As the Synod begins

In the conversation about marriage and family life that Pope Francis initiated over a year ago within the Catholic Church, we have heard a lot about what is and isn’t faithful to church teaching. More “progressive” figures, such as Cardinal Kasper, have proposed new pastoral approaches for our consideration, while more “conservative” minded figures, like Cardinal Burke, have rejected them as being unfaithful to Scripture, tradition, and Church teaching.

Having spent a good portion of the last several years exploring the thinking and the story of Fr. John Courtney Murray, SJ, I have to say the current situation has a very familiar ring to it. Murray got himself into trouble with the highest authorities in Rome for suggesting that, despite what might seem to be the case, support for the idea of religious freedom as a human right was not contrary to Church teaching and is in fact a true and important element of that teaching. He was criticized for contradicting the magisterium and Scripture. His work was condemned as erroneous by the Vatican’s doctrinal authorities.

And then, a decade later, he was dramatically vindicated in almost the weightiest way possible: through a declaration of an ecumenical council of the Church.

Just because someone — even someone with great ecclesial authority — thinks a proposition is contrary to Church teaching does not mean it is. It may be, of course. Some ideas are. But to treat as a villain — as a certain Catholic cable news channel has done for going on two years now — faithful pastors and theologians who work hard to offer new pastoral approaches in ways that is faithful to the Gospel and to the Church is wrong and does a disservice to the Church and to the truth.

Come, Holy Spirit, upon the Synod. Enlighten those participating in it with your holy Wisdom.

On the reading list

I’m excited to see that my book, The Eucharistic Prayer: A User’s Guide, is required reading for Timothy Brunk’s course on Liturgy and Justice at Villanova University this fall. All the more exciting to see the short list of other required books. Wow, that’s humbling company to be in. (Every student who looks at that list is thinking, “Who’s that last guy?”)

You can see Professor Brunk’s summary of the course, which sounds excellent, and its reading list here.


I’ve been having a little fun over the last few days reading and adding to tweets with the #PopeASong hashtag. Folks have been tweeting “Catholicized” (or Popized or Francisized) versions of popular song titles, like “Every Rosary Has Its Thorn” and “I Wanna Dance With Psalmbody” and “Who Let The Dogmas Out.” You get the picture. Anyway, here are my own entries, all in one place:

“White Smoke on the Water”

“Hot for Preacher”

“The Bishop Is Back”

“I Love Rock ‘n Rome”

Pachelbel’s Canon Law

“Your Love Is Lifting Me Hierarchy”

“Summer Knights of Columbus”

“Proud Virgin Mary”


Wham!’s “Careless Vespers”

The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Zuchetto) Satisfaction”

“Carmelite Chameleon”

“A Hard Dorothy Day’s Night”

“The Plates Fly Like an Eagle”

City of saints

Philadelphia, which will host Pope Francis next week for the World Meeting of Families, is a city of saints. Saints John Neumann, Katharine Drexel, and Frances Xavier Cabrini each helped shape the Church there in fascinating and inspiring ways. And their influence ultimately was felt way beyond the City of Brotherly Love.

In my brand new article, published in the current issue of Our Sunday Visitor, you can read about how Bishop Neumann became one of the primary founders of the Catholic school system in the United States, Mother Drexel and her sisters faced down the KKK and violent segregationists, and Mother Cabrini educated immigrants and protected them from exploitation. 

The article is available here online.

New Romero article

The September/October edition of The Catholic Answer magazine features an article I wrote on Oscar Romero, called “‘No to Violence!’ Who Is Oscar Romero?” You can find that article online here.

Loving Islam taught her to love Catholicism all the more

If you’d like to be inspired by a bright, young adult Catholic, you’ll want to meet Jordan Denari. Jordan is a 24-year-old research fellow at The Bridge Initiative, a new project at Georgetown University to promote Muslim-Christian understanding. U.S. Catholic magazine has just published a profile of her that I wrote.

This is the story of a woman who grew to embrace and love her own Catholic faith the more she came to understand and respect Islam. A snippet:

Denari developed friendships with Muslim students while attending Georgetown as an undergrad. This led to conversations and experiences that motivated her to learn more about both their faith and her own. “I saw how committed Muslims are to prayer and also to community,” she says. “It pushed me to be better with my prayer life.” She went on an Ignatian prayer retreat, signed up for classes on Christianity, and joined a scripture reflection group. “I wanted to know why Catholics do what we do and believe what we believe. The answers I got were very powerful.”

The full article is here.

Reviewed in NCR

A review of my new book was posted yesterday on the National Catholic Reporter website Written by New York Theological Seminary professor Marian Ronan, it also appears in their current print edition.  I enjoyed Ronan’s opening lines:

After four Fortnights for Freedom and multiple Catholic lawsuits over the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act, an observer might well conclude that religious freedom is a fundamental tenet of the Catholic faith. In Struggle, Condemnation, Vindication, Barry Hudock sets readers straight about how recently the Catholic church came to accept religious freedom at all and the fierce battles that preceded such acceptance.

Hudock weaves several plotlines into his narrative of the months and years leading up to the passage of Dignitatis Humanae, the Declaration on Religious Freedom at the Second Vatican Council.

And then there’s the gracious closing line of the review: “Somebody should send a copy of this book to each of the U.S. bishops.”

You can read everything in between here. (And you can get yourself a copy here or here. Thanks for considering it!)