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.
Few recent works of philosophy have provoked as much controversy as Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos. Why all the fuss? Nagel argues that “the Neo-Darwinian conception of nature is almost certainly wrong” because it cannot explain the origin of conscious life, much less the mind’s ability to apprehend scientific truths.
The Faith of a Catholic Novelist
Religious Freedom & State Power
Karen Kilby views Balthasar as a fascinating thinker, but she is skeptical about his reputation as a theological innovator and giant, and seeks to provide a more balanced view.
Saving Chesterton from the Chestertonians
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.
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.
The Renewed Stature of Christian Philosophizing
Written by and for women who wholeheartedly embrace church teachings concerning sexuality and gender, the essays in this collection may evoke indifference among some readers and anger among others.
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.
Alvin Plantinga’s aim in Where the Conflict Really Lies is to show that far from being incompatible, science and religion are mutually supportive.
Why the reluctance among conservative opponents of gun control to criticize America’s gun culture, with its vocal enthusiasm for weapons designed specifically to kill people as efficiently as possible?
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
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.
What exactly is the special bond among the three Abrahamic faiths? This is the question addressed by Jon Levenson, professor of Jewish Studies at Harvard University, in Inheriting Abraham.
Ongoing News, Analysis & Opinion
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.
The fruits of the intellectual and artistic exchange among Christians, Jews, and Muslims that constituted Christian Hebraism’s modus operandi are displayed in abundance throughout this small but splendid exhibit.
At a moment when prominent American politicians are promoting a vision in which society is little more than a collection of individualists in competition with one another, John Paul II's image of life as a common banquet seems particularly apt.
The Case for Women Deacons
Who were "the wise men from the east" who traveled such a long way to see a Jewish baby? What did they make of him? Many artists, before and after Luther, set their minds to imagining the scene of the magi’s visit to Bethlehem.
The Catholic Right’s False Nostalgia
A Partisan Abuse of the Church’s Moral Teachings
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 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.
How the Brazos Biblical Commentary Falls Short
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.
William Stringfellow is one of the most intriguing modern American theologians, but you’re not alone if you haven’t heard of him. Rowan Williams, Stanley Hauerwas, and Daniel Berrigan have all been influenced by his work, yet since his death in 1985, Stringfellow’s legacy has been sorely under-appreciated and his writings far too little sought after.
A Tribute to Gregory Baum
Peacebuilding is the fruit of the Catholic Peacebuilding Network, an affiliation of scholars, practitioners, and institutions. It is concrete, pastoral, conceptually challenging, and provides many practical suggestions.
A somber conclusion arises from our common experience of life: there exist powers, at work in and through humans yet commanding a superhuman blind energy, that labor for the destruction of humans and of all human beauty and grace. Such powers cannot adequately be named by the language of social description; they require the language of myth. It is important to be able to speak of the Devil.
Robert Barron's 'Catholicism'
How persuasively is the church making its case against gay marriage?
The trouble with the new Roman Missal
The liturgical wars heat up
The bishops & Elizabeth Johnson
How not to write about the cardinal & his time
To attribute sympathy or “solidarity” to God is to make him seem less involved with us than, as Creator, he must be.
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.
The latest demonic possession movie, The Rite, is The Exorcist for sissies.
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.
If we forget the Bible, in what sense are we Christian?
‘Three Faiths’ at New York’s Public Library
My mother said, “Why didn’t they tell us these things in school?” I had just come into her room. “Like what?” I said. My mother is in an assisted-living facility run by our church. “Well,” she said. “Did you know that after the Blessed Mother gave birth to Jesus, she went into the desert, to a place God had prepared for her? She was there for twelve hundred and sixty days. It’s in the Bible. Did you ever learn that in school?”
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.
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?
When bishops speak about health-care policy, Catholics don't have to agree
Might the USCCB be wrong about the health-care law?
Extending the argument against sex-selective abortion
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.
Stanley Hauerwas & the Christian Difference
A gay parent on choosing Catholic school for her kids
For centuries we thought God was the source of our sense of God. It came as no surprise, therefore, when historians, archaeologists, and anthropologists discovered that even our remotest ancestors were religious. Isn’t the reality of God—or the presence of the sacred—enough to explain why human beings universally possess a 'faith instinct'? Not anymore. A review of Nicholas Wade's new book The Faith Instinct.
A review of Cardinal Francis George's The Difference God Makes
From the archives: the life & death of Oscar Romero
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.
Spiritual Classics, at a Bookstore Near You
The great religious battle of our time is not the one being waged between believers and unbelievers. Yes, that's an important and certainly a noisy conflict. But more significant than that struggle is the clash occurring within religious traditions.
An interview with Diana Fritz Cates on Aquinas & the emotions
A review of Nicholas Lash's Theology for Pilgrims
A review of John Meier's landmark A Marginal Jew: Volume 4
David Tracy has God in a box. Or is it the other way around? For Tracy, long regarded as one of the most distinguished and adventuresome contemporary Catholic theologians, such a dilemma might be intriguing, even amusing, were it not so personal.
Knowledge of Calvin is of two kinds. There is knowledge of Calvin himself, as we know him in his life. And there is the knowledge of ourselves that we project onto this historical figure in the name of our many versions of Calvinism and anti-Calvinism.
These are interesting times for Anglican-Catholic relations in the United Kingdom. Four and a half centuries after Henry VIII effectively made himself pope of England, Britain has more active Roman Catholics than active Anglicans, and the Church of England seems to be threatened with step-by-step disestablishment within England itself.
How a motley crew of French Catholics inspired Vatican II
Beware those authorities who criticize the independent Catholic press on the ground that pluralism equals relativism. What they really favor is monopoly. They want a single joint blast on the trumpet, or an orchestra in full flow. What they do not like are the discordant notes.
A conversation with editors past and present
John L. Allen's The Future Church will disappoint some readers and exhaust others. It recapitulates much of what Allen has reported in recent years and offers an admittedly shaky premise on which to base a forecast.
If the priest is going to face east during Mass, so should everyone else.
Could the Mother of Jesus have had a greater role in the mission, Passion, and Resurrection of her son than the evangelists tell us? Could women have been important church leaders in early Christianity?
Letters from the September 11, 2009 issue.
Solidarity and subsidiarity in Benedict XVI’s ’Caritas in veritate’
Teilhard de Chardin’s startling relevance in a post-Darwin age.
Bible readers, especially Americans, look for truth in all the wrong places.
Is worship the church’s alternative to war?
A view from the East
How to read the Vatican’s latest notification.
The theological legacy of John S. Dunne, CSC—from Buber to Bradbury.
From the archives: Joseph Komonchak on Pope Benedict XVI’s theological vision.