October 3, 2016
If you work in Catholic publishing, it’s a certainty you’ve been asked one question at cocktail parties: Whatever happened to the Catholic novel? The tone of the query usually betrays declinist sympathies—Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?—even for folks who are otherwise glad to be rid of the subculture from which Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene and J. F. Powers arose. Many who yearn for those classics might be horrified to discover that four of the authors...
September 26, 2016
Popular media in the United States continue to approve the Catholic Church’s social justice voice on poverty or the environment, but they dismiss its voice on sex, marriage and parenting. This is intensified by the contemporary framing of the latter issues in terms of “equality,” “freedom” and scientific rationality. In other words, social justice categories are applied to sex and family questions, and the church is found wanting.
Nothing motivates me to try to bridge this divide...
September 19, 2016
Like many of you, I am not embarrassed to say that I wept when I read the story of the terrible murders of two Catholic sisters who had served the poor in central Mississippi. They were stabbed to death in their house in Durant, Miss., by an intruder on Aug. 25.
I know that many people suffer violent deaths throughout the world, in places like Syria and Sudan, and even in the inner cities of the United States. And I...
August 29-September 6, 2016
While in Europe for a few weeks, I’ve been listening to what people say about the refugee problem. To be a Muslim anywhere is to be regarded as suspect; to be a Muslim refugee is to be persona non grata. Even friends and acquaintances I regard as broad-minded remarked that they think it a mistake for a society to accept large numbers of refugees from a very different culture. This was said in a European Union country that thus far has accepted a total of four Syrian refugees.
August 15-22, 2016
After a talk I gave in Melbourne, Australia, this past June, a friend introduced me to an elderly man who had been in the audience. The man had something he wanted to say. He came close to me and began to speak, from which I recollect only one crucial word: formation.
Formation—yes. I could feel my neurons forming new pathways around that bit of Catholic jargon, and suddenly a bunch of puzzling stuff made sense....
August 1-8, 2016
Somewhere around a quarter of a century ago, I found myself sitting down at a table in my high school gym to take the A.P. English IV test. I had an extraordinary teacher for that class, so I should have been ready; but I had spent months obsessively rereading Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 , with the occasional break for a Tom Clancy novel, and so was blindsided by the essay question: “Many famous novels feature a close relationship between a protagonist and his/...
July 4-11, 2016
In the 1970s, when feminism got loud and national and had something approaching traction in the United States, it claimed that it would “do politics” and “do business” with a new focus. The focus would be people, not processes or power. It would be the vulnerable, not the usual recipients of government or corporate largesse.
Today, confusion reigns where feminism is concerned. There are living witnesses to its earlier promises, but these are to be found, ironically, among grass-roots...
June 20-27, 2016
What’s so great about a Jesuit education?
It’s a fair question, given the bills that parents and students face these days. That’s not to say that Jesuit colleges are more expensive than comparable institutions of higher learning. The cost of tuition, room and board also varies widely from school to school. Still, the price tag for any Jesuit college might prompt anyone to ask: Is it really worth it?
It’s also a common question for people unfamiliar with Jesuit education:...
June 6-13, 2016
How should we treat the illustrious figures from our country’s past who have lost their shine? That was a question that roiled universities this past school year as students protested the relics of racism on campus and sought to obliterate the names of men whose deeds now seem objectionable or even heinous.
Inside and outside academia, the protests at Yale, Princeton and other colleges spurred controversy and often criticism. “Too P.C.” was one charge. “You can...
May 16, 2016
Living in New York City in the 1990s, it was easy to know what the cardinal archbishop was thinking regarding current events. A distinct memory from that pre-Internet age was that it seemed as if The New York Post and The Daily News had regular features screaming out, “Card Sez…” followed by a provocative quote from Cardinal John O’Connor in bold letters on the tabloids’ front pages.
Over the past few years, I’ve been reminded of one quotation in particular. In...