. . . to be commended is the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology. “Central to the Center,” writes the director, Michael Root of the Catholic University of America (and First Things writer), “has always been a commitment to a ‘thick’ ecumenism, an ecumenical outlook based on the conviction that common reflection on the basis of the great christological and trinitarian tradition the churches share should be at the heart of ecumenism.”
The center—founded by the Lutheran patriarchs Robert Jenson and Carl Braaten in 1991—rejects both “a reduction to a lowest common denominator or a retreat into an ‘enclave theology,’ concerned only with its own confessional standards. Interesting theology, theology that serves both the Church and the Christian life, comes out of such an encounter with the density of the tradition. At a time when ecumenism is lagging, a commitment to the fundamental theological work is essential.”
The center publishes the very good journal Pro Ecclesia (for which the editor has written) and a new book series called Pro Ecclesia Books, the first volume of which is The Morally Divided Body: Ethical Disagreement and the Disunity of the Church.
Among the speakers will be Paul Griffiths, Ralph Wood, and David Yeago.
The great Italian politician Giulio Andreotti, nicknamed the “Eternal One,” has passed away at the age of 94. The seven-times Prime Minister was an unassuming man:
Andreotti would go to a different church every morning, and always leave as soon as Mass was over. He would never leave the house without a dozen or more envelopes, in each of which was a 10,000 lira note. These would be dispensed to the beggars that stand at every church door in Rome, or to any who approached him in the street. He often wore a green Loden coat, the preferred dress of the European integrationist, along with deliberately unfashionable spectacles.
Andreotti was one of those men, who though married, was of deeply clerical appearance and demeanour. . . . “He’s very reserved. He will never tell you what he is thinking. . . .”
The death of Giulio Andreotti—a Christian Democrat in the mold of Konrad Adenauer—“marks a milestone in Italian, indeed European, history,” says the Catholic Herald.
This event will mark the 25th anniversary of Arkes’ book First Things and the 40th anniversary of the course from which it had sprung. Frank Beckwith and Diana Schaub will speak about their experiences in teaching the book and the reactions of their students over the years, followed by comments from two generations of students, including combinations of parents and children, who have been through Professor Arkes’ course
“Emotional contraception is extremely ineffective,” says Nathaniel Peters. He and Donna Freitas recognize that the hook-up culture just isn’t as satisfying as college students make it out to be, particularly because human beings, much as we might like at times, cannot separate our bodies from our souls. ”Try as they might, students regularly fail to remain detached as they look for physical pleasure, flouting the unwritten social code.”
Unfortunately, says Peters, while Freitas, in her new book The End of Sex, hits the bullseye with her understanding and description of the dynamics of the college hookup culture, she offers no alternative. Rather, she dismisses the “vocal minority of sexually conservative college students” that offers the alternative because it is attached to “right-wing religious politics.” And when Freitas attempts to go beyond these politics and reclaim abstinence for the liberal side, her “abstinence within reason” turns out to have no good reason at all. As Peters says,
She claims that her ultimate goal is “to help make available a set of diverse structures through which students can make the best, most informed choices they can about their bodies and their lives.” But that “best” has no deeper foundation than how people feel. What about those who instrumentalize others in sex and feel good about it? . . . She founds her solutions on the same relativism, emotivism, and pragmatism behind the problem she seeks to combat.
As I read Communion and Liberation President Julian Carrón’s letter to the Editor of the Italian newspaper La Repubblica published on Wednesday, I felt like he was channeling Richard John Neuhaus. With Italy in complete political gridlock since February and a hung parliament due to the lack of any clear winner in the last election, Carrón posits that he knows the reason for this gridlock and has the solution.
“It seems to me,” he says, “that the situation of deadlock is the result of the perception of the political adversary as an enemy whose influence must be neutralized or at least reduced to the minimum.” This does not sound unlike liberal-conservative culture wars in the United States today. “But,” he goes on, “the outcome of these efforts has led to a clear conclusion: it is impossible to reduce the other to zero.”
What is needed rather is an understanding of the other, with his differences, as primarily a good in himself and secondarily a resource for the common good. This “affirmation of the value of the other and the common good” should be held “above all other interests of party.” Society must hold its citizens as more valuable than politics itself:
If the substance of those who serve this great work that is politics lies only in politics, there is not much to hope for. Lacking any other sure foundation, they will necessarily grasp at politics and personal power and, in the case in question, will see conflict as the only chance for survival. But politics is not sufficient unto itself. This has never been as clear as it is today.
