Saturday, June 27, 2015
"I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history."
Francis Cardinal George 11/03/12.
Thursday, June 18, 2015
- Encyclical Letter "Laudato Si" of the Holy Father Francis "On Care For Our Common Home"
- Overview of the Encyclical Laudato Si Vatican Press Office. 06/18/15.
- Press Conference for the presentation of the Enyclical Laudato Si.
- Defining moment: Glossary of terminology used in Laudato Si' a list defining some key phrases Pope Francis uses in the encyclical, "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home." Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service. 06/18/15.
- Who is the philosopher who holds so much influence over Pope Francis?, by Matthew Schmitz. Washington Post 06/25/15:
Romano Guardini — cited more frequently in the encyclical than anyone besides John Paul II and Benedict XVI — provides some of the encyclical’s most salient features: its sense of crisis, its antagonism toward technocratic idols, its hope for spiritual renewal. What are we to make of the influence of this obscure figure on the most sensational papal document in many years?
- The Miracle of Pope Francis, by William McGurn. Wall Street Journal 06/22/15:
Other popes have issued bracing critiques of modern Western culture. Pope Francis, however, goes deeper. This encyclical is less a corrective to the excesses of science and technology and markets than it is an argument that they are fatally flawed.
- The Scientific Pantheist who Advises Pope Francis, by William M. Briggs. The Stream 06/22/15. "The scientist who influenced Laudato Si, and who serves at the Vatican's science office, seems to believe in Gaia, but not in God."
- How climate-change doubters lost a papal fight, by Anthony Faiola and Chris Mooney. Washington Post 06/20/15.
- German Climatologist Refutes Claims He Promotes Population Control, by Edward Pentin. National Catholic Register 06/19/15. Hans Schellnhuber advised Pope Francis on the science of climate change for his encyclical Laudato Si.
- Pope Francis, in Sweeping Encyclical, Calls for Swift Action on Climate Change, by Jim Yardley and Laurie Goodstein. New York Times 06/18/15.
- Meet the Muslim Mystic Pope Francis Cited in His Encyclical, by Aisha Bashoori. Time 06/18/15.
- Expert calls the science behind the papal encyclical ‘watertight’ Crux 06/18/15. "Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, a leading climate researcher and member of the UN panel on climate change gave the pontiff an “A” for command of the subject."
- Holy See pulls press credentials for prominent Vatican journalist over encyclical leak Deacon Greg Kandra. 06/17/15.
Reactions and Commentary
Rounding up for reference's sake and to chart the diverse (and ideologically-fueled) reactions from all quarters. It goes w/o saying but I'll say it anyway: reading somebody else's commentary is no excuse for not reading the actual text of the encyclical itself. - Christopher
- Where Did Pope Francis’s Extravagant Rant Come From?, by Maureen Mullarkey. The Federalist. 06/24/15:
Propelled by the cult of feeling and Golden Age nostalgia—enshrined in the myth of indigenous peoples as peaceable ecologists—that elusive something picked up a tincture of Teilhardian gnosticism as it grew. It bursts on us now as “Laudato Si,” a malignant jumble of dubious science, policy prescriptions, doomsday rhetoric, and what students of Wordsworthian poetics call, in Keats’ derisive phrase, "the egotistical sublime."
See also from The Federalist:
- Pope Francis, The Earth Is Not My Sister, by Hans Fiene. The Federalist 06/23/15. "The pope thinks we should view the earth as our sister. I don’t, mainly because I have a sister. While my sister and I have had our disagreements over the years, I haven’t spent my entire life trying to stop her from killing me."
- Pope Francis’s New Encyclical Isn’t What You Think, by Rachel Lu. The Federalist 06/23/15. "Conservatives should see Pope Francis’s encyclical as an opportunity to reflect on the ever-pressing need to respond to the dehumanizing pressures of the modern world."
- The modern world's case against Pope Francis, by Damon Linker. The Week 06/23/15. "I's impossible not to be impressed with the theological and moral seriousness of Laudato Si', Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment. Whether it's politically and economically wise is another matter."
- The Fatal Errors of Capitalism: Laudato Si’ & the Economy, by Keith Michael Estrada. (Guest Post) Cosmos in the Lost 06/20/15:
While mentioning capitalism by name could be imprudent for Francis, any reader could make the following conclusion not only after reading Laudato, but after familiarizing ourselves with moral theology: the church invites us to go beyond capitalism. Not merely crony capitalism, nor mercantile capitalism, nor industrial capitalism, nor monopolistic capitalism, nor any other capitalism that could in reality be distinguished from US capitalism. Capitalism has got to go.
- The Encyclical's Challenge is to Climate-Change Activists, not Skeptics, by Oren Cass. National Review 06/19/15. "Activists looked forward to bringing their opponents copies of the encyclical and asking, “Do you agree with the pope?” But the better question is for the activists: Do you?"
- What Laudato Si' is really about, by Dr. Jeff Mirus. Catholic Culture. 06/19/15:
Laudato Si’ is addressed to everyone in the entire world, not just Catholics, and not just Christians. The Pope sees that a mistaken understanding of nature, and of our role in nature, causes problems for everyone. (In fact, even if none of these problems had yet occurred, our mistaken approach to nature would inevitably cause them over time.) He sees that we have a strongly instrumentalized vision of nature. We regard it, in essence, as a kind of accident demanding technological mastery and manipulation for our own self-centered purposes.
Nor is it any use criticizing the Pope for choosing to write on this topic, when (as many might say) “there are so many more pressing moral issues.” The whole point of the encyclical is that this instrumentalization of nature is a foundational problem. It shapes everything we do, including the pervasive contemporary tendency to undertake ever more grotesque and peculiar manipulations of nature in order to escape from despair. This instrumentalization poisons everything, not only our environment but our self-understanding. It affects our use of our own bodies, our grasp of the meaning and purpose of our sexuality, the relations between the sexes, and our attitude toward children, marriage and family life.
This instrumentalization of nature causes us not only to abuse and dispose of the poor and marginalized through garden-variety selfishness. It is even worse than that. It causes us to abuse and dispose of ourselves.
- Vatican's Climate Expert, an Atheist, Speaks on Impact of Leader of World's 1.2B Catholics Tackling Environment Issue Zenit. "Only if we get our acts together will the climate crisis problem be able to be overcome. This is the conviction of Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, founder and director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, who has been a right-hand expert for Pope Francis' just-released encyclical on ecology." Interview with Deborah Castellano Lubov. Zenit News. 06/19/15.
- “Laudato Si’”, the anti-gnostic encyclical, by Gianni Valente. "The Vatican Insider" La Stampa 06/19/15. The Christian experience of creation described in the papal document also acts as an antidote to old and new doctrines that spurn creation as an “evil” that needs to be overcome (even through ecological destruction).
- , by Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist. Sancrusis 06/19/15:
Pope Francis has indeed penned a cri de coeur against the destruction of God’s beautiful creation, the marring of the creatures whom God has given as so many words revealing his beauty and love, and the impoverishment and debasement of man, the destruction of human culture, and the oppression of the poor and murder of the innocent that have been the price of “progress.” But Laudato Si’ is much more than a cry of protest against the evils of modernity. What makes this a truly great and moving and beautiful encyclical is the magnificent exposition of another view of reality: a description of the true nature of the created order, in all its marvelous and interconnected glory, and of the true rôle of man as the gardener of this garden of wonders. Pope Francis’s style can at times be a tad bit rambling and prolix, and he lacks the incisive and subtle intellectual argumentation of Pope Benedict’s writings, but the shear wonder and love that suffuse Laudato Si’ makes this work of his rise to a very high level.
