Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Against Tribalism, even among Christians.

We are informed that "Syrian-American Christians Love Trump Because They Say He's Like Assad":
Yes, that Assad—Bashar al-Assad—the one whose army is accused of killing upwards of a quarter-million Syrians. In some important ways, Moussa said, Trump and Assad sound similar. And he likes it.

Besides appreciating Trump’s plainspokenness and apparent invulnerability to pressure from lobbyists, Moussa and other Syrian-American Christians living in Pennsylvania like Trump for a unique reason: They think he will do the least to undermine Assad—and, by extension, the most to protect their fellow Christians back in Syria.

“Mr. Trump, he is the only candidate that ever said, ‘I am an evangelical and I am proud of it, and I am gonna protect the Christians,’” he said.

I'm sorry, but as a Christian and a Catholic, I happen to be repulsed by what I consider "tribalism" among Christians -- the "it's ok if it happens to you, just as long as it's not me or my kin" mentality.

In the case of Assad, what does it mean that Syrian Christians praise him despite the fact that he "is accused of killing upwards of a quarter-million Syrians"? -- That to me indicates that Syrian Christians put a rather high value on self-preservation, and a rather low-bar on morality and Christian conduct towards their fellow man.

Likewise, Saddam Hussein was praised because he was "a friend to the Christians", but he was "good to the Christians" at the cost of murdering a quarter to half a million of his own citizens.

Does anybody besides me seem repulsed by the suggestion that we should flock to a serial-murderer simply because they deign to spare us?

Friday, May 20, 2016

Samuel Gregg and David B. Hart on Global Capitalism

For God and Profit: How Banking and Finance Can Serve the Common Good, by Samuel Gregg
The Crossroad Publishing Company, 300 pgs.

From Christianity’s very beginning, it has had a difficult relationship with the world of money. Through developing sophisticated understandings of the nature and wealth-creating capacity of capital, Christian theologians, philosophers, and financiers exerted considerable influence upon the emergence and development of the international financial systems that helped unleash a revolution in the way the world thinks about and uses capital. In For God and Profit, Samuel Gregg underscores the different ways in which Christians have helped to develop the financial and banking systems that have helped millions escape poverty for hundreds of years. But he also provides a critical lens through which to assess the workings—and failures—of modern finance and banking. Far from being doomed to producing economic instability and periodic financial crises, Gregg illustrates that how Christian faith and reason can shape financial practices and banking institutions in ways that restore integrity to our troubled financial systems.

“For God and Profit is a formidable book, packed with interesting and regularly unacknowledged and unknown historical information, especially about the contribution of Christian thinking to the development of banking, the rise of the markets and Western prosperity. It is also closely argued with Christian and natural law categories of right and wrong being used to evaluate the economies and financial systems of today and yesterday." — Cardinal George Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, Vatican City

“Christians have long been suspicious of the worlds of finance and capital. But Samuel Gregg has produced just the book we need. It is ecumenical, patient in explaining concepts and practices that Christians of all confessions should know, characterized by logic and clear moral analysis, and attentive to the contributions made by Christians throughout history to the development of modern finance systems. At a time when finance not only seems bereft of a moral compass but also to be lurching from crisis to crisis, this is a book sorely needed by Christians today." — Michael Novak, author, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


Saturday, May 14, 2016

It has become something of a cliche, rather thoughtlessly repeated by well-meaning people of a certain generation, that to learn Thomism one ought to read Thomas himself and ignore the Thomist commentators and manualists who built on his work. I couldn't disagree more. No great philosopher, no matter how brilliant and systematic, ever uncovers all the implications of his position, foresees every possible objection, or imagines what rival systems might come into being centuries in the future. His work is never finished, and if it is worth finishing, others will come along and do the job. Since their work is, naturally, never finished either, a tradition of thought develops, committed to working out the implications of the founder's system, applying it to new circumstances and challenges, and so forth. Thus Plato had Plotinus, Aristotle had Aquinas, and Aquinas had Cajetan -- to name just three famous representatives of Platonism, Aristotelianism, and Thomism, respectively. And thus you cannot fully understand Plato unless you understand Platonism, you cannot fully understand Aristotle unless you understand Aristotelianism, and you cannot fully understand Thomas unless you understand Thomism. True, writers in the traditions in question often disagree with one another and sometimes simply get things wrong. But that is all the more reason to study them if one wants to understand the founders of these traditions; for the tensions and unanswered questions in a tradition reflect the richness of the system of thought originated by its founder.

-- Edward Feser, Scholastic Metaphysics: An Introduction.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Daniel Berrigan 1921-2016

Remembrances and Discussion

  • Postscript: Daniel Berrigan, 1921-2016, by Paul Elie. New Yorker 05/02/16:
    It’s often forgotten that Berrigan, who was born in 1921 and entered a Jesuit seminary in 1939, was a member of the Second World War generation, not the Vietnam generation with which he is associated. He was six years younger than Merton, who died in 1968, and four years older than O’Connor, who died in 1964. It’s also often forgotten that the actions of the Catonsville Nine divided and challenged the Catholic left, including Berrigan’s counterparts.* “These actions are not ours,” Dorothy Day, the co-founder of the Catholic Worker newspaper, said of the Nine’s napalming of draft files. And yet Day maintained her friendship with Berrigan, corresponding with him, hosting him at the Catholic Worker movement’s houses on the Lower East Side, and agreeing wholeheartedly with his wider stance against the Vietnam War.

    Merton, meanwhile, was made nervous by the borderline violence of Berrigan’s actions and by the personal righteousness that Berrigan brought to them: “He’s a bit theatrical these days, now he’s a malefactor—with a quasi-episcopal disarmament emblem strung around his neck like a pectoral cross,” Merton wrote in his journal, in August, 1968. And yet he struck notes of solidarity with the Catonsville Nine, and wrote an essay meant, in part, to help middle-class Catholics understand the action as “in essence non-violent,” even if it “frightened more than it has edified.” The previous October, Merton had advised Berrigan to keep clear of the peace movement’s lust for relevance—“now non-violent, now flower-power, now burn-baby, all sweetness on Tuesday and all hell-fire on Wednesday,” as he described it—and had posited an ideal of the Catholic radical as a person who strove “to give an example of sanity, independence, human integrity, against all establishments and all mass movements.”

