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Freedom and self control

Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites; in proportion as their love to justice is above their rapacity;in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption; in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.

Edmund Burke

Letter to a Member of the National Assembly (1791)

Devra Torres

Kicking the Anasthesia Habit

Jul. 11, 2013, at 3:36pm

Something I constantly notice is that unembarrassed joy has become rarer.  Joy today is increasingly saddled with moral and ideological burdens, so to speak.  When someone rejoices, he is afraid of offending against solidarity with the many people who suffer.  I don’t have any right to rejoice, people think, in a world where there is so much misery, so much injustice.

I can understand that.  There is a moral attitude at work here.  But … the loss of joy does not make the world better—and, conversely, refusing joy for the sake of suffering does not help those who suffer. The contrary is true.  The world needs people who discover the good, who rejoice in it and thereby derive the impetus

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Katie van Schaijik

Fake wisdom

Jul. 10, 2013, at 11:23am

A facebook friend has linked a list: 15 Things You Should Give Up To Be Happy.  It's not my kind of list. It strikes me as a typical instance of cheap pop-psychology bromides masquerading as wisdom. It's not that there's no truth in it at all; it's that much of what's said is reductive, ambiguous and superficial. It glosses over the real problems it pretends to resolve.

Example: The first thing the reader is urged to give up is "your need to always be right."  Well, okay. No one should "need" to "always be right."  But it's not very helpful in the concrete, is it?  Take a case in which I am convinced I am right.  You accuse me of lying and I deny it.  Is my denial to be interpreted as

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Katie van Schaijik

On the problem of overlooking not-beautiful women

Jul. 9, 2013, at 12:41pm

Actor Dustin Hoffman offers a beautiful, personalist insight from his experience of working on the movie Tootsie. Watch it.

How many women have suffered because they are habitually treated (especially by men) not as persons, not as unique individuals, but only as more or less beautiful specimens of the female type. It's so moving to see that he here realizes not only what a suffering that must be for women, but what a loss it is for men. "How many interesting women I never got to know."


Devra Torres

On Culture Shock and Spiritual Fibromyalgia

Jun. 30, 2013, at 9:56am

I want to continue our conversation about the “self-referential person”--the one who lights a lamp but then gets scared and hides it under a bushel, reluctant to go out into all the (contaminated) earth to preach the gospel.

We can agree there's a big differentce between fearful, self-imposed isolation and the legitimate effort to found new communities and develop a sense of identity for oursleves and our descendents.

That doesn't let us off the hook completely, though: we still have to discern--over and over--when and how to engage the culture and when and how to repudiate it.  St.Augustine's speaks of the Israelites taking "gold out of Egypt"

--a metaphor for embracing whatever good is

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Katie van Schaijik

8 Reminders for fathers of marriageable daughters

Jun. 25, 2013, at 7:36am

Contra a recent National Catholic Register blog post by Pat Archbold, titled “8 Rules for Marrying my Daughter”:

1)   Unless your daughter is a minor, you don’t get to have requirements for her prospective spouse. Not only do you not get to choose him for her, you have no veto power over her choices at all. None. You don’t get to lay down criteria. You don’t get to say, “He has to be Catholic,” much less, “He has to have a prayer life.” However reasonable the demand may seem to you, and however objectively advantageous to your daughter, you have no right to insist that the man seeking her hand in marriage be gainfully employed, or have no debt, or come from an intact family. All of that is

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Devra Torres

The Self-Referential Person: What I Didn’t Mean

Jun. 24, 2013, at 11:55pm

Today’s topic is one that’s very close to my heart, and one on which I used to consider myself an expert. 

Last week, inveighing against the “self-referential person,” I wrote this:

It’s a bunker mentality, and it has a certain appeal to, say, apprehensive parents looking out upon a landscape of reckless hedonists, regulation-happy collectivists, self-absorbed politicians, clueless relativists, resolute terrorists, and useful idiots.  They figure their best shot at survival is to ghettoize themselves and their dependents as thoroughly as possible and try to avoid contagion.

The only trouble is, this contradicts the essence of the Church.

Katie responded:

I am sometimes actually

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Devra Torres

On the Self-Referential Person

Jun. 21, 2013, at 12:20am

I’ve been mulling over Pope Francis’ oft-repeated warnings about the “self-referential church”—as this Vatican Radio article describes it:

…a church that is closed in on itself, stagnant…only looking to and relying on itself. He spoke of a “narcissism that leads to a routine spirituality and convoluted clericalism” and prevents people from experiencing the sweet and comforting joy of evangelization.

