- Edward Feser on “modern nervousness” and contemporary academic style:
The “modern nervousness” of which Stove speaks is a purported reluctance of contemporary thinkers to be too confident in asserting the truth of their opinions, in light of the overthrow of scientific theories once thought to be unchallengeable. Hence the tentativeness and modesty that is – again, purportedly – the hallmark of contemporary academic writing, and which one generally does not find in philosophers of the past. An Aristotle, Aquinas, Descartes, or Kant just tells you straightforwardly what he thinks is true, and why he thinks it. So too did the lesser lights — Stove’s discussion [in The Plato Cult and Other Philosophical Follies] concerns the matter-of-fact confidence of tone that was standard in the Victorian era. Contemporary philosophers like to pretend that no serious member of their guild would ever be so rash as that – that we must hedge every claim, that all we can ever say responsibly is that such-and-such appears very plausible and worthy of consideration and further investigation, that so-and-so seems at least defensible while the opposite view seems hard to defend but hey, who the hell knows for sure, etc. etc.
- Bentham on Law and Morality, by Hunter Baker (First Things‘ “First Thoughts” March 31, 2010):
Let a student announce that law and morality are separate things and that morality can’t be legislated. Many heads will dutifully bob up and down expressing agreement. Bumper sticker philosophy rules.
Normally, one would resort to some great Christian master or other purveyor of natural law arguments to dispel the haze.
But I came across something from Jeremy Bentham, the utilitarian and opponent of natural law, that caught my attention. …
- Donald Goodman on “the earbud” (Distributist Review March 31, 2010):
The earbud. The final solution to that obnoxious, unpardonable peace and quiet that man has sought for so many generations. Where our forefathers spoke with one another, sang, drank, and enjoyed one another’s fellowship, we are more connected with men at distant places than with those who are right beside us. This is sad. This is the sort of person who goes to a bar so he can sit in silence and drink his beer and watch a football game. He might even cheer or boo the game, and he may, conceivably, do it with someone else (if his earbud is silent, that is). But one thing that he will not, under any circumstances, do is turn away from the game and relate with the people around him. No; it’s much more fulfilling to relate to people he doesn’t know, playing a game he doesn’t play, in a city he’s never been to, through a screen that’s posted on the wall.
Thus does technology kill culture. This sort of technology, the kind that makes blogs and emails possible, is one thing. It’s really just an accelerated postal service and publishing industry, when you think about it. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with football games, or even telephones; I’m no Luddite. But it’s downright creepy when technology and the obsession with it reaches the point that one’s more inclined to talk on the phone than to tip one’s hat and greet the passers-by. When men are more aware of what’s going on hundreds of miles away than of what’s going on right next to them, something’s gone horribly wrong.
- Were the Church Fathers pacifists? asks Matthew Lee Anderson (First Things‘ “First Thoughts” April 28, 2010):
f you ask noted pacifist John Howard Yoder, the answer is unequivocally “yes.” […] That judgment has been repeated often, even by those who are sympathetic to just-war theory as a legitimate development of Christian doctrine.
But the pre-Constantinian church’s understanding of the relationship between Christians and the police functions of the state may be more complex than Yoder and others indicate.
So argues J. Daryl Charles in the latest issue of Logos. Contra Yoder and others, Charles contends that the early church fathers are not as unified on the issue of pacifism as is often thought. …
- What David Frum Has in Common with Tiger Woods (And Why It Matters) – Good analysis of why pundit and former speechwriter David Frum was ousted from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).
- Nathan O’Halloran, SJ (Whosoever Desires) offers some cautions while watching Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.
- (Via Edward Feser): Roger Scruton’s series of Gifford lectures on “The Face of God” are available for listening online. Two of the six lectures have been presented so far. Listeners may leave comments and a recording session is planned in which Scruton can respond to some of them.
- Tocqueville on environmentalism.
- The Age of Untruth: Five Lies We Live With, by Victor Davis Hanson has a few words to say on “civility”, “diversity”, “stimulus”, and a rampant denial of the very notion that there could be illegal immigration. “We live in an age of untruth in which millions privately shrug and nod at the daily lies of our elites.”
- Thomas Merton on one’s daily immersion in “reality”, as noted by Jason Goroncy (Per Crucem ad Lucem).
- Joseph Bottum on “The permanent scandal of the Vatican” (Weekly Standard May 3, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 31):
For almost 500 years now, Catholicism has been an available answer, a mystical key, to that deep, childish, and existentially compelling question: Why aren’t we there yet? Why is progress still unfinished? Why is promise still unfulfilled? Why aren’t we perfect? Why aren’t we changed?
Despite our rejection of the past, the future still hasn’t arrived. Despite our advances, corruption continues. It needs an explanation. It requires a response. And in every modernizing movement—from Protestant Reformers to French Revolutionaries, Communists to Freudians, Temperance Leaguers and suffragettes to biotechnologists and science-fiction futurists—someone in despair eventually stumbles on the answer: We have been thwarted by the Catholic Church.
- From Robert P. George, news that the philosopher and constitutional theorist Hadley Arkes has been received into the Catholic Church. His sponsor was Michael Novak of First Things.
