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
Oct. 31, 2012, at 4:10pm
I write to encourage the traditional way of celebrating Halloween—for the sake of the children. I think we as Christians should not be narrow, rigoristic, abstact logicians about this “feast,” but rather look at the existential reality. Here’s how I remember it from my youth.
First, Halloween was the only other celebration besides Christmas that involved the whole neighborhood. Further, it involved some living notion of love of neighbor and love of strangers—key indicators of true Christian charity. The idea that complete strangers in the vicinity of my home would freely give me candy for the asking (candy being a high priority for an 8-10 year old) struck me as the very height of …continue reading
Oct. 31, 2012, at 1:16pm
Crisis Magazine's website today kindly published my remarks from the religious liberty panel discussion last week. The bottom line:
When the federal government uses the force of law to mandate that Catholic institutions and businesses provide birth control and sterilizations and abortifacient drugs to their employees, it is, in effect, seeking to conscript the Church into the service of the culture of death as a condition of our participation in society. It is no side issue. It is no glancing blow. It is a stake aimed at the very heart of Catholic life.
Oct. 29, 2012, at 5:20pm
Continuing our reflections on Buber’s Good and Evil in conjunction with the current elections, the Psalmist (Psalm 12) hears “the presumption whispering in their [i.e., the liars] secret hearts (“Our lips are our own, who is Lord over us.”), and at the same time he hears God’s response (“Now will I arise.”).
With the ‘now’ there breaks out in the midst of extreme trouble the manifestation of a salvation which is not just bound to come some time, but is always present and needs only to become effective.
This reminds me, if I were to transpose it into philosophy, of Plato’s description of truth as always present, never refutable, never erasable. Like being itself, the truth about being, is …continue reading
Oct. 28, 2012, at 9:41pm
“The lie is the specific evil which man has introduced into nature.” Thus begins Martin Buber’s (1878-1965) study Good and Evil, reflecting on Psalm 12. As a Jewish thinker who protested against and suffered under the Nazi’s in the 1930’s, he became fascinated by the problem, status, and motivations for evil. He writes:
…the lie is our very own invention, different in kind from every deceit that the animals can produce. A lie was possible only after a creature, man, was capable of conceiving the being of truth. It was possible only as directed against the conceived truth. In a lie the spirit practices treason against itself.
The psalmist no longer suffers merely from individual …continue reading
Oct. 26, 2012, at 11:29am
This documentary about Obamacare has some serious flaws. It traces the evil of the utilitarian view of the person embodied in Obamacare to Plato, (of all philosophers!), because Plato (like virtually all Ancient Greeks) saw persons as subordinate to the State. It fails utterly to do justice to Plato's general ethical philosophy, which was ordered toward the Good, the True and Beautiful. It draws a direct line from Plato to Nietzsche, without noting the arrival of Christianity on the scene of human history. And so on. But, swallowing hard and setting aside those aggravations, I endorse this good and important film. It's important because it exposes not just the misrepresentations and inefficiencies in Obamacare, but the de-personalizing and inhumane philosophy undergirding it.
Oct. 25, 2012, at 12:53am
For a long time, I labored under the illusion that spontaneity, especially as practiced by me, was a charming thing. This misconception has been slowly, and I do mean slowly, draining away over the past couple of decades.
One early intimation that something was amiss came when my husband and I were newlyweds moving to a different apartment. He seemed distinctly uncharmed by the large quantity of boxes I had packed up and helpfully labeled “MISCELLANEOUS.”
I was mystified. What did he want: a boring, regimental, conformist wife?
(Now that I have eight children who take after me, his perspective is much less baffling.)
I’ve been reading Time for God by Fr. Jacques Philippe again,
and …continue reading
Oct. 22, 2012, at 12:16pm
Saturday evening, our local parish hosted a panel discussion about religious liberty in the current crisis. Taking inspiration from Archbishop Chaput's book, Render Unto Caesar, three panelists addressed the question, then engaged the audience in a lively Q&A, which could have gone on much longer if time had allowed. Feel free to continue it in the comments below. It's hard to think of a more important and timely issue.
