Saturday, March 9, 2013, 12:00 PM
From our archives, Richard John Neuhaus on the late Joseph Frank’s biography of Fyodor Dostoevsky:
Frank is simply wrong when he writes that Karamazov is about “the great theme that had preoccupied [Dostoevsky] since Notes from Underground: the conflict between reason and Christian faith.” I am keenly aware that Joseph Frank probably knows as much about Dostoevsky as any person alive. For all his undoubted knowledge, however, I am persuaded that he misunderstands texts that are crucial to his claim that Dostoevsky’s lifelong obsession was with the presumed conflict between reason and what Frank persistently calls “irrational faith.” Since that claim is key to, in some ways the key to, his construal of Dostoevsky’s life and work, this is no little disagreement.
Friday, March 8, 2013, 12:00 PM
Timothy George argues that the next pope should be Catholic:
As one involved in various church dialogues over the past thirty years, I have come to see the crucial role played by the Bishop of Rome in helping all Christians everywhere to work together for Christian unity. Far more than anything in the mainline Protestant world, the Second Vatican Council made possible the springtime of ecumenism among Christians today.
Also today, Wesley J. Smith on Everyday Saints and Other Stories:
The book is all the rage among American Orthodox Christians, but deserves a far wider audience. Using biographical vignettes (with photos) of monks, abbots, bishops, nuns, and “fools for Christ,” its author, Archimandrite Tikhon, paints a powerful picture of the courage and cleverness Orthodox monastics deployed to survive Soviet persecutions—even as it shatters the stereotype of monks as dour men dressed in black who never enjoy themselves and are ignorant of and indifferent to the outside world.
Thursday, March 7, 2013, 12:00 PM
John Daniel Davidson reviews Islam and the Arab Awakening:
Can a Muslim-majority country, freed from the strictures of dictatorship, bring forth and preserve a democracy that grants equal rights to minorities and women, protects free speech and political dissent, and does not insist on the imposition of Islamic law? Tariq Ramadan’s unwillingness to engage this question, in a book purportedly about the social and political future of the post-Arab Spring Middle East, denies a fundamental tension at the heart of Islam.
Also today, Filip Mazurczak defends Archbishop Oscar Romero:
On March 24, 1980, Archbishop Oscar Romero was shot during the celebration of Mass by the death squadrons of El Salvador’s military government. Today his reputation is undergoing a second assassination: Critics have responded to the floating of his name for beatification by wrongly charging the man with supporting violence, communism, and heresy. Those who would make the archbishop a radical hero have offered their own version of these claims in approving tones. Both are wrong.
Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 12:00 PM
Edward Feser replies to David Bentley Hart’s article on the natural law:
Hart equivocates insofar as he fails to distinguish two very different theories that go under the “natural law” label. He also uses terms like “supernatural” and “metaphysical” as if they were interchangeable, or at least as if the differences between them were irrelevant to his argument. These ambiguities are essential to his case. When they are resolved, it becomes clear that with respect to both versions of natural law theory, Hart is attacking straw men and simply begging the question against them.
Also today, George Weigel describes the unique impossibility of the papacy:
To be pope is to take on a task that is, by precise theological definition, impossible. Like every other office in the Church, the papacy exists for the sake of holiness. The office, though, is a creature of time and space, and holiness is eternal. No one, not even a pope who is a saint, can fully satisfy the office’s demands. Yet the office, according to the Church’s faith, is of the will of God, and the office cannot fail, although the officeholder will always fall short of the mark. That distinction between the office and the man who holds it is a consolation to any pope.
Friday, March 1, 2013, 12:00 PM
Peter J. Leithart on religious change in the Middle East:
Alarming reports have been coming in for years: Christianity is being expelled from the Middle East. According to Walter Russell Mead, more than half of the Christians in Iraq have fled the country since 2003. Today it’s happening in Syria. Swedish journalist Nuri Kino reports on a “silent exodus of Christians from Syria” in the face of “kidnappings and rapes.”
Also today, Hans Boersma reviews What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense:
No argument is more effective in promoting gay marriage than the insistence that its rejection offends our sense of justice and equality, especially as concern for the underprivileged and marginalized lies at the heart of our Judeo-Christian heritage. Many today believe it patently “unfair” and “unjust” to ban an entire group of people from the benefits of marriage merely because they happen to be attracted to people of the same sex.
