Monday, September 11, 2017

"How I Lost" / "What Happened?" / "Unbelievable!"

Perspectives on Election 2016.

Here and There

  • Young Hemingway's Wound and Conversion, by Matthew Nickel. PILGRIM: A Journal of Catholic Experience:
    "If I am anything I am a Catholic. Had extreme unction administered to me as such in July 1918 and recovered. So guess I am a super-catholic.... Am not what is called a ‘good’ catholic.... But cannot imagine taking any other religion seriously." - Hemingway, 1927
  • Chris Cornell - 1964-2017 Unam Sanctam Catholicism reflects on the passing of the frontman for Soundgarden. 05/28/17.
  • The Sufis: Islam’s Anti-Terrorists, by Robert Carle. The Public Discourse 07/13/17. "Growing numbers of Muslims are adopting Sufi practices that promote peace, hope, and harmony among religions."
  • Stop Donald Trump From Colonizing Your Brain, by Anne Marlowe. The Tablet 05/21/17. "Like a Libyan dictator of old, the leader is everywhere, including inside your head."
  • The Saint You Hate, by Chase Padusniak. Jappers and Janglers 11/29/16:
    In fact, Merton came to love her, to be truly devoted to her: how? Well, he recognized that she took what she was given, took the world she knew, and sanctified it. Even if she "kept everything that was bourgeois about her […] her nostalgic affection for a funny villa called 'Les Buissonnets', her taste for utterly oversweet art, and for little candy angels and pastel saints playing with lambs so soft and fuzzy that they literally give people like me the creeps," she transcended these things. Merton struck up a spiritual friendship in appreciation precisely of his differences with the Little Flower, and this blossomed into fruit in his own life; he entrusted his brother to her and came to see her as “the greatest saint there has been in the Church for three hundred years.”
  • Catholicism in an Age of Discontent, by Thomas Joseph White. First Things November 2016.
    We need both Balthasar and de Lubac rather than the one or the other. Balthasar helps us recognize that only the fullness of Catholic wisdom that arises from a Christocentric focus can heal our fallen, God-forgetful human culture. With de Lubac, and against postmodernity, the Church must restore to the human person a sense of the natural human capacity for the universal, and with it the possibility of an ennobling unity based on shared metaphysical truth rather than the negative peace of nonjudgmental tolerance. Our postmodern age needs both the radiant light of Christ’s theological wisdom and encouragement to venture out in search of decisive philosophical understanding.

    Along with these two imperatives we must adopt a third, one brought to the fore in the current pontificate. Our theological and philosophical efforts to overcome postmodern fear of—and despair about—truth must be accompanied by spiritual charity toward those who live disoriented and loveless lives in today’s secular culture. ...

  • Caleb Bernacchio offers an interesting take on Macintyre and Dreher: MacIntyre, Dreher, and American Politics. Ethika Politika 05/23/17:
    ... American conservatives were never really interested in MacIntyre’s politics. There was no discussion of MacIntyre’s extended account of the social relationships and political institutions of local communities in Dependent Rational Animals (published in 1999) nor was their any consideration of his earlier text Marxism and Christianity. Instead, conservatives Catholics were reinterpreting MacIntyre’s brief discussion of St. Benedict in the closing pages of After Virtue — a passage intended to highlight the importance of a local politics of community building — as a call for fidelity to the Magisterium after Vatican II. In other words, they were equating MacIntyre’s brief sketch of a renewed politics of community building with his later defense of the Catholic intellectual tradition (primarily outlined in Whose Justice? Which Rationality? and Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry). [...]

    [Rod Dreher's] The Benedict Option must be seen as another episode in the political reception of MacIntyre’s work among American conservatives. Ironically, as I have noted, this reception has involved the least political portion of MacIntyre’s work, his defense of the Thomist tradition, rather than his explicit discussions of local politics (which seems to be largely irrelevant to the American conservative political project). This is why academic critics of Dreher are mistaken to think that it is sufficient to argue that Dreher has misunderstood MacIntyre. [...]

    If MacIntyre is correct, American conservatives will not be able to develop a coherent and plausible identity without rediscovering a local politics of associations, municipalities, and activism within social movements. (See MacIntyre’s recent defense of municipal government as an important locus of political activity.) Dreher’s vision in The Benedict Option is too narrow because it fails to recognize the relationship between local politics, issues-based activism (fighting for labor rights or health care), and national party politics [as expressed in his latest, Ethics in the Conflicts of Modernity].

  • Breaking Free of Identity Politics, by Stephen Adubato. Ethika Politika 05/11/17:
    The inconvenient truth about us humans is that we are complex, we are mysterious, and there is always more to the story. You can slap an easily comprehensible label onto a person that may only tell you very little or even nothing at all about that person’s unique experience. We need to be able to open a space for a way to make sense of that “something more” that defines us as humans. Perhaps we can begin by ceasing to reduce religion to a mere identity category that is equated with others like race and gender, and affirming it as the complex phenomenon that it really is.
  • Francisco Romero Carrasquillo (Ite ad Thomam):
    As of late, I have been searching the internet for downloadable PDFs of works relevant to Thomism and to pretty much anything else related to traditional Catholic thought. Highlights include much of St. Thomas' Leonine Edition and lots and lots of works by Fr. Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. and Santiago Ramírez, O.P. in various languages. And I'm just getting started; there's lots more out there. ....

