I once heard the story of a women named Kara Walton, of Claymont, Delaware who “sued the owner of a night club in a nearby city because she fell from the bathroom window to the floor, knocking out her two front teeth. Even though Ms. Walton was trying to sneak through the ladies room window to avoid paying the $3.50 cover charge, the jury said the night club had to pay her $12,000 . . . plus dental expenses.”
While this story seems to be an urban legend, I was sort of left with the same feeling after reading about the most recent civil war going on in the Catholic Church, this time between Catholics for Choice and the Cardinal Newman Society.
Catholics for Choice, a group who’d like to enter Catholicism through the bathroom window without having to subscribe to any Catholic belief or doctrine about contraception, abortion, or homosexuality, has recently released its “Opposition Notes: An Investigative Series on Those Who Oppose Women’s Rights and Reproductive Health”, deeming The Cardinal Newman Society “The most unhappily and inappropriately named society on the planet.”
While the Newman Society’s mission is “to promote . . . a truly Catholic university education and to seek the faithful implementation of Ex cordeEcclesiae,” Catholics for Choice seems to think that the CNS is not living up to the inclusivity of its “freethinking namesake.” They should be more inclusive, says CFC, but not so inclusive as to include the official Church document Ex corde Ecclesiae which CFC defines as, “a document that was an attempt to close ranks in Catholic education after years of openness to modern society, especially in the United States.”
“There are important debates to be had about furthering Catholic higher education,” says CFC, “but healthy debate seems to be the main target of the CNS. The question is—should Catholic institutions be judged by a narrow set of criteria imposed by one self-appointed judge of orthodoxy?”
While University of Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins is correct that The Cardinal Newman Society has “no ecclesiastical standing and no academic standing,” and at times, i’ll admit, does give off an overly-eager “watchdog” vibe, the Society “enjoys a significant level of approval as working within the official teaching authority of the church.” That’s more than Catholics for Choice can say.
Inaugural Saint Catherine of Siena Chair in Health Care Ethics Lecture Brother Ignatius Perkins, O.P. Saturday, February 2, 2013 1:00 p.m.
Professional literature in health care ethics today frequently reports discussions on the multiple variables that threaten the human dignity and vulnerability of the sick person. Unfortunately, little attention is given to understanding how human dignity of the clinician is threatened and violated in the current health care environment. . .[which] has led to the systemic violation of the dignity of the clinician (and ultimately that of persons who are sick), created moral distress among clinicians, and the collapse of the healing relationship.
Brother Ignatius Perkins, O.P. holds the St. Catherine of Siena Chair in Catholic Health Care Ethics at the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. and at the Dominican Friars Health Care Ministry of New York.
See here for more information. Registration for this event is required.
“Could it be then that the muse isn’t Greek after all? That Mt. Parnassus is really St. Peter’s?” asks Bruce Guernsey in the most recent issue of Dappled Things.
Guernsey, a practicing poet who is former editor of the Spoon River Poetry Review and has taught creative writing at Eastern Illinois University for twenty-five years, describes himself as a “lapsed Catholic.”
Guernsey first began to see hints of a certain Catholic sensibility in the poetry of one of his students. “There were no obvious references to the Pope or Holy Communion, but the writing had a certain kind of sensibility . . .” This “deeply imbedded Catholic sensibility arose spectre-like again and again . . .”
For Guernsey, the very writing of poetry is Catholic. The freedom within structure:
I can be most anybody in a poem . . . But the patterning and shaping, the writing in syllables, in sounds—these I can’t get away from. The rise and fall of the priest’s chanting, the repetitions of prayer, the standing, the kneeling, the sitting down: going to Church was a physical experience, visceral and enduring.
And the very words of the liturgy and the sacraments are poetry:
“My last confession was a week ago,” its perfect iambic pentameter a subtle mnemonic device, like a line from Shakespeare, the rise and fall of the beating heart, mine then in my spondaic throat.
The imagery, memory, colors, the smells, the Latin he inhaled like incense: “Buried below the troubled institution of the Church lie archetypes as deeply human as those of the crib.”
