Thursday, February 13, 2020

medical update: I have been diagnosed with a brain tumor

As you are aware, a one day trip to the Mayo Clinic this week has turned into a four day trip.  I want to begin by saying I have so much gratitude in my heart for the wonderful medical professionals I've been able to work with through this entire process...such a great blessing in our country, and the Mayo Clinic is certainly a bright spot in our world.  My family doctor, Dr. Keith Landry has been wonderful, as well as my cardiologist, a Roncalli dad, Dr. Michael Barron.  I have a nurse, Lauren Alcorn, that has been such a kind help through all that has come up these past 12 months.  That care has continued here at Mayo.  Each person has played a key role in this process, and I am very thankful and amazed by the state of medicine in the US in 2020.

While the MRI that I had at St. Francis in December was thought to reveal a stroke, a second MRI that I had here at the Mayo Clinic showed that the affected area of my brain had not changed hardly at all over the last two months.  My Mayo Clinic doctors have said that a stroke would have already started to heal significantly in those two months, so they were able to say definitively that what I have is a brain tumor.

That certainly is a serous diagnosis, but I actually feel very blessed by the path that they have laid out for me, and the prognosis is very good.  The path involves the removal of the tumor and then possible radiation and chemotherapy to make sure that any remaining cells are taken care of.  Both the radiation and Chemotherapy that I would potentially do are not the severe forms that certain cancers call for, so I'm very thankful for that.

The path:

1) I can function as normal for the next several weeks

2)  I will travel back to the Mayo Clinic for a brain tumor surgery that will happen Friday, March 13th.  The expected time in the hospital is actually surprisingly short.  Brain surgery actually requires a lot less physical recovery than surgeries like open heart.  There may need to be an extended stay if physical therapy or speech therapy is needed.

3) The surgeon said that typically after only 6 weeks a person is back to normal.

One question that I thought it would also be helpful to address: "is the tumor cancer?"  Because of the fact that the tumor has been fairly stable for two months, they are very optimistic that it isn't any kind of aggressive cancer.  It may be a low grade cancer, but even if it is non-cancerous, it is still best to remove the tumor as it would still eventually grow and start to cause problems.   

One request: When the scandals of 2018 broke out, most of you know that they have affected me deeply, as they have most of the Church.  I prayed in 2018 that if there was some suffering I could undertake on behalf of all the victims, some cross I could carry, I would welcome that.  I feel like this is that cross, and I embrace it willingly.  I would love to have a list of victims of priestly abuse that I could pray for each day.  I would like to dedicate each day of this recovery/chemo/radiation to 5-10 victims, and I would like, if possible, to even write them a note letting them know of my prayers for them.  IF YOU KNOW OF A PERSON OR YOU ARE A VICTIM YOURSELF, with the victims permission, please send me the name and, if possible, a mailing address so that I can send them a note, that would be much appreciated.  my email address is fatherjohnhollowell at gmail.

Also, I would like to pass this word on to SNAP, so if you know someone that is in leadership for SNAP, please let them know I'm interested in speaking with them to see if there's some way I could get the names of people to pray for and, if possible, send a note to in the midst of all of this. 

In closing, I am very much at peace.  Other than time in the hospital, the only effects of this tumor that I have had are 5 episodes of spasm/seizure that have each lasted 90 seconds.  I also realize I am blessed to have uncovered it through this process vs. finding out about the tumor down the road after it had grown more in size.  

You all will be in my prayers, as I pray daily for the salvation of all the souls of those who live and study within my parish boundaries.  

May Our Lady of Lourdes watch over and intercede for all those who are sick or suffering in any way!

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Some of my siblings and I reflect on my Mom and Dad's 41 years at Roncalli High School

At the beginning of this academic year, my Dad announced that he would be retiring at the end of the upcoming school year.  

He contemplated retirement several years ago, but decided to lead the school through the final capital campaign of a plan that had been charted 20 plus years ago.  

The final project was the gym, which was just completed.

Several of my siblings (I count my brother in law as a sibling) wrote up our reflections on what we have seen in both my Mom and Dad as they have, as a team, helped lead and guide Roncalli High School for 41 years.

If you know my parents, or if you are a fan of Catholic schools and leadership, I think you will find these short reflections tell the TRUE story of how Roncalli came to be one of the leading Catholic schools in the country, and the largest private school in Indiana, while also becoming a beacon of Catholic identity and Catholic culture.

