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Flourishing of persons is the final meaning of the universe

The 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.

Max Scheler

Formalism in Ethics and Non-Formal Ethics of Values

Devra Torres

Who Cares What You Think?

Nov. 22 at 1:04pm

When I came home from college for the first time, my eyes were opened to just how strange my family was. Everything I had thought “that’s just the way it’s done” about had turned out to be just one option among many. Other people didn’t share my assumptions: In fact, some thought my family’s ways were just as bizarre and alien as I thought theirs were. Then I got home and saw my family through their eyes.

                                        

I should add that my college was just about as congenial to my upbringing as it was possible for an institution to be. And it was still a shock. This classmate was horrified by the way I forced the French toast down into the butter when we shared

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Katie van Schaijik

The problem with “consenting adults”

Nov. 21 at 9:46am

The operative ethical principle in our society seems to be: "Anything goes, provided there's no coercion. If it's between consulting adults, it's no one else's business."

I had a conversation with a Catholic libertarian friend along these lines not long ago, when I linked this article about how Sweden has managed to dramatically reduce prostitution by adjusting its laws to focus on the problem of the exploitation of women. The clients are punished by law; the prostitutes are offered help getting out of the "profession," if they want to. (It turns out that most do.) My friend was skeptical. As a Catholic, he thinks protitution is immoral, but as a libertarian he thinks that since it's

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Katie van Schaijik

Cutting ties

Nov. 19 at 10:02am

I've heard many Christians, including priests, teach that "we have to stay in relationship" and that "nothing is more important than unity." In other words, they hold that it's not okay to cut ties. To me, this seems manifestly false—out of accord with Scripture, Church teaching, and ordinary moral experience. 

At 17, I took a life-saving course, and learned that a drowning person has to be approached from behind, because he will instinctively treat his rescuer as a buoy, clutching at him in such a way that unless the rescuer quickly and aggressively disengages and swims away, both will drown. 

It's a good metaphor for certain relationships, isn't it? Unless we get out of them, we'll

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Jules van Schaijik

What would Newman say about the Synod?

Nov. 17 at 12:12pm

In a comment under my last post, Freda asks what John Henry Newman might have thought about the recent Synod on the Family in Rome. Specifically, she worries that some of the suggestions made by some of the bishops represent not  developments of what came before, but radical departures from it.

I will say a few things about Newman’s distinction between developments and corruptions of doctrine, but the thrust of what follows is a critique of the conservative critics of Pope Francis.  I draw heavily on Newman to formulate this critique, but I do not pretend speak for Newman. Rather, I turn to him for help and insight in clarifying and articulating my own thoughts.

If, then, some of the

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Devra Torres

Death with What? Brittany Maynard, Veterans Day, and the lure of the pseudo-obvious

Nov. 12 at 10:24pm

The suicide of Brittany Maynard, may she rest in peace, and her efforts to persuade others to follow suit, have brought on a lot of conversation about “death with dignity.”

                                    

Everybody has an opinion. But we'll get nowhere until we back up and address the question, “What do we even mean by dignity?”

Here are two common meanings that most people seem to have in mind (even if they're not pressed to articulate them).

  • According to the first definition, to do something with dignity means to have things under control. After all, it seems undignified to be out of control, at the mercy of events, of biology, of nature.
  • The second definition is related to the
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Katie van Schaijik

Why we need fraternity maybe even more than charity

Nov. 11 at 6:02pm

Pope Francis upset many on the political right a few months back, when he said that "inequality is the root of social evil." They took him to be calling for socialist-style wealth-redistribution. I heard something different. I heard a deeper (true) point about human relations. 

Since the fall in Eden, all human relations have been menaced by the master/slave dynamic. Instead of the "communion-of-love" that characterized our original way of being together, all of us are now constantly tempted to relate to each other according to power dynamics. The strong and rich are tempted to "lord it over" the weak and poor, and the weak and poor are tempted to slavishness and resentment.