Sunday, September 10, 2017

"Hemingway's Dark Night"

Hemingway’s Catholic and artistic vision contained many of the same philosophical and theological principles these other Catholic intellectuals supported. For instance, his affinity for the cathedral at Chartres, Saint Louis IX, the medieval town of Aigues-Mortes, Roland and Roncevaux, the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, apparitions of the Virgin Mary, Mont-St.-Michel, and many other medieval figures and places exemplify the way Hemingway also wedded antiquity and the avant garde. His exemplary characters, after a profound recognition of original sin, always seek reconciliation with imperfection, yearning toward repentance through a form of traditional rituals: Jake Barnes acknowledges his wound and still prays, attends Mass, processions, and confession; Frederic Henry suffers the dark night while learning from the priest how to pray, how he may become very devout; Robert Jordan learns slowly and then all at once in that moment of conversion through la gloria, which ultimately leads to his sacrifice; and Santiago, the old fisherman, promises to say ten Hail Marys, ten Our Fathers, and to make a pilgrimage to the Virgin of Cobre if he catches the marlin. Hemingway’s interest in the poetry of Baudelaire and Villon paralleled his resistance of ennui through his quest to identify the sacred in ordinary moments of communion between friends, with wine and spirits and good meals, before the dark mystery returned in the night. And finally, the most mystical moments in Hemingway’s fiction are seen in ordered and disciplined action, which reveal the presence of mystery and actual grace in rituals like the bullfight, and sports like bicycle racing, hunting, fishing – in the act, like the great faena of the torero, “that takes a man out of himself and makes him feel immortal while it is proceeding, that gives him an ecstasy, that is, while momentary, as profound as any religious ecstasy; moving all the people in the ring together and increasing in emotional intensity as it proceeds” (Death in the Afternoon, 206-207).

Hemingway’s life would lead him on a continual quest for sacramentals, and Catholicism offered a confirmation of the sanctity of the world he lived in. His rejection of his parents’ piety was a rejection of sentimentality, of excess, of an over-emphasis on innocence, and the possibility that any man or woman can be perfect on earth. His rejection, evident in the above quoted letter to his mother from before the war, was theologically Catholic before he even encountered Catholicism. His characters and his stories attest to another piety, that which accepts the presence of sin and certain rituals of atonement, that which acknowledges imperfection while seeking, through grace, a joy in earthly objects as reflective of the heavenly good. This piety is contained in the image of Jesus and His compassion and mercy, His self-sacrifice for the salvation of humanity from sin. Or it can be found in the image of the pietà central to Christian mystery: the Blessed Virgin Mother holding her dead child Christ, an image which is at once a reminder of mankind’s imperfection through the death of Christ, our participation in his crucifixion, as it points toward a resurrection, an ultimate redemption.

-- Excerpted and adapted from the first chapter of Hemingway’s Dark Night: Catholic Influences and Intertextualities in the Work of Ernest Hemingway, by Matthew C. Nickel. New Street Communications, LLC (January 20, 2013).

Thursday, August 31, 2017

"Defending My Enemy" by Aryeh Neier

The controversial assembly and march of white nationalists, members of the KKK and national socialists in Charlottesville VA reinvigorated within social media and the press the debate over the First Amendment -- unfortunately, the question of “should we permit ‘Nazis’ to have free speech” quickly escalated, among many armchair vigilantes, into the notion that not only the answer was firmly in the negative, but “punching Nazis” was a perfectly legitimate and only rational response (and to suggest otherwise made one a bad American).

Others entertained the idea of foregoing Constitutional rights altogether and adopting a manner of legal censorship currently employed by Germany, whose Strafgesetzbuch (Criminal Code) prohibits outright the public display of “symbols of unconstitutional organizations” outside the context of "art or science, research or teaching.”

Apropos of this discussion and harkening back to a similar debate, I checked out Aryeh Neier’s Defending My Enemy: American Nazis, the Skokie Case, and the Risks of Freedom from our library.

Mr. Neier was National Executive Director of the ACLU from 1970-78, an organization committed to arguing (often controversial) cases in defense of the First Amendment. The book chronicles one such case in 1977, National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie, in which the ACLU took up the right of Frank Collin, leader of the National Socialist Party of America, to hold a rally in Skokie Illinois -- a deliberately provocative move in light of the large population of Holocaust survivors within that particular city. (Also interesting is the fact that Mr. Neier himself is a survivor of the Holocaust, born in Berlin in 1937 and having escaped to England with his parents at the age of two).