“Although I haven’t been to Mass regularly in years,” he says, “my senses remain tuned to its sounds and symbols when I read a poem or when I try to write one.”—to which his readers respond, “Come back. We’ll wait for you.” “Agreed. Come back. You get it more than most who never left.”
Find some of Bruce Guernsey’s own poetry here. His own Catholic sensibility is much more explicit in poems like “The Letter X” and “The Apple” (also featured on NPR) and more subtle in “Maps.”
For those of you in the New York area, the Thomistic Institute will be hosting a symposium on John Henry Newman next week.
Newman and the University: A Symposium on Religion and University Education Catholic Center at NYU (Washington Square S. & Thompson St.)
Monday, February 4, 2013
1:00 pm: “Universities, the University and the Universality of Knowledge” Lecturer: Shalom Carmy, Yeshiva University Respondent: Eric Gregory, Princeton University
2:15 pm: “University Education, the Unity of Knowledge–and (Natural) Theology: Ruminations on Newman” Lecturer: Reinhard Huetter, Duke Divinity School Respondent: John Bowlin, Princeton Theological Seminary
3:30 pm: Panel Discussion:
President John Sexton, president, New York University
R.R. Reno, editor-in-chief, First Things
President John Garvey, president, The Catholic University of America
Please see the conference flyer for more details. This symposium is free and open to the public.
“But the age of chivalry is gone; that of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded, and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever. Never, never more, shall we behold that generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart, which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom!”
Okay, not exactly about the new removal of the ban on women in combat, but it could be.
We are not engaged in any cultural battle because that battle has been won. All we have to do is give witness to that victory. But we cannot give convincing witness unless we experience the reality of that victory within our own lives and heart. Otherwise it is just words, and our cultural efforts will degenerate into a moral reform movement. That’s all. Nothing more need be said.
Am I prepared to say before the evidence of my own heart that this is true . . . ? That every Mass and any Sacrament is like the sign at the house of Mary in Nazareth that has the well-known proclamation of the Gospel, Verbum caro factum est, “the Word became flesh,” but in that place there’s one little word added to it that’s different—hic, namely “here.” “Here the Word became flesh.” “Here.”
You see, part of the success of the dominant secularist culture is to try to succeed in hiding how interesting the Christian claim is, how beautiful, but above all, how interesting. . . . In the end, nothing really interests you enough to change your life so that you can fix your attention at least to investigate further.
So . . . as a cultural center, we do interesting things, things that express what we have become interested in . . . At the very least people should be able to say, “These are people who are fascinated.”—not in those words, in whatever words they find it, fascinated by the reality of human personhood, by the reality of human subjectivity, by being someone and not just something.
I still recommend reading the presentation in its entirety. (The funny bits were too long to add here.)
There are a lot of people like me. Women who know things. Women who have seen things. Women with diseases in their livers. There are a lot of women with scars on their arms and words that carry themselves like sparrows. There are women who were too big for this town, who had their backs bent carrying things like religion and a history that originated somewhere in the crook of a branch that extended over a stream. A place where a patch of the sky was visible through the leaves, where a little girl let her bare leg dangle too far down. . .
I want them to become women who remember me modeling impossible beauty. Modeling beauty in the face of a mean world, a scary world, a world where we don’t know what to make of ourselves.
What does this have to do with human rights? Well human rights, at least ideally, are based on human dignity. The most common understanding of human rights today is utterly devoid of any reference to a Creator or any coherent understanding of what a human being is. We know that we have human rights, but we don’t know why or where they came from. So, we think of more things that we want and fight to define them as rights.
But it doesn’t work that way. There cannot exist side by side, for example, both a universal right to life and a universal right to kill children in the womb. Human rights cannot be whatever they say they are. Human rights only make sense when understood as that to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being. And human being, in the truest sense, can only be understood as a creature. Thanks be to God that he became human to reveal to us what a true human being is.
If we want to uphold, or in some cases bring back, a culture of true human dignity–a proper understanding and valuing of what each human being is–we must believe and do what Amanda has here expressed. To demand that others be treated as dignified and valuable–even after having committed grave sins–simply because he or she is a human being, without treating myself as such is unfair if not hypocritical. When God told Moses “Love your neighbor as you love yourself,” he didn’t mean you can treat everyone poorly as long as you treat yourself the same way. It is implied that, first, there must be a true love of self.
