George Weigel is distinguished senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

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Russian Orthodoxy and Lenin’s Tomb

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Almost 40 years ago, an aging Anglican clergyman told me a story about his first trip to Paris as a boy”perhaps in the 1920s. His grandfather had called him in, told him that he had a gift to be used in the French capital, and then gave my friend a small pocket mirror. The boy, puzzled, asked his grandfather what the mirror might be for. The following dialogue ensued … Continue Reading »

The Gentlemanly Art of the Insult

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One of the (many) signs of our cultural decline is that verbal insults, these days, are almost invariably scatological or sexual, provoking a blizzard of asterisks whenever A wants to put the smackdown on B. Once upon a time, it was not so. Once, the ability to come up with a clever insult that could be repeated in polite society was thought an important, if not necessarily essential, component of being a gentleman… . Continue Reading »

In Praise of Peter Berger

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At the end of his new intellectual memoir, Adventures of an Accidental Sociologist: How to Explain the World Without Becoming a Bore (Prometheus Books), Peter L. Berger recounts a telling tale from his Viennese childhood: “… I must have been about four or five years old. For my birthday or for Christmas I was given the present of a very sophisticated electric toy train. One could control its movements through multiple tracks and tunnels across a miniature landscape. I had no interest in the mechanical wonders of this toy. Instead, I lay flat on the ground and talked with imaginary passengers on the train.” … Continue Reading »

Among the ‘Progressed’

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Thomas Merton is usually thought of as a liberal or progressive Catholic, which in many respects he was: he certainly tilted left politically, on civil rights and Vietnam; he wanted to explore new modes of monastic life, putting the Western monastic tradition in conversation with Eastern religions; he chafed under authority throughout his Trappist life; he had a strong sense of self, the twentieth-century equivalent of what the Reformation controversialists called “private judgment.” … Continue Reading »

Martyrdom in Pakistan

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Sixty-four years ago, on August 14, 1947, Great Britain’s empire in the Indian subcontinent was divided into the independent, self-governing Dominions of India and Pakistan. The division of the subcontinent into two states was bitterly opposed by the Indian Congress Party and Winston Churchill, but supported by the Muslim League (with Congress, one of the two major pro-independence parties in the British Raj) and the Attlee government, which had displaced Churchill in 1945… . Continue Reading »

Benedict XVI on Europe’s Future

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World Youth Day 2011, to be held in Madrid from Aug. 16-21, will be an important moment in Pope Benedict XVI’s campaign to remind Europe of its Christian roots and to call Europe to a nobler understanding of democracy. As the Holy Father demonstrated in an address in Zagreb, Croatia, in early June, the two parts of that campaign”the recovery of Christian roots and the deepening of 21st-century Europe’s idea of democracy”go together… . Continue Reading »

Why Hasn’t Francis Ford Been Beatified?

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In a 2010 interview with Catholic World Report, Cardinal Joseph Zen, S.D.B., the emeritus bishop of Hong Kong, wondered aloud about the Catholic Church’s reticence to acknowledge those who had been martyred by Chinese communists during the Maoists’ rise to power, and thereafter. “Why should we not publicize … those martyrs?” Cardinal Zen asked. The truth demands it. Self-respect requires it… . Continue Reading »

Michael Novak, Founding Father

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Twenty years ago, the American Catholic thinker Michael Novak put his head together with his friend Rocco Buttiglione, a distinguished Italian thinker, to see what might be done about educating a new cadre of young Catholic leaders in the social doctrine of the Church. John Paul II’s recently released social encyclical, Centesimus Annus, seemed an ideal intellectual anchor for such an enterprise, given its rich development of the social doctrine and its bracing challenge to build free and virtuous societies in the 21st century… . Continue Reading »

China-Watching in the Vatican

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Whatever its other accomplishments, Henry Kissinger’s new book, On China, ought to cause serious reconsideration of that now-familiar refrain, “China-is-the-lead-country-of-the-future.” Kissinger’s analysis of Chinese history has been criticized, as has his reticence about evils like the massacres at Tiananmen Square. But his conclusion”that China’s future depends on the resolution of the conflict between those of its leaders who want to maintain totalitarian political control at all costs and those who want to complete the country’s remarkable economic development with a genuine opening toward democratic governance”strikes me as a fair summary of the situation… . Continue Reading »