Oppose degradations of person, with truth about personI devote my very rare free moments to a work that is close to my heart and devoted to the metaphysical sense and mystery of the person. It seems to me that the debate today is being played out on that level. The evil of our times consists in the first place in a kind of degradation, indeed in a pulverization, of the fundamental uniqueness of each human person. This evil is even more of the metaphysical order than of the moral order. To this disintegration planned at times by atheistic ideologies we must oppose, rather than sterile polemics, a kind of “recapitulation” of the inviolable mystery of the person.
Letter to Henri de Lubac
May. 2, 2013, at 10:04pm
Since member Quinton mentioned recently on the Member Feed that he's been wondering what personalism would look like in practice, I've been wanting to launch a section profiling people who have done it.
I have in mind people like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jean Vanier; Maria Montessori, and Suzuki—people who have used the insights of Christian personalism in a pioneering way, dramatically influencing culture and society.
I see that the NCR today has a profile on Dorothy Day, called, "Catholic Worker Celebrates 80 Years of Gentle Personalism." The phrase comes from her longtime intellectual and spiritual mentor, Peter Maurin, who spoke of "the gentle personalism of traditional …continue reading
May. 1, 2013, at 3:11am
We are more or less used to the inequality we have to deal with in everyday life: some of us are more intelligent, talented, wealthy, healthy and lucky than others, while others are badly off in all respects. We don’t need to see this as a sign of God’s favor or neglect; lack of health, of opportunities, of money, intelligence and talents can be explained as the consequences of original sin, of “sinful social structures” which John Paul II spoke about, different genetic pools or just as plain bad luck. The wealthy are not particularly good nor are the suffering particularly evil; good and evil cut across all classes and professions. God lets the sun shine on the good and the bad equally …continue reading
Apr. 27, 2013, at 12:41pm
Devra recently linked at facebook an interesting and helpful Patheos article by Fr. Dwight Longenecker on the problem of cults and cultlike behavior among the religious. I was glad to see it: for one, because the difference between healthy relations and dysfunctional ones is a key interest of mine personally (I've addressed it before, including here), and for two, because I think we have an epidemic on our hands, and too few of us are adequately aware of it. There's a reason for our unawareness.
...cult like behavior is often very similar to authentic and Spirit filled Christian communities. A cult will often look like a good, authentic and dynamic Christian community. In fact, the cult …
Apr. 26, 2013, at 3:05pm
Lately I've run into some exceptionally interesting articles on mental health (by John Janaro
and Gregory Popcak).
It occurs to me how closely related to personalism this subject is. In the quest to “become who you are” (not somebody else, and not some lesser version of yourself)—in the struggle to sort through all the bogus and genuine paths to fulfillment and maturity, where exactly do mental illness and its treatment fit in?
Simple! (I used to think) Mental illness is scandalously overdiagnosed! Drugs are shockingly overprescribed! Every squirmy little boy is saddled with an ADHD label, every sleep-deprived new mama is PPD, every moody adolescent bipolar. …
Apr. 22, 2013, at 6:03pm
After posting the other day about Simcha Fisher's article on a disturbing streak of holocaust denial in traditionalist Catholic circles, I was drawn into an email discussion with a fellow FUS grad, who defends the type. It's been eye-opening. I begin to worry that it's more than a streak.
I am under no illusions that my arguments will break through to this group. Some forms of traditionalism have all the earmarks of a cult. Reasoning doesn't avail against it, which was partly Simcha's point. But I'll publish some of the exchange here, in the hope of helping inoculate others against the oh-so-plausible arguments justifying holocaust denial.
I'll offset his comments (which I quote only …continue reading
Apr. 20, 2013, at 10:31am
He addresses the nature of evil in a timely column.
In the days ahead we need to pray for the dead and wounded in Boston, and their families. And then, with the help of God, we need to begin to change ourselves. That kind of conversion might seem like a small thing, an easy thing - until we try it. Then we understand why history turns on the witness of individual lives.
Apr. 18, 2013, at 9:30pm
To say that fiscal policy is not my forte is—let’s put it nicely— an understatement. (In fact, I chose this graph because it was so pretty.) But there is an important personalist point to be made about it anyway, and maybe I can express it in a way that other liberal-arts types can understand.