Thursday, February 28, 2013, 12:00 PM
David Bentley Hart on the natural law:
There is a long, rich, varied, and subtle tradition of natural law theory, almost none of which I find especially convincing, but most of which I acknowledge to be—according to the presuppositions of the intellectual world in which it was gestated—perfectly coherent. My skepticism, moreover, has nothing to do with any metaphysical disagreement. I certainly believe in a harmony between cosmic and moral order, sustained by the divine goodness in which both participate. I simply do not believe that the terms of that harmony are as precisely discernible as natural law thinkers imagine.
Also today, Russell E. Saltzman on the anniversary of his father’s death:
I have a dozen white cotton handkerchiefs, neatly folded and placed in my clothes drawer. Over the last year, though, I have cycled through but five handkerchiefs, rarely pulling out the others. Those five are colored handkerchiefs, inherited from my father. He died a year ago tomorrow. They have become strange talismans, those handkerchiefs. I would not have expected it of me, this reaction; I do not regard myself as grieving. Given everything that led up to it, my father’s death was a relief. Yet I cannot toss them out. These are the only personal items I claimed upon his death.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013, 12:00 PM
Michael J. New on the lack of change in attitudes about abortion:
These hopeful takes from supporters of abortion all commit the cardinal sin of abortion politics: reading too much into the results of isolated surveys. To seriously analyze fluctuations in public opinion on abortion, one needs to consider responses to the same question, preferably asked by the same survey research firm, over a period of time. Indeed, surveys have always shown high public support for Roe v. Wade.
Also today, George Weigel on the evangelical reform of the Catholic Church:
Hans Kung, out there on the far left fringes of Catholicism, has ideas about the reform of the Catholic Church; so does Bernard Fellay, the schismatic bishop and leader of the hard-right Lefebvrists. The National Catholic Reporter has its notions of Catholic reform; so does the National Catholic Register; neither is likely to agree with the other about the proper reform agenda. Calls for Catholic reform are ubiquitous, across the landscape of Catholic opinion. But how often do we stop and think about what distinguishes authentic Catholic reform from ersatz Catholic reform? Are there criteria that help us understand what’s true and false, in this matter of Catholic reform?
Tuesday, February 26, 2013, 12:00 PM
Elizabeth Scalia on the Pope’s Benedict option:
When Pope Benedict XVI departs from the Chair of Peter on the evening of February 28, he will remain briefly at Castel Gandolfo while his new quarters are readied, and will then take on the gift and burden of monastic enclosure, which he has called “that which is essential and has primacy in the life of all the baptized: to seek Christ and place nothing before his love.”
Also today, John Haldane on Cardinal O’Brien’s sad end:
“If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well, it were done quickly.” So speaks Macbeth of the murder of the king, but the words might well be self-applied by someone who finds themselves in the situation faced by Cardinal O’Brien, when he learned of the news stories reporting accusations against him of inappropriate behavior.
Monday, February 25, 2013, 12:00 PM
R.R. Reno on Garry Wills’ latest book:
Why Priests? falls below his usual low standards. The main thesis is that priests ruin everything. They’re power-hungry monsters who’ve taken over the Church, destroying the affirming, companionable, and egalitarian message of Jesus. Moreover, the priestly fixation on ritual sacrifice adds a bloodthirsty, prosecutorial, and altogether primitive cast to Christianity, which Gary Wills promises to deliver us from, restoring for the first time in two millennia the original spirit of Jesus and his followers.
Also today, Filip Mazurczak interviews Tomasz Pompowski on Pope John Paul II:
A journalist since 1992, Tomasz Pompowski has worked as the deputy chief of the opinion sections of the Polish dailies Polska and Dziennik. He is the co-founder of the prestigious weekly Europa, the author of dozens of original articles about the history of the Cold War, and co-producer of the film Nine Days that Changed the World about the role of Pope John Paul II and Solidarity in the fall of communism. In 2012, he published his book Ronald Reagan, John Paul II, and Solidarity: A Spiritual History of the Collapse of Communism. He is presently engaged in talks regarding publishing the book in English.
