Philip Lawler

Philip F. Lawler, a former editor of Crisis Magazine, is the author most recently, of Contagious Faith: Why the Church Must Spread Hope, Not Fear, in a Pandemic.

Books by Philip Lawler

recent articles


The “Collateral Damage” of the Lockdown

Now that the COVID-19 lockdown is finally lifting (at least in America)—now that we can look back on a chaotic year and assess policy decisions that were often made hastily, with inadequate information— what lessons can we learn? Those lessons will be important to learn because although we can hope and pray that the worst … Read more

“Happy” Birthday, Sex Scandal

As of today, ten years have passed since the Boston archdiocese was engulfed in scandal, as the result of investigative reporting by the Boston Globe. Today the faithful in Boston are still struggling to shake off the lingering effects of that scandal. But a full recovery is delayed because of two popular misconceptions, which should … Read more

Did Bishop Finn Deserve Indictment?

Two weeks have passed since the indictment of Kansas City’s Bishop Robert Finn. The bishop’s critics are demanding his resignation, while his defenders protest his innocence. Let’s step back a pace, and put the matter in perspective. The indictment of an American bishop is a big story—a huge story, an unprecedented story. Yet oddly enough, … Read more

Uncivil Liberties: No Justice for Operation Rescue

Imagine that your next-door neighbor is an unsociable old curmudgeon, with a large swimming pool in his backyard. Time after time, this crotchety neighbor has informed you that you are not welcome in his yard, and that you may not use his swimming pool under any circumstances. You can take a hint; you stay away. … Read more

Lessons from Chelsea: Silber Crusades to Save Public Schools

Two centuries ago, Chelsea was a magnet for Boston’s new immigrants. Nestled on the Mystic River, just across from downtown, the growing community offered a rural environment, just a few minutes’ sail from the harbor. All that, alas, was two centuries ago. As the twentieth century began, a massive fire ripped through Chelsea, virtually destroying … Read more

The Last Word: Counting Out the Laity

Within the Catholic Church, especially in the United States, feminism is a hot topic. I have only recently realized that it can also be a hot property; there’s serious money to be made in the feminism business. Back in early October, a group called Time Consultants, Inc. held a conference at the elegant Shoreham Hotel, … Read more

The Last Word: Cuomo

It all began quietly enough. Bishop Joseph O’Keefe, vicar general of the New York Archdiocese, advised all parishes to avoid inviting guest speakers who might “attack the Church” or who reject the “clear, unambiguous teaching of the Church.” That sounded straightforward enough, and (just in case anyone had any doubts) Bishop O’Keefe had the full … Read more

The Last Word: Half-Truths and Worse

“This chamber literally reeks of blood.” The speaker was Senator George McGovern, the subject was American involvement in Vietnam, and the chamber in question was the United States Senate. At the time, I was favorably disposed toward McGovern; I shared his general views about Vietnam. Yet that statement shocked me, disturbed me; it forced me … Read more

The Last Word: Contempt of Court

If this is contempt of court, let’s hope we’re all guilty. Back in 1980, a pro-abortion activist named Lawrence Lader brought suit against the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of the Treasury, and (for good measure) the Roman Catholic Church, attempting to strip the Church of its tax-exempt status. Lader and his organization, the Abortion … Read more

Curran, Dissent, & Rome: A Symposium

I am a journalist, not a theologian; my academic specialty was politics. So perhaps I should have no comment on the Curran affair. But wait. When he returned from his meetings at the Vatican, Father Curran called a press conference. Is this the world of theology, or of journalism? Soon groups of Curran’s supporters were … Read more

The Last Word: Business As Usual

Five years ago, all Washington was abuzz with the prospects for the “Reagan Revolution.” Today, my friends in Washington still occasionally use the phrase: “the Reagan Revolution.” They still use the future tense. Why do the President’s most ardent supporters invent excuses for his failure to meet their expectations? Why do Reaganites always blame members … Read more

The Last Word: Heroism

Christa McAuliffe was only one of the seven astronauts who died aboard the shuttle Challenger. Perhaps the families and friends of the other six, torn by their own private grief, occasionally resent all the attention that we have lavished on this one woman. The other six, too, left grieving wives and children and parents and … Read more

The Last Word: Settling In

The phone call took place only a few weeks ago; it is still fresh in my memory. Would I be interested in moving from Washington to South Bend, to become editor of Catholicism in Crisis? Yes, I would; and here I am. To establish a successful new magazine requires vision, energy, courage, and persistence. Ralph … Read more

USCC Watch: Cherchez le Secretaire

As regular readers know, USCC Watch believes that the USCC staff exercises an enormous influence over the bishops’ public statements. So when a controversial statement appears, USCC Watch shouts “Cherchez le secretaire,” and compares the statement with the known sympathies of the relevant staff member(s). Approaching the USCC from that angle, I have often wondered … Read more

USCC Watch: O’Connor and Cuomo — One Year Later

One year ago it was Archbishop John O’Connor. Now it is Cardinal John O’Connor. But in the minds of the American secular establishment, it will always be arch-villain John O’Connor. Just a year ago, Archbishop O’Connor took a strong public stance on two issues, each of which crucially affected the Catholic faith. In each case, … Read more

USCC Watch: Bishops in the Soup

Poverty, disarmament, South Africa: every diocesan justice-and-peace commission will be worrying about those subjects this winter. The really ambitious activist needs a new cause, something a bit recherche, to keep him one step ahead of the crowd. Unless I’m mistaken the next such cause is the Campbell Soup boycott. Actually, boycotting Campbell is not a … Read more

Implementing the Economic Pastoral

Don’t look now, but our bishops are thinking about writing a pastoral letter. When the bishops met in Collegeville this past June for their annual brainstorming session, Archbishop Weakland presented a progress report on behalf of his committee, which is drafting the pastoral letter on economics. His report contained several very intriguing suggestions. First, he … Read more

USCC Watch: A World Without the USCC

What would happen if the USCC suddenly ceased to exist? Imagine that, somehow, the building at 1312 Massachusetts Avenue simply vanished, complete with all its inhabitants. Imagine, further, that no mention of the disappearance appeared in the news. How quickly would ordinary Catholic Americans notice that something was missing? No, this is not simply an … Read more

USCC Watch: Doing the Wrong Thing for the Right Reason

Never mind what T. S. Eliot says. What about people who do the wrong thing for the right reason? In March, the U.S. bishops pulled out all the stops in an effort to stop the MX missile. Every member of the U.S. Congress received a letter from the USCC—signed by Bishop Malone in his capacity … Read more

USCC Watch: Party Lines

Now that the 99th Congress is in full gear, spokesmen for Catholic interests should be making their voices heard around Capitol Hill. And they are. But with what effect? This spring, American farmers asked for help from Uncle Sam. A few thousand farmers pulled into Washington, led by a handful of lobbyists. Within less than … Read more

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