Commentary

Is nuclear deterrence morally acceptable?

“We are at the limit of what is licit.” In early December, Pope Francis offered that assessment of nuclear deterrence during a question-and-answer session with reporters on the plane back to Rome from Bangladesh.

‘Thank you for your service’

Together with another Little Sister I was invited to represent our congregation at a somewhat exclusive reception during the Christmas season. We were happy to bring two of our residents along with us. One of them, a 97-year-old veteran of World War II, proudly wore his best tweed sport coat and his VFW Garrison cap decorated with a host of ribbons. The other, an immigrant and artist, is the widow of a U.S. Navy veteran.

The Christ Child of the Year

Every year Time magazine recognizes someone as “Person of the Year.” The recognition isn’t necessarily an honor; it’s given to the person whom Time judges to have been the newsmaker of the year — for good or for bad. This year, instead of choosing an individual to recognize as newsmaker of the year, it recognized instead a category of persons, the Silence Breakers, namely, women who have spoken out about having experienced sexual harassment and sexual violence.

‘Lady Bird’ and the breakthrough of grace

Greta Gerwig’s new film, Lady Bird, has taken the critics by storm. It is the most-reviewed movie in the history of the website Rotten Tomatoes to have sustained a 100 percent positive rating, and it is receiving serious Oscar buzz for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress. Having seen the coming attractions, I knew it would be a quirky, offbeat comedy, but I had no idea that Lady Bird would be of considerable religious interest as well.

The real tragedy of sin

The real tragedy of sin is that often the one who is sinned against eventually becomes a sinner, inflicting on others what was first inflicted upon him or her. There’s something perverse within us whereby when we are sinned against we tend to take in the sin, complete with the sickness from which it emanated, and then struggle not to act out in that same sick way. The ultimate triumph of sin is that first being sinned against, we often become sinners.

Pope Paul VI, prophet

This coming July, we will mark the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s deeply controversial encyclical letter Humanae Vitae. I won’t bore you with the details of the innumerable battles, disagreements and ecclesial crises that followed upon this text. Suffice it to say that this short, pithily argued letter became a watershed in the post-conciliar Catholic Church and one of the most significant points of contention between liberals and conservatives. Its fundamental contention is that the moral integrity of the sexual act is a function of the coming together of its “procreative and unitive” dimensions. That is to say, sexual intercourse is ethically upright only in the measure that it is expressive of love between married partners and remains open to the conception of a child. When, through a conscious choice, the partners introduce an artificial block to procreation — when, in a word, they separate the unitive and procreative finalities of the sexual act — they do something which is contrary to God’s will.

The Protestant and Catholic Reformations

In the past year there’s been a series of events — especially in Europe — leading up to the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation on Oct. 31. It was an event that set off more than a century of religious warfare and changed the practice of Christianity worldwide.

Close the distance, not the gate

Nobel Prize–winning author Toni Morrison, assessing the times, asks this question: “Why should we want to know a stranger when it is easier to estrange another? Why should we want to close the distance when we can close the gate?” Except this isn’t a question, it’s a judgment.

What is happening at Mass?

As many Catholics know, the Second Vatican Council famously referred to the liturgy as the “source and summit of the Christian life.” And following the prompts of the great figures of the liturgical movement in the first half of the 20th century, the council fathers called for a fuller, more conscious and more active participation in the liturgy on the part of Catholics.