Man and social institutionsEvery sort of moral, every sort of civil, every sort of politic[al] institution, aiding the rational and natural ties that connect the human understanding and affections to the divine, are…necessary, in order to build up that wonderful structure, Man.
Reflections on the revolution in France
Feb. 3, 2013, at 1:58pm
Having learned from Josef Pieper that the heart of true leisure lies in a joyful and effortless affirmation of reality, I paused, the other day, when I read Glenn Tinder's description of it as "an opportunity for the cultivation of personal excellence." Doesn't that formulation turn leisure into a mere self-help tool, something we pursue for the sake of self-improvement? And isn't that almost the exact opposite of what Pieper means by it? Just take this passage from Leisure, the Basis of Culture:
Above all, one cannot simply "make" it happen for some ulterior purpose. There are certain things which one cannot do "in order to…" do something else. One either does not do them at all or one …
Feb. 2, 2013, at 11:56am
The recent “Catholic Witness in a Nation Divided” conference began with Ave Maria Radio’s Al Kresta urging us laypeople to dig in and relish our vocation to “intentional discipleship.” It also included William B. May’s refreshing, child-centric approach to the marriage wars. And it took up immigration. Which brings us (one day late) to…
One of These Things is Not Like the Others?
I was initially startled to see immigration included in a conference whose other themes were marriage, life, and religious freedom. It’s a hot-button political topic—but what does it have to do with Catholic witness? It’s not about life, or family, or …continue reading
Jan. 26, 2013, at 12:56pm
Inevitably, at some point during my Ethics courses, a student will raise the question, "So, who decides what is right and what is wrong?" Having grown up in the modern world, they're all-too aware that there are many different and opposing views about every ethical issue under sun. They also know that philosophers throughout history have disagreed. So when they hear me defend the objectivity of moral truth, they naturally wonder "Whose truth? Who gets to decide what is objectively true?"
A first answer
My first answer to this question is generally to point out that it is badly formulated. It is a loaded question, because it assumes the point at issue. It takes for granted that moral norms …continue reading
Jan. 25, 2013, at 3:19pm
In fact, I got so effusive about Al Kresta’s leitmotif:--the need for laypeople to wake up to our own irreplaceable mission—that I got no further than his own remarks. He’s right: the “intentional discipleship” to which we’re called is a far richer and more adventurous thing than a call to cavail—even justifiably—at the politicians, bishops, and other leaders who helped get our country into this mess. Passivity, whether resigned
is nobody’s personal vocation.
Today, though, I want to address a couple of William B. May’s most eye-catchingly …continue reading
Jan. 24, 2013, at 5:32pm
Don't miss Jennifer Fulwiler's account of how she went from being vehemently "pro-choice" to passionately pro-life.
It's great for helping "cradle pro-lifers" like me realize how nice, decent people can support abortion out of sincere concern for women.
Jan. 23, 2013, at 10:16am
A lively—not to say heated—facebook exchange yesterday got me reflecting on the problem of moralizing. What is it, and what's wrong with it, exactly?
Speaking as "a recovering moralizer," and without trying to be comprehensive about it, I'll say that it generally involves two things:
The moralizer in one way or another sets himself up as teacher and superior. He presumes to instruct others he has no business instructing.
So, I am not moralizing if I give my children moral instruction. They are my children. Instructing them belongs to the parental job descrption. If I try it with a neighbor, though, I can expect a retort, "Who made you Pope?"
The …continue reading
Jan. 22, 2013, at 1:51pm
I've referred several times to the master/slave dynamic that has menaced human relations since the fall. (Being a deep and fundamental truth, it bears repeating.) Persons were designed to live lives of mutual love and service, on a footing of equality with one another. But with the fall came the twin tendencies of domination and slavishness, both of which have to be constantly resisted in ourselves and others.
Those who are stronger, who are inclined to be domineering, must learn to check their power, for love. Those who are weaker and inclined to be dominated must learn to assert themselves, also for love. We have to assert ourselves over and against those who are trying to dominate us. …continue reading
Jan. 18, 2013, at 7:46pm
This afternoon Jules pointed out these lines from Martha Nussbaum's book, The Therapy of Desire.
