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Pontifications

Pontifications

History Archives

Religion or Superstition?

posted by David Gibson

In his homily Saturday in Luanda, the pope confronted the delicate question of superstition in African culture: Today it is up to you, brothers and sisters, following in the footsteps of those heroic and holy heralds of God, to offer […]

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Benedict connects with Africa

posted by David Gibson

That seems to be the upshot of coverage. Having dispensed with condoms, he has spoken strongly and movingly about the great social problems facing the continent, and the specific countries he has visited–first Cameroon and now Angola. NCR’s John Allen […]

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Brazil church officials defend approach to child rape victim

posted by David Gibson

The excommunications surrounding the abortion resulting from the case of a 9-year-old girl raped by her abusive stepfather and impregnated with twins were correct and the pastoral care of the child caring and sensitive…And the Vatican official who publicly criticized […]

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The Feast of St. Joseph

posted by David Gibson

As noted before, I’ve developed a great affection for St. Joseph, whose feast day is today. It is also, of course, Joseph Ratzinger’s name day (or onomastico, in Italian), and Benedict XVI, as we now call him, took note of that […]

Benedict in Cameroon, Day 1: Pope Leo?

posted by David Gibson

Not to worry–unlike the feisty cub the pope sported with in the Vatican last month, this one at right (AP foto via Rocco) isn’t going to hurt a bit. Such are the marvelous incongruities of a papal visit to a […]

The Irish according to The Simpsons…

posted by David Gibson

“It always comes down to transubstantiation versus consubstantiation.” Leave it to Lisa to sum it all up. Last one for the day. Couldn’t stop myself. Tip to the Dish. Erin Go Bragh!  

Natasha Richardson injured skiing, and rumors abound

posted by David Gibson

 Actress Natasha Richardson apparently suffered some sort of head injury while skiing north of Montreal, but after dire reports that she was in critical condition or worse, it seems she’s now taken a plane back to New York with her […]

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day–without a hangover!

posted by David Gibson

At BustedHalo, Mike Hayes–son of Irish immigrants, he knows from Irish, tells you how, with five ideas. Before anything, of course, avoid green beer. But who would drink that anyway? You’d be sure to wind up driving the porcelain bus like the […]

St. Patrick: Did he exist? What did he look like? Does it matter?

posted by David Gibson

At America magazine, author Jon M. Sweeney examines what we know of the Saint’s life, and what is fanciful–but perhaps just as important. Both the hard facts and the fanciful legends about Patrick have the power to fascinate and instruct; […]

Christine Quinn: Not Irish enough–or too gay?

posted by David Gibson

The speaker of the New York City Council, a pretty powerful and savvy lass, is also about as Irish as they come. But she’s openly gay, too. Which means she can’t march in New York’s annual March 17 Eire-extravaganza up Fifth Avenue […]

More excommunications miscommunication

posted by David Gibson

Another coda to the terrible story of the 9-year-old girl in Brazil whose serially abusive stepfather impregnated her with twins, leading her mother to take her for an abortion on the advice of doctors who said her life was at […]

Rock and a hard place: Pope says laity can’t fill priest vacuum

posted by David Gibson

Benedict XVI today announced a “Year for Priests”– a fine idea, though one that apparently also comes with a tough message for lay people dealing with a shortage of priests, and the Eucharist. First, the announcement. According to the Vatican […]

SSPX leader (heart) Pope Benedict

posted by David Gibson

I may not have loved the pope’s letter explaining his views and action regarding the SSPX controversy (as many have noted here) but the SSPX gave it two thumbs-up. Via Zenit.org, here is the full text of the statement from the superior-general […]

The conservative future…?

posted by David Gibson

The second story from the Sunday Styles is “Little Mr. Conservative,” about 14-year-old Jonathan Krohn–the hot-ticket on the conservative circuit after his thrilling three-minute performance at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Bigger than Rush? Jonathan, a slight, home-schooled only child […]

The liberal past…?

posted by David Gibson

The “Sunday Styles” section of the NYT had two stories out front, which present stark contrasts, both unsettling. One is “Where to pass the torch?” about 70s-era abortion rights activists seeing the ambivalence or indifference of the younger generation of women, […]

Vatican spokesman on the SSPX letter

posted by David Gibson

Here is the official account of the statement by Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, that accompanied the pope’s letter of explanation on his remittance of the excommunications of the SSPX bishops: FR. LOMBARDI: POPE FEELS HIS RESPONSIBILITY AS PASTOR […]

Cardinal Egan on celibacy: “A perfectly legitimate discussion.”

posted by David Gibson

New York’s Cardinal Edward Egan a closet liberal? Who knew?! Well, he’s out now. In a 30-minute interview with a NY radio show–part of Egan’s valedictory tour as he prepares to leave office–His Eminence did indeed say that celibacy is “a […]

Pope on the defensive…and it’s not pretty

posted by David Gibson

Benedict XVI’s letter to the world’s bishops (official text released today) was a good idea and probably inevitable, as no one was happy and the furor was not going away, inside the church from the highest echelons to the lowest. Did […]

Pope’s letter on SSPX excommunications: The official text

posted by David Gibson

The official text, published today by the Vatican: LETTER OF HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVI TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH concerning the remission of the excommunication of the four Bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre Dear Brothers in the […]

Portrait of Shakespeare? Funny, he doesn’t look Catholic…

posted by David Gibson

Is this the only image of the Bard from life? Time magazine reports on the portrait, unveiled today in this newly-discovered–or rather attributed–portrait of William Shakespeare, whose likeness had heretofore never been rendered. (The NYT has a news update.) Shakespeare is […]

ARIS 2008: Americans are faith freelancers–Catholic adherence in decline

posted by David Gibson

“Believing without belonging” has been the American religious mantra for years, and the real-time effects of that anti-“religion” (or anti-institution?) bias was never so apparent as in the latest American Religious Identification Survey. ARIS 2008 surveyed more than 50,000 Americans […]

