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The Reformation of the Vatican – The Sad Case of Józef Wesołowski

JOSEF WESOLOWSKIVatican watchers, especially non-Catholics who love the Roman Catholic Church as I do, watch and pray for further reforms that are needed inside the Church. I was pleased to read this week of the Vatican putting Józef Wesołowski, its former nuncio (ambassador) to the Dominican Republic under house arrest on Tuesday, September 23.

Archbishop Józef Wesołowski was born in Nowy Targ, Poland, on 15 July 1948. He was ordained a priest in Kraków on 21 May 1972 by Cardinal Karol Wojtyła, the future Pope John Paul II. He was appointed as nuncio to Bolivia on 3 November 1999. On 6 January 2000 he was consecrated Titular Archbishop of Sléibhte by John Paul II. During the course of 2002 he was appointed as nuncio to the Central Asian countries of KazakhstanTajikistanKyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. On 24 January 2008 he was appointed nuncio to the Dominican Republic. In 2013 he was identified by a 13-year-old boy as the man who took sexual lurid photographs of him on his cell phone. He was removed

Robert Barron on Effective Evangelizing in Our Modern Context

I am in the midst of a blog series titled: “Must the Reformation Wars Continue?” Today I share a short video that is worth watching if you want to see how an outstanding Catholic communicator, and a really good friend, speaks about doing evangelism effectively in our time. There are some exceptional insights here for all Christians.

The life of the Christ does not begin with the law but with Spirit, with profound joy and really good news. Joy begins in God because God alone is our true human joy. What Fr. Barron says about evangelization needs to be heard by both Catholics and evangelicals. When you begin with the law you turn people off, you skew the entire mission project. Begin with joy and you will get to ethics and obedience through the right path. This was precisely where the early church did in a most hostile context. It is also where the American church must go in our increasingly secular context.

The Catholic Church in America, only a few decades ago, was all about defending the law, about concentrating on (especially sexual) ethics. That face of the church

Visions of Vocation

UnknownAuthor Steven Garber wrote one of those rare modern books that I have read twice. Some years ago I developed an answer that I cleverly gave to folks who, upon seeing my immense library (before I sold nearly 15,000 books over the last few years), would gasp at my floor-to-ceiling library shelves and ask me, “Have you read all of these?” I calmly answered, “I’ve read some of them twice.” This was true. Hoping I could read them all was only a pipe dream but unless pressed hard I did not admit to that until I gave up reading them all in my late 50s and realized I should break up the Armstrong collection sooner than later.

Steven Garber’s book, The Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior (IVP), was one of those books that I actually did read twice. It is a truly magnificent book. I recommend it to everyone who reads this blog.

Steven Garber taught for many years on Capitol Hill in the American Studies Program and then became scholar-in-residence for the Council of Christian

The Emotive Cry for Community

UnknownMichael Novak, in his stirring memoir of a journey from left to right, devotes an entire chapter to community, as I noted yesterday. He writes: “One of life’s most time-consuming tasks is to achieve disagreement with an ideological opposite. Without blinking, you might object; ‘It’s not had to disagree. Heck! Most people do it all the time” (282). But aren’t disagreements really inevitable? After all we have different understandings of terms, widely varying perspectives on history, and unique sets of fears and rosy scenarios that we all entertain? But, says Michael Novak, “We are most often like two ships passing in the night” (282). Is he right? Could this really be true? I think so.

One of America’s most wise and important Catholic thinkers in the last century was the Jesuit John Courtney Murray. Novak says that Murray once said two people cannot (to use Novak’s description of Murray’s point) come to a “real disagreement without sticking to the argument for a very long time–maybe long enough to work through a case of brandy together as they ruminate.

The Carter Years and the Bankruptcy of Bad Economic Ideas

Unknown-2The Carter years profoundly convinced Michael Novak of the bankruptcy of his previous economic ideas. While Novak explains Carter’s personal love for Jesus Christ as genuine, and easily misunderstood, he rightly separates the good heart of the man from some of his very bad ideas about what makes for a free and prosperous society. During the Carter years Novak’s own views were taking new shape. He was writing more about economics and making new friends globally. When Ronald Reagan was elected the president in November of 1980 he asked Michael Novak, lifelong Democrat, to become his ambassador to the UN Commission on Human Rights. After a time in Geneva Novak returned home but then was sent back again in 1982. This work had an immense impact on Novak’s view of the world.