Here's our version of what has happened at Roncalli these past 41 years:

Monday, January 13, 2020

I joined the BBC to talk about Celibacy

I was asked to comment on priestly celibacy for the BBC.

I shared some of the more practical benefits of celibacy.

The one lady who spoke after me did a nice job, but she said celibacy started in the early middle ages, when in fact it began right from the beginning centuries of the Church. 

If you want to listen, my comments are at 44:40 of the clip.  You can click here:

Saturday, January 11, 2020

"Sacrilege" by Leon Podles

These are some of the 30 or so problems that led to the priestly and episcopal sexual crimes of the last several decades.  I have tried to provide at least one excerpt from the book that helps illustrate the point somewhat.

YOU NEED TO BUY AND READ THE BOOK for several reasons

1) One of the issues I didn’t list – homosexuality.  His discussion of homosexuality’s role in all this is MUST READ, very accurate, nuanced and important

2) In order to give a true understanding of the issue, he intentionally describes what actually happened in order to not try to gloss over the damage done to the victims.  Those sections are obviously hard to read, and if you have a hard time reading what happened, imagine having it happen TO you.  I believe, as does Podles, that knowing exactly what happened to victims is part of actually taking this crisis seriously.

Anyway, here are the problems that Podles identifies:

Problem 1: Faulty view of the priesthood by the laity
One victim explained: “I received my religious training in the Catholic school and I was trained that the priest was the equivalent of God or Christ on earth and that they should be obeyed.” (49)

Problem 2: lack of Episcopal courage
“The abusers knew that bishops, even if not themselves corrupt, hated confrontation and bad publicity even more than they disliked child abuse.” (69)

Problem 3: Priests and repressed anger

“Twice the number of priests scoring in the clinically significant range of the overcontrolled hostility measure were found in the hospitalized sexual abusive group…these priests had repressed their anger to a far greater degree than the general population does.” (466)

“Gilbert Kilman, a child psychiatrist, commented, “What amazes me is the lack of outrage the Church feels when its good work is being harmed.  So, if there is anything the Church needs to know, it needs to know how to be outraged.” (467)

“A little reflection will make it clear that there is a big difference between the person who knows solely that something is evil and ought to be opposed, and the one who in addition also feels hate for that evil, is angry that it is corrupting or harming his fellow-men, and feels aroused to combat it courageously and vigorously.” (468)

“Josef Pieper concludes his analysis of the place of anger in the virtuous life, “Only the combination of the intemporateness of lustfulness with the lazy inertia incapable of generating anger is the sign of complete and virtually hopeless degeneration.  It appears whenever a caste, a people, or a whole civilization is ripe for its decline and fall.” (507)

Problem 4: no uniform code of punishment
“We feel that the protection of our glorious priesthood will demand, in time, the establishment of a uniform code of discipline and penalties” [Fr. Fitzgerald in 1957].  In 1957 there was no such code; in 2007 there is still none…”If the discipline were more uniform and certain, priests before ordination could be instructed and duly warned, and this would be a deterrent to the initiation of these vicious habits.” (91)

“Abusers form a network of unknown size, and the only way to disrupt it is to remove any priest who even once is discovered to have abused a minor, however distant it may be.” (495)

Problem 5: priests and seminarians psychologically immature
“Dr. Baars stated [in 1971 to the USCCB] “Everyone agrees that there exists a crisis in the priesthood…20-25% have serious psychiatric difficulties…60-70% suffer from a degree of emotional immaturity”   Baar gave 10 recommendations.  None was implemented.” (95)

Problem 6: confusing pedophilia and sex with those who are past puberty
“In December, 1985, Peterson wrote an executive summary and sent it to every bishop in the United States, who mostly ignored it.  Peterson’s summary pointed out that the problem of abuse among priests was not really pedophilia, which is sexual attraction to children who have not reached the age of puberty, but sexual activity with teenagers.” (96)

“Most of the abusers were sexually involved with teenage boys.  It is difficult to classify a male’s sexual attraction to sexually mature teenage boys as a mental illness or disorder without also classifying homosexuality as a mental disorder.” (285)

“…despite this, priests who were sexually involved with teenage boys were sent for treatment as if they were pedophiles” (286)

Problem 7: thinking of pedophilia as a mental illness
“Pedophilia is not in the same category as schizophrenia. Pedohiles are not delusional and they can control their actions.  They do not abuse children on the street, but rationally and calculatedly get access to children…Pedophiles are almost excused by those who call them “sick”, as if they cannot help themselves…They are not so much sick men in need of a cure as criminals who should be punished.” (289)

