Truth and terrorismThere exists an intimate link between the dethronement of truth and terrorism. As soon as man no longer refers to truth as the ultimate judge in all spheres of life, brutal force necessarily replaces right; oppression and mechanical, suggestive influence supercedes conviction; fear supplants trust.
Dietrich von Hildebrand
The New Tower of Babel
Sep. 5, 2012, at 1:56pm
On a business trip to India some time in the early 80s, my parents were with a small group of fellow travelers who got to meet Mother Teresa. This is how my mother tells the story:
"She came in the room and spoke with a radiant face about how wonderful God is. As she turned to leave, she stopped, looked at me, walked over to me, took my hands in hers and said, 'I'm praying for your children.'"
Of course, it's a good bet that a forty-something woman with a wedding band probably has children. But to me the story felt like a special grace. A very personal grace.
I hope she's praying for me still, from heaven.
Sep. 4, 2012, at 4:46pm
Like practically everyone I know, I'm an admirer of Fr. Barron. His clear, incisive and mild-mannered way of defending the faith is a gift for the Church in our day. But in a recent column about the social teachings of the Church, I think he misses the mark by trying too hard to be even-handed.
He begins by laying out two "extremes", as if they're equal and opposite errors.
For many on the left, Paul Ryan is a menace, the very embodiment of cold, indifferent Republicanism, and for many on the right, he is a knight in shining armor, a God-fearing advocate of a principled conservatism.
Mitt Romney's choice of Ryan as running mate has already triggered the worst kind of exaggerated hoo-hah …
Aug. 31, 2012, at 12:09pm
This quote was brought to my attention by my friend Jennifer, for whom I have enormous respect. We don’t agree much on politics,
but we do concur on the more important things. (Yes, there are more important things!).
I clicked on “like,” but something about the quote bothered me. It was hard to put my finger on.
It reminded me of St. Francis’ saying, “Preach always! When necessary, use words.”
Oh, wait. Turns out he never seems to have said that. But we all see the point: practice what you preach. If you don’t, then
So, sure, we can all agree: practice what …continue reading
Aug. 31, 2012, at 1:36am
So, exactly how are we to regard the personalist insights and interpretations of John Paul II in relation to the traditional Church teachings about marriage, man and woman, equality and leadership, headship and submission? Evidently, he offers us a tremendous development of the tradition on equality between the marriage partners. How does this relate to the notion of authority in marriage? Is JPII's teaching simply a rejection, not only of scripture (as deeply erroneous?) but also of hundreds of years of tradition (no longer indefectible, much less infallible?)? What would this do to our notions of inerrancy in Scripture and of guidance of the Church by the Holy Spirit in fundamental …continue reading
Aug. 29, 2012, at 4:39pm
Here are three things we all agree on about marriage:
1) Men and women are different, and importantly so. The sexes are not interchangeable. The "genius" of masculiinity and feminity shape the roles of husband and wife. Wives want their husbands to be men; men want their wives to be women.
2) Authority is not bad. It does not imply metaphysical or moral superiority. (The modernist rejection of all authority is the cause of much misery and moral confusion in the world.)
3) It's never okay to "Lord it over" another person, or to be domineering. Whatever authority a person has should be exercised in a virtuous, Christilke way, viz., in service of others.
Here is what is in dispute: …continue reading
Aug. 29, 2012, at 7:57am
“Remember! Inside every silver lining is a dark cloud of despair!”
(Many thanks to Richard West for this photo. For more of his very striking and varied artistry, please see more of his work here.)
I knew a wonderful grandmother whose take on life could be captured in those words. I couldn’t figure it out—until I became a mother. Part of being responsible for someone you love is being on continual alert for anything that could possibly go wrong. The world is suddenly full of death traps. A grape on the floor—choking hazard! A hitherto harmless pet—smothering hazard!
And later: your daughter’s boyfriend—lifelong-misery hazard!
But it’s not only panicky mothers who tend to look on …continue reading
Aug. 26, 2012, at 11:12pm
I read with interest the post “Are wives supposed to submit to their husbands?” and the ensuing and intelligent comments. I couldn’t jump in at the time, as I was out of the country, but considering especially that today’s readings at mass included this passage, I thought I would comment now with a new post.
