Society and discord

All the members of human society stand in need of each other’s assistance, and are likewise exposed to mutual injuries.  Where the necessary assistance is reciprocally afforded from love, from gratitude, from friendship, and esteem, the society flourishes and is happy…Society, however cannot subsist among those who are at all times ready to hurt and injure one another.  The moment that injury begins, the moment that mutual resentment and animosity take place, all the bands of it are broke asunder, and the different members of which it consisted are, as it were, dissipated and scattered abroad by the violence and opposition of their discordant affections.

Adam Smith

Theory of Moral Sentiments

Katie van Schaijik

Theological virtues don’t obviate the claims of natural justice

May. 1, 2010, at 6:31pm

John Zmirak has posted a thoughtful article over at Inside Catholic touching on an issue much on my mind in recent years, viz., the relation between justice and mercy.

This is the stuff of many long discussions. For now, just a few summary paragraphs:

There’s one sure test for determining whether an action really lives up to the theological virtue we hope we’re practicing. It’s simple: Does this action violate any natural virtues along the way? For instance, a citizen who listens to clerics pontificate about politics and follows their lead in supporting policies that destroy the sovereignty and civic order of his country may think that by deferring to churchmen he is practicing the virtue of Faith. But if the laws he favors violate Justice, he’s deeply mistaken. A priest who fears that his congregation won’t obey the moral law, so for the sake of their salvation he decides not to preach on controversial topics like contraception—how sound is his Hope for their souls?

Simple Justice is what each of us owes the other in an unconditional debt. We cannot violate that Justice in pursuit of Faith, Hope, or Charity. When we contemplate any action that stokes in us the sentiment that we’re being “more radically Christian” and really “living the gospel” by going beyond “merely natural” virtues, every alarm bell in our conscience should start going off. We can no more attain theological virtues by violating the natural ones than we can build the dome on a cathedral by pulling steel from its foundations.

We cannot practice Charity toward the poor through confiscation from the rich; only if something is owed the poor in simple Justice should the state make sure they get it (as Pope Leo XIII taught in Rerum Novarum). At the height of the high Middle Ages, the Church never furthered the salvation of souls by confiscating non-Christian children, baptizing them, and rearing them in the Faith. At age 18 I wondered why not, till a wise priest explained to me that the natural rights of pagan parents could not be torn away in such a “higher cause.” Likewise, the natural rights of parents, and the state that represents them, to defend their children from rape cannot be sacrificed on the altar of priestly solidarity, compassion for “troubled brother priests,” or the need to avoid bad publicity for the Church


Katie van Schaijik

Privacy for animals

May. 1, 2010, at 6:26pm

We have reached the reductio ad absurdum of rights proliferation.  Discovery News now features an earnest article titled, “Do Nature Films Deny Animals Their Right to Privacy.” (Hat tip Mark Steyn, in the Corner.)

Imagine if a film crew, without your permission, stormed into your home and filmed you in your most private moments. Makers of wildlife documentaries do just that to non-human animals, and are denying these animals their right to privacy, according to new research published in the current issue of Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies.

But, shouldn’t we consider what grounds my concern with privacy?  Isn’t it precisely the personal subjectivity, the interior existential plenitude, the self-possession and individual moral agency that characterizes all human beings but which animals plainly lack?

Dr Mills said, “It might at first seem odd to claim that animals might have a right to privacy. Privacy, as it is commonly understood, is a culturally human concept. The key idea is to think about animals in terms of the public/private distinction. We can never really know if animals are giving consent, but they often do engage in forms of behavior which suggest they’d rather not encounter humans, and we might want to think about equating this with a desire for privacy.”

Couldn’t we just consider it a natural preference for quiet and safety?  Seems to me an appeal human decency and kindliness toward creatures in the wild should suffice for promoting more humane filming practices.

We can’t extend human rights to animals without completely vacating the meaning the of the term.

