Yesterday, I posted about the most widely-read articles on Where Peter Is over the past year. Today—as promised—I am highlighting many of the articles that I believe exemplify the amazing work of our brilliant and faith-filled contributors. To be completely frank, I wasn’t certain how to put this list together. As I began thinking about our 2020 highlights, I had a few pieces in the back of my mind, but once I started digging through the 2020 archives, I was dumbfounded by just how much we’ve accomplished this year.
I had to narrow it down somehow, so the pieces below do not include (1) the pieces mentioned in yesterday’s article, (2) podcasts or multimedia content, or (3) articles that are parts of “series”—so that includes Adam Rasmussen’s incredible work of unpacking the Vatican II document Dei Verbum, Nathan Turowsky’s “Loneliness Today” reflections on the pervasiveness of isolation and loneliness in our society, and D.W. Lafferty’s investigations of “The Marian Apocalypse Now” and “TFP Ideology.” (I hope to write a separate post on all of our “series” in the coming days).
I am simply overwhelmed by what we were able to accomplish in the past year. I found myself caught up in re-reading the work done by our writers and contributors, and it’s impossible to express my gratitude for everything they’ve done. I admit I got choked up more than once at the words written by these remarkable people, who shared their stories, their struggles, their wisdom, and the fruits of their learning to put together these articles. (I also found and fixed a few typos.)
What follows is a long (but incomplete) sampling of our best work over the past year. Beyond arranging them in order of publication, there’s really no system, rhyme, or reason to this list of pieces. For each one, I selected a block quote that will hopefully give you a taste of what it’s about, and I encourage you to click and read the whole thing if it piques your interest. I haven’t counted them, and I surely missed a few that I shouldn’t have, but if you like a particular writer, you can visit the “Contributors” page, click on a name, and read on. If you think we missed a great piece, let us know in the comments.
To my fellow contributors, thank you so much for your fine work. You have much to be proud of.
To our readers, thank you. WPI is a labor of love for the Church and for Pope Francis. Your support and prayers have meant the world to us. We hope 2021 is an even better year.
One last thing. While it’s uncomfortable for me to ask for your financial support (and probably more uncomfortable for you to read it), your generosity will allow us to continue doing this work. Please consider becoming a Patreon sponsor. If you are unable to contribute financially, please keep us in your prayers, and spread the word about the work we’ve been doing.
God Bless you all.
The Forces of Evil Induce Us Not to Change by Dan Amiri, January 10
“The solution to people leaving the Church is likely something that we can’t see directly. Something is missing from the Church’s life that is causing our Mass-attendance numbers to shrink. There is no need to overcomplicate what that “missing thing” might be, but it does require some imagination and critical thinking. Most importantly, we cannot simply assume that the parishes that are alive today or even thriving have necessarily done anything that would be successful if we implemented it universally.”
The Living Bridge to LGBT Catholics by Paul Fahey, January 15
“We can look to the pope as a model of being a living bridge to our LGBT brothers and sisters! Not taking them on as a project, but meeting them as brothers and sisters exactly where they are, listening to their stories, and learning from them. Yes, we have something to learn from LGBT people. They have the same truth, goodness, and beauty to offer the Church as any person created in God’s image. Every LGBT Christian has a unique place in this Church that only they can fill. This is their Church, and their baptism has made them a permanent member of the Body of Christ, but we have failed so many times to acknowledge their place here.”
Grief and Hope: A Pro-Life Message by Dan Amiri, January 24
“But sadly, for me and for so many other mothers and fathers, our growth in love can often be cut short, because of oppressive fear and anxiety, because of inexpressible pain and suffering, because of a medical catastrophe. When our infinite God breaks through into our lives and gives us this beautiful and fragile gift of love, we can touch the divine and feel him within us. But then, something happens and that gift is gone. My son is not the only child in his cemetery. There are dozens of babies and young children buried there, each leaving behind families who are torn apart by loss. And this is just a fraction of those lost to abortion and miscarriage.”
