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August 13, 2014

Today the Church celebrates the memorial of Sts. Hippolytus (170-235) and Pontian (r. 230-235)—a most interesting pair of early Christian men who were at first enemies but now share eternal glory. 

In its first several centuries, the Church dealt with crises both external and internal. Externally, the Church suffered for nearly 250 years under the violent persecutions of Roman emperors, begun under mad Nero in A.D. 64 and finally stopped under Constantine in 313. Internally, the...

September 16, 2013

In an earlier blog post I commented on a published email exchange between skeptical biblical scholar Bart Ehrman and Frank Zindler, former editor of American Atheist Magazine. During the exchange, Zindler took the position that many elements of Christianity are in fact ripped-off from the Roman mystery cult of Mithras...

March 14, 2013

In 2005, I was in a colleague's office when another colleague came running down the hall, breathlessly announcing, "There's white smoke!" I ran for a radio in my office, but an announcement came over the intercom. "We're gathering in the conference room!" Table and chairs were shoved aside, people stood or sat on the floor, all eyes were glued to a tiny TV set that had very poor reception. 

When "Josephum" was announced as the new pope's first name, I sucked in my breath. At the word...

February 8, 2013

If you visit the Campo de' Fiori (Field of Flowers) in Rome, you won't be able to miss the statue in the middle of the square (which, by the way, was still a meadow when it received its name in the Middle Ages). The statue is of Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake there. He was convicted on today's date in 1600 and executed nine days later.

Bruno commonly is called a "martyr for science" because he endorsed the same Copernican theory that, through injudiciousness in discussing...

February 7, 2013

On this day in 1878 Bl. Pius IX died. Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferreti was the second-longest reigning pope in history, after St. Peter. He oversaw the First Vatican Council (1869-1870), defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception (1854), and became the "prisoner of the Vatican" when the Papal States fell to the army of the new Italian state. He was beatified in 2000. He commonly is said to have been a liberal when he ascended the papal throne in 1846 but became a conservative as he aged....