  • Betty Medsger The Intercept 05/06/16:
    Asked in 2008 to reflect on his lifetime of lectures on peace, hundreds of poems for peace, and a long rap sheet of arrests for participating in peace protests, Berrigan assessed its meaning with these words: "The good is to be done because it is good, not because it goes somewhere. I believe if it is done in that spirit it will go somewhere, but I don’t know where … I have never been seriously interested in the outcome. I was interested in trying to do it humanely and carefully and nonviolently and let it go."

  • Remembering Daniel Berrigan: A Penniless, Powerful Voice for Peace, by Jim Dwyer. New York Times 05/06/16.

  • How Daniel Berrigan Helped Save My Faith, by Jim Wallis. Huffington Post 05/06/16.

  • Father Daniel Berrigan, Anti-war Hero With a Huge Blindspot, by Howard Lisnoff. Counterpunch 05/06/16. (Ironically, what this liberal author perceives as a deficiency Berrigan would likely characterize as simply an extension of his commitment to the sanctity of life -- namely, his opposition to abortion):
    “Despite his image as a radical leftist, Berrigan was also an outspoken opponent of abortion” (“Daniel Berrigan, leading Catholic pacifist, dead at 94,” Crux: Taking the Catholic Pulse, May 1, 2016). At a Catholic parish in Milwaukee in 1984, he described his “theory of allowable murder” in society. He explained that Christians need to have no part in “abortion, war, paying taxes for war [or] disposing of people on death row or warehousing the aged.” He continued that “One cannot be pro-life and against a nuclear freeze… or be a peace activist and defend abortion.”

  • Poet and Prophet, by Luke Hansen, S.J. 05/6/17:
    In Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, [Thomas] Merton described Berrigan as “an altogether winning and warm intelligence and a man who, I think, has more than anyone I have ever met the true wide-ranging and simple heart of the Jesuit: zeal, compassion, understanding, and uninhibited religious freedom. Just seeing him restores one’s hope in the Church.”

  • Berrigan and the Peace Movement Slideshow. America 05/6/17.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

"Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left"

The original publication of Scruton's Thinkers of the New Left in 1985 reportedly "brought his career as an academic philosopher to an end", say Roger Scruton in an interview with Ricochet. This is not to say he was censored outright ("the people on the left don't 'censor' -- they look with compassion on your stupidity, take you quietly to the side, and recommend quietly that you retire for a while"). Rather, so great was the negative outcry from the left that his publisher eventually surrendered all copies, removed them from bookshops and relocated them to Scruton's garden.

Call him a sucker for punishment, but Scruton recently updated his infamous book for republication in late 2015, "Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left" (the snarky title somewhat betraying what is actually a substantial intellectual survey) -- in Scruton's own words, "I add a consideration of Hobsbawm and Adorno, touch on Rorty and Said, and explore the Parisian nonsense machine, with Deleuze, Guattari, Lacan and Badiou. I end with Žižek". Of course, Scruton himself appears well-primed to bear the brunt of another round of hyperbolic abuse by all parties offended.

Personally, I enjoyed this immensely, both for Scruton's dry, British wit as well as for the sheer breadth of intellectuals covered in his survey, a smattering of whom I've acquainted myself with in college but have little desire to pursue further. Suffice to say both as a husband, father and breadwinner, I've significantly less time to read as I did in college and am rather more judicious of what books to occupy my time. If anything, Scruton should be duly credited for his incredible display of patience and constitution in wading through book after book and thousands of pages of left-wing theorizing, or what he dubs the deliberately-calculated "the nonsense machine" -- providing a welcome reminder of what I really haven't missed, and don't regret missing, in my failure to further engage this particular genre of "scholarship").

Beyond the critical survey, what is appreciated is the closing chapter, "What is Right?", where Scruton lays out in part his own principles and conservative philosophy.

For Scruton, it is precisely in the leftist intellectual's inclination to elevate theory above reality, to immerse himself so completely in a class-war against the phantasm of the "bourgeoise" -- that they inevitably blind themselves to the concrete, tangible reality of the common man in front of them, and in such a way that, historically, countless acts of violence and murder have been sanctioned in pursuit of a theoretical, abstract ideal. (Time and again, Scruton returns to this point of how such intellectuals have quite willingly and consciously white-washed and carried water for the most brutal and bloody of regimes, all in the name of the "revolution").

Moreover, it is the dearth of recognition left-wing theory gives to the "little platoons" that Scruton abhors -- "all that makes society possible -- law, property, custom, hierarchy, family, negotiation, government, institutions". It is these mediating institutions of civil society, however imperfect and flawed, that exist and stand between the individual and the "totalizing vision" of the coercive state, and it is through the free assembly that we come together in such civil institutions that "politics is softened, and people are protected from the worst kinds of dictatorship."

To quote Scruton at length:

"… colleges and schools, of clubs, regiments, orchestras, choirs and sporting leagues – all of which offer, along with the benefit of membership, a distinctive ethos of their own. By joining these things you not only put yourself under the conventions, traditions and obligations of the group; you acquire a sense of your own worth as a member, and a bond of association that gives meaning to your acts. Such institutions stand between the citizen and the state, offering discipline and order without the punitive sanctions through which the state exerts its sovereignty. They are what civilization consists in, and their absence from the socialist states of modern times is entirely explicable, since free association makes it impossible to achieve the ‘equality of being’ towards which socialists aspire. To put the matter simply: association means discrimination, and discrimination means hierarchy.

