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February 12, 2013

It was about six o'clock in the morning, Pacific Time. I was jolted awake by a chime from my phone indicating an incoming text message. Since to be awakened first thing in the morning by your phone never means good news, I stumbled from bed and stared blearily at my phone. Once my mind started processing, shock seeped in:

Just heard on the news that the pope is stepping down at the end of the month for health reasons.

The colleague who had sent the...

February 11, 2013

In the coming days there will be plenty of comments about Pope Benedict XVI's stunning announcement. Some of those comments will appear in the Catholic Answers Blog. For now, let me make a few points:

1. Yes, popes can renounce the Petrine office. A few popes have done so, the most famous being St. Celestine V in 1296. (More on him another time.)

2. Benedict XVI hasn't "resigned," as that word commonly is used. A resignation implies informing one's superior about one's decision...

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....