Katie van Schaijik

Megan McArdle on marriage

Apr. 23, 2010, at 4:56pm

A year or so ago feminist Lori Gottleib generated a lot of buzz with an Atlantic Magazine article urging women to settle for “Mr. Good Enough.” Now she’s published a book on the theme. I haven’t read it, but I did read an engaging blog post about it by Megan McArdle. (Hat tip Maggie Gallagher.)

I’m busy trying to prepare a talk, so I can’t give the topic the time I’d like to. But these lines caught my personalist attention:

Feminists are no less prone than other women to resist thinking of romantic choices as pragmatic. Maybe more so, even, because relationships are supposed to be about self-actualization, not the prosaic projects of economic security and diaper-changing. Gottlieb’s straying a little too close to Jane Austen territory . . . and even for her own time, Austen was overly brutal.

I’m against that pragmatic approach to marriage too—as if courtship were a matter of weighing practical advantages against disadvantages and settling for the best available option. But self-actualization? Is that the contrast?  Is that really what relationships are supposed to be about?  What about self-giving? What about love?

Katie van Schaijik

Mark Twain on marriage

Apr. 21, 2010, at 1:04pm

Friend Mark forwards these lovely lines from an 1870 letter from Mark Twain to his fiancée, Olivia.  They ring just as true today.

This 4th of February will be the mightiest day in the history of our lives, the holiest, & the most generous toward us both—for it makes of two fractional lives a whole; it gives to two purposeless lives a work, & doubles the strength of each whereby to perform it; it gives to two questioning natures a reason for living, & something to live for; it will give a new gladness to the sunshine, a new fragrance to the flowers, a new beauty to the earth, a new mystery to life; & Livy it will give a new revelation to love, a new depth to sorrow, a new impulse to worship. In that day the scales will fall from our eyes & we shall look upon a new world. Speed it!

Katie van Schaijik

Husbands, love your wives

Apr. 18, 2010, at 1:37pm

Last night in the midst of an attack of insomnia, I read this beautiful and moving talk by John Barger, of Sophia Institute Press. Before he became a publisher, Dr. Barger earned a PhD in philosophy under Josef Seifert and John Crosby.

The talk is an exhortation growing out of personal experience—experience of his personal transformation as a man, a husband, and a father, and consequently of the transformation of his marriage.
It is full of deep insight and timeless wisdom.

But I wonder whether anyone will agree with me that it is also somewhat dated?
I mean, his description of the way Catholic husbands habitually view women, including their wives, strikes me as no longer true. It seems to me that “JP II husbands” are generally as different from the earlier generation of husbands as “JP II priests” are from an earlier generation of priests.

Katie van Schaijik

Splitting the moral atom

Apr. 13, 2010, at 12:20pm

I’ve heard it said often (and I believe it) that, at bottom, the culture wars are all about sex.  Social justice, racial equality, environmentalism, anti-war, etc.—these are pretexts.  What the progressive, secular leftists really care about—what they’ll fight for at all costs—is sexual liberty.  Sex liberated not just from traditional taboos, but from life, from God, from personal identity, from gender.  Scratch the surface of any “progressive” cause and this is what you’ll find.  Sex is their religion.

If you doubt it, listen to this Heritage Foundation address by former liberal Hollywood Jew, Evan Sayet, called “How Modern Liberals Think.” 

And consider this item: a report about he Maine Human Rights Commission’s proposal to ban schools from distinguishing between boys and girls. “It says forcing a student into a particular room or group because of his or her biological gender amounts to discrimination.”

Shall I tell you what else I believe?  I believe with Edith Stein and some early Church fathers that the original sin was a disordered sexual act between Adam and Eve—an act whereby they used each other for pleasure rather than giving themselves to each other in service of life and love.  I believe that this severing of life and love was the moral atom-splitting at the dawn of human history whose fallout is death.  “The aboriginal calamity.”

