Man’s superiority over the animals[H]umanity’s superiority over animals is not only the one most often mentioned, the universally human, but is also what is most often forgotten, that within the species each individual is essentially different or distinctive. This superiority is in a very real sense the human superiority; the former is the superiority of the race over the animal species.
Works of Love
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 …continue reading
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
Aug. 1, 2012, at 2:47am
Other than regular Sunday readings and occasional rumblings heard as an altar boy, I first began to read the Scriptures at age 12 in the spring of 1963. It was Lent. Our teacher, a formidable Dominican nun in full white regalia, laid it down as a project for 7th grade religion that all students should memorize St. Matthew’s Passion! Every day we practiced with the student sitting next to us, going over the latest new paragraph and then trying to string it all together from the beginning—the chain getting longer and longer. In the end, during Holy Week, each student had to get up in front of the whole class and attempt to recite it. Only two of us made it—myself and one pretty girl, …continue reading
Jul. 31, 2012, at 12:35pm
One of the first and most fundamental lessons I learned in my undergraduate philosophy classes (thank you, Dr. Healy and Dr. Harold!) is that there is a radical difference between things that are intrinsically good and things that are merely agreeable.
When I call vanilla pudding "good", I mean little more than that I happen to like it. I know perfectly well that someone else might not like it at all. That person may with equal justification call the pudding "so-so" or even "disgusting." De gustibus non est disputandum. But when I say that Jane Eyre is a good novel, I mean not only that I like it, but that it is really, objectively good. It ought to be appreciated as such. If someone were …continue reading
Jul. 31, 2012, at 11:08am
Among the evils of the kind of clericalism that used to be an even more dominant feature of Catholic culture than it is today, is that crimes and injustice are covered up in the name of "not giving scandal."
Here is a horrible story developing in Australia. It appears that a bishop there assured a serial abuser of young girls that he (the bishop) would make sure that "the good name" (of the abuser!) would be protected. The state is considering criminal proceedings against the bishop.
I hope all Catholic leaders, lay and religious alike, are learning at least this lesson from the terrible clerical scandals of recent years: You do not serve the Church by covering up evil. All you serve is evil.
Jul. 26, 2012, at 5:48pm
My parents met at Brooklyn College one day when they were both skipping class.
Once I was old enough to know what “skipping class” meant, yet young enough to be still firmly ensconced in literal-mindedness, this began to worry me. I knew it wasn’t God’s will for people to skip class. (My parents themselves had made that much clear.) Therefore, I reasoned, my conception was a consequence of their stepping outside His will. Therefore—I was never meant to be! My very existence was, from God’s point of view, a mistake!
How to make sense of it all?
I think similar literal-mindedness lurks in the back of many minds—especially when we’re contemplating large, life-altering decisions. We …continue reading
Jul. 24, 2012, at 3:24pm
I gather that Cath2u's question (in a comment under Janet Smith's latest post), "What's my forgiveness got to do with the other person's contrition?" is meant to be rhetorical, (the answer, of course, being "nothing at all.") But I propose to take it seriously as a question, because it touches on an issue central to the topic of repentance and forgiveness (and to personalism generally), namely, our profound dependence on one another.
To give a good idea of what I mean by this dependence, and to indicate how deep it goes, let me quote from John Crosby's great book The Selfhood of the Human Person:
The unconditional acceptance of me by another person, or by the entire social milieu in which …
Jul. 23, 2012, at 1:22pm
Mike Healy jumped back into the discussion of "unprincipled forgiveness" because, as he put it (in comment #67 under Janet Smith's post) "I must at least defend myself from the charge (now repeated) of attributing horrible attitudes to [Katie]."
Suppose I were to say in reply: "You should model yourself on the example of Jesus, who didn't defend himself against much worse false charges made against him."
Wouldn't he want to say—wouldn't he be right to say—"Mind your own beewax. There is nothing wrong with a person defending himself against false charges! Kindly answer my point."
If I were like the practioners of "unprincipled forgiveness," I would say in answer: "Humanly speaking, …continue reading