- "Laudato Si": Well Intentioned, Economically Flawed, by Samuel Gregg. The American Spectator. 06/19/15:
while most of the text’s reflections upon public policy issues focus on the environment, a subterranean theme that becomes decidedly visible from time-to-time is the encyclical’s deeply negative view of free markets. This would confirm that this pontificate’s reaction to respectful questions asked about the adequacy of the economic analysis contained in Francis’s 2013 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium has been to simply recycle (no pun intended) some of that document’s demonstrably flawed arguments concerning the market economy’s nature and effects. ...
- Mixing Up the Sciences of Heaven and Earth, by Fr. George W. Rutler. Crisis:
It is noteworthy that Pope Francis would have included in an encyclical, instead of lesser teaching forms such as an apostolic constitution or motu proprio, subjects that still pertain to unsettled science (and to speak of a “consensus” allows that there is not yet a defined absolute). The Second Vatican Council, as does Pope Francis, makes clear that there is no claim to infallibility in such teaching. The Council (Lumen Gentium, n.25) does say that even the “ordinary Magisterium” is worthy of a “religious submission of intellect and will” but such condign assent is not clearly defined. It does not help when a prominent university professor of solid Catholic commitments says that in the encyclical “we are about to hear the voice of Peter.” That voice may be better heard when, following the advice of the encyclical (n.55) people turn down their air conditioners. One awaits the official Latin text to learn its neologism for “condizione d’aria.” While the Holy Father has spoken eloquently about the present genocide of Christians in the Middle East, those who calculate priorities would have hoped for an encyclical about this fierce persecution, surpassing that of the emperor Decius. Pictures of martyrs being beheaded, gingerly filed away by the media, give the impression that their last concern on earth was not climate fluctuations.
Saint Peter, from his fishing days, had enough hydrometeorology to know that he could not walk on water. Then the eternal Logos told him to do it, and he did, until he mixed up the sciences of heaven and earth and began to sink. As vicars of that Logos, popes speak infallibly only on faith and morals. They also have the prophetic duty to correct anyone who, for the propagation of their particular interests, imputes virtual infallibility to papal commentary on physical science while ignoring genuinely infallible teaching on contraception, abortion and marriage and the mysteries of the Lord of the Universe. At this moment, we have the paradoxical situation in which an animated, and even frenzied, secular chorus hails papal teaching as infallible, almost as if it could divide the world, provided it does NOT involve faith or morals.
- Pope Francis Is Wrong about Air Conditioning, by Shubhankar Chhokra. National Review 06/18/15. "Pope Francis’s aversion to air conditioning may be red hot, but he himself is comfortably cool."
- Metropolitan Zizioulas: "Laudato Si’ is an occasion of great joy and satisfaction for the Orthodox" "Vatican Insider" La Stampa 06/18/15. Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon’s address for the launch of Pope Francis’ ecology encyclical Laudato Si’. At the presentation which took place in the New Synod Hall in the Vatican this morning, the Metropilitan, acting as representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew, communicated the Patriarch’s “personal joy and satisfaction” for the issuing of the encyclical. [Click link for full text].
- "Laudato Si" focuses on the heart of man and the disorders of our age, by William L. Patenaude. Catholic World Report 06/18/15. "The central thesis is that the fallen nature of the human heart and the resulting brokenness of human relations is the cause of the crises in our lives, families, nations, and now the life-sustaining ecosystems that form our common home."
- The challenge of Laudato Si, by Phil Lawler. Catholic Culture. 06/18/15. "But if you think Laudato Si is about climate change, I suspect you might also think that Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is about suicide. Yes, the topic is mentioned; indeed it’s a very important part of the story. But it’s not the main theme."
- If ‘Laudato Si’ is an earthquake, it had plenty of early tremors, by John Allen, Jr. Crux 06/18/15.
Laudato Si seems destined to go down as a major turning point, the moment when environmentalism claimed pride of place on a par with the dignity of human life and economic justice as a cornerstone of Catholic social teaching. It also immediately makes the Catholic Church arguably the leading moral voice in the press to combat global warming and the consequences of climate change.
In truth, however, none of that should be any surprise to those familiar with official Catholic teaching on the environment as it’s evolved over the last half-century.
- Let's listen to the Pope on the Climate, by Josiah Neeley. First Things 06/18/15:
What’s significant about Laudato Si is not that it adds anything new of substance to what scientists, economists, or prior popes have said about climate change. Rather, the encyclical is likely to be significant simply by raising the salience of the climate issue. The Great Recession temporarily knocked climate change off the front pages, and it’s an issue that a lot of us would prefer not to think about. But as 2015 appears headed to shatter another temperature record, it is becoming clearer that the climate change issue isn’t going away. One way or another, we will have to deal with it. Laudato Si is simply Pope Francis’s attempt to make our response more fruitful.
- Pope Francis wants to roll back progress. Is the world ready?, by Matthew Schmitz. The Washington Post 06/18/15:
Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ encyclical letter on the environment, is the work of a profoundly pessimistic man. John Paul II may have spoken of the “culture of death” and Benedict XVI of the “dictatorship of relativism,” but not since the publication of the Syllabus of Errors in the nineteenth century has a leader of the Catholic church issued a document so imbued with foreboding.
- The Return of Catholic Anti-Modernism, by R.R. Reno. First Things 06/18/15:
I must report an odd, disoriented feeling when I finished reading Laudato Si. Since Vatican II, the Catholic Church has adopted a largely affirming attitude toward Western modernity. John Paul II denounced the culture of death and Benedict XVI spoke of the dictatorship of relativism. But in their teaching it was clear that they intended these as necessary criticisms to restore the religious and moral basis for modernity’s positive achievements.
Pope Francis seems to be changing course. Laudato Si does not explain how modern science can recover a sense of humility and wonder, nor does it lay down a natural-law framework for the proper development of technology. There’s no application of Catholic social doctrine to help us think in a disciplined way about how to respond to environmental threats, or how to reform global capitalism. That would have reflected the Gaudium et Spes agenda as carried forward by the last two popes.
Instead, Francis has penned a cri de coeur, a dark reflection on the systemic evils of modernity. Like the prophet Ezekiel, Pope Francis sees perversion and decadence in a global system dominated by those who consume and destroy. The only answer is repentance, “deep change,” and a “bold cultural revolution.”
If Francis continues in this trajectory, Catholicism will circle back to its older, more adversarial relationship with modernity. In the nineteenth century, the Church regarded modernity’s failure to acknowledge God as damning. It led to usurpations of authority, disrespect for hierarchy, and other signs of anthropocentric self-regard. Francis’s concerns are different. He’s worried about the poor, environmental disasters, and the complacent rich indifferent to both. But his analysis is the same, and he shares a similar dire, global view of modernity as the epitome of godless sin.
- Ideology Subsumes Empiricism in Pope's Climate Encyclical, by Lawrence M. Krauss. Scientific American 06/18/15 -- is, what you would say, entirely predictable from the perspective of a scientific materialist:
No one can fault Pope Francis’s intentions, which are clearly praiseworthy, but his call for action on climate change is compromised by his adherence to doctrines that are based on revelation and not evidence. The Catholic Church and its leaders can never be truly objective and useful arbiters of human behavior until they are willing to dispense with doctrine that can thwart real progress.
- Rush Limbaugh (Facebook) 06/18/15: "A man of religion, the Vicar of Christ, seems to have fallen in with the communist way of doing things: Controlling mankind through command-and-control governments backed by police or military power. This is what the pope is essentially calling for."
