Memo to CNN: The Pope’s Catholic

I’m not sure if anyone missed me, but I’m back on deck after a period of manic busyness and with some advice for CNN anchor and former foreign correspondent supreme Christiane Amanpour, who now has her own show on the network. And, like so many mainstream journalists, she’s been fascinated by the first (almost) nine months of Pope Francis’s pontificate. A few days ago, she was examining a very important and troubling development in Belgium, where politicians are debating whether … Continue reading

Catholic comedy club

The Alfred E. Smith Dinner is one of the biggest Catholic fundraising events held around the world and probably also one of the most controversial. Hosted by the Archbishop of New York and held since 1945, the dinner honours the governor of New York in the early 20th century who would go on to become the first Catholic presidential candidate. The memorial dinner brings together luminaries from the Church, politics, business and all walks of life and this year raised … Continue reading

Vocations “surge” in the UK

When it comes to religious vocations, it’s reasonable to wonder if we will ever see a return to the huge numbers of men and women joining religious orders during previous centuries, including in the middle of the last century — the most recent example of a surge in vocations. In the West, at least, there has been a constant decline in religious vocations for several decades, particularly in the past 30 years or so. Of all places, though, the UK … Continue reading

The Cardinal, the Archbishop and the supermarket

The headline sounds like the start of some sort of joke, but those three elements combined to create a story that we can file away in the “all’s well that ends well” category. Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras was considered one of the possible successors to Pope John Paul II back in 2005, but as we now know, Pope Benedict XVI — Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — had that distinction. He’s still considered an influential member of the College of … Continue reading

Worst typo in history?

As someone who writes a lot, I make more than my share of grammatical and typographical errors, although hopefully I catch most of them in the editing process. As someone who also reads a lot, I’m constantly confronted with errors that journalists have made and subeditors have failed to correct. Bring me the list of the worst publication mistakes, though, and the errors on that list surely would have stiff competition in an absolute clanger from the Vatican themselves. What … Continue reading

Les Not-so Miserables

If you’re a long-time reader of The Soapbox, thanks — first of all. But secondly, you’re probably aware that I’m quite a fan of Les Miserables: the stage show and, less so, the movie that came out last year and I saw three times at the cinema. In addition to really liking the music, Les Mis has some strong religious components that make it a great story of inspiration for those of faith and hopefully gives non-religious viewers an appreciation … Continue reading

Priest “meeting people where they are”

Most organisations and companies are a little more advanced than the Catholic Church when it comes to marketing our brand and sharing our message with those we don’t already know. We’re pretty good at looking after those we’re already in contact with, but our advertising managers — if we had such people — aren’t doing a great job in reaching the masses. Well, we actually do have “advertising managers”. I call them priests — and bishops, cardinals, the Pope, religious … Continue reading

Great wisdom from Francis — the other one

At work each week, we produce an e-newsletter that’s sent around the Catholic Health Australia network and beyond. At the start of last year, a new plan was hatched whereby we’d start each newsletter with some sort of reflection, which usually takes the form of a quote from a great person, living or dead, that can in some way inspire the people who read the newsletter. We often look at feast days just before or just after the day of … Continue reading

Not so fast, Mister

There was understandably a great deal of excitement in Argentina — and South America more broadly — when Pope Francis was elected as the first Latin American pontiff. There were a range of reasons for that to be celebrated, along with many other aspects of his background, and the fact World Youth Day in Brazil would become Francis’s first international trip was fitting, as he returned to his home continent. People in Argentina and around Latin America have been looking … Continue reading

Good news from the seminaries

For years — decades, even — there has been a sense of despair about the shortage of priests and shortage of young men putting their hands up to enter seminaries. I’ve expressed some different views on the priest shortage and the challenges that presents, but there are also opportunities that exist under those circumstances. But let’s park that idea of priest shortages for a moment to digest the news from the US that seminary enrollments are experiencing a big resurgence. … Continue reading