“Something far worse than disorderly sexual desire leads men to corrupt and torture children, and this evil has not been identified by the Church and therefore cannot be purged from the Church.” (503)

Problem 8: priests who witnessed abuse said nothing
“Rev. Edward Booth, Porter’s superior and the pastor there, walked in. “Father Porter jump right up,” Merry said. “First Father Booth looked at Father Porter, and then back at me, and then back at Father Porter, who was zipping up his fly.  Then Father Booth shook his head and walked out the door.  He didn’t say a word.” (114)

Problem 9: in lots of cases, abusive priests reported being cured but were still abusing
“Porter wrote Bishop Connolly, “I am feeling much better and doing very well.  There have been many temptations, as you can imagine, but thank God, with His grace, I have handled them well.  The next day he molested two children.” (117)

Problem 10: the laity did not want to hear that their priest was a criminal
“They made life miserable for her until she left the parish.  Kathryn D’Agostino heard Gauvreau’s warnings and explained that “I didn’t believe her.  I didn’t think she was lying, but I thought she was deluded.  From what I knew of this guy, I thought it was impossible.” (164)

“The Rev. John Leonard of the Richmond diocese was sentenced to jail in 2004 for assaulting two teenage boys.  This was the reaction of the laity: “Church members have supported him for the entire time and no support was seen more than when he left court and his congregation cheered him.” (425)

“During the 1991 trial, the atmosphere was hostile, said Laura Recker, a former Maricopa County, Arizona deputy attorney…the priest’s supporters taunted the victims’ families and swore at her.” (425)

Problem 11: Priesthood is a helping profession – priests need to set up proper boundaries
“Several surveys have shown that one out of ten physicians has had sexual contact with a patient” (291)

“One study of members of the LA County Psychological association showed that “17% of the men in private practice indicated that they had engaged in therapist-client sexual intimacies” (293)

Problem 12: the priesthood attracts and can foster narcissism
“Because of the public and performing aspects of the position and the opportunity to foster a dependant group of admirers.  Engaging in sexual liasons is part of the larger and continuous pursuit of fulfilling their need for admiration, devotion and unquestioned love (Arelene Brewster).  The new Catholic liturgy places far more emphasis on the personality of the priest-presider than the old liturgy did.” (300)

Problem 13: Treating the problem without punishment and only treatment
“Punishment and treatment are not mutually exclusive.  An abuser should be punished for his actions, but he may also (in rare cases) sincerely want to get rid of the desire for children or lean how he can lessen the chances of his acting on it – after he gets out of jail” (305)

“Severe spiritual disciplines: fasting, vigils, silence, ceaseless prayer – do not seem to have been prescribed.” (306)

Problem 14: The history of places offering treatment for priests is a complete dumpster fire
Most of the places were run by abusers themselves, abuse took place, crazy techniques have been tried…pages 305-320

Problem 15: gay subcultures in seminaries and presbyterates
“Howard P. Bleichner, a Sulpician who worked in seminaries in Baltimore, San Francisco, and Washington D.C., observed that after the Second Vatican Council, “seminaries suddenly began to develop gay subcultures that encompassed faculty and students…Rev. Donald Cozzens wrote that “the need gay priests have for friendship with other gay men…had created a gay subculture in most of the U.S. dioceses.  A similar subculture has occurred in many of our seminaries.”” (322)

“Some of us found refuge in a campy, secret subculture poor in genuine emotional intimacy but rich in the bitchy humor for which we gay men are ‘Will and Grace’ infamous.  We had women’s names for one another, and for some of our teachers.  We trashed each other’s style of dress and gossiped among ourselves about who was ‘going out’ with whom.” (324)

Problem 16: heterosexual unfaithfulness leads to a culture of secrecy
Wendle Tuley: “the underground nature of un-celibate behavior, both homosexual and heterosexual…has made possible a brand of adult dishonesty and manipulativeness in which pedophiles find convenient shelter” (329)

Problem 17: Media and culture subtly supportive of man-boy sex
“A stream of gay fiction, praised by the mainstream press such as the Washington Post, sympathetically portrays man-boy sex…Others make heroes of Oscard Wilde, Roman Polanski…the media horror at the exposure of the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests has not been entirely convincing.  Both advertisements and entertainment sexualize teenagers and critics continue to praise Polanski, who cannot enter the United States because of an outstanding charge of child molestation…Judith Levine won an award from the Los Angeles Times in 2003 for her book Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex” (340)