The self-referential church neglects the injunction to go out to the “ends of the earth,” avoiding any spontaneous, unscripted contact with the outside world.  This is partly out of sheer preoccupation with its own internal affairs, but also because its pastors fail to see the point of

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Katie van Schaijik

Alice von Hildebrand on love and suffering

Jun. 17, 2013, at 1:43pm

Alice von HIldebrand began visiting and speaking at Franciscan University when I was a junior there, in 1986. Her wise and witty words, uttered in that inimitable voice, spoke to my spirit at an unfamiliar depth and with a soul-unifying power.  Up till then, my experience had been that intellectual things were sometimes  interesting, but they didn't touch my heart. They didn't really rouse me; they didn't reach my self.  And emotional things, while absorbing in their drama and immediacy, lacked substance; they seemed rather unreliable and immature—dead-endish. Looking back, I see I was sort of stuck.

By her witness, the dilemma was resolved. The kind of truth that came to me through her

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Katie van Schaijik

Tenderness watch

Jun. 14, 2013, at 10:30pm

John Podhoretz has written a moving tribute to his sister, Rachel Abrams, who died last week of cancer. I think the only thing of hers I ever read was a short story he re-published right after the news was made public. It made me want more. She seems to have been an extraordinary person. I read her mother's book, An Old Wife's Tale, years ago and found it full of warmth and wisdom.

I link it partly because of the way it ends. It's that word again: tenderness.

Speaking to her nearly every day, as I did, was like having my lungs filled with the purest oxygen. Hearing her laugh. God, did she love to laugh. Telling her about my kids, every detail of whose lives she vacuumed up hungrily and thoroughly, like a Dyson. And above all, throughout it all, her ineffable tenderness, her indescribable tenderness, her incandescent tenderness.


Katie van Schaijik

Belonging and identity

Jun. 14, 2013, at 9:24am

Being been embroiled in an online discussion elsewhere about the Pope's way of critiquing capitalism, I jumped ahead in the book of Cardinal Bergoglio's homilies and addresses (which Devra helped translate) to the section on Catholic Social Teaching.

I found this:

Hence, the origin of existential emptiness refers, as Durkheim himself has said, to a separation of the individual from the social environment— i.e., a lack of sense of belonging, which disfigures the identity. “To have an identity” involves primarily “belonging.” Therefore, to overcome this social debt it is necessary to rebuild the social fabric and social ties.

It reminds me of a segment of the Jean Vanier talk I linked a

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Devra Torres

The Least I Need to Do

Jun. 10, 2013, at 9:59pm

                  “What’s the least I need to do to keep you happy?”

That’s an apocryphal (I hope) quote from a new husband, addressed to his bride. 

You can predict what sort of marriage is likely to follow, and how long it’s likely to last. 

The question is, do we treat God like that?  We may feel sure we don’t, but it’s possible to do it inadvertently, even while being convinced we're exemplary Christians.

In one sense, of course, “What must I do to be saved?” (roughly equivalent to “What’s the least I need to do to keep you happy?”) is the most important question a person can ask.  If we fail to ask the question, or to live by the answer, we risk eternal misery. 

And it is easy these

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Katie van Schaijik

Two new items for my case against “unprincipled forgiveness”

Jun. 8, 2013, at 1:59pm

I've recently come across two fresh "exhibits" for the case I've been building against "unprincipled forgiveness"—a commonly preached and practiced, unavailing counterfeit of genuine forgiveness.

"Exhibit A" is the case of a person who ought to be busy repenting and making amends, who is instead laying claims to other people's forgiveness and more or less presenting himself as the victim of their lack of Christianity.  I refer to Cardinal O'Brien, the Scottish prelate who, when it came to light that several men, including priests and former priests had credibly accused him of sexual misconduct, was abruptly required to retire right before the papal conclave. The Cardinal flatly denied the

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Devra Torres

It’s Here!

Jun. 6, 2013, at 11:40am

Now available from Scepter--a wonderful collection of Pope Francis' homilies, letters, and addresses from before he was Pope Francis.  This is the one I was helping to edit and wrote about here and spoke about here. You can get it on Kindle, too.

Enjoy!


Katie van Schaijik

Mercies hurt

Jun. 4, 2013, at 8:43am

Some months back, at the height of Presidential election season, I wrote a post castigating Mark Shea for sneering and caricaturing his opponents in debate. I find his habitual tone so off-putting that I practically never read his articles, even though they're often linked by mutual friends at facebook. I read a few lines of his critique of Lila Rose and then clicked away in annoyance. Impossible to engage someone simultaneously that obtuse and that self-satisfied.

