Russell Shaw

January 05, 2015
Real Life Heroes: Unknown and Unrecognized
By Russell Shaw

Let’s face it, 2014 was a rotten year for heroes and hero worship. Sure, it brought plucky, admirable people who did praiseworthy things. But all too often their good deeds were upstaged by the misdeeds of individuals in many walks of life—entertainers, politicians, sports figures, even clergy—jostling one another in their rush to trip over their feet of clay and drag their reputations in the dust.

Of course this wasn’t new. “Say it ain’t so, Joe,” was the famous lament of a...

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December 12, 2014
The Culture War
By Russell Shaw

For months after the Supreme Court abruptly legalized abortion in its Roe v. Wade decision of January 1973, people who welcomed the result repeatedly declared that the struggle over abortion had now come to a close. The Supreme Court had spoken, the matter was settled, and prolifers could pack up and go home.

Some of the people saying that probably believed it, and for others it was wishful thinking. But in still other cases a different motive appeared to be at work. Declaring the fight...

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November 28, 2014
Dietrich von Hildebrand vs. Hilter and the Nazis
By Russell Shaw

To many Germans in the early 1930s, Adolf Hitler looked like just what Germany needed. Here, they imagined, was a charismatic leader capable of restoring social stability, economic prosperity, and national honor to their battered country. Relatively few saw Hitler for what he was—a megalomaniac demagogue driven by racial fantasies that included hatred for Jews and contempt for Christianity.

Dietrich von Hildebrand was one of those few. He discerned the terrifying truth about Hitler and the...

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November 13, 2014
The crisis the synod ought to have talked about
By Russell Shaw

During the 10:30 Mass in my parish a couple of Sundays ago 32 boys and girls stood in front of the altar, faced the congregation, and formally affirmed their desire to be confirmed. It was part of the preparation for administering the sacrament next spring, and for many of us in that church it was a moving moment.

But the occasion was darkened for me by something I’d read just a few days earlier. If those 32 young people conform to the national averages, fewer than half of them will...

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November 03, 2014
Our new Mideast war
By Russell Shaw

The headline on a recent Washington Post Op-Ed about the rise of the Islamic State proclaimed “The Return of Evil.” Although one was tempted to reply that evil never went away, the headline writer had a point—the post-Cold War 1990s in the United States were indeed marked by naïve optimism that the era of conflict had ended and the world could now look forward to universal peace, prosperity, and democratic governance: the end of history, in other words.

As we now see all too...

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October 20, 2014
The Francis Effect and the Chicago Appointment
By Russell Shaw

At the American bishops’ fall general meeting last year reporters pressed hard to find signs of the Francis effect. But when the bishops gather next month in Baltimore, the press corps can relax. All they need do now to observe the Pope’s impact on the American hierarchy is take a look at the newly named Archbishop of Chicago, Blase Cupich.

The surprise appointment of Archbishop Cupich, 65, to succeed Cardinal Francis George as head of the nation’s third largest diocese, the...

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September 08, 2014
Don Alvaro
By Russell Shaw

As Pope John Paul II was leaving Opus Dei headquarters in Rome after paying his respects at the wake of Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, someone thanked him for coming. The Pope, a future saint, replied, “Si doveva. Si doveva”—I had to.

It was common knowledge that John Paul didn’t usually take time out for events like this. So why “I had to” in the case of Bishop del Portillo, the Prelate of Opus Dei? 

Friendship was one—the two men went back a long way—but also the fact that...

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August 21, 2014
The Caregiver
By Russell Shaw

The 36-Hour Day (Grand Central Life & Style) is a handbook familiar to many caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. That seemingly mysterious title is no mystery to the caregivers. They know from plenty of experience that they would need not just the regular 24 hours but a solid day and a half to touch all the bases they’re called on to touch during a typical day.

If this makes caregiving sound like difficult work, that’s because it is. Yet many...

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August 11, 2014
The Common Core controversy
By Russell Shaw

Longer ago than I care to remember, I spent three years working for a Washington-based national education organization. I liked the people, enjoyed my job, and had the pleasant feeling that I was contributing to a worthwhile cause.

I also learned a couple of things. One was that professional educators love innovation, or at least the idea. Another was that there’s a vast education machine—not only schools and teachers but administrative bureaucracies, groups like the one I worked...

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July 24, 2014
Was Vatican II needed?
By Russell Shaw

Why did we need the Second Vatican Council? Did we need it at all? Hearing those questions, most Catholics who’ve thought about Vatican II would probably cite renewing and updating of the Church as solid reasons for the ecumenical council.

That answer isn’t wrong. But a half-century after Vatican II (it took place between 1962 and 1965) it’s clear that a much larger purpose was at work, with Church renewal and updating its handmaids.

You start to see that when you consider a...

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