Problem 18: the centralization of ecclesial power in Rome
“By centralizing so much power in itself, the papacy has made it impossible for groups of bishops to discipline erring fellow bishops, made it impossible for bishops to discipline priests who are members of religious orders, and made it very difficult for bishops to discipline their own diocesan priests.” (407)

Problem 19: The law protected Churches
“Legislators in Massachusetts in 1983 exempted the Church from requirements to report sexual abuse.” (433)

Problem 20: Police often did not arrest
“Police in 1977 spotted the Rev. Edward T. Kelley apparently engaged in a sex act with a teenage boy in a parked car.  One officer knew the priest, but instead of arresting him, the police contacted Bishop Thomas Daily.  Bishop Daily explained that the “archdiocese of Boston had a long understanding with local law enforcement officers that  church officials rather than the police would ‘take care of’ priests implicated in sex abuse cases.” (434)

Problem 21: prosecutors did not want to prosecute priests because of votes
“Prosecuting priests was not a good career move.  It was hard to get a conviction, and the laity would be mad at the prosecutor, as would the bishop.  The only people who would be grateful were the victim and his family.  Prosecutors can count potential votes.” (434)

Problem 22: Judges behaviors often protected the Church
“Judges soften pre-trial discovery requirements for churches, and in court decisions that order church documents produced in discovery to be sealed and kept secret.  The courts created a “law-free” zone for sexual abuse, and the abusers took advantage of this to commit abuse with impunity.” (437)

Problem 23: Dissenting theologians
“Dissenting theologians should look at their own responsibility when offenders like Paul Shanley start applying [their] theological speculations.” (441)

“No adequate diagnosis of the contributory causes of the Catholic priest scandals can overlook the role of dissent among theologians…how many of the priests and bishops who have brought such suffering to minors and scandal to the public were encouraged by teachers and theologians to cut corners and dissent from the truth of the Catholic Faith and moral teaching?...a climate of dissent was promoted by wholesale dissent from Catholic sexual ethics” – Fr. Matt Lamb (454)

Father Andre Guindon, who taught moral theology at St. Paul’s University in Canada until his death in 1993…taught that an adult having sex with prepubescent children did little or no harm.” (457)

The National Catholic Reporter published an account by a priest who was sexually involved with a teenage boy.  The priest wrote “I read a book on situation ethics.  The basic theme was that no act is objectively evil; its morality or immorality depends on the situation.  I reasoned from this that all sex acts are basically good since God had created us sexual beings…There is nothing good or evil in itself; only the consequences make it so.” … he was ordained and had sex with teenagers. (461)

On nominalism (that the only thing that makes something right or wrong is the authority of God, that right and wrong don’t correspond to anything out in the real world nor in a person’s nature): “If things are wrong only because God forbids them, not because they harm the good of the human person, the only action necessary to make repentance complete is to seek the pardon of God.  The sin has caused no harm to anyone except the sinner…if, however, actions are forbidden because they harm the human good…the harm that the sin has done in creation remains…the sexual abuse victim of a priest is still suffering from severe distortions of his sexual identity and feelings of being betrayed by the God-ordained messenger of salvation.” (477)

“He is not guided to a moral maturity in which he sees, loves and pursues the good through the exercise of all the virtues, but instead follows arbitrary commands, the logic of which he cannot see.  This infantilization prepares the ground for sexual abuse.” (479)

Problem 24: Psychology replaces theology in certain places after the council
“Rogers and Coulson set up a massive group therapy program for the IHM nuns…under these facilitators direction, the nuns got in touch with their inner selves.  What they discovered there was that they did not want to be nuns and they did want (at least some did) to be lesbians.  The order disintegrated within a matter of months…Rogers and Coulson gave the same program at St. Anthony’s Seminary.  When the friars there looked into their inner selves and affirmed their deepest desires, a good proportion of them (about one quarter) discovered that what they really wanted most of all was to have sex with 14 year old boys, which they proceeded to do for the next twenty years.” (449)

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

National Migration Week

As we enter into National Migration Week, I would say “woe to those on EITHER side who perpetuate the falsehood that you are either against welcoming anyone or for open borders. 

People on BOTH sides do this and it is terrible! 