My alternative political philosophy, therefore, would advocate not only a distinction between civil society and the state, but also traditions of institution building outside the control of the state. Social life should be founded in free association and protected by autonomous bodies, under whose auspices people can flourish according to their social nature, acquiring the manners and aspirations that endow their lives with meaning. That ‘right-wing’ vision of politics will not be devoted to the structures of government only, or to the social stratifications and class divisions that are obsessively referred to on the left. It will be largely devoted to the building and governance of institutions, and to the thousand ways in which people enrich their lives through corporations, traditions and spheres of accountability."



  • Catching Up with Roger Scruton: The Philosopher as Composer and Novelist, by Christopher S. Morrissey. Catholic World Report 10/29/15.
  • On the New Left – an interview with Roger Scruton, by Samuel Fawcett. Exepose 11/9/15:
    … If Scruton is so critical of the New Left, then, does he have any sympathy for the ‘Old’ Left? A surprising amount, in fact. He singles out Labour MP Frank Field as representing this philosophy and speaks fondly of the “rooted, English industrial working-class”, to which his own father belonged, as well as “people like George Orwell who spoke for it”. He goes even further, saying that the passing of the “patriotic Old Left” is something he “very much regrets”. He also speaks of his dislike for the “radical New Right libertarian movement which ignores the nation, the family and local communities” in favour of the individual, which he finds “very disheartening”.
  • "These Left-Thinkers have destroyed the intellectual life" - Interview with Mick Hume. Spiked Review December 2015:
    Defending academic freedom against the forces of conformity matters to Scruton because ‘My life began, insofar as it had a beginning, in the university. That’s where I grew up, and I love my subject, philosophy, love the whole idea of the academic and scholarly life, that one has a place apart where people are pursuing the truth and communicating that to people who are eager to learn it. And this thing has completely destroyed the intellectual life.’ He considers these leftists prime culprits in what might be called the closing of the university mind, though ‘whether they caused the closing of the mind or are the effect of it is another matter’.


  • Thinking for England, by Nicholas Wrote. The Guardian 10/28/00:
    For Roger Scruton, as for so many of his generation, the Paris riots of May 1968 were the defining political moment of his life. He was in the Latin Quarter when students tore up the cobblestones to hurl at the riot police. His friends overturned cars and uprooted lamp-posts to erect the barricades. Representatives of his own discipline, old philosophers like Marx and new ones like Foucault, were providing the intellectual fuel for the fire raging on the ground.

    As he watched the events unfold from his apartment window, and listened to his friends, drunk on revolutionary hope and excitement, Scruton found his own emotions and opinions crystallising. "I suddenly realised that I was on the other side," he says. "What I saw was an unruly mob of self-indulgent middle-class hooligans. When I asked my friends what they wanted, what were they trying to achieve, all I got back was this ludicrous Marxist gobbledegook. I was disgusted by it, and thought there must be a way back to the defence of western civilisation against these things. That's when I became a conservative. I knew I wanted to conserve things rather than pull them down."

  • A Very British Hatchet Job, by Clement Knox. Los Angeles Review of Books 01/18/16:
    … Far from being a Vernichtungskrieg waged without mercy upon the hallowed figures of the left-wing intellectual canon, this is a remarkably evenhanded hatchet job, with Scruton staying true to the promise made in the foreword “to explain what is good in the authors I review as well as what is bad.” This commendable sense of fairness might leave some readers who came expecting blood somewhat peeved.
  • From Jargon to Incantation, by Laetitia Strauch-Bonart. Standpoint November 2015:
    This is an outstanding and very necessary book. I may be biased, as I am the author’s translator into French, but I like his work because it is true, not the other way around. The only fault of the book is that it gives so much space to the sticky prose of the New Left. But that is a necessary evil. And Scruton’s fluid and lively sentences are such a relief. No wonder: you are at least reading something human. …

    Some people will be shocked by Scruton’s book. They will see it as an ideological work targeting his enemies. But I beg them to open their Habermas, Lacan or Badiou, and to ask two things. Does this text mean something that I could explain to my educated friend? And does it make an honest attempt to understand history or society, and not a resentment-inspired and reality-denying fantasy?

    If the answer is no, readers will have grasped Scruton’s point. Unless they really wish “to chew on the glutinous prose of Deleuze, to treat seriously the mad incantations of Žižek, or to believe that there is more to Habermas’s theory of communicative action than his inability to communicate it,” I challenge them to do so.

  • New Left Ideas and Their Consequences , by Sean Haylock. Crisis 01/25/16:
    It has become a commonplace in some circles that postmodern writing is nothing but nonsensical logorrhoea, deliberately opaque and utterly pretentious. Scruton certainly presents some astonishing examples of just this phenomenon, especially from Jürgen Habermas and Gilles Deleuze, both titans of postmodern academia (Deleuze is responsible for the sentence: “The eternal return eliminates that which renders it impossible by rendering impossible the transport of difference”). But Scruton also pays due compliment to works by his targets which display genuine literary accomplishment. Sartre’s account of his childhood, Les mots, is “a masterpiece of autobiography.” Michel Foucault is praised for “the synthesizing poetry of his style” and his last work, the three volume History of Sexuality, hailed for its discovery, as far as Foucault’s scholarly practice is concerned, of careful analysis and diligent citation. The Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, currently much in vogue, “writes perceptively of art, literature, cinema, and music, and … always has something interesting and challenging to say.” Such compliments aren’t concessions to the ideologies that drive these philosophers. I wonder how many ardent Marxists would be prepared to acknowledge the poetry in Scruton’s prose.
  • Roger Scruton vs. the New Left , by Alan Jacobs. The American Conservative 04/07/16:
    If we understand the nature of this transformation—this move from the necessity of a fundamental restructuring of the Western political order to a mere consolidation of its bureaucratic order with a few minor directional tweaks, or even (in the case of Hobsbawm) just a few rhetorical gestures, as though reciting an ancient liturgy in a long-forgotten language—then the value of Scruton’s book becomes clear. Without an account of this transformation, one might reasonably ask why it would be worth our time to read about these figures whose real political influence, if it ever existed at all, ended a quarter-century ago. The answer is that Scruton shows how even the most seemingly radical language can easily, painlessly be absorbed into the very social and political institutions it is supposed to be opposing. Fools, Frauds and Firebrands is, among other things, a skillful ethnographic account of an intellectual subculture whose words and deeds run always on parallel tracks.
  • Why You Can't Argue with the New Left, by Arnold Kling. Library of Economics and Liberty 03/07/16.
  • A Demolition of Socialist Intellectuals", by Stephen Poole The Guardian 12/10/15:
    … the problem in general with denouncing people as frauds and charlatans is that you might be paying them too much intellectual credit, and so too little moral credit. Perhaps they really believed this stuff, in which case they were idiots but not dishonest. This book is at its best, by contrast, when Scruton is engaging with writers whom he evidently respects, however much he disagrees with them.
  • The Enemies of Roger Scruton, by Samuel Freeman. The New York Review of Books 04/21/16. [Obscured by Paywall].