Neier spends the initial part of the book providing a history of anti-semitism and activity of national socialist movements in the United States (the German-American Bund of the 1930’s and George Lincoln Rockwell’s post-WWII founding of the American Nazi Party in the 50’s, The National Rennaisance Party in the 60’s, The National Socialist White People’s Party and the National Socialist Party of America in the 70’s, et al., et al.). The term “Party” is deceptive here, as Neier makes clear they were in those times relatively small in membership and for which reason they -- much like today -- craved the publicity of the media to cultivate a much larger impression of themselves among the general public. We learn that it was once the position of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council that “public protests against [Rockwell’s] appearances and noisy and violent mass demonstrations merely provide him with increased publicity and bolster the image of martyred hero which as such an appeal to the elements he seeks to attract to his banner” -- which I suppose is the modern-day equivalent of the online admonishment: “don’t feed the troll.”

Chapters 3 and 4 are devoted to presenting the background and specifics of the Skokie case itself. He reviews the criticisms of those who opposed the Nazi march in Skokie (both external critics as well as internal dissenters within the ACLU), and the reasoning that ultimately led the organization to affirm the Nazi’s right to a march and to challenge the various measures -- ultimately found unconstitutional by the Illinois Supreme Court -- which the city of Skokie sought to stop them (ex. ordinances demanding exorbitantly high insurance for the holding of public rallies; an injunction forbidding the distribution of literature that incited hatred, the display of the swastika, the wearing of uniforms). Some of the explanations for why Nazis should be forbidden to speak may ring familiar to those on social media or college campuses today: the Anti Defamation League, for example, sought an injunction against the march on grounds that it would be tantamount to the infliction of “menticide” or emotional harm.

Curiously this was not the first legal case of its kind for the ACLU, nor the first time that it had defended Nazis’ right to speech. According to Neier, the ACLU handled more free speech cases in the 1960’s than at any time previously in the organization’s history. It was pretty much understood that anybody who had a legitimate case to exercise their constitutional right -- Nazis, the KKK, Communists, unionists, civil rights and anti-war demonstrators, et al. -- would receive their assistance. “The streets were so crowded with demonstrations of all sorts In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s that the appearance of a few Nazis attracted little interest.”

What then, made the ACLU’s defense of Skokie so controversial? -- Neier blames himself: “the fault, it became clear, was in our (my) failure to provide adequate information to the membership. It was not enough, Skokie proved, to say that the ACLU defends everyone’s right to speak.” Apparently many fairly recent and "progressive" members within the ACLU (not familiar with the demonstrations of the 60’s), while affirming a general and abstract right to speech, found themselves backtracking when said right became a tangible, defensible reality for those to whom they were ideologically or politically opposed. More than 4,000 ACLU members would respond to Skokie by sending in their letters of resignation, despite the unanimous approval of the state and national leadership to move forward with the case.

In chapter 5, Neier discusses several related legal cases to Skokie including that of Rockwell vs Morris (arguing for the Nazi right to demonstrate in NYC’s Union Square Park) and a fascinating and controversial case in 1977 involving the ACLU’s defense of both members of the KKK and black soldiers against the U.S. Marine Corps at Camp Pendleton, CA, another display of “poisonousness evenhandedness” which, unlike Skokie, would elicit great internal dissent between (the again, "progressive") local chapter of the ACLU and the principled national leadership.

In all fairness, Neier devotes one chapter (“They Have Rights?”) to presenting the various arguments made by the opposition as to why Nazis should be prohibited from rallying, and a subsequent chapter (“The Risks of Freedom”) countering them. He particularly excels in the remaining chapters of the book demonstrating, via copious historical examples, how the very arguments proposed, and policies employed, to suppress the speech of Nazis or the KKK -- whom we would (justifiably) regard as deplorable -- are often turned around by authorities to suppress groups we might find laudable or on the side of justice (civil rights workers, anti-war protestors and anti-nuclear or environmental activists). Consider several examples:

