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Torture: Historical and Ethical Perspectives

At the time of the writing of this article (December, 2014), United States citizens are reeling from revelations concerning extrajudicial torture camps operated by the CIA. American Catholics who identify themselves as political conservatives find themselves in a difficult spot; conservative thinking associated with the United States Republican Party has - especially since September 11, 2001 - tended to justify the use of torture in the interrogation of suspects with connections to radical Islam on the premise that such methods are necessary to save American lives from future terrorist attacks. However, this stalwart defense of torture flies in the face of statements found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and of recent popes who rank torture among those offenses against human dignity which no...


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What's wrong with Religious Orders in America?

The Apostolic Visitation to American female religious orders - begun under Benedict XVI - has just been wrapped up with the issuance of a Vatican document. The tone of the document leaves one wondering what the problem was to begin with. All of the original problems identified under the Benedictine pontificate (pantheism, paganism, spiritualized environmentalist earth worship, rampant lesbianism, dissent, etc) are simply omitted in the new document, which almost goes as far as to apologize to the nuns for bothering them for the past few years. Nothing to see here folks, move along. To those who love our Church's monastic-religious tradition, this is obviously a huge disappointment. The Vatican has chosen to ignore the real problems in American religious life, which really are the...


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Good, Acceptable, and Perfect Will of God

"Do not imitate this world, but be transformed by the renovation of your minds, and you shall distinguish what is the good, acceptable and perfect will of God" (Rom. 12:12).It is a teaching of the Faith that there are unequal degrees of beatitude in heaven. The Council of Florence taught that those in heaven "behold the triune God as he is, yet one person more perfectly than another according to the difference of their merits" (Session 6). This inequality of is predicated upon the inequality in merit among souls. Some fulfill the will of God in a nearly perfect manner, conforming themselves intimately to the image of Christ, merit much glory; others, like the workers called at the end of the day in the parable...


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Ecclesiastical Property Ownership in the Middle Ages

Of the many things that can be said about the Church in the Middle Ages, one of the most commonly asserted statements is that the Catholic Church owned one third of all the land in Europe on the eve of the Protestant Reformation. This is not only stated in works hostile to the Catholic Church, but also in authors and textbooks sympathetic to Catholicism as well. It seems like it is one of those points of history that is generally uncontested. The force of the statement is not in the facts themselves but in what sort of conclusions one draws from them. Both Protestant and laissez-faire economic apologists use this number to beat up the Church with; the former by arguing that the immense quantities of property...


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Catholics and Tithing

How do various Christian groups differ from each other regarding the amount of money donated to their respective churches? Every major study in recent years that I am aware of has verified that Catholics are the most penurious of all Christian groups; typically we are ranked at or close to dead last in giving. What does dead last look like? In most studies it is about 1.25% to 1.5% of gross income (for comparison, the highest was around 6.1% for the Reformed Church in America. Mainline liberal Protestant churches hovered around 2.5 to 3%). The "penurious Catholic" trend was even the subject of a book authored by Charles Zech and printed by Our Sunday Visitor back in 2000 called Why Catholics Don't Give...And What Can Be...


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Status and Contract

In his classic 1937 work The Crisis of Civilization, Hilaire Belloc summarizes the development of Christendom and diagnoses with precision how the rejection of the Catholic Church at the time of the Protestant Revolt is responsible for the social and economic troubles of the modern world. The most pressing economic problem is that the vast majority of people are wage-earners to a small owner class who have a disproportionate control of the means of production. This situation Belloc calls 'Proletarianism.' While modern wage-earners have political rights, full economic freedom eludes them because they are too dependent upon those who pay their wages. Unlike the Communists, who assert that the evil is in private ownership of property, Belloc states the problem is not that capital is...


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Israelite Houses in Egypt

According to the Biblical narrative, the Israelites dwelt in Egypt abount four centuries, for the latter part of that time as slaves. Much effort has been expended seeking for archaeological evidence of the long Israelite sojourn in Egypt. Tantalizing hints about Israel's presence in Egypt are found in certain pottery fragments discovered in Avaris (the biblical Goshen), in certain Egyptian inscriptions, and in some New Kingdom artistic representations. These are but glimpses, however. Full scale, undeniable hard evidence of an Israelite presence in Egypt between 1700-1300 BC. has yet to emerge. We should not make too much of this, however. Much of the physical culture of the ancient Egyptians themselves has vanished; tombs and temples remain, but the houses of the average Egyptian peasant are...


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Watchers and Nephilim

In our previous article on the Nephilim, we have examined the various places in the Scripture in which the Nephilim are mentioned and sketched out some very rudimentary ideas about their identity. This was all by way or preparation for this article, which will take a much more in depth look at the Nephilim and the Watchers, the mysterious fathers of the Nephilim. These "Watchers", known as the Grigori in Hebrew, the "sons of God" who went in to the daughters of men in Genesis 6. Who are these Grigori? Are they fallen angels? Or, as some assert, are they merely the human descendants of Seth? The answer is relevant not only to the identity of the Nephilim but to the very interpretive lens with...


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Prayer Book Rebellion (1549)

In the year 1536, Catholics of northern England famously participated in the ill-fated "Pilgrimage of Grace", a peaceful demonstration against the Protestant reforms of Henry VIII. This is but one example of how the people of England cherished the Catholic Faith, and why that kingdom was always referred to affectionately as 'Our Lady's Dowry.' The Catholics of England were not willing to sit idly by while the faith of St. Augustine was destroyed by Protestant usurpers, even if that usurper sat on the throne. Just as Henry's innovations provoked the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536, so the more radical innovation of Cranmer's Prayer Book of 1549 provoked a massive rebellion in Cornwall and Devon. Born of outrage against the concept of an English liturgy, this...


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Christian Contemplation vs. Pagan Meditation

We live in a world which increasingly rejects Catholic tradition while simultaneously professing great interest in spiritualities influenced by the New Age. Christians have been traditionally reluctant to embrace such practices, as they contain elements that are fundamentally opposed to the most basic tenets of Christianity. Some, however, have merged various elements of eastern mysticism and New Age neo-paganism with traditional Catholic spirituality, thrown in some Christian vocabulary and are now peddling these practices as compatible with Catholicism. The method of "Centering Prayer" promoted by the late Cistercian monk Basil Pennington is the most famous example, but there are others. These practices are promoted as Christian forms of "contemplation", and Catholics are encouraged to participate. In this article we will look at how to discern...


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History of the Catholic Church

Theology & Liturgy

  • Watchers and Nephilim

    In our previous article on the Nephilim, we have examined the various places in the Scripture in which the Nephilim are mentioned and sketched out some very rudimentary ideas about their identity. This was all by way or preparation for this article, which will take a much more in depth look at the N…

    Read more: Watchers and...

Catholic Spirituality

Movie Reviews

  • Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

    My wife and I went out to see the Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies a few nights ago. I am still trying to digest what I saw. I mean in the same way one tries to digest bad Mexican food. This film was definitely the weakest of the three.nexpected Journeyd Dation of Smaugsome problems…

    Read more: Hobbit:...

Economy & Society

  • Torture: Historical and Ethical Perspectives

    At the time of the writing of this article (December, 2014), United States citizens are reeling from revelations concerning extrajudicial torture camps operated by the CIA. American Catholics who identify themselves as political conservatives find themselves in a difficult spot; conservative thinkin…

    Read more: Torture:...