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Devra Torres

“Soft Addictions”

Sep. 13 at 2:02pm

Browsing through the library one day, I happened on a book about “soft addictions.” It belonged to the self-help genre, and I don’t remember what kind of treatment the author recommended, but it was an interesting idea: the causes and effects, not of physiologically addictive substances, but of relatively innocuous habits like overeating and nail-biting. (This was a long time ago, so electronics were not on the list, but I have no doubt they would be now.)

I thought of it the other day when I ran into two different videos making the rounds. They’re also about addiction, but they’re concerned with showing that certain addictions are “real” because they have a physiological basis or

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Devra Torres

The Glorious Conformity of the Children of God?

Feb. 22, 2013, at 11:43pm

Mama, if God knew Adam and Eve were gonna sin, how come he tested them?

"Jopa" (Johanna Paulina, named after Guess Who) is my seventh child, age seven, heading into the age of reason right on schedule.  This was hardly the first time a kid had posed this question to me.  I dusted off my usual talking points:

  • “Well, it wasn’t that kind of a test—like the one your teacher gives you to find out something she didn’t know before, since God knows everything…” 

        “Yeah, but—“

  • “…He wanted to give us a chance to obey Him freely, out of love…”

        “Yeah, but—“

  • “…because He wanted us to be free persons, not just little robots who automatically did whatever He wanted.  If we weren’t
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Devra Torres

Dictatorship of Realism?

Feb. 7, 2013, at 8:23pm

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

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Devra Torres

In Praise of Spontaneity, Under Certain Conditions

Oct. 25, 2012, at 12:53am

For a long time, I labored under the illusion that spontaneity, especially as practiced by me, was a charming thing.  This misconception has been slowly, and I do mean slowly, draining away over the past couple of decades.

One early intimation that something was amiss came when my husband and I were newlyweds moving to a different apartment.  He seemed distinctly uncharmed by the large quantity of boxes I had packed up and helpfully labeled “MISCELLANEOUS.”

 I was mystified.  What did he want: a boring, regimental, conformist wife?

(Now that I have eight children who take after me, his perspective is much less baffling.)

I’ve been reading Time for God by Fr. Jacques Philippe again,

and

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Katie van Schaijik

Teach your children well

May. 2, 2012, at 5:52pm

One of the students in my coursthip class (though I feel funny referring to him that way, since he's older and wiser than I am) made a great personalist observation yesterday. After class, the discussion ranged over the subject of the cultural epidemic of undermotivated men.  Frank noted that it used to be the case that sons were expected to take up their father's profession, regardless of their interests and aptitudes.  Realizing that that wasn't quite adequate to the mystery of individuality, more recent generations of fathers have instead taught their children, "You can be anything you want to be."  But this has led to a widespread problem of aimlessness.  Kierkegaard called it the

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Jules van Schaijik

New translation of the mass: Dashed hopes?

Nov. 16, 2011, at 6:00am

To help prepare the faithful for the new translation of the mass, our parish priests have lately taken some time out of their homilies each week to read part of an official document (I don't know where they got it) explaining what the most significant changes are, and why they were made.

The section read this week included a change made to the words of institution:

The previous translation of the Mass referred to Jesus' blood having redemptive value "for all." The new translation replaces the words "for all" with "for many."

"For many" is apparently closer to the Latin text of the mass, and also in greater continuity with the Tradition. More importantly, it

…remains closer to Jesus'

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Jules van Schaijik

The personalist significance of involuntary emotions

Sep. 17, 2010, at 2:29pm

In a recent post at Contentions, Jennifer Rubin opines that in an effort to regain his popularity, President Obama has decided to “show some emotional connection to the American people.”

What makes this mock-worthy, of course, and also somewhat sad, is the fact that emotions cannot simply be manipulated like that. They are not at the disposal of our will. We can decide to fake them, but not to feel them. And the problem for Obama is that the difference between the two is usually pretty obvious to the onlooker. (Though Rubin brings up the interesting case of Bill Clinton whose play-acting was so convincing that he might be described as a “real phony”.)

Rubin’s post nicely

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Katie van Schaijik

Intimidation vs. freedom in religion

Mar. 7, 2010, at 12:58pm

Several years ago Jules and I heard Cardinal Schönborn give a lecture about the then newly released Catechism of the Catholic Church. Afterwards, someone in the audience asked the Cardinal what the Church was going to do about dissenting theologians and catechists. He answered with moving humility that he himself, who had headed the group that had authored the catechism, had been unable to stop the teaching of heterodoxy in his own diocese of Vienna. Then he told us that he had recently found himself sitting beside a highly-placed Muslim cleric on an airplane who had asked a similar question: Why did the Church not crack down on dissent within its ranks? His response was to point to

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Josef Seifert

Are we really free?  Can we know it?

