Man as center of creation

In our day, when the development of the sciences attracts and seduces with the possibilities they offer, it is more important than ever to educate the consciences of our contemporaries in order to prevent science from becoming the criterion of good and to ensure that man is respected as the centre of creation and not made the object of ideological manipulation, arbitrary decisions or the abuse of the weaker by the stronger. These are some of the dangers we have experienced in human history, especially during the 20th century.

Benedict XVI

Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Jan 28, 2008

Jules van Schaijik

Do we want our politicians to be consistent?

Feb. 23, 2012, at 8:11pm

In last night's Republican primary debate, candidates were asked to describe themselves with one word. Ron Paul answered firmly: "Consistent." That struck me as both apt and telling. I haven't been paying very close attention to the race, but I gather that Ron Paul is a principled libertarian. His positions hang together in a coherent way and follow logically from the first principles to which he subscribes. He has defended virtually the same positions throughout his political career. He is not beholden to any person or any party, and not swayed by public opinion. He seems to have the integrity so needed and yet so often lacking in a politician. He can't be bribed into supporting things he

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Michael Healy

On the Unbearable Lightness of Sex on TV

Feb. 22, 2012, at 2:19pm

I have always liked detective stories.  I started with The Bobbsey Twins, graduated to the Hardy Boys and the Ken Holt Mysteries, then began to pick up more adult fare.  I read almost all of Earle Stanley Gardner (lawyer Perry Mason), Dashiell Hammett (hard-boiled detective Sam Spade), Raymond Chandler (harder-boiled detective Philip Marlowe), and even Mickey Spillane (hardest-boiled detective Mike Hammer)—I must confess with a mea culpa—who went further than the others in hardboiled sex and violence. 

I’ve also always enjoyed TV detective stories, like the old Perry Mason series.  Alternatively, on TV, I’ve always enjoyed a good comedy.  I can go back to classics like the Dick van Dyke

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The Abuse of Language and the Dehumanization of the Person

Feb. 22, 2012, at 10:25am

This article was submitted to the member forum.  Since it touches on the issue of language, which Jules raised below, we're moving it here.

Language is the most powerful tool ever invented. Its simultaneous precision and malleability provide infinite possibilities of expression, whether it’s through poetry, mathematics, music, or W-2 income tax forms. People use language to define their world, explore their reality, and share in the human experience. The English language is especially fun. With over a billion words at their disposal, acrobatic English speakers can tell the same story a million different ways, exploring alternative nuances and subtle meanings all the while. Using

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Jules van Schaijik

Deceit and coercion: different means, same end

Feb. 21, 2012, at 2:10pm

The recent HHS contraceptive-coverage mandate, and the lying, manipulative rhetoric surrounding it, has exposed once again the close connection between the abuse of language and the abuse of power. And maybe that's a good thing. We've become so accustomed to political spin, campaign rhetoric, partisan platitudes, etc., that it is easy to miss the manipulative and coercive elements in these forms of sophistry. But those elements, though usually hidden, are always there.

Deceit and violence are in fact very closely related. Sissela Bok calls them "the two forms of deliberate assault on human beings." They are both modes of dominating people; of using them in ways, and for ends, they would

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Michael Healy

“Forgiving Oneself”—What Might It Mean?

Feb. 14, 2012, at 11:33pm

In my earlier post on forgiveness, an interesting tangential point arose in discussion about the (possible) nature of "forgiving oneself" or "self-forgiveness."  Some would deny such a thing is even possible, others would say it has a meaning, though only derivative or secondary.  Herewith, a further attempt to sort out a few thoughts on the topic.

It might seem at first glance that “self-forgiveness” is a dangerous concept.  Why?  First, is it not substituting a relation to self for what is by its very nature an interpersonal act?  Does this not imply an encapsulating self-centeredness?  Second, don’t we have to ask for forgiveness and be forgiven by the one we have wronged?  Otherwise,

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Gregory Borse

The Bishop and the Baby

Feb. 11, 2012, at 9:12pm

Here's my question to the Bishops, who made a full throated defense against the Administration's effort to infringe upon the rights of Churches to teach and live their creeds--and to protect their institutional sister-institutions to be free of governmental infringement.

What about me, your Eminences?

