The Beastly Paradox

From the December 2015 Print Edition

Blaise Pascal spoke of the contradiction in every human heart. Man is an animal at once godlike and depraved. It is not that our dreams are great and our behavior base, but that our dreams are simultaneously wonderful and vile. Perhaps nowhere is this more obvious than in our treatment of other . . . . Continue Reading »

Freedom within the Disciplines

From the June/July 2015 Print Edition

Faculty often quarrel over curricula. That’s as it should be. A curriculum, especially its core courses required of all students, is an educational institution’s constitution. To tell a young person he must take this or that course announces a university’s highest priorities. This makes a curriculum review a battlefield. At the University of Notre Dame we are presently conducting such a review, and a hot point for debate is whether the university should maintain its requirement of two theology and two philosophy courses. This requirement has long been thought essential to the Catholic mission of Notre Dame. But the “two theology, two philosophy” requirement may not survive this round of curriculum revision.For decades, Catholic colleges and universities have debated required classes in theology and philosophy. Some argue for a more “open” system that does not presume a primarily Catholic student body. This usually means fewer required classes in theology and philosophy. Others argue that a commitment to social justice marks a properly Vatican II university. This need not mean fewer required classes in theology, but as a practical matter space must be made for new priorities, and so often requirements are diluted. University education has lately gone in a pre-professional direction, and university leaders committed to Catholic identity now feel a great deal of market pressure to reduce core requirements so that students can quickly advance to the specializations that will get them jobs. But through all of this the consensus has held. Most have agreed that the disciplines of theology and philosophy are the foundations of Catholic education. Continue Reading »

Manual for Love

From the February 2015 Print Edition

Gay and Catholic: Accepting My Sexuality, Finding Community, Living My Faith
by eve tushnet
ave maria, 224 pages, $15.95

I have almost no conscious interest in the possibilities of being gay and Catholic, so I find it hard to explain why I was first drawn to Eve Tushnet’s writing over a decade ago—or, for that matter, why straight Christians need to get their minds around Gay and Catholic. What spiritual need is met by this book? I would say, a kind of healing of a cultural schizophrenia that affects conservative Christians. After the sexual revolution, conservative Christians got ideological about sex, filling their popular literature and journalism with images of and arguments for the joys of procreative sex within sacramental marriage. I don’t knock this: Something like the theology of the body was absolutely necessary in this era. Meeting the sexual revolution with the imperfectionist legalism of an older era would not work. Alluding to homosexual acts as “naughtiness high in the catalogue of grave sins,” as Charles characterized his relationship with Sebastian in Brideshead Revisited, would be like sending out cavalry to meet a division of tanks. Continue Reading »

A New Apologetic

From the August/September 2014 Print Edition

David Bentley Hart has written a classic of Christian apologetics. Works of apologetics are defenses of the Christian faith. A defense is different both tactically and strategically from an attack. It doesn’t intend to dismantle the opponent’s position, except insofar as the opponent’s raison d’être is enmity. Philosophers themselves distinguish between a defense of the existence of God (for instance) and an argument for the existence of God: While the latter actually sets out to prove that God exists, the former lays out evidence which fits the picture of a God-created universe. Hart says over and again in this book that he merely intends to contrast a theist’s picture of a God-full cosmos with the atheist’s conception of a God-less universe, to defend the theistic “Icon” from atheistic misrepresentation.In earlier books like Atheist Delusions, Hart challenged the secularist idea that Christianity is hostile to science and philanthropy. He did so by showing that Christianity effectively invented what we mean by science and philanthropy. In this book, he moves away from social philosophy and toward metaphysics, where he sets out to rebuff atheistic criticisms that focus on the doctrine of God. Continue Reading »

From Play to Freedom

From the June/July 2013 Print Edition

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, Immanuel Kant contended that struggle is the motive force of human civilization. Through his successors, especially Hegel, the somewhat oxymoronic idea of armed combat as the motor of civilization came to permeate German high culture and soon Western . . . . Continue Reading »

The First Rung of the Ascent

From Web Exclusives

Catholics today are encouraged to give up for Lent “favorite things” that are often less tangible than “whiskers on kittens” and “warm woollen mittens.” But there is something important to be said for the traditional practice of giving up meat. I have been abstaining from meat on Fridays and through Lent for about five years and have discovered … Continue Reading »