Kenneth L. Woodward

A Christmas Mitzvah

From Wal-Mart to the White House, the fight over how to greet our fellow man this time of year has become a public embarrassment. Like Target, Sears, Lands' End and many higher-end retailers, Wal-Mart settled on "Happy Holidays," the innocuous greeting that covers customers of all religious persuasions and those of none.


The massive and moving funeral of Pope John Paul II has provoked the first major controversy since the cardinals arrived in Rome to choose his successor. Citing the shouts and placards demanding "Santo subito" ("Saint soon"), Archbishop Edward Nowak declared to the Italian media last week that the emotional outpouring was a signal that "the people" recognized the late pope's holiness and wanted him declared a saint--immediately.

Beloved and Brave



Giuseppe Frassinetti (died 1868), a holy priest and founder of a religious order, would be a saint today--like his sister, Paola--except for one thing: he lacks two miracles credited to his intercession.


The waters that rose up from the deep last week, drowning tens of thousands of people across a wide arc of South and Southeast Asia, were a cataclysm of Biblical proportions.

Neutering Santa

Serious Christians have always been ambivalent about how society celebrates Christmas. It's hard to get children to focus on the birth of Christ, and what that means, when the arrival of Santa Claus--and all that that portends in the way of hectic getting and spending--is imminent.


In his light-blue shirt, black slacks and gray leather sandals, Pham Minh Man looks like many other prosperous Vietnamese on a late Sunday afternoon, except for the clerical collar.


Outside of the North Korean government in Pyongyang, no bureaucracy is harder for a journalist to crack than the Vatican's. And no one does it better than John L.

The Scoop On The Pope

Outside of the North Korean government in Pyongyang, no bureaucracy is harder for a journalist to crack than the Vatican's. And no one does it better than John L.

God's Woman Trouble

Pity poor Mary Magdalene. For nearly two millenniums she was loved and honored by Christians as the archetypal reformed sinner. Then, a half-century ago, Biblical scholars recognized that she was a victim of mistaken identity: the "real" Mary of Magdala was not a prostitute.

The Fast Track To Sainthood

John Paul II loves a good party and this week in Rome the party is for him. For the 25th anniversary of his election to the papacy, John Paul has called all 195 cardinals of the church to join in the celebration--including 30 new ones who will receive their red hats.

A Tale Of Four Catholics: Their Lives, Work And S

In the middle of the 20th century, the American Roman Catholic experience found classic literary expression in the lives and work of four gifted writers whom a mutual friend dubbed "the school of the Holy Ghost." Three--Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day and Walker Percy--were converts.

The White House: Gospel On The Potomac

Whenever a president speaks openly of his religious faith, citizens want to know how that faith affects his political priorities. And so we look for clues.

Commentary: The Wound Is Not Healed

Last September Boston College invited me to address the current crisis in the Roman Catholic Church--my church. Four thousand people turned out, not because I was speaker, but because their anger and frustration over the sex-abuse scandal had found no other better outlet.

A Clue To Jesus?

Although Jesus of Nazareth is a universally recognized figure, no one has ever found any evidence for his existence apart from texts. Now, in the form of a 20-inch-long limestone ossuary, a box used by first-century Jews to hold the bones of the dead, Biblical archeologists may have found their holy grail.

A Renovation Of The Rosary

For 500 years, devout Roman Catholics have recited the rosary, a mantra-like series of Our Fathers and Hail Marys designed to stimulate meditation on 15 key events or "mysteries" in the lives of Jesus and his mother.

Opus Dei In The Open

Many of the greatest Roman Catholic saints--Dominic, Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola--were also founders of great religious orders. To this August list Pope John Paul II will add the name of Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, the Spanish founder of Opus Dei.

Religion: Calling For A Historic Council

NEWSWEEK has learned that some Roman Catholic bishops think the sexual-abuse crisis is so severe that they want to convene a plenary council of the American church--something that hasn't happened since 1884.

Why We Need Hell, Too

The most famous sermon in American history was a graphic evocation of the horrors of the damned in hell. As Jonathan Edwards expanded on his subject, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," so many moans and cries rose from his proper New England congregation that the learned theologian had to pause while his listeners recoiled in fear of their fate in the life to come.

A Revolution? Not So Fast.

For a brief moment last week American cardinals and bishops spoke openly of their problems and even aired their differences over the fairest way to handle priests accused of child abuse.

A Meeting Of The Minds

His office said he was in seclusion, spending his time in prayer. But somehow Boston's embattled cardinal, Bernard Law, managed to slip past the American paparazzi stationed outside his mansion, board a plane unnoticed and make it to a haven inside Vatican City.

Catholic Revival

Clandestine closets and hidden passageways are the stuff of legend in English castles and country homes. But the two "priest holes" at Ingatestone Hall, the Petre family's 470-year-old manor house outside London, are special.

Bing Crosby Had It Right

I stare at the lengthening list of priests accused of pedophilia and notice something others might overlook: most of these men are my age. Like me, they grew up in another era, before the so-called sexual revolution, and shared a Roman Catholic boyhood that was in many ways ideal for pubescent youngsters--the age group they are accused of abusing.The parishes we knew back in the '40s and '50s were more than merely places for Sunday worship.

In The Beginning, There Were The Holy Books

The Bible And The Qur'an Both Reveal The Word Of God. Both Speak Of Prophets, Redemption, Heaven And Hell. So Why The Violence? Searching The Sacred Texts For Answers

Religion: How Should We Think About Islam?

The terrorist attacks of September 11 brought out the best and the worst in American religion. Clergy of all collars worked at Ground Zero in New York City, ministering to exhausted firefighters and emergency workers, helping those in the grisly business of identifying body parts and praying at the site's temporary morgue.

A Peaceful Faith, A Fanatic Few

Islam: even the sound of this lovely Arabic word, which means "surrender," conveys the promise of peace, justice and harmony that comes to those who do the will of God.

Platitudes Or Prophecy?

Sociologists tell us that the United States is experiencing a religious revival--a third "great awakening" echoing those of the 18th and 19th centuries. But if the best-seller lists are any guide, the revival looks more like a collective leaving of the senses.