On not finding God in the worldStarting then with the being of a God, (which, as I have said, is as certain to me as the certainty of my own existence, though when I try to put the grounds of that certainty into logical shape I find a difficulty in doing so in mood and figure to my satisfaction,) I look out of myself into the world of men, and there I see a sight which fills me with unspeakable distress. The world seems simply to give the lie to that great truth, of which my whole being is so full; and the effect upon me is, in consequence, as a matter of necessity, as confusing as if it denied that I am in existence myself. If I looked into a mirror, and did not see my face, I should have the sort of feeling which actually comes upon me, when I look into this living busy world, and see no reflexion of its Creator. This is, to me, one of those great difficulties of this absolute primary truth, to which I referred just now. Were it not for this voice, speaking so clearly in my conscience and my heart, I should be an atheist, or a pantheist, or a polytheist when I looked into the world. I am speaking for myself only; and I am far from denying the real force of the arguments in proof of a God, drawn from the general facts of human society and the course of history, but these do not warm me or enlighten me; they do not take away the winter of my desolation, or make the buds unfold and the leaves grow within me, and my moral being rejoice. The sight of the world is nothing else than the prophet’s scroll, full of “lamentations, and mourning, and woe.”
John Henry Newman
Apologia Pro Vita Sua
Apr. 26, 2013, at 3:05pm
Lately I've run into some exceptionally interesting articles on mental health (by John Janaro
and Gregory Popcak).
It occurs to me how closely related to personalism this subject is. In the quest to “become who you are” (not somebody else, and not some lesser version of yourself)—in the struggle to sort through all the bogus and genuine paths to fulfillment and maturity, where exactly do mental illness and its treatment fit in?
Simple! (I used to think) Mental illness is scandalously overdiagnosed! Drugs are shockingly overprescribed! Every squirmy little boy is saddled with an ADHD label, every sleep-deprived new mama is PPD, every moody adolescent bipolar. …
Apr. 22, 2013, at 6:03pm
After posting the other day about Simcha Fisher's article on a disturbing streak of holocaust denial in traditionalist Catholic circles, I was drawn into an email discussion with a fellow FUS grad, who defends the type. It's been eye-opening. I begin to worry that it's more than a streak.
I am under no illusions that my arguments will break through to this group. Some forms of traditionalism have all the earmarks of a cult. Reasoning doesn't avail against it, which was partly Simcha's point. But I'll publish some of the exchange here, in the hope of helping inoculate others against the oh-so-plausible arguments justifying holocaust denial.
I'll offset his comments (which I quote only …continue reading
Apr. 20, 2013, at 10:31am
He addresses the nature of evil in a timely column.
In the days ahead we need to pray for the dead and wounded in Boston, and their families. And then, with the help of God, we need to begin to change ourselves. That kind of conversion might seem like a small thing, an easy thing - until we try it. Then we understand why history turns on the witness of individual lives.
Apr. 18, 2013, at 9:30pm
To say that fiscal policy is not my forte is—let’s put it nicely— an understatement. (In fact, I chose this graph because it was so pretty.) But there is an important personalist point to be made about it anyway, and maybe I can express it in a way that other liberal-arts types can understand.
Many labor under a perceived conflict between taking seriously the Church’s concern for the poor, on the one hand, and treasuring the rights of the individual, including the taxpayer and entrepreneur, on the other. The “social justice Catholics” object to neglecting the poor in the name of the economic freedoms of people who could help them. Small-government advocates object to a state that …continue reading
Apr. 18, 2013, at 8:31am
A friend links an exceptionally thoughtful blog post on the question of organ donation. She touches the problem of medical personel, acutely aware of the urgent need for organs, putting undue pressure on the grieving families, who may have religious or moral objections.
Clinicians and medical staff know so very little, if anything, about these families and about how they feel about their dead. They only know how they present at a given period of time and what the medical records say. Sometimes, in our haste, practitioners/clinicians see families as hurdles; persons to sidestep or go around. We can subconsciously depersonalize them, characterizing them as obstacles to the lung, liver, …
Apr. 14, 2013, at 10:36am
I’ve just spent a solid week in an Ann Arbor basement in the company of Pope Francis. Well, not in person, but I got a surprise opportunity to do one layer of editing of a collection of his homilies, letters, and addresses. (This explains why you haven’t heard from me in a while.) The book will be available from Scepter…well, I’ll let you know as soon as I have a date. But it was a worthwhile way to spend a week, and I thank my longsuffering children
for making it possible. (Actually the three pictured here, as you can imagine, were mostly useful in keeping the older ones productively occupied.)