The Pandora’s Box of Catholic Antisemitism by Nathan Turowsky, January 27
“It was only during and after the Holocaust that the Vatican began to consistently repudiate antisemitic policies and ideas. By the time of the Second Vatican Council the sensus fidelium in most of the world was that past Church actions against the Jews had been unfair, oppressive, and not justifiable by any covenant theology. The Vatican II document that normalized relations with the global Jewish community was Nostra aetate. This did receive more dissenting votes among the Council fathers than most of the other documents but it still passed 2,221 to 88. In terms of percentage, that’s 96% to 4%.”
Love, even when it’s difficult by Matt Palmer, January 29
“Prior to this month, the last time I saw him was at his mother’s modest funeral in 2009. It had been six years since we’d talked at that point. We were cordial and said we needed to talk more often. It didn’t happen.
He replied to my wedding invitation with a card signed ‘Dad’ and a $20 check. That was the only thing I heard from him for 11 years. I convinced myself that one day we were just going to get a call saying he died. And that, sadly, would be that.
Last month, Dad’s 80 year old brother called my sister and said we needed to reach out to Dad. He was in the hospital with pneumonia. I was hesitant to reach out. My sister, who’d often been the subject of cutting comments from Dad, called him. She still cared. I cared. It’s just that, like my dad, I was too stubborn to simply reach out.”
The Seamless Garment is the Catholic position by Pedro Gabriel, January 24
“Many Catholics on both sides of the political spectrum misunderstand what the Seamless Garment is all about. Their mistake is that they have ignored the idea of a “consistent ethic” and made it all about competing priorities. Misguided Catholics who profess support of the Seamless Garment seem to think that it means that all life issues are of equal value, and they rail against any language that gives priority to abortion. Opponents of the Seamless Garment, on the other hand, criticize it on the basis that it is necessary to prioritize abortion over anything else, while ignoring (or even rejecting) Catholic Social Teaching on many other crucial issues.”
Querida Amazonia: An Opportunity by Joe Dantona, February 13
“This letter presents an opportunity to change. For those of us who have been critical of Francis, or skeptical about some of his decisions and teachings, Querida Amazonia provides an opportunity for us to recollect and reconsider. To those of us who have lived in indifference, it is a wake-up call to the suffering our distant loved ones are enduring at this very moment. Querida Amazonia is an opportunity to pause and reflect. (Look at the world around us. We need to.)”
Here Comes the New World Order (Again) by D.W. Lafferty, February 13
“What does the Church think about ‘world government’? While it is clear that the UN, the IMF, and similar international institutions are not ideal in every respect from a Catholic perspective, the Church has always sought to encourage such institutions as part of the development of an international political authority that would help to overcome nationalism and foster peace and universal brotherhood.”
Querida Amazonia: Summary and Analysis by Adam Rasmussen, February 14
“It is unfortunate that our endless culture war, which afflicts even the Body of Christ, has reduced this synodal process and its documents to the almost 60-year-old debate about married priests and women’s ordination. The issues raised in the first three chapters are matters of life and death. I do not mean to downplay the importance of the bishops’ proposals for the reformation of ministry, which are also serious for the Church, but they should not overshadow everything else the way they have done.”
My Clericalism and Querida Amazonia by Daniele Palmer
“Clericalism runs so deep in our Church that it clouds our own crusades against it. Francis invites us to think about the lives of people in the Amazon, how they are often neglected by the governments that purport to love them, and how most of us outside the region are too detached from their suffering to sense that feeling of ‘healthy indignation’ that sets the tone of Querida Amazonia.”
Cardinal Burke’s Poisoned Well by Brian Killian, March 12
“Burke claims to find here grave contradictions of theological truths. He says ‘there’s a very poetic passage in which, seemingly, the Pope is underlining the Lordship of Christ, but then he says that Christ is in the river and in the trees and so forth. This is classical animism, paganism, and it’s simply not true.’ He recognizes that footnote 105 cites St. Thomas Aquinas, but he just repeats that it ‘can’t be true.’ But since when has anything in Catholic theology been ‘simply’ untrue? Certainly nothing in the work of Aquinas can be described as simply true or untrue. The great scholastic saint is famous for his subtle distinctions and his generous and charitable readings of the arguments of his opponents. If only the same could be said of Cardinal Burke.”