- The Theological Heart of Laudato Si', by David Cloutier. Commonweal 06/18/15:
The overall effect o the encyclical is undeniable: this is a sweeping call for change, deeply rooted in a Catholic worldview, one that burrows into every facet of our lives and deeply into the human heart, as well. Francis is here confirming what many have said: the environmental crisis is really the key to economic questions, sexual questions, spiritual questions. It is the key to everything, because the message of environmentalism is, as Francis repeats many times in the document, “everything is connected.” It is extremely telling that the “official” date of the document is Pentecost. This “birthday of the Church” is importantly about what the Church is for: not itself, but for the redemptions and renewal of all of God’s creation.
- What the Environmental Encyclical Means: A roundup of expert analysis America Magazine. 06/18/15. [Panel discussion].
- The Pope’s Encyclical, at Heart, Is About Us, Not Trees and Snail Darters, by George Weigel. National Review 06/18/15:
It is probably inevitable that Laudato Si will get labeled “the global-warming encyclical” and that the label will stick. This will please some and displease others, and they will have at each other — which is no bad thing if it helps clarify that there is no simple path to meeting the twin goals of environmental protection and the empowerment (through economic development) of the poor. But the label will be misleading, I think, not because there isn’t a lot about climate change in the encyclical, but because that’s, to my mind, the least important part of Francis-the-pastor’s call to a more integral, indeed more humanistic, ecology.
- Pope Blames Markets for Environment’s Ills Wall Street Journal 06/18/15. "... a broad and uncompromising indictment of the global market economy, accusing it of plundering the Earth at the expense of the poor and of future generations."
- The Pope’s Moral Case for Taking On Climate Change, by Emma Green. The Atlantic 06/18/15. "Francis’s first encyclical is a cry to save the environment—and make a priority of theology over politics."
- Pope Francis’ leaked encyclical: the good and the bad, by Christopher Ferrara. Lifesite New 06/17/15.
- 10 Things That Won’t Be In Pope Francis’ Encyclical ‘Laudato Si’, by Larry D. Acts of the Apostasy 08/16/15. "Al Gore will not be declared a Doctor of the Church, and "An Inconvenient Truth" will not be required viewing for RCIA classes."
- Thinking About Climate Change, DarwinCatholic 06/17/15.
- Fr. John Zuhlsdorf:
Perhaps we can pay as much attention to the sections on markets and environment, as the catholic Left pays to Humanae vitae.
When the libs shove it in our faces and command us to accept every word, we can pay as much attention to it as they gave to Summorum Pontificum.
- The Pope and climate change: Francis is slapping his conservative critics in the face, by Damian Thompson. The Spectator UK. 06/17/15. "Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment comes down firmly on the side of the global warming consensus/lobby (delete according to taste) and is a slap in the face to climate sceptics of every hue. Thwack! It’s very much this Pope’s style."
- The Last Time Conservatives Dismissed a Major Encyclical, It Ended Terribly for Them, by Jet Heer. The New Republic 06/18/15. "The Mater et Magistra dispute led to many ironic consequences. In defending National Review’s capitalist Catholicism, Buckley and Wills had provided a rationale for social liberals to ignore church teachings on sexual matters, which was especially pertinent after the Vatican released the encyclical Humanae Vitae (1968), reiterating opposition to birth control and abortion."
"True wisdom, as the fruit of self-examination, dialogue and generous encounter between persons, is not acquired by a mere accumulation of data which eventually leads to overload and confusion, a sort of mental pollution. Real relationships with others, with all the challenges they entail, now tend to be replaced by a type of internet communication which enables us to choose or eliminate relationships at whim, thus giving rise to a new type of contrived emotion which has more to do with devices and displays than with other people and with nature. Today’s media do enable us to communicate and to share our knowledge and affections. Yet at times they also shield us from direct contact with the pain, the fears and the joys of others and the complexity of their personal experiences. For this reason, we should be concerned that, alongside the exciting possibilities offered by these media, a deep and melancholic dissatisfaction with interpersonal relations, or a harmful sense of isolation, can also arise."-- Pope Francis, Laudato Si 47.
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
With Derrida, you can hardly misread him, because he's so obscure. Every time you say, "He says so and so," he always says, "You misunderstood me." But if you try to figure out the correct interpretation, then that's not so easy. I once said this to Michel Foucault, who was more hostile to Derrida even than I am, and Foucault said that Derrida practiced the method of obscurantisme terroriste (terrorism of obscurantism). We were speaking French. And I said, "What the hell do you mean by that?" And he said, "He writes so obscurely you can't tell what he's saying, that's the obscurantism part, and then when you criticize him, he can always say, 'You didn't understand me; you're an idiot.' That's the terrorism part."
Reality Principles: An Interview with John R. Searle with Steven R. Postrel & Edward Feser. Reason.com. February 2000. (HT: Edward Feser).
- Noam Chomsky Slams Žižek and Lacan: Empty ‘Posturing’ OpenCulture 6/28/13.
- John Searle on Foucault and the Obscurantism in French Philosophy OpenCulture. 07/01/13.
Monday, May 18, 2015
Universities should be the very places where such things should not apply. They are not supposed to be confessional institutions inculcating a particular creed, nor should they be built on politicized extensions of child-rearing philosophies founded on self-esteem. They should be places where debate is part of the way of life, and where one has to live shoulder to shoulder with those with whom one differs. Yet they have become the very places where this inability to disagree is now apparently cultivated as a positive virtue. The truly educated person is now no longer the person who understands an opposing viewpoint even as he rejects it. For even to understand an alternative viewpoint is to collude in the oppression which such an opinion embodies.
I suspect that the future health of democracy depends upon university administrators worrying less about the dangers posed by whatever is the micro-aggression du jour and more about providing safe places for those who actually want to hold opinions and have debates. Safe places, that is, that are marked by the very risks and danger involved in intellectual engagement.
Carl R. Trueman, "In Praise of the Dying Art of Civil Disagreement"
First Things 5/18/15
Saturday, May 16, 2015
"The worst anxiety of all ... is the fear of not being loved, the loss of love: despair is thus the conviction that one has forfeited all love forever, the horror of complete isolation. Hope in the proper sense of the word is thus the reverse: the certainty that I shall receive that great love that is indestructible and that I am already loved with this love here and now."
Joseph Ratzinger [Pope Benedict XVI]
To Look on Christ: Exercises in Faith, Hope, and Love
Saturday, May 2, 2015
Sometimes small children have epiphanies they remember for the rest of their lives. Virginia Woolf called such experiences "moments of being" and saw them as the foundations of consciousness. In 1942, Jack recalled one that had occurred just before his seventh birthday on a February day that he considered "the day I was born." On his way home through the snow-covered streets, pulling his sled behind him, he'd "stopped to look at the sad windows of the houses. Why, why? I asked myself, aged six. Pourquoi I might have said, because I was French. At any rate, I wanted to know, and I couldn't quite make it out, and I still cannot make it out, which is in a nutshell the story of the inward war raging inside of me ..."
He would always believe that untila that moment he had been walking along "dead," or, in other words, locked inside of himself. But then "with a sweep of bewilderment I began to live -- a man on the earth, his relation to all things, to his fellow man, to his society, and to the universe."
The Voice Is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac, by Joyce Johnson. p. 34
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
The people who feel driven today to turn their backs on the Church are not only the ones who have become alienated from the Church's faith or who regard the Church as too old-fashioned, too medieval, to hostile to the world and life, but also those who loved the historical form of the Church: her worship, her timelessness, and the reflection of the eternal in her. It seem sto them that the Church is in the process of betraying what is most characteristic of her, that she is selling herself to the current fashion and thus losing her soul: they are disappointed like a lover who has to experience the betrayal of a great love and must seriously consider turning his back on her.