Today, I have a very different impression of the man—one that endears him to me and makes me grateful that such as he lives and breaths in the Catholic blogosphere.

He has penned a penitent post of rare and precious humility. I

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Katie van Schaijik

Interview with Hannah Arendt

Jun. 1, 2013, at 6:53am

A facebook friend linked this engrossing hour-long interview with Hannah Arendt.

The whole thing is worth watching, but several moments in particular gave me a sense of spiritual and intellectual kinship with her.

1) Her response to the question about whether she sought influence when she pursued philosophical studies. This she said was "a masculine question." She was never interested in influence. It wasn't about making a career or cutting a figure in the academic world. She studied philosophy because she had an urgent interior need to understand things.

2) She wrote in order to articulate her ideas to herself. For her, thinking and writing were part of the same process of coming to

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Devra Torres

Why You Shouldn’t Worry About What Pope Francis Might Do Next

Jun. 1, 2013, at 2:40am

Does Pope Francis make you nervous?  Here are seven worries some people suffer from and why you shouldn't let them bother you:

                                                  --1--

 He keeps using expressions like “culture of the encounter,” which make some people skeptical.  Does it sound like the naïve chatter of someone who thinks all ideologies are morally equivalent?  Isn’t the Holy Father mistaking this historical moment for a (possibly imaginary) earlier one when a guy could still find an honest liberal and hammer out some common ground with him?

Well, here’s some counter-evidence, straight from the mouth of Cardinal Bergoglio:

I am convinced that it is not our job to separate

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Katie van Schaijik

The body matters

May. 26, 2013, at 2:22pm

A not-to-be-missed article by Mark Regnerus over at Public Discourse highlights how rapidly we are approaching the dystopian society envisioned by Alduous Huxley in A Brave New World

Sex would be seen as something distasteful—messy, primitive, unwholesome. Better by far for children to be manufactured in clinics.

It's happening. 

Yes, we are increasingly uncomfortable with where babies come from, no doubt about it.

The first effect of the widespread acceptance of contraception is that sex could be enjoyed without worrying about the natural consequence of pregnancy. Now we have reached the point where the creation of children is detached not just from marriage, but from sex. 

Our

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Devra Torres

Beyond God as Errand Boy

May. 26, 2013, at 9:37am

I’m reading a new book by Fr. Michel Esparza (author of Self-Esteem without Selfishness).  The title translates as “In Tune with Christ.”  

(Unfortunately, it’s not in English yet, but once I’m done with my current editing projects maybe I can start scheming to translate Sintonia. In the meantime, keep an eye out for Encountering Christ

and Pope Francis: Keys to his Thought, both from Scepter.) 

Fr. Michel has a way of zeroing in on the commonest misconceptions with the most far-reaching implications, and then clearing them up—or at least throwing brand-new light on the things we say we believe.

He did it with self-esteem and self-love, and he does it here with certain habits

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Katie van Schaijik

What’ right with feminism

May. 23, 2013, at 6:36pm

I sometimes find myself in arguments with traditionalists or conservatives over feminism.  They'll rail against the damage it's done, and I will say, "I agree with you, but..."

I do agree. I fully feel the terrible spiritual losses incurred by the excesses of feminism and the sexual revolution.  Sometimes the thought of it all tempts me to despair. How will we ever recover from such a depth and extent of self-inflicted misery? What kind of world am I sending my children into?

The "but," though, has to do with a sense that the valid complaints and aspirations of feminism are too easily dismissed or overlooked. I don't like it when fellow-Catholics talk or write as if feminism is essentially

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Devra Torres

Social Media and the Crocodile in the Bedroom

May. 21, 2013, at 8:38am

One of my favorite books is Fables, by the delightful Arnold Lobel.  (If you have children, don’t miss his “Frog and Toad” series.)  One chapter is called “The Crocodile in the Bedroom.”

It goes like this (bear with me--the personalist angle will become evident shortly):

A Crocodile became increasingly fond of the wallpaper in his bedroom. He stared at it for hours and hours.

"Just look at all those neat and tidy rows of flowers and leaves, " said the Crocodile. "They are like soldiers. There is not a single one that is out of place."

"My dear," said the Crocodile's wife, "you are spending too much time in bed. Come out into my garden where the air is fresh and the sun is bright and

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