“No greater love” in the time of Coronavirus by Carlos X Colorado, March 17
“St. Oscar Romero, the Church’s most recently canonized martyr—the fortieth anniversary of his martyrdom will be observed later this month—modeled the proper balance between sacrifice and service in the Christian ideal of martyrdom. Romero did not shy away from danger or personal risks. He ‘left the security of the world,’ Pope Francis said during his canonization Mass, ‘even his own safety, in order to give his life according to the Gospel, close to the poor and to his people, with a heart drawn to Jesus and his brothers and sisters.’ Even this cursory synthesis reveals the equilibrium in Romero’s action: his heart was drawn to Jesus and to his brothers and sisters.”
Urbi et Orbi: Meeting the real Pope Francis by Pedro Gabriel, March 30
“Friday’s Urbi et Orbi was so widely disseminated in its entirety, that it was impossible to bury the pope’s spirituality under layers of misinterpretation and misinformation, as is usually the case. That evening, Francis was allowed to shine to all the faithful, as he really is, without the dark filters that formerly-Catholic media try to place on him all the time in order to appease their own secular and political values.”
You are Loved and Loveable: Rolling Away the Stones by Mike Lewis, April 11
“Imagine if the Church was known everywhere around the world as a source of reassurance, consolation, and encouragement. In such a world, who would not desire to become a Christian?”
Faces and voices of the popes of yore by Pedro Gabriel, April 15
“I decided to make this post so our readers who might also be interested in this topic can see and hear the popes that they have perhaps never seen or heard. I decided to stop at John Paul I, since I assume most of our readership is well-acquainted with the voices and faces of John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis. Additionally, there is a wealth of footage online of the last three pontiffs, so you will not have trouble finding them with a simple Google search.”
Queridas Afroamericanas by Nate Tinner-Williams, May 7
“Over the course of the past six centuries, African-Americans and Amazonian Catholics have had similar experiences within this contest: often forgotten, sacramentally underserved, and at times totally disregarded. Both communities are rich in faith yet constantly misunderstood spiritually and liturgically—painted with a broad, brutal brush.
For these and other reasons, nearly every point made by Pope Francis in his exhortation to the Church hit home for me as an important truth to be remembered not only for the sake of Amazonian Catholics, but for Black Catholics and all others who exist and worship as Catholics outside the bounds of its most common Western expressions.”
We will be judged on this by Rachel Dobbs, May 7
“Mass incarceration in the United States disproportionately targets African American and Latino people (although according to this report, the disparity rates have declined somewhat). Even though some progress has been made, the poor and marginalized are incarcerated at disproportionate rates in this country.
Pope Francis has pointed this out, as well as the need to provide opportunities for rehabilitation and mercy. He has repeatedly stressed the importance of spiritual development in prison. He has described how it can be an opportunity for criminals to better themselves while paying for their crimes.”
Fatima: A pilgrimage with the heart by Claire Domingues, May 13
“The celebration of the Mass also featured the washing of the feet of three pilgrims. The Cardinal clarified, ‘All the pilgrims that accompany this broadcast, the sanctuary of Fatima is honoring you. In this washing of the feet, these three pilgrims represent the thousands of pilgrims who visited Fatima in the last century and who are going to keep coming.’
During the prayer of the faithful, what struck me more was the prayer intention that mentioned, ‘For the Church, led by the Bishop, clothed in white,’ which was a reference to the third secret of Fatima. This shows how Fatima is inextricably linked with faithfulness to the person of the pope.”
For celiac Catholics, attending Mass is always a health risk by Angela Rasmussen, May 27
“Occasionally at communion time, the priest will not have the pyx, which can lead to a ‘sacramental scavenger hunt.’ Sometimes you will notice the pyx inexplicably lying open on top of all the glutinous hosts. Why is it open? Has the host been cross-contaminated? Sometimes the priest takes the pyx, opens it, removes the host and hands it to you, cross-contaminating the host and negating the entire point of using a pyx in the first place.
