Sheavings

What is Sacred Tradition?

Something wonderful is happening. Many of our Evangelical brothers and sisters are beginning to appreciate the ancient Catholic teaching that Sacred Scripture is the written portion, not the totality, of Sacred Tradition given to us by the apostles with the authority of Christ himself. Increasingly, they are beginning to grasp

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The Perspicuity of Scripture and Other Creation Myths

Last week, I wrote a little piece on the ways in which the various Protestantisms filter the sometimes ambiguous text of Scripture through various semi-permeable membranes in order to accept the bits of the Catholic Tradition they approve of while a) removing those things they dislike and b) stapling on those human

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The Presence(s) of Jesus

Recently, a reader wrote me with an interesting question: I have a theological problem with the statement of Blessed Mother Teresa: “Everyone is Jesus Christ in disguise”, which is one of the main mottos also of the Focolare Movement: “To see Jesus Christ in everyone”. I accept obviously and wholeheartedly

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Toying With Evil: May a Catholic Advocate Torture?

“Men do not differ much about what things they will call evils,” said Chesterton, “they differ enormously about what evils they will call excusable.” Different political ideologies tend to have different ways of finessing and nuancing what, in Catholic thinking, is more bluntly called “mortal sin.” Conservatives are familiar with

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Tortured Morality

The apostle Paul had his detractors, and some of the worst were those who claimed he taught, “Why not do evil that good may come?” Paul’s verdict on these people was blunt: “Their condemnation is deserved” (Romans 3:8).  Few things were more contemptible to Paul than saying “good ends justify evil

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The Right Tools for the Job

I once saw a big glass case in the Smithsonian Museum full of strange metal implements, gears and widgets of every shape and description. I couldn’t imagine what these gizmos were, so I read the sign on the case. It said, in so many words, “We can’t imagine what these

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The Music of Prayer

Some years back, I heard a recording of some original music by four women with well-trained voices and a gift for harmony who joked that an “angel” had lent them a hand. That’s because when their voices blended just so, a fifth voice joined them. It was high, clear and

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The Miraculous Ordinary

Chances are that recently you’ve had a chat with somebody on the phone. You might even have gotten up to get a cup of tea while you were doing it. Odds are even better that, within a few minutes of hanging up, you forgot about the call and the tea

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Two Kinds of Questions

When you spend your time talking about volatile stuff like politics or, in my case, religion (especially that unique species of religion called “the Catholic Faith”) you discover pretty quickly that conversations can move along two tracks simultaneously. The first track is the “intellectual”. Somebody asks a question like, “Was

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Why Tithe?

One of the unfortunate effects of human sin and of the weird and fractured borderline between the sacred and the secular in postmodern culture is that the word “tithe” provokes reactions ranging from the skeptic’s cry “The whole thing’s a scam!” to the dim uncomfortable notion of many people that

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The Inescapability of the Gospel

Here’s a piece by a Lefty named Annalee Newitz about the insufficiently Lefty liberal power fantasy that energizes stories like Avatar: These are movies about white guilt. Our main white characters realize that they are complicit in a system which is destroying aliens, AKA people of color – their cultures, their habitats, and

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My MSM Rules of Thumb

Rule One: Take off 50 IQ points whenever the Mainstream Media (MSM) covers religion, and bump that up to about 100 points whenever the religion is the Catholic Church. Exhibit A: some months back Pope Benedict gave a homily during Ordinary Time restating basic Catholic teaching about our duty as

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Hamlet, Threepio and Us

In Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, two hapless characters who occupy a few minutes of stage time in Hamlet wander around, trying to figure out why they are there and what the story they are in is all about. They engage in comic banter and wordplay and, periodically, react to the main characters

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St. Therese and the Little Way

Many of us modern people have the sense that sainthood is a far-off and unattainable goal reserved only for heroes. We despair of our ordinariness. Yet the greatest saint of modern times, a woman whom Pope Pius called “a word of God” sent to point us the way to Christ

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A Washington Thanksgiving

I am from Western Washington, so for me Thanksgiving will always array itself in the color of rain; a good color, a color of warm socks, of drops trailing down panes of glass, of steam rising from a pot on our kitchen stove. Looking at the home movies from my

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Thank God for the Magisterium

Many modern people have the notion that the principal mission of the Catholic Church is to impose belief on unbelievers. The reality is that most its time is spent trying to restrain belief in everything from spoon-bending to the aliens who allegedly speak to us through a cat in Poughkeepsie. The riptides

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Temptation and Accusation

My best friend Dave and I both tend to be neurotic types who grapple with scruples. We both know this about each other and so, somehow, find it hilariously funny to voice aloud to each other the sorts of thoughts that pass through our own minds as we make the

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The Temptation of Christ

If we are serious Catholics, we must recognize that our Faith calls us to acknowledge a much-disliked and disputed doctrine: the Fall. The teaching, in the words of Paul, is that “By one man sin entered into the world, and by sin death, and so death passed upon all men,

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Technological Messianism

Glenn Reynolds (aka “Instapundit”) is the blogosphere’s resident libertarian transhumanist. We owe him a debt for leading the charge in making the blogosphere an important counterweight to the Usual Stuff from the mainstream media. And he has lived that belief personally by becoming the single most influential member of the

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The Devil You Say?

What attitude do we take as faithful Catholics when the headlines periodically swell with tales of credulity and incredulity over such matters as demons and exorcists? The first thing to remember is Paul’s counsel “that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every

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Ten Commandments: The Tenth Commandment

As we noted last week, the Catholic tradition of catechesis has tended to break up Exodus 20:17 into two commandments. The Ninth Commandment bids us not to covet our neighbor’s spouse. The focus of the tenth commandment is on coveting his stuff. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you

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Ten Commandments: The Ninth Commandment

As we come to the Ninth Commandment we again arrive in disputed territory. As you will recall, the Ten Commandments can be and have been split up differently so as to yield ten and not eleven commandments. Some Protestants break apart the First Commandment (yielding what I call the 1.5

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Ten Commandments: The Eighth Commandment

It is a curious fact that the same book of Exodus which informs us of the command, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16) begins with the story of a good solid practical lie: Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of

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Ten Commandments: The Seventh Commandment

“You shall not steal,” says Exodus 20:15. Once again, the Decalogue faces us with an injunction that seems like common sense (and is) but which is also fraught with all sorts of difficulties and distinctions. Consider, for instance, the fact that a Catholic writer like me has the obligation to

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Ten Commandments: The Sixth Commandment

Our culture pretty much winks at adultery these days. It winks sort of like Maurice Chevalier, lecherously ogling “girls, girls, girls” in some old musical number. Adultery is sold as a charming but lovable fault, as with that adorable rascal Bill Clinton. Or else it is sold as exciting and

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