  • The National Espionage Act of World War I punished the uttering, writing or publishing of disloyal, profane, scurrilous or abusive language intended to cause contempt, scored, contumely or disrepute to the form of government of the United States, the Constitution, the flag, or the uniform of the Army and Navy. State and local laws patterned after the act, and contributed to "the gravest period of political repression in American history" — denying the freedom of speech or political action to Communists (displaying a "red flag" at a youth camp), Jehovah's Witnesses (breaching the peace through distribution of anti-Catholic literature) and the Industrial Workers of the World ("Wobblies"). Though meant to only apply in time of war, the remaining provisions of the act were "sweeping enough to have allowed the Nixon administration to indict Daniel Ellsberg in December 1971 for disposing publicly the contents of the Pentagon papers." [p. 109-117]
  • Chicago Mayor Daley expressed support of a proposal to prohibit depictions of excessive violence on television; when asked to provide an example of such violence, he referred to a documentary including graphic footage of Chicago police beating up anti-war and anti-Daley protestors. [p. 140]
  • Joseph McCarthy and his colleagues, in their zeal to defend America against "enemies of freedom", prosecuted Stalinists and anti-Stalinists alike — fellow travelers and liberals they mistakenly identified as Communists. [p. 146]
  • Parliament adopted the Public Order Act in an effort to suppress English fascists in the 1930's, making it a crime to use "in any public place threatening, abusive or insulting words with the intent to provoke a breach of the peace" and to empower police to suppress such political marches. The act also prohibited the wearing in public places uniforms expressing a political point of view. During the Cold War and beyond, the government invoked the Public Order Act to suppress the demonstrations of Communists and later, anti-nuclear activists. [pp. 149-159]
  • In 1965, Parliament adopted the Race Relations Act, making the incitement of racial hatred a crime and prohibiting the distribution of abusive, threatening or insulting literature directed at any racial group. In a move that the National Front would find most pleasing, such measures were adopted by parties ranging from student unions on college campuses to the United Nations General Assembly to suppress the speech of Zionists campaigning for a Jewish homeland. (Meanwhile, the National Front circumvented the Act by adopting code words substituting for race (i.e., "immigrants"). [pp. 149-159]

"In Britain, Parliament has the law word," observes Never. "A parliamentary law abridging the freedom of speech is only susceptible to challenge by Parliament itself." Under the Official Secrets Act, Britons are routinely denied information about the proceedings of their government, and laws against libel and public comment on judicial proceedings are used to curb the public. (p. 150).

Noting that England has no equivalent of the First Amendment, Neier notes that the British citizen "whose freedom of speech has been curbed cannot challenge the Public Order Act, the Official Secrets Act, or the Race Relations Act. They can only resist and hope that officials charged with administering the laws will be wise and will exercise self-restraint." (p. 158)

According to Nier, though Thomas Jefferson and John Milton “understood the risks of freedom, they knew that it is far more dangerous to entrust the government with the power to determine what doctrines may be safely expressed by the people. (p. 136) … it is far more dangerous to allow government to deny the freedom to speak to the enemies of freedom. Almost inevitably, government confuses the enemies of its policies with the enemies of freedom. (p. 146)”

I found Defending My Enemy: American Nazis, the Skokie Case, and the Risks of Freedom to be very educational reading on this topic, providing an insight against how a Holocaust survivor could defend the constitutional right of Nazis to hold a march in the United States. Others are certainly entitled to disagree with Mr. Neier on this point, refusing the recognition of free speech to those who espouse ideologies adversely at odds with their own or America's founding principles. But as Mr. Neier demonstrates, while it might provide us with great personal or emotional satisfaction to suppress (by city ordinance, or even at times through vigilante violence) the speech of those we disagree with or consider a threat, there may be long-term consequences to doing so.

“The best consequences of the Nazis’ proposal to march in Skokie is that it produced more speech, a great deal more -- it stimulated more discussion of the evils of Nazism and of the Holocaust than any event since the Israelis captured Adolf Eichman in Argentina in 1960 …

The worst consequences of the Nazis proposal to march in Skokie is that the argument against permitting the march have fostered the impression that a community can asert that those whose views are anathema to it can be forbidden to enter its boundaries. It is not the first time a town or neighborhood has asserted a power to exclude views or dislikes from its own “turf.” The practice, however, had been largely discredited after Mayor Frank Hague lost his battle forty years ago to keep labor organizers out of Jersey City. Skokie revived the idea that it might be legitimate.” (p. 145)

____________________________

Page citings refer to the 1st (1979) edition.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Mark Lilla's "The Once and Future Liberal"

The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics
by Mark Lilla.
Harper (August 15, 2017). 160 pages.
In The Once and Future Liberal, Mark Lilla offers an impassioned, tough-minded, and stinging look at the failure of American liberalism over the past two generations. Although there have been Democrats in the White House, and some notable policy achievements, for nearly 40 years the vision that Ronald Reagan offered—small government, lower taxes, and self-reliant individualism—has remained the country’s dominant political ideology. And the Democratic Party has offered no convincing competing vision in response.

Instead, as Lilla argues, American liberalism fell under the spell of identity politics, with disastrous consequences. Driven originally by a sincere desire to protect the most vulnerable Americans, the left has now unwittingly balkanized the electorate, encouraged self-absorption rather than solidarity, and invested its energies in social movements rather than in party politics.

With dire consequences. Lilla goes on to show how the left’s identity-focused individualism insidiously conspired with the amoral economic individualism of the Reaganite right to shape an electorate with little sense of a shared future and near-contempt for the idea of the common good. In the contest for the American imagination, liberals have abdicated.

Now they have an opportunity to reset. The left is motivated, and the Republican Party, led by an unpredictable demagogue, is in ideological disarray. To seize this opportunity, Lilla insists, liberals must concentrate their efforts on recapturing our institutions by winning elections. The time for hectoring is over. It is time to reach out and start persuading people from every walk of life and in every region of the country that liberals will stand up for them. We must appeal to – but also help to rebuild – a sense of common feeling among Americans, and a sense of duty to each other.