It’s hard to decide what to do at that moment. Do you explain to him what he’s done and refuse to receive it? Do you receive and risk getting sick? When it happens, what do you tell your child to do? In other social situations you can refuse, discreetly dispose, or risk eating. In this situation there are only two options: refuse—to the priest in the middle of the Communion Rite—or risk consuming.”
The Ongoing Pandemic of Child Abuse by Mark Joseph Williams, June 22
“As William Styron, author of Darkness Visible—A Memoir of Madness, wrote: ‘Depression is a disorder of mood, so mysteriously painful and elusive in the way it becomes known to the self—to the meditating intellect – as to verge close to being beyond description.’
The toll of sexual abuse is similarly difficult to convey. Sexual abuse can lead to madness, a stripping of mind and heart. Shame consumes the soul. Relief, always fleeting, started early for me—drinking the same scotch my mother used to assuage her demons.
Are the minors calling into the hotline today, during this crisis, desiring safety and relief? I have no doubt they are. Forced isolation leaves children easy prey.”
Being pro-life requires the faith to see “both/and” by Steve Millies, June 23
“When we conceive of the Church’s ‘public ministry’ we can mean many things. In fact, we must mean many things and we must not think any one way to minister is abstractly more important than another. For example, our ministry to the world does demand that we should ‘get off [our] asses and serve the poor.’ But that cannot be all. Our seeking of sanctity also imposes on us some obligation actually to help the poor in this world, not just improve our own place in the next world. It is a feeble vision of politics that values one more than the other. But that feebleness is endemic in a certain sort of Catholic thinking we see too often.”
The Failures of Champion Bishops by Dan Amiri, June 26
“The Church has been challenged, and we have largely failed to respond adequately in our rapidly changing society. This isn’t simply the result of irreverent liturgy or not enough insistence on moral doctrine from our clergy. Nor can we place all the blame on liberalism or individualism. If we did, that would suggest that cultural forces are more powerful than the Creator of the universe. Our ‘post-Christian’ culture took shape because each of us is a sinner. We have failed to increase the faith because each of us has failed to be increased in faith. We have failed to cooperate with the grace of God.”
The Pope isn’t Perfect by Mike Lewis, August 5
“Peter, the first pope, was far from perfect. Francis, like Peter before him, is an imperfect man to whom the keys of the kingdom and authority over the Church have been entrusted by Jesus Christ. Like Peter, Pope Francis commits sins and can potentially make serious mistakes. To paraphrase a famous quote by Pope Emeritus Benedict, the only thing the Holy Spirit ensures that the thing cannot be totally ruined. Somehow—although the means by which this happens is a mystery—the Church is protected by the Holy Spirit and assisted by Jesus’ prayer that Peter’s faith would not fail.”
The Spirit of Vatican II: Out into the Deep by Deacon Bill Ditewig, August 19
“My Navy career involved sea duty of various sorts, but I most frequently served in submarines. Many friends who hear that shake their heads and say, ‘Oh, I could never do that; I’d be too afraid!’ Let me assure you, everyone in a submarine is afraid at some point, but fear is not the point. The point is doing what needs to be done despite our fear; to act even when the outcome is uncertain; to have faith and trust in our shipmates and our leaders; to move forward into an uncertain future while not becoming frozen in fear.”
My pastor was arrested for sex trafficking—My response by Mike Gray, September 1
“A priest who I liked and respected was not only accused of a horrible crime against children, but he even admitted his predatory motives. By his own admission, he sought out and groomed a boy whose ‘dad was out of the picture.’ The indictment also detailed how Fr. Mike exploited the victims’ drug addictions to get them to submit to his advances.
Pope Francis’s description of priest sex abusers as ‘ravenous wolves’ could not be more apt.”
Catholic teaching on euthanasia and end-of-life care by Adam Rasmussen
“People who are dying often feel they have become a burden to their families and thus ask for euthanasia or assisted suicide as a way to relieve their caregivers. For this reason, it is a moral imperative to make sure such people are not made to feel like a burden. We must actively affirm their intrinsic human worth and dignity. If we don’t do that, it will be our fault if they ask for assisted suicide or euthanasia.”