Friday, February 22, 2013, 12:00 PM
Wesley J. Smith on euthanasia’s euphemisms:
When a social movement must rely on euphemisms to obfuscate its goals, it is a good bet that there is something wrong with its agenda. From its very inception, euthanasia advocates have euphemistically bent language as a means of convincing society to endorse killing—an accurate and descriptive term that simply means to end life—as an acceptable method of ending human suffering.
Also today, John Murdock recalls Francis Schaeffer’s Christian environmentalism:
A crowd of about 35,000 had gathered near the Washington Monument during a cold blustery Presidents Day weekend in the midst of an unusually mild winter to prod the Obama administration to take actions against climate change. The largest climate action rally in American history had been scheduled for noon on a Sunday, not exactly a time chosen with regular church-goers in mind—though, undoubtedly, for some present the environmental cause would be the closest thing to a religion in their lives.
Thursday, February 21, 2013, 12:00 PM
Pete Spiliakos on aggressive incrementalism as a winning strategy for pro-lifers:
In the last few presidential elections, the strategy of the Republican presidential candidate has been to talk about abortion only when asked. The purpose seems to be to signal pro-life views while not alienating voters for whom abortion is a low priority issue. This strategy is about mobilizing an existing voting base and not at all about persuasion. It is almost an exaggeration of the general Republican approach to electoral politics recently.
Also today, Ambassador Francis Rooney on reflects on Pope Benedict’s papacy:
Pope Benedict XVI’s humble and selfless resignation, effective February 28, should be seen as a fitting closure on a papacy that was quietly significant. When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected in the 2005 conclave, many pundits viewed him as a temporary officeholder. Yet Benedict XVI fulfilled the legacy he set out for himself when choosing the name of the World War I pope.
Wednesday, February 20, 2013, 12:00 PM
Andrew Doran on Benedict face to face with Islam:
In 1095, in a carefully crafted speech before prelates and nobles in Claremont, France, Pope Urban II called Europe to action: A Crusade to aid the Christian empire of Byzantium. Emissaries of the emperor in Constantinople had come to Urban to ask for aid against the advancing Muslim Turks, who were mistreating conquered Christians, desecrating shrines, and pressing on toward Constantinople. The response was sensational and spread immediately across Europe. Knights, clerics, and peasants all heeded the call and marched to the East—toward Byzantium, Antioch, and Jerusalem.
Also today, George Weigel on the legacy of Benedict XVI:
At his election in 2005, some thought of him as a papal place-keeper: a man who would keep the Chair of Peter warm for a few years until a younger papal candidate emerged. In many other ways, and most recently by his remarkably self-effacing decision to abdicate, Joseph Ratzinger proved himself a man of surprises. What did he accomplish, and what was left undone, over a pontificate of almost eight years?
Tuesday, February 19, 2013, 12:00 PM
Timothy George on Benedict XVI, the great Augustinian:
Not long ago, Pope Benedict XVI made a personal donation to the restoration of the Basilica of St. Augustine in Annaba, Algeria, the site of the ancient town of Hippo Regius, where the greatest theologian of the ancient church served as bishop from 395 to 430. It was here on September 26, 426, that Augustine met with his flock to name his successor as the bishop of Hippo, the presbyter Heraclitus.
Also today, Thomas G. Guarino has a theological appreciation of Benedict XVI:
Although we are formally speaking of Benedict’s initiatives as pope, it is probably best to discuss the theological body of work he produced from 1981 to 2013, rather than simply his last eight years as bishop of Rome. For if one conjoins his papacy with his long service as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then his lasting theological legacy comes into sharper focus: For over thirty years, Benedict has effectively served as the chief interpreter of the Second Vatican Council.
Monday, February 18, 2013, 12:00 PM
William Doino Jr. on Pope Benedict’s greatest lesson:
However history remembers Pope Benedict, one thing is assured: his reign will be remembered as one of the great teaching pontificates. Even those who question other aspects of it, praise it for that. “Where the Church has emerged especially strong under Benedict,” wrote the Los Angeles Times, “is in its intellectual discourse, elevated by a professorial pope who dedicated considerable time and energy to a series of highly regarded encyclicals and three books on the life of Jesus.”
