IN DECEMBER 1894, Captain Alfred Dreyfus of the French Army was convicted of treason on the grounds that he had given military secrets to France’s mortal enemy, Germany. The charge was false; Dreyfus, a Jew, was framed.
IN THE MID-1980S, my wife and I were invited to a baptism and post-christening reception at the home of the newborn’s parents. During the latter festivities, I was introduced to a young man who was working on a doctorate in Church history at Harvard. We fell into conversation and after 20 minutes or so I had one of those rare experiences that is so precious in life: I knew, instinctively, that Borys Gudziak and I were going to be close friends for a very long time.
Despite Pope Francis’ lecture on the subject at Synod-2015, and notwithstanding the passages on it in Synod-2018’s final report, there is little agreement in 21st-century Catholicism on what “synodality” means. In practical terms, perhaps synodality ought to mean something roughly analogous to what our British cousins mean by “horses for courses.” There, the phrase is a homely caution against one-size-fits-all remedies to problems.
FIRST CIRCULATED underground in communist Czechoslovakia in October 1978, Vaclav Havel’s brilliant dissection of totalitarianism, “The Power of the Powerless,” retains its salience four decades later. It should be required reading for politicians given to describing the Knights of Columbus as an “extremist” organization because of the Knights’ pro-life convictions and activism.
WRITING RECENTLY on women seeking the presidency and the “likability” factor in our politics, Peggy Noonan made a tart observation: “There are a lot of male candidates with likability problems. Some, such as Andrew Cuomo, a three-term governor of a large state, are so unlikable they aren’t even mentioned as contenders.”
PETER STEINFELS’ long career in journalism included years of service as editor of Commonweal (from which perch he took me to the woodshed more than once), followed by a decade as senior religion correspondent of the New York Times.
The morality of tyrannicide is not much discussed in today’s kinder, gentler Catholic Church. Yet that difficult subject once engaged some of Catholicism’s finest minds, including Thomas Aquinas and Francisco Suárez, and it was passionately debated during the Second World War by German officers – many of them devout Christians – who were pondering the assassination of Adolf Hitler.
The slogan “Nothing about us without us” was used by Solidarity in the 1980s in Poland, borrowing a royal motto from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the mid-second millennium. Then, it was expressed in Latin: Nihil de nobis sine nobis.
The Vatican is a hotbed of rumor, gossip and speculation at the best of times — and these times are not those times. The Roman atmosphere at the beginning of 2019 is typically fetid and sometimes poisonous, with a lot of misinformation and disinformation floating around. That smog of fallacy and fiction could damage February’s global gathering of bishops, called by the pope to address the abuse crisis that is impeding the Church’s evangelical mission virtually everywhere.
To be a pilgrim is to be going somewhere. That somewhere is the Kingdom come among us at Christmas, and coming again in power and glory. The St. Patrick’s Advent Mission procession invited an aggressively secular and sometimes sordid part of London to join that journey to beatitude.