Along the same train of thought, I once heard a talk about confession while I was on a week-long silent retreat in the mountains of Salcedo, Ecuador. (Okay, so it was a silent retreat except for the liturgy sung with the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Youth, the Mass sung with Trappist monks, and the audio CD of talks to make sure the silence didn’t allow my mind to wander completely off track.) Anyway, listening to this talk was the first time that I realized that the Sacrament of confession, in the Roman Catholic understanding, is not a private matter.
In fact, what I say to that priest in that dark sound-proof box is quite a universal event. For if the Church is truly one body, the body of Christ, then each time that I go to Confession and am absolved of my sins, I am helping to make that body a little whiter. In a sense, I can actually go to Confession not only for myself but for my friends and family, offering this purification for those who have not the strength to do it or the understanding of its importance. It is actually quite humbling to know that it is not all about me and my sins.
Just as Amanda cannot expect her daughters to see themselves as beautiful if she doesn’t see herself as beautiful, or just as the United States cannot expect to beg Syria and Nigeria to stop the violence while we kill the most innocent in our own country, I cannot ask my friends and family to forgive each other or accept my forgiveness if I cannot humble myself enough to accept God’s mercy and forgiveness myself.
Americans United for Life in D.C. will be hosting two events January 24 and 25 to discuss the impact of 40 Years of Roe v. Wade.
The first event is a half-day symposium at the National Press Club. The second event, to be held at AUL’s offices, is a reception featuring Hadley Arkes. You are welcome to attend part of the conference if you cannot make all. Both events are free and include food and beverages, but please RSVP.
Legal Conference: The Future of Roe: Women, Health and Law in the Obama Era
January 24, 12:00pm to 5:00pm
National Press Club
12:00pm-12:30pm: Remarks from Dr. Charmaine Yoest, President and CEO, Americans United for Life
12:30pm-1:45pm: Perspectives from Medical Experts: Dr. Donna Harrison, Director of Research and Public Policy, AAPLOG Dr. Monique Chireau, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Duke University School of Medicine Dr. Priscilla Coleman, Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Bowling Green State University
2:00pm-2:30pm: Remarks from Gerard Bradley, Professor at Notre Dame Law School
2:30-3:45pm: Perspective from Legal Experts: Laura Garcia, Professor of Philosophy at Boston College Ed Whelan, Attorney and President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center Helen Alvare, Professor of Law, George Mason University School of Law Clarke Forsythe, Americans United for Life
3:45-4:15pm: Remarks from Bill Kristol, founder and editor of Weekly Standard and Fox New Channel commentator
4:15-4:30pm: Concluding Remarks, Dr. Charmaine Yoest, President and CEO, Americans United for Life
Advocates for Life Reception
Friday, January 25, 4:00pm-6:00pm
Americans United for Life Offices
655 15th Street NW, Suite 410
Washington, D.C. 20005
Featuring: Hadley Arkes, Architect of the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act
(Advocates for Life is AUL’s law student association, with chapters in over 18 schools across the country including Yale, Harvard, and Columbia.)
It looks like some youngsters in the business world have taken to heart David Mills’ recent advice (also mentioned in the While We’re At It section of the February 2013 issue of First Things) about dressing to the nines.
Formal Fridays: top hats, silk dresses, matching watches and socks. The whole shebang. Not too formal though. For most, the tattoos and gauges ensure a certain nonconformist vibe behind the bow ties. Not quite as fancy as a group of my college friends who held the tradition of “Fresh Fridays.”
I daresay Bill Cunningham would be pleased. “Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life,” he says. “You couldn’t do away with it. It would be like doing away with civilization.”
Or as Carson, the butler of Downton Abbey says, “To misquote Dr. Johnson, ‘When you’re tired of style, you’re tired of life.’”
By the way, we at First Things dress up Monday through Thursday too.