First Things means, first, that the first thing to be said about public life is that public life is not the first thing. First Things means, second, that there are first things, in the sense of first principles, for the right ordering of public life. . . . Authentic religion keeps the political enterprise humble by reminding it that it is not the first thing.
Carrón, in answering the question of how the Church should confront the current situation in Italy says, “I do not believe it is by intervening in the political arena as one of the many competing parts and opinions. The contribution of the Church is much more radical.”
Alex Massie hails Margaret Thatcher as “an accidental libertarian heroine.” In Massie’s telling, Thatcher was an economic liberal and a social conservative (in fact she was one of the few Conservative MPs to vote for decriminalizing homosexuality and also voted in favor of liberalizing abortion—but let us allow Massie his characterization). Despite Thatcher’s social conservatism, Massie says, “her triumph on the economic front contributed to her defeat in the social arena.”
Massie sees this as a good thing. He goes on to say, “There has always been a tension between economic liberalism and social conservatism. At some point and as we have, I think, seen, the two become incompatible.” It is rather economic liberalism and social liberalism, he says, that “are dance partners, taking turns to lead.” That’s lovely. But wrong.
Massie holds that “if the individual should be freed in the economic realm then individuals should be granted greater liberties in their own lives as well. But the economics come first.” But his thinking is upside down.
As John Courtney Murray in We Hold These Truths states:
Part of the inner architecture of the American ideal of freedom has been the profound conviction that only a virtuous people can be free. It is not an American belief that free government is inevitable, only that it is possible, and that its possibility can be realized only when the people as a whole are inwardly governed by the recognized imperatives of the universal moral law.
Moreover, Murray writes, we would be wise to remember Lord Acton’s phrase that freedom is “not the power of doing what we like, but the right of being able to do what we ought.” One lesson taught by the legacy of Thatcher is that economic liberalism should let social conservatism take the lead if it doesn’t want to trip over its own feet.
Fr. Thomas Joseph White and Fr. Austin Litke from the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C. graced a small audience at the World Youth Alliance last Wednesday with a little bluegrass concert. Enjoy a snippet here. (Note: This song represents only one of the three pillars of bluegrass music, namely God, unrequited love, and murder.)
The name, by the way, comes from Flannery O’Connor who used the term in a 1955 letter regarding an upcoming TV interview:
“Everybody who has read Wise Blood thinks I’m a hillbilly nihilist, whereas I would like to create the impression over the television that I’m a hillbilly Thomist, but I will probably not be able to think of anything to say to [the interviewer] but ‘Huh?’ and ‘Ah dunno.’ When I come back I’ll probably have to spend three months day and night in the chicken pen to counteract these evil influences.”
The Crossroads Cultural Center, in conjunction with the American Bible Society, will be hosting a presentation by applied scientist Dr. Giorgio Ambrosio and professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Delaware and First Things Advisory Council member Stephen M. Barr.
“The God Particle… and Me:
A Quantum Leap from the Subatomic to the Human”
Saturday, April 13, 2013
American Bible Society
1865 Broadway (corner of 61st Street)
New York, NY
The event is open to the public and free of charge.
According to Vatican Insider, new chemical and mechanical tests carried out at the University of Padua offer further evidence that the Shroud of Turin, the piece of cloth said to have covered the body of Jesus when he was laid in the tomb, does indeed date back to the first century. Professor Giulio Fanti and journalist Saverio Gaeta have published the news in a book Il Mistero della Sindone (The Mystery of the Shroud), which comes out tomorrow. Fanti’s findings will also be published in a magazine and assessed by a scientific committee.
In the midst of political, religious, national, and personal battles, there is one thing that unites all Argentines: Mate.
Mate (pronounced máh-teh), despite what you may have heard, is not an herbal green tea. That makes it sound sissy. It is a tea-like drink made from a green-colored yerba (herb), but it is much more robust than tea. For Argentines, mate is the very heart of life.
Mate is drunk by the old and young, rich and poor, Peronists and Radicals, parents and children, among students while they study, during winter and summer. After years of conflict, Argentina’s President Cristina Kirchner greeted the new Pope Francis with . . . a beautiful mate set—el “mate de la paz”—after which the pope asked her to stay for lunch with “unos mates” to follow.
“A longstanding Vatican protocol forbids the Pope being seen consuming anything but the Eucharist,” as Rocco Palmo noted on the occasion, but that did not stop Francis from being photographed enjoying the drink.