A Purim spiel

posted by David Gibson

Monday at sundown marks the start of the Jewish festival of Purim, drawn from the story of Queen Esther and recounting the deliverance of the Jews from disaster at the hands of the Persians. As The Jewish Encyclopedia notes, this is […]

Faith as Stress-buster? See, Lent is good for you!

posted by David Gibson

The latest neuroscientific study (such research may be the economy’s lone growth industry) indicates that religious faith can help people chill when things go wrong–and that they will go wrong is one of life’s few guarantees these days. According to this story […]

Why Catholics fast–and why others do, too…

posted by David Gibson

An article in the Arkansas Catholic, the paper of the Diocese of Little Rock, talks to Scripture scholars and others on why we fast and what we gain from the practice. It is called “Fasting out of love: God doesn’t want a fulfilled […]

Thoughts for this Friday in Lent:

posted by David Gibson

I gave a parish talk last night on conversion, and what it means–to me as a convert, to us as Catholics (especially during Lent), to the modern world, and what it meant to the first Christians of Jesus’ day. Conversion […]

Mahony: Williamson is persona non grata in LA

posted by David Gibson

Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles has announced that Richard Williamson, the Holocaust-denying bishop of the right-wing SSPX sect, is “hereby banned from entering any Catholic church, school or other facility, until he and his group comply fully and unequivocally with […]

Saint Newt? Gingrich to swim the Tiber

posted by David Gibson

It’s one heckuva parenthetical aside buried in the NYT Magazine’s lengthy profile of Newt Gingrich. But here it is, in its entirety: (A Baptist since graduate school, Gingrich said he will soon convert to Catholicism, his wife’s faith.) Wow. I’d […]

The Fall of Rome? NY and sex abuse payouts

posted by David Gibson

Behind all the justifiable hosannas for Archbishop Timothy Dolan as he prepares to take over as leader of the Archdiocese of New York is a looming financial crisis in the form of a bill in Albany that would lifte the […]

Ideas for Lenten Practices

posted by David Gibson

For many years this site, “Sacred Space,” a ministry of the Irish Jesuits, has been one of my preferred sites for contemplation and prayer. Well, really the only one. Its simplicity and Ignatian orientation draw me back time and again, […]

SSPX Bishop Williamson apologizes. Sort of…

posted by David Gibson

The Holocaust-denying schismatic Traditionalist was just kicked out of Argentina, which seems unjust to me, despite Williamson’s noxious views. Today, back in his native England, Wiliamson issued an apology, via ZENIT (an arm of the Legionaries, which has had its […]

Pope Benedict criticizes the criticizers

posted by David Gibson

The pontiff is taking unnamed critics to task, as per this CNS story, “Pope cautions against destructive polemics in the church.” The pope, speaking in German at his noon blessing Feb. 22, asked for prayers to St. Peter so that […]

Sebelius to HHS: Pro-lifers on alert?

posted by David Gibson

The New York Times is reporting that the mass-attending, barred-from-communion, pro-choice Catholic governor of Kansas, Kathleen Sebelius, is President Obama’s pick to run the Department of Health & Human Services. She replaces Tom Daschle, another pro-choice Catholic–but with reservations–whose nomination […]

Holy Cards: The latest collectible

posted by David Gibson

An Italian fellow named Graziano Toni from the northeastern Italian city of Faenza has catapulted holy card collecting into a serious hobby–he has 50,000 cards in his personal collection and has compiled about 2,000 of his finest ones in a […]

Be careful what you pray for: Salma Hayek’s tale

posted by David Gibson

Revenge of the Good Catholic Girl: Movie star Salma Hayek tells why prayer works, and why you should never doubt the power of holy water. Key line: “Please God, give me some breasts. And he gave me them!” Hat tip–or […]

Vox populi moves Vatican: New Linz bishop withdraws

posted by David Gibson

The Austrian priest whose appointment earlier this month caused an uproar due to his earlier remarks about Katrina being the fault of sinful Lousianians (among other things he said) has asked that his nomination as the new auxiliary bishop of […]

Cross Purposes

posted by David Gibson

Is Boston College Catholic? No, that’s not a joke, at least not to those whose hackles start raising at the phrase “in the Jesuit tradition.” But it seems BC, and specifically its president, Fr. William P. Leahy, SJ, are moving […]

SSPX: Did tough talk win papal concessions?

posted by David Gibson

A fascinating in-house SSPX interview with Bishop Bernard Fellay, head of the schismatic right-wing order, shows he was taken by suprise by Benedict’s sudden lifting of the excommunications. Why? As Reuters’ Tom Heneghan has it in this FaithWorld post, Fellay […]

Reax to Pope to Jews: “Could do better…”

posted by David Gibson

That is certainly my sense of Benedict’s address at the Vatican this morning to U.S. Jewish leaders. The meeting was the latest and probably last high-profile effort to soothe Jewish-Catholic relations in the wake of the pontiff’s outreach to the […]

Text of Pope’s meeting with U.S. Jewish leaders

posted by David Gibson

The official text, delivered in English, today: Dear Friends, I am pleased to welcome all of you today, and I thank Rabbi Arthur Schneier and Mr Alan Solow for the greetings they have addressed to me on your behalf. I […]

Prologue to Pope’s meeting with Jewish leaders

posted by David Gibson

In this story Reuters’ Vaticanista Phil Pullella has the lowdown ahead of Thursday’s critical meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and American Jewish leaders. Read transcripts of Pullella’s interviews with leading members of the Jewish delegation, and see a timeline on […]

Buon compleanno, Citta’ del Vaticano!

posted by David Gibson

“All I want is a small corner of the earth where I am master,” Pope Pius IX said in 1871, when the reunification of Italy had finally overwhelmed church resistance and the Papal States were no more. And a small […]

What do musical tastes tell about a Bishop?

posted by David Gibson

That’s the question I was asking as I tried to parse the latest blog posting from Bishop Richard Williamson, the un-excommunicated SSPX bishop who has become the focus of p.r. efforts by both the Vatican and his own confreres, who […]

Williamson removed as head of SSPX seminary

posted by David Gibson

SSPX leaders are continuing to quarantine the Holocaust-denying bishop, Richard Williamson. The Italian daily La Repubblica reports today that Williamson has been removed from the seminary in La Reja, outside Buenos Aries, which he had headed since 2003. What next?