Nestled in the small chapel of the Heart’s Home in Brooklyn, on the floor below the altar, sat a small statue of Mary. As she was on the floor, I hadn’t noticed her until I knelt down below the tabernacle. She was kneeling with her hands resting on her knees, palms facing upward, gazing slightly downward. She was teaching me how to sit before the Lord. Open. Empty. Ready. She was so beautiful! So calm. Free from doubts, fears, anxieties. Trusting in the Lord.
I hadn’t realized until last night that she was an Advent Mary. When I arrived to the chapel for evening prayer, for the first time since returning from my Christmas vacation, she had been moved up higher to a table in the corner of the chapel opposite the tabernacle. But this time her hands were not empty. This time she held a child in her arms. She was a Christmas Mary! How could I have missed it? When I saw her kneeling with open arms, I thought that was all there was to the statue. Of course! She was waiting for the Lord. Of course she would receive him!
I realized then how often I see the beauty in waiting, in being patient, in begging the Lord come with haste. Sometimes I am so ready, in my mind, to give the Lord my open arms and say “yes” to his will for me that I am caught dumbfounded that he actually put something in my hands. It is so much easier to say “yes” to something abstract, etherial, mysterious: “God’s will”. How much harder it is to say “yes” when I know what my mission is.
I wait in the silence of Advent, eager for the Christ child, but when Christmas comes, this little child tells me that I have to change, that I have to suffer for his sake, that the only way to him is through the cross. That’s not what I asked for. That’s not what I thought I asked for.
Now I must ask for even more. More strength. More grace. More hope.
Mary. The greatest missionary. Her “yes” was so complete. A “yes” to what might be. A “yes” to what is. A “yes” of mind, body, heart, and soul. A “yes” to the entire mission that God entrusted to her. Magnificat!
May the Holy Spirit teach us the “yes” of the Christmas Mary.
Why does the thrill of novelty fizzle, and why does it happen so quickly? Most New Year’s resolutions fail by February.
Among the top new years resolutions, says Williams, are: weight loss, quitting smoking, debt reduction, and better money management.
“People make resolutions as a way of motivating themselves,” Williams writes, “. . . people aren’t ready to change their habits, particularly bad habits, and that accounts for the high failure rate.”
Maybe the problem is just that: People are trying to motivate themselves. The thing is, we are not meant to go it alone. We are not meant even for “newness” in and of itself, but to be re-newed by the one upon whom we depend. As long as I am my own self-motivator, as long as my resolution does not line up with God’s will, it will end in frustration and end quickly. Rather, the motivator must come from outside myself—from the Holy Spirit.
As I was reminded by a wise religious sister of the Servants of God’s Presence, the sisters of Heart’s Home, there is a difference between action and activism. A true action is one done through, with, in, and for God—one that is filled with meaning, purpose, and God’s grace. Activism on the other hand is the temptation to do things just to do them, to do things for myself so that I’ll feel competent, important, in control. How easy it is to cross that line! Even the truest, purest action is plagued by the human tendency to fall into activism.
As Heart’s Home founder Father Thierry de Roucy says, God wants, “Men and women who don’t hand over their work once it is finished, but who entrust it to Him before they even start and, on the way, ask for His help and when finished lay it down on His heart.”
But no resolution, not even faith, can be maintained alone. The one bit of advice that rings true to me from the New Year’s resolution gurus is that all should have an “accountability buddy.” We are created to walk in communion with one another, to open each others eyes to the grandeur of God in the mundane, to console one another, to rejoice with one another, to adore and worship God as one family, and to remind each other that we are not on this earth for our enjoyment but for the glory of he who made us.
I imagined the kids I know asking for iPads or iPhones for Christmas, or some kind of toy like these dinosaurs from my childhood (okay, they’re only toys from the 90s) that will never see the light of day again. But I was surprised to see that “a Dad” was the tenth most popular Christmas wish on the list according to 2,000 British parents surveyed at a couple of Westfield shopping centers. Of course this wish was nestled in among the ever-so-popular requests of “the moon,” “a pondcover,” and “Eva Longoria.”
While it is neither an extensive nor a very formal survey, it does make me wonder how cultural developments will leave the next generation wishing for more.