I once asked Alice von Hildebrand about this.  She demurred somewhat, saying only that her husband was aware of the tradition, but did not agree with it.  He thought the original sin was one of pride, not concupiscence.  I think it was both.  A disordered sex act is not an act of mere concupiscence—like taking that fourth glass of wine or that second slice of pie or that extra hour in bed.  It entails a direct defiance of God, and a violation of the Image of God in ourselves.  It entails a using of another person and a using of self.  It is an assault on human dignity and personhood.  Kant practically inauguration modern personalism with his great ethical insight: “A person is an end-in-himself, never to be used as a mere means.”

A person is from love and for love.
Inter-personal love—is the life force of the universe.

Dante: “The love that moves the sun and stars.”

Think of God.  He is the great “I AM”.  Absolute Being, and a union and communion of love among three Persons.  The Holy Spirit Proceeds from the Father and the Son.

John Paul II: “Love is the unification of persons.”

Persons are engendered in the union of love between a man and a woman.  This is the literal origin of life.  Persons abuse one another.  This is death and destruction—the root cause of all that ails the world.

Sacramental marriage—the transformation of eros by agape—eros re-ordered toward life, and under the aegis of Eternity—is the literal healing of the rift opened in Eden.

This mystery is a continual background meditation of mine.  It came to the fore again today when I happened to listen to a segment of an episode of Uncommon Knowledge.  Taped a decade or so ago, it features William F. Buckley and Christopher Hitchens discussing the cultural upheavals of the 1960’s. 

Buckley identified the restiveness and outbreaks of the time as “masturbatory”—a self-indulgent demand for release in service of no transcendent value.  Hitchens objected to the characterization, but then offered this essential confirmation: “We were the first generation to take the separation of sex and procreation for granted.”  Resistance to this, as Hitchens sees it, is rooted in envy. 

There you have it.  The ultimate source of the moral madness unleashed in our society since then.

Ground zero of the culture of death.

Katie van Schaijik

Midlife care for the soul

Apr. 12, 2010, at 10:55am

I read an article in the Daily Mail today, which I won’t link directly, because of the surrounding sleaze.  It was about mid-life crises—how common they are and how they can be an essential turning point.  (According to the article, the term ‘midlife crisis’ was coined by Canadian Elliott Jaques to describe dramatic self-doubt in the middle age of life.)
I liked its conclusion.

Previously, she had always been manically busy - with work and motherhood. She had no time to think things over. Then, all of a sudden, with no job and an empty nest, she had nothing but days and nights of endless unfilled time.

‘And what was I so afraid of?’ she asks. ‘Being alone with myself long enough to wonder what is the purpose of my life?’
Like Shapiro, she embarked on a long and often painful journey. Though neither was religious, both found solace and comfort in re-discovering the religious teachings of their childhoods.
In addition, Browning began to appreciate what she describes as the ‘small beauty in every single day’.
‘One adventure is over; it is time for another,’ she writes. ‘I am growing into a new season. I am not old and not young; not broken and yet not quite whole. These are my intertidal years.’
Browning says that in the aftermath of her crisis, she re-connected with something she had encountered as a teenager and then lost in the frantic skim through adulthood - ‘the desire to nourish my soul’.
Both of the friends I mentioned earlier said they feel as if they don’t know who they are any more. It is as if their souls are crying out for some attention.
Only time will tell if they will listen to that call from within. I know many people have trouble with this kind of thing. It’s about taking a little time out of the rat-race and reconnecting with the lost child within all of us.

It could also be an advertising slogan for the Personalist Project: “Built for those who desire to nourish their souls.”

Katie van Schaijik


Apr. 10, 2010, at 11:50am

Is there another country whose sufferings compare with Poland’s over the last centuries? No doubt there are some whose sufferings have been as bad or worse in terms of loss of life, and by other measures too. But I refer to the marked spiritual dimension to her particular sufferings. They seem almost personal—almost as if they were deliberately directed at her identity as a nation. And they are imposed on her from without, not self-inflicted, as in Russia or Rwanda.
I am thinking of the partitions, the Nazi occupation, swiftly followed by the Soviet occupation; the Warsaw uprising and its aftermath, Auschwitz, the Katyn Forest Massacre, and now the terrible, terrible news today.