Certainly, I agree with JPII that a mutual submission in Christ (Eph 5:21 “Being subject to one another, in the fear of Christ” [Douay-Rheims] or “Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ” [NAB])—the passage preceding the ones about the relative roles of husband and wife (Eph 5 22-32)—is the key to interpreting the subsequent passages. Only this interpretation can do …continue reading
Aug. 24, 2012, at 2:49pm
When I was growing up, I was—unfortunately—a little guy. Eventually I grew to almost six feet tall (never quite made it, had to settle for 5-113/4), but my growth spurt didn’t hit until the teenage years. This meant that as a youth in sports I was always small. How small you ask? Consider the following. In elementary school in Montgomery, Alabama, there were several levels of football leagues, depending on weight. There were leagues for the big guys, the medium-sized guys, and the little guys. The little guys were called the Pee-Wees. Amongst the Pee-Wees, there were the big Pee-Wees (Blue) and the little Pee-Wees (Gray). However, down below the Pee-Wees were the Termites: big …continue reading
Aug. 23, 2012, at 12:55pm
Is atheism something we can live with? Can it make sense of the world? Can it sustain us? Give meaning and direction to our lives?
These are the questions taken up by the "New New Atheists" (Alex Rosenberg, Sam Harris, and Alain de Botton) discussed by Chrisopher R. Beha in a recent issue of Harper's Magazine. (The article is available to subscribers only, but Beha also talks about it here. Hat-tip to a facebook friend.)
That God does not exist, these men take to be a firmly established truth. But where does it leave us, in terms of our personal lives? Can atheism replace the consolations and splendors of religion? Can it satisfy man's longing for a good and meaningful life?
It is an old …continue reading
Aug. 22, 2012, at 9:13am
In Todd Akin's apology video, which his campaign dubbed "forgiveness," we find a handy example of the unprincipled variety I've been writing about.
He apologizes, but he declines to take pracitcal responsibility for the damage his remarks did to his cause, the Republican Party, and the voters he was nominated to represent.
Instead, he proceeds as if having said he's sorry, he's done all that can fairly be expected of a man. Hence, his "please forgive me," only adds to his original offense. It's as if he says to those he's just betrayed with his boneheadedness, "Now that I've apologized; it's your responsiblity to forgive me and move on."
To be genuinely sorry doesn't mean to feel really …continue reading
Aug. 16, 2012, at 1:16pm
Whose words should we use when we pray? Someone else’s--a psalmist's, a saint's, the Liturgy's--or our own?
All of the above. But there are pitfulls, whether the prayer is the kind you memorize and recite
or the spontaneous variety.
Jen Fulwiler, a convert from atheism, was trying to get the hang of praying the Divine Office. At first, it didn’t seem to be working for her—this recitation of someone else’s words. She was reading Psalm 143:
The enemy pursues my soul;
he has crushed my life to the ground;
he has made me dwell in darkness
like the dead, long forgotten.
Therefore my spirit fails;
my heart is numb within me.
I was having a great day and feeling strong in my …
Aug. 15, 2012, at 11:06am
I don't presume to judge whether or not Cardinal Dolan ought to have suspended the tradition of inviting both presidential candidates to the Al Smith Dinner, in view of the Obama administration's political and legal violence against life and against conscience. Perhaps keeping the tradition alive is the right thing to do, the best way of doing most good. There's a case to be made on both sides. It's a prudential decision, the Cardinal's to render.
My plan had been to stay silent on the controversy. But then yesterday, in response to a wide and spontaneous outcry among the faithful, the Cardinal published a defense of his decision, which I find so worryingly weak and unconvincing that a …continue reading
Aug. 13, 2012, at 9:38am
I'm not a fan of Mark Shea's. He's too snide and sarcastic for my taste. His habit of berating fellow Catholics from a position of moral and intellectual superiority gets under my skin. He writes as if everyone who doesn't see things exactly as he does must be insufficiently informed. He lacks grace and nuance and receptivity.
Being aware, though, that we're on the same team, I usually deal with my distaste it by not following his column rather than taking him on directly. But a post of his today at Patheos on Paul Ryan (linked by a facebook friend) goes beyond the pale.