A text on mate given to me by a friend puts it this way (my translation):
When you meet someone for the first time, you drink mate. People ask, if they’re unsure: “Sweet or bitter?” The other responds: “However you take it.” The cracks in the keyboards in Argentina are filled with yerba. Yerba is the only thing that is always around, in every house. Always. With inflation, with hunger, with militaries, with democracy, with whichever of our eternal plagues and curses. And if one day there is no yerba, a neighbor has some and he’ll offer it. Yerba is denied to no one.
Everyone I know from Argentina proudly emphasizes the inclusivity of mate. In the hymn “Argentina Comparte el Mismo Pan” mate is even likened to the Eucharist:
Nos dicen qué es la Iglesia:
como un gran Río, el fluir lento de una esperanza.
Y qué es la Eucaristía:
como en el mate, no hay excluidos y siempre alcanza.
They tell us this is the Church: Like a great river, the gentle flowing of hope. And that this is the Eucharist: Like mate, no one is excluded and there is always enough.
There is even a “Lady of Good Mate,” recognized by John Paul II on May 1, 1993 when he declared, “With all our hearts we grant the implored Apostolic Blessing, under the auspices of Nuestra Señora Gaucha del Mate.” The special prayer to María del Buen Mate asks her to “Teach us to drink mate . . . that mate may be good news, a song of friendship, a way of loving and giving life.”
Last year, I was working at a public school in an after school program with “kids at risk” run by the YMCA near my home. When March rolled around, I told the kids I wanted to do something with them for St. Patrick’s Day. A few days later when we were cutting out shamrocks one boy asked me, “Miss Katie? Who is Patrick and why do we celebrate Patrick’s Day?”
“Can anybody else answer his question?” I asked, “Does anyone know who St. Patrick is or what St. Patrick’s day is all about?”
A couple of kids tried to answer, but it struck me that every single one referred to “Patrick.” The word “Saint” did not pass through a single pair of lips other than mine.
I had been told before not to bring up religion with any of the kids. If they asked (which they did as I often wore a Rosary around my wrist) I was to deflect their questions, saying something like, “Well this is what I believe, but you should ask your parents what they think.”
With these constraints, I found myself floundering trying to explain who “Patrick” was with no mention of religion. “Well Patrick was a man who came to Ireland many years ago to, uh . . .” Evangelize! Spread the gospel! Teach the Irish about Christ! “We associate him with shamrocks because, well . . . he used to use them as a symbol
. . .” Of the Trinity!
It was impossible. Even if I qualified the statements saying that “some say” or “Irish legend has it” or “Catholics believe,” it would be culturally and historically inaccurate to say that March 17 was anything but a celebration of Saint Patrick.
David Blankenhorn, founder and president of the Institute for American Values, will be hosting our own editor in chief Rusty Reno on Tuesday, March 19 at 6:00 p.m. EST to speak about the new conversation on marriage: “Should Religious People Join the New Conversation?”
If you are an almost or recent college grad and this is how you envision heaven, the First Things Junior Fellowship may be the job for you. Take our quiz to find out . . .
. . . and then hunker down and finish your application because it’s due this Friday!
In the very first issue of First Things, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus wrote, “Temporal tasks are best conducted in the light of eternal destiny.” The First Things Junior Fellowship is certainly a place where your temporal tasks will be part of an integrated life of faith, thought, and work.
As a Junior Fellow you will be challenged to become a better editor and writer. From the seasoned editors here I have learned (among many other things): that maintaining high academic standards does not constrain one to dullness, that writing is as much about personality as it is about noble thoughts and proper grammar, that both faith and editing require a discerning and critical eye, but neither can be done without a degree of gentleness.
My own work in and out of the office—in the pages of First Things and in the many conferences held by the Institute on Religion and Public Life—has helped me both deepen my own Catholic faith and engage more fully in ecumenical dialogue. It has given me a greater awareness of and respect for what many Jews, Muslims, Orthodox, and Protestants believe and face in the public square.
It’s not often a young person can work, live, and pray in an environment with such fervent and civil discussion of the things that matter the most—the first things. The Junior Fellowship is such a place.
“I think I may be somebody who believes in the Pope’s position more than most Catholics. . . . if you have someone who is a conduit to God and is speaking God’s word, even if you can’t understand exactly what God’s plan is . . . that still doesn’t mean you get to vote on what God actually believes.”
