Enough is Enough

Note: the following is not an open letter, but the actual email I sent today to the staff at the online magazine Slate. I’ll miss this news source, but it has ceased to be trustworthy.
To: slateoffice@slate.com
Subject: Ending my reading of Slate
Dear Slate staff,

I wanted to briefly write to express my disappointment in Slate‘s recent coverage of Christianity and particularly the Catholic Church, and to inform you that I will no longer be reading Slate.

This is unfortunate, as I have often found fascinating and unusual points of view in Slate‘s various departments. John Dickerson’s coverage has been a particular high point, along with Slate‘s consistent attention to social justice issues.

However, after reading Brian Palmer’s piece a few weeks ago, “In Medicine We Trust,” I was dismayed by his brash and almost totally unsubstantiated argument against Christian medical missionaries. I laid out my case in the blog I write for, but in essence it undermined my trust in Slate‘s ability to write about religion objectively.

I continued to read Slate‘s pieces, though with a grain of salt, until I got to its coverage of the Vatican Synod over the past two weeks. Both pieces were distressingly uninformed, written by people without enough understanding of Catholic processes and history, and the the second in particular (“Surprise: Catholic Church is Still Homophobic“) was titled as provocatively as possible in order to attract clicks, and gave up any sense of objectivity or fairness in doing so.

I’m a fairly progressive Catholic, hardly one of the caricatures presented in these recent op-eds. But I’m also a committed and practicing one, and I’ve found these pieces so falsely simplistic and uninformed that it’s offensive — offensive that Slate wouldn’t bother to rigorously research and present each perspective fairly when it comes to the church.

I have a Master of Divinity and know enough to know when Slate is being misleading regarding church issues. But I don’t know as much about politics, science, or the other humanities. What if the same poor reporting is happening in those departments and I can’t recognize it? For that reason, I no longer feel confident in the accuracy and excellence of any of Slate‘s essays and will no longer be visiting your site.

It’s unfortunate that this is the case; I’ve been reading Slate for nearly 10 years. But I cannot afford the risk of my judgment being formed by inaccurate essays or subpar reporting.

I wish you the best and hope you are able to upgrade your coverage of this area. Please let me know if you do so and I’ll gladly return to regular reading.

Kind regards,

Sara Knutson

St. John Paul II: Thank you, every woman!

On this first-ever feast day of St. John Paul the II, I’ve been reflecting on my gratitude for the example of the late, great pope. (This beautiful post by Fr. Robert Barron is a good short read if you’re looking for a brief tool for your own reflection.) Meanwhile, I also find myself in the 8th month of pregnancy, and my husband and I are eagerly anticipating the arrival of our first son or daughter!

With that in mind, I decided to reread the pope’s Letter to Women this morning, which was written in advance of the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995. The entire letter is worth a read, but I’m frequently drawn to this portion of the letter where he thanks all women in the world for their “vocation and mission.” Emphasis in italics is from the saint himself:

“This word of thanks to the Lord for his mysterious plan regarding the vocation and mission of women in the world is at the same time a concrete and direct word of thanks to women, to every woman, for all that they represent in the life of humanity.

Thank you, women who are mothers! You have sheltered human beings within yourselves in a unique experience of joy and travail. This experience makes you become God’s own smile upon the newborn child, the one who guides your child’s first steps, who helps it to grow, and who is the anchor as the child makes its way along the journey of life.

Thank you, women who are wives! You irrevocably join your future to that of your husbands, in a relationship of mutual giving, at the service of love and life.

Thank you, women who are daughters and women who are sisters! Into the heart of the family, and then of all society, you bring the richness of your sensitivity, your intuitiveness, your generosity and fidelity.

Thank you, women who work! You are present and active in every area of life-social, economic, cultural, artistic and political. In this way you make an indispensable contribution to the growth of a culture which unites reason and feeling, to a model of life ever open to the sense of “mystery”, to the establishment of economic and political structures ever more worthy of humanity.

Thank you, consecrated women! Following the example of the greatest of women, the Mother of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, you open yourselves with obedience and fidelity to the gift of God’s love. You help the Church and all mankind to experience a “spousal” relationship to God, one which magnificently expresses the fellowship which God wishes to establish with his creatures.