Philosophy heals human diseases, diseases produced by false beliefs. Its arguments are to the soul as the doctor's remedies are to the body. They can heal, and they are to be evaluated in terms of their power to heal.
It rings true to me, at least to a point. Philosophy can't save us from sin and death. No matter how true it is, no philosophy can win us eternal life. But errors in our thinking do more than just darken and constrict the mind, they burden the soul. Good philosophy doesn't merely sharpen the intelligence, it relieves the soul of distress.
To give an example from my own …continue reading
Jan. 16, 2013, at 3:36pm
Simcha Fischer linked at facebook today a beautiful post by Elizabeth Esther. That led me to her blog, which induced me to read older posts of hers. I'm finding them pretty great. Take this one, on what not to say to people who have suffered spiritual abuse. It touches on our ongoing discussion of "unprincipled forgiveness."
She is speaking from the experience of having been raised in a fundamentalist Christian cult. The abuse she experienced wasn't physical or sexual. It consisted essentially, it seems, in a denial of her selfhood.
This passage is taken from another post of hers: How to talk to someone living in a cult. [Emphasis in the original]
Here's the thing: it has to get …
Jan. 16, 2013, at 10:32am
There were some interesting conversations among members at Ricochet this week. One atheist libertarian started a long thread by asking where God's authority comes from. Then an agnostic, frustrated by the direction of that discussion, asked a different question—a more interesting and personalistic one: Why can't I find God?
These two taken together (and having Jules' course on Newman still fresh in my memory) have made me reflect again on the role of subjectivity in faith.
Many unbelievers, I find, pique themselves on being especially rational—on having "high epistemic standards." They would believe in God, they like to claim, if only there were sufficient evidence of his existence.
I …continue reading
Jan. 14, 2013, at 2:58pm
[Laypeople] should not be regarded as “collaborators” of the clergy, but, rather, as people who are really “co-responsible” for the Church’s being and acting. It is therefore important that a mature and committed laity be consolidated, which can make its own specific contribution to the ecclesial mission...
Pope Benedict spoke these words last August--but any Pope speaks so very many words that some of them invariably get lost in the shuffle. Happily, Al Kresta recalled this passage to us at a recent conference called “Catholic Witness in a Nation Divided.”
I have seldom heard so many meaty, substantial, satisfying talks in one place, or been part of a more deeply engaged audience. …continue reading
Jan. 13, 2013, at 10:13am
Friday we hosted the first of Jules' 8 classes on the Philosophy of the Person. It was a lovely evening. Local students ranged in age from 20-something to 70-something, and included a doctor, a homemaker, an accountant, a seminarian, a piano teacher, a retired economist, a college student... Just the sort of mix we envisioned when we founded the Personalist Project. Not professional academics, but normal, thoughtful people, who want to deepen and clarify their understanding of the nature and dignity of the human person.
Some of them have taken classes with us before, others were new.
Distance students are listening in from four continents. :)
Anyway, for those who might be on the fence …continue reading
Jan. 11, 2013, at 3:44pm
Archbishop Caput concludes an address to campus ministers (hat tip Scott Johnston, on facebook) about the need of the hour with a very personalist exhortation. The kind of truth the world needs, he said, is the kind that is communicated in and through love.
We Catholics – you, me, all of us — need to be and to make a fire on the earth that consumes human hearts with God’s love. We can’t “teach” that. It doesn’t come from books or programs. We need to embody it, witness it, live it.
I’ve come back again and again in recent weeks to those last words of Thomas More to his daughter Meg: “You alone have long known the secrets of my heart.” That kind of intimate knowledge comes only from …
Jan. 10, 2013, at 1:16am
Now that various courts are beginning to weigh in on the HHS Mandate, it’s worth re-examining what the commotion is all about. Over at Bad Catholic, one article lays out convincingly why religious liberty is worth making a fuss over.