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Penitent Thief

Of the two men crucified with Jesus, only one joins in the mockery: the other grasps the mystery of Jesus. He knows and he sees that the nature of Jesus’ “offense” was quite different—that Jesus was nonviolent. And now he sees that this man crucified beside him truly makes the face of God visible, he is truly God’s Son. So he asks him: “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingly power” (Lk 23:42). What exactly the good thief understood by Jesus’ coming in his kingly power, and what he therefore meant by asking Jesus to remember him, we do not know. But clearly, while on the Cross, he realized that this powerless man was the true king—the one for whom Israel was waiting. Now he wanted to be at this man’s side not only on the Cross, but also in glory.

Jesus’ response goes beyond what is asked of him. Instead of an unspecified future, he speaks of that very day: “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43). This too is a mysterious saying, but it shows us one thing for certain: Jesus knew he would enter directly into fellowship with the Father—that the promise of “Paradise” was something he could offer “today”. He knew he was leading mankind back to the Paradise from which it had fallen: into fellowship with God as man’s true salvation.

So in the history of Christian devotion, the good thief has become an image of hope—an image of the consoling certainty that God’s mercy can reach us even in our final moments, that even after a misspent life, the plea for his gracious favor is not made in vain. So, for example, the Dies Irae prays: "Qui . . . latronem exaudisti, mihi quoque spem dedisti" (just as you answered the prayer of the thief, so you have given me hope).

Ratzinger, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Peter Gabriel - "Passion"

Percussion [Brazilian] – Djalma Correa
Synthesizer [Prophet 5, Fairlight], Sampler [Akai S900], Voice – Peter Gabriel
Trumpet – Jon Hassell
Violin [Double] – Shankar
Vocals [Choirboy] – Julian Wilkins
Voice – Youssou N'Dour
Voice [Qawwali] – Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

Monday, February 22, 2016

Amy Welborn: "Against Popesplaining"

Thank you, Amy Welborn:
Guess what.

You don’t have to defend every word the Pope says.

Even if you consider yourself an enthusiastic and faithful Catholic of any stripe you are not obligated to defend every utterance in every papal interview or even every papal homily or declaration.

Popes – all popes – can say things that are wrong, incorrect, ill-informed, narrow, short-sighted and more reflective of their personal biases, interests and limitations than the broader, deeper tradition of Catholicism.

Which is why, traditionally, popes didn’t do a lot of public talking.

Quite a few issues have popped up recently – well, more or less continuously over the past three years, but I want to begin by addressing what I see as the fundamental, underlying problem apart from any particular priorities Pope Francis may have. That problem is the importance given to papal statements. Papal paragraphs. Papal sentences, participles and even papal pauses.

All of which require continual, exhaustive and exhausting rounds of what I’ve come call Popesplaining.

Read the whole thing.

* * *
"It's true I don't give interviews. I don't know why. I just can't. It's tiresome," he said. "But I enjoy your company."
-- Pope Francis, en route TO Brazil. July 22, 2013.

* * *

I understand why Popes expound themselves in encyclicals -- such seems to be their natural habitat, as it provides ample room for drafting and re-drafting and minimizing the potential for misinterpretation. The same could be said for books … I recall reading John Paul II's "Crossing the Threshhold of Hope" on the road to becoming a Catholic, and who can deny the theological richness of Pope Benedict (writing as Joseph Ratzinger)'s trilogy "Jesus of Nazareth"?

Of course there is television, and as an actor in an earlier life, John Paul II knew full well the power of public performance: the well-placed quip or televised soundbyte to the masses … but not all Popes are gifted public speakers. Benedict XVI was certainly not given to such.

As I see it, the perpetual confusion that characterizes the present situation comes in large part as a result of the full-throttle advent of "social media", together with Vatican's headlong desire to be 'with it' and to integrate itself into the latest technical trend. Chiefly of concern is the sense of IMMEDIACY that it engenders -- together with it's "dumbing down" effect, the minimization of attention spans on the part of the audience.

For example, reading Benedict XVI in print has been a personal joy, witnessing the architecture of his arguments play out over the pages with grace and precision. Conversely, I was rather dismayed by the Vatican's announcement (I think it was at World Youth Day) that the Holy Father would from that time forth be Twittering, and in such a manner rendering himself vulnerable to the responses (and sniping) of the world in the confined space of 140 characters.