Pope to meet Jewish leaders, Vatican source says

posted by David Gibson

In an important and I would think necessary step toward healing the Catholic-Jewish rift over the papal outreach to the SSPX, Benedict XVI is reportedly to meet next Thursday with leaders of the major Jewish organizations. A meeting with the […]

Has the purge begun?

posted by David Gibson

Not only has the SSPX started removing questionable texts on Jews from their websites, but word is now that clergy who refuse to adopt a new line are also getting the boot. Rorate Caeli cites Italian sources reporting that Father […]

“Recant?” Text of the Vatican statement on SSPX

posted by David Gibson

News reports of the latest Vatican statement on the SSPX Traditionalists and their standing and what they must do to enter true full communion centered on the Holy See’s demand that Bishop Richard Williamson, the most overt Holocaust denier, “recant.” […]

“The Mystery of the Jews” is no more…

posted by David Gibson

The SSPX “Tradicals,” whose anti-Semitic concoctions have landed their would-be new best friend, Pope Benedict XVI, in hot water, have apparently begun scrubbing the web of their worst musings. One article, “The Mystery of the Jews,” which I posted about […]

Egan leaving? “The piano is still here…”

posted by David Gibson

The buzz is a roar. The race to succeed Cardinal Edward Egan is nearing the finish line. And the winner is…! “Who knows?”, by a mile! Well, one sure bet is that the long-awaited announcement is nigh–Egan (he’s the one […]

Georg Ratzinger: “Lay off my brother!”

posted by David Gibson

Or that is more or less what the papstbruder told a German newspaper. Bild has the details on what Joseph’s protective older brother said in the interview. (Georg is three years older; a sister, Maria, died in the early 1990s.) […]

Vaticanista Sandro Magister blames the Curia

posted by David Gibson

This is how the preeminent Italian Vatican-watcher frames it: Double Disaster at the Vatican: Of Governance, and of Communication This is the upshot of the lifting of the excommunication for four Lefebvrist bishops. The isolation of Pope Benedict, the ineptitude […]

Bill Donohue blames “German guilt” for attacks on Pope

posted by David Gibson

That’s the typically pugnacious take of the head of the Catholic League in its latest release: “No one has been worse than the Germans. Reeking with guilt over the Holocaust, we now have the spectacle of German Chancellor Angela Merkel […]

Cardinal George on Bishop Williamson: “Deeply offensive”

posted by David Gibson

More reaction from the hierarchy, this time Stateside. Chicago Cardinal Francis George, president of the USCCB, issued this statement today: Statement of Cardinal Francis George, President USCCB Pope Benedict XVI has lifted the personal penalty of excommunication incurred by four […]

Father Maciel scandal: A father to more than his flock?

posted by David Gibson

The late Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, the venerated and vilified founder of the powerful conservative Catholic order, the Legionaries of Christ, may have been a father in the biological as well. At American Papist, Thomas Peters confirms rumors circulating in […]

The Pope and the Jews: A failure to communicate?

posted by David Gibson

The Catholic “silence” over Benedict XVI’s self-made SSPX fiasco was raised earlier, with a focus on the relative absence of strong American voices. But overseas, at least, and from the Pope’s native Germany in particular, objections are being raised as […]

Pope to Israel? An “optimistic” Jewish voice

posted by David Gibson

Raymond Cohen, a top expert on relations between Israel and the Holy See, thinks Benedict’s planned visit this May to the Holy Land could happen. Cohen, a professor of international relations at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is at Boston College […]

Confessions of an ex-Traditionalist

posted by David Gibson

This does not come from an angry ex-con-turned-lib, but from Austin Ruse, a stalwart of orthodoxy who writes regularly at The Catholic Thing. His latest column, “Up from Traditionalism,” is a must-read in light of the SSPX-Pope Benedict XVI controversies. […]

America’s new national pastime?

posted by David Gibson

I mean football, not Catholic-bashing–though any faithful Catholic should be outraged at this morning’s Super Bowl headlines announcing “Steelers beat Cardinals.” I will look for Bill Donohue’s righteous anger at some point today. (“Would The New York Times have allowed […]

“Katrina was New Orleans’ fault”–another new Benedict bishop

posted by David Gibson

Oy vey. Benedict has just appointed a new auxiliary bishop in the Austrian diocese of Linz–the Rev. Gerhard Maria Wagner, 54, who thinks Katrina was punishment for New Orleans’ sins (and he hates “Harry Potter”, too). As Rocco notes, Linz […]

Silence and the SSPX: Where are the Catholic voices?

posted by David Gibson

Given the never-ending debate over Pope Pius XII and whether he was “silent” during the Nazi extermination of the Jews–or just prudent, as other claim–one woud think bishops across the world, and especially in the United States, would be speaking […]

SSPX: A “pattern of anti-Semitism”

posted by David Gibson

That’s the only conclusion one can come to, I think, and that’s the one Fr. Jim Martin arrives at in his post examining a sampling of the “gibberish” (Cardinal Kasper’s words) on the SSPX sites. Fr. Martin links to one […]

Galileo gets his due…

posted by David Gibson

Pope John Paul II had already “rehabilitated” the astonomer, condemned by the Inquisition in 1633. But as we approach his 450th birthday on Feb. 15, the Vatican is pulling out the stops for Galileo Galilei, the Italian scientist who proved […]