Conversely, however, there are also quite conflicting reasons to stay in the Church: the ones who remain are not only those who steadfastly adhere to their faith in her mission or whose who are unwilling to sever their ties to a dear old habit (even though they make little use of that habit). Also remaining in the Church today, quite emphatically, are those who reject her entire historical character and passionately fight against the meaning that her officials try to give her or uphold. Although they want to do away with what the Church was and is, they are determined not to be ousted, so that they can make of her what, in their opinion, she is supposed to become. [p. 134]
* * *"The death of God" is a very real process, which today extends deep into the interior of the Church. God is dying in Christendom, so it seems. For when resurrection becomes an experience of a commission perceived in outmoded imagery, then God is not at work. Is he at work at all? That is the question that immediately follows. But who wants to be so reactionary as to insist on a realistic "he is risen"? Thus what one person necessarily considers unbelief is progress to another, and what was hitherto unthinkable becomes normal: that men who long ago abandoned the Church's Creed should in good conscience regard themselves as the truly progressive Christians. For them, however, the only standard by which to measure the Church is the expediency with which she functions; of course, the question remains as to what is expedient and for what purpose the whole thing is actually supposed to function. For social criticism, for developmental aid, for revolution? Or for community celebrations? [p. 139]
Joseph Ratzinger, on "Why I am still in the Church", circa 1970. From Fundamental Speeches from Five Decades].
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
not that natural-law theory is inherently futile, but rather that its proponents often fail to grasp just how nihilistic the late modern view of reality has become, or how far our culture has gone toward losing any coherent sense of “nature” at all, let alone of any realm of moral meanings to which nature might afford access.Hart's original post provoked a storm of controversy, with a number of prominent authors rallying to his defense (Michael Potemra, Rod Dreher, Alan Jacobs) as well as bracing rebuttals from the more philosophically inclined, most notably Edward Feser, as rounded-up and chronicled here.
Edward Feser too, revisits the debate in Reasons of the Hart (03/13/15):
... the focus of Hart’s latest piece is the question of the relationship between faith and reason. Hart objects to the charge that he is a fideist, arguing that both fideism and rationalism of the seventeenth-century sort are errors that would have been rejected by the mainstream of the ancient and medieval traditions with which he sympathizes. With that much I agree. I agree too with his claim that the use of reason rests on the “metaphysical presupposition” that there is a natural fit between the intellect and that which the intellect grasps -- an “orientation of truth to the mind and of the mind to truth.” I agree with him when he argues that naturalism cannot account for this fit, that the best it can attribute to our rational faculties is survival value but not capacity to grasp truth, and that this makes it impossible for the naturalist rationally to justify his own position. And I agree with him when he argues that idealism in its various forms also cannot account for this fit -- that if naturalism emphasizes mind-independent truth to such an extent that it cannot account for the mind itself, idealism emphasizes mind to such an extent that it cannot account for mind-independent truth.
All well and good, and indeed a set of points whose importance cannot be overemphasized. What puzzles me, though, is the way Hart characterizes the position he would put in place of these errors -- a way that at least lends itself to a fideist reading, his rejection of the “fideist” label notwithstanding. [Read the whole thing].
- D. B. Hart and the “terrorism of obscurantism”, by Edward Feser 05/25/15.
Saturday, March 14, 2015
by Randy Boyagoda.
Image (February 10, 2015). 480 pgs.
"Boyagoda dispassionately describes this fascinating and active life, and he manages to blend skills as a folksy storyteller, researcher and unbiased historian, providing a biography that is balanced, interesting and relevant. A useful, provocative spotlight on one of the leading lights of the 20th century." – Kirkus
“Faith, it is correctly observed, while intensely personal, is never private. In North America, nobody recently has more effectively defended and encouraged bringing religion into the public square than Richard John Neuhaus. And up until now, no one has offered a more credible, careful, and colorful biography of this convert to Catholicism—in the line of Orestes Brownson, Isaac Hecker and Thomas Merton—than Randy Boyagoda.” – Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York, author of True Freedom
"A Lutheran pastor who became a Catholic priest, labeled sometimes as liberal and other times as conservative, Neuhaus was truly a "sign of contradiction" in our times, a man whose constant affiliation in life was of belonging to God and striving to draw ever nearer to Him. Thorough, vivid, and keenly understanding of the interplay of personality, faith, and cultural context, Boyagoda's biography of Neuhaus does justice to this man of faith who became a type of "grace to be reckoned with," becoming a culture-altering tour de force. As Americans continue to explore the challenge of living one's faith in the public square, this book is an enriching testament to a man who blazed that trail in his own lifetime, fearless of everything but God Himself." – Carl A. Anderson, Supreme Knight, Knights of Columbus
- Randy Boyagoda on the Thought and Character of Richard John Neuhaus, by Mark Bauerlein, Randy Boyagoda. Interview with First Things. 05/07/15.
- Biography of Fr. Richard John Neuhaus 'Neither Hagiography Nor Hatchet Job' Interview with Randy Boyagoda. Zenit News. 3/20/15.
- Recalling Richard John Neuhaus: Author Q&A with Randy Boyagoda, with Sean Salai, SJ. America 01/21/15.
- Book Discussion: Richard John Neuhaus: A Life in the Public Square C-SPAN BOOK TV. Randy Boyagoda, Russel Reno and Sam Tanenhaus.
- Randy Boyagoda on the Thought and Character of Richard John Neuhaus: A Podcast, by Mark Bauerlein. First Things 03/23/15.
- Neuhaus Described, If Not Explained, by William Gould. The University Bookman Spring 2015. "In short, what we have here is a good, helpful biography of Richard Neuhaus, but a more substantial account and evaluation of his intellectual contribution remains to be written."
- Life in the Public Square CBC Radio. Discussion with host Paul Kennedy, author Randy Boyagoda, Catholic thinker and Ideas contributor Michael W. Higgins and historian of religion, Molly Worthen (University of North Carolina). May 5, 2015.
- The Neuhaus Legacy, by R.R. Reno. First Things 05/06/15: "While listening to Worthen's comments I was again reminded of how difficult it is for many, perhaps most, liberals to fathom reasons why someone (Neuhaus, for instance) would think American-style conservatism the best way to promote the common good."
- Burning Fr. Neuhaus’s Diary, by Joseph Bottum. Weekly Standard May 18, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 34.:
Reading the new biography by Randy Boyagoda, seeing the clips of Fr. Neuhaus on websites discussing the book, I’ve had that day come back to mind recently—replaying, this time in doubt, the decision I made to destroy his diary. Certainly Boyagoda’s work would have been considerably easier if he’d had the diary to guide him. Substantially different, too, I suspect, Richard’s internal narrative shaping in entirely different ways the external actions of his life. ...
- The Vision of Father Neuhaus, by William Doino Jr. First Things 3/23/15:
... Because Neuhaus was such a prominent figure, and so involved in the major political debates of his time, he is often criticized for having compromised his faith. But those who say Neuhaus was more politician than priest miss the mark. Fr. Neuhaus always saw himself—first and foremost—as a pastor and parish priest. The source and summit of his life was celebrating the Mass, hearing confessions, and attending to the needs of his flock. He loved to write, yes, but he did so in hopes that people would espouse the good—and by doing so, to turn toward their Savior.