Here's another aspect: the reductionism of abandoning constitutional terminology and quietly replacing “freedom of religion” with “freedom of worship” as Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton, and some others have been doing for years now.
Maybe they thought no one would notice. Maybe they believed the core of a Catholic’s faith is a fondness for quaint liturgical customs and a sentimental sense of belonging.
Still, in his community-organizer days,and throughout …continue reading
Jan. 9, 2013, at 6:55pm
In her recent First Things article, What Are Children For?, Paige Hochschild criticizes Dietrich von Hildebrand for thinking of procreation as a merely extrinsic purpose of marriage, as something which is in no way constitutive of its essence. She quotes him as saying that marriage is a "closed union" in which "each of the two parties is turned exclusively upon the other." As a result, she goes on, von Hildebrand can't possibly do justice to the political and communitarian dimensions of marriage. He "excludes from marriage's integral ordering, both in end and in meaning, the raising of children for the society of the city of God."
All of this seriously mis-represents von Hildebrand's real …continue reading
Jan. 6, 2013, at 2:02pm
I came across this week (I can't remember where) someone making a point in passing—as if it were a matter of plain fact—that "passive aggression" is basically the same thing as "non-violent resistance."
It took me aback. I see these two things as radically opposed, with "passive aggression" being vicious, while non-violent resistance is virtuous.
I have the same experience when I hear people speaking as if lust is a synonym for conjugal desire. Conjugal desire and lust are both about sex, but that's where the similarity ends. Morally speaking, they are opposites. Conjugal love is a self-giving desire for union with another person; lust is a self-centered urge to use another. Conjugal love …continue reading
Jan. 2, 2013, at 5:03pm
“Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?”
What’s a personalist to make of this question?
It’s a familiar one to evangelicals—so familiar that you can easily gloss over what exactly it might mean. It’s also a question to which, since becoming a Catholic, I’ve learned a couple of preliminary comebacks:
First, of course, nowhere in the Bible does Christ say “Go out to all the nations and instruct them to accept me as their personal Savior.” It’s a relatively recent phrase, and its centrality to salvation—especially the way it displaces baptism—
is a modern invention.
Secondly, yes: the personal assent of the will, the free receptivity to the proffered gift, is …continue reading
Jan. 1, 2013, at 3:17pm
Pope Benedict's New Year's message is, as so much of what he writes and says, eminently personalistic. Lamenting the way bad news and evil acts "make more noise" than love and truth and sacrifice, he calls on us to deepen our interior lives.
“We can’t just stop at the news if we want to understand the world and life, we have to be capable of standing in silence, in meditation, in calm and prolonged reflection, we have to know how to stop and think,” he said.
One of the mottoes of the Personalist Project is "bringing philosophy to life." We mean to capture two things with the phrase: that the focus of our interest is the mystery of life, and that we want to help bring the habit of …continue reading
Dec. 22, 2012, at 7:40pm
I really love good movies, and I hate bad ones. This, of course, creates a bit of a practical dilemma, since you can't really be sure ahead of time whether a movie will be good or bad.
Not long ago our family sat down sort of hopefully to Brave. After all, it was Pixar, and it had gotten pretty good reviews. Afterwards, we were appalled, including the nine year old—annoyed that we'd wasted an evening of family time; bitterly disappointed that Pixar could produce such inane, PC drivel; depressed about the state of our culture...
It's the sort of experience that puts you on guard. You think, "That's it. I am never watching a movie again unless the reviews from someone I trust are rock …continue reading
Dec. 22, 2012, at 9:11am
What is it about our understanding of matrimony that makes the arguments for "marriage equality" seem so plausible to so many?
If we, as a society, still believed marriage was essentially about lifelong fidelity and children, and somebody proposed that a same-sex relationship be regarded as one sort of marriage, it would seem implausible, even unthinkable. After all, such unions are inevitably infertile and notoriously impermanent and non-exclusive.
But we've already downgraded "traditional" marriage to a (usually) long-term relationship between two people who “have feelings for each other.”
Children are an optional accessory which may be acquired the old-fashioned way or by any number …continue reading