Bishop Williamson: From the Whale’s Mouth

posted by David Gibson

Bishop Richard Williamson, one of the four newly-rehabbed Rad-Trad bishops at the heart of the furor over their anti-Semitic, Holocaust-denying views and Pope Benedict’s outreach to them, has apologized–sort of. Williamson has written to Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos, Benedict’s point man […]

Another Holocaust-denying SSPX leader

posted by David Gibson

This time an Italian priest with the inimitable name of “Abrahamowicz.” (As they say in the newspaper biz, you can’t make this stuff up–hard as we might try.) Indeed, Fr. Floriano Abrahamowicz, a pastor and spokesperson for the Society of […]

Bishop Williamson: We win!

posted by David Gibson

That’s more or less the sense one gets from reading the latest column, “The Re-Incommunication,” from the most notorious of the rehabilitated schismatic bishops, Richard Williamson. Williamson, an English-born convert from Anglicanism, has been the poster bishop for the ultra-Tradtionalist […]

And now for something completely different…

posted by David Gibson

Over at dotCommonweal, Fr. Komonchak started a caption contest for this shot from Wednesday’s General Audience. The lion cub came courtesy of the Medrano Circus, whose acrobats apparently performed a little something for the pontiff. Amy Welborn also has a […]

Catholic-Jewish relations continue to deteriorate

posted by David Gibson

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel has broken ties with the Vatican. Though there may be some hope in light of the pope’s comments earlier today. Here’s the AP story: JERUSALEM – Israel’s chief rabbinate severed ties with the Vatican on […]

Benedict XVI explains his SSPX strategy–such as it is

posted by David Gibson

The post below focused on accounts of Benedict XVI’s statements vis-a-vis Judaism and the SSPX rehabilitation effort which has ocassioned such controversy and pain. But the CNS story that just moved focuses on his remarks at the general audience on […]

Elie Wiesel: “The Vatican did it intentionally.”

posted by David Gibson

“What the intention was, I don’t know.” That’s the reaction from Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel, in an exclusive interview with Reuters about the furor over the rehabilitation of the anti-Semitic Traditionalists. Powerful stuff, strong words that need to […]

Pope in damage control mode

posted by David Gibson

At today’s weekly general (public) audience, Pope Benedict XVI weighed in with remarks aimed at distancing himself from the Holocaust denials of one of the recently un-excommunicated ultra-right “Tradical” bishops. Here’s the AP account: VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI […]

Kasper not so friendly to Williamson

posted by David Gibson

Cardinal Walter Kasper, the German prelate who heads the Vatican’s ecumenical office, has called Holocaust-denying statements by one of the newly-rehabbed right-wing bishops “stupid” and “unacceptable.” Cardinal Kasper–a pastorally-minded man who was touted as “Kasper the Friendly Pope” by oddmakers […]

Traditionalists and anti-Semitism: Hardly strangers

posted by David Gibson

Much of the furor over the rehabilitation (of sorts) of the right-wing schismatic bishops by Pope Benedict XVI has focused on anti-Semitism, particularly the Holocaust-denying statements of Bishop Richard Williamson. (And he has some other quirks, like denying that two […]

Pope Benedict and Vatican II: Another view

posted by David Gibson

Did anything happen at the Second Vatican Council? That’s the debate underlying the burgeoning disputes over the pope’s latest moves–the lifting of excommunications on four far-right schismatic Traditionalist bishops. In the post below on the topic, I cited comments by […]

Chief Rabbi: Vatican must examine its conscience

posted by David Gibson

A sharp call from head of the first Orthodox center to engage in religious dialogue with Rome: Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, reacting to the uproar over Pope Benedict’s reinstatement of four right-wing schismatic bishops, one of whom is a Holocaust-denier, took […]

Rewriting history: Vatican II gets a makeover at 50

posted by David Gibson

Fifty years ago today, Sunday, January 25, 1959, “Good” Pope John XXIII anounced to a small group of cardinals at a prayer service in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls to close the week of prayer for Christian […]

Obama’s Mexico City repeal: A pro-life policy?

posted by David Gibson

President Obama today fulfilled a campaign promise by repealing the so-called “Mexico City policy” that prohibits U.S. funding for overseas non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that provide abortion as part of their services or as part of their maternal care counseling. (Hence […]

Cardinal to President: Outlaw adultery and divorce!

posted by David Gibson

Well, that’s one way to read Cardinal George’s Jan. 13 letter to Obama, in the post below. In the letter (ZENIT text here) Cardinal George writes: “We stand firm in our support for marriage which is a faithful, exclusive, lifelong […]

Bishop Gene Robinson’s prayer

posted by David Gibson

Sarah Pulliam at Christianity Today has video of the prayer of the gay Episcopal bishop, whose inclusion in inaugural events was expected to be as controversial as Rick Warren’s. But Warren could do worse than Robinson. Though we almost weren’t […]

Grading Obama

posted by David Gibson

Even more than most inaugural addresses, today’s speech by the new president will be greatly anticipated but, like most of these addresses, little remembered. Though who knows, Obama could join the ranks of JFK, FDR, and even Lincoln (especially the […]

Of Protestants and Presidents…

posted by David Gibson

Tomorrow’s inauguration will be historic for many reasons, the most obvious being the installation of the nation’s first African-American president. What will not change, however, is the Protestant monopoly of the event. The new president is a Protestant (though in […]

Israel in Gaza: “The Boss has lost it.”

posted by David Gibson

That phrase is from Ethan Bronner’s NYT analysis this morning of Israel’s strategy going into the Gaza campaign, which has now been suspended. It is meant to be a boast of sorts, not recognition of a mistake. It comes from […]

Allegations: Alaska is a dumping ground for predator priests

posted by David Gibson

A long-simmering story has burst into the open with the filing of a lawsuit alleging that the Jesuit order used Alaska as a “dumping ground” for abusive priests. According to coverage in the Anchorage Daily News, this week’s lawsuit is […]

Should we invade Canada?