Also today, Robert T. Miller on the death of Ronald Dworkin:
Ronald Dworkin has died. In Taking Rights Seriously, his first major work, published in 1977, he mounted a powerful assault on the legal positivism of his mentor, H. L. A. Hart. Dworkin would go on to become one of the greatest legal philosophers of the age. The only people in his class were Hart himself and Joseph Raz, and many people think that the greatest of the three was Dworkin. His single most important work was Law’s Empire, which sets out his mature theory of law: law is an irreducibly moral enterprise (“Moral principle is the foundation of law”), and morality is an objective matter in which truth and falsity are independent of what individuals may wish or like.
Friday, February 15, 2013, 12:00 PM
Peter J. Leithart on Shakespeare for Lent:
Lent is a time of renunciation and fasting, spiritual striving, self-examination, contrition, and penitence. It seems a grim and black season of self-accusation. But that’s all superficial. Lent is better understood as a season of Christian comedy. It’s not the glum waiting before the comedy of resurrection begins. Lent is the darkened path that winds toward the rising sun.
Also today, Anna Williams on the myth of government neutrality:
Should a government in a pluralist society such as the United States be neutral with respect to religious and secular ideas about the good life? Or should it promote a certain vision? Most Americans, recognizing that a government-sponsored philosophy would conflict with many citizens’ cherished beliefs (and possibly violate the establishment clause), would say that the government should be neutral.
Thursday, February 14, 2013, 12:00 PM
John Daniel Davidson notes another federal court has found fault with the contraception mandate:
In its 2-1 ruling, the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals noted the company’s case was especially compelling because Grote is self-insured and there is no third-party insurance company involved. Forcing the plaintiffs to provide contraceptives to their 1148 employees unduly compels them to directly violate their personal religious beliefs, the court said. “The legal duties imposed on them by the contraception mandate conflict with the religious duties required by their faith, and they cannot comply with both.”
Also today, Russell E. Saltzman on Christian divorce on Valentine’s Day:
Growing up, I knew only one kid from a “broken home,” my best friend in elementary school. There was a thing about it, a shame that went with it and a pity I felt for him. Everyone else I knew had parents firmly married. He was an aberration. Graduating high school in the mid-1960s, and still knowing no one else from a divorced home, I recall my astonishment four years later, running into a now-divorced classmate.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013, 12:00 PM
Ashley Thorne on unbiasing American history:
How do American colleges and universities teach American history? Conservatives may have a ready answer: poorly. But a ready answer can just as readily be deflected. At the National Association of Scholars (NAS) we decided to find out, as precisely as possible, how history is actually taught at two major universities.
Also today, George Weigel on a new take on modern Catholic history:
When did modern Catholicism begin? The conventional wisdom says, “at Vatican II.” A sophisticated version of the conventional wisdom says, “with the mid-twentieth-century Catholic reform movements that shaped Vatican II.” In Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st-Century Church, I suggest that even the sophisticated form of the conventional wisdom doesn’t open the lens widely enough.
Tuesday, February 12, 2013, 12:00 PM
R.R. Reno on Benedict and the next pope:
Ratzinger fought an intellectual battle for sanity in the long decade of theological insanity that followed the Council. When he was appointed as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith by John Paul II in 1981 he was no longer a young turk but instead the Pope’s “rottweiler.” But his early experiences remained. Benedict XVI was formed with an essentially positive view of the Church’s engagement with modernity.
Also today, Joshua Gonnerman notes that Pope Benedict is not Pope John Paul II:
Writing for Fox News, John Moody observes that Pope Benedict XVI was not Pope John Paul II. This seems, for Moody, to be the hermeneutical key in which the entirety of Benedict’s papacy should be assessed. Only at the end of his op-ed does Moody note a distinctive contribution of Pope Benedict to the life of the Church, and it is precisely in his resignation.
In our third feature, John Murdock on the year of Lincoln:
Abraham Lincoln, born on this day in 1809, is enjoying a banner year. Before January had passed, President Obama would place his own hand over the same Bible used by the sixteenth president and invoke Lincoln’s legacy to hundreds of thousands on the National Mall. In the wake of the inauguration, Lincoln’s name rolled just as effortlessly off the lips of pro-lifers gathered on the same ground to commemorate the fortieth sad anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Hollywood is on board too. With its stellar cast, Steven Spielberg’s biopic is a near lock to take home a likeness or two of King Oscar. Not bad for someone 204 years old.
