Amuse-Bouche For August

It is August. This is the time of year to loll in a hammock, take bribes, and be fanned by eunuchs. But I have no hammock. No one is coming forward with a bribe. And all the eunuchs are clustered where they have always been—in high places, far from here and out of reach. Still, I can dream. In reality, there is no alternative to getting on with the job. This time, though, hot weather gives me a plausible excuse to put aside a proper essay and just . Continue Reading
Cardinal Dolan & The Uses of Fatuity

Over Fourth of July weekend, parish bulletins throughout New York Archdiocese carried “Only in America,” an essay by Cardinal Timothy Dolan. It was a hail-fellow celebration of tolerance and religious liberty. But the meringue had been whisked up by the dialogue fairy, a bewitching crony of resurgent Islam. It began with the cardinal flashing his interfaith credentials. He had just received an award from the New York Board of Rabbis. This prompted one of those strenuously heartwarming reminiscences that are communion breakfast staples. Continue Reading
Dreary Apparitions (Complaints, Part 2)

Credulity is not a virtue. Nor is it a compliment to faith. We are advised to be always ready with a cogent answer “to every man that asketh you a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15) The words emphasize faith’s footing in rationality. The faith is to be defended in accord with reason and logic. Admittedly, reason is chastened by its own limits. As Paul wrote to the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for.” There is no acid test for “the evidence of things not seen.” But, following Paul, the search for understanding cannot—must not—be abandoned to sentimental mystification. Continue Reading
A Reader's Complaint, Part 1

It sometimes helps to know where something is headed before you get there. So this once, let me begin where the proctors of creative writing would tell me to end. Here goes: When the language of prayer or religious expression is used as a tool of ideology or pragmatic advancement it becomes a profanity. Pressed into service as an instrument of institutional pride, or any other cherished good, it loses its soul. Put to profane purposes—e.g. a means to preempt questions and short-circuit conscientious doubts, or as a bribe to observe questionable devotions—it is an impiety. Continue Reading
A Layman's Petition to Francis

Last week, James Todd, founder of the Catholic aggregator site Pewsitter.com, launched a petition to Pope Francis to clarify the meaning of Amoris Laetitia. Please, your Majesty, what precisely is the status of the divorced-and-remarried vis-a-vis reception of the Eucharist?   The petition reads in part:
Amoris Laetitia has brought confusion to what had been 2000 years of clarity. Because Amoris Laetitia is fracturing the unity of the Church whereby one diocese teaches differently than another on this fundamental tenant of the faith, something must be done. 
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