So, too, with the free-for-all, off-the-cuff airline interviews, which have become a trademark of the present pontificate.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (1936-2016)

Memories and Recollections
  • Statements by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the rest of the Supreme Court of the United States. 02/14/16.
  • Antonin Scalia, Conservative Legal Giant, by Ross Douthat. New York Times 02/13/16:
    There were and are many legal theories and schools of constitutional interpretation within the world of American conservatism. But Scalia’s combination of brilliance, eloquence and good timing — he was appointed to the court in 1986, a handful of years after the Federalist Society was founded, and with it the conservative legal movement as we know it — ensured that his ideas, originalism in constitutional law and textualism in statutory interpretation, would set the agenda for a serious judicial conservatism and define the worldview that any “living Constitution” liberal needed to wrestle with in order to justify his own position.
  • Why Antonin Scalia was a jurist of colossal consequence, by George F. Will. Washington Post 02/14/16.
  • Justice Antonin Scalia, R.I.P. , by Ilya Somin. Volokh Conspiracy 02/13/16:
    But whether you agree with his views or not, it is hard to think of any other recent Supreme Court justice who has made a comparably great contribution to debates over both statutory interpretation and constitutional theory. It may be a long time, if ever, before we reach any consensus about Scalia’s legacy. But its importance cannot be denied.
  • Our Mighty Rearguard, by Elliot Milco. First Things 02/14/16:
    ... He was morally engaged. His prose sparkled. He was the great champion of the Right, and he could not be silenced or voted out, no matter how much the press despised him. While his enemies pushed relentlessly to have their views enshrined as fundamental principles of free society, Scalia fought to keep the moral question open for debate, to maintain the possibility of reasonable dissent, because he believed that in a fair fight we could still prevail. He was the mighty rearguard in our long and slow defeat.
  • Justice Scalia's Great Heart, by Jeffrey A. Tucker. "Now that he is gone from this earth, I can tell a story I’ve held inside for many years, a scene that touched me deeply and profoundly. I cannot think of him without remembering this moment. ..."
  • A surprising request from Justice Scalia, by David Axelrod. CNN. 02/14/16.
  • Scalia's relationships with opponents should serve as a model in US politics, by Emily Zanotti. The Guardian 02/14/16.
  • (From the Archives): BFFs Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia agree to disagree Los Angeles Times by David G. Savage. Los Angeles Times 6/22/15. "Despite their standing as the intellectual lions of the left and right, Ginsburg and Scalia have forged an uncommon bond on a court where close friendships outside of chambers are rare."
  • Why liberals should love Justice Scalia, by Michael McGough. Los Angeles Times 02/27/13:
    It isn’t just in search-and-seizure cases that Scalia takes a liberal -- some would say libertarian -- position. He’s an ardent defender of free speech (joining with liberal justices to overturn laws criminalizing the burning of the American flag as a protest) and has led a movement on the court to reinvigorate the confrontation clause of the 6th Amendment, which says that the accused has the right to be confronted with the witnesses against him. Scalia’s position on the confrontation clause is a good example of how his “conservative” jurisrpudence can be more protective of individual rights than the “living Constitution” approach of more liberal justices. ...

Scalia in his own words

  • "Constitutional Interpretation" In a rare on-camera appearance, Justice Antonin Scalia spoke about issues involved in interpreting the Constitution, judicial philosophies, and the decision-making process at the Supreme Court. C-SPAN 03/14/05.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The popular idea of a Christian universe corrupted in its very nature by sin owes much of its favour to the influence of Luther, Calvin and Jensenius; but to look at Christianity through their eyes would be to regard it in a very different light than that of Thomism, or even of authentic Augustinianism. No one, in fact could be further thatn St. Augustine from considering the world in the state of fallen nature as worthless. His own metaphysical principles would firbit it, to start with. Since evil is but the corruption of a good and cannot possibly subsist at all save in this good, it follows that inasmuch as there is evil, there is a good. [p. 122]

* * *
... the good of nature is a real part of nature, and is not therefore to be suppressed, but simply diminished by sin. Every act initiates a habit, that is to tsay the first bad act results in a disposition to commit others and thus enfeebles the natural human inclination towards good. But this inclination, nevertheless, remains, and so the way to the acquisition of all the virtues remains open. As for the first and proper sense of the word "nature", that is to say the very sense of man, it can neither be suppressed nor diminished by sin; primum igitur bonum naturae, nec tollitur, nec diminuitur per peccatum. To deny this would be to suppose that at one ad the same time man could both remain man and cease to be man. Thus sin neither adds to nor takes away from human nature: ea enim quae sunt naturalia homini, neque subtrahuntur neque dantur homini per peccatum. Man's metaphysical status is essentially unchangeable and independent of all the accidents that may befall him. [p. 124-125].

Etienne Gilson, Spirit of Medieval Philosophy

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Bobby Fischer - "Pawn Sacrifice"

Decent historical movie. ... When I was a kid I was captivated by chess, and was captivated by books about Bobby Fischer, child chess prodigy. "Pawn Sacrifice" chronicles his life up until 1972 and his championship tournament against Boris Spassky, one of the greatest matches of all time. It's a bit light on the chess moves, emphasis on the drama but still does a lot to capture the magic of the game.

The film also doesn't shy away from Bobby Fischer: the rather abrasive and unlikeable adult, who suffered from mental illness and in his later years became immersed in the cultic Worldwide Church of God and a quagmire of anti-semitism (despite his Jewish roots) and conspiracy-theorizing -- his life was predominantly an unhappy one, despite his fame. All that being acknowledged, there is no denying the genius of his game, as well as that incredible moment in history when, in the midst of Vietnam, Watergate, and the Cold War, an American citizen challenged the greatest chessmasters of Russia and won.

The Big Short.

The postcrisis perception, at least in the media, appears to be one of Americans being held down by Wall Street, by big companies in the private sector, and by the wealthy. Capitalism is on trial. I see it a little differently. If a lender offers me free money, I do not have to take it. And if I take it, I better understand all the terms, because there is no such thing as free money. That is just basic personal responsibility and common sense. The enablers for this crisis were varied, and it starts not with the bank but with decisions by individuals to borrow to finance a better life, and that is one very loaded decision. This crisis was such a bona fide 100-year flood that the entire world is still trying to dig out of the mud seven years later. Yet so few took responsibility for having any part in it, and the reason is simple: All these people found others to blame, and to that extent, an unhelpful narrative was created. Whether it’s the one percent or hedge funds or Wall Street, I do not think society is well served by failing to encourage every last American to look within. This crisis truly took a village, and most of the villagers themselves are not without some personal responsibility for the circumstances in which they found themselves. We should be teaching our kids to be better citizens through personal responsibility, not by the example of blame.