Catholics Are Losers by Rachel Amiri, September 28
“When Jesus told us to ‘take up your cross,’ he did not mean for us to wear it as a badge of honor, as if Christ’s death was a trophy to lord over others. It is a reminder that we are strongest when we are weakest (2 Corinthians 12:10) and that it is God, not us, working through our humble acts of love to transform our world. Said another way, true victory does not pass through the utter humiliation of the cross and on to worldly success. Rather, it dwells with the cross and must remain there in order for us to continue sharing in Christ’s domination over death and sin in daily life. The cross is not a boot camp. It is the way.”
Charismatic Community or Cult? Discerning the Signs by Matt Kappadakunnel, September 30
“The attitude exhibited within the Intercessors emphasized that one’s family and friends had been part of one’s former life and the community is the new family and fulfills this need. This belief was reinforced by community members who stated the people that they knew ‘in the world,’ i.e. friends and former acquaintances, were no longer of significance to them. My own family members noticed this in me by my reluctance to speak with them over the phone and by how distant I seemed to them when they visited me during my first Christmas with the community.”
The cultural polyhedron: Pope Francis on identity and openness, October 14
“Having a firm grasp of one’s own cultural identity does not mean thinking that culture is static, self-referential, and closed within itself. Contrary to what ideologues might argue, identity does not stand in opposition to openness. In fact, the latter presupposes the former, and builds upon it. Only by having a firm grasp of one’s own cultural identity is one able to recognize its boundaries when encountering others. These boundaries are not hermetic: they are porous, yet must still exist. By knowing these boundaries one can recognize the differences between cultures and, therefore, how they can enrich one another.”
The Revenge of Pan: A Short History of Moral Panic by D.W. Lafferty, October 15
“Of course it is Archbishop Viganò who has shown himself to be a true master of manipulation in instrumentalizing moral panic—a Pan-figure on par with Malachi Martin himself. He started in 2018 by exploiting the justified rage that Catholics felt regarding the Pennsylvania grand jury report on clerical abuse and the McCarrick scandal, using it to position himself as the leader of a rebellion within the Church against a homosexual-pedophile conspiracy. With his 2020 letter to Trump he entered into the realm of QAnon-style discourse, which has culminated in his comment on Trump’s battle against ‘pedosatanism.’”
Fraternity: A Christological Virtue by Nathan Turowsky, October 19
“The key difference between the approaches of Tanabe and Francis is that a Catholic theory of fraternity must be rooted in the person of Christ. Without a foundation in Christ, it is impossible to properly understand fraternity, due to the otherwise unbridgeable difference between God and humanity. Philosophy as Metanoetics discusses both Buddhism and Christianity at great length without fully committing its author to either; Fratelli tutti, on the other hand, shows a clear interest in grounding the relationships between human beings in the relationship between human beings and our Creator.”
A Love Letter to my Catholic Friends by Kerry Campbell
“This time of discernment about how to move forward in faith is happening at the same time our world is—literally and figuratively—on fire, and the Church is right there in the center of it. Looking for clarity, you instead stumble upon paranoid, conspiratorial, and hateful articles in your social media feed from right-wing sites like LifeSite and Church Militant, along with estranged clerics like Viganò, Pavone, and Burke. You encounter figures who claim to be giving “the” Catholic view of the upcoming US election, but who cherry-pick certain issues while ignoring the fullness of the wisdom of both Pope Francis and the USCCB.”
Towards an Inclusive Capitalism by Daniel Amiri, October 21
“The dream of the Catholic Church is that families can be supported through dignified work. This is consistently thwarted by “profit-based” economic models that repeatedly subject at least some workers to systems of oppression and lock many others out of a sustainable wage. Finally, Francis argues that it is primarily the role of politicians to move us toward a more just economy, because the problems we face require long-term planning. This often conflicts with the priorities of businesspeople and consumers, who inevitably prioritize short-term profits and benefits. In recent centuries, the Church has consistently taught that states have a role in protecting the welfare and dignity of the poor, but must do so in a way that respects their inherent dignity and freedom to pursue their own development.”