I work for a secular institution that will enact the Administration's mandate requiring that my premiums pay for other people's contraceptions, sterilizations, and abortions.  So what if the Administration has said that insurers will be the ones who will be required to do this?  Isn't my compensation package inclusive of health insurance benefits in the form of my employer contributing to the

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Katie van Schaijik

The President becomes Henry VIII

Feb. 11, 2012, at 9:10pm

The inimitable Mark Steyn gives some historical perspective to the American understanding of religious liberty.

The president of the United States has decided to go Henry VIII on the Church's medieval ass. Whatever religious institutions might profess to believe in the matter of "women's health," their pre-eminences, jurisdictions, privileges, authorities and immunities are now subordinate to a one-and-only supreme head on earth determined to repress, redress, restrain and amend their heresies. 

If Obama is playing Henry VIII, let's hope there are many in our ranks ready to step into the role of Thomas More.  

This might be a good time for us all to watch A Man For All Seasons again.

Katie van Schaijik

Who or what cares?

Feb. 8, 2012, at 10:00am

Friend Justine links to this Fox news story about a college in Pennsylvania that has a vending machine where students can purchase "emergency contraception", the so-called Plan B or Morning After pill.

I was especially struck by this defense offered by one senior: "It's a way for students to get the help or care they need".

Help and care from a vending machine?!  

You know what the real "message" of the machine to young women is? No one cares about you and what's happening in your life.  No one wants to deal with any consequences.  You're on your own.

John Crosby


Feb. 8, 2012, at 7:00am

Editor’s note: What follows is the last of a 10 part series on the personalist philosophy of Pope John Paul II written some years ago for Lay Witness Magazine. We asked and received permission to re-publish the series here, to give fresh occasion for discussion of timeless truths.

"Solidarity" was not only the name of the famous Polish labor union which, inspired by the person and teaching of Pope John Paul II, precipitated the non-violent collapse of Communism in Poland and throughout Eastern Europe. Solidarity is also a term that expresses one of the great themes of Pope John Paul's Christian personalism.

Let us return to that extreme individualism discussed in a previous column. That

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Katie van Schaijik

Christianity in the news

Feb. 7, 2012, at 11:26am

The internet is abuzz with stories of the clash between the Obama Adminstration and the Catholic Church over the new healthcare mandate. And today in the Corner, I find two items drawing attention to other flashpoints in the conflict between Christianity and the Zeitgeist.

A plug for Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Newsweek cover story on Islamic persecution of Christians, in which she condemns the media's "conspiracy of silence."

An account of Eric Metaxes' speech at the National Prayer breakfast and its implicit challenge to President Obama.

And then comes the news that the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has today declared California Proposition 8 limiting marriage to one man and one woman

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Katie van Schaijik

Reflections on silence

Feb. 5, 2012, at 1:34pm

Pope Benedict has prepared a beautiful reflection on the importance of silence for the upcoming "World Communications Day."

It is so packed-full of personalist themes that I have to resist the urge to quote the entire thing.  Instead I'll limit myself to this one rich paragraph.

Silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist. In silence, we are better able to listen to and understand ourselves; ideas come to birth and acquire depth; we understand with greater clarity what it is we want to say and what we expect from others; and we choose how to express ourselves. By remaining silent we allow the other person to speak, to express him or

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John Crosby

Embodiment and Morality

Feb. 1, 2012, at 7:00am

Editor’s note: What follows is the ninth of a 10 part series on the personalist philosophy of Pope John Paul II written some years ago for Lay Witness Magazine. We asked and received permission to re-publish the series here, to give fresh occasion for discussion of timeless truths.

In our last installment we got acquainted with Pope John Paul II's teaching on the embodiment of human persons. We saw how strongly he affirms the destiny of the human body to embody persons, to be personalized by them, and to be drawn up into the lives of persons. He does not speak of the body as something "merely biological," but speaks instead of its capacity to serve as a "sacrament" of the human person.

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Katie van Schaijik

And three for Yuval Levin!

Jan. 30, 2012, at 12:30pm

Yuval Levin has an exceptionally informative and thought-provoking item in the Corner today on the Obama Administration's demand that private Catholic Institutions provide coverage for birth control and sterilizations.

Levin shows that the limits of the "conscience clause" and at the same time exposes the real threat this regulation entails: the destruction of institutions that mediate between the individual and the government.