Michael Burry, one of the main protagonists in the book (now movie), The Big Short.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Etienne Gilson, on what is a "Christian Philosopher"

For although theology is a science, it does not propose as its end the transformation of the belief by which it adheres to its principles into understanding; to do that would be to destroy its proper object. Nor will the Christian philosopher on the other hand, any more than the theologian, attempt to transform faith into science, as if by some queer chemistry you could combine contradictory essences. What he asks himself is simply this: whether, among those propositions which by faith he believes to be true, there are not a certain number which reason may know to be true. Insofar as the believer bases his affirmations on the intimate conviction gained from faith he remains purely and simply a believer, he has not yet entered the gates of philosophy; but when amongst his beliefs he finds some that are capable of becoming objects of science then he becomes a philosopher, and if it is to the Christian faith that he ows this new philosophical insight, he becomes a Christian philosopher.

Etienne Gilson, The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy p.36

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Hunt for the "Blue Collar Intellectual"

There was a massive demand for blue-collar intellectuals throughout much of the twentieth century because there was a massive demand for intellectual betterment. There isn't a massive supply of blue-collar intellectuals today because the enlightened do not feel a vocational pull to reach out to the everyman and the everyman expresses little demand for intellectual betterment. There is not even a consensus that reading means intellectual betterment, let alone what we should be reading. A society in which it is maladaptive to discuss The Nicomachean Ethics, Othello, and The Federalist Papers is a maladaptive society. The cultural common denominators of the past aren't so common anymore. Once can reference The Simpsons or Anchorman or an Eminem lyric with the understanding that an educated audience will know what one is talking about. Try doing that with The Odyssey or Moby Dick even. What it means to be an educated person has changed for the worse.

The intellectual and the everyman suffer when the life of the mind is deemed the exclusive domain of intellectuals. Segregated from society by academic jargon, minute specialization, and outright snobbery, intellectuals descend into a ghetto of unintelligible babble remote from mass society. Similarly, today's middlebrow becomes yesterday's lowbrow when Tool Academy, Grand Theft Auto IV cage fighting and Internet pornography crowd out the pursuit of higher things within mass culture. Comfortable in the sensate cesspool demanding of neither the intellect nor the soul, the everyman makes no effort to ascend from the muck. Grateful for the status separation, the intellectual does nothing to raise the mass and everything to extenuate his privileged apartness.

"We are increasingly ignorant, but we do not know enough to be properly ashamed," lamented W.A. Pannapacker, writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education. "If we are determined to get on in life, we believe it will not have anything to do with our ability to reference Machiavelli or Adam Smith at the office Christmas party. The rejection of The Great Books signifies a declining belief in the value of anything without a direct practical application, combined with the triumph of a passive entertainment."

Daniel J. Flynn, Blue Collar Intellectuals: When the Enlightened and the Everyman Elevated America

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Rushing to Judgement on Ahmed Mohamed.

There are multiple issues to the case of Ahmed Mohamed, the teenager who brought a clock to school that was mistaken for a bomb (or faux-bomb) and is now a national hero.

The reactions of both the police and the school officials are currently being vilified by the press and everybody I know (many of my friends on Facebook included).

That being said, speaking as a parent, with two kids in a school, and conscious of entrusting our children's safety with our teachers and school every day of the week ... I can't say I fault the school in this case.

Based on the picture provided, I'd pose a question:

if any kid (ANY KID, regardless of race or ethnicity or religious affiliation) brought in a device to YOUR SCHOOL that looked like this, would you really fault the teacher for erring on the side of caution and reporting it, as per conventional school policy?

* * *

Some have also questioned the motivations of the teachers, noting that they detained Ahmed -- but didn't go so far as to evacuate the school, like they would have if they thought it were a real bomb. That being said, it's possible to get into a good bit of trouble for simply bringing in a device that even LOOKS like a bomb, even if it isn't one. The offense would be the equivalent of calling in a bomb threat or introducing the device to create an incident. (Speaking from experience, I had a teenage friend who managed to do precisely the latter).

Again, bracketing for a moment any question of my race or religion -- if I took out a device that looked like the one pictured in public, in any context outside of a science class, I think I'd evoke some suspicion, and I'd find concern warranted, again, *based on the appearance of the device itself*.

* * *

Based on what I've seen so far from analysis on tech blogs (as in the article posted here), it seems possible that the clock was a 1986 Radio Shack model that was disassembled and re-built inside a pencil box.

Beyond that, I think there is all manner of speculation and knee-jerk assumptions being made (one one hand, that the police and school officials are obviously racist or bigoted in motivation; on the other hand, that Ahmed and/or his parents might be less than innocent and might well have designed the device "to look like a bomb", to deliberately provoke the authorities and stage what has become at this point a social-national-cultural media circus).

It's all speculation at this point -- from the left as well as the right. ...

But then, that's precisely what we're motivated to do here on social media before all the facts of any story come out. Rush to judgement.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Here and There

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Give Michael Liccione a hand!

Michael Liccione needs your help:
Here's the deal. I'm a former philosophy professor who, at age 60, works full-time as a state-certified driving instructor. For the past two years, I haven't managed to get any job paying more than $400 a week. Beyond my PhD, which I earned 27 years ago, I have two entry-level IT certifications (A+ and Network+). Three months ago, I passed the state auto-insurance adjuster's exam because I have a friend in the industry who can help me get a job therein if I have the license. But I have been unable to secure the license because I can't afford both the fees and the bond premium. After taxes and child support, my current job nets me less than $200 a week. That's why I live at a Catholic mission and don't have my own place. I have to do something.

One thing I've done is resume freelance writing (you can find earlier publications of mine with a Google search). I published a piece three weeks ago and have another coming out next week. But because I can't afford a decent place to live, it's very difficult to find a quiet place to write more than a few pieces a month on top of working full-time. That will not be enough. There are other alternatives, but none look particularly feasible at my age.