He begins, as is his wont, with sneering sarcasm:
While everybody is busy having the vapors over exciting, dynamic …
Aug. 10, 2012, at 3:11pm
Yesterday, August 9, was the feast day of Edith Stein, Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, one of the patron saints and philosophical forebears of the Personal Project. The Vatican has a good short biography here. Born to a Jewish family in Breslau, Germany, she was part of the circle of brilliant students who, in the early years of the 20th century, gathered in Göttingen around Edmund Husserl, Adolf Reinach and Max Scheler to study phenomenology. Later (partly through Scheler's influence) she converted to Catholicism, became a Carmelite nun, and ultimately died a martyr for her faith in Auschwitz.
Jules and I were in Rome on the great day of her Canonization in 1998.
Apart from the …continue reading
Aug. 10, 2012, at 2:25pm
Here's a novel idea. Special glasses for "ultra orthodox" Jewish men who don't want to see immodestly dressed women.
The ultra-Orthodox community’s unofficial “modesty patrols” are selling glasses with special blur-inducing stickers on their lenses. The glasses provide clear vision for up to a few meters so as not to impede movement, but anything beyond that gets blurry — including women. It’s not known how many have been sold.
I can sympathize with the desire to protect oneself from the shamelessness of others. But I don't care for the name or concept.
A) It seems to me that modesty isn't rightly predicted of an instrument that blurs vision.
B) Since they can't block out a woman's "sexual values" without also blocking out her face, I'd say these glasses are bound to exascerbate rather than overcome a tendency to objectify women.
What say others?
Aug. 8, 2012, at 12:04pm
Over at First Things, in an article on "obedient wives," Margaret Fox touches a flashpoint of mine. She refers to an association called the "Obedient Wives Club" formed last year in Malaysia.
The group argues that social problems like divorce, adultery, prostitution, and even domestic abuse could be solved if wives obeyed their husbands and exhibited the sexual prowess of a high class prostitute. In other words, men wouldn’t be unfaithful, hire prostitutes, or beat their wives if they were kept happy in bed.
Of course, as a woman and a Christian, Margaret Fox is appalled. But, she finds that just because she's a Christian, she's often thought to endorse the same idea.
Many of my …
Aug. 6, 2012, at 12:54pm
When I just had two (and then three, and then five..) little kids, we lived in Barcelona. Expatriate life was plenty challenging, and I had not been raised to suffer in silence (What? Then how are people supposed to know you're suffering?).
But I began to notice something odd. People admired me and looked askance at my husband. (He took to calling us Saint Dev and Mad Max.)
Now, I might not have minded (which goes to show how saintly I really am) if they had admired me for my talents or beauty or intellect. But it wasn’t that. They saw that I had “a lot” of kids—in Spain three counts officially as a “familia numerosa” and gets you a 15% discount on the subway—
and that I spent a …continue reading
Aug. 6, 2012, at 11:29am
For our June Reading Circle, we read a couple of articles on the problem of virtual relationships. One was by the great British philosopher, Roger Scruton. He develops the theme further today in a sobering article about the future of western civilization at American Spectator about the consequences of the trend toward virtuality.
Virtual space is Mercurial, demonic, a space of transformations that we cannot control. Living with your eyes fixed to that space, you acquire a mentality that has no real precedent in the annals of mankind. Young people therefore find it hard to envisage the future as something for which they are accountable, and which requires them to make sacrifices on its …
Aug. 4, 2012, at 4:20pm
I dislike being misunderstood and misjudged. I hate it when people project into me thoughts and motives and feelings that aren't mine—that don't do justice to my real thoughts and motives and feelings. Especially people who should know me better.
I also hate being praised and complimented when I don't deserve it—as if my fragile ego needs special boosting.
I wish others would interact honestly with the actual me, rather than gingerly with an image or projection of their own creation.
More and more I'm struck by the dearth of truth in human relations. I understand why unbelievers think it's kinder to deal in illusions. I don't understand how Christians can.
Aug. 1, 2012, at 5:48pm
This is a spinoff.
This is only a spinoff.
In other words, I have no intention of addressing the 144,000 points or so made about forgiveness (legitimate, premature, unprincipled, or dysfunctional, with or without justice and reconciliation) in recent posts and comments. (I strongly recommend reading through them, though, if you haven’t yet—much food for thought).
What I would like to do is allow C. S. Lewis to weigh in on the subject. Forgiveness is right up there with humility as a contender for Most Misunderstood Christian Virtue. And it’s painfully relevant: it comes up all the time in the life of anyone tempted to think of himself, as we probably all do sometimes, as Surrounded By …continue reading