A fiercely-argued, no-nonsense book, enlivened by Lilla’s acerbic wit and erudition, The Once and Future Liberal is essential reading for our momentous times.

Reviews and Discussion

Monday, August 14, 2017

Are Nazis entitled to the First Amendment? - Revisiting Skokie, IL

To permit or deny the right to speech? -- Appropos of recent events in Charlottesville, VA comes to mind a similar incident from years past:
In 1978, the ACLU took a controversial stand for free speech by defending a neo-Nazi group that wanted to march through the Chicago suburb of Skokie, where many Holocaust survivors lived. The notoriety of the case caused some ACLU members to resign, but to many others the case has come to represent the ACLU's unwavering commitment to principle. In fact, many of the laws the ACLU cited to defend the group's right to free speech and assembly were the same laws it had invoked during the Civil Rights era, when Southern cities tried to shut down civil rights marches with similar claims about the violence and disruption the protests would cause. Although the ACLU prevailed in its free speech arguments, the neo-Nazi group never marched through Skokie, instead agreeing to stage a rally at Federal Plaza in downtown Chicago.

Related

Saturday, July 15, 2017

"Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism in the USA"

The Article

Press

Responses

Saturday, July 8, 2017

When I hear an exclusivist humanism waxing indignant about the crimes and errors of the church in history, I often partly agree. We all feel this today at some point; who defends the Inquisition? My feelings are divided, complex. But I also see a complexity in my interlocutor, who has an important moral point but is also resisting something: resisting the insight that the love of God is something bigger and more important and more powerful than all this human bumbling and evil. But then that makes us brothers under the skin. We all — believers and unbelievers alike — spend a lot of energy resisting God. It takes a lifetime of prayer to melt the resistances, and even then. . . . And one thing we can immediately see, from our own case as well, is that anger, righteous anger, is a great weapon of resistance. Our modern Western world is awash in righteous anger, reciting litanies of abuse and obloquy. The point is often well taken, in that the abuses are or have been real and crying.

Beyond this, what the anger is often doing for people is stopping their moral and spiritual growth because it's a tremendously effective resistance against it. For one thing, I feel good about myself because, whatever my minor imperfections, they pale into insignificance in face of the horrible deeds of those (communists or capitalists, white males or feminists, etc.). For another, I certainly don't need to bother about any insights I might gain from those unspeakable enemies of humanity, God, or whatever.

We have to be more aware of what anger is doing for us, as resisters — and therefore against us, as lovers of God.

Charles Taylor, A Catholic Modernity?: Charles Taylor's Marianist Award Lecture p 124 (Oxford UP, 1999)

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Charles Taylor on Modern Humanism and Social Justice

... A third pattern of motivation, which we have seen repeatedly, this time occurs in the register of justice rather than benevolence.We have seen it with Jacobins and Bolsheviks and today with the politically correct left and the so-called Christian right. We fight against injustices that cry out to heaven for vengeance. We are moved by a flaming indignation against these: racism, oppression, sexism, or leftist attacks on the family or Christian faith. This indignation comes to be fueled by hatred for those who support and connive with these injustices, which, in turn, is fed by our sense of superiority that we are not like these instruments and accomplices of evil. Soon, we are blinded to the havoc we wreak around us. Our picture of the world has safely located all evil outside us. The very energy and hatred with which we combat evil prove its exteriority to us. We must never relent but, on the contrary, double our energy, vie with each other in indignation and denunciation.

Another tragic irony nests here. The stronger the sense of (often correctly identified) injustice, the more powerfully this pattern can become entrenched. We become centers of hatred, generators of new modes of injustice on a greater scale, but we started with the most exquisite sense of wrong, the greatest passion for justice and equality and peace. [...]

The blindness is typical of modern exclusive secular humanism. This modern humanism prides itself on having released energy for philanthropy and reform; by getting rid of "original sin," of a lowly and demeaning picture of human nature, it encourages us to reach high. Of course, there is some truth in this, but it is also terribly partial and terribly naive because it has never faced the questions I have been raising here: what can power this great effort at philanthropic reform? This humanism leaves us with our own high sense of self-worth to keep us from backsliding, a high notion of human worth to inspire us forward, and a flaming indignation against wrong and oppression to energize us. It cannot appreciate how problematic all of these are, how easily they can slide into something trivial, ugly, or downright dangerous and destructive.

A Nietzschean genealogist can have a field day here. Nothing gave Nietzsche greater satisfaction than showing how morality or spirituality is really powered by its direct opposite—for example, that the Christian aspiration to love is really motivated by the hatred of the weak for the strong. Whatever one thinks of this judgment on Christianity, it is clear that modern humanism is full of potential for such disconcerting reversals: from dedication to others to self-indulgent, feel-good responses, from a lofty sense of human dignity to control powered by contempt and hatred, from absolute freedom to absolute despotism, from a flaming desire to help the oppressed to an incandescent hatred for all those who stand in the way. And the higher the flight, the farther the potential fall.