So I've set up this page in the hope that friends, some of whom have already expressed interest in helping, can do so. It won't take much. Thanks in advance for your help!

Michael (used to?) blog at Sacramentum Vitae, and I would credit him as one of my inspirations and models of quality Catholic blogging in general. Feel free to peruse the archives, and if you can afford it do lend him a hand.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Many Faces (and Allegiances) of Dalton Trumbo

Hollywood ...

... and history:

Hollywood's Trumbo appears to be something of a whitewash of Stalinist screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. Portrayed as a victim of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), a closer investigation of history reveals that he did his fair share of censoring and "blacklisting" himself -- against anti-Communists in the movie industry.

  • Hollywood's Missing Movies: Why American films have ignored life under communism, by Kenneth Lloyd Billingsly. Reason June 2000:
    if Comintern fantasies of a Soviet Hollywood were never realized, party functionaries nevertheless played a significant role: They were sometimes able to prevent the production of movies they opposed. The party had not only helped organize the Screen Writers Guild, it had organized the Story Analysts Guild as well. Story analysts judge scripts and film treatments early in the decision making process. A dismissive report often means that a studio will pass on a proposed production. The party was thus well positioned to quash scripts and treatments with anti-Soviet content, along with stories that portrayed business and religion in a favorable light. In The Worker, Dalton Trumbo openly bragged that the following works had not reached the screen: Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon and The Yogi and the Commissar; Victor Kravchenko's I Chose Freedom; and Bernard Clare by James T. Farrell, also author of Studs Lonigan and vilified by party enforcer Mike Gold as "a vicious, voluble Trotskyite."

  • The Stalinist Ten--A True Story About Communists in the Movie Industry, by Allan H. Ryskind. [excerpt from the newly released book, Hollywood Traitors: Blacklisted Screenwriters – Agents of Stalin, Allies of Hitler, by Allan H. Ryskind]:
    Trumbo is less well known for a script that never made it to the screen: An American Story, whose plot outline, in the words of film historian Bernard F. Dick, goes like this: North Korea finally decides “to put an end to the border warfare instigated by South Korea by embarking upon a war of independence in June 1950.” (In his papers at the Wisconsin Historical Society, Trumbo says he “dramatized” Kim Il-sung’s supposedly righteous war for a group of fellow Communist screenwriters, including at least two Hollywood Ten members.)

    Trumbo also seemed to think that Stalin needed a bit of a reputation upgrade. So one finds in his papers a proposed novel, apparently written in the 1950s, in which a wise old Russian defends Stalin’s murderous reign as necessary for the supposedly grand achievements of Soviet socialism.

    Those celebrating Trumbo today as a sort of saintly curmudgeon do not feel obligated to mention this aspect of his Red ideology, nor do they point to his writings during the Soviet-Nazi Pact, when he was excusing Hitler’s con- quests. "To the vanquished,” he airily dismissed the critics of Nazi brutality, “all conquerors are inhuman." For good measure he demonized Hitler’s major enemy, Great Britain, insisting that England was not a democracy, because it had a king, and accused FDR of “treason” and “black treason” for attempting to assist the British in their life-and-death struggle against the despot in Berlin.

  • Hollywood Celebrates Another Stalinist, by Allan H. Ryskind. 01/05/15:
    ... The evidence of Trumbo’s Red activities is hardly secret. He came clean, sort of, to his biographer, Bruce Cook, a writer of the upcoming Trumbo screenplay. He told Cook in the 1970s that he joined the party in 1943 (some FBI informants think he joined in the 1930s), that some of his “very best friends” were Communists and that “I might as well have been a Communist 10 years earlier….” He also says, about joining the party: “But I’ve never regretted it. As a matter of fact, it’s possible to say I would have regretted not having done it….”

    He said he let his party membership lapse after his HUAC appearance, possibly finding it difficult to pay his party dues after he was blacklisted, but he never publicly turned his back on communism or Stalin. Indeed, in his private papers he admits that he “reaffiliated with the party in 1954,” apparently his passion for a Communist America burning brightly as ever. So, by the historical record and his own account, he was in tune with the Soviet Union for nearly a quarter of a century, when Stalin was in his prime killing years.

  • Will the new Trumbo movie rehash old myths?, by Ronald Radosh. National Review 11/02/13:
    [Trumbo] bragged how he had used his position to stop anti-Communist films from being made. Stalin, he said, was “one of the democratic leaders of the world,” so he used his position to stop Trotsky’s biography of the dictator from being filmed, and did the same with anti-Communist books by James T. Farrell, Victor Kravchenko, and Arthur Koestler, all of which he called “untrue” and “reactionary.” As he explained in 1954 to a fellow blacklisted writer, the Communist party had a “fine tradition . . . that whenever a book or play or film is produced which is harmful to the best interests of the working class, that work and its author should and must be attacked in the sharpest possible terms.”

    Two years later, when many Communists learned some of the truth about Stalin from the Khrushchev speech, Trumbo wrote a comrade that he was not surprised. He explained that he had read the books by Koestler, George Orwell, James Burnham, Eugene Lyons, and Isaac Don Levine, who all had exposed the truth about the Soviet Union. These, of course, were the very books he had made sure would never be turned into movies. Trumbo supported Stalin, all the while knowing that he was a monster.

  • Flipping Hollywood’s Blacklist Narrative, by Ron Capshaw. Library of Law and Liberty 01/25/15:
    ... All in all, Ryskind’s work is a welcome addition to the anticommunist corrections to the blacklist legend. He has written a convincing and well-sourced follow up to the pioneering effort of the Radoshes. Moreover, he has refused to play the warped victim son of a writer who was much maligned in his time and may have been black-listed (Morrie never got another script accepted after 1945). Instead he has focused on disputing how Hollywood then and now has rehabiliated what in essence were Stalinists.
  • Exclusive Author Interview with Allan Ryskind, Author of “Hollywood Traitors”, by Christopher N. Malagisi.