The recently released Queen James Bible, according to its publishers, is a new version that is translated “in a way that makes homophobic interpretations impossible.” Here is what they say on the Bible’s Amazon purchase page:
Homosexuality was first mentioned in the Bible in 1946, in the Revised Standard Version. There is no mention of or reference to homosexuality in any Bible prior to this—only interpretations have been made. Anti-LGBT Bible interpretations commonly cite only eight verses in the Bible that they interpret to mean homosexuality is a sin; Eight verses in a book of thousands!
“The edits,” say the Bible’s publishers, “all confirm that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality, and therefore renders such interpretations impossible.”
While the King James Bible is the most popular English Bible, this new version, they argue, is truer to the man himself:
Commonly known to biographers but often surprising to most Christians, King James I was a well-known bisexual. Though he did marry a woman, his many gay relationships were so well-known that amongst some of his friends and court, he was known as “Queen James.” It is in his great debt and honor that we name The Queen James Bible so.
The publishers of this “big, fabulous Bible,” I might add, have remained anonymus, listing the author as God and the contributor as Jesus Christ.
In an interview with he Christian Post, Christopher Yuan, an adjunct instructor of the Bible at Moody Bible Institute, said that these ”revisionist interpretations which attempt to affirm homosexual sex and relationships have been around for decades. This is just another attempt to make these revisionist interpretations official or more mainline.”
Here’s are a few of examples (my emphasis):
King James Version:
Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
Queen James Version:
Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after nonhuman flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination.
Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind in the temple of Molech: it is an abomination.
And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
Men with men working that which is pagan and unseemly. For this cause God gave the idolators up unto vile affections, receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
The Editor’s notes offer a full account of the changes made in the new translation along with the reasoning.
Cardinal Dolan commented today on last week’s HHS Mandate Decision:
Did you hear about the decision last week by U.S. District Court Judge Brian M. Cogan in the lawsuit brought by the Archdiocese of New York . . . against the administration for the unconstitutional HHS mandate?
You probably did not, as there seems to have been virtually no mention of the decision—in favor of the archdiocese, by the way—in any local newspaper or on television.
While he noted that, “the judge’s decision doesn’t settle the case, but allows the case to proceed so that it might be heard in court,” Dolan cheered, “Bravo, Judge Cogan!” and applauded him for writing that “the First Amendment does not require citizens to accept assurances from the government that, if the government later determines it has made a misstep, it will take ameliorative action. There is no, ‘Trust us, changes are coming’ clause in the Constitution.’”
That’s right. Savior.org has an online Eucharistic Adoration chapel—a live webcam of the Blessed Sacrament that updates every minute, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.
Brother John Raymond had the idea to “bring Jesus closer to people through their computers.”
“If a picture is worth a thousand words, what do you suppose a video image is worth? What about a video image of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament?” he asked. The feedback he received from the homebound, insomniacs, families, and psychiatrists “confirmed to me that the web cam was the next best thing to being there.” Kind of like Skype, right?
There was one outcome, however, that Brother John did not foresee. “A non-Catholic named Richard” wrote to tell him that he had turned this live web cam into a game: Spot the Monk! Every once in a while, a monk would pass in front of the camera, Richard writes:
. . . in my quest to see a monk on your monk-cam, I have set up a web ring of a few friends of mind to watch the monk-cam at most hours of the day. This is the exciting part: Sarah saw a monk! I was not fortunate enough to lay eyes on him, but I know you guys are out there! Thank you for putting your web cam up. We love it!
Because of this game, Richard started reading articles on our web site. In his next email to me, he wanted information about becoming Catholic. I directed him to a Catholic parish and sent him the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Richard eventually was received into the Catholic Church. Now, he tries to attend adoration daily at his local parish.
Apparently video games aren’t so soul-sucking after all.
After suffering a stroke yesterday, Greek Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim of Antioch passed away in a Beirut hospital this morning.
Deputy Parliament Speaker Farid Makari commented, “The Orthodox community has lost a historic, great man who led his people with great wisdom in a difficult phase of the region’s history.”
With the passing of this Patriarch, says former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the “Lebanese . . . have lost a great, national and spiritual pillar as they look forward for the Greek Orthodox Church to remain a source of giving and love and which can remain loyal to its heritage in the Arab world.”