As I got to know Pope Francis, I kept remembering that interview with Cardinal Dolan, …continue reading
Apr. 14, 2013, at 8:54am
I'm reading this morning an excellent article by Robert George about the late abortionist-turned pro-life activist, Bernard Nathanson. All of it is more than worth reading, but this point wants high-lighting.
Bernie and I became friends in the early 1990s, shortly after my own pro-life writings came to his attention. Once during the question-and-answer session following a speech he gave at Princeton, I asked him: “When you were promoting abortion, you were willing to lie in what you regarded as a good cause. Now that you have been converted to the cause of life, would you be willing to lie to save babies? How do those who hear your speeches and read your books and articles know that you …
Apr. 12, 2013, at 10:41am
I love Simcha Fisher for this post, titled, "A Little Divisiveness, Please."
Her point is not unrelated to the problem of "unprincipled forgiveness." Like those whose call for "unconditional mercy," calls for "unity" and reproaches against "divisiveness" all too often expose an essential unseriousness about truth and right. They are, in practical effect, ways of saying "peace, peace" when there is no peace.
As Simcha puts it, "Some things are worth dividing yourself from." Among them are lies and illusions and cover-ups and conspiracies. Also vanities and immorality and wrong-speaking and wrong-doing of every kind. All of these things are objectively disunifying.
There is only one …continue reading
Apr. 7, 2013, at 10:18am
I am thinking of my cousin, Fr. Bob Oliver, who was appointed Promoter of Justice by Pope Benedict a few weeks before his resignation. He is now, in effect, the Church's top prosecutor in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the office responsible for adjudicating the sex abuse scandals, among other things.
According to Zenit, the Pope met last week with Archbishop Müller, head of the CDF, and urged him to act decisively.
"In particular," the statement added, "the Holy Father recommended that the Congregation, continuing along the lines set by Benedict XVI, act decisively with regard to cases of sexual abuse, first of all by promoting measures for the protection of minors, …
Apr. 2, 2013, at 8:30pm
We all saw it coming.
On learning that Pope Francis rode the subway and cooked his own meals, we were charmed. When he preferred to skip cuff links and stoles,
we were still delighted—or most of us were. When he stopped by his hotel to pay his bill, called up the local kiosk owner to cancel his paper, and held a mass for garbage collectors, everybody cheered.
Some have already been put off by one gesture or another, and more will surely follow suit as this (very wholesome) Papaphoria diminishes.
When it came out, for example, that he had asked his countrymen
to stay home from his installation and give the money to the poor, not the airlines, that sounded noble. Even his immediate …continue reading
Mar. 27, 2013, at 9:34am
My introduction to philosophy came through a Nature of Love course featuring texts by von Hildebrand and Wojtyla. The insights I gained in it changed everything for me. Lacking the leisure to write a more substantive article, I at least want to share a few of them, as a way of offering some relief from the moral darkness and confusion presently overwhelming our society.
1) Conjugal love is a unique form of love, a form perfectly embodied in the life-giving conjugal act.
2) Conjugal love is not reducible to a commitment of the will; it's not reducible to "feelings"; it's not reducible to the sexual urge; it's not to be confused with "friendship plus sex." It is not the same as eros. It …continue reading
Mar. 22, 2013, at 9:37pm
Papa Francis has cured me—let’s hope it sticks!—of being a political junkie.
The contrast between his heartfelt, fearless convictions and the politicians’ transparent, crowd-pleasing triangulations is just too stark. The triangulators hardly seem worth poking fun at anymore. And belaboring the contrast between his subway rides and their luxury junkets just seems like overkill. The facts speak for themselves.
(Besides, I have an awful suspicion that the point of all this humility is not so much that we should despise the fat cats and fast talkers but that we should try to become what we’re meant to be. As Kierkegaard has pointed out, a little admiration is a dangerous thing. It’s …continue reading
Mar. 22, 2013, at 8:47am
Today I'm ruminating on a fascinating psychological profile of atheists linked by a facebook friend.
I'm thinking about
1) the importance of relationships, especially in families, and the problem of alienation: the shut heart
2) the importance of gender difference, and the particular gift women are supposed to be for men
3) the problem of exaggerated value placed on intelligence, and the under appreciation of the role of the emotions in human life
I'm thinking about all this in relation to Jules' Person class tonight. His subject is the heart and the emotions. We've both been thinking and talking a lot about this passage from Pope Francis' inaugural homily on the Feast of St. Joseph:
Mar. 21, 2013, at 10:04am
Some days it feels as if the best we can manage is not to be overwhelmed by the darkness gathering over our society.