“Oh, you aren’t for open borders, and you say a country has a right to have immigration laws that regulate and control and oversee immigration... I can’t believe what a cold and heartless person you are.” This is non-Catholic. 

“Oh, you think we should do all we can to treat those seeking immigration or asylum humanely, and that our communities should work to be welcoming to refugees and immigrants? How much is Soros paying you to work for open borders?” This is non-Catholic.

To act like there are only two options in the immigration debate is wrong, simplistic, and prevents anyone from working towards the CATHOLIC middle ground which exists BETWEEN the two extremes, and is not a fixed point but requires all of us to harness prudence!

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Homily for Epiphany: Stop Trashing People

Implications of the wisemen

1) God loves every person, and because of that, ALL people are called to Christ, and reason/science/thinking and God’s grace lead all people to the doorstep of Christ, and God continues to call to them until their last breath

2) It is not enough to be called by Christ – you have to GO to Him and do him homage

3) The wisemen go back to their culture – every culture needs to be transformed by Christ

Contrary to this:

1) People at some point can be abandoned as less human – God gives up on them and so can we
a.       One major manifestation of this – the polarization
b.      The USCCB has tons of initiatives, can’t talk about them all, but I really like “Civilize It”
1.       A call for us to look at how we speak to each other always, and in this election year

2.       It isn’t just other cultures that need Christ, our own has forgotten God, and many today think all the good things that we experience have nothing to do with the foundations and beliefs of those on whose shoulders we stand

3.       We have become a cruel people – and our language shows this


b.      But look at the fact that we use Words like “those people” or “savages” “them” “deplorable” “elites” – do you think some group of people is LESS human, has less dignity, or has committed some act that renders them now deserving less dignity?  Muslims, migrants, the unborn, Christians, blacks, whites, secularists, Buddhists, prisoners, Jews, Catholics, liberals, conservatives

Senator Ben Sasse wrote a book two years ago of which I think the title accurately assesses the situation – “THEM: why we hate each other and how to heal”

Politics is certainly a place for discussion and disagreements about policies on how best to handle issues like immigration, prisoners, etc. this isn’t a homily about politics…there can’t be a THEM for any Catholic. 

2) FALSE: Some people do not need to come to Christ since God loves everyone

a.       Completely contrary to the Scriptures:  Peter says in Acts of the Apostles: “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”

b.      Why would the wisemen make the travel, and why would people give their lives heroically for over a thousand years to travel to foreign lands as priests and religious sisters to bring the news of Christ and His Church to others? 

3) FALSE: Cultures need not be rooted in Christ, they are fine on their own, they are good
a.       What is good in our own culture is due to its Christian and Catholic grounding
b.      What has gone wrong in our culture can be traced precisely to the point where we have abandoned God

Every person has dignity, and we need to honor that dignity, even while having important discussions and disagreements. 
All people need Jesus Christ
All cultures/communities/societies need Christ.  Bring him to your culture/community/and society.

The wisemen were called, they went, they genuflected, they went home to their culture with the Good news.  May we do the same

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Going on Offense About the Blessed Virgin Mary

Often – marian defense – “this is why the rosary isn’t voodoo”
Tonight – marian offense

Super quick history fact: Creed in 325
Only a few councils later – 431 “Mary is the mother of God”

Mathematical proof of something

If Mary is the Mother of God (believed and established since 431)
And we are brothers and sisters of Christ (established numerous times in Scripture)
Mary is literally our mother

And the 4th Commandment says we should honor our mother and father

So if we do not honor Mary, we are violating the 4th commandment
Say again: if we do not honor Mary, we are violating the 4th commandment

One simple way that I’ll end with – we have a prayer that mentions Mary being the mother of God, and offers her the honor that was spoken to her by two saints – Saint Gabriel the Archangel and Saint Elizabeth her cousin.  We could do no better in honoring her than reciting often this prayer

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.  Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, MOTHER OF GOD, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of death.  Amen

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

A response to Chris Stefanick on the Latin Mass

I'm only posting this here because Twitter doesn't allow for nuance, and I want to use nuance.

Here was Chris's tweet yesterday

As a priest who says the TLM occasionally (as Chris goes occasionally) a few things:

1) I agree wholeheartedly that, in one sense of the phrase, "the Latin Mass isn't the answer to the crisis".  I've spoken elsewhere about the book that I read on my retreat called Sacrilege, and how the author I think expertly points to and unpacks about THIRTY FIVE problems that lead to 2002 and 2018.  And even moving beyond the abuse crisis to what I think is the larger crisis of Faith that Chris is referencing, I agree that in both cases NO ONE THING is THE answer.