Why? Who can fathom it?
I am clinging to the insight of the greatest son of Poland in our time: the purpose of suffering is to unleash love.

Katie van Schaijik

Personal responsibility or paternalism?

Apr. 10, 2010, at 11:02am

A Wall Street Journal article today delves into Mitt Romney’s campaign trail dilemma. On the one hand he stands with those calling for the repeal of Obamacare, and on the other he wants to defend the similar law that was a defining achievement of his term as governor of Massachusetts.

Mr. Romney also took pains to defend another element common to both plans—the mandate requiring nearly all people to buy coverage—that many conservative activists consider one of the most objectionable elements of the federal law. But he did so by adopting a more GOP-friendly vocabulary, declaring it a matter of “personal responsibility” for all people to buy into insurance pools so that “free riders” without insurance can’t stick taxpayers with their hospital bills.

“We are a party and a movement of personal responsibility,” he said at a book signing in Manchester. He invoked the same idea at the college, calling it a “conservative bedrock principle.”

I can think of only two possible explanations for this “vocabulary adoption”.

1. He has no idea what personal responsibility means.
2. He is being dishonest and manipulative.

A person is no more rendered responsible by government mandates than he is rendered generous by having his property seized.

Katie van Schaijik

Child brides

Apr. 9, 2010, at 10:00am

A 13-year old Yemini girl has died from injuries to her genitals four days after her wedding to a 23 year old. (Article here; hat-tip Jen Rubin.)

...the girl was married off in an agreement between two men to marry each other’s sisters to avoid having to pay expensive bride-prices. The group said that was a common arrangement in the deeply impoverished country.

In September a 12-year old child bride died after struggling to give birth for three days.

Yemen once set 15 as the minimum age for marriage, but parliament annulled that law in the 1990s, saying parents should decide when a daughter marries.

The brothers agree; the parents decide. Is the girl not a person?
It’s not just the extreme (and all too frequent) cases of brutality in strict Muslim societies that I object to—though they are horrifying enough—but the annihilation in law and practice of Muslim girls’ self-standing as persons. Their self-standing (i.e. their right and responsibility to dispose over their own existence) is denied, and their uniqueness as individuals is entirely bypassed in this Islamic view of marriage. It is not an “I” choosing a “Thou”, but a man getting a girl in a bargain.
Who can respect it?

Katie van Schaijik

Hatred of the Church

Apr. 9, 2010, at 12:08am

While readers of the Linde know how little amenable I am to defenses of the Church that center on comparable statistics of sex abuse outside the Church or the great new prevention policies within the Church, I’m all ears for those that justly expose the hatred of Truth and all moral absolutes that animates so much of the secular media’s poisonous and dishonest attacks on Pope Benedict.

This American Spectator piece by George Neumayr is a great exhibit of the type I approve with all my heart. Here’s a sample paragraph:

For an elite drunk on its own enlightenment, the ends will always justify the means against religion. So what, Keller figured, if my reporters could only come up with straining, half-baked pieces that cast fragments of information about Benedict in the worst possible light? Let’s run them anyways, so that the forces of tolerance can triumph over the forces of absolutism!

However egregiously the Church may have failed in living up to her mission, which vision of human life would is more conducive to the dignity of persons and the welfare of children? One that sees each and every individual as made in the Image and Likeness of God, with an immortal soul, infinitely precious and valuable and destined to live with God forever, but in freedom and not by force, so that our eternal salvation or damnation lies—at least in one crucial sense—lies in our free will? Or one that sees human life as the result of the random mutations of the material world?

Katie van Schaijik

Personal encounter with God the center of true faith

Apr. 8, 2010, at 7:41pm

The other night I re-watched Witness to Hope, the inspiring DVD based on George Weigel’s magisterial biography of John Paul II.  I was struck again by Weigel’s true claim that throughout his life Wojtyla understood the personal encounter with God to be the basis and center of our faith.  This conviction is organically related to his personalist anthropology.  It is a key to understanding his life, his priesthood, his intellectual work, and his papacy.  Man finds himself in relation to God and others.

