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Compassion in medicine

Compassion has a moral quality; it is not just a fine bedside manner or a capacity to have a physiological empathy with the patient... Every human experience is unique, especially the experience of illness. No one can fully experience another person's experience of illness. Nevertheless, if we are to arrive at a medical decision that fits as closely as possible a patient's experience, we must penetrate that unique experience to some degree. That's what compassion means. To feel something of what it is to be ill: not in general, not in society, not in one's family, but in this person here and now. Compassion becomes a moral requirement because a truly healing action requires some comprehension of what this illness means to this person. Objectivity required by medical science is a stepping back, which is absolutely necessary for the technical decision. But with compassion we step back into the patients experience in order to make a good, morally defensible decision.

Edmund D. Pellegrino

Toward a Reconstruction of Medical Morality

Katie van Schaijik

Turning the tables

Jul. 23, 2012, at 1:22pm

Mike Healy jumped back into the discussion of "unprincipled forgiveness" because, as he put it (in comment #67 under Janet Smith's post) "I must at least defend myself from the charge (now repeated) of attributing horrible attitudes to [Katie]."

Suppose I were to say in reply: "You should model yourself on the example of Jesus, who didn't defend himself against much worse false charges made against him."

Wouldn't he want to say—wouldn't he be right to say—"Mind your own beewax. There is nothing wrong with a person defending himself against false charges!  Kindly answer my point."

If I were like the practioners of "unprincipled forgiveness," I would say in answer:  "Humanly speaking,

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Janet Smith

More on Unprincipled Forgiveness

Jul. 22, 2012, at 10:14pm

Katie van Shaijik understands us to have very different positions on the relationship between forgiveness and justice.  I am still not clear what the nature of those differences are (and hope the discussion below will smoke those out). 

Proper Focus

Katie also thinks that I have shifted the focus from what she wanted to focus on.  I think it fair to say that what she wants to focus on is the incompatibility of “unprincipled forgiveness” with Christianity.  She says I have shifted the conversation to “the subjectivity of the offended party and the need for her to forgive, or "stay in friendly relations", etc.”  Katie, of course, is not saying that such is not an important topic but for her

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Katie van Schaijik

Six minutes on the greatness of Plato

Jul. 20, 2012, at 4:57pm

The other evening Jules and I found ourselves with some unexpected free time. We asked Alice von Hildebrand if she could tell us about her beloved Plato, so we could record it for members. We gave her 20 minutes to prepare. Making his view of education her theme, she was on such a great roll that I ran for my cell phone to capture at least a few minutes on video. The audio of the rest of part 1 is available to members. Part 2 coming someday soon!

The blue volume beside her is a book of Péguy's poetry.  She's also re-reading Newman's Oxford University Sermons.


Janet Smith

Guilty of Unprincipled Forgiveness or Model Christian?

Jul. 18, 2012, at 7:30am

I think this CNA story offers an opportunity to think about how to apply the principles Katie is articulating.

Arturo Martinez-Sanchez says he had no choice but to forgive the man suspected of sexually assaulting and killing his wife and young daughter in an April 2012 attack that also left him seriously wounded.

“I have to forgive him, to go the way of life,” the Las Vegas resident told CNA in a July 17 interview. “It's in the Bible … I forgive him because I believe in God.”

“The Bible says: You forgive this gentleman, and you are forgiven yourself. That's the way it is,” said Martinez-Sanchez, a lifelong Catholic who said his upbringing and education in the Church impressed on him the

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Katie van Schaijik

Justice and truth

Jul. 17, 2012, at 2:52pm

The discussion of the problem of "unprincipled forgiveness" being on my mind, everything I read seems to refer back to it, and highlight new aspects of it. Yesterday's Mass readings are an example.

In the First Reading, from Isaiah: "Make justice your aim."

And from the Gospel according to St. Matthew, a passage that member Joan referenced the other day, in response to my post on forgiveness and dysfunction:

Jesus said to his Apostles: "Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth.  I have come to bring not peace but the sword.  For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother...

It reminds me of another passage, from Jeremiah:

They dress the

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Devra Torres

Dr. Seuss: Personalist or Radical Individualist?

Jul. 15, 2012, at 1:06am

When I was very, very little, my beloved grandparents, Nana and Uncle Lenny (his real name was Louis, and he did eventually resign himself to being “old enough to be a grandpa”) gave me and my sister Abby a delightful present, which I am about to criticize.

Now, to say I have nothing against Dr. Seuss would be an understatement.  He was so central a part of the family Weltanschauung that when my sister Sarah’s teacher once instructed her to design a family crest, he was included.  (So were Groucho Marx and a bagel, but my other sister, Simcha Fisher, tells it better here.) 