- Understanding Father Neuhaus, by Alan Jacobs. Snakes and Ladders 03/13/15:
... here’s (a simplified version of) my reading of Neuhaus’s political transformation: Over time he came to believe that the American left had effectively abandoned its commitment to “the least of these,” had decided that, in Boyagoda’s clear formulation, “private rights — made possible by and indeed protecting implicit race and class privileges — trumped responsibilities for others.” The moral language that he had learned from his Christian upbringing and pastoral training and experience simply had no purchase in a party dominated by a commitment solely to the “private rights” of self-expression, especially sexual self-expression. He turned to those who showed a willingness to hear commitments expressed in that moral language, who appeared to be open to being convinced. In return he gave them his loyalty, his public support, for the rest of his life.
It may well be that this was a devil’s bargain, one that Neuhaus should never have made. ...
But I think we have strong documentary evidence that Father Neuhaus made his bargain out of a genuine and deeply compassionate love — a love that pulled him all his life — for those whom the world deems worthless. In trying to realize this love in the medium of politics, that cesspool of vainglory and vanity, he sometimes befouled himself. But we all befoul ourselves; few of us do it in such a noble cause.
- How Father Neuhaus Found GOP, by Geoffrey Kabaservice. The American Conservative 03/17/15.
- Neuhaus in his time, by George W. Rutler. National Review 03/09/15.
- New biography captures spirit of the of the great Catholic intellectual, by Russel Saltzman. Aleteia. 02/19/15. "Boyagoda found the Neuhaus I knew, complete with all the man’s winsome qualities and not a few of his contradictions. Not surprisingly, he also revealed facets of the man I could never guess. ... Boyagoda has given us a meat-and-potatoes biography. I regard that as a good thing to say."
- Preaching to the White House, by Phillip Marchand. National Post 02/25/15:
Boyagoda makes no sweeping pronouncements on this unresolved issue of Neuhaus’s legacy. Certainly things were not as they once were when Neuhaus could claim intimacy with President Reagan and Pope John Paul II. But Boyagoda’s luminously intelligent study of the man makes clear that Richard John Neuhaus — however one regards his politics — deserved his place in a long line of memorable American preacher politicians.
- The story of Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, an extraordinary Christian man, by Gregory J. Sullivan. Catholic World Report 03/13/15. "a reliable and readable biography."
- The American Life of Richard John Neuhaus, by Matthew Walther. The Washington Beacon 03/14/15.
- Richard John Neuhaus and the perils of theologically motivated hyper-partisanship, by Damon Linker. The Week 03/13/15.
Friday, March 13, 2015
Francis Agonistes, by Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig. The New Republic 03/01/15. "The Pope is engaged in a struggle to bring the Church into the modern age. And American conservatives are fighting him every step of the way."
- Who Are Pope Francis’s Critics?, Ross Douthat. New York Times 03/12/15. "... analyzing this debate mostly through the lens of American movement conservatism (I’m pretty sure Limbaugh would be fine with the Kasper proposal!) and American politics, or conjoining the two the way Bruenig’s essay sometimes does, misses the bigger picture for this pontificate and the future of the Catholic Church."
- Did The New New Republic Even Fact-Check Its Cover Story On Pope Francis?, by J. Arthur Bloom. DailyCaller 3/12/15.
- Foundless Francis Fantasies, by Dr. Adam A. J. DeVille. Catholic World Report 03/06/15. "Young leftist Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig is the latest breathless fan cheering madly at the 2015 running of the Ultramontane Sweeps."
- Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig contra "fearful" Catholics, by Gabriel Sanchez. Opus Publicum 03/02/15.
Sunday, March 8, 2015
But no man is without sin, and although every sin is the denial and betrayal of Chris, yet in his mercy and our true contrition and confession of our sins with meekness and humility and the long suffering desire of amendment brings us forgiveness.
Nowadays the utterances of confessions on paper bears the stigma of hypocrisy, for it is too easy to cry out for our sins without true contrition, and to proclaim them without ourselves believing them to be sins. And those who read them also do not believe these things to be sins.
- Thomas Merton, 09/13/39 [Run to the Mountain: The Story of a Vocation [The Journal of Thomas Merton, Volume 1: 1939-1941]. ].
Saturday, January 31, 2015
- Discussing or Ignoring Thomas Pink’s Interpretation of Dignitatis Humanae Rorate Caeli 01/05/15:
One of the most difficult of the doctrinal points at issue between the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) and the Holy See is the question of religious liberty. The Second Vatican Council’s teaching on this point in Dignitatis Humanae seems to be in clear opposition to the traditional teaching. In 2011 [Rorate Caeli] posted an intervention on the question by Prof. Thomas Pink, in which Pink proposed a reading of Dignitatis Humanae in accord with tradition. At the time, the chairman of the Latin Mass Society, Joseph Shaw, now a Rorate contributor, hailed Pink’s intervention as “truly important article,” and a blogger well acquainted with the SSPX called it a “a game-changing intervention,” that reframed the debate.
Prof. Pink has since developed his argument further in a number of papers (most of which are available here). But what effect has Pink’s thesis actually had on the debate?
- Thomas Aquinas in China, by William Carroll. Public Discourse 12/11/14. "Thomas Aquinas’s commitment to the importance of reason and its universal role in defining what it means to be human makes him an attractive thinker for contemporary Chinese scholars."
- The Philosopher Who Defied Hitler: Q&A with Alice von Hildebrand, by Sean Salai, S.J. (and in America magazine, of all places!):
Before her husband [Dietrich von Hildrebrand] died in 1977, she persuaded him to write an autobiographical account of his life. This memoir includes the story of his persecution under the Nazis, who had blacklisted him in 1921 and eventually forced him to flee Europe for the United States during World War II. A portion of the manuscript, newly compiled and translated into English by John Henry Crosby under the title “My Battle Against Hitler: Faith, Truth, and Defiance in the Shadow of the Third Reich," was published Oct. 21 by Image Books.
On Oct. 21, I conducted the following email interview with Lady Alice on her career and on the newly translated autobiography of her husband ...
- 'First Things' vs. 'Communio', "Murrayites" and "MacIntyrians"; The Paradox of the "Catholic Libertarian" and Another Kind of Illiberal Catholicism -- A roundup of relevant reading in 2014 - Taking a look back at last year's skirmishes. The Catholic Church and the Liberal Tradition 12/20/14.
- Dr. Ed Peters on antinomianism, moved by the observation that Francis has appointed five more papal electors than Church law authorizes:
Let me be clear: it does not make a fig’s worth of difference whether 120 or 125 cardinals vote in the next papal conclave, but it does make a fig’s worth of difference, I suggest, if yet another ecclesiastical rule, set out in a major legislative document using terminology indistinguishable from that which conveys many other considerably more important rules, is ignored because this leader or that doesn’t feel like abiding by it. We have processes to reform law in the Church; looking the other way isn’t one of them—at the very least, it’s a very dangerous way to change laws.(HT: Pertinacious Papist, see comments for further discussion).
Antinomianism has been a long time spreading, and we are going to be a long, long time repairing the damage it has done to the Church (and the State). Where to start, then, except with the first step: recognizing that antinomianism is the default setting today.
- Torture: Historical and Ethical Perspectives Unam Catholicam Sanctitam brings refreshing analysis to the torture debate, renewed once more within the Catholic blogging world by the release of . Drawing upon prior historical research from Fr. Harrison, the authors to the following conclusion:
Understanding these distinctions [between punitive torture, torture for purpose of extraction and extrajudicial torture] means that one could also simultaneously affirm the permissibility of certain kinds of torture (punitive) while uniformly condemning the practices of the CIA, which are extrajudicial.