Today friend Mark sent me a link to a blog where a discussion about Pentecostalism (inspired by a section of John Allen’s book The Future of the Church) is underway.

The author of the post, Greg Sisk, was a Pentecostalist for several years before becoming Catholic.  Having been profoundly influenced during my adolescence by Protestant evangelicals and later by the Catholic charismatic renewal, my own sense and experience echoes his. He writes:

As do other former Pentecostals (and I think many former Evangelicals as well) who have converted to the Catholic Church, I sometimes find the emphasis on a personal relationship with Jesus to be missing in Catholic parish life. While knowing Jesus as a personal Savior is integral to Catholic doctrine and manifested in the Sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the one-on-one relationship with our Lord is not always well conveyed in the Catholic Church. I know that many of us from Pentecostal or Evangelical backgrounds worry that the deep and individual spiritual connection ― the personal sense of walking with Jesus ― may not be fully experienced by our children, at least those who find themselves in the sometimes stale or routine style of worship found in too many Catholic parishes.

If our faith is no more than an assent to a set of doctrines combined with conformity to ecclesial and moral law, it is not a living faith.  And it will not serve in the emergencies surely ahead.

Sisk’s penultimate point also resonates with me:

As another point of vital importance to the future of any people of faith, Allen emphasizes that “[o]ne of the great strengths of Pentecostalism is its capacity to form a sense of community” (407). With the decline of ethnic neighborhoods and geographically-centered parishes, the Catholic Church must foster stronger communities of deeply shared Catholic meaning and spiritual experience, such as sub-groups within a parish that come together for Bible study and to share one another’s burdens. We must find ways, both within and outside the parish, in which to build community and demonstrate our concern for the welfare of each brother and sister in Christ.

I agree.  I long for it constantly.  But having seen experiments in community living go very badly awry, I am wary.  Getting it right is not easy.

Katie van Schaijik

Power corrupts

Apr. 8, 2010, at 6:13pm

That persons are from Love and for Love and that the human condition is plagued by a post-Eden master/slave dynamic is perhaps the central theme of Christian personalism. 

Hence, I found an op-ed piece by a former priest (who is still a practicing Catholic) in today’s National Catholic Reporter identifying power as the ruination of the Church compelling, as is much of the rest of his analysis.

[P]ower is ruining the church I love. And by this I do not mean authority, which is what holds us together in unity and keeps us tied to the sources of the church’s apostolic legitimacy, the Bible and Tradition.  What I mean by power is what Jesus so masterfully dodged in the desert when Satan tried to guarantee his success as messiah by getting him to use political ascendancy, the option to work miracles of bread and spectacle in order to ensure the respect and fear all leaders need if they expect to stay in office longer than one term.

He is exactly right there.  Right that power and authority should not be conflated; right to point to the link between power and fear. 

This power for good or evil comes with a price, hidden like a coiled adder in a basket of lush fruit. Each time an idealistic leader exercises special privilege, accepts automatic respect, even guarded adulation for his holy role among sincere but lesser folks, stained by the world…each time a young priest sees himself as set apart and possessing mystic insight and ontological superiority, he is within the seduction of power.

This is true of lay Catholic leaders as well.  I have seen it in operation.  They begin to imagine that the great responsibilities they bear in their work for God somehow put them in a class apart. For instance, their leading might involve keeping others in the dark about things they wouldn’t understand.

I know this because I once shared in the clerical state, part of a proud tradition that has given the church brilliant religious communities of saints and scholars. Of the almost 20 years I spent with an order, 10 years were in ordained ministry, and I wouldn’t trade the formation and fraternity these men gave me and continue to affirm in me as a former priest, now a husband and father, a practicing Catholic and the editor of a very good worship resource that promotes the vision of Vatican II.
It is because of this experience that I know that when it comes to pedophilia, celibacy is not the issue, nor is homosexuality, nor clerical bachelorism per se.

Right again.