posted by David Gibson

The jet splashdown in the Hudson yesterday was one of those riveting spectacles, such that I almost felt sorry for George W. Bush since no one seemed to pay attention to his farewell address. (Okay, I didn’t feel too bad.) […]

The 111th Congress: We’ll know who to blame

posted by David Gibson

A Pew Forum survey of the religious make-up of the new Congress shows that the 535 members generally reflect the country’s religious demographic, though Catholics–24 percent of the population–comprise 30 percent of the House and Senate. But here’s the kicker: […]

“Life and death for people in Gaza is the same…”

posted by David Gibson

Those are the words of Fr. Manuel Musallam, a parish priest in Gaza, in an interview with Caritas Internationalis following the destruction of a Caritas health clinic by an Israeli F-16 fighter jet. According to a Caritas release, which also […]

Bishops who should resign: VOTF names names

posted by David Gibson

The leading national church reform group has issued a release calling on five U.S. bishops to step down from their job, and for former Boston archbishop, Cardinal Bernard Law, to resign his various ecclesial offices in Rome. The reform group […]

Catholics and Jews and Gaza, Part Two

posted by David Gibson

Fellow Beliefnet blogger Brad Hirschfield of “Windows and Doors” takes issue with aspects of my post about a Vatican official’s explosive comparison of Gaza to “a big concentration camp.” Brad is at his civil best–no mean feat considering the topic–but […]

Gaza Strip=Concentration Camp?

posted by David Gibson

The Vatican’s chief spokesman on justice and peace issues, Cardinal Renato Martino, has made waves (and added to doubts over a May papal visit to the Holy Land) by comparing the Gaza Strip to “a big concentration camp.” (CNS has […]

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, 1936-2009

posted by David Gibson

Father Neuhaus, the founder of the conservative ecumenical journal of religion and politics and culture and everything else, First Things, died this morning. The magazine longtime second-in-command, Jody Bottum, has this announcement: Fr. Richard John Neuhaus slipped away today, January […]

Pope’s popularity: Is the thrill gone?

posted by David Gibson

The number of pilgrims and tourists coming to see Benedict XVI is declining steadily, raising alarms about the pontiff’s diminished appeal. According to this CNS story, figures released by the Vatican show that just over 2.21 million people saw Benedict […]

Mother of God: No easy job

posted by David Gibson

Today’s Feast of the Epiphany marks (in the Western Church) the revelation of God in human form–Jesus–to the world, through the symbol of the Magi, the Wise Men or Kings from the East who come to the manger bearing gifts. […]

Haight update: Vatican action “not definitive”

posted by David Gibson

According to a Jesuit spokesman in Rome, via this CNS story, the action against Fr. Roger Haight reported below is “a suspension” rather than a final punishment. The process is ongoing, as a committee of three (unnamed) U.S. Jesuit theologians […]

Is the Vatican pro-Hamas?

posted by David Gibson

Or just pro-Palestinian? Or anti-Israel? Or are they distinctions without a difference? As the violence continues in Gaza the prospects for a papal visit to the Holy Land, anticipated for May, grow more remote. In his weekly analysis, Vaticanista Sandro […]

Vatican issues “punitive” measures against NY Jesuit

posted by David Gibson

Over at dotCommonweal, I have posted a report on further Vatican penalties against the Jesuit theologian, Roger Haight: Now Haight is barred from writing at all on theology, and he can’t even teach at a non-Catholic school. Which means he’ll […]

Jump into the 2009 “Catholic Pool”!

posted by David Gibson

Inspired by William Safire’s annual Office Pool of predictions for the coming year, I am herewith inaugurating a “Catholic Pool” for 2009. Safire’s 2009 NYT pool column ran last Sunday, and you have to hand it to him for keeping […]

Rescuing the housing market AND the souls of stock traders

posted by David Gibson

The latest report shows housing values continue to plummet. And the misdeeds of swindlers like Bernie Madoff continue to proliferate. What to do? The German town of Augsburg–of the famous Lutheran Confession–has a very Catholic response: Dirt cheap rents ($.23 […]

The “myth” of holiday suicide rates

posted by David Gibson

I thought the old saw that suicides increase during the holidays–the result, it was assumed, of isolation and despair deepened by the camaraderie ostensibly being enjoyed by everyone else–was an Urban Legend that I was the last to catch on […]

Papal visit to the Holy Land: Another victim of the violence?

posted by David Gibson

The escalating warfare in the birthplace of the Prince of Peace may claim another victim: Benedict’s visit to Israel this May. According to CNS, Vatican sources have said a worsening of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict could alter the pope’s travel plans. […]

Fr. Richard McBrien: Liberal? Try “broad centrist”…

posted by David Gibson

Notre Dame’s well-known, highly-regarded–though not in some circles–theologian and commentator Richard McBrien spoke recently with the Globe’s Michael Paulson and, not surprisingly, fireworks ensued. Yet as often happens, it wasn’t so much anything McBrien said, as much as the apoplexy […]

Recovering St. Joseph

posted by David Gibson

As a father of only a few years duration, I have developed an especial affection for St. Joseph, who always intrigued me given the short shrift he gets in the Gospels. And that leads to such odd devotions as burying […]

Which Christmas? Luke or Matthew?

posted by David Gibson

In this U.S. Catholic interview, scripture scholar Sr. Laurie Brink, OP provides some very sensible, scholarly, and faith-based pastoral answers to questions you may have wondered about the Gospel accounts of Christmas–but were afraid to ask. For instance: Why do […]

Yes, Virginia, there WAS a Santa Claus…

posted by David Gibson

But he’s not quite like you’ve been told. He was St. Nicholas of Myra, in fourth-century Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), and as Kim Lawton of Religion & Ethics Newsweekly shows, some Americans are re-discovering a truly profound Christmas character: “St. […]

REALLY Original Sin

posted by David Gibson

Scandals galore, the Fall of Man, the Pope on Original Sin (as per Cathleen Kaveny at dotCommonweal)–how did it all happen? Answer: Evolution made us do it. From Natalie Angier’s science column in the NYT: Deceitful behavior has a long […]