The long and short of it is that attempts to make blanket statements about torture qua torture are misguided and prone to end up in contradiction for the simple reason that Tradition does not address torture qua torture, just like we cannot make blanket statements about violence qua violence but only violence under a variety of categories (war, assault, corporal punishment, self-defense, etc.) In the eyes of tradition, putting a man on the rack to extract information, branding a convicted thief with a hot iron, flogging a prisoner, and executing a man in an extremely painful manner (e.g., burning) were all totally different things. To moderns, these are all simply "torture" without disinction, but the Tradition did not view it this way; their distinctions were real distinctions, not mere semantics, and if we hope to understand what the Tradition says to us, we have to accept its distinctions.
Incidentally, the attempt to ground opposition to all forms of torture in "the dignity of the human person" was not an argument known to tradition and leads to various difficulties. As we have mentioned above in our discussion of Ad Extirpanda and Ad Consulta Vestra, it was only because objections to torture were not grounded in the dignity of the human person that any development of thought here was possible. The argument that all forms of torture are intrinsically evil because they are offenses against the human person is not tenable, at least if we take the Church's tradition seriously.
- Peter J. Leithart and Robert P. George spar over the proper understanding of religion as a "basic human good" worthy of being (freely) pursued - "Basic Goods" (First Things 8/27/14; Reply to Leithart (8/28/14), to which Dr. Mark Latkovick remarks:
I simply want to add the point – moral rather than anthropological – that contrary to what Leithart implies, the “basic human goods” are not moral directives for choice. This is why, according to the “new natural law” theory (of Grisez, Finnis, Boyle, W.E. May, George, and others), moral principles and moral norms are necessary to guide our free choices so that we choose the various basic goods wisely. The latter are practical in nature, the former are moral in nature.
- How to be a conservative: a conversation with Roger Scruton, John Derbyshire. Prospect Magazine. 09/12/14.
- Raising the Tone: An Interview With Renowned Composer James MacMillan Regina (09/05/14). Mr. MacMillan was Composer/Conductor of the BBC Philharmonic from 2000-2009 and Principal Guest Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Kamer Filharmonie until 2013. He is also an outspoken critic of much contemporary Catholic church music, and recently sat down for an exclusive interview with Regina Magazine to discuss his point of view.
- "Ruined by books: My Top 10 Philosophy List", by Artur Rosman (Cosmos In The Lost).
- Lastly, OnePeterFive's "Drunk Catholic History" series covers my spirit of choice: bourbon.
Thursday, January 29, 2015
In the climate of the Second Vatican Council, of ecumenism, of openness, the word "heretic" has become not only unpopular but unspeakable -- except, of course, among integralists, who often deconstruct their own identity on accusations of heresy directed at others.
But has the concept of heresy become completely irrelevant? Has our awareness of the duty of tolerance and charity toward the sincere conscience of others absolved us from the danger of the error ourselves? Or is error something we no longer consider dangerous?
I think a Catholic is bound to remember that his faith is directed to the grasp of truths revealed by God, which are not mere opinions or "manners of speaking," mere viewpoints which can be adopted and rejected at will -- for otherwise the commitment of faith would lack not only totality but even seriousness. The Catholic is one who stakes his life on certain truths revealed by God. If these truths cease to apply, his life ceases to have meaning.
A heretic is first of all a believer. Today the ideas of "heretic" and "unbeliever" are generally confused. In point of fact the mass of "post-Christian" men in Western society can no longer be considered heretics and heresy is, for them, no problem. It is, however, a problem for the believer who is too eager to identify himself with their unbelief in order to "win them for Christ."
Where the real danger of heresy exists for the Catholic today is precisely in that "believing" zeal which, eager to open up new aspects and new dimensions of the faith, thoughtlessly or carelessly sacrifices something essential to Christian truth, on the grounds that this is no longer comprehensible to modern man. Heresy is precisely a "choice" which, for human motives . . . selects and prefers an opinion contrary to revealed truth as held and understood by the Church.
I think, then, that in our eagerness to go out to modern man and meet him on his own ground, accepting him as he is, we must also be truly what we are. If we come to him as Christians we can certainly understand and have compassion for his unbelief -- his apparent incapacity to believe. But it would seem a bit absurd for us, precisely as Christians, to pat him on the arm and say "As a matter of fact I don't find the Incarnation credible myself. Let's just consider that Christ was a nice man who devoted himself to helping others!"
This would, of course, be heresy in a Catholic whose faith is a radical and total commitment to the truth of the Incarnation and Redemption as revealed by God and taught by the Church. . . . What is the use of coming to modern man with the claim that you have a Christian mission -- that you are sent in the name of Christ -- if in the same breath you deny Him by whom you claim to be sent?
Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
I always felt uncomfortable with the strict rules imposed by Christianity. All I wanted to do was create and play rock and roll… and yet most of the attention I received was focused on how well I maintained the impossible standards of religion. I wanted my life to be measured by my music, not by my ability to resist temptation. ...
As I carved out a life for myself away from the church, I began my own voyage of inquiry into what I believed. My perceptions started to transform when I became interested in cosmology in 1992. I soon found myself fascinated by the works of Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Lawrence Krauss, Brian Cox, and Richard Dawkins. I learned so much and was blown away by all the amazing scientific discoveries and facts. When my marriage dissolved in 2003, I turned my attention to human psychology.
By 2007, I renounced Christianity once and for all and declared myself an atheist.
I find it interesting how Perdikis, like most "contemporary Christian" rock stars, have backgrounds in American evangelical Christianity or something they would describe as stereotypically "fundamentalist", which is to say heavy on rules, heavy on the dogma, notoriously lacking in intellectual foundation ("The scandal of the evangelical mind ... is that there is not much of an evangelical mind" - Mark Knoll, 1995).
Also a kind of religious environment where one's faith is expected to be perpetually worn on one's sleeve - where doubt in and questioning of religious convictions is never admitted, and when experienced is understood as a sign of intolerable weakness, "backsliding". Also, where curiosity and intellectual investigation into the broader tradition of Christianity (never mind other religious traditions outside of Christianity) is generally frowned upon, especially where they might challenge or conflict.
Because of said standard of moral perfection, of unbreakable faith, etc. the perception of deviation from such in a parent or authority figure can be an impetus for questioning and a loss of faith.
This can range from the familial -- parents who 'say one thing, but do another'; a discovery of infidelity, divorce … to the more egregious and perverse (ex. a pastor who admits to marital infidelities before his congregation; sexual abuse amongst teachers and/or priests). If you grow up regarding somebody as an exemplar of moral perfection and purveyor of spiritual truth, such displays of human frailty and outright sin can be disillusioning, even life-shattering.
Or, if you happen to be in a particular type of industry in which you are materially invested in being "a good Christian" and your livelihood essentially depends on such -- say, "contemporary Christian music" -- maintaining that outward standard of perfection becomes all the more imperative, especially with thousands of adoring fans looking up to YOU as an exemplar of Christian discipleship.
In such a context, to experience questioning or signs of doubt (either in yourself, or witnessing fellow bandmates straying from the path) -- and with the outward admission to such doubts potentially fatal to your brand -- the disjuncture between ideal and reality can be too much to bear. It only becomes a matter of time before something gives: the ability to maintain the illusion of faith on stage OR "coming clean" to one's doubts, at which point the erstwhile fans might well accuse you of never being a Christian in the first place.
