On Relativism

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At first glance, the expression "the dictatorship of relativism" sounds like a paradox, maybe even an oxymoron. After all, aren’t dictatorships a form of absolutism? And don’t relativists find it difficult, if not impossible, to make judgments about differing moral systems? So . . . . Continue Reading »

On Canons

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I Literary, Philosophical, Theological In one of my lectures last spring, I happened to mention an oddity about canons. For those who are unfamiliar with the usage, canon nowadays refers to any standardized body of texts that someone being trained in a certain discipline is required to know. In . . . . Continue Reading »

René Girard for Holy Week

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To read René Girard is to want to slap one’s forehead and say, "Of course, why didn’t I think of that?" If I might pump up the volume on my praise a bit more, he is the direct opposite of that sad figure in George Eliot’s masterpiece Middlemarch , the Rev. Mr. . . . . Continue Reading »

Tatian on Death and Immortality

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A recent diagnosis of cancer I got late last year, with some subsequent surgery I had to undergo in February, got me to thinking (as well it might) of death, the immortality of the soul, and the final resurrection of the dead. Being a theologian by habit, if not by talent, in the past four months I . . . . Continue Reading »

Cardinal Newman for Ash Wednesday

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No theologian working inside the traditions of western Christianity was more sensitive to the rhythms of the Church’s liturgical year than was John Henry Newman. Which, of course, stands to reason, given the fact that, as an Anglican curate at St. Clement’s in Oxford and later as vicar . . . . Continue Reading »

Reason and Pop Atheism

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The publishing world, it seems, is just as prone to the fickleness of trends and fashions as is, well, the fashion industry. A few years ago, a whole spate of books came out on Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust, most of them flogging (surely not by coincidence) the same dead horse of papal perfidy. . . . . Continue Reading »

Oakes: The Painted Veil

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In this space a couple of weeks ago, Anthony Sacramone rightly scored Alfonso Cuarón’s film version of P.D. James’ novel Children of Men . What James meant as a Christian parable was turned by the filmmakers into a screed against President Bush’s war on terrorism.I too had a . . . . Continue Reading »