Flourishing of persons is the final meaning of the universeThe most essential and important proposition that my present investigations would ground and communicate as perfectly as possible is the proposition that the final meaning and value of the whole universe is ultimately to be measured exclusively against the pure being (and not the effectiveness)…the richest fullness and the most perfect development, and the purest beauty and inner harmony of persons, in whom at times all forces of the world concentrate themselves and soar upward.
Formalism in Ethics and Non-Formal Ethics of Values
Feb. 14 at 11:35am
This morning at Mass, our good priest gave an impassioned homily about the momentousness of what we as a Church are experiencing this Lent. It seemed to me he had been reading George Weigel on the subject.
He said that the Church is in a period of transition. Under the leadership of this Pope and his predecessor, we are moving away from being "a maintenance Church" to being "an evangelical Church."
Yes! I agree! I see it too!
But then he added a point that sent up a little red flag for me—not because it's wrong, but because it can be taken wrongly.
He said, in so many words, "We're not about maintaining buildings; we're about winning souls for Christ."
The words jumped out at …continue reading
Feb. 12 at 1:26pm
During my undergrad years at Franciscan University in the 80's, the problem of "overspiritualization"—the tendency of hyper-pious young people to live in an unnaturally religious way—was a theme. At times it seemed that every conversation had to refer to God. Every decision had to be prayed about.
It's a mostly harmless tendency, as tendencies go. But still. It's a case of immaturity at best. If we don't grow out of it, it can become a serious psychological and moral disorder.
The most characteristic feature of adulthood in comparison with childhood is personal responsibility. Adults are in charge of themselves—responsible for themselves, answerable for their judgments, acts and …continue reading
Feb. 11 at 1:13pm
Scott Hahn's Facebook post about the Pope's resignation is worth pondering in depth. I hope he won't mind that I'm pasting it in full here.
Back on April 29, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI did something rather striking, but which went largely unnoticed.
He stopped off in Aquila, Italy, and visited the tomb of an obscure medieval Pope named St. Celestine V (1215-1296). After a brief prayer, he left his pallium, the symbol of his own episcopal authority as Bishop of Rome, on top of Celestine's tomb!
Fifteen months later, on July 4, 2010, Benedict went out of his way again, this time to visit and pray in the cathedral of Sulmona, near Rome, before the relics of this same saint, Celestine V.
Feb. 9 at 2:51pm
Something like this happens in me a lot: I can't find my keys and I start mentally berating my children for getting into my stuff. Then I remember where I left the keys.
Once, Jules' very expensive watch went missing from his drawer. For months, I was pretty sure the painter had stolen it. My "evidence" was that he had been in the house since the last time we'd seen the watch, and I could picture him taking it. Then one day we pulled our bed out from the wall, and there was the watch. Did I feel the need to go to that painter and confess I had suspected him of stealing? No. But I did feel the need to make an inward act of contrition—a conscious act of realizing to myself, in front …continue reading
Feb. 7 at 9:23pm
It’s hard to write dispassionately about Michael Voris, but I’ll try.
In fact, it’s not about him, but about something he says in this clip on the trouble with democracy. He believes that only ”virtuous people” (which equals “faithful Catholics”) should be allowed to vote, but that a “benevolent dictatorship” would be an improvement on any kind of democracy. (If you suspect I’m misquoting or taking him out of context, watch the clip and I think you’ll agree I’m not.)
It doesn’t take much imagination to foresee the verification and enforcement glitches that might crop up in establishing who’s virtuous and who’s not, whose faithfulness was acceptable last election year but seems to be …continue reading
Feb. 5 at 11:15am
I love Peggy Noonan's recent column, called "Embarrassing the Angels", on the loss of the cultural sense of personal dignity.
She starts with a bold assertion:
America has become creepy for women who think of themselves as ladies. It has in fact become assaultive.
Then she describes her experience of being searched by airport security personel.
I was directed, shoeless, into the little pen with the black plastic swinging door. A stranger approached, a tall woman with burnt-orange hair. She looked in her 40s. She was muscular, her biceps straining against a tight Transportation Security Administration T-shirt. She carried her wand like a billy club. She began her instructions: Face your …
Feb. 3 at 2:58pm
Having learned from Josef Pieper that the heart of true leisure lies in a joyful and effortless affirmation of reality, I paused, the other day, when I read Glenn Tinder's description of it as "an opportunity for the cultivation of personal excellence." Doesn't that formulation turn leisure into a mere self-help tool, something we pursue for the sake of self-improvement? And isn't that almost the exact opposite of what Pieper means by it? Just take this passage from Leisure, the Basis of Culture:
Above all, one cannot simply "make" it happen for some ulterior purpose. There are certain things which one cannot do "in order to…" do something else. One either does not do them at all or one …
Feb. 2 at 12:56pm
The recent “Catholic Witness in a Nation Divided” conference began with Ave Maria Radio’s Al Kresta urging us laypeople to dig in and relish our vocation to “intentional discipleship.” It also included William B. May’s refreshing, child-centric approach to the marriage wars. And it took up immigration. Which brings us (one day late) to…
One of These Things is Not Like the Others?
I was initially startled to see immigration included in a conference whose other themes were marriage, life, and religious freedom. It’s a hot-button political topic—but what does it have to do with Catholic witness? It’s not about life, or family, or …continue reading
Jan. 26 at 1:56pm
Inevitably, at some point during my Ethics courses, a student will raise the question, "So, who decides what is right and what is wrong?" Having grown up in the modern world, they're all-too aware that there are many different and opposing views about every ethical issue under sun. They also know that philosophers throughout history have disagreed. So when they hear me defend the objectivity of moral truth, they naturally wonder "Whose truth? Who gets to decide what is objectively true?"