The Hokey Pokey is anti-Catholic? So THAT’S what it’s all about!

posted by David Gibson

Yes, I knew about the anti-papist origins of “hocus pocus,” a riff on the formula of consecration in Latin in the Mass, hoc est corpus meum, or “this is my body.” But it turns out the “Hokey Cokey,” as the […]

B16: Save the rainforest–Stop gay marriage!

posted by David Gibson

Interesting linkage (or wild leap, to some) that Pope Benedict XVI made in his annual address to the Roman Curia earlier today. The address is usually a look back at the highlights of the past year–or what the pontiff would […]

Christmas Quiz: How much do you really know?

posted by David Gibson

Take the “Christmas Quiz” at Christian History. Ten questions, among them: Apart from a famously repetitive carol, what do the “twelve days of Christmas” refer to? Which of the following best describes the origin of the candy cane? When did […]

A Theory of “Devolution”?

posted by David Gibson

Turns out dinosaurs were stay-at-home dads. According to this Washington Post story: Did oviraptor daddies look forward to trips to the park? Alas, that’s a question the fossil record can’t answer. But it does appear that many dinosaur fathers spent […]

Last-minute gifts!

posted by David Gibson

Yes, if you’re really stumped, you can get (or get me) a Sarah Palin wall calendar! Or not. Perhaps a “Calendario Romano 2009″ with the “Priests of Rome”–one clerical hunk per month? I got these every time I went, as […]

Farewells, Part Two: A Cardinal’s Funeral

posted by David Gibson

Avery Dulles, SJ, was laid to rest after a warm and moving funeral Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the third and final funeral mass for the beloved cardinal, theologian and convert. This picture from The New York Times coverage is […]

Farewells, Part One: A Brooklyn Monastery

posted by David Gibson

In my corner of the Catholic Church–the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region generally, Brooklyn specifically–parish and church and monastery closings are practically part of our ritual. A big part of the problem is the vocations crisis, also the economic crunch, and […]

U.S. to Nuns to Vatican: We support Fr. Roy Bourgeois–and women’s ordination

posted by David Gibson

Whether Maryknoll priest Fr. Roy Bourgeois has been excommunicated or not remains a mystery. As I wrote here, the Vatican told him to recant for supporting women’s ordination–and attending one last July–and at last word he had gone to Rome […]

“Doubts” grow on Merz NRB op-ed

posted by David Gibson

Last week, I wrote about about a Boston Globe op-ed by Judge Michael Merz, head of the lay-led National Review Board that is supposed to ensure that the bishops follow their own policies on child protection. Merz’s view that the […]

Humbug: Old Fogey, SJ

posted by David Gibson

I had just finished ordering our annual sheaf of seasonally tacky and nicely inexpensive Christmas cards–my three-year-old on a carousel in various stages of glee, below her a wish for joy to the world and peace in 2009 and all […]

Economic recession–Evangelical Boom. Catholic bust?

posted by David Gibson

The Times’ Paul Vitello had an interesting piece yesterday on how churches are seeing a surge in attendance as the economy tanks. But it is mainly the “enthusiastic” denominations of Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism that are doing well. Even Jehovah’s Witnesses […]

Is the Shroud of Turin real?

posted by David Gibson

The Discovery Channel opens up what many–including the Vatican–had taken to be a settled question, namely whether the famous Shroud of Turin is truly the burial cloth of Jesus. “Unwrapping the Shroud: New Evidence,” airs Sunday (today), Dec. 14, at […]

Avery Dulles, RIP

posted by David Gibson

Word has come down that Cardinal Avery Dulles, SJ, one of the great figures of the Catholic Church, certainly in the United States, died this morning at the Jesuit infirmary at Fordham University in The Bronx. He was 90 and […]

Thomas Merton, 40 years on…

posted by David Gibson

1968 was a true annus horribilis, as the Queen (upending Dryden) might have said, with the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King and the social upheavals surrounding the Vietnam War ramping up. Then, on Dec. 10, 1968, came […]

Can Catholics read the Bible?

posted by David Gibson

The short answer is, Yes, finally. The somewhat longer answer, as I detail in this cover story for America magazine, “A Literate Church: The State of Catholic Bible Study Today,” is “Yes–but they’re not doing it enough.” Check it out, […]

Rome of the early Christians: You are there…

posted by David Gibson

Google has captured the future. Now it is taking over the past. But that’s not such a bad thing, when it provides new features like this “Ancient Rome 3D” marvel, which, as the NYTimes story shows, has re-created the Rome […]

Apologies for the Lacuna

posted by David Gibson

I haven’t posted for much of the past week, thanks to various plagues running through the house (Toddler=Petri Dish) and a family visit to New Orleans. I was hoping to post from there, but family visits being what they are… […]

UPDATE: Lennon needed no “forgiveness”–at least not from the Vatican

posted by David Gibson

Updating yesterday’s Beatles post…A letter to the editor in today’s NYT, clarifying that while the Osservatore Romano was trying to be generous, they still didn’t quite ” get” what Lennon was saying: November 25, 2008 You Can Make It O.K. […]

What is the point of interfaith dialogue?

posted by David Gibson

Pope Benedict XVI gave an insight into his thinking on this topic in a letter to a friend and co-author, Marcello Pera, philosopher and former president of the Italian senate and an agnostic (perhaps even an atheist) who has nonetheless […]

Vatican “forgives” Lennon…

posted by David Gibson

That’d be John, not Vladimir. (Yes, I know, and it’s Lennon, not Lenin.) And “forgive” would be the hedder on the Reuters version of the story about L’Osservatore Romano’s remarkable appreciation of The Beatles on the 40th anniversary of The […]

Newsflash: Catholics read the Bible!