Charles Taylor, A Catholic Modernity?: Charles Taylor's Marianist Award Lecture pp. 32-33 (Oxford UP, 1999)

Saturday, July 1, 2017

By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment, by Edward Feser

By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment
by by Edward Feser and Joseph Bessette.
Ignatius Press (May 29, 2017). 500 pages.

The Catholic Church has in recent decades been associated with political efforts to eliminate the death penalty. It was not always so. This timely work reviews and explains the Catholic Tradition regarding the death penalty, demonstrating that it is not inherently evil and that it can be reserved as a just form of punishment in certain cases.

Drawing upon a wealth of philosophical, scriptural, theological, and social scientific arguments, the authors explain the perennial teaching of the Church that capital punishment can in principle be legitimate—not only to protect society from immediate physical danger, but also to administer retributive justice and to deter capital crimes. The authors also show how some recent statements of Church leaders in opposition to the death penalty are prudential judgments rather than dogma. They reaffirm that Catholics may, in good conscience, disagree about the application of the death penalty.

Some arguments against the death penalty falsely suggest that there has been a rupture in the Church's traditional teaching and thereby inadvertently cast doubt on the reliability of the Magisterium. Yet, as the authors demonstrate, the Church's traditional teaching is a safeguard to society, because the just use of the death penalty can be used to protect the lives of the innocent, inculcate a horror of murder, and affirm the dignity of human beings as free and rational creatures who must be held responsible for their actions.

By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed challenges contemporary Catholics to engage with Scripture, Tradition, natural law, and the actual social scientific evidence in order to undertake a thoughtful analysis of the current debate about the death penalty.

"Based primarily on the natural law, this excellent and much-needed book will be valuable to Catholics and readers of any faith who ask why capital punishment is justified."
--J. Budziszewski, Ph.D., University of Texas

"At long last, we have a serious and intelligent look at all aspects of the death penalty its causes, its justification, its consequences for the victim, the criminal himself, and for civil society." --James V. Schall, S. J., Professor Emeritus, Georgetown University

"An illuminating study of a subject often clouded by emotions. An essential read for anyone who wants to understand this thorny subject."
-- Robert Royal,President, Faith and Reason Institute

"The arguments in this book have clarified many of the contentions of this critical issue in my mind."
--Fr. Robert A. Sirico, President, The Acton Institute

Discussion

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Blosser Family during the American Civil War

Coming from Mennonite stock, the Blossers have maintained a family tradition of religiously-principled conscientious objection from the Revolutionary War onwards. Following in the footsteps of my father's genealogical research on the family name as well as my own interests in American history and the resources afforded by books.google.com and our public library, I've conducted extensive reading and research into the experiences of several of our ancestors during the Civil War, who resided in Rockingham County, Virginia in the late 1800's.

Here, then, are some compiled Historical Notes on the Blosser Family during the Civil War.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Identity Politics and Academic Freedom.

Identity politics attempts to supplant material reality with an essentialist reading of the individual which relies upon denying the social constructions of these identities while conterminously building up the notion that this identity is inherent, felt. Identity politics is a discourse which functions precisely to reify subjectivity such that any questioning of this identity ends up being answered with claims that the question itself is “discursive violence.” Paradoxically the adherents to identity politics claim its ethos speaks for the oppressed group, but in reality it speaks for the individual. For instance, while racially-motivated and sex-based acts of violence are known phenomena, even discussions in the classroom when teaching rape law have come under fire by aspiring attorneys in law school because of individuals who hijack these discussions as “violence”. The bracketing of personal experience has made its mark in academia such that identity politics requires, much like religion, that the subject not question it, that she should just feel it and the truth will set the subject free.

[...]

The construction of identity politics relies specifically on the neoliberal experience of the individual whereby it is impermeable to change, it never shifts, and it is entirely blocked off to dialogue with competing discourses. This is what I call hypertrophic subjectivity—where each individual confers her own truth based on rigid notions of the singular identitied experience. Dare you question my experience, my right is to claim a violence that your words commit to me. These are times of faith-based unreason where disagreement is understood as an obstruction to one’s freedom. (I think to the tired phrasing of “Let’s agree to disagree” which merely contorts disagreement as agreement from the party who is uncomfortable to find herself before a person who refuses to be her mirror.) Surely, we might begin to consider that one can both be free and in a state of disagreement or challenge.