2) I also would add here that I don't know many Latin Mass people that think that if we just went back to the Latin Mass, we wouldn't be in a crisis of Faith.  There are certainly some, but most TLM'ers that I know recognize there are TONS of things that we need to keep emphasizing in order to restore the Church (insert a more theologically correct word for "restore" if that word doesn't work for you...most people know what we mean by that).

3)  My only "critique" of the tweet would be that I think we can say that the Mass IS PART OF the Kerygma - the Mass does PREACH Christ, and I think we can also say, fairly comfortably, that the preaching that the Mass does can be more or less effective, depending on how it is celebrated, and I know Chris would agree with that. 

So in one sense of the tweet, I'm on board.  There are 50-100 categories (or more) of things that need tweeked/addressed/worked on in the Church.  One of those is the way Mass is celebrated.  And most TLM people that I know of prefer the TLM because they know there is almost a zero percent chance of being forced to encounter banal (and worse) celebrations of the Mass in our current day if they attend a Traditional Latin Mass.  And those same people see lots of other things that need addressed in the Church.

"Lex orandi, legem credendi" - the law of how we worship governs what we believe

Sisters of Life Magazine on Eastern "meditation"

Very thankful for this graphic on how Eastern forms of "meditation" are not the same thing as Catholic prayer, and why the difference REALLY matters! 

Monday, December 30, 2019

My Friends

Thankful for this group of friends I've known since high school (some since 4th grade!).  We got together for Christmas (a few wives couldn't make it with sick children), and I laughed for 5 straight hours.

I pray that every priest has a great group of lay friends like this who knew him "way back when"

Possible Nativity Scene

I'm thinking of setting up my Nativity scene at one of my parishes this way next year.  Thoughts?

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Families need REAL forgiveness to survive, not false forgiveness

A couple of things to follow up with - St. Paul to the Ephesians 4:26 says "be angry, but do not sin". The Catechism talks in 1767-1770 about how anger is a PASSION, and how the passions are neither good outright nor evil outright, it depends on how they are directed and what they are directed at. So justice and charity REQUIRE that I be angry about a priest committing a crime against a child, and, hopefully even more obvious, if I knew about, my anger should direct me to intervene in accordance with the law. Both Saint Paul and the Catechism make it CRYSTAL clear that anger towards evil and injustice is necessary and virtuous and required. Every Catholic word, including "anger" has lots of nuance. 

Also, I found a helpful article from Jimmy Akin, and he points toward an encyclical from St. John Paul II called Dives Misericordia, where we read: "the requirement of forgiveness does not cancel out the objective requirements of no passage of the Gospel message does forgiveness mean indulgence toward evil, toward scandals, toward injury or insult. In any case, reparation for evil and scandal, compensation for injury, and satisfaction for insult are conditions for forgiveness"

Friday, December 27, 2019

My Favorite Books and Movies of 2019

I don't normally do this, but this year I actually feel like I read enough this year to offer some suggestions for others.  I came across some books, films and TV shows this year.  Here's the best I encountered.

1) "Sacrilege" by Leon Podles.  This is a 500+ page deep dive on the sex and rape crisis in the Catholic Church.  Podles wrote this book in 2008, and almost all of his observations are still relevant amidst the latest round of revelations of awful crimes.  Podles pulls no punches, and it does not curry favor with "trads" nor "liberals" which is perhaps why I had not heard of it; no one who has picked a side will like this book, but only those wanting to address the issues in the Church. 

2) "Primal Screams" by Mary Eberstadt.  A quick and engrossing but thoroughly researched book on the identity crisis that is front and center in our society.  Eberstadt powerfully and convincingly traces this 2019 moment of gender and identity confusion to the sexual revolution.  Charitable towards all caught up in these issues, it provides key insights, and her writing style, as always, does not waste one word.

3) "The Priests We Need to Save the Church" by Kevin Wells.  A former sportswriter, Kevin, for reasons that become apparent in the first VERY POWERFUL chapter, decided to try to interview as many priests and laity to look at how the Church could possibly move forward into the 2020's, and his prescriptions seem to be spot on.  We said, in 2018, that the laity in some ways will have to lead the Church through this moment - and this is a VERY solid offering of precisely that.

