The New Intolerance

From the March 2015 Print Edition

In November, Cardinal Walter Kasper gave a speech at the Catholic University of America in which he said, “Mercy has become the theme of [Pope Francis’s] pontificate. . . . With this theme, Pope Francis has addressed countless individuals, both within and without the Church. . . . He has moved them intensely, and pierced their hearts.” The cardinal added, “Who among us does not depend on mercy? On the mercy of God, and of merciful fellow man?”Those questions move all people of good will, and they also go straight to the core of this essay. Pope Francis and Cardinal Kasper teach that mercy means meeting people where they live. We should take their counsel to heart and apply it to ourselves at the present time, looking at where many Christians in America and Europe and other places live today because they are Christians. We are not speaking here of the believers across the planet who suffer grievous harm for the sake of faith. We’re talking instead about something else: the slow-motion marginalizing and penalizing of believers on the very doorsteps of the churches of North America, Europe, and elsewhere, in societies that are the very historical strongholds of political and religious liberty.Men and women of faith in these societies are well-off, compared to many others. At the same time, though, their world is unmistakably darker and more punitive than it used to be. Let us show empathy and solidarity with all people who need it. Repeating the cardinal’s watchword, mercy, we hope that moral and political and intellectual leaders of all persuasions hear it too. Continue Reading »

Revolving Revolutions

From the Aug/Sept 2013 Print Edition

The mariners of the sixteenth century could not have imagined that people would ever cross the ocean in anything but a ship. Not only technological facts but also moral facts can seem im­pervious to change. In many sophisticated precincts into the nineteenth century, few objected to child . . . . Continue Reading »

Bacchanalia Unbound

From the November 2010 Print Edition

Cynics will say it was ever thus, and this time the cynics will be wrong. There are indeed some new things under the sun or”perhaps more accurately, given the nocturnal nature of the beast”under the moon in higher education these days. Welcome to the halls of Toxic U, a school of . . . . Continue Reading »

The Weight of Smut

From the June/July 2010 Print Edition

As the impressively depressing cover story “America the Obese” in the May issue of The Atlantic serves to remind us all, the weight-gain epidemic in the United States and the rest of the West is indeed widespread, deleterious, and unhealthy—which is why it is so frequently remarked on, and an . . . . Continue Reading »

The Loser Letters

From Web Exclusives

I hope you guys all know that it’s a bit daunting having this much expert firepower trained on my little book“kind of like having the National Symphony Orchestra sit in on a first grader’s piano recital. I can only hope that if in the course of the book, or this talk, I commit any literary sins of the theological variety, all the eminent religious leader here will just do the obvious Christian thing”and keep quiet about them. Remember, it’s Lent… . Continue Reading »

Christianity Lite

From the February 2010 Print Edition

Once in a while comes an historical event so momentous, so packed with unexpected force, that it acts like a large wave under still water, propelling us momentarily up from the surface of our times onto a crest, where the wider movements of history may be glimpsed better than before. Such an event . . . . Continue Reading »

Karen Novak, 1938–2009

From the November 2009 Print Edition

I almost emailed Karen today. It’s just part of how we live now, that electronic tic. There was a story I wanted to tell her, a small knot of thought that had been nagging for weeks and finally had gotten untied in a way that I thought would amuse her. So I tapped the key that would bring up . . . . Continue Reading »

What Does Woman Want?

From the October 2009 Print Edition

For a few interesting weeks this summer”­catapulted by romantic melodramas with a wide cast of characters, including Republican politicians and popular reality-show parents Jon and Kate”the question of opposite-sex marriage and its own meaning momentarily took center stage. Just . . . . Continue Reading »

Pro-Animal, Pro-Life

From the June/July 2009 Print Edition

Why aren’t vegetarians and pro-lifers more closely aligned? After all, the best writing about ethical vegetarianism—the moral case for refusing meat, as opposed to the more self-interested arguments from health or financeis good enough to provoke serious reflection, even among nonvegetarians. . . . . Continue Reading »