Speaking with my friend, Geneviève, a few years ago, we framed our experiences as women who come from families where one parent is “white” and one parent is brown within this troubling scene of identity politics. This conversation left us with several conclusions, one being that identity politics never could embrace us (or us it) because the very narrative which claimed to free the sexual or racial other, merely turned on its head the dynamic of who others and who is othered. And logically our lives and bodies were such that no intractible narrative of identity would ever capture our subjectivity simply because identity politics, by attempting to break down homogenous notions of race, gender, and sexuality, ended up reconstructing newer monoliths of the same. In reviewing the problems of callout culture, the bashing of those who make materialist readings of the social, and the general atmosphere of intolerance for divergent opinions within academia, we came to realise that these social behaviours were the result of a hermetically sealed notions of selfhood whereby nothing permeates the discursive membrane separating individuals.

Julian Vigo, Rebels Without a Cause: The Assault on Academic Freedom. Counterpunch 06/02/17.

Related

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Peter Augustine Lawler 1951—2017

Berry College professor and nationally renowned political scholar Peter Augustine Lawler died Tuesday, May 23rd

Peter Lawler was Dana Professor of Government and former chair of the department of Government and International Studies at Berry College. He served as executive editor of the journal Perspectives on Political Science, and was chair of the politics and literature section of the American Political Science Association. He also served on the editorial board of the new bilingual critical edition of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, and served on the editorial boards of several journals. He has written or edited fifteen books and over 200 articles and chapters in a wide variety of venues. He was the 2007 winner of the Weaver Prize in Scholarly Letters. Lawler served on President Bush's Council on Bioethics from 2004 – 09.

The Funeral Mass was held at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Rome, Georgia on Friday May 26.

In lieu of flowers, contributions would be appreciated to the Peter Augustine Lawler Scholarship at Berry College, DIGS, Inc. support organization for special needs, P.O. Box 1053, Rome, GA 30162, or the Network Day Service Center, 402 W. 10th Street, Rome, GA 30165.

Full Obituary Legacy.com.

Some published works by Peter Lawler

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Desert of Forbidden Art (Documentary)

Monday, April 17, 2017

Happy Birthday Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)

Benedict XVI shares a 90th birthday beer with family and friends" target=_blank>Benedict XVI shares a 90th birthday beer with family and friends, by John Allen Jr. Crux News 04/17/17:

Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI celebrated his 90th birthday on April 17. Among those present was Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, Benedict's 93-year-old brother, who flew in from Germany for the occasion, as well as a small delegation from Bavaria, his home region. They brought to the party two staples of Bavarian cuisine with which the 90-year-old emeritus pontiff was obviously delighted -- beer and pretzels.

(More news on Pope Benedict XVI at our Pope Benedict Roundup).

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Looking back across the years, I ask myself where in that murky darkness any light shines. Not among the Nazis, certainly, nor among the liberators, who as we now know, were to liberate no one and nothing. The rhetoric and the cant have mercifully been forgotten. What lives on is the memory of a man who died, not on behalf of freedom or democracy or a steadily rising Gross National Product, nor for an of the twentieth century's counterfeit hopes and desires, but on behalf of a Cross which another man died two thousand years before. As on hat previous occasion on Golgotha, so amidst the rubble and desolation of "liberated" Europe, the only victor is the man who died, as the only hope for the future lies in his triumph over death. There never can be any other victory or any other hope.

-- Malcolm Muggeridge (on Dietrich Bonhoeffer), A Third Testament

He is risen!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Here and There

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Shusaku Endo's "Silence"

The Film

  • Some thoughts on Silence Opus Publicum 01/17/17:
    ... Silence is not a movie for the immature, nor is it a work that can be comprehended by modern sensibilities. The Tridentine Catholicism that not only animates the plot but supplies the movie’s richest symbolisms is thoroughly alien to an era shot through with religious indifferentism and cultural relativism. Protestants, no less than secularists, are apt to misunderstand the film’s fusion of sign and substance, particularly the torment that surrounds the mere possibility of trampling upon an image of Christ. Moreover, by quietly pointing to the kenotic Christ, that is, the Savior who suffers not just for us but with us, Silence taps into a rich tradition of authentically Catholic spirituality, one that is infused not just with the history of Japanese Catholicism, but Eastern Slavic piety as well.
  • Some thoughts on the movie Silence by Dr. Philip Blosser 01/29/17:
    ... I think that not only the temptations but the consequences of apostasy were shown by both novel and film in a faithful light: the temptations were beyond ingenious, with the voice of Jesus seeming to come from His image on the fumie itself ("Step on me.") as if Christ Himself were counseling the mercy of apostasy as the path to redemption; and both apostate priests ended their lives by faded into oblivion, morphing into gollum-like shadows of themselves; and the Japanese Catholics (not all, but many) who witnessed their apostasy were significantly demoralized by it.

    Remarkably, however, when Catholic priests returned to Japan after the Meiji Restoration of the mid-nineteenth century, they encountered Kakure Kurishitan (hidden Christians) who came out of hiding once again to present rosaries and crucifixes and statues of Maria Kanon that doubled as secret images of the Madonna, showing that the Faith had not been entirely wiped out. The price of persecution as well as apostasy was high. Only something like one tenth of 1% of Japanese people are Christians, and of these, half (about 509,000) are Catholic.