But power corrupts. Isolation and lack of human affection, the absence of real friendship with both men and women, all profiles at one time or another for the ideal priest, can produce trouble in a person. Loneliness, thwarted desire and a structure of obedience that renders a man impotent before his superiors to his own responsibility to choose his life at every stage, all of these dynamics can and do converge on a priest to force the question: Who am I? Who loves me? Why am I so angry and frustrated on the one hand, and so compulsive in my personal needs on the other?

I note that the personalism of JP II puts strong emphasis on friendship, including between the sexes, and on self-dtermination.  His way of pastoring was as far as can be from an authoritarian “I am the priest; I know best,” ethic of obedience and submission.  Those who were closest to him as a spiritual director say that his constant refrain was “You must decide.”  It came from his deep-seated respect for uniqueness of each person and his sense that a person (in interior dialogue with the Holy Spirit) “creates himself” in his choosing and acting.

None of this makes a pedophile, any more than marriage makes a man mature (Ha!). But the institutional template will attract and incubate those who seek the refuge of automatic respect and a façade of maturity without the painful work of growing up and getting beyond adolescent fixation and fantasy, the eroticizing of others close at hand, easily dominated, innocent and vulnerable to special people who offer special situations of attention and secret play. The diagnosis is not unknown, nor help impossible, but the failure to recognize the problem has created monsters, and institutional denial and secrecy have, it seems clear now, let criminals and serial child rapists move freely and repeatedly in the flock to victimize its most precious and innocent members.

Amen, amen, amen!

No one escapes the long loneliness except by love, love in community. No man ever came to terms with his sexuality, his spirituality, his personality, without the help of a woman, even if it is only his mother.

And again I say, amen.
How we need a much stronger, more self-standing laity!

Katie van Schaijik

The Dreyfus affair and clerical sex abuse

Apr. 7, 2010, at 4:14pm

Dismay over the recent defensiveness of the Vatican and lay Catholic spokesmen like George Weigel and Bill Donohue regarding media reports of clerical sex abuse cases and cover-ups has got me thinking again about the Dreyfus Affair.

I hope those who know it better than I do will correct me if I’m wrong, but I think there is a clear parallel with the situation we face today.

In sum, in 1894 a Jewish captain in the French army was falsely accused and imprisoned for treason.

Two years later, in 1896, evidence came to light identifying a [Catholic] French Army major named Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy as the real culprit. However, high-ranking military officials suppressed this new evidence and Esterhazy was unanimously acquitted after the second day of his trial in military court. Instead of being exonerated, Alfred Dreyfus was further accused by the Army on the basis of false documents fabricated by a French counter-intelligence officer, Hubert-Joseph Henry, seeking to re-confirm Dreyfus’s conviction. These fabrications were uncritically accepted by Henry’s superiors.

The officers involved evidently persuaded themselves and each other that if the truth were known, it would bring scandal on the military, the most important institution in Catholic France after the Church. In using Dreyfus as their scapegoat, they banked partly on the natural prejudice of the French public in favor of Catholics and against Jews.

It was the fiery public denunciations of the cover-up by the left-wing writer Émile Zola that forced a re-examination of the case and led finally to the complete exoneration of Dreyfus. The reputation of the Church in France never recovered.

The moral of the story is multi-faceted. Of course scape-goating is immoral. It also backfires. We cannot serve the reputation of the Church by covering-up injustice. (Can a skin graft heal a gangrenous wound?) Not only will the truth eventually come to light, but in the meantime, the infection is spread further throughout the body. More injustice has to be committed to keep the original one hidden. Those who are seeking the truth have to be vilified or silenced; those lying have to be protected, even favored.

Dreyfus was a Jew and Zola an anti-clerical secularist, yet, is it not obvious that every Catholic ought to stand on their side against the Catholic conspirators?

For how long did we Catholics shut our ears to the accusations we heard against priests and bishops, attributing the scandal to an anti-Catholic media culture?