Sep. 6, 2009, at 8:31pm

In our discussion of the essence of freedom we already presupposed all along, and as we shall see with good reason, that we as human persons are free. We spoke of us being able to take free stances, to command actions, to cooperate, etc. Nevertheless, we must distinguish sharply between knowing the essence of freedom and knowing the existence of human freedom. In principle, to gain an insight into all we saw about the essence of freedom does not yet imply that we actually are free, that freedom actually exists in the human being, either in actu or in potency, as fundamental faculty of the person. Especially when it comes to freedom, we can well understand the fundamental difference between

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Josef Seifert

What Is Freedom? Can We choose Radically Different Lives?

Aug. 16, 2009, at 4:24am

Freedom is one of those arch-data that cannot be defined in terms of something else or reduced to anything besides itself. It includes, however, many dimensions and traits which can be unfolded and analyzed (as this has recently been done in deep works of Karol Wojtyla and Dietrich von Hildebrand): It is not only a freedom from determining causes, an „I can but I do not need to,“ but also the power of self-determination that makes free acts utterly different from chance-events, with which Heisenberg and many physicists and philosophers of science confused it. Freedom also involves a special form of possession of one’s being, which is only possible in and through the free agent’s

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Josef Seifert

Defending the Freedom of wearing Veils and Burqas

Jun. 23, 2009, at 12:54am

I think that not even the most literal interpretation of the Koran’s dressing codes for women, wearing burqas, ought to be outlawed in the West, let alone Muslim women covering of heads by normal veils (which are equally outlawed in many Western countries). It seems to me that any observance of a religious tradition that is not in any way in itself evil, or criminal, or offensive, ought to be permitted by the law and never be banished or outlawed, which does not exclude to persecute domestic crimes even if justified in the shariah.
Not only is there a sacred right to the freedom of religion and to the freedom of conscience to obey one’s positive religious mandates as long as they do not

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Josef Seifert

But are we free? Five questions

Jun. 20, 2009, at 11:04am

But are we free? Do we possess freedom? And can we know this with our pure human reason or only accept it on faith? We need to distinguish here five questions, two general and three more specific ones:

(1) What is the nature of freedom? In what does it consist? This we must understand not only in order to assert the existence of human freedom but also in order to deny it. If we did not know WHAT freedom is and what we mean by this word, we could neither assert nor deny the existence of freedom because we would not understand at all what we are saying when we say “We are free” or what we are stating when we claim “We are not free.” Both judgments make no sense without understanding

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Josef Seifert

Why nothing is left of Jewish Christian Faith if we are not free

Jun. 10, 2009, at 11:15am

1. Without acknowledging freedom of the created person, God would be the origin of all evils and thus a hyper-demonic being: Each metaphysics, which denies the freedom of humans and of angels, and more precisely the abuse of freedom, as source and first cause of all the manifold evils that obviously exist in the world blames these evils on God or, if he is an atheist, on an unfree natural cause. In either of these two cases moral evil would not exist at all in humans. Because if humans and angels were determined to be evil, they would be innocent like lambs or like puppets; God, however, as long as his existence is not altogether denied, as the source of all evil and suffering, would be

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Josef Seifert

Are we free?  Are we persons?

Jun. 7, 2009, at 3:16am

The Immense Importance of the Question whether We Are Free

There is hardly anything that could be more fundamental for personalist philosophy, for the understanding of the human being qua person, than the comprehension of the nature of freedom and an answer to the question whether we humans are in fact free. Already a purely philosophical grasp of the person is enough to see the inseparable link between person and freedom so that one can say on purely philosophical-rational grounds: an “unfree person” is a contradictio in adiecto, a contradiction in itself — just like an “iron wood.”

Freedom belongs so essentially to personhood that no being can be called a person if he or she,

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Katie van Schaijik

Obama utters a truth he defies in practice

Jun. 4, 2009, at 2:22pm

In a speech today (hat tip, Andy McCarthy at the Corner), President Obama remarked:

[T]here are some who advocate for democracy only when they are out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. No matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power: you must maintain your power through consent, not coercion[.]

The first sentence calls to mind the intimidation campaign unleashed by homosexual activists against the supporters of Proposition 8 in California. It reminds me of Obama's pet organization ACORN, which demand "justice" while it commits fraud and thuggishly shakes down banks. Obama

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