  • Scorsese's 'Silence' is his most Catholic film, by Sr. Rose Pacatte. National Catholic Reporter 12/21/16:
    At the top of the thematic list are faith and doubt as partners in a dangerous dance from the moment the priests first find out about Ferriera's apostasy. They leave Portugal and Rome, their gaze focused on a land far away, bolstered by a faith yet untested. Rodrigues especially carries in his heart the image of Jesus so dear to him as a child and in the seminary. Once imprisoned it comes to him in the suffering of the people and in the night. It is this Jesus with whom he converses about his doubts, his questions and the choice he faces.

    The high-pitched whine of the highly intelligent and informed inquisitor Inoue, with his polite manners and saccharine but sinister smile, do not mask his intent to break the resolve of the Christians. He challenges Rodrigues, as does Ferriera when he and Rodrigues finally meet, saying that Christianity is too Western and cannot adapt to Japan. Rodrigues says that the church is the source of truth and is unable to move off the script he learned growing up in Catholic Portugal. His responses to Inoue are noble perhaps, but ineffective. The inculturation of the Gospel and adaptation, even today, remains a challenge to those who evangelize, at home or afar.

    Kichijiro, absolved again and again for his apostasy, is emblematic of sinners who are self-aware of their sin and just as cognizant of God's mercy. Kichijiro disgusts Rodrigues, and it takes the priest a long time to realize that he, too, is a weak human not so different from this dirty beggar of a sinner who cannot help himself.

The Novel

  • Reading Silence for the first time, by Amy Welborn. Catholic World Report 12/14/16:
    ... Endo was inspired to write Silence, not only by his own life experience of living as a Japanese Catholic, but specifically by visiting the shrine to the Twenty-Six Martyrs in Nagasaki. This memorial commemorates men, women, and children killed in 1597, and includes an exhibit of fumi—the images of Christ, and sometimes of Mary, upon which Japanese Catholics were ordered to trample and spit, not only once, but annually, an obligation that persisted until the mid-19th century.

    Endo based his novel on historical documents, including a 17th-century diary written by a clerk in a residence in which apostate Catholics, including Giuseppe Chiara, lived. This is especially important for the final chapter of the novel. ...

    Endo is posing that question, in a way, to all Japanese Christians, and even all Japanese people, who live today in a culture shaped by martyrdom and apostasy, of oppressor and victim. What does it mean to contemplate the well-worn fumie in the museum and know that your faith in the present day exists, not only because of the seeds sown by the martyrs’ blood, but also because it was passed down by those who for years trampled and betrayed in public, while preserving what they could in private?

    The dilemma of trampling on the fumie can be brought home in more universal terms, as Endo himself noted, and perhaps this is one reason why this novel about Catholic missionaries who lived and died centuries ago plants a persistent pebble in the shoe of so many readers’ consciences. As Fujimoro beautifully puts it,

    Endo saw fumi-e as emblems of a greater, universal impact. When in lectures he spoke of “having a personal fumi-e,” he was not speaking of a literal religious icon, but was acknowledging that each of us steps on and betrays the “face of ones that [we] love, even the ideals [we] cherish.” To step on one’s own fumi-e, in that sense, is to betray oneself out of desperation due to public or cultural pressure. … Silence is not a triumphant pilgrimage with clear outcomes, but a meandering pilgrimage of one wounded by life and confounded by faith, whose experience of faith has been punctuated by betrayals, his own and those of others. Endo notes repeatedly in his memoirs and through his characters that through his own struggles of faith God never let him go. Endo himself is like the fumi-e, a historical marker birthed of a traumatic time, finally worn smooth through many disappointments, failures, and betrayals, but whose surface reveals the indelible visage of a Savior.

History

  • Kirishitan - Excellent site summarizing the history of Catholicism in Japan (HT: Amy Welborn).

  • Italian priest imprisoned in 18th century may have been influential in Japan’s development :
    Historians say [Jesuit missionary Giovanni Battista] Sidotti helped shape Japan’s view of the Western world with his knowledge after he won over the nation’s leading scholar of the day. But he fell from grace after refusing to give up his faith and his final days and death have been shrouded in mystery. . .

    As part of his interrogations, Sidotti was questioned by Japan’s top Confucian scholar, who developed a deep respect for the Roman Catholic priest for his knowledge of geography, languages and global affairs, experts said.

    The scholar, the renowned Hakuseki Arai, is said to have tried to help Sidotti but the priest was later sent to the dungeon amid allegations he baptized the Japanese couple tending to his daily needs.

    The Italian died there, but it is not clear how, researchers said.

    Historical accounts, including those written by Japanese scholar Kotonobu Mamiya about a century later, however, mention that Sidotti was accorded a certain respect and treated far better than other prisoners — even in death.

    The buried remains of what archeologists believe to be those of Sidotti were recently discovered. Evidence indicates he was given a burial "in the Christian way" out of respect.