It is with all this in mind that I read two recent articles by Jason Berry, the Catholic journalist who wrote the 1997 Hartford Currant piece that first made public the accusations of sex abuse against Legion of Christ founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado. (He is also one of the authors of Vows of Silence, a book and DVD about the Legion.) Berry and the newspaper were widely vilified at the time by conservative Catholic Legion sympathizers for publicizing baseless, scurrilous attacks against a manifestly good and holy priest. Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, George Weigel, Deal Hudson, Bill Donohue, and Mary Ann Glendon, among others, publicly defended Maciel. By all accounts, Pope John Paul II himself trusted Maciel and refused to listen to his accusers.
But they were telling the truth; Maciel was lying.

This week Berry has a piece in the National Catholic Reporter revealing that Maciel paved his way in Rome by lavishing cash and gifts on certain key Cardinals and Vatican officials, including the late Pope’s personal secretary. He has another rather disquieting piece in Politics Daily today about “the Vatican’s point man” in the scandal, Cardinal William Levada, whose background does not inspire confidence.

I believe Pope Benedict is serious about “cleaning up the filth” in the Church. But there’s a awful lot of it, and I fear we will have to come to grips with more bad news before we can be confident that we’re on the side of truth and right when we defend the Vatican against journalists, not all of whom are anti-Catholic. I wish our intuitive solidarity in this matter were more readily with those who have been proven right rather than with those who have been proven wrong.

Joseph Bottum’s brief response to Berry’s NRC article in First Things’ Public Square is disappointing in its grudgingness. He takes some unnecessary swipes at the competition and fails to acknowledge either the role his magazine, among other conservative Catholic outlets, played in delaying justice in the case of the Legion, or the yeoman’s work Jason Berry has been doing, in the face of fierce opposition from fellow Catholics, to bring the truth to light.

Katie van Schaijik

Recommended reading

Apr. 5, 2010, at 11:21am

It’s not pleasant reading, but it’s worthwhile.

Václav Havel, the great Czech playwright and essayist, whose book The Power of the Powerless is on our short list of great readings in personalism, today calls on the international community to notice and unequivocally condemn the latest act of incipient tyranny in Venezuela.  When, after years of being a leader of the anti-communist cultural resistance in Soviet-controlled Czechoslovakia, Havel was elected President of the emerging Czech Republic, his first public remark was, “I assume you did not elect me so that I, too, will lie to you.”

Classicist and military historian Victor Davis Hansen offers an admirable analysis of the Obama administrations characteristic postmodernism with its antipathy to truth.

Katie van Schaijik

Scruton on giving

Apr. 3, 2010, at 11:00pm

Even if you have only a little leisure for reading, try not to miss this offering by the great Roger Scruton.  He is not a Catholic, but he is a true philosopher and an intuitive personalist.  Note how like John Paul II he sounds:

When I give something I am present in the gift: it comes from me and is a symbol and an out-growth of the free self that is the moral heart of me. The gift comes wrapped in affection, an out-going of me to you that is created by the very act of giving. Even if the gift belongs to a context of ritual and reciprocity, it is something more than a bargain or a contractual exchange. It is I, going out to you.

I’d like to add many more quotes, but lack time.  Do read the whole thing.

Katie van Schaijik


Mar. 31, 2010, at 11:41pm

I am entering the Easter Triduum feeling overwhelmed as never before in my life with the tides of evil that seem to be sweeping the Church and society.

Now comes ray of light from the Vatican:

Pope Benedict XVI sees the priestly sex scandal as a “test for him and the church,” his spokesman said Wednesday, as bishops around Europe used Holy Week’s solemn call for penitence to announce new pledges of transparency in dealing with the abuse of children.

And from Cardinal Shoenborn, Archbishop of Vienna, at a service for victims:

“Thank you for breaking your silence,” Schoenborn told the victims. “A lot has been broken open. There is less looking away. But there is still a lot to do.”

God’s arm is not too short to save.
Full article here.