Many labor under a perceived conflict between taking seriously the Church’s concern for the poor, on the one hand, and treasuring the rights of the individual, including the taxpayer and entrepreneur, on the other. The “social justice Catholics” object to neglecting the poor in the name of the economic freedoms of people who could help them. Small-government advocates object to a state that …continue reading
Apr. 18, 2013, at 8:31am
A friend links an exceptionally thoughtful blog post on the question of organ donation. She touches the problem of medical personel, acutely aware of the urgent need for organs, putting undue pressure on the grieving families, who may have religious or moral objections.
Clinicians and medical staff know so very little, if anything, about these families and about how they feel about their dead. They only know how they present at a given period of time and what the medical records say. Sometimes, in our haste, practitioners/clinicians see families as hurdles; persons to sidestep or go around. We can subconsciously depersonalize them, characterizing them as obstacles to the lung, liver, …
Apr. 14, 2013, at 10:36am
I’ve just spent a solid week in an Ann Arbor basement in the company of Pope Francis. Well, not in person, but I got a surprise opportunity to do one layer of editing of a collection of his homilies, letters, and addresses. (This explains why you haven’t heard from me in a while.) The book will be available from Scepter…well, I’ll let you know as soon as I have a date. But it was a worthwhile way to spend a week, and I thank my longsuffering children
for making it possible. (Actually the three pictured here, as you can imagine, were mostly useful in keeping the older ones productively occupied.)
As I got to know Pope Francis, I kept remembering that interview with Cardinal Dolan, …continue reading
Apr. 14, 2013, at 8:54am
I'm reading this morning an excellent article by Robert George about the late abortionist-turned pro-life activist, Bernard Nathanson. All of it is more than worth reading, but this point wants high-lighting.
Bernie and I became friends in the early 1990s, shortly after my own pro-life writings came to his attention. Once during the question-and-answer session following a speech he gave at Princeton, I asked him: “When you were promoting abortion, you were willing to lie in what you regarded as a good cause. Now that you have been converted to the cause of life, would you be willing to lie to save babies? How do those who hear your speeches and read your books and articles know that you …
Apr. 12, 2013, at 10:41am
I love Simcha Fisher for this post, titled, "A Little Divisiveness, Please."
Her point is not unrelated to the problem of "unprincipled forgiveness." Like those whose call for "unconditional mercy," calls for "unity" and reproaches against "divisiveness" all too often expose an essential unseriousness about truth and right. They are, in practical effect, ways of saying "peace, peace" when there is no peace.
As Simcha puts it, "Some things are worth dividing yourself from." Among them are lies and illusions and cover-ups and conspiracies. Also vanities and immorality and wrong-speaking and wrong-doing of every kind. All of these things are objectively disunifying.
There is only one …continue reading
Apr. 7, 2013, at 10:18am
I am thinking of my cousin, Fr. Bob Oliver, who was appointed Promoter of Justice by Pope Benedict a few weeks before his resignation. He is now, in effect, the Church's top prosecutor in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the office responsible for adjudicating the sex abuse scandals, among other things.
According to Zenit, the Pope met last week with Archbishop Müller, head of the CDF, and urged him to act decisively.
"In particular," the statement added, "the Holy Father recommended that the Congregation, continuing along the lines set by Benedict XVI, act decisively with regard to cases of sexual abuse, first of all by promoting measures for the protection of minors, …
Apr. 2, 2013, at 8:30pm
We all saw it coming.
On learning that Pope Francis rode the subway and cooked his own meals, we were charmed. When he preferred to skip cuff links and stoles,
we were still delighted—or most of us were. When he stopped by his hotel to pay his bill, called up the local kiosk owner to cancel his paper, and held a mass for garbage collectors, everybody cheered.
Some have already been put off by one gesture or another, and more will surely follow suit as this (very wholesome) Papaphoria diminishes.
When it came out, for example, that he had asked his countrymen
to stay home from his installation and give the money to the poor, not the airlines, that sounded noble. Even his immediate …continue reading
Mar. 27, 2013, at 9:34am
My introduction to philosophy came through a Nature of Love course featuring texts by von Hildebrand and Wojtyla. The insights I gained in it changed everything for me. Lacking the leisure to write a more substantive article, I at least want to share a few of them, as a way of offering some relief from the moral darkness and confusion presently overwhelming our society.