And in our fourth feature, Elizabeth Scalia on rows to hoe in the virtual fields of the Lord:
When, in May of 2011, Vatican representatives arranged a meeting with Catholic bloggers from all over the world, Brandon Vogt was anticipating the release of his charity-benefiting book The Church and New Media. Since then, a shrewd Pope Benedict XVI has initiated the launch of the Vatican’s news site with a mere touch to a tablet, and (on Twitter, as @Pontifex) has answered tweeted questions and mastered the art of dispensing genuine theological insights in 140 characters or fewer.
Monday, February 11, 2013, 12:00 PM
Russell D. Moore on an Evangelical’s perspective of Pope Benedict XVI:
With Pope Benedict XVI’s shocking resignation this morning, Evangelical Christians might be tempted to see this the way a college football fan might view the departure of his rival team’s head coach. But the global stakes are much, much higher. As Pope Benedict steps down, I think it’s important for us to recognize the legacy of the last two bishops of Rome that we ought to honor and conserve: an emphasis on human dignity.
Also today, R.R. Reno on diversity and the Democratic Party:
The White House asks for patience and understanding. Last week the President’s press secretary Jay Carney said, “This is about putting together a cabinet that will serve the president and the country well. And as part of that, the president values diversity, because he believes diversity improves excellence and enhances debate and decision-making.” For someone like me who worked in academia for twenty years it’s a familiar way of talking. “Diversity” is one what Richard Weaver called “god terms.” It’s a word like “inclusion” and “empowerment” that’s meant to conjure an unquestionable good that puts an end to questions and criticism. Nobody can be against diversity.
And in our third feature, Matthew J. Franck on the ‘lethal operation’ white paper:
The recent leak to NBC News of a Justice Department “white paper,” on the authority to conduct “lethal operations” against U.S. citizens abroad if they are enemy combatants in our war against al-Qa’ida, has touched off another round of controversy about the lawfulness of our tactics. Although the memo does not mention the use of drones as a particular means of killing, it is widely understood that drones are the Obama administration’s preferred method of “lethal operation,” and the killing in 2011 of Anwar al-Awlaki by a drone strike set off a great deal of commentary on whether the president of the United States can “target” American citizens for death by simply declaring them enemies of the state.
Friday, February 8, 2013, 12:00 PM
Wesley J. Smith on happy-face statism:
For the last decade, some social scientists have been arguing that “happiness measurements” should replace or supplement established economic standards to judge a society’s “success.” Many environmentalists also support the idea as a way of putting lipstick on policies that could slow down economic growth. And now, the idea is deemed ready to leave the ivory tower for implementation as government policy.
Also today, Edward T. Oakes, S.J. on plebgate:
In the February 2013 issue of The New Criterion, James Bowman, media critic for that indispensable periodical, comments on a media scandal currently brewing in Great Britain. The trouble is, most of the panjandrums in the London press don’t regard it as a media scandal at all. To them the blow-up started off as a political scandal and transmogrified into a police scandal—but, since few people on this side of the Atlantic have ever heard of these goings-on, I must first describe the events in question.
Thursday, February 7, 2013, 12:00 PM
Leroy Huizenga on banning contraception:
“Ban Contraception?” the banner ad said, urging viewers to click it in order to tell Congress to “support women’s health!” The suggestion that cultural conservatives want to make birth control illegal is risible. Most social conservatives, being Evangelicals, have zero problem with contraception whatsoever, and those Catholics who obey the Church’s teaching on contraception make zero effort to outlaw it.
Also today, Michael A. Helfand on religion’s wise embrace of commerce:
The religion wars in the United States have officially “gone commercial.” In contrast to past religious controversies that have centered on questions like prayer in public schools and religious symbols on government property, recent conflicts between law and religion have quite a different feel because of their unmistakable commercial component.