A throwaway culture is a culture of death by Pedro Gabriel, October 31
“Both Francis and John Paul would agree that it is impossible to effectively fight the culture of death while ignoring the throwaway culture pervading our contemporary world. Certainly, sexual immorality and relativism also contribute to this state of affairs. And of course, we can’t ignore our opposition to these evils of our age. But social realities are multifactorial. Multiple causes will typically come into play to strengthen each other to produce the final effect. And this is what has led to the culture of death. Pro-life Catholics must not ignore this.”
Realities are Greater than Ideas by Mike Lewis, November 13
“Francis is trying to teach us that when we respond to serious problems in the real world, we must be honest about our expectations, limitations, impressions, biases, projections, and ideals. Ideas are very often rooted in a vision of perfection that is completely unrealistic or unattainable. When our worldview is primarily shaped by ideas that are completely detached from reality, we can easily become ideologues and fundamentalists. It is vital that we learn to ‘recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits’ (Amoris Laetitia 303). An authentic Christian life rooted in reality begins with embracing the Gospel and then going forth into the world and applying it according to the circumstances in which you find yourself.”
Abortion and Political Love by DW Lafferty, November 24
“In order to reevaluate the political significance and meaning of the problem of abortion, we need to remind ourselves that it is at once a moral, a legal, and a social problem, and to recognize that we have a tendency to obscure or minimize the social aspect. The ultimate goal of the pro-life movement is to eliminate abortion and not just make it illegal, and an approach that focuses only on abortion as a moral and legal problem risks becoming Quixotic and ultimately ineffective. By recognizing abortion as a symptom of larger systemic social pressures we can shift to a more productive approach to pro-life activism—one that is rooted in the politics of the present and better reflects the teaching of the Church and especially the message of the Francis papacy.”
We are meant for each other by Theresa Zoe Williams, November 27
“When we celebrate Mass, we do so as a community of believers. We receive the Eucharist to be in communion with Christ and each other. We worship one God in three Persons, a communion of Persons. Everything about our faith is communal. The focus of our daily lives should be no different. As Catholics, we know that the kingdom of God surrounds us always.”
Lifting up my Race to His Glory by Efran Menny, November 30
“I have been on the receiving end of immense backlash and angry attacks for embracing my Black Catholic heritage. I frequently defend what it means to be a Black Catholic to those who are ignorant of its symbolism and meaning. What is strange is how no one ever bats an eye over other groups of Catholics who celebrate their cultural roots. You can be a ‘Polish Catholic,’ an ‘Irish Catholic,’ or even a member of a proud ‘Italian Catholic’ family and never encounter criticism.
It seems to me like those who advocate for purity tests for Catholicism are terrified at the mere mention of the term ‘Black Catholic.’”
Each country also belongs to the foreigner by Paul Fahey, December 5
“The plight of migrants and refugees has been one of the pope’s main talking points throughout his pontificate. Francis is very aware of rising xenophobia and Nationalism around the globe as well as a growing fear and scapegoating of immigrants and refugees, so he addresses the rights of migrants head-on. However, the way he explains those rights in Fratelli Tutti is something I’ve never seen before in Catholic Social Teaching.”
Christmas in the Desert by Melinda Ribnek, December 25
“For me, this Christmas is in many ways the culmination of a year that forced me to question who I am, what I believe about my country, how I understand my fellow Catholics, who my neighbors are and what they need. True vigilance and the change it requires can be painful. And as we celebrate Christ’s birth this year, nothing seems as it was. This stressful year has made it difficult to find God in the triumphant Gloria of the angels or in the extravagant cathedrals and material riches of the Church. But I do find God in the babe who lays in the animal trough, and in the suffering and trials of the needy. I understand so much more why this world needs a Savior.”
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Mike Lewis is the founding managing editor of Where Peter Is. He and Jeannie Gaffigan co-host Field Hospital, a U.S. Catholic podcast.