Distinctly Catholic

Annulments: The Good News


My colleague John Allen has an important article on a conference in Rome that seemed to be advocating for a more restrictive understanding of canon law regarding annulments. I am not a canonist, and I know every field has considerations proper to itself that may be unclear to the rest of us. But, all the canon laws of the Church serve the pastoral ministry of the Church, not the other way round. And, I fear that the large number of annulments, most of them coming from the U.S., may be seen in the wrong light by officials in the Vatican.

The state of marriage has been in free-fall for decades. Divorce rates for Catholics are similar to those in the ambient culture. And, someone who comes to the Church to seek an annulment is doing so because their marriage has already failed. But, they are coming for another reason to - they want to remain practising Catholics. Going through an annulment is not an easy process. Many people just walk away from the Church as well as their marriage. Those who come to the Church to seek an annulment do so because, at some level, they agree with the Church's teachings on marriage and want to abide by those teachings.

Welcome To a New, Important, Wesbite


This morning, the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis launched a new, and very ambitious, online news journal, Religion & Politics.

The journal strikes me as scholarly but accessible, lively but not partisan, informed in the deepest sense of the word, but not afraid to take a position or to push the envelope. Full disclosure - I am on their media advisory board as are some of my favorite writers and thinks, including Cathleen Kaveny and Mark Silk. Additionally, I was delighted to have an article I wrote for them be one of their featured articles in their premiere edition, posted this morning.

Put this new blog on your blog roll. It instantly becomes a must-read for those who care about religion and politics and the confounding ways they often intersect.

Entitlement Is Not a Swear Word


The issue of entitlements, and entitlement reform, is inexorably gaining prominence, yet I fear greatly that the Democrats, and specifically President Obama, are letting the Republicans, and specifically Cong. Paul Ryan, define the debate. And, this is an issue on which the USCCB should, I believe, be front and center articulating a foundational article of Catholic social teaching that has implications for both our commitment to social justice and our commitment to the dignity of every human life.

Garnett's Gloom


Over at Mirror of Justice, Rick Garnett is feeling glomy about the intractable ways political and ideological discourse is engaged. I am less gloomy than he, but I share his concern that few of us try often enough to try and discern what wisdom might reside in the viewpoints of those with whom we disagree. Here is good grounds for an examination of conscience by all bloggers and blog commenters!

Weigel on LCWR


Regular readers of my blog will know the very, very low regard in which I hold the opinions of George Weigel. He and his neo-con fellow RCs have tried to subvert Catholic social teaching for decades and still seem incapable of believing that the Master meant what he said about avarice and riches.

Now, he has set his sights on the Vatican's "assessment" of the LCWR in a post at the National Review. The article is filled with his usual absurd arguments - if only nuns wore habits, all would be well with the world - and his usualy penchant for nostalgia - invoking the memory of Ingrid Bergman in Bells of St. Mary's - but this paragraph of his was especially disturbing even by Weigel's standards:

Webathon: Please Give


In case you are on a direct RSS feed - and I confess, I do not know exactly what an RSS feed is - to my blog and not to the NCR homepage, you may not know that our annual webathon is going on. Please donate generously. The work we do here is so vital not only to the Church but to the news business. Increasingly, mainstream press outlets don't have religion reporters and those that do often have people who do not understand the often complicated ways the Church works.

Especially this year, when our election campaign is drowning in religious language and ideas, it is vital that the American people receive informed commentary on how religion and politics interact in American history and in America today. That is one of the principal objectives of this blog, to provide informed commentary on the estuary where religion and politics mix and to police that estuary for tendentiousness and stupidity are so commonly found.

The commentators on this blog are always generous with their words of praise and criticism. If you value the opportunity to be provoked, this week we need you to be generous with your cash as well as your comments.

New Series at TNR Looks at Romney's Policies


This morning, The New Republic, launched a new series of articles that will look at the substance of the proposals Mitt Romney has put forth. The first in the series, by Jonathan Cohn, looks at Romney's economic proposals and concludes that by focusing on the long-term, and neglecting the short-term need to juice the economy and put people back to work, Romney has the cart before the horse. Only if economic growth kicks in, can the long-term problems become managable.

You can agree with Cohn or not, although if you do come prepared with strong arguments and lots of data because Cohn knows more about more policies than most essayists. But, TNR is doing us all a service by focusing less on the ups-and-downs of campaign life and more on the substance of the proposals being put forth by the man who claims he can lead America to greatness.



I did not have the visceral reaction many of my colleagues had to the news of the “assessment” of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. That was, until I read the document itself. But, before we get to the text, I have to ask myself: Why did I not instantly recognize the injustice many of my friends discerned?

In part, I have learned to resist overbroad interpretations of events that fit neatly with a previously determined meta-narrative, in this case the meta-narrative that sees the bad, old, meanies at the Vatican going after unsuspecting Catholics. I do not recall cries of “injustice” when the Vatican, in 2000, appointed an apostolic visitor to Mother Angelica’s abbey, although that too involved men assessing women, the far away Vatican bureaucrats ordering U.S.-based women religious to open themselves to investigation and, in the event, resulted in the removal of Mother Angelica from the leadership of her abbey.


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In This Issue

May 19-June 1, 2017