Sheavings

What NBC Did for Mammon

You gotta love the mainstream media. They re-define chutzpah. In an amazing triple play, the media have given us Nancy Grace, the Don Imus imbroglio, and now NBC’s “coverage” of the horror at Virginia Tech. Boy, is Edward R. Murrow dead. In her TV news persona, Grace plays a snarling

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Are Sacraments Narrow?

My friend Ludwig was puzzled. “I don’t understand,” he said, “what is meant by those who say grace is imparted through sacraments. It seems to me to involve an intolerably narrow view of grace. As a Protestant, I’ve always understood grace to mean unmerited favor, plain and simple. Why are

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The Napoleon of Queen Anne Hill

I love local patriots. I love Willa Cather because in My Antonia, she makes it clear that she is trying to do for Nebraska what Vergil did for Rome: sing the glories of her home. Anybody who loves the home–especially their home–is alright by me. And anybody who truly loves their home appreciates

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Concupiscence and the Battle of the Spirit

One of the big differences between Catholic teaching and a great deal of the sort of dilute Protestantism that floats around in our culture is the Church’s teaching on temptation and failure after we become Christians.  Not a few Protestants have been troubled over the years by the fact that

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Sin and Repentance

Last week, we talked about the revolutionary idea at the heart of Catholic anthropology: the truth that sin, while normal, is never natural since sin is what destroys, not constitutes nature.  This does not mean that “sin is unreal”.  It means that man as created and, more importantly, man as

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Jesus Names Us, Not Sin

In late July, Mel Gibson publicly imploded in a drunken, profanity-laced rant against Jews.  Much ink was spilt over the question of whether we are truly ourselves when we are smashed. I think the real question is whether we are truly ourselves when we are sinful. As a good child

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The Mystery of Evil

“Investigators Seek Reason for School Shootings” say the headlines. Was it because of poverty? Were the killers incited to murder by the taunts of their peers? Was it access to guns? Was it their parents? Their school? Their physiology? What, as the phrase goes, drove them to it? We want rational answers,

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Some Thoughts on Motu Proprio Mania

I am gratified that the long-awaited motu proprio from Pope Benedict, urging a wider celebration of the Tridentine Rite, is out. I’m happy for those, including my son, who love to worship in that way. More power to ‘em. Some of the loveliest Catholics I know are devotees of the

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The Mother of the Son: The Case for Marian Devotion

It has to be one of the strangest things in the world: So many Christians who love Jesus with all their hearts recoil in fear at the mention of His mother’s name, while many who do love her find themselves tongue-tied when asked to explain why. Most of the issues people have

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St. Thomas More

June 22 is the Feast of one of our greatest saints: Thomas More. St. Thomas More (1478-1535) was one of the most gifted men of his day. He entered Oxford at about age 15, was a brilliant scholar, writer, and lawyer (thereby showing that lawyers can get to heaven) was fluent in

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“You Can’t Legislate Morality”

Many of my readers may remember the World Council of Churches. They are an organization whose basic function is to periodically issue leftist tracts disguised as theological reflection. With the catastrophe of the American elections, they are reflecting all over themselves as reported in a Reuters article that is characteristically

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Monotheism 102

Last week, we discussed the common complaint that CCC 841 is wrong when it teaches that “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the

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Monotheism 101

The Church teaches (CCC 841) that “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.” These

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Remember the Flying Monkeys!

When I was five, The Wizard of Oz was the outermost limit of terror. The flying monkeys, in their fakey makeup and phoney suits, gliding in on barely concealed wires to snatch Dorothy out of the haunted wood were the stuff of nightmares for me. I had no ability to distinguish between

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A Modest Proposal

“There is a primitive society—I don’t know which one exactly—whose members were shocked to learn that we embalm our dead, place them in boxes, and then bury them in the ground. Do you know what they do? They eat them. To them, it’s ethical and moral and honorable to devour

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Monsters, Moralists and Happiness

So here’s a recent piece that asks the musical question, “Hitchcock: Monster or moralist?” It’s moments like that I most miss the common sense of G.K. Chesterton who wrote: The modern world is not evil; in some ways the modern world is far too good. It is full of wild and

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The Divine Mess of the Family

A wag has said, “The good news about the Catholic Church is, it’s like a big family. The bad news about the Catholic Church is, it’s like a big family.” And this is pretty accurate. The Church, like the family and real life, is messy. That’s okay though, because Christianity

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Mere Theism: The Case for God

Some time ago my kids got a computer game called Myst. Myst is a very curious game. There are no instructions, no rules, and no commentary offered at the beginning of the game. You find yourself plunked down into a strange environment on a mysterious island. You do not know where you are

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Mercy in Scripture

As Hans Urs von Balthasar has pointed out, “truth is symphonic“. Scripture generally reveals in precisely this symphonic way. It does not give us dictionary definitions of terms like “mercy” and then commit us to a static “this term means this and this only” understanding. Rather, it walks us around

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Mercy

Our culture doesn’t believe in forgiveness. Not really. Oh, sure, we say we do. But the reality is, we believe in mistakes and excuses. We will go to enormous lengths to explain away sin as a mistake or a psychological aberration or an error. But should our patience finally wear out, should

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Minimum Daily Adult Requirement Christianity

I once knew a Baptist who was sleeping with her boyfriend. She knew this was wrong, but consoled herself that she was “bringing her boyfriend to Christ”. She told me, “If I can just get him to salvation” (meaning “saying the Sinner’s Prayer and asking Jesus into his heart as

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The Matrix

Writer Orson Scott Card has observed that one of the few places in contemporary culture where serious theological and philosophical reflection is still practiced is within the realm of science fiction and fantasy. The Matrix hammers home the truth of that observation. From a Catholic perspective, The Matrix is one of the most surprisingly

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Materialist Magic

I’m one of those people who likes to have things reasonably orderly. I like knowing what’s going on and why. At the same time, I also recognize that the world is a very strange place and that (according to our faith) God is the creator not only of what is

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Materialist Dogmatism

We all know that religious believers are fools who will tell themselves anything to prop up their pre-conceived notions while atheists are hard-headed rationalists who look the evidence in the face and follow the Truth no matter the cost. Still, one’s faith in this common narrative of the Chattering Classes

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