  • Who was Dalton Trumbo, Screenwriter and Stalinist?, by Ron Capshaw. The American Spectator 01/06/15.

  • Dalton Got His Gun, by Stefan Kanfer. City Journal 02/27/15. "The lodestar of the Hollywood blacklist was all that his fans said he was—and less." [Review of Trumbo: Blacklisted Hollywood Radical by Larry Ceplair and Christopher Trumbo, and Hollywood Traitors: Blacklisted Screenwriters, Agents of Stalin, Allies of Hitler by Allan H. Ryskind].

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Iconoclasm in the heart of New York City.

Naked in New York: The Unceremonious Stripping of Our Saviour, by Steve Skojec. One Peter Five July 23, 2015. In 2001, Fr. Rutler is assigned to a parish struggling under the burden of millions of dollars of mortage and other repairs and over the course of twelve years, reverses its path -- bringing it back to financial health through careful stewardship, establishing the celebration of the Latin Mass and a stunning renovation of the interior with hand-made iconography from Chinese artist Ken Woo who spent six years of his life to the project, including 28-foot-high image of Christ Pantocrator. It becomes a center for liturgical, aesthetic and spiritual renewal.

In 2013, Fr. Rutler is reassigned. New pastor moves in, promptly does away with the Latin Mass, scolds his congregation for their backwardness and embarks upon a demolition of all the work that preceded him -- stripping Our Savior of its iconography (while vacationing in the Hamptons, no less), the parish now (once-again) mired in debt.

What's wrong with this picture?

I remember stumbling rather by surprise across this church while walking in Manhattan, entering the sanctuary and being completely stunned by what I encountered on the inside. The beauty of the altar and the iconography had to be seen to be believed. This was a rare treasure of NYC. …

As a Catholic it's just infuriating - reading this and the painful realization that this place will never be the same again.

But one needn't be a Catholic, Christian or even religious to be offended at the willful dismantling of a work of spiritual beauty AGAINST the collective wishes of his parishioners. ...

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Liberty, and the abuse thereof.

There is a liberty of a corrupt nature which is effected both by men and beasts to do what they list, and this liberty is inconsistent with authority, impatient of all restraint; by this liberty ‘sumus omnes deteriores’: ‘tis the grand enemy of truth and peace, and all the ordinances of God are bent against it. But there is a civil, a moral, a federal liberty which is the proper end and object of authority; it is a liberty for that only which is just and good. For this liberty you are to stand with the hazard of your very lives and whoever crosses it is not authority, but a distemper thereof.
-- Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Vol. 1 (1835). [Via: Michael Novak].

* * *
While our country remains untainted with the principles and manners which are now producing desolation in so many parts of the world; while she continues sincere, and incapable of insidious and impious policy, we shall have the strongest reason to rejoice in the local destination assigned us by Providence. But should the people of America once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another, and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation while it is practising iniquity and extravagance, and displays in the most captivating manner the charming pictures of candor, frankness, and sincerity, while it is rioting in rapine and insolence, this country will be the most miserable habitation in the world; because we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

John Adams, "To the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts". 11 October 1978.

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

Pope Francis: "Laudato Si'" : Reactions and Commentary (Roundup)


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

  • Is Less Really More? Reflections on Scarcity in “Laudato Si’”, by Michael Severance. Catholic World Report 07/17/15. "What might be the problem with the pope’s economic claim that we should consume less in order to have more resources?"

  • A Prophetic Pope and the Tradition of Catholic Social Teaching, by Fr. Robert Barron. National Catholic Register 07/14/15:
    ... He asks, “Do we realize that that system has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature?” He is not speaking here of the market as such, but of a deeply immoral attitude that has seized the hearts of too many who use the market. And he complains, “An unfettered pursuit of money rules. The service of the common good is left behind. Once capital becomes an idol and guides people’s decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women.” These are strong words indeed, but we notice again that the Pope’s attention is not so much on the mechanisms of capitalism, but rather on the wickedness of those who are using the market economy in the wrong way, greedily making an idol of money and becoming indifferent to the needs of others.

  • The Weakness of Laudato Si, by R.R. Reno. First Things 07/01/15:
    Let me be clear. I’m not criticizing Laudato Si for its substantive claims. I’m not competent to contest claims about global warming, nor am I an expert in the economics of development. In any event, I agree with Pope Francis’s main point. Although I would put the substantive issues differently, I share his view that the triumph of global capitalism poses significant and fundamental challenges that we must address—and that are going to be difficult to address because of the technocratic domination of our moral imaginations and the very terms of public debate.

    All the more reason why we need teaching, not just exhortation and denunciation. It won’t do to blame our difficulties on “those who consume and destroy,” or to insinuate, as Francis so often does, that the rich and powerful stand in the way of ecological ideals and a just social order. This is cheap populism that falsifies reality. The global ecological movement is a rich-country phenomenon funded and led by the One Percent. And it’s beside the point. If global warming presents such an immediate and dire threat, then we need clearly enunciated principles to guide our participation in debates about what’s to be done, not rhetoric. The same is true of the pressing need to encourage economic development that promotes human dignity.

  • The Theological Mind of Laudato Si’, by Eduardo Echeverria. Homiletic and Pastoral Review 06/27/15:
    my approach to the encyclical is to consider the theological mind that informs its framework. Helpfully, the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (hereafter CCSD) organizes the Church’s social teaching, which has a theological-moral nature, in light of a set of distinctions that will, arguably, illuminate the architectonic framework of this encyclical. This set consists of: (1) the foundational level of motivations; (2) the directive level of norms for life in society; and (3) the deliberative level of consciences, called to mediate objective and general norms in concrete and particular situations (CCSD, §73). I now will provide a brief exposition of Francis’s encyclical in light of each of these levels in order to get at his theological mind ...

  • 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 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 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).

  • A Magnificent, Wonderful Encyclical, 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."