Click on the names below to listen to the audio.
Peter Colosi (left), Assistant Professor of Moral Theology at St. Charles Borromeo seminary
Mark Henrie (middle), Senior Vice President and Chief Academic Officer at Intercollegiate Studies Institute
Katie van Schaijik (right), Co-founder of the Personalist Project
Oct. 19, 2012, at 11:50am
Two weeks ago, I wrote a post questioning T.S. Eliot's "impersonal theory of poetry", according to which a good poem should contain "no trace" of the subjectivity and individuality of the poet who wrote it. Thanks to a reader, I have since found an essay by John Henry Newman that confirms and improves my thinking. "Literature," Newman writes,
… is essentially a personal work, it is … the expression of that one person's ideas and feelings, — ideas and feelings personal to himself, though others may have parallel and similar ones, — proper to himself in the same sense as his voice, his air, his countenance, his carriage, and his action, are personal. In other words, Literature expresses, …
Oct. 15, 2012, at 10:01pm
“What were you thinking?”
It’s finally happened: I’ve been a mother so long that I now address the All-Wise God like one of my kids, maybe a recalcitrant toddler or a teenager in the throes of a mood swing—someone who needs to be encouraged to think rationally. But this was the prayer that kept coming to mind when I heard the news that our friend Peter
had died suddenly and altogether unexpectedly.
I’m abandoning my futile attempts to try to write about something else this week. Luckily, Peter is relevant to personalism, if only because by age 23 he had already “become who he was,” as John Paul the Great urges everybody to do.
Everyone who knew him could have easily imagined him …continue reading
Oct. 12, 2012, at 12:57pm
October 12 is a big day for personalists of our stripe. It is the birthday of both Edith Stein (1891) and Dietrich von Hildebrand (1889).
To mark the happy occasion, a characterically personalist passage from each:
In order to understand the nature of the heart, we must realize that in many respects the heart is more the real self of the person than his intellect or will.
In the moral sphere it is the will which has the character of a last, valid word. Here the voice of our free spiritual center counts above all.
We find the true self primarily in the will. In many other domains, however, it is the heart which is the most intimate part of the person, the core, the real self, rather …
Oct. 11, 2012, at 9:37am
Today, the first day of the Year of Faith proclaimed by the Pope, is also the 50th anniversary of the convening of Vatican II. George Weigel has an article on the Council at National Review Online. He writes of how different it looks 50 years out from how it looked at the beginning, when Hans Küng was riding high and so much doctrine seemed obsolete.
Then, in yet another unexpected twist in the story-line, two men of genius, both men of the Council, arose to provide the Church with authoritative keys for properly interpreting the documents of Vatican II. That, history will likely show, was the great task taken on by the unexpected Polish pope, John Paul II (who as a hitherto-obscure …
Oct. 8, 2012, at 4:31pm
The other day, my son and I had the following conversation:
Mama: Gabe, why don’t you go play with the toys?
Gabe: Wah! Wah! You’re FORCING me to play with toys!
Mama: Well, what do you WANT to do?
Gabe: I WANT to play with toys, but you can’t make me!
There you have it: love of free will run amok. Gabe is four, but his line of reasoning is common in teenagers,
and even in much older people who really ought to know better.
The core of the Gabe Axiom is this:
The object of my choice doesn’t matter. What matters is that it is I who choose it.
The extremist version (which, unhappily, my son appears to espouse) goes like this:
I will accept even something good and desirable only if …
Oct. 7, 2012, at 11:21pm
Back in August, I posted a reflection on Boys Love, Not Just to Hit, But to Get Hit. Are Girls the Same? In the meantime, I came across an article on the sports page, citing Jason Witten of the Dallas Cowboys, as having a similar attitude—inspired by the oath of the Navy SEALS.