4) "The Priest in Union with Christ" by Father Garrigou-LaGrange O.P. - written in 1952 by one of the great English scholars of St. Thomas Aquinas, I wanted to take some time to reflect and pray over advice on how to be a priest of Jesus Christ from sources not tainted by our current moment.  Fr. LaGrange is such a treasure of the Church.  It has very theological reflections followed up by super practical chapters like "how to give a parish mission"

5) "The Night is Far Spent" by my favorite author, Thomas Howard.  This is a collection of essays from a wonderfully charitable and insightful convert to the Catholic Faith.  Each essay is fairly short, and covers all sorts of topics.  I found each essay to be very helpful to me while also being an engaging read that I did not want to put down. 

6) "Catholic Republic" by Timothy Gordon.  The premise is a unique and important contribution to the debate over America's founding and our country's relationship with Christianity.  Gordon makes the convincing case that the country was founded using Catholic ideas, but the fathers were mostly protestant, so the Catholic roots of our country are not acknowledged, even up through our own day. 

7) "Island of the World" by Michael O'Brien.  I also read Father Elijah, which was good, but I really enjoyed Island of the World more.  O'Brien tells a story based on the real life experience of a young man who spends most of his life torn by war and violence in the Balkans and, in the latter stages of his life, makes his way to the United States. 

8) "The Silver Chalice" by Thomas Costain.  I searched some lists for "best Catholic novels" about two years ago, and this was at the top of some lists, although I had never heard of it.  I purchased it, but just got around to reading it this year.  It was written in 1952, and is a wonderful novel based on the Holy Grail and the early Church, and Her enemies.

9) "Windswept House" - I know all the criticisms of Malachi Martin, former priest...exorcist who kept doing exorcisms after he left the priesthood...opportunist...etc...but "Windswept House" is a novel written in 1996, but so much of what is in that novel has actually come to pass in various ways.  I had originally tried to read it several years ago, but there is a violent crime perpetrated on a child by church men that I put it down.  I picked it back up again, though, when the summer of shame broke in 2018.  I finished the novel in 2019 and, although the writing is not as engrossing as the great works of literature, it is worth reading just to try to grapple with how Martin could have seen all of this coming in such exact detail. 

10) "The Master of Hestviken" - by Sigrid Undset.  A set of 4 short books that make up 1 novel by one of the more fascinating literary Catholics of the 20th century.  A convert from atheism, Undset's novel "Kristin Lavransdatter" (also at the top of many "best Catholic novels" lists) was a book I read in 2018, and one that I also HUGELY recommend.  "Kristin" follows the life of a 1500's Norwegian Catholic girl all the way through her elderly years and is a beautiful insight into motherhood and Faith.  "Master of Hestviken" takes the same approach by following a young Catholic man all the way through his elder years.  Just as "Kristin Lavransdatter" makes you feel like you can begin to know motherhood, so "Master of Hestviken" sheds much light on the mysteriousness of what it means to try (and both fail and succeed) to be a father.

11) "The End of the Present World" by Father Charles Arminjon.  Sophia Press got me to buy this book simply by sharing a quote from St. Therese: "Reading this book was one of the greatest graces of my life."


1) "Richard Jewell" - a powerful portrayal of the ability of today's media and civil authorities to absolutely crush and destroy people, much like Alduous Huxley saw coming in is fictional "Brave New World" decades ago. 

2) "I, Tonya" - this movie based on the true story of Tonya Harding, is a real window into life in rural America.  This film puts real-life context to Hillary Clinton's "bunch of deplorables" comment and the much-discussed "Hillbilly Elegy".  The movie is riddled with profanity, but that's life in rural America.  Ministering as a priest in some areas that are more economically depressed and still awaiting the benefits of globalism to trickle down to us, "I, Tonya" is a true portrayal of what life is like for countless Americans, and could help soften people's criticism and help those who aren't familiar with life in rural America to perhaps be more sympathetic and proactive in working to help those who live in EVERY part of America.

3) "Unplanned" the real-life story of Abby Johnson.  One of Planned Parenthood's leaders defects after seeing an actual abortion in the room. 

4) I also saw several TV series that were really well done: "The People vs. OJ Simpson", and "Manhunt: The Unabomber".  I don't think either were made in 2019, but I saw both of them then.  A product of being a dinosaur who still sees most of my movies and TV shows by renting them from "Family Video"!