Katie van Schaijik

The priority of the personal in human happiness

Mar. 30, 2010, at 1:12pm

Interesting David Brooks column in today’s New York Times that begins by pointing to the case of Sandra Bullock (who won a Best Actress Oscar days before her marriage publicly fell apart) and asking whether readers would rather have a good marriage or a great career triumph.

Nonetheless, if you had to take more than three seconds to think about this question, you are absolutely crazy. Marital happiness is far more important than anything else in determining personal well-being. If you have a successful marriage, it doesn’t matter how many professional setbacks you endure, you will be reasonably happy. If you have an unsuccessful marriage, it doesn’t matter how many career triumphs you record, you will remain significantly unfulfilled.

This is more than intuitive wisdom.

This is the age of research, so there’s data to back this up. Over the past few decades, teams of researchers have been studying happiness. Their work, which seemed flimsy at first, has developed an impressive rigor, and one of the key findings is that, just as the old sages predicted, worldly success has shallow roots while interpersonal bonds permeate through and through.

And it’s not just marriage.  It’s interpersonal relationships in general.

If you want to find a good place to live, just ask people if they trust their neighbors. Levels of social trust vary enormously, but countries with high social trust have happier people, better health, more efficient government, more economic growth, and less fear of crime (regardless of whether actual crime rates are increasing or decreasing).

Brooks proposes that our institutions begin paying more attention to the non-material factors in human well-being.  I’m all for it.

Katie van Schaijik

The personification of evil

Mar. 29, 2010, at 1:18pm

Two names given by Holy Scripture to the devil came to mind reading this article: Father of Lies and Legion.

According to some of the testimonies given to the apostolic visitors in recent months, some in this group knew about the founder’s double life, about the carnal acts he performed with many of his seminarians over the span of decades, about his lovers, his children, his drug use. But in spite of that, a fortress was built around Maciel in defense of his virtues, devotion to him was fostered among his followers, all of them unaware of the truth, his talents were emphasized, even among the upper hierarchy of the Church. This exaltation of the figure of the founder was so effective that even today it inspires the sense of belonging to the Legion among many of its priests and religious.

The cohesion of the leadership group, originating from its decades-long connection with Maciel, endures today in the bond that binds and subordinates everyone to Corcuera, and even more to Garza.

Garza concentrates two key posts in himself. He is vicar general, with control of administration, and he is the director of the congregation’s Italian province, headquartered in Rome, where the Vatican is. He took this second post shortly before the beginning of the apostolic visit, transferring his predecessor, Jacobo Muñoz, to the province of France and Ireland.

But in addition to this, Garza is the creator and absolute master of Grupo Integer, the holding company that acts as treasury and administrative center for all the works of the Legion in the world, with assets totaling an estimated 25 billion euros.

This groups with assets in tens of billions of dollars routinely send out fundraising appeals asking for money for its poor seminarians, who don’t have enough food of heat. 

I am finding it increasingly difficult to trust or respect anyone who remains affiliated in any way with this travesty of a religious order.

Katie van Schaijik

John Allen on Benedict’s handling of the issue

Mar. 29, 2010, at 12:02pm

Right after linking the Weigel piece below, I found this op-ed by John Allen in today’s New York Times. It’s good—as is a National Catholic Reporter article he wrote on the same theme a week or two ago.

The outside world is outraged, rightly, at the church’s decades of ignoring the problem. But those who understand the glacial pace at which change occurs in the Vatican understand that Benedict, admittedly late in the game but more than any other high-ranking official, saw the gravity of the situation and tried to steer a new course.

Be that as it may, Benedict now faces a difficult situation inside the church. From the beginning, the sexual abuse crisis has been composed of two interlocking but distinct scandals: the priests who abused, and the bishops who failed to clean it up. The impact of Benedict’s post-2001 conversion has been felt mostly at that first level, and he hasn’t done nearly as much to enforce new accountability measures for bishops.

That, in turn, is what makes revelations about his past so potentially explosive. Can Benedict credibly ride herd on other bishops if his own record, at least before 2001, is no better? The church’s legitimacy rests in large part on that question.

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