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November 29, 2015

 “Out of the mouths of babes— and dissident priests.” Or something like that.

Rummaging around, I came across an old newspaper column that amused me when I first read it and amuses me still. I never thought I would find the late Fr. Richard P. McBrien (1936–2015), longtime head of the theology department at Notre Dame, giving a coherent argument in favor of priestly celibacy; but he did, right in the pages of the National Catholic Reporter.

In fairness I should note...

November 23, 2015

The ancient Liber Pontificalis (Book of Pontiffs) gives brief lives of the first 108 holders of the see of Rome. Only recently has this important work been translated into English, allowing those of us whose Latin is less than fluent to browse at will.

The fourth pope listed is Clement, known to history as Clement of Rome and the author of an epistle, addressed to the Corinthians, that is used by Catholic apologists to show the early exercise of papal authority. It...

November 16, 2015

Apologetics is loaded with opportunities to err. Like ice cream, the errors come in a bewildering assortment of flavors. Some are as mild as vanilla, others as shocking to the palate as chunky raspberry-lemon. You can commit vanilla errors endlessly and never be tripped up by them (and seemingly never trip up others), but a single chunky raspberry-lemon error can throw you off track, can throw your listeners into the ditch, and even can sink your career.

There never has been an...

November 9, 2015

I received a report of what a recent and devout “revert” (a one-time Catholic who has returned to the Faith) suffered through when assisting at Mass in a large Midwestern diocese she was visiting.

To me the most annoying thing wasn’t that none of the parishioners she spoke with knew where the tabernacle was located (hint: not in full view within the church, which is what the regulations insist on). And it wasn’t that the priest skipped the introductory rites and ad libbed his way...

November 2, 2015

While not every exegetical argument can be settled with the citation of a verse, some can.

I often have received letters and e-mails from non-Catholics saying, “Put up or shut up. Where does the Bible mention anything about confession?” I quote John 20:22–23: “Whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven them, whose sins you shall retain they are retained.” Of course, I don’t stop there. I draw the logical inference.

If a priest is to distinguish which sins are to be forgiven...