Thank you, every woman, for the simple fact of being a woman! Through the insight which is so much a part of your womanhood you enrich the world’s understanding and help to make human relations more honest and authentic.”

I wish so much that women who struggle with understanding their own dignity in ways big and small would hear these words and take them to heart.

St. John Paul II, pray for us.


Related posts you may like re: St. John Paul II and/or women in the Church:

Best Thing We’ve Read All Day: Talking about Marriage Edition

From Mike Laskey writing for the National Catholic Reporterthree things he’d tell the Synod regarding marriage:

  1. Catholic marriage preparation is a great opportunity. Don’t miss it!
  2. A young family needs a supportive community to survive. Building authentic community is hard work.
  3. When thinking about ways to help make sure marriages last, don’t forget Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Read it all here.


Changing World; Stagnant Formation

By Matt Keppel

The times are a changing, but will our schools of formation follow suit? At this delicate juncture of the Church, it seems like our seminaries better get on board or be left behind.

I grew up during the JPII revival, which was supposed to be the revival of the seminaries. In many ways, it was. Young men joined priestly formation in numbers not seen in years. We patted ourselves on the back. However, it seems as though something had been forgotten along the way. It wasn’t enough to simply bring these guys in, but we must be sure to adequately prepare them for the work of their vocations too! Continue reading

Christian Witness in a Toxic Political Climate: A Homily for the 29th Sunday


By Mary Kate Holman

I have heard this week’s Gospel reading invoked by so many people to support so many different, often opposed agendas. Usually it goes something like this: “Jesus said it’s good to pay taxes!” “No, Jesus died so that we wouldn’t have to pay taxes!”*** “This means the Church shouldn’t interfere with politics!” “No, it means that the state shouldn’t interfere with the Church!” There’s nothing worse than hearing people appropriate Jesus for their own personal political message, particularly because the upshot of this reading is, I believe, fundamentally non-partisan.

The central moment of this passage is a trick question. The Pharisees have “plotted…to entrap” Jesus. They don’t ask the question sincerely as an opportunity to learn. They ask it to bait their opponent. How often do we hear politicians, pundits, even our own acquaintances in the vitriolic comment boxes of social media, do the very same thing? They debate, seize upon, and exploit their opponent’s misstatements, and take their words out of context, but they never truly listen to those whose opinions differ from their own.

Interestingly, it is not just the Pharisees who are testing Jesus here. They approach him “with the Herodians.” As Jesuit Scripture scholar (and my dear former boss), the late Dan Harrington notes, the Pharisees and Herodians would most likely have had very different ideological motivations: the Pharisees would have opposed Roman rule, and therefore the system of taxation, while the Herodians allied themselves with Rome, and would perceive a defiance of the tax system as rebellious. The only thing these two groups have in common is their insincere approach to conversation: they want to trick Jesus, not to learn from him. Continue reading

Reflections on the Extraordinary Synod: How It Could Affect (My) Parish Life


By Brian Niemiec

Like many of you, I was struck by the tone and content of the recently released document from the Extraordinary Synod on the Family currently taking place in Rome. While the remarkable statements on homosexual relations seems to have made the biggest splash across the western world, I was struck by one very concrete pastoral concern found in the document.

I find it interesting to first note that this document does not have a lot of specifics. Rather, it has within it an openness to further discussion. In several sections, like the paragraphs about reception of communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, the Bishops acknowledge the conversation, what has already been discussed, and most importantly, the reality that a decision has not been made. The bishops are living in a tension of openness, and allowing the Holy Spirit to enter into that space and orient hearts and minds to the will of Jesus Christ.

In that light, I was taken aback by the detailed discussion of pastoral practice toward couples living outside the sacrament of marriage. The document addressed the need for more pastoral presence and engagement with couples who are civilly married, or couples living together outside of marriage (cohabitation). “A new sensitivity in today’s pastoral consists in grasping the positive reality of civil weddings and, having pointed out our differences, cohabitation“(36). This opening sentence, by acknowledging the positive, the good, and the holy in these committed relationships, forces us as church to look anew at how we minister to these populations. This section was the closest to outlining a pastoral directive, and it was quite clear that these non-sacramental relationships should be nourished and engaged by the Church, not rejected as an intrinsically sinful state of life.

