconciliation, instead of division and resentment? That’s the question to be addressed by the evening’s panelists:

Staff Picks: 'Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph' & 'Journey by Moonlight'

I usually avoid thousand-page biographies, but I’ll make an exception for Beethoven. Jan Swafford’s Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph is excellent on Beethoven’s life but truly superb on the music itself. I didn’t think there was much new to say about his Third Symphony (the world-changing Eroica), but Swafford’s thirty pages of analysis and musical examples not only draw fascinating conclusions from early sketches but propose a revelatory view of how the entire work fits together.

Please Give a Moment to Commonweal on Giving Tuesday

I’d like to interrupt your normally scheduled programming on dotCommonweal to ask your help. Giving Tuesday is a national effort to encourage nonprofit donations on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, and this year I hope you’ll take a moment and support us here at Commonweal.

Commonweal's Saturday Panel on the Synod: Come in Person, or Watch at Home

Commonweal is hosting a panel discussion this coming Saturday afternoon at 4:00 PM in New York: "Fortress or Field Hospital? The Synod Takes on the Family." It's moderated by editor at large Mollie Wilson O'Reilly, and we're welcoming a stellar lineup of panelists:

The Road to Character

“Character,” like “leadership” and “values,” is one of those virtuous-sounding, malleable words that frequently end up in places like prep school mission statements, where being more specific might be too threatening for everyone concerned. David Brooks, however, thinks character is the very word that describes what’s missing in our garish, self-centered society.


Canon law requires that any previous marriage (with the exception of a marriage ended by the death of a spouse) must be annulled by the church if one of the parties from that marriage wishes to marry validly again. This requirement for annulment even applies to marriages that were completely secular in nature, and marriages involving parties who, at the time of the marriage, were not Catholic.

Divorce and Remarriage

In general, Catholics experience a slightly lower than average divorce rate compared with the general population of married people.

Catholics, Intermarriage, and Validity

While most Catholics marry other Catholics, they may celebrate a valid sacramental Catholic marriage with a baptized Christian of any denomination, although doing so requires obtaining relatively routine permission from a local bishop. Catholics may also seek permission to marry an unbaptized person, although even when this permission is granted, the marriage is considered nonsacramental, although still recognized by the church as a valid Catholic marriage.

The Decline of Catholic Marriages

The number of Catholic marriages taking place in the United States has declined by almost two-thirds (64 percent) since 1969, even as the number of Catholics in the U.S. has grown significantly. In 2013, 154,450 Catholic marriages were celebrated in the U.S., compared with 426,309 in 1969.

Greetings from the L.A. Congress

Greetings from the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, which, like the Los Angeles Angels, is actually in Anaheim, CA. Commonweal has a booth (#711) in the vast and enjoyably chaotic exhibit hall, so if you’re in the neighborhood, please stop in to say hi to your friends on the staff, happily recovering from a miserable New York winter here in the 90-degree California heat.