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.
Despite Evangelical Catholicism’s hectoring tone and the particular set of political judgments into which it straitjackets John Paul II, readers ultimately can’t afford to ignore George Weigel.
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.
Many of the groups challenging the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act on religious-liberty grounds hang their hopes on one Supreme Court case: Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal. But while the superficial attraction of O Centro is obvious, the facts of the mandate are quite different.
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 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.
Ongoing News, Analysis & Opinion
The final HHS rules are the product of a genuine and heartfelt struggle over the meaning of religious liberty in a pluralistic society. "What we've learned," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, "is that there are issues to balance in this area. There were issues of religious freedom on two sides of the ledger"—the freedom of the religious institutions and the freedom of their employees who might not share their objections to contraception.
The Bishops' Case Against the Mandate
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 Case for Women Deacons
Rightward Tilt Clouds the Christian Message
Revisiting ‘Economic Justice for All’
With the election over, responsible members of both parties acknowledge that a long-term budget deal, one that gets entitlement spending under control but also increases tax revenue, is necessary for the health of the economy and for restoring confidence in the nation’s political institutions.
The Catholic Right’s False Nostalgia
A Partisan Abuse of the Church’s Moral Teachings
Ayn Rand, an atheist, considered charity a sign of weakness. Paul Ryan’s Randian views—notably his budget plan’s drastic cuts to food stamps, which now aid 46 million—have not sat well with many Catholics.
Translating Moral Principle into Public Policy
There are currently several different, sometimes contending ways of being Catholic. To some degree that has always been so. The notion of the church as a rigorously disciplined and monolithic enterprise is largely myth, and modern myth to boot. What is not myth is the dramatic change in the self-understanding of Catholics brought about by the Second Vatican Council.
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.
What the Bishops' Voting Guide Overlooks
President Obama and Mitt Romney have chosen running mates who reflect their political philosophies. Both vice presidential candidates are also Roman Catholics, the first time this has happened in American history. Yet despite the obvious sincerity of their faith, their moral and political views reflect the positions of their political parties more than those of their church.
What the CDF Gets Wrong about the LCWR
The bishops’ case for the universality of their cause would have been more persuasive if they had mentioned the rise of “anti-sharia” laws in the United States.
In the final installment of our series, William Galston responds to the U.S. Catholic bishops' latest statement on religious freedom.
There is a healthy struggle brewing among the nation's Roman Catholic bishops. A previously silent group, upset over conservative colleagues defining the church's public posture and eagerly picking fights with President Barack Obama, has had enough.
When the Bishops Surrendered Their Religious Liberty
Is the Ban on Contraception Just an Identity Marker?
The Freedom from Religion Foundation may not see the Gospel as a liberating document, but I do, and I can't ignore the good done in the name of Christ by the sisters, priests, brothers and laypeople who have devoted their lives to the poor and the marginalized.
Familiar, If Troubling, Questions
What are the U.S. Catholic bishops really arguing about with the Obama administration? Is it religious liberty, as they insist? Is it contraception and sterilization, as the headlines in my archdiocesan paper stress? Is it simply anti-Obama prejudice? Maybe it’s all of the above, and then some.
Bishops & Electoral Politics
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?
Do the bishops know Obama is taking them seriously?
Catholicism is not the Tea Party at prayer
Conservative Catholics complain that liberal Catholics instinctively greet every statement from the Vatican with suspicion. Fair point. Patient attention to the legitimate concerns of others and the presumption of goodwill on the part of those we disagree with are essential virtues. Unfortunately, patience and the presumption of goodwill were not much in evidence in the response of the U.S. bishops to President Obama’s contraception compromise.
Obama's Contraception Compromise
Twenty-five years ago the U.S. bishops issued their last comprehensive commentary on the moral dimensions of our political economy. The anniversary of their Economic Justice for All arrives during the nation’s most serious economic crisis since the Great Depression, at a time when Americans yearn for a positive vision of an economy that can support struggling families, restrain private greed, and provide resources for enriching the common life.
In July, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny delivered a stinging indictment of the Vatican’s handling of the sexual-abuse scandal in his country. Referring to a new report on the scandal in the Diocese of Cloyne, Kenny blasted what he called “the dysfunction, the disconnection, [and] the elitism that dominate the culture of the Vatican today.” Last month, the Vatican issued its disappointing reply.
Ireland’s New Model Of Church-State Relations
Robert Barron's 'Catholicism'
How persuasively is the church making its case against gay marriage?
In the second part of the interview, Cardinal Francis George discusses the recent study of the "causes and context" of the sexual-abuse crisis, the bishops' role in assessing the Catholic identity of institutions, and retirement.
An interview with Cardinal George
The trouble with the new Roman Missal
The liturgical wars heat up
The second John Jay report & the Vatican's letter to bishops
The bishops & Elizabeth Johnson
New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan on 60 Minutes
Last month, the USCCB issued a statement claiming Elizabeth A. Johnson's latest book “contaminates the traditional Catholic understanding of God.” Regrettably, the bishops' statement reflects, among other problems, a theological failure to take evolution seriously.
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.
Ratzinger, church law & the sexual-abuse crisis
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
The church in the public square
In mid-November, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops discussed a report detailing an extensive “review and renewal” of its domestic-poverty program, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. The reevaluation came in response to complaints that the CCHD’s grant recipients were involved in efforts that contradict Catholic teaching.
What was Pius XII's opinion of the Jews?
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.
Way back in the twentieth century, when I decided to pursue doctoral work in theology, I never imagined that I would one day teach in an Oxford college. Neither did I imagine that John Henry Newman, of all people, would come to loom large in my day-to-day life.
A short & unfinished history
The legacy of Avery Dulles
The Canadian cardinal, subject of this 2010 web exclusive, is regularly mentioned as a successor to Benedict. He is scholarly and spiritual and he knows how the Vatican operates. But what about the world outside of Rome?
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?
When bishops speak about health-care policy, Catholics don't have to agree
Might the USCCB be wrong about the health-care law?
A pope who can and cannot change
Compromise is not a dirty word in democratic politics, nor is the balancing of conflicting goods foreign to the church’s tradition of casuistic moral reasoning. So why do so many American bishops appear to spurn both in their prolife advocacy? Do they really think the hardest line is always the best one, or the most persuasive?
How the bishops conference gets health-care legislation wrong
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.
The unborn need more than prophets.
Is there a double standard at work?
Forty years after Vatican II, what would real collegiality look like?
It’s time for a more collegial church.