posted by David Gibson

…But still not enough of us, or often enough. The tools are there, even if the recent Synod on the Word in Rome didn’t deploy them. Here’s a Wall Street Journal piece I wrote for last Friday’s paper that may […]

Prayers for Andrew Greeley

posted by David Gibson

The Chicago priest, novelist, sociologist, newspaper columnist, friend of importunate Catholic writers like me and many others, remains in critical but stable condition at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge. Father Greeley fell and fractured his skull last Friday […]

Calling all Believers and Non-Believers!

posted by David Gibson

Want to be converted? Want to convert your opponents? Or just want to hear some sensible and profound discussion on faith and reason and whether belief–or unbelief–is right? Then check out this Beliefnet “blogalogue” between the distinguished Catholic theologian Michael […]

Priest faces excommunication over women’s ordination stand

posted by David Gibson

Maryknoll priest Fr. Roy Bourgeois faces excommunication, according to the CDF. NCR has the story, based on a letter Bourgeois sent to the Vatican. According to Bourgeois’ letter, which is dated Nov. 7, the congregation has given the priest 30 […]

No gays, no way: Vatican on homosexual priests

posted by David Gibson

When the 2005 Vatican document on homosexuals and the priesthood came out, there was some debate over what Rome meant by its terms–such as “deep-seated” homosexuality, and whether the church wanted to bar even homosexuals capable of living a chaste […]

Vatican embraces Freud: Anything for a gay-free priesthood!

posted by David Gibson

…A major component of the new document, reported today by CNS, is to screen out men who, as Rome put it before, “are active homosexuals or who have “deep-seated” homosexual tendencies.” The document says psychological testing was appropriate in “exceptional […]

Is Halloween Catholic? Father Jim explains it for you…

posted by David Gibson

The gang at BustedHalo is up to their usual high jinks, and it is a treat to watch, with some nice tricks at the end. Really, you’ll learn something, and be entertained….

Tony Hillerman…Catholic novelist. Who knew?

posted by David Gibson

The mystery novelist is dead at 83, after a long and successful life. I never read him, but may start. The Times obit was good as far as it went, but I didn’t know about his Catholic faith and its […]

NEWS FLASH: Pope may allow women lectors!

posted by David Gibson

That’s one intriguing element in the final message from the Vatican Synod on the Bible to the world’s Catholics. It was news to me–weren’t women already reading at mass? But yes, Proposition 17 (there is a Proposition 8, but I […]

“Religious” cleansing: The ongoing nightmare of Iraqi Christians

posted by David Gibson

For Iraq’s Christians, “the Surge” has been more like “the Purge” as ethnic and religious fighting continues to decimate this ancient and once-thriving Christian population. Before the U.S. invasion, Iraqi Christians numbered about 1.5 million. Now the figure is less […]

“Religion of the Word” vs. “Religion of the Book”?

posted by David Gibson

Or, “Catholics aren’t like Jews or Muslims…” That is one of the divides emerging during the current Synod on the Bible being held at the Vatican. (The formal title of the meeting of some 250 bishops and sundry experts is […]

Saintly Sex: Thank God!

posted by David Gibson

When Louis Martin and Zélie Guérin, devout Catholics both, got married in 1858, they didn’t have sex. Nope. Not for 10 long months, until Zélie (God bless her) dragged her new husband to an old priest who straightened him out […]

LOL: The Al Smith Dinner and Post-Partisanship

posted by David Gibson

Check out coverage of last night’s Al Smith Dinner at “Progressive Revival” including links to video and transcripts. Samples: McCAIN: “Even in this room full of proud Manhattan Democrats, I can’t shake that feeling that some people here are pulling […]

Were Adam & Eve vegans?

posted by David Gibson

Hey, the Bible tells me so…After all, it was fruit (though not necessarily an apple) that Eve picked, causing all that trouble. (Just kidding.) But CNS’ Cindy Wooden, covering the Synod on the Word currently going on in the Vatican […]

Remembering the “other” John Paul

posted by David Gibson

John Paul I, born Albino Luciani, has unfortunately become something of a forgotten figure. He himself, in typically self-effacing fashion, too the combined name of his two predecessors, John XXIII and Paul VI, and his successor–elected after John Paul I’s […]

Donna Brazile: A good Catholic girl lets loose…

posted by David Gibson

…And says what I wish more Catholic leaders would about the ugly, angry–and yes, race-baiting–tone of the McCain/Palin campaign. Watch the video from a recent New Yorker campaign symposium…She’s not going to the back of the bus anymore!  

Latin Lives! Thanks to Harry Potter…

posted by David Gibson

Yes, the Boy Wizard apparently strikes again. His latest spell: enchanting young people (at least here in New York) with his Latin-ish spells to take up the “dead” language. “Dead” being a relative term (pardon the pun), as Pope Benedict […]

High Noon: The campaign as a Western movie

posted by David Gibson

But who are the Good Guys? John McCain and Sarah Palin think they are, and in this piece in the current issue of The Tablet of London, I try to explain the campaign to Britons through the lens of the […]

Yom Kippur

posted by David Gibson

Today is the Day of Atonement, which concludes the High Holy Days. The 1901-06 Jewish Encyclopedia (which might be comparable in tone and content to the 1914 Catholic Encyclopedia, but still fascinating if outdated in some respects) is online. Here […]

Was More a bore? (In “A Man for All Seasons,” that is)

posted by David Gibson

Speaking of English saints (or would-be saints, as in the case of Newman, below)…In today’s NYtimes, reviewer Ben Brantley broaches the unspeakable: Is it heresy to whisper that the sainted Thomas More is a bit of a bore? Even Frank […]

The Empty Tomb: Cardinal Newman’s last laugh

posted by David Gibson

Was Cardinal Newman gay? Or (as the joke has it) simply divine? That was the controversy that dominated the dust-up over exhuming John Henry Newman, the great nineteenth-century English convert to Rome, in order to move his body to a […]