Continue reading

@CatholicHow Welcomes @HolmanMK

CatholicHow is happy to welcome our newest contributor, Mary Kate Holman.



Mary Kate Holman is a Ph.D. student in Systematic Theology at Fordham University. Fordham is her third stop in an 11-year tour of Jesuit higher education on the East Coast, having received her M.T.S. from Boston College and her B.A. from Georgetown University. Her current research interests include Catholic ecclesiology and feminist theology. She’s also partial to NPR, extravagant homemade meals, good novels, and bad TV. Follow her very occasional Twitter musings at @HolmanMK.

Of Synods and Church Burglaries (Or, Incidents in the Life of a Parish Priest)


By Matt Janeczko, OFM Cap.

“Father Matt, is it true that when a church is broken into it needs to be torn down and rebuilt?” 

-A fifth grader-

I awoke on Tuesday morning to find the pastor in the kitchen.  “Grab a cup of coffee and let’s talk.”

I poured.  And he talked.  Our church had been burglarized during the night.  The giant crucifix that adorned the sanctuary had been stolen, ripped from the metal chain which suspended it over the tabernacle.  A reliquary had been taken, along with some chalices and patens.  By a strange twist of fate, I had stored the chalice and paten given to me by my parents on the day of my ordination in a different place.  They remain.

The rest of the day was filled with parents, students, teachers, parishioners, and complete strangers asking for news and expressing condolences. Various news outlets called.  When I unlocked the church yesterday morning at 6:10, a news van had been parked outside for some time.

While all this was taking place in Yonkers, the Catholic internet exploded.  Some commentators screamed that the non-binding, draft-ish, non-official/very official working paper coming out of the Extraordinary Synod betrayed everything Catholic.  It signaled the bad old days and the Gates of Hell possibly beginning to prevail.

Others, with glee equal only to the terror of their counterparts, crowed that this document signaled the beginning of everything good and holy the Church had been missing for the last however-many-years.   Here was the Spirit of Vatican II, the culmination of the work of the Council, finally finding its fulfillment.  It seemed, at least to some, that absolutely everything had changed instantly.  (So much for reception, eh?)

Throughout the last forty-eight hours, parishioners have continually (in a sincere way that has touched my soul) asked if the Pastor and I are “doing okay?”  I always smile, say yes, offer thanks for the prayers, and turn the question on them.  “This is your home too,” I say, “how are you doing?”

Back to the question above, asked by an earnest fifth grader, tears in her eyes: does a church need to be torn down when it’s burglarized?

“No,” I answered.  “We’ve been here for over a hundred years on this hill and will be here for more than another hundred.”

The Church has been here almost two thousand years, and barring the parousia, it will remain.

My prayers over the past days have mingled together, Synod and the burglary.  I find myself, however, praying through both events most effectively when I think about the people: the bishops who the right hates, the bishops who the left despises, the conservatives, the liberals, the divorced, the homosexuals in relationships, the homosexuals avoiding relationships, the people who built  Sacred Heart, the people who burglarized our church, and that fifth grader: neither Synod nor burglary can ever tear down the church, because it will always be the people, saints and sinners alike, that keep it standing up.


The Synod’s New Tone Isn’t So New

By Sara Knutson

Yesterday saw an explosion of attention toward the Catholic Church as the midway report on the proceedings of this month’s Extraordinary Synod was released.

Given the buzz regarding the report’s strikingly positive tone toward homosexuals and others, the stated reasoning behind the shift in tone has been overlooked, and that’s too bad. It’s a throwback move that may be the most important shift of all.

First, a bit of necessary history: the Second Vatican Council’s document on the Church, Lumen Gentium, is famous, among other reasons, for its affirmation that elements of truth could be found outside the Catholic Church. Rather than disparaging other denominations and religions, Lumen Gentium praised what they held in common with the Catholic faith, seeing such commonalities as a sign that God meets people where they are and gradually leads them further in faith. Continue reading

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