Ten Commandments

The Requirements of the Law

As a full-time parish priest and an armchair theologian, it gives me great pleasure to rub shoulders—from time to time—with real theologians, and to plagiarize some of their ideas. One of them observed, “The Church teaches doctrine, not theology.” The thought was provocative enough to open many intellectual doors for me as I began to … Read more

Prayers by Heart

It is a sunny Sunday morning in a typical London suburb. I am doing some quick work in the garden before Mass. My next-door neighbors are Evangelical Christians, originally from India. This morning, the grandmother, wearing a sari, is walking up and down with her little granddaughter, and when we stop to chat, she tells … Read more

The Beatitudes

Over Lent, we took a good long look at one of the legs of Catholic moral teaching: the Ten Commandments.   Some people have the notion that the Ten Commandments are pretty much all you need for Catholic moral teaching. Hew to them and you’ll be a moral person — and being a moral person … Read more

The Ninth Commandment

As we come to the Ninth Commandment, we again arrive in disputed territory. As you will recall, the Ten Commandments can be and have been split up differently so as to yield ten and not eleven commandments. Some Protestants break apart the First Commandment (yielding what I call the 1.5 Commandment against graven images). The … Read more

The Fifth Commandment

  It’s a simple-sounding proposition: "You shall not kill" (Ex 20:13). And some people, such as pacifists, are absolutists in understanding it to mean that all killing is forbidden. But, in fact, that is not what the commandment means. In Hebrew, the Fifth Commandment forbids the taking of innocent human life. Both war and the … Read more

The 1.5th Commandment

  The tricky thing about the Ten Commandments is figuring out how to break them up. The original Hebrew text refers to them as (pedantry alert!) the “Ten Words” but doesn’t do all that tidy stuff with the tablets and the Roman numerals clearly delineating where one commandment leaves off and another starts. As a … Read more

The First Commandment

  The other day, one of my readers sent me a hilarious note:   Hey, Mark, you may get terrific questions as a Catholic author/speaker, but as a Catholic high school teacher, I get terrific answers. My current favorite: Q: Name the seven capital/deadly sins. A. (among the others): Sluttony   I have to say … Read more

Thick and Thin Religions

When thinking about religion it is often helpful to bear in mind a distinction between “thick” religions and “thin” religions. This distinction can help us understand why American Catholicism went into decline about 40 years ago. By a “thick” religion I mean one that requires its adherents to do and to believe many things. And … Read more

Moses Who?

David Klinghoffer’s Shattered Tablets is painful to read. As a writer I slapped myself on the forehead frequently: Why didn’t I think of this? Shattered Tablets: Why We Ignore the Ten Commandments at Our Peril David Klinghoffer, Doubleday, 256 pages, $24.95     David Klinghoffer’s Shattered Tablets is painful to read. First of all, as … Read more

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