Novak’s new friends, which he cultivated in the late 1970s, began to gravitate to his home for meals and thus came into his personal life as confidants. These friends included Fr. Robert Sirico, Bill Bennett, Jack Kemp, Mort Kondracke, Ben Wattenberg, Irving Kristol, George Weigel, Henry

From Socialism to Capitalism – A Move That Cost Michael Novak Friends and Prestige

124_2013_bknovack8201_s640x821Michael Novak, author of the memoir Writing from Left to Right: My Journey from Liberal to Conservative (Basic Books, 2013), writes eloquently of how he became disillusioned with the “new” versions of the old Keynesian liberalism of the 1970s. This economic view promoted government spending to excess in order to stimulate the economy and create jobs. The core belief was that this approach would solve the problems of the poor through a greater expression of compassion which would come about through direct governmental help. Nothing awakened him to the failure of this kind of thinking quite like the policies, and outcomes, of the Jimmy Carter era.

As I noted in my blog on Novak’s memoir last Wednesday (1/29) one of the reasons that I so deeply appreciate his position, and thus his memoir, is that he openly explains why he  “resist[ed] libertarianism” (159). He admits that he found great reasons in libertarian arguments to reject his strident socialism but not enough to compel him to embrace the total package. To make sure his position is properly stated I

Michael Novak: On Forming Good Intellectual and Spiritual Habits

Unknown-1Michael Novak, not to be confused with the late conservative journalist Robert Novak, has been (rightly I believe) described as “one of the world’s most influential social philosophers.” He has played a number of prominent roles in American life, ranging from advising candidates and presidents to teaching and writing on the ethics of the free market and welfare reform. He has taught at Harvard and Stanford and he has held academic chairs at Notre Dame and Syracuse. He was also one of the early leaders of the American Enterprise Institute, an influential think tank. In 1994 Novak won the Templeton Prize (it has been called the Nobel Prize for the life of the spirit), a prize also won by men like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Desmond Tutu, Mother Theresa of Calcutta and Charles Taylor. His writings have been translated into every major Western language as well as Chinese and Japanese.

One thing that separates Novak from many intellectuals, and elected leaders, is his genuine civility and humility. His thought is clear and he is willing to allow facts to challenge

Writing from Left to Right: An Engaging Memoir

124_2013_bknovack8201_s640x821One of the most fascinating and engaging political stories that I have read in years is the recently published book, Writing from Left to Right: My Journey from Liberal to Conservative (Image: New York, 2013). This unique memoir is written by Roman Catholic scholar Michael Novak. I found Novak’s memoir so deeply interesting, for both Christian and personal reasons, that I decided to write several blogs on the ideas of Novak, a foremost intellectual among serious social thinkers over the last four decades.

I have followed the work of Michael Novak for thirty years. Michael Novak is the retired George Frederick Jewett Scholar in Religion, Philosophy, and Public Policy from the American Enterprise Institute. He is an author, philosopher, and theologian. Michael Novak now resides in Ave Maria, Florida, where he is a trustee and visiting professor at Ave Maria University. I had the privilege of serving on a national board with Michael Novak in Washington about a decade ago. It was through this context that I got to know him personally. Several shared meals allowed me some

Rethinking a Christian Response to Suicide

I am continually amazed at the lack of sensitivity and pastoral grace that many Christians have regarding their response to a death by suicide. There was a time when Christians–Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant–generally considered suicide an “unpardonable sin.” For this reason when a person took their own life the family was left with the profound sense that their loved one was eternally condemned through this final act of (self) murder. Both officially, and unofficially, this view has been largely altered over the last fifty-plus years. (I still recall how I felt when I first came across this “historic” view through reading Pilgrim’s Progress, the popular classic written by the English minister John Bunyan.)

The advances we’ve made in understanding mental illness, and especially the issue of suicide, have been nothing short of a major paradigm shift in understanding both human behavior and moral accountability. While it is true that the “moral” issue remains the same in suicide (a person takes a life, which is morally wrong) it seems to me that the way Christians understand this moral issue has changed rather dramatically. This change, I submit, is

The Danger of Gossip

Mother-Antonia-Brenner-by-David-Maung-San-Diego-Red-300x146Which is worse, lying or gossiping? Have you ever bothered to ponder this question? I have asked it, more than once, but not thought about it deeply enough I confess. Seriously, think about this one for a moment.

Mother Antonia Brenner, a precious Christian who passed away last week in Mexico, makes a clear and compelling case that gossip is a far worse sin than lying in this three-and-a-half minute video. I happen to think she is right! Decide for yourself but do not miss this as I assure you she will make you think more carefully about your own tongue and personal holiness, rightly defined.

May God forgive me and help me to be truly holy and thus become a man who learns how to stop the gossip chain. I confess that I am asking what this means about my Facebook posts that I put on my wall which (can) stir up controversy. I welcome your personal witness and insights in this regard.

Mother Antonia says: “The tongue that gossips is where the devil washes his hands.” It seems