- “Here it is in a nutshell, folks” – Fr. John Zuhlsdorf reminds us of the facts of life.
- An Open Letter to the Bishops, by Fr. Hans Kung. April 16, 2010. Kung, with all his characteristic pomposity, admonishes the Catholic bishops on what they ought to do in the wake of the abuse crisis.
- An Open Letter to Hans Kung, by George Weigel. April 21, 2010. A smashing rebuttal from the papal biographer.
- Despite media smears, world and faithful have warmed to Benedict. April 19, 2010. A response from D. Vincent Twomey, a former student of Professor Ratzinger, currently professor emeritus of moral theology at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, and author of the excellent Pope Benedict XVI: The Conscience of Our Age (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2007).
- Via Carl Olson, Hans Urs von Balthasar “on the withdrawal of Hans Kung’s authorization to teach Communio: International Catholic Review 7, no. 1 (Spring 1980)(“It is amazing that the Roman and German authorities have had that much patience with him”).
[A] remark about distributism and what can correctly be called “beyondism”. Distributists are often concerned with “getting beyond partisan divides,” i.e. getting beyond capitalism and socialism. This is a particular temptation for Catholics, who are correct in thinking that Catholic morality (personal and social) transcends partisanship, but incorrect in thinking that a parallel truth exists for Catholic political thinking. Partisan political divides within and without the Church are not a bad thing. The only way we can expect all Catholics to agree about the best political and economic arrangements is if such truths (a) exist and we can know them and (b) such truths are divinely revealed. We know definitively, as the Church repeatedly teaches in Her social thought, that the specifics of politics and economics are not part of revelation. Therefore we should not expect Catholics to speak with one voice about politics: we should expect a healthy plurality of political and economic opinions grounded in the divinely revealed principles of Catholic Social Teaching.
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April 19th marked the 5th anniversary of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI. (It also marked the birth of my second son, which is why I’m a little late to the celebration). Following are some links commemorating the occasion:
- Acton President Rev. Robert A. Sirico and Kishore Jayabalan, the Director of Acton’s Rome office on the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI — a dicussion with Al Kresta on Kresta in the Afternoon.
- Pope Benedict’s Rookie Year as a Priest – Before he was Pope Benedict XVI, or Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, our new pope was a young Bavarian seminarian. In his autobiography,
Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977, Joseph Ratzinger recounts his ordination on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul in Freising, Germany, in 1951, and his first years as a parish priest and then completing his doctorate while teaching at the seminary.
- From Catholic News Service: After having collaborated on children’s books about Pope Benedict XVI, Msgr. Georg Ganswein — his personal secretary — is celebrating the fifth anniversary of the pope’s election with his own book, “Benedict XVI: Urbi et Orbi” looking at the pope’s public encounters with the faithful and with other visitors in Rome and around the world.
As Msgr. Gänswein says in his introduction to the book, in Mark’s Gospel Jesus tells the apostles to go to every corner of the earth to preach the Gospel, and so the successor of Peter has to do the same in order to bring “the words of eternal life” to the ends of the earth.
The photos are beautiful shots of Pope Benedict in different places, including a great photo of him walking hand-in-hand with a select group of young people at World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany. There’s even a picture of the Holy Father meeting Governor General Michaëlle Jean and her daughter Marie-Eden.
- At the five-year mark, “two key objectives of Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate have come into clear focus: creating space for religion in the public sphere and space for God in private lives”, says John Thavis (Catholic News Service).
- Close to 1,200 students from Roman universities signed a letter congratulating Benedict XVI for the fifth anniversary of his election to the See of Peter. (Zenit News Service).
- Benedict has already left its mark on the Church, says Carmen Elena Villa, in a survey of highlights of his pontificate to date, not to mention significant facts (with 142 published works, he holds the papal record for having written most books before taking the Chair of Peter).
- “Reigniting the Word of God” (National Catholic Register April 21, 2010). According to biblical scholar Scott Hahn, emblematic to Benedict’s pontificate is the centrality on the word of God:
That’s where he has kept our focus — not on fads or scandals or the world’s alarms. Christ, the Word Incarnate, is the solution to every world crisis. Pope Benedict has invited us, insistently and consistently, to encounter Christ in the word inspired, the sacred Scriptures. And he has done this through some very large labors. …
- To commemorate the fifth anniversary of this historic event for the Catholic Church, Catholic World Report asked its contributors to reflect on these first years of Pope Benedict’s pontificate:
Priest, Prophet, King
Three ways Benedict has exemplified these three roles
By Father Joseph Fessio, S.J.
Reform within Continuity
A proper understanding of Vatican II has been paramount in Benedict’s pontificate.
By Father Matthew Lamb
Why Do the Media Rage?
Pope Benedict’s pontificate has caught the media and dissidents alike by surprise.
By Philip F. Lawler
Pope Benedict’s Patristic Perspective
A student of the past, a prophet of the future
By Father David Vincent Meconi, S.J.
Planting the Seeds of Reform
Future generations will have much for which to thank Benedict.
By George Neumayr
Benedict Contra Mundum
In Pope Benedict, “Peter is still here.”