1) Conjugal love is a unique form of love, a form perfectly embodied in the life-giving conjugal act.
2) Conjugal love is not reducible to a commitment of the will; it's not reducible to "feelings"; it's not reducible to the sexual urge; it's not to be confused with "friendship plus sex." It is not the same as eros. It …continue reading
Mar. 22, 2013, at 9:37pm
Papa Francis has cured me—let’s hope it sticks!—of being a political junkie.
The contrast between his heartfelt, fearless convictions and the politicians’ transparent, crowd-pleasing triangulations is just too stark. The triangulators hardly seem worth poking fun at anymore. And belaboring the contrast between his subway rides and their luxury junkets just seems like overkill. The facts speak for themselves.
(Besides, I have an awful suspicion that the point of all this humility is not so much that we should despise the fat cats and fast talkers but that we should try to become what we’re meant to be. As Kierkegaard has pointed out, a little admiration is a dangerous thing. It’s …continue reading
Mar. 22, 2013, at 8:47am
Today I'm ruminating on a fascinating psychological profile of atheists linked by a facebook friend.
I'm thinking about
1) the importance of relationships, especially in families, and the problem of alienation: the shut heart
2) the importance of gender difference, and the particular gift women are supposed to be for men
3) the problem of exaggerated value placed on intelligence, and the under appreciation of the role of the emotions in human life
I'm thinking about all this in relation to Jules' Person class tonight. His subject is the heart and the emotions. We've both been thinking and talking a lot about this passage from Pope Francis' inaugural homily on the Feast of St. Joseph:
Mar. 21, 2013, at 10:04am
Some days it feels as if the best we can manage is not to be overwhelmed by the darkness gathering over our society.
I've been debating a nice bi-sexual guy who favors civil unions for gays, because he thinks they offer a way out of the nihilistic hedonism otherwise prevailing in the homosexual subculture. He thinks legal recognition of their relationships will help them by channeling their sexuality toward monogamy. He is plainly sincere. But to me it is delusional to suppose we can keep the norm of monogamy once the norm of sexual complementarity is abandoned.
Someday I mean to write an article showing that, in its essence and structure, the conjugal union (ordered as it is toward …continue reading
Mar. 18, 2013, at 10:19am
Rabbi Schmuley has an outstanding article at the Huffington Post about the terrible case of the two Steubenville high school football stars convicted yesterday of raping a 16 year old girl at a alcohol-feuled party last year. He discusses it in terms of the perverse values infecting our society, above all
...the attitude of teenage men toward girls. Immanuel Kant wrote that the definition of immorality is treating a fellow human being as a means rather than an end. The abomination of American slavery was that a white child was taught to see a black child as a walking bale of cotton. Slavery trained a white man to see a black woman as lacking the same spark of the divine that lent him his …
Mar. 17, 2013, at 5:09pm
An honest, thoughtful column by Ross Douthat in the NYT today. The task in front of the Church at the moment is to restore her own moral authority.
If Catholicism has a future in the Western world as something more than a foil, an Other and a symbol of the Benighted Past We Have Safely Left Behind, it needs its leaders to set an example that proves these voices wrong. Before anything else, that requires a generation of priests and bishops who hold themselves to a higher standard — higher than their immediate predecessors, and higher than the world.
It also requires more from the new pope than an evocative name and a humble posture. Catholicism needs someone like Pius V, the 16th-century …
Mar. 14, 2013, at 4:04pm
He’s a conservative, but a Jesuit who has compassion on single mothers, and kisses the feet of AIDS patients.
No, wait, he’s a liberal, but he says the idea of “gay marriage” is “a machination of the Father of Lies” and outspokenly defends the right to life even of babies conceived in rape.
Well, but he’s a conservative—but the son of an immigrant railway worker who eschews the episcopal palace for a small apartment, rides the bus,
and cooks his own meals.
Or maybe he’s a liberal—but he puts a premium on doctrinal orthodoxy. And a 76-year-old man with a single lung who radiates peace and strength.
Oh, never mind.
We all understand that the labels “conservative” and …continue reading