In an online debate sponsored by the University of Notre Dame’s Center for the Study of Social Movements addressing the 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Bachiochi suggests that pro-choice and women’s equality movements will crumble of their own accord when their proponents realize that they stand on a foundation of inherent contradictions regarding three key truths.
Roe was clearly defined in Doe v. Bolton, the little-known companion case the Court decided the same day. . . . when read together [they allow for] abortion for any reason throughout all nine months of pregnancy.
If polls reveal anything, it is that the majority of the American public is in favor of what they think Roe holds: restrictions on abortion after the first three months of pregnancy. The thing is, we’d have to overturn the 1973 case to get there.
The nature of women’s equality.
Sexual equality via abortion looks to cure biological asymmetry—the fact that women get pregnant and men don’t—by promoting the rejection of women’s bodies. Authentic equality and reproductive justice would demand something far more revolutionary: that men and society at large respect and support women in their myriad capacities and talents which include, for most women at some time in their lives, childbearing.
I agree with Bachiochi’s three points. That said, if pro-abortion claims are so illogical, why are we not any closer to overturning Roe? And it wouldn’t help to answer by concluding that all abortion supporters are bumbling irrational idiots who deny the Truth outright while looking it square in the eye. It’s more complicated than that.
Most pro-choice advocates truly believe that making abortions widely available will lead to less stressful family situations for young, low-income teens; more opportunities for solid high school and college educations and successful careers; stable homes for the children born to a woman when she is emotionally, mentally, and financially ready. And who wouldn’t want these outcomes, on either side of the debate?
Of course we can continue to make logical arguments to appeal to reason, but the problem in many of these cases is that fear, especially the mother’s fear of losing her own dignity (be it through the reaction of her peers or her own sense of failure), wins out over logic. What we need, along with appeals to reason, are more concrete displays of caritas, verifying the dignity of the whole person—and not just of an innocent human life—dignity that does not disappear even in the midst of sin, ignorance, or poverty.
Take the Sisters of Life for example. In working to uphold the dignity of innocent human life, they simultaneously uphold the inherent dignity of the mother, by first acknowledging in their prayers lives that they too are sinner, and then by showing the pregnant mother that she and her child are both worth it. Their Pregnancy Help page says
There are so many unanswered questions, so many seeming impossibilities. But the passion that has already given shape to your hopes and ambitions in life is what reveals the strength you are capable of as a woman, even in the most confusing of circumstances.
So many young women choose to abort not because they fail to recognize the dignity of their child, but because they are consumed by fear and a loss of their own dignity. What the pro-life movement lacks is a greater emphasis on the dignity of all human life, wether innocent or not.
William F. Buckley Jr. and Fr. Richard John Neuhaus on Firing Line
Larry Perelman, a close personal friend of William F. Buckley Jr., recently published a piece he had written shortly after his friend’s death five years ago. He was staying in Buckley’s house when he died.
On this, the fifth anniversary of Bill’s death, I am observing a Yahrzeit (a Jewish tradition of commemorating the dead) because I feel the absence of Bill in a particularly profound way. Five years ago I wrote about my friendship with Bill and the dinner I had with him on what ended up being the night before he died. I ended that piece at the point when he went upstairs to bed. In fact, I too spent that night at Bill’s house so that I could practice the next day for the concert.
I wrote the following not long afterward, but saved it for publication until I felt a comfortable period had passed. Now is the time I’ve decided to share it.
Buckley, Perelman says, “was and is,” (along with his ally Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, I might add) “in the pantheon of great men, intellectual giants, and artistic geniuses.” Read the whole story here.
In 1984, in association with an institute in the Midwest, I established the Center on Religion and Society. Five years later there was a very nasty break-up, with the Illinois institute sending thugs to raid the offices and put us out on the street. It was a much publicized brouhaha at the time, with “paleo-cons” (them) and “neo-cons” (us) going at one another. Bill’s support was invaluable, and out of it all came the Institute on Religion and Public Life and this magazine. Every May 5, the staff of the magazine has a celebratory lunch in honor of the raid. You may be sure that this year we will be raising a glass to Bill Buckley.