By Carl E. Olson
A Pope Who Thinks in Centuries
Benedict sees the Church as a divine institution with a historical mission.
By Tracey Rowland
A Fatherly Figure
History will vindicate the paternal care Benedict has shown for the Church.
By Robert Royal
A scholarly pope who also listens
By Father James V. Schall, S.J.
Retrieval and Reintegration
Benedict’s efforts to let the past inform and guide the Church’s future
By Father Robert Sirico
Get to know Pope Benedict XVI …
The Essential Pope Benedict XVI
Edited by John F. Thornton & Susan B. Varenne, with introduction by D. Vincent Twomey, S.V.D.
On April 24, 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI, the successor of the Apostle Peter and the spiritual leader of more than one billion Roman Catholics. This collection lays out Benedict’s thinking and relates it to a variety of contemporary issues, including modern culture’s abandonment of traditional religious values, social mores regarding conception and the sanctity of life, current challenges to the priesthood, and the Catholic Church’s relations with other world religions.
Benedict XVI: An Intimate Portrait
In the person of Benedict XVI, the Church has a Pope who is one of the most significant of Europe’s intellectuals. The journalist Peter Seewald, who has known Ratzinger since 1992, conducted the longest interviews in Church history with him for two books which were best-sellers world-wide, Salt of the Earth, and God and the World. Now, for the first time, Seewald describes these intensive encounters in detail, and draws a portrait of this brilliant theologian who has put his life entirely at the service of the Catholic Church. This book is also the story of a long dialogue that changed Seewald’s life. Many people are trying to understand who Benedict XVI really is. On one point they all agree: in the person of Joseph Ratzinger, the chair of Peter is occupied by one of the most brilliant minds in the world. Peter Seewald’s portrait of Benedict recounts details about the personality and life of Benedict that were hitherto completely unknown.’
Pope Benedict XVI: The Conscience of Our Age
Fr. D. Vincent Twomey, a former doctoral student of Joseph Ratzinger and long time friend of the Pope, felt the need to respond to the common question he heard often after the papal election, “What kind of person is the new Pope?” So often Twomey had read false depictions of both the man and his thought, especially the image presented by the media as a grim enforcer.
Twomey offers here a unique double–presentation of the man, Pope Benedict XVI — a “theological portrait” that encompasses both an overview of the writings, teachings and thought of the brilliant theologian and spiritual writer, as well as the man himself, and his personality traits and how he communicates with others.
Twomey shows that the secret to the serene dignified behavior of Benedict is that he is open to beauty as much as truth, that he lives outside himself, and is not preoccupied with his own self. He also is a man that Twomey says “has the courage to be imperfect”, showing he has a deep humility and strives for teaching the truth even when misunderstood or not presented as well as he would like.
The fact that there is not a single Christian university in the top twenty film programs in the world is a sign that the Church has lost its way in modernity. We are not seeing ourselves as people of this moment.
The saddest realities to look at are not Hustler magazine and Big Love. Much more tragic is what you find on EWTN and CBN, because these things are devoid of creativity and devoid of respect for the audience. They are banal. They may be produced with the best of intentions, but they have no sense of the appropriateness of the art form, of using the medium to its full potential.
Sad though it is, you would never call the Church the patron of the arts today. Never. You would be laughed down. I know that to be true. I used the phrase with a class of undergrads. A young woman raised her hand and said, “Who is the ‘patron of the arts’?” I asked the students who they thought the patron of the arts is. They looked at me for a while, and finally one kid raised his hand and said, “The Bravo Channel?”
“Patron of the arts” used to be the moniker of the Christian Church. But this generation has no experience of the Church being a patron of the arts. We are so far behind in being a compelling voice in the culture. We have allowed our voice in culture to disappear.
From: The Church of the Masses An interview with Barbara Nicolosi-Harrington. Patheos March 2, 2010.
Might I highly suggest Prof. Harry Clor’s Public Morality and Liberal Society, which includes a chapter on pornography. This book is one of the finest I have every read and taught me how to think about public morality. The pornography chapter can be summed up in this thought: It would be astonishing if man, the imagining animal, was not influenced by the images that he sees. Also, it confounds logic to say that the way to control ones passions is to indulge them wantonly (i.e., the way to control one’s sexual passions is to indulge them in pornography). The problem of pornography may or may not be increased incidence of rape, but the death of eros represented by pornography, the deadening of the soul to real passion and longing for another, makes actual human connection more difficult. Anyone who spends time on college campuses can see one of the central problems of young people: the difficulty in forming a true love affair, as opposed to the random drunken hook up.
I don’t necessarily advocate a law to criminalize it, but I’ve made the decision not to subsidize an industry that destroys so many of the lives of the people who work in it.
I would imagine not one (unless he’s very sick) man who watches pornography or goes to the nudie bar would want his little girl to grow up to be a strip dancer or a pornography actress. If it’s beneath the dignity of his daughter, it’s also beneath the dignity of all the women who didn’t have a decent dad when they were little girls.
I’m a man and I understand the strong attraction but for people who say they “use” pornography for legitimate reasons, they need to internalize that they are really “using” a real live human being. There’s no personal reason that justifies it.