This is a very deep and dangerous abuse of power.  We had better gear up for the fight of our lives.

In this arena, as in a great many others, the administration is clearly determined to see civil society as merely an extension of the state, and to clear out civil
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Katie van Schaijik

Three cheers for Bishop Olmsted!

Jan. 29, 2012, at 10:22am

Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix has become the first in the nation to openly defy the Obama Administration's demand that all health insurance plans cover birth control and sterilizations. May he be the first of many. Article here.

Katie van Schaijik

Moral confusion run amok

Jan. 27, 2012, at 9:16am

It's always jarring to hear moral indignation and moral terminology being deployed in the defense of moral evil. Here is National Organization for Women President, Terry O'Neill, answering a reporter's question about whether the President has a right to dictate that faithful Catholics pay for emplyees' contraception and sterilizations through their health care plans. In fact, she asserts righteously, President Obama has "an obligation" to force them.

One can't listen without feeling,

1) that this is a wretchedly unhappy woman.

2) that she supposes she has just delivered a crushingly dispositive argument instead of a steaming mass of moral confusion.

But, the state of culture and

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John Crosby


Jan. 25, 2012, at 7:00am

Editor’s note: What follows is the eighth of a 10 part series on the personalist philosophy of Pope John Paul II written some years ago for Lay Witness Magazine. We asked and received permission to re-publish the series here, to give fresh occasion for discussion of timeless truths.

I began my last installment by saying that personalist philosophy can go astray in different ways, and I proceeded to show how in the contemporary world it commonly goes astray by becoming too individualistic. Now I want to begin the present installment by mentioning a deviant form of personalism that will come as a surprise to most of my readers: Personalism commonly goes astray by becoming too

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Katie van Schaijik

Ronda Chervin’s conversion story

Jan. 24, 2012, at 3:52pm

I just received an email from Catholics for Israel with its January line up of articles.  Among them is the amazing and beautiful conversion story of friend and Personalist Project member Ronda Chervin.

I love the incipient personalism of her existential questioning even at a young age.

Junior High School English class. The assignment: write a page about what you want to be when you grow up. It had to be done on the spot. "How can I know what I want to be, if I don't know the meaning of life?" I wrote spontaneously. I don't think I would have remembered this precocious philosophical question, a prophecy of my later choice to become a philosophy professor, had the teacher not graded it A

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Katie van Schaijik

Flight from reality

Jan. 23, 2012, at 1:38pm

T.S. Eliot once wrote, "man cannot bear too much reality."

I've been meditating on this a lot in recent years--realizing its truth more and more, and finding it a key to understanding various human situations I come across.  

In his post on forgiveness below, Michael Healy mentions one especially common case of reality avoidance: the dishonesty of the wrong-doer about his responsibility for the wrong.  

searing article on Roe v. Wade at (hat tip Barbara Nicolosi) today shows that it happens not only on an individual level, but also at the communal level. [My bold]

If human embryonic life is morally worthy of protection, we have permitted sixty million murders under

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Katie van Schaijik

A personalist approach to the Pro-life cause

Jan. 23, 2012, at 9:40am

The 39th sorrowful anniversary of Roe vs. Wade is a good occasion for high-lighting an important paper by friend and fellow personalist, Peter J. Colosi.  In it he cautions pro-lifers against a growing trend in the movement, viz. a too exclusive reliance on empirical science to the neglect of deeper, philosophical issues.  He freely grants that scientific developments making it undisputably evident that even the tiniest zygote is a distinct and absolutely unique human being have been a great benefit to our cause.  

Nonetheless, the trend to use the force of that argument as the sole argument is dangerous, for it tends to miss important dimensions of reality related to the meaning of

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Michael Healy

Forgiveness: What Completes It?  What Cripples It?

Jan. 21, 2012, at 9:10pm

As the title implies, I want to offer two thoughts on forgiveness.  

First, forgiveness is really not complete until the full trust of the love relationship is reestablished.  Thus there would seem to be two main stages or challenges to the process of forgiveness: 1) achieving (and extending) forgiveness in the first place for a serious wound or offense and then 2) achieving the rebuilding of the full bridge of mutual love and trust.  If you have forgiven a person or persons, but no longer rejoice in their presence the way you once did, no longer have an intimacy and openness with them as you once did,  keep them at arms’ length emotionally, much less if you do not want to even be with

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