Bill was what some call a natural Catholic, bred-in-the-bone, so to speak, but his was also a faith refined and reinforced by a lifetime of spiritual reflectiveness. He indicated from time to time a mix of puzzlement and sadness about those who resisted an explanation of reality so comprehensive, coherent, and reasonable. When in 1990, talking in his car after the taping of a Firing Line episode, I told him I had decided to become a Catholic, he said he felt like a Red Sox fan who had just learned about their signing up the Yankees’ star pitcher. That was intended to flatter, of course, but the unspoken implication was, “What took you so long?”
Bill Buckley was a man of almost inexhaustible curiosity, courtesy, generosity, and delight in the oddness of the human circumstance. He exulted in displaying his many talents, which was not pride so much as an invitation to others to share his amazement at the possibilities in being fully alive. He was also, in and through everything, a man of quietly solid Christian faith. I am among innumerable others whose lives are fuller by virtue of the gift of his friendship.
On Friday, the Obama administration filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act:
DOMA, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman, has been found unconstitutional by lower courts. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal in one of those cases, U.S. v. Windsor. Oral arguments are scheduled for March 27.
The administration argues that the court may consider a higher level of rational-basis review. The brief states that the increased consideration would be valid in order to “guard against giving effect to a desire to harm an ‘unpopular group.’
The end of the brief opposed the view put forward by the House Republicans in the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group:
[The Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group] makes an appeal to this Court to allow the democratic process to run its course. That approach would be very well taken in most circumstances. This is, however, the rare case in which deference to the democratic process must give way to the fundamental constitutional command of equal treatment under law. Section 3 of DOMA targets the many gay and lesbian people legally married under state law for a harsh form of discrimination that bears no relation to their ability to contribute to society. It is abundantly clear that this discrimination does not substantially advance an interest in protecting marriage, or any other important interest. The statute simply cannot be reconciled with the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection. The Constitution therefore requires that Section 3 be invalidated.
“First Principles: Natural Law and the Theologico-political Question”
The seminar will be taught (and students will be housed) on the campus of Princeton University from July 28 – August 10. This year’s seminar will focus on the relation between natural law and the theologico-political question, that is, the question of the best way of life, enshrined in the best laws, supported by the best form of political regime. Students will consider this topic by reading and discussing works of Thomas Aquinas, Thomas More, Eric Voegelin, Harry Jaffa, selected works from the Vatican on political life (Quas Primas and Dignitatis Humanae), and key documents of the American Founding.
T.S. Eliot wrote, “And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time.” “That place,” says Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein at The Velvet Kippah, “for many Christians today, is looking more Jewish all the time.”
The more Christians learn about Jewish pain, persecution, and suffering, Rabbi Alderstein argues, the more it seems they are peering into a mirror. The tables have turned, and Christian persecution has succeeded, numerically, that of Jews.
While Jews feel threatened by the massive explosion of global anti-Semitism in the last years, coupled with Iranian and Islamist calls for the genocidal destruction of all Jews, very few Jews in 2013 are dying because of their faith or their roots. Christians, on the other hand, have become the New Jews.
In a huge swath of territory from Nigeria east and north to Iran and Pakistan, millions of Christians live in fear of losing their property or their lives simply because they are Christians. In the Assyrian Triangle of Iraq, the campaign of church-burning, clergy-killing, and terror has all but decimated the historically oldest Christian communities. Egypt’s Copts, a full 10 percent of her population, treated for decades as second-class citizens, now face an even more uncertain future as Egypt’s constitution moves the country closer to Sharia.
Christians today have learned what it is to be foreigners in their own land. They have learned to keep mute about their belief to protect their loved ones. They have become the “scorned stepchild within general culture . . . mocked and derided, and treated as intellectual pygmies who have nothing to offer the better, more enlightened people around them.”
They have also, along with their Jewish brethren, held strong to their belief “that if you are fortunate enough to possess the truth, you do not compromise or sacrifice it, even if it means that you continue on only as [a] tiny fleck of mankind.”
We regret to inform you that we must cancel George Weigel’s book talk scheduled for Friday evening, February 15. As one of the world’s experts on the papacy, George will be in Rome to provide commentary for NBC until a new pope is elected.
We apologize for any inconvenience.
Please know that our next evening event will be with Christopher West on March 11 at 6 p.m. He will talk about his new book Fill These Hearts: God, Sex, and the Universal Longing.
The World Youth Alliance will hold a screening Monday, March 4, 2013 at 6:15 p.m. of It’s a Girl—a documentary film on gendercide and violence against women to highlight sex-selective abortion as an egregious form of violence against women and girls.
Drew Room, Ground Floor
Church Center for the UN
777 United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017