We loved My Book About Me, which was designed as a kind of treasury of memories by, for, and about the child.  We

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Jules van Schaijik

Persons, Friendship & Technology

Jul. 14, 2012, at 2:29pm

Between intensive training for a bike challenge, traveling to and from France, and transitioning to New Hampshire, I'm afraid last month's Reading Circle fell by the wayside. 

Yesterday I belatedly posted the recording of my introduction to the two articles on the theme of "Persons, Friendship & Technology." 

One thought, central to both pieces, is that unlike real friendships, virtual friendships are risk-free. They enable us to connect with others while hiding ourselves and keeping others at a safe, managable distance. We are not exposed and

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Katie van Schaijik

von Hildebrand, St. Francis and St. Benedict

Jul. 14, 2012, at 10:38am

The other day, in response to my post on St. Benedict and phenomenology, member Kevin asked whether what he had heard was true: viz, that von Hildebrand had been a third order Franciscan.  I thought it wasn't true, but just to be sure, I asked his widow.  She said Kevin was right.  Listen to her elaborate in her own words and voice.

NB: "Gogo" or "Gogi" was von Hildebrand's nickname from childhood.  It's what all his friends called him.


Katie van Schaijik

Gaps between theory and practice

Jul. 12, 2012, at 10:47am

According to my habit of mind, the discussion about unprincipled forgiveness has given rise to several spin-off trails of thought.  I have been busy mentally composing several further posts on the theme, or related themes.

One has to do with the often unrecognized gap between what we profess with our minds and how we live in practice.  

The fact that we see an error on the theoretical level is no proof that we're not guilty of it in fact, though we often imagine it is. 

So, for instance, I know men who grant that women are equal in dignity, but behave or speak in a way that plainly reveals chauvanistic tendencies. If I were to say of a particular instance of it, "That's male-chauvanism",

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Katie van Schaijik

St. Benedict and phenomenology

Jul. 11, 2012, at 11:29am

The key to the kind of phenomenology Jules and I studied, which is sometimes called "realist phenomenology" or "von Hildebrandian phenomenology" is a reverent, attentive listening to the voice of Reality, to "things in themselves."  It sees "the art of living" as a matter of "receiving" what we find in reality, and responding to it faithfully. It stands in contrast to a way of philosophizing that is more concerned with constructing conceptual systems, or with studying texts.

One of the key features and contributions of von Hildeband's thought, in particular, is a rehabilitation of the role of the heart, not only in human relations, but in our apprehension of Reality.  The heart is not just

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Devra Torres

God is a Personalist: the anecdotal evidence

Jul. 9, 2012, at 2:28am

A couple months ago, I posted on God’s fondness for diversity.  How else to explain His making us male and female (“as different as possible without being separate species”), different colors, shapes, and sizes, with different temperaments, talents, and senses of humor? 

It would be surprising, then, if His dealings with us had a generic, one-size-fits-all kind of tone.   Yet that is what we can fall into imagining.

In the back of our minds, even if we know better, may lurk the sense that what God really wants is for us to familiarize ourselves with His objective rules and regulations, calculate how they apply to our case, and conform our wills and behavior to them until we die.  Then

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Michael Healy

Response to “Forgiveness and Dysfunction”

Jul. 8, 2012, at 8:04pm

I figured there was no way this response would fit in the 200 word Comment section, so I may as well just do a new post.

(That does not mean I intend to be extra wordy.  Tomorrow I start three intensive summer courses, so I’ll actually have to cut back on my PP responses.  Hopefully, a few will miss me; others no doubt will rejoice!  C’est la vie!) 

First, of course, Katie elaborates on many “good” examples of dysfunctional “forgiveness”—the Penn State mess, the priestly abuse scandals, some approaches of Covenant Communities in the past, the priest’s book (which has been mentioned before), and Nora in A Doll’s House.  I too in both my comments and my posts have agreed with her examples

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Katie van Schaijik

Forgiveness and dysfunction

Jul. 8, 2012, at 1:21pm

My post on “unprincipled forgiveness” led to a lively exchange with Mike Healy that has further persuaded me of the confusion surrounding the mystery of forgiveness, and the great difficulty many Christians have not only in realizing it in practice, but understanding it in theory.  And since I believe that understanding it rightly is crucial to the task of achieving it and helping others achieve it, I’m going to keep pressing.