Witten came back from a spleen injury to help lead the Cowboys over the World Champion Giants in the first game of the year. His toughness, dedication and grit were an inspiration to the team—much like the injured Willis Reed in game 7 of the NBA championship in 1970, beating my beloved Lakers. Witten said he was inspired by a meeting with the Navy SEALS in San Diego during training camp. He hung a section of …continue reading
Oct. 5, 2012, at 8:33pm
Last February, Steven Hayward wrote a provocative post in the Corner warning conservatives against the "semantic infiltration of 'values'". To use the term, he argued, is to concede vital territory to our opponents. The point is, “values” is a term derived from philosophical subjectivism (specifically from Nietzschean nihilism), and as such makes a huge rhetorical concession to moral relativism. Conservatives shouldn’t use it.
Needless to say (in this forum), I agree with Hayward's rejection of subjectivism and moral relativism. But, I think he's wrong to assume that the term itself involves us in any concessions to those evils. Further, I think conservatives make the mistake of …continue reading
Oct. 4, 2012, at 3:39pm
In my second year of graduate school at the University of Dallas, in the Fall of 1974, my father died. We’d been expecting it, but it still came as a shock. That’s the way death is. Even if you know it’s coming, it’s always an unexpected surprise. It just seems so wrong and out of place. (And, of course, it is not what God originally intended; it is unnatural, a result of sin.)
We’d been told the previous Christmas that it would be his last, that he had less than a year. I was home for the summer and he grew increasingly weak. My sister, who was engaged, arranged for her wedding in early September so that he could be a part of it. He was able to come to the church—the last time he …continue reading
Oct. 2, 2012, at 7:35pm
In a book I have been reading on (John Henry) Newman and his Contemporaries, I came across the following thought-provoking quote by T.S. Eliot:
Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.
The quote is open to several interpretations. In the book on Newman, it is meant to corroborate John Keble's beautiful idea, that poetry is
a kind of medicine divinely bestowed upon man, which gives healing relief to mental emotion, yet without detriment to modest reserve, and while giving …
Oct. 1, 2012, at 11:57pm
Last week, I bit off more than I could chew. It was like going to the All You Can Eat Chinese buffet
and then thinking you might still have some room for a Coney Island country omelette with saussage gravy. (The buffet is what I promised my kids if they’d let me translate Amor y Autoestima; the omelette is so dense that it has never been consumed in one sitting by anyone but my teenage son).
My subject: forming an accurate picture of the one true God, unclouded by human limitations. In a thousand words or less.
That was silly.
Rather than try to tie up every loose end, I’d like to address one in particular: the part where I said
You can only give what you possess—and we don’t possess …
Sep. 28, 2012, at 10:14pm
Maria and I had 5 kids who are now in their 20’s and 30’s (and another five now in heaven, lost to miscarriages). When our kids were little, about the age of our current 4 grandkids (10 and under), they wanted me to tell them stories before they went to sleep. This, of course, is a very common and clever way for little ones to eek out another 20-30 minutes of wakefulness before slumber becomes mandatory. Many possibilities are available for these bedtime stories. For instance, my son-in-law tells imaginary stories that build on each other with a thread of connection each night. However, by happenstance, one night I stumbled upon a wonderful topic for children’s stories: things I had …continue reading
Sep. 27, 2012, at 11:10pm
judg[ing] people by our own reactions, fears and desires. We do not see them as separate people who possess their own souls and live their own lives, but as part of ourselves and our lives….we attribute to them motives which we would have in the same circumstances.
People who walk around imagining they’re privy to the inmost depths of other people’s souls are hard to live with, and conflicts with them are difficult to resolve.
Sep. 25, 2012, at 11:38am
I do think that in this on-going conversation we should try to imagine our way into the truth implied in both Eph. 5: 21 (be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ) and Eph. 5: 22 (wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord). We all agree that this does not involve literally giving orders and simply expecting obedience, which would quite evidently violate Casti Connubii as well as the teaching of JPII. Thus, whatever “headship” means—the man as the head of the family, the woman as the heart, each with their own responsibilities and priorities—it must be within the mutual subjection to Christ. Still, if man and woman are truly complementary and thus not merely the …continue reading