In this manner, George Perdikis of the Newsboys is simply one of a long line of "contemporary Christian" performers who have left the faith, joining the ranks of Tim Lambesis ("As I Lay Dying"); David Bazan (Pedro the Lion); Dan Haseltine (Jars of Clay); Clay Scott (Circle of Dust; Celldweller); Roger Martinez (Vengeance Rising, the first ever "Christian thrash" band). I'm not necessarily familiar with all of these musicians (really the latter two) but I'm interested by the similarities in their confessions of how they've left the faith.
Tangential note -- the repudiation of CCM by former participants in CCM is rather common, with new bands, whose members perhaps "personally subscribing to" Christian beliefs, vehemently disavowing any relationship to CCM. The exact phrase "we are not a christian band" has 15,100 results in Google at this time.
It's one thing to simply proclaim one's agnosticism or ambivalence toward the greater metaphysical questions, quite another to pronounce judgement on them.
Certain types of lapsed believers, at one time "evangelistic" about Christianity, readily embrace and can even get quite "evangelical" about atheism -- which if you think about it, carries its own set of concrete metaphysical-philosophical convictions (scientific materialism), and whose advocates get downright "fundamentalist" themselves -- Ed Feser chronicles this in The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism with respect to the religion of Hawkins, Dennett, Harris and Hitchens.
Such converts from Christian fundamentalism rarely just lapse into quiet agnosticism, but often move to the other extreme in rebellion: they become "outspoken atheists", trading in one belief-system for another.
To be sure, Latin or Orthodox Christianity has its own scandals, and isn't necessarily a reliable antidote to the curious phenomenon of "militant evangelicals leaving the faith to embrace a (sometimes even more militant and evangelical) atheism".
But still, you have to wonder if things might have been different.
For example, those growing up with a fideistic mindset (believing that faith and reason are independent of and hostile to each other), assuming that religious belief can only be maintained by the suppression of rational inquiry might have concluded differently were they exposed to the riches of Christian scholastic philosophy?
Or those assuming that science is inimical to Christianity -- would they be surprised at the number of Catholic scientists in history who would find such a view ludicrous?
Or those who by their background were led to assume the admission and experience of religious doubt as inherently detrimental to faith and indicative of a renunciation of faith ... would they have considered otherwise, if they were exposed to a tradition where even those who are proclaimed saints by the Church and held up for emulation experienced what is called the "the dark knight of the soul" (St. Therese of Lisieux or even, more recently and in our own time: Mother Theresa):
Where existential doubt and belief in a Christian's life go hand in hand (see: "Joseph Ratzinger on Uncertainty and Doubt", an excerpt and one of my favorite passages from his Introduction to Christianity).
Where even the current Pope himself can confess to having "doubts along the way" without his flock being overtly scandalized?
Monday, January 19, 2015
... I'll leave it to the philosophers to evaluate whether Stewart has exaggerated the underlying atheism of this cast of characters. (His portrayal of Locke, at least, is sure to arouse controversy.) As a historian, I am more concerned by his utter failure to establish the influence of atheistic belief on America's founding. Historians believe that our most important task is to explain what we see, basing our statements of cause and effect on evidence. Stewart takes a different approach. He concludes that radical philosophy was widespread among common Americans after discovering it in the writings of two individuals, Vermont's backwoods leader Ethan Allen and a Boston physician named Thomas Young. In like manner, he finds that atheistic presuppositions determined the political philosophy of the most prominent Founders by ruthlessly disregarding all competing influences. This is pronouncement, not demonstration.McKenzie comments further, on his own blog, Faith and American History:
Although Stewart cloaks his argument in a 400-page narrative, the heart of his reasoning boils down to a simple syllogism: The ideas that matter in history are the ones that are true. Religious beliefs are, by definition, false. Ergo (philosophers say ergo a lot), religious beliefs couldn’t have mattered in the American founding. If lots of colonists back in ’76 thought otherwise, that’s because they weren’t as enlightened as the author. Too bad for them.Matthew Stewart, a self-identified atheist, professed in an interview with the Boston Globe that he'd "like the United States to become what it was always meant to be, which is a secular nation — more publicly committed to reason, to improving understanding, and promoting education", sans traditional orthodox religiosity of any kind. Curiously, notes McKenzie,
The thrust of my review was to call attention to Stewart’s a priori assumptions and to remind readers of historians’ quaint belief that historical assertions should be grounded in historical evidence. Stewart is correct to point out that the religious beliefs of many of the leading Founders were unorthodox, David Barton’s wish-dreams to the contrary notwithstanding. But Stewart errs badly in equating the views of the leading Founders with atheism, and he provides almost no evidence at all for his insistence that radical philosophy was widespread among the rank and file of colonial patriots. In short, the emperor has no clothes.
for a study that is so determined to discredit orthodox Christianity, the author is curiously averse to engaging Christian scholars, whether historians or theologians. When it comes to the religious beliefs of the revolutionary generation, quite a number of Christian historians have anticipated much of Stewart’s findings, albeit with vastly greater nuance and balance, but you’d never know it from his account.Elsewhere, Baron Swaim (Wall Street Journal) deems that "Mr. Stewart's learning in philosophical radicalism is impressive; what undermines his work is his contempt for everyone but the few radicals he esteems." And Charles W. Cooke (National Review) corrects Stewart's mistaken charge that "the first Tea-Partier was an atheist."
Mark David Hall has published a rather devastating review of Nature's God for the Spring 2015 issue (pp. 285-291) Christian Scholars Review entitled "A Failed Attempt at Partisan Scholarship", which is reposted to the blog American Creation. He concludes:
... Stewart regularly makes sweeping statements that leave the impression America’s founders were radical deists who wanted to create a godless republic, but he occasionally offers the qualification that many Americans were traditional Christians and that intellectual traditions not antithetically opposed to Christianity may have had some influence as well (e.g. 32, 352). But these qualifications are too few, faint, and far between. By focusing on a handful of founders with radical religious views, some important—Franklin, Jefferson, and Paine—and others relatively unimportant—Allen and Young—he grossly distorts the founders’ religious views and political commitments. Even brief consideration of a wider range of founders reveals a very different picture.*(Read the whole thing).
Nature’s God suffers from a number of serious flaws. Stewart virtually ignores the vast literature on the role of religion in the American founding and he utterly fails to engage scholars whose works challenge his thesis. He misuses and misconstrues primary sources and largely ignores founders (key and otherwise) who do not fit his thesis. Alan Ryan, in a friendly blurb, describes the book as “partisan scholarship.” It seems to me that Ryan is half right. Readers interested in a polemical account of religion in the American founding almost completely ungrounded in history may enjoy this book, but anyone interested in a serious treatment of religion in the era should look elsewhere.See, for instance, the approximately thirty-three founders and traditions profiled in Dreisbach, Morrison, and Hall, eds., The Founders on God and Government (Rowman & Littlefield, 2004), Dreisbach, Morrison, and Hall, The Forgotten Founders on Religion and Public Life, and Dreisbach and Hall, eds, Faith and the Founders of the American Republic (Oxford, 2014).
Saturday, January 17, 2015
Most of these authors of course do not believe their own postmodern tenets. They criticize capitalism because it pays financial dividends [but] none wish to share their salary with the dispossessed or live among the muscular classes. They advocate multiculturalism [because] it promotes them out of the classroom and away from the lower undergraduates -- the very people their curriculum is supposed to liberate.
They say there are no facts, but are outraged when their research is criticized. They pile up the frequent-flier mileage on gravity-defying jets that whisk them to the latest conference on the social construction and relativism of the scientific method. They hate the West, but demand the freedom of speech, material prosperity, lack of religious interference, respect for diversity and competitive merit-based rewards that the West alone ensures. … They insist that nothing can be known, that knowledge is a mere construct of unreliable language, that linear thinking is phallocentric, imperialistic and oppressive, and then, without a hint of irony, write heavily-footnoted book after book to tell us so. They say that truth is relative, yet condemn opposing theories as being less valid than their own.