To be clearer and more complete about what I have in mind with the problem of "unprincipled forgiveness" let me say the following:

When it comes to the social act of reconciliation (which is the natural aim and consummation of forgiveness), to treat an unrepentant

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Michael Healy

Examples of “False” Charity

Jul. 7, 2012, at 10:22pm

In previous posts and comments, I have given many examples of heroic charity and forgiveness. I frankly look on these in awe. One can never know for sure (because God gives extra graces in these situations), but I can hardly imagine myself living up to this kind of ideal.  I have to admit it’s possible (because it’s been done), and I see—theoretically—how and why the saints were motivated, but I don’t find those same levels present in my heart and will. So ultimately I think it becomes a question of grace and whether I would accept or reject God’s supernatural attempt to carry me over these mountains.

Be that as it may, I think we should further elaborate on and give examples of false,

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Katie van Schaijik

A nun uses TOB to critique (unseen) soft porn pop movie

Jul. 7, 2012, at 9:04am

Setting aside my standing objections to the ubiquitous "wired" metaphor, Sr. Helena Burns, "media nun," does Catholics proud with this great takedown of a current example of the mainstreaming of pornography: a movie about male strippers called Magic Mike.  Really, her review is a summary presentation of the Theology of the Body.

(Pay no attention to the cheesy, Jehovah's Witness style religious art.)

The Sexual Revolution told women that they can now “have sex like a man.” Because, you see, the male paradigm is the only good paradigm! Feminists, in wanting to be just like men, “have what men have,” unwittingly labeled women’s ways as inferior, and set about obliterating the feminine. But

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Michael Healy

Going Through Christ to the Other

Jul. 5, 2012, at 4:00pm

In light of revelation, we can certainly conclude that we attain to our deepest understanding of the human situation, and of who we are, as we stand before Christ. This is our real situation; thus, if we are to approach other human beings in truth, we must "arc" through Christ to get to them. We never only stand before another in a direct one-on-one way; Christ always stands with us, before us, in us, and between us.

And how do we stand with Christ?  We eat with Him (and of Him) as his friends at the Last Supper (with the hope of the heavenly banquet/wedding feast) and then we stand before Him (dying on the Cross) as His betrayers, mocking and torturing Him.  And he forgives us.  This is

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Michael Healy

Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool

Jul. 4, 2012, at 7:05pm

Concepts like “Golden Oldies,” “Classic Rock,” even “Early Rock’n’Roll” certainly are nebulous and imprecise nowadays.  If you look up such titles on radio and TV stations, you often find song collections from the 70’s, 80’s, or 90’s—for cryin’ out loud!  But I, who came of age in the days of real classic rock (Elvis and the Beatles), and who lost all track of pop music after 1972 (when I graduated from college) know that genuine “early rock,” real “golden oldies,” means the late 50’s and early 60’s.  I reject any other definition as an abuse of the English language.

Now, having settled the historical question (admittedly by subjective “Fiat”), let us go on to see what we can learn from

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Devra Torres

Grains of Truth

Jul. 2, 2012, at 11:18am

     My kids were shocked one day to find me listening to National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.”  (My father, who has a penchant for accuracy, calls it “Some Things Considered from a Certain Point of View.”)  The children realize that I’m prone to fits of boredom brought on by onion-chopping and cheese-sauce stirring, but they’re used to seeing me cook supper while soaking in the wisdom of Kresta in the Afternoon

or at least getting my info-tainment from someone who’s generally on the pro-life side of the political divide.

     They never thought I’d sink so low.

     I explained to them that it’s important to keep tabs on what the bad guys are up to.

And that’s true, but it’s

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Michael Healy

Questions, Answers, and Mystery

Jun. 29, 2012, at 9:41pm

I conceive of the role of the teacher as a helper to the student so that the latter can see some real truth(s) on his own.  The classical root of this conception, of course, is Socrates describing himself as a midwife, helping the other to bring to birth in his own mind a genuine understanding of reality.  This involves a process of discovery requiring a broad openness to questions, challenges, readiness to make modifications, etc.  It requires humility, i.e., an attitude fundamentally acknowledging that reality is transcendent to the mind and that, as Augustine says, the mind is below truth, not above it. 

Nevertheless, it is sometimes the case that anyone who claims to know

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Rhett Segall

Obama’s Empericism

Jun. 27, 2012, at 7:58pm

An article in Crisis magazine, “What’s Behind the Mandate?” by Gerard Bradley unmasks the Obama Administration’s fundamental empiricism on two fronts—the ontological and the existential.

Ontologically Bradley notes that Obama’s asserts that those who want to place limitations on the availability of contraception, abortion and same sex marriage,  base their opinion on religious convictions which, as such, are subjective and cannot be validated by objective measures and so consequently are not to be protected by law.

Existentially the Administration asserts that the value of such institutions as Catholic Charities and Hospitals solely in terms of the material benefits they afford for the

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