Sometimes the

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Katie van Schaijik

One of love’s opposites: Contempt

Nov. 9 at 9:31am

Some fortunate souls have mystical experiences. I'm not one of them. But all my life I've been subject to profound "moral experiences"—occasions I can only describe as dramatic breakthroughs in my understanding. Some come very suddenly; others are more gradual. They are existential in character, by which I mean, they're not a simple resolution of an intellectual difficulty, but a kind of illumination of my life and self. They are always accompanied by pain—the searing pain of humiliation—of realizing I've been wrong, and in the wrong. That passing pain is soon followed by a a lasting sense of liberation and peace, and an awareness of interior gains. One of the most significant came several

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Devra Torres

The Trouble with Gurus

Nov. 9 at 12:33am

I used to be a serial guru follower. Not back when I was five or six and my parents were flirting with Eastern religions--I was just a mother-and-father follower in those days. Wherever they went, I followed (and they went all over the place, both geographically and religiously. Eventually we all became Catholic and stopped switching allegiances.).

                                  

No, I mean that as an adult, I used to search for gurus who would help me stay afloat as a child-rearer, a cook, a manager of money, a grownup human being. (Later I searched for homeschooling gurus and writing gurus.) At the tender age of 25 I abruptly became a homemaker (or began trying to); at 26, a mother.

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Katie van Schaijik

Interpreting the Pope through personalism

Nov. 5 at 10:35am

When an editor at the National Catholic Register asked me to write an article expanding on my short post about the Synod, I came up with a long list of Pope Francis's words and themes that strike me as conspicuously personalist. I wanted to show, pace the anxieties of the traditionalists, how consistent he is with his two great predecessors, and really with all the post-conciliar popes.

I only managed to develop one of those points: the emphasis on receptivity. I never got to the way he proposes love and service in place of the power dynamics of the fall; the way he focuses on the affirmation of the good as opposed to condemnation of the bad; I hardly mentioned the imagery of embodiment,

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Devra Torres

What’s at Stake

Nov. 2 at 10:46pm

Here’s the message I’ve been trying to get out for years, first of all to myself but also to anyone else who might benefit from it:

Just do whatever’s on your plate! Don’t get discouraged and cynical if you don’t see spectacular spiritual or intellectual progress. Live wholeheartedly in the moment. Age quod agis (Latin for, more or less, “Whatever it is you’re doing, really do it!”)! Don’t be discouraged or paralyzed by failure.

Your own real spiritual state is notoriously hard to get a handle on. Don’t concentrate on futile attempts to evaluate where you stand, as spouse, parent, Christian, or human being. You can’t save the world singlehandedly. In fact (what’s become clearer and

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Jules van Schaijik

Is all confusion evil? A Socratic thought.

Oct. 28 at 2:10pm

In response to a question after a recent lecture, Archbishop Chaput said about the Synod on the Family that “the public image that came across was one of confusion” and that “confusion is of the devil”. I think I understand what he means by this, and to some extent I agree.  However, there's another, more positive way of looking at it. Not all confusion is of the devil. Some confusion is even salutary—a necessary stage on the way to wisdom.

The point is made classically in Plato’s Meno. The dialogue begins with Meno confidently telling Socrates that he knows perfectly well what virtue is.

There is no difficulty about it… I have spoken about virtue hundreds of times, held forth often on

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Katie van Schaijik

The death of a priest and a personalist

Oct. 26 at 8:46am

A rare soul has left the world, Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete.

Msgr. Albacete was born Jan. 7, 1941, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He obtained a degree in physics, and after his ordination to the priesthood he earned a doctorate in theology at the Angelicum, officially known as the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas.

He served as the responsible for Communion and Liberation in the U.S. and Canada, and was chairman of board of advisors for Crossroads Cultural Center, a project which hosts events exploring the relationship between religion and culture.

He was also a co-founder of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C.

I've read several of his articles over the

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Devra Torres

“High-Quality Love”: Four Questions to Ask Yourself

Oct. 24 at 10:17pm

It’s been a few years since I translated Self-Esteem without Selfishness, and I’m finally able to read it with fresh eyes--for enjoyment, not false cognates and typos.

                                        

One recurring problem I encountered during the translating was how to render “amor de alta calidad.” “High-quality love” just didn’t cut it: in English, it sounded like I was describing merchandise, hawking a product—exactly what the author was not doing. In the end I found several more palatable ways to render the phrase.

But Fr. Michel Esparza has some strikingly perceptive observations about love. They touch on something we’ve discussed repeatedly here at the Personalist Project (

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Devra Torres

Factions

Oct. 20 at 11:39pm

The Synod is over!  The Synod is over! Relieved or dismayed, euphoric or alarmed, we can take a deep breath and relax. (No, not really: now it’s time to begin sifting through the results and preparing for the real Synod.)

