Author: Nathan Turowsky

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Inculturation and Syncretism

With the ongoing Amazon synod dealing extensively with the relationship between Catholicism and various indigenous South American religious beliefs and practices, the concepts of inculturation and syncretism have rocketed into the Catholic news cycle. These terms are somewhat technical but many people have been able to get the (more or less accurate) sense that one of these things is desirable and the other is not. This piece seeks to provide working definitions and historical examples...

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The Terminological Inexactitudes of Cardinal Burke and Bp Schneider

On Tuesday, September 24, Edward Pentin’s blog at the National Catholic Register published a joint statement written by Cardinal Raymond Burke and his close ally in the episcopate, Athanasius Schneider, the Auxiliary Bishop of Astana, Kazakhstan. The statement insisted on the two men’s fidelity to the Petrine office and love for the person of Pope Francis. (Mike Lewis touched on the document last week in WPI.) Their statement also makes a number of false claims–or...

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What Is Mottramism?

Critics of Pope Francis on social media use many terms to describe his defenders, including “papolator,” “ultramontanist,” “pope-worshipper,” and “bergoglian.” A more clever but less-frequently used name is “Mottramist.” Mottramism is a reference to Rex Mottram, an extremely unsympathetic character from Evelyn Waugh’s classic novel Brideshead Revisited. It’s an intriguing allusion; however, the way the term is used betrays a serious misunderstanding of the point of the character and of Waugh’s novel as a whole....

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Dreams and Grace

Reading through Christus vivit recently, I found a section labeled “Dreams and visions” (§§192-197), a six-paragraph-long exegesis of Joel 3:1: “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” I would like to share a brief thought—or tell a brief story; and Pope Francis says in this section that the young tend to...

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I Browsed the “Faithful Shepherds” Website So You Don’t Have To

In his most recent post, Mike Lewis mentioned a website called “Faithful Shepherds,” which is spun off from LifeSiteNews. Faithful Shepherds ostensibly exists to “hold bishops accountable.” Gallingly, given current events in the Church, what the site means by “accountable” is not “morally accountable” but “accountable to a certain set of Catholic political priorities.” For the people at LifeSiteNews, publicly taking pro-choice politicians to task is equally constitutive of orthodoxy as holding pro-life views oneself. ...

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Shepherds of the Young

Among the many issues that critics of Pope Francis took with Christus vivit, the apostolic exhortation that emerged from last year’s Youth Synod, a number focused on how the exhortation treated the fact that many teenagers and young adults have serious qualms about Church teachings and practices. Pope Francis and the Synod participants clearly realized that the more politically controversial aspects of Catholic belief present serious obstacles to communion for young people not predisposed to...

Lights and Shadows 2

Lights and Shadows in Church History

The Rise of Historical Absolutism The New York Times recently profiled Susanna Ceccardi, the new right-wing populist mayor of a previously left-wing town in central Italy, as part of a series on the rise of populist politics in Europe. Much of Ceccardi’s political playbook—scapegoating of immigrants, anti-establishment rhetoric, a genuine concern for people facing precarious work situations, and so forth—is well-known to anybody following the news today. However, one aspect of it, Ceccardi’s rhetorical focus...

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Revisiting Orwell in the Era of Intra-Catholic Culture Wars

In 1945, George Orwell, who was born on this day in 1903, wrote a long essay called Politics and the English Language in which he warned of a growing modern tendency to use English vocabulary to specifically political ends—avoiding evocative language to disguise defenses of immoral practices, using long-winded and needlessly abstract words and phrases to lend poorly-considered ideas an air of being well-considered, and using jargon that can only be understood within the context...

Going to the Peripheries

When Silence, Martin Scorsese’s epic film adaptation of the 1960s Japanese historical novel of the same title, hit theaters in late 2016, I was a master’s student at a mainline Protestant school of theology attached to a prominent private university. I was also in the process of entering the Catholic Church. I have a longstanding interest in Japan, my bachelor’s degree is in Japanese literature, and I was making a point of studying East Asian...