A first answer
My first answer to this question is generally to point out that it is badly formulated. It is a loaded question, because it assumes the point at issue. It takes for granted that moral norms …continue reading
Jan. 25 at 4:19pm
In fact, I got so effusive about Al Kresta’s leitmotif:--the need for laypeople to wake up to our own irreplaceable mission—that I got no further than his own remarks. He’s right: the “intentional discipleship” to which we’re called is a far richer and more adventurous thing than a call to cavail—even justifiably—at the politicians, bishops, and other leaders who helped get our country into this mess. Passivity, whether resigned
is nobody’s personal vocation.
Today, though, I want to address a couple of William B. May’s most eye-catchingly …continue reading
Jan. 24 at 6:32pm
Don't miss Jennifer Fulwiler's account of how she went from being vehemently "pro-choice" to passionately pro-life.
It's great for helping "cradle pro-lifers" like me realize how nice, decent people can support abortion out of sincere concern for women.
Jan. 23 at 11:16am
A lively—not to say heated—facebook exchange yesterday got me reflecting on the problem of moralizing. What is it, and what's wrong with it, exactly?
Speaking as "a recovering moralizer," and without trying to be comprehensive about it, I'll say that it generally involves two things:
The moralizer in one way or another sets himself up as teacher and superior. He presumes to instruct others he has no business instructing.
So, I am not moralizing if I give my children moral instruction. They are my children. Instructing them belongs to the parental job descrption. If I try it with a neighbor, though, I can expect a retort, "Who made you Pope?"
The …continue reading
Jan. 22 at 2:51pm
I've referred several times to the master/slave dynamic that has menaced human relations since the fall. (Being a deep and fundamental truth, it bears repeating.) Persons were designed to live lives of mutual love and service, on a footing of equality with one another. But with the fall came the twin tendencies of domination and slavishness, both of which have to be constantly resisted in ourselves and others.
Those who are stronger, who are inclined to be domineering, must learn to check their power, for love. Those who are weaker and inclined to be dominated must learn to assert themselves, also for love. We have to assert ourselves over and against those who are trying to dominate us. …continue reading
Jan. 18 at 8:46pm
This afternoon Jules pointed out these lines from Martha Nussbaum's book, The Therapy of Desire.
Philosophy heals human diseases, diseases produced by false beliefs. Its arguments are to the soul as the doctor's remedies are to the body. They can heal, and they are to be evaluated in terms of their power to heal.
It rings true to me, at least to a point. Philosophy can't save us from sin and death. No matter how true it is, no philosophy can win us eternal life. But errors in our thinking do more than just darken and constrict the mind, they burden the soul. Good philosophy doesn't merely sharpen the intelligence, it relieves the soul of distress.
To give an example from my own …continue reading
Jan. 16 at 4:36pm
Simcha Fischer linked at facebook today a beautiful post by Elizabeth Esther. That led me to her blog, which induced me to read older posts of hers. I'm finding them pretty great. Take this one, on what not to say to people who have suffered spiritual abuse. It touches on our ongoing discussion of "unprincipled forgiveness."
She is speaking from the experience of having been raised in a fundamentalist Christian cult. The abuse she experienced wasn't physical or sexual. It consisted essentially, it seems, in a denial of her selfhood.
This passage is taken from another post of hers: How to talk to someone living in a cult. [Emphasis in the original]
Here's the thing: it has to get …
Jan. 16 at 11:32am
There were some interesting conversations among members at Ricochet this week. One atheist libertarian started a long thread by asking where God's authority comes from. Then an agnostic, frustrated by the direction of that discussion, asked a different question—a more interesting and personalistic one: Why can't I find God?
These two taken together (and having Jules' course on Newman still fresh in my memory) have made me reflect again on the role of subjectivity in faith.
Many unbelievers, I find, pique themselves on being especially rational—on having "high epistemic standards." They would believe in God, they like to claim, if only there were sufficient evidence of his existence.
I …continue reading
Jan. 14 at 3:58pm
[Laypeople] should not be regarded as “collaborators” of the clergy, but, rather, as people who are really “co-responsible” for the Church’s being and acting. It is therefore important that a mature and committed laity be consolidated, which can make its own specific contribution to the ecclesial mission...
Pope Benedict spoke these words last August--but any Pope speaks so very many words that some of them invariably get lost in the shuffle. Happily, Al Kresta recalled this passage to us at a recent conference called “Catholic Witness in a Nation Divided.”
I have seldom heard so many meaty, substantial, satisfying talks in one place, or been part of a more deeply engaged audience. …continue reading
Jan. 13 at 11:13am
Friday we hosted the first of Jules' 8 classes on the Philosophy of the Person. It was a lovely evening. Local students ranged in age from 20-something to 70-something, and included a doctor, a homemaker, an accountant, a seminarian, a piano teacher, a retired economist, a college student... Just the sort of mix we envisioned when we founded the Personalist Project. Not professional academics, but normal, thoughtful people, who want to deepen and clarify their understanding of the nature and dignity of the human person.
Some of them have taken classes with us before, others were new.
Distance students are listening in from four continents. :)
Anyway, for those who might be on the fence …continue reading
Jan. 11 at 4:44pm
Archbishop Caput concludes an address to campus ministers (hat tip Scott Johnston, on facebook) about the need of the hour with a very personalist exhortation. The kind of truth the world needs, he said, is the kind that is communicated in and through love.
We Catholics – you, me, all of us — need to be and to make a fire on the earth that consumes human hearts with God’s love. We can’t “teach” that. It doesn’t come from books or programs. We need to embody it, witness it, live it.
I’ve come back again and again in recent weeks to those last words of Thomas More to his daughter Meg: “You alone have long known the secrets of my heart.” That kind of intimate knowledge comes only from …