                        

The commentary has ranged from distraught to elated, but one recurring idea is that it’s been good to get things hashed out: that it’s a good sign we haven’t settled for a bland, generic document-generating process. Over at Shoved to Them Rebecca Frech even has a post entitled “Why I’m grateful to Cardinal Kasper,” 

She argues that a rousing debate about important questions is a wholesome and necessary thing, recalling the words of her high school

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Devra Torres

The Synod: Caricature and Reality

Oct. 13 at 2:00pm

This is not a post about the Extraordinary Synod on the Family. You can learn about what’s actually going on there elsewhere. (Here’s Katie on Pope Francis’ opening remarks and here's the document that's causing today's uproar).

No, this post is about the caricature of the Synod, which you can all too easily bump into--by reading only headlines, or reading entire articles uncritically, or reading them critically but failing to consider the source.

                        

The caricature is this:

The centerpiece of the Synod is the fate of divorced and remarried Catholics, and the sole question at issue is: Justice or mercy? Will the Catholic Church finally relinquish its fixation on rules

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Katie van Schaijik

Personalism and the Judeo-Christian tradition

Oct. 11 at 10:33am

Member Peter asks a question that deserves an answer:

Can someone please explain to me how the personalist project concludes that no other persons besides Jews and Christians have the spiritual resources to acknowledge unconditional worth in all human persons? 

He is referring to the essay laying out our sense of personalism composed at our request by John Crosby. It includes the following paragraph:

According to our personalism, this sense of personal existence has emerged in the encounter with the living God of Judeo-Christian revelation. It can be sustained and deepened only by continuing to live in this encounter. Those who repudiate God cannot preserve the personalist affirmation

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Katie van Schaijik

A call for radical, embodied love

Oct. 6 at 7:12am

In remarks opening the Extraordinary Synod on marriage yesterday, Pope Francis struck several characteristically personalist notes in a few words.

He called for "a fraternal exchange of views" among the bishops—a spirit of openness and receptivity. This is not a power struggle; they are not to vie for victory over one another, but to recognize the partiality of each one's perspective and the value of what others have to offer, trusting that the Lord would lead them to true unity. The fulness of Truth is much greater than any single individual can possess. We attain it together, under grace.

He urged the bishops to "take pastoral responsibility for the questions that this changing time

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Devra Torres

How I Spent My Autumn Vacation

Oct. 2 at 11:07pm

At considerable inconvenience and expense to many generous people, I just spent a week flying to and riding around New England to see nearly every single member of my very extensive extended family. I flew down to Baltimore (because that’s where Southwest likes to take everybody, regardless of their chosen destination) and then up to New Hampshire. I stayed with my parents and then with my sister’s family, which includes not only nine children and one on the way but also Boomer, a dog who’s bigger than most of them.

                              

My father, sister, nephew, and brother-in-law took it in shifts to drive me to a certain strategically located McDonalds which lies halfway

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Katie van Schaijik

On speaking what we feel

Sep. 26 at 12:33pm

Jules and I saw an outstanding production of King Lear in Philadelphia the other day. As always with Shakespeare, I kept marveling over the ineffable breadth and depth and pith and poetry of his insight into human experience. But one line in particular stood out, I think because we've been reflecting so much on the emotions around here lately.

It's among the concluding lines of the drama. Nearly all the principal characters have died or been killed. The Duke of Albany, says:

The weight of this sad time we must obey;

Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.

Especially in weighty moments, we should "speak what we feel." Why? Because it is in and through the emotions that the self

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Katie van Schaijik

About shaking the dust from our sandals

Sep. 25 at 12:31pm

In response to my post on soundness in relationships, friend Rebecca wrote a note at once encouraging and challenging, going right to the heart of things.

Katie, thank you so much for posting this. It makes a lot of sense and I think it's a really valuable contribution to a discussion that needs to happen much, much, more frequently. I would really like to see a follow up (post? discussion? conversation?) about the "shaking the dust from your feet part." Clearly, that injunction to the disciples comes when they're in mission territory. And in regular life, how to help people (not to mention ourselves!) who are "unsound" seems often like a primary form of charity....but how to exercise

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