Wednesday, February 6, 2013, 12:00 PM
Justin Dyer on the legacy of Baker v. Nelson:
In a pair of high-profile cases scheduled for oral argument in March, the Supreme Court of the United States will weigh in on the current political and legal debate about same-sex marriage. As novel as it all seems, the issue of same-sex marriage first came before the high court over four decades ago in the little-known case of Baker v. Nelson (1972). The case began when two male students at the University of Minnesota sued the clerk of the Hennepin County district court for refusing to grant them a marriage license. After a run through the Minnesota court system, the United States Supreme Court dismissed the case for “want of a substantial federal question.”
Also today, George Weigel on the rise of evangelical Catholicism:
For more than thirty years it’s been my privilege to explore the Catholic Church in all its extraordinary variety and diversity. I’ve traveled from inner-city parishes to the corridors of the Vatican; from the barrios of Bogotá to the streets of Dublin; across the United States and throughout Europe, Latin America, Oceania, and the Holy Land. I’ve spoken to Catholics of all states of life and stations in life, from popes and heads of state to cloistered nuns and campus ministers and literally thousands of clergy; with political activists of all stripes and the wonderful people of the parish in which I’ve lived for almost three decades; with modern Catholic confessors and martyrs and with men and women who are troubled in their faith.
Tuesday, February 5, 2013, 12:00 PM
Eleanor Pettus on a Bible that keeps us apart:
It should come as no surprise to anyone that Protestants place a high value on Scripture. Examples of this attitude abound: the popular Awana program gives an award to second graders who have memorized 150 Bible verses. “Bible quizzing” effectively makes high schoolers memorize whole epistles. Teachers and parents teach children their Savior’s voice by drill: God’s words are imprinted in the hearts of the young with the hope that they will follow the Lord’s precepts until their death. This trust in Scripture’s transformative power is a definitive mark of the culture found in many Protestant congregations.
Also today, Mathew Block on Roman Catholics and confessional Lutherans exploring deeper ties:
In 1976, Joseph Ratzinger—then still a professor—suggested “it might be possible to interpret [the Augsburg Confession (CA)—i.e., the primary Lutheran confession] under the laws of the empire as a catholic confession.” He continued: “Efforts are underway to achieve a Catholic recognition of the CA or, more correctly, a recognition of the CA as catholic, and thereby to establish the catholicity of the churches of the CA, which makes possible a corporate union while the differences remain.”
Monday, February 4, 2013, 12:00 PM
William Doino Jr. on the Christian dreams of Roberto Clemente:
When baseball legend Roberto Clemente died in a plane crash in 1972, on a mission of mercy to victims of a Nicaraguan earthquake, the world not only lost a great man, but someone with extraordinary dreams. Well before his passing, Clemente had plans to open up clinics, schools, charities and an ambitious sports complex in his native Puerto Rico, to help rescue underprivileged and misdirected youth. His sudden death appeared to end all that. But—as so often happens—God brings triumph out of tragedy, and in the years that followed, he did just that.
Also today, Joshua Gonnerman on false hope and gay conversion therapy:
In any discussion of homosexuality from an orthodox perspective, the question of reparative therapy is in the background. It seems to me that our response to this question cannot be a straightforward “yes” or “no,” but must be carefully nuanced. Such treatment can have positive effects, but at the same time, many Christians have promoted these therapies (and allied themselves with their practitioners) with an alarming degree of enthusiasm and lack of subtlety, overlooking the dangers in this response to the pastoral questions of homosexuality.
Friday, February 1, 2013, 12:00 PM
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Anna Broadway on sex trafficking at the Super Bowl:
When sports fans descend on New Orleans this weekend, they will encounter not just the city’s legendary hospitality, but very possibly opportunities to buy sex as well. If they do so, those men—johns, as they are often called—may well be unwittingly supporting the sexual slavery of both adults and minors.
Also today, Peter J. Leithart on divisions within the GOP:
The more subtle possibility is that Bad Republicans themselves will be drawn into the president’s purge. Everyone knows who that problematic “chunk” is: Bad Republicans are the remnants of the religious right, and the next four years are going to be uncomfortable ones for those of us who consider sodomy and abortion to be sinful. Nobody likes to be marginalized. No American likes to be branded as intolerant. Marginalization is especially galling to those on the religious right who so long ago rode the high places of the earth.
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