I learned a long time ago that it’s very difficult, if not often impossible, to figure out how readers will respond to a particular essay, article, review, or interview. When I pestered my friend Sandra Miesel (we co-authored The Da Vinci Hoax) to consider writing something for CWR after she had spent some time away from writing, I never imagined that her article on Freemasons would be—far and away—the most read CWR article of the year. Go figure.
Not surprisingly, many of the articles below address controversies or “hot button” topics—criticisms of Pope Francis, conflicts over liturgy, aspects of Marian apparitions, the “Civiltà Cattolica” article co-authored by Fr. Spadaro, exorcisms, Fr. James Martin’s book on “building bridges”—or have to do with personalities such as Jim Caviezel, Ronald Reagan, St. John Paul II, Padre Pio, and Charles de Gaulle. Most surprising, this year, was the nearly viral nature of Bishop Robert Barron’s review of the film Lady Bird. Bishop Barron writes many reviews, and they are widely read, but this one made it to #6, despite being posted late in the year. Again, go figure.
Here are Catholic World Report‘s 20 most popular articles of 2017:
1) Freemasons and their craft: What Catholics should know by Sandra Miesel (Feb 7) . To see why the Catholic Church has strongly and repeatedly condemned membership in Freemasonry or any of its allied movements requires a glance at Masonic teachings and history.
2) Fr. Thomas G. Weinandy explains his critical letter to Pope Francis by Carl E. Olson (Nov 1). “First,” says the noted Capuchin priest and theologian, “I decided to write Pope Francis a letter, which I intended then to publish unless he adequately addressed the issues I raised.”
3) Cardinal Sarah’s address on the 10th Anniversary of “Summorum Pontificum” (Mar 31). The exclusive English translation of the message sent by the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to the Colloquium “The Source of the Future”.
4) Bishop Paprocki responds to controversy, criticisms over decree on same-sex “marriage” by Jim Graves (Jun 28). “Speaking objectively,” says the bishop of Springfield, Illinois, “… all those who have sexual relations outside of valid marriage, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual, should not receive Holy Communion unless they repent, go to confession and amend their lives. This includes the divorced and remarried without an annulment, as is well known from all the recent media attention on that issue.”
5) Jim Caviezel on being Catholic in Hollywood, St. John Paul II, Mel Gibson, and adopting children by Catholic News Agency (May 1). “For me, the Catholic Mass is the source of constant empowerment. That’s where I can meet Jesus. And it’s not simply about having the symbolic wafer. It’s about an actual transformation.”
6) “Lady Bird” and the Breakthrough of Grace by Bishop Robert Barron (Dec 12). Running underneath Greta Gerwig’s complex story of love and conflict is religion, more precisely, Catholicism.
7) The 400-year-old Marian apparition that is particularly relevant today by Jim Graves (Jun 7). The little-known apparition of Our Lady of Good Success includes some dire prophecies—but its fundamental message is one of hope, says apologist Matthew Arnold.
8) The Untold Story of John Paul II and Ronald Reagan: “Mary is central” by Carl E. Olson (May 7). An interview with Dr. Paul Kengor about A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century.
9) On that strange, disturbing, and anti-American “Civiltà Cattolica” article by Dr. Samuel Gregg (Jul 14). It’s curious that whoever signed off on this article (assuming it was properly vetted) at the Secretariat of State didn’t pick up on the authors’ conflation of tangentially related matters, or raise questions about the article’s emotivist tone, or alert Father Spadaro and Rev. Figueroa to their distinctly amateur grasp of American religious history and the finer points of American politics.
10) Fifty Shades of Darker Double Standards by Teresa Tomeo (Feb 10). Surely the same women who were able to bring a half a million of their sisters and supporters together so quickly must be planning another major show of defiance against the latest example of female abuse and misogyny?
11) London exorcist: “All of society is subject to a demonic deception” by K. V. Turley (Oct 31). Combating the devil isn’t a practice reserved for exceptional cases, says exorcist Father Jeremy Davies. It’s an on-going struggle in which every soul is engaged.
12) A Father’s Love: The Story of Charles and Anne by Dr. Samuel Gregg (Apr 26, 2017). In World War II, Charles de Gaulle saved France’s honor from the shame of defeat. Few know, however, how much strength he drew from his Down Syndrome daughter.
13) Fr. James Martin’s weak and wobbly bridge by Janet E. Smith (Jul 13). Fr. Martin is correct: a bridge must be built between the Catholic Church and those struggling with same-sex and trans-gender issues. But it cannot be built of tissue paper of “suggestions” based on rhetorical questions and sophistry.
14) The Third Secret of Fatima and the “Hermeneutic of Conspiracy” by Matthew Cullinan Hoffman. “I am convinced that we are entering into a new phase of Fatima’s history,” says the author of a new book on the controversial Third Secret of Fatima.
15) Fr. James Martin, “bridges”, and the triumph of the therapeutic mentality by Eduardo Echeverria (Jun 16). One would think that in a book about human sexuality, an author writing from a Catholic perspective would identify the specific sexual struggles of the moral life in Christ as the sixth commandment bears upon them, and the corresponding sexual sins against chastity. But no, they receive no attention; they do not figure in this book at all.
16) Why does Fr. Martin persist in embarrassing, sleight-of-substance tactics? by Carl E. Olson (Nov 3, 2017). The well-known Jesuit priest and author insists that Fr. Thomas G. Weinandy is a “dissenter”. That would be funny if it weren’t so stupid.
17) A close friend remembers Servant of God Cora Evans by Jim Graves (Jul 27). Former child star Darryl Hickman considered Evans his “spiritual mother.”
18) The doomed (and destructive) feminism of Emma Watson by Elizabeth Anderson (May 8). These mainstream celebrity feminists do not stand for women. On the contrary, they attack the very nature of womanhood.
19) Padre Pio and the Miracle Man of Belfast by K. V. Turley (May 22). On the day that Brendan Rogers received an unusual gift of a first-class relic he also received the Cross, because it was on that day, news came to him that his daughter had been killed in a car accident.
20) An Evangelical theologian responds to Fr. James Martin, S.J. by Robert A. J. Gagnon (Aug 31). A consideration of Fr. Martin’s “seven ways” of responding to the Nashville Statement underscore the truncated gospel (or even anti-gospel) with which Martin operates.