They reject "narrow" disciplines in favor of "inclusive" cultural studies -- and then rigorously exclude anything that does not support their tendentious political agenda. They denounce an imagined world governed exclusively by issues of power even as they spend their time handing out curriculum vitiate, applying for the next job, and running for office in professional organizations. They proclaim the death of the author, and then sign their names to their books and wear nametags at conventions. They advocate the overthrow of hierarchical privilege while clutching desperately an outdated system of tenure that guarantees their own power and privilege. […] They profess radical skepticism in their scholarship but use inductive logic to plan every second of their personal and professional lives: what car to buy, what neighborhood to live in, what schools to send their children to, what articles to write and classes to teach (or not to teach).
The contradictions of the medieval Church or eighteenth-century French letters to do not match the hypocrisy of contemporary American academic culture.
-- Introduction, Bonfire of the Humanities: Rescuing the Classics in an Impoverished Age by Victor Davis Hanson, John Heath and Bruce S. Thornton.
Thursday, January 15, 2015
Perhaps it may be of benefit to point out that Pope Francis, in writing this encyclical, might even be taking SOME queues in this regard from his predecessor, who didn't earn the nickname "The Green Pope" for nothing. As National Geographic reminds us, among the actions of his pontificate:
... He approved a plan to cover the Vatican's Paul VI hall with solar panels, enough to power the lighting, heating, and cooling of a portion of the entire country (which covers, of course, a mere one-fifth of a square mile). He authorized the Vatican's bank to purchase carbon credits by funding a Hungarian forest that would make the Catholic city-state the only country fully carbon neutral. And several years later, he unveiled a new hybrid Popemobile that would be partially electric. (How Green Was the 'Green Pope'? National Geographic (02/28/13).
Pope Benedict XVI appealed for the success of a UN climate change conference [...] in Durban, South Africa. Speaking to the faithful gathered in St Peter’s Square for the Sunday Angelus prayer, Pope Benedict expressed the hope that “all members of the international community might reach agreement on a responsible, credible response,” to the phenomenon of climate change, which he described as “complex” and “disturbing”. [Vatican Radio 11/27/11].In fact, if he had not resigned in 2013, we could reasonably suggest that Pope Benedict might have at some point devoted greater length to this particular topic in some formal manner.
Perhaps the best position present critics of Pope Francis can adopt (and this author is by no means wholly enthusiastic about the present pontiff) is to cultivate the virtue of patience and mindful silence -- and refrain from what is largely speculative criticism until the content of the encyclical is actually released, and we've all had opportunity to read it.
Further reading on the Pope Emeritus' thinking on the environment.
Environmental Justice and Climate Change: Assessing Pope Benedict XVI's Ecological Vision for the Catholic Church in the United States
Lexington Books (November 21, 2013). 322 pgs.
Environmental Justice and Climate Change: Assessing Pope Benedict XVI's Ecological Vision for the Catholic Church in the United States explores four key areas in connection with Benedict XVI’s teachings: human and natural ecology/human life and dignity; solidarity, justice, poverty and the common good; sacramentality of creation; and our Catholic faith in action. The product of mutual collaboration by bishops, scholars and staff, this anthology provides the most thorough treatment of Benedict XVI’s contributions to ecological teaching and offers fruitful directions for advancing concern among Catholics in the United States about ongoing threats to the integrity of Earth.
Ten Commandments for the Environment: Pope Benedict XVI Speaks Out for Creation and Justice
Ave Maria Press (June 1, 2009) 162 pgs.
Woodeene Koenig-Bricker skillfully weaves together Pope Benedicts key statements on environmental justice into one volume. Additionally, she offers commentary that helps to unpack the "Ten Commandments for the Environment," which were recently released by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Koenig-Bricker helps us understand an environmentally responsible lifestyle as a moral responsibility to protect the poor, who suffer most when climate change creates a shortage of resources. With practical, everyday ideas for reducing ones ecological footprint, this book is a must-read for those seeking the inspiration that the Holy Father radiates to a new generation of Catholics.
The Garden of God: Toward a Human Ecology
The Catholic University of America Press (March 18, 2014) 232pgs.
This book gathers together the audiences, addresses, letters, and homilies of Benedict on a wide-ranging set of topics that deal with the world about us. The major themes and connections he explores are creation and the natural world; the environment, science, and technology; and hunger, poverty, and the earth's resources.
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Q.In the 20+ years that you’ve been writing books, this is the first one that focuses entirely on the Christmas story. What inspired you to write about this topic? Why now?
A. Christmas arrives with a powerful effect on small children and on older folks. In between childhood and grandparenthood, we can temporarily lose our capacity for wonder. But maybe the second wave is hitting me now, as I'm experiencing Christmas with my grandchildren as they grow. Going back to the story in recent years, I've discovered complexities, convergences, and moments of stunning beauty that I had not appreciated before. I'm not the first one to notice these things. In fact, I'm learning from the early Fathers and the most recent scholars. But I can't help but want to share them with everyone—everyone who's celebrating Christmas.
Q. In Joy to the World, you write, "The events of Christmas challenge us, just as they challenged the original characters—the family—whose history they tell." What do you see as the biggest challenge of Christmas?
A. To welcome Jesus. That's always the challenge. We think our lives are full, and we don't really trust him to come in and mess with our plans. Even after all these thousands of years, we hang a "no vacancy" sign at the inn. We've built a culture on the illusion of control, and Christ is a threat to that illusion. Maybe that's why he came as a little baby. In my own experience, however, it's been my babies—my children—who taught me what little control I really have. If we're open to life, if we're open to Christ, we come to trust God's providential plan. That's a lesson of the Christmas story. Just ask Zechariah. Just ask Joseph.
Stepping out in trust is scary, and the Christmas story confirms that at every turn. But what's the alternative? To cling to the illusion of control just because it's our familiar illusion? Herod is the Christmas character most like our modern-day control freaks; and his life is completely out of control. Joseph, on the other hand, entrusts himself to the angels and goes from one trial to another. Yet today we can see Joseph's life as heroic and true, and Herod's as just plain crazy.
Q. How did you come up with the title Joy to the World?
A. I've been thinking a lot about joy—ever since Pope Benedict declared the Year of Saint Paul. I remember I was in Jerusalem that summer and reading the Letter to the Philippians, and I was overwhelmed by his exhortation to joy. "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4). Go read that letter and count the number of times you see the words "joy" and "rejoice." Well, Paul's words took hold of me and wouldn't let go. Now we have a pope, our beloved Pope Francis, who speaks to us of the "Joy of the Gospel." Joy is a quality that belongs to Christmas. We sing it in our Christmas carols because in Christmas we celebrate the reason for Paul's rejoicing: the advent of the Messiah, the salvation of the whole world. We have good reasons to celebrate. We have good reasons for our joy.
Q. What is your favorite part of the Christmas story?
A. It depends on the day you ask me. Today I'm caught up in thinking about the angels, and how different they appear after the advent of our savior. In the Old Testament, they are frightening and intimidating to human beings. Think of the Prophet Daniel, who falls on his face in dumbstruck fear. In the Christmas story, however, they appear as guides and companions. Jesus changes everything in the order of the universe. He changes the way heaven relates to earth and the way people relate to angels. I marvel as I consider what else has been changed so profoundly—what else have I missed?