Good Ends Do Not Justify Evil Means

11/22/2015 Comments (20)

There is an old saying that we judge others by what they do, but we want them to judge us by our intentions. That more or less sums up one of the central confusions engendered by our embrace of modernity’s Absolute No. 1 Favorite Moral Heresy: consequentialism.

Consequentialism, for anyone not fully up to speed on basic principles of Catholic moral teaching, is the belief that good ends justify evil means. Despite the fact that this notion has been condemned ever since Paul wrote Romans 3:8, most moderns and postmoderns, including Catholics, deeply believe it anyway.

Consequentialism is not a left or right heresy but a perennial favorite across the spectrum of political allegiances. It...READ MORE

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We're All Bad Catholics

11/19/2015 Comments (7)

Guillaume Bodinier (1795-1872), "Paysanne de Frascati au confessionnal"

The good news about the Catholic Church is it's like a big family. The bad news about the Catholic Church is... it's like a big family.

It’s not a secret that the big family called the Catholic Church is “one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic” while we members of the Catholic Church are often fragmented, sinful, prone to sectarianism, and often so consumed with internecine squabbling that we have no time to be apostolic.  It’s complicated and can sometimes result in a destructive feedback loop.

So, for instance, some Catholics take an accommodationist approach to the world and become sponges for whatever the going thing is in pop culture.  Stretching the word “catholicity” well past the...READ MORE

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Creating the New Normal

11/15/2015 Comments (4)

Like all the most vital things in life from deciding the fate of the nation in an election to having a child, marriage is an amateur sport.  It is designed by God to be done by people who have, by definition, never done it before and who have very little idea of what they are getting themselves into.  With voting, at least, you can learn from the last turkey you voted for and vote for somebody different in four years.  With kids, you can build up a fund of experience to draw on as you have more children.

But with marriage, you have no previous experience to draw on, except for what you learned from a) your parents and b) your ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend.

Of these two sources, your...READ MORE

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Advice to My Younger Self

11/12/2015 Comments (3)

So you are about to get married!  Congratulations!  You’re looking pretty youthful back there in 1983 and I know you are excited and nervous because you’re, you know, me.  So I know what you are thinking about—and what you aren’t thinking about.

You’re amazed that somebody as great as Jan has fallen in love with you.  You had your days when you didn’t think any woman would.  And you are going to have days to come when you will be terribly afraid that Jan made a huge mistake.  Because behind that shiny young face are deep wells of anxiety about yourself, God, and what would happen if people found out what you are really like.  The very fact you feel tempted by various sins seems to you...READ MORE

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The Our Father and the Hail Mary: The Two Pillars of Catholic Prayer

11/08/2015 Comments (5)

Franciszek Ejsmond, "The Anchorite" (1881)

Whole books with titles like A Treasury of Christian Prayer attest to the fact that the Church can dip into vast pools of prayer and come up with any number of prayers that it might set before us for our contemplation.

Some of them, such as the “Prayer of St. Francis,” are very popular and very old indeed. Some of them, such as sundry litanies, are easy to memorize and serve well for both individual and communal prayer. Some of them, such as the “Serenity Prayer” or the “Prayer of Jabez,” are (for a brief time) hugely popular and could be capitalized on by a spiritual marketing campaign, had the Church chosen to do so (thank God the Church is abysmal at and has no interest in “marketing”)....READ MORE

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Naming Names

11/05/2015 Comments (5)

So it appears that Osama bin Laden, in the weeks before his death, was noodling the possibility of rebranding al-Qaeda, since the old name seems to have attracted a bit of bad publicity. I held a brief contest on my blog inviting readers to help these guys out by coming up with a new name for their venerable community Islamic social activists; and though there were a number of great suggestions, such as “Lady Qaeda,” I had to conclude that the winning entry was “Mohammedan and Enjoying It!” I think that really captures the upbeat, sunny side of Bronze Age fanaticism and murder, don’t you? With a new name, people will hardly notice the trail of corpses they leave in their wake.


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Wobbling World

11/01/2015 Comments (4)

In antiquity, everything depended on tradition because people recognized that their ancestors were the ones who had survived in a hostile world that wanted to kill them.  So smart people listened to what their ancestors said and, Darwin being right about some things, tended to be the survivors while stupid people ignored seasoned wisdom and wound up getting killed by a hostile world that, sure enough, wanted to kill them.

Is living by tradition therefore perfect?  No.  Many times, tradition wound up developing into some very dangerous mutations, as for example, the traditions of Aztec human sacrifice and Moloch worship demonstrate.  Jesus and the apostles likewise warn strongly of human...READ MORE

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Charisms =/= Sanctity

10/25/2015 Comments (17)


One of the big puzzles that many Catholics have grappled with in recent years is the baffling phenomenon of some charismatic figure (one thinks of a Maciel, for instance) who can, for years, inspire or otherwise offer blessing and solace to good and decent Christians who are full of faith and obedient to the Church.  Said figure can preach or write clear and engaging explications of the Faith.  He can do all sorts of wonderful things that help struggling souls find healing, that give new purpose to the hopeless, and that help the lost discover the riches of grace in Christ.  He is beloved by his devotees—and not without reason.

And yet that charismatic figure then turns out to be bound up...READ MORE

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About Mark Shea

Mark Shea
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Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.