I've been debating a nice bi-sexual guy who favors civil unions for gays, because he thinks they offer a way out of the nihilistic hedonism otherwise prevailing in the homosexual subculture. He thinks legal recognition of their relationships will help them by channeling their sexuality toward monogamy. He is plainly sincere. But to me it is delusional to suppose we can keep the norm of monogamy once the norm of sexual complementarity is abandoned.
Someday I mean to write an article showing that, in its essence and structure, the conjugal union (ordered as it is toward …continue reading
Mar. 18, 2013, at 10:19am
Rabbi Schmuley has an outstanding article at the Huffington Post about the terrible case of the two Steubenville high school football stars convicted yesterday of raping a 16 year old girl at a alcohol-feuled party last year. He discusses it in terms of the perverse values infecting our society, above all
...the attitude of teenage men toward girls. Immanuel Kant wrote that the definition of immorality is treating a fellow human being as a means rather than an end. The abomination of American slavery was that a white child was taught to see a black child as a walking bale of cotton. Slavery trained a white man to see a black woman as lacking the same spark of the divine that lent him his …
Mar. 17, 2013, at 5:09pm
An honest, thoughtful column by Ross Douthat in the NYT today. The task in front of the Church at the moment is to restore her own moral authority.
If Catholicism has a future in the Western world as something more than a foil, an Other and a symbol of the Benighted Past We Have Safely Left Behind, it needs its leaders to set an example that proves these voices wrong. Before anything else, that requires a generation of priests and bishops who hold themselves to a higher standard — higher than their immediate predecessors, and higher than the world.
It also requires more from the new pope than an evocative name and a humble posture. Catholicism needs someone like Pius V, the 16th-century …
Mar. 14, 2013, at 4:04pm
He’s a conservative, but a Jesuit who has compassion on single mothers, and kisses the feet of AIDS patients.
No, wait, he’s a liberal, but he says the idea of “gay marriage” is “a machination of the Father of Lies” and outspokenly defends the right to life even of babies conceived in rape.
Well, but he’s a conservative—but the son of an immigrant railway worker who eschews the episcopal palace for a small apartment, rides the bus,
and cooks his own meals.
Or maybe he’s a liberal—but he puts a premium on doctrinal orthodoxy. And a 76-year-old man with a single lung who radiates peace and strength.
Oh, never mind.
We all understand that the labels “conservative” and …continue reading
Mar. 13, 2013, at 11:36am
I posted this at the Ricochet member feed today:
One among many stunning features of the papal conclave I can't help noting with awe and gratitude is the harmonious marriage of antiquity and modernity it represents. I mean, you've got people all over the world watching for smoke signals from the Cistine Chapel on their TVs and laptops and iPhones. Think about that.
You have the sacred oath of secrecy and you have the electronic sweeps to make sure there are no hidden listening devices. You have remarkable, highly-educated and accomplished men of our own day and age, from all races and cultures and continents, appearing in those black robes with red sashes and gold crosses that have been …
Mar. 11, 2013, at 10:06pm
The Chief Rabbi of France has written an original and perceptive essay called “Homosexual Marriage, Parenting, and Adoption.” Last week, I made an ambitious attempt to compress his main points into this post, and this week (undaunted, for some reason) I propose to address the way he delves into our experience of sexual complementarity, drawing out what it reveals about (no kidding!) our limitedness, transcendence, interpersonal communion, the bonds between man, woman and child, self-discovery through knowledge of the other, and the spuriousness of self-sufficiency.
I’ll do my best. But the wise reader will go straight to the original article, and he won’t be sorry, either.
* …continue reading
Mar. 11, 2013, at 5:21pm
Today Alice von Hildebrand, widow of Dietrich von Hildebrand and philosopher in her own right, turns 90 years old. In honor of the occasion, we asked her permission to republish an article of hers that we first came across about 25 years ago. It's influenced our thinking ever since.
ON THE PSEUDO-OBVIOUS
— by Alice von Hildebrand
It is no rare occurrence in the history of philosophy that a thesis which is neither proven nor evident has nevertheless been accepted by many, without further examination, simply because of its persuasive ring. And this has taken place in spite of the fact that these assertions were false, sometimes evidently false, and even …continue reading