Fortunately, Makari added, “We assure him that his community will be fine . . . and its role will remain one that is primarily aimed at building a new, democratic Syria and in strengthening stability in Lebanon and nation-building,” he added.
While pomegranates are “all the rage” these days due to the plethora of health benefits they offer, their religious significance remains little known to even the most avid pomegranate lover.
Some scholars even go as far as to say that ”the fruit eaten by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden may have been a pomegranate. These scholars argue that it is unlikely that apples would have flourished in the first garden.”
While this is highly unlikely to be true, it does make sense that the pomegranate with its abundance of blood red seeds would serve as the ideal symbol of everything from Persephone’s temptation in Greek mythology to the fruitfulness of the Promised Land and Abraham’s many descendants to the passion of a young maiden’s crimson lips and cheeks or the blood of martyrs to the unity of all individual believers brought together in Christ’s church.
An audience member asked a panel of seven farmers what they thought about government farm subsidies. The response was unanimous: first laughter, then this: “Subsidies only subsidize those who don’t pay taxes.”
This article at Roma locuta est explains the economics of it. Essentially, as farmers bid prices down, they hit a point where they break even and can no longer drop the price. The government offers a subsidy, and one farmer lowers his prices beyond the breaking even point to accept the subsidy. All farmers are then forced to follow suit. Because the government “cannot simply create money out of nowhere,” these subsidies are paid for through federal income taxes. “Thus, if you are someone who pays federal income tax, then you essentially break even in this deal. The only people that actually benefit in the end are those who don’t pay any federal income tax.”
Basically, the point is this:
Subsidies are often not all they are cracked up to be, and the best way to handle market forces is to simply let the market work. The free market will work on its own to drop the price of commodities, but it will do so through innovation rather than compulsory subsidies. Attempts at interference rarely make a difference – at best they offer a compelling illusion. (Unfortunately, it is often compelling enough to win votes.)
Unfortunately, the farmer who prefers to make a living without government assistance is left with a choice: be a “taker” or go out of business.
While you probably know that Notre Dame recently beat USC to finish its season undefeated 12-0, you may also be interested to hear about a recent international conference on martyrdom held at the university, specifically to raise awareness of contemporary martyrs and ”to explore how the Church has responded and might respond in the future.”
“When most people think of Christian martyrs, they think of the early Christians who were persecuted and killed during the first few centuries of the Church,” Ann Carey says at Our Sunday Visitor. “However, most people don’t realize that . . . more than 70 million people had been killed over the centuries because they were Christian, with more than half of those deaths occurring since 1900. Of those 70 million martyrs, more than 12 million were Catholic, with 11 million of those killed in the second millennium alone, many by Joseph Stalin and the Nazis. ”
Each of the conference speakers acknowledged that “sometimes violence is perpetrated by Christians themselves on other faiths as well as on fellow Christians. Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto, Nigeria, said that persecutions in Africa were very complex and different from the Middle East. The violence and persecutions in Africa often involve politics, ethnic differences and land ownership. Further, sometimes subgroups of the faiths attack each other.”
“The way forward,” insisted Bishop Kukah of Nigeria, “is to continue on the path to democracy for a fair and just society by building relationships through dialogue and insisting that governments protect all their citizens.”
The conference focused on contemporary martyrs in Nigeria, India, and China and culminated in Notre Dame’s Sacred Heart Basilica where Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganὸ, apostolic nuncio to the United States, blessed a copy of the icon of the new martyrs depicting their stories. The icon was created by Renata Schiachi and placed on the high altar in the San Bartolomeo church in Rome which Pope John Paul II in 1999 dedicated as a basilica “to indicate solidarity with the new martyrs and encourage meditation on their witness.”
Daniel Philpott, associate professor of political science and peace studies at Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, (who wrote “Peace After Genocide” in the June/July 2012 issue of First Things) concluded: “It is our prayer that the icon will encourage visitors to the basilica to mediate on the witness of today’s martyrs and thus encourage the Church in the United States to stand in solidarity with today’s martyrs.”