The Rabbi and the Pope(s)

posted by David Gibson

“The first Jew to address a Vatican synod said on Monday that wartime Pope Pius XII should have done more to help Jews during the Holocaust.” That’s the lead on the incisive Reuters story about Rabbi Shear-Yashuv Cohen of Haifa, […]

“A Business Plan for the Catholic Church”

posted by David Gibson

Finally. And it’s thanks to lay people who are leading the way. Business Week has an excellent story on the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management (NLRM) and its founder and guiding light, Geoffrey Boisi: Along with issuing guidelines for […]

The Vatican’s “Midas touch”

posted by David Gibson

The Catholic Church may be the only institution doing well during the economic crisis. According to an exclusive from The Tablet’s Rome correspondent Robert Mickens, the Vatican may finally have learned (after decades of deficits and fiscal mismanagment and even […]

Vatican newspaper: “New economy” is a “sham”

posted by David Gibson

Looking for a Catholic–some would say traditionally Christian–point of view on the economic meltdown? The  church has long-standing teachings and resources that I think could be useful–and an antidote to some of the idolatry and fatalism of unfettered free-marketeering. (“Hey, stuff […]

Questioning Celibacy: VOTF calls for a debate

posted by David Gibson

Voice of the Faithful (VOTF), the grass-roots Catholic group that sprang up after the sexual abuse scandal, has always focused its mission on “structural change” and largely avoided hot-button doctrinal disputes. But VOTF is now raising the issue of priestly […]

“Otherizing” Obama: Strange face welcome in a crisis?

posted by David Gibson

The Times’ columnist Nicholas Kristof had a piece on Sunday, “The Push to ‘Otherize’ Obama,” that perfectly sums up the efforts to key in on fears of Obama’s race and persistent (unfounded) doubts about his faith, and how that plays […]

Christian-omics?

posted by David Gibson

The turmoil on Wall Street is continuing, and even though it is closer to me than even Russia is to Alaska, I understand less than little about economics. And yet the human toll of the crashes and crises is poignantly […]

Orthodox: Right belief–wrong word?

posted by David Gibson

Has the term “orthodoxy” lost its meaning? It means “right belief,” or “correct doctrine.” But among Christians it has become a fighting word, and the media has misconstrued it–especially in the contested Catholic context–as a pejorative or, worse, a secular […]

From 9/11 to 9/12…and beyond.

posted by David Gibson

Thursday is the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the crashed airliner in Shanksville, Pa., an observance that will bring renewed focus on relations between Islam and the West. But […]

FLASH! Dan Brown starts his own church!

posted by David Gibson

Evidently tired of dragging down the Catholic Church, blockbuster novelist Dan Brown has apparently decided to found his own religion–and yet it looks an awful lot like the one he has accused of everything that has ever gone wrong in […]

Humanae Vitae at 40: The sound of one hand clapping?

posted by David Gibson

The most remarkable thing about last week’s 40th anniversary of the release of Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI’s watershed encyclical upholding the ban on artificial contraception, is how little comment it aroused. That’s because birth control is at once a […]

Batman and Lambeth?

posted by David Gibson

Never thought you’d see that connection, eh? Well, think again. I’d forgotten in my earlier Batman post to refer to one of my favorite superhero pastimes, figuring out the religious affiliation of comic book characters. ReligionLink.org has an edition dedicated […]

Heck with the swallows–let’s all go back to Capistrano…

posted by David Gibson

A nice Orange County Register piece about the fifth anniversary of Father Art Holquin’s ministry at Mission San Juan Capistrano, the premier historic mission in California, dating back 232 years. Tradition couldn’t keep the mission in decent shape, however, and […]

Missionary proposition: Work the home front?

posted by David Gibson

The growth of short-term mission trips by young Americans has often struck me as little more than what is derided as “religious tourism,” although I am ambivalent in my criticism: Missionaries and church leaders and young people themselves talk about […]

Indiana Jones move over: A real blockbuster find in biblical archeology

posted by David Gibson

Fascinating story just moved by The New York Times on a stone tablet which apparently came from the Dead Sea area and speaks of a messiah who will rise from the dead after three days…and it is dated to decades […]

For Independence Day, an independent woman

posted by David Gibson

Via the valuable resources of Christian History, a remarkable story that seemed remarkably apropos not only because of the holiday, but because “Mulan” has recently become the flavor of the day DVD in our house… The Revolutionary War was supported […]

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Thank you for visiting Pontifications. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Faith, Media and Culture Prayer, Plain and Simple Happy Blogging!!!  

posted 2:38:01pm Aug. 27, 2012 | read full post »

Moving on, and many, many thanks...
So...my recent vacation and related absences also coincided with an offer from PoliticsDaily.com to cover religion for them, as editor Melinda Henneberger announces here in her roundup on the site's very successful first 100 days. That means, in short, that I'll have to sign off from blogging h

posted 8:29:24pm Aug. 02, 2009 | read full post »

Calvin at 500, Calvinism 2.0
If you thought you knew John Calvin--who turned 500 last week--you probably don't know enough. For example, that he was French, born Jean Cauvin. And if he was in fact scandalized by dancing, he was also a lot more complex than that. I explored the new look Calvin in an essay at PoliticsDaily, "Patr

posted 11:53:35am Jul. 16, 2009 | read full post »

Apologia pro vita sua...Kinda
 In my defense, I've had computer outages and family reunions and a few days of single-parenthood, which is always a bracing reminder of what many parents go through all the time. And this weekend it's off for a week's vacation. Anyway, hence the long absence. Apologies to those who have chec

posted 10:51:36am Jul. 16, 2009 | read full post »

When Benny met Barry: "I'll pray for you!"
The first word via Vatican Radio and first image (that I saw) via Rocco: Speaking to Vatican Radio, Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi said "moral values in international politics, immigration and the Catholic Church's contribution in developing countries" were key topics of discussio

posted 12:54:28pm Jul. 10, 2009 | read full post »

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