In the wake of the 2012 presidential election, I have seen overwhelming despair and pessimism on the part of conservatives.
“Our country has become morally vacant.” ”The land of the free has become the land of unrestrained licentiousness.” “President Obama is the incarnation and catalyst of the American decline.”
Well, what are we going to do about it? Hopefully not write more blog posts utterly devoid of a single flicker of hope for the future of our country or the Rupublican party. Yet neither should we, as my colleague Anna Williams mentions below, turn to proverbial warfare. We can leave the “war on [insert cause here]” verbiage to the Left.
Are we fighting a war on culture? Are we fighting a war on religious liberty? Perhaps. But I’m afraid that to go about declaring warfare with the Left seems particularly anti-conservative.
Rather, we should go about this the best way we know how: by conserving and upholding the values and ideals instilled in this country, second, by our Founding Fathers, but first, by God.
Practically speaking, we need to play what Andrew Klavan calls, “the long game.”
Some of our beloved values that have been lost in the political sphere are expressed with words like “responsibility,” “duty,” “honor,” words we seldom hear these days. We must bring these back first by practicing them. We now have a responsibility, a duty, especially young people, to step up and fill the gaps left in mainstream news media. Klavan asks:
How is it possible that the mind-boggling success of Fox News has failed to spawn half a dozen imitators at least—especially venues for the libertarian young with their antic sense of political incorrectness? Rupert Murdoch, God love him, can’t live forever. It’s time for others to step up.
This election demonstrates that liberals are by no means afraid of standing on a platform of blatant propaganda, and Obama certainly didn’t win by remaining hush-hush about his stance on social issues. But that goes for mainstream entertainment as well as news media. (more…)
First, this means we cannot afford to ignore changing demographics:
The days when the “male white voter” dominated elections are over, which explains why Romney was able to maintain a substantial lead among white men and still lose the election. When your target is a shrinking number of people and your strategy is to keep them on board by alienating the rising urban ethnic groups (by, let’s say, failing to come up with a sensible immigration plan), it’s no wonder you lose elections.
Translating this into the religious sphere, “if your church is an upper-class, predominantly white congregation in a city that is no longer upper-class or predominantly white, then you’ve got a problem.”
“We can’t ignore facts that make us uncomfortable.” We must take care not to reinterpret polls and data to convince ourselves that we are in the lead, so to speak, as many Republicans did. We need to be aware of the reality of the situation. For Catholics, the HHS mandate, for example, seems to have fizzled as an issue. Despite much support and months of statements from the U.S. bishops in opposition, Obama still won the Catholic vote.
“A good leader will paint a picture of reality, however disconcerting it may be. It’s only when we see where we truly are that we get motivated with a sense of urgency to complete the tasks God has given us.” Christian churches can by no means be equated with a political party, but in this case, both the Republican party and people of faith should move forward with eyes opened.
While today “it is almost impossible to pick up a publication written by Christians of traditional strype that does not propose recapturing the culture, Christianizing it, as a project lying at the heart of the Christian faith,” Patrick says, it “was not,” and is not, “the business of the Church to offer morally improving criticism to those without.”
Of course, Christians must be aware of the culture around them to a certain degree. “The lives of Christians and the mission of the Church move within and use an existing culture, and the Church may impress itself on the face of culture, but culture is at best a circumstance, a means, and occasionally, an encouragement.”
“The point,” Patricks says (my emphasis), “is that reforming culture directly is never the business of the Church.”
I think C. S. Lewis understood this well, as he speaks of joy (Surprised by Joy) in much the same way that James Patrick speaks of culture. For Lewis, it is:
an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again. . . . I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and Pleasure often is.”
The same, I believe, can be said about holiness and the remaking of culture. Anyone who has experienced joy, holiness, or the fruits of a Christian culture “will want it again,” but we do not have power over these things. As long as Lewis meditated upon Joy and sought it out, it evaded him. It can only be experienced as the fruit of something else. As long as one sets out to be holy, he will not succeed, for his gaze is not upon God himself. As long as a Christian desires to “Christianize” the culture, he is not in the proper frame of mind.
“For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness: and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 32-33)