R.R. Reno is editor of First Things.

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Beers at the White House

From First Thoughts

Good for President Obama. In the aftermath of his foolish, off the cuff remarks about the arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the President took some advice from police sergeant James Crowley and invited the duo to the White House for beers and a chat. Gates is still clinging to a false reading of . . . . Continue Reading »

Henry Louis Gates Owes an Apology

From First Thoughts

Well, it seems that the tender sensibilities of a famous Harvard professor were offended. He and his driver put their shoulders to his front door. A neighbor called the police. The officer responded and adopted the usual officious and superior manner of policemen. As a man who knows only deference . . . . Continue Reading »

Gays, Non-Discrimination, and the USCCB

From First Thoughts

You gotta love the political lobbying arm of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Their 2009 legislative round-up provides an insight into the priorities of Catholic officialdom. One item is particularly interesting. The report sums up Barney Frank’s bill, H.R. 3685, The . . . . Continue Reading »

Defending Truth

From Web Exclusives

Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. (1877“1964), was the twentieth-century Catholic theologian whose outlook and intellectual projects epitomized the confident intransigence of the pre-Vatican II Church. Professor of theology at the Angelicum in Rome for many decades, Garrigou-Lagrange taught Aristotle and St. Thomas to many generations of seminarians. As a consultant to the Holy Office, he played an important role in the intellectual politics of mid-century Catholicism. His reputation was clear: hardnosed about truth and in favor of the use of church authority in its defense.

In recent decades, Garrigou and the Catholic sensibility he embodied has been out of style, very out of style. Richard McCormick, Roger Haight, Elizabeth Johnson, Monica Hellwig, Charles Curran, Gregory Baum, David Tracy, and other post-Vatican II theologians emerged as the standard bearers for what they hoped would be a new church, a new spirit, and a new age. They wanted to be flexible and pluralistic when it came to truth, and they were suspicious when it came to authority, especially church authority.

Time has passed. The young progressives have aged and grayed… . Continue Reading »

Further Thoughts on Localism

From First Thoughts

I’m glad Jody drew attention to Caleb Stegall’s intervention. Stegall is surely right that love is the “existential engine” of localism . Indeed, by my reckoning, love is the existential engine of any thick and substantial cultural identity. Yes, of course love is jealous. The . . . . Continue Reading »

Localism and Anti-Semitism

From First Thoughts

Yes, Jody rightly draws attention to the role of anti-Semitism in the sort of modern conservatism that sees history, tradition, and place as anchors of sanity. By my reading, however, that role is complicated and full of ironies. One irony comes from the Stalinist era. “Rootless . . . . Continue Reading »


From First Thoughts

Patriotism is the political form of love. It comes from the Latin (and Greek) for father, signaling the deep bond of loyalty to clan, the primitive sense that we owe our existence to a place, a people. As Jody points out when recalling an old post of mine that drew appreciative attention to some . . . . Continue Reading »

The Stalinist Moment In Iran

From First Thoughts

Events in Iran have been riveting. The presidential vote on June 12 was rigged to ensure the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or so most suspect. Supporters of Ahmadinejad’s main opponent, former Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi, have rejected the outcome, and for a few heady days they . . . . Continue Reading »

A Master of Horror

From Web Exclusives

In his Poetics, Aristotle observed that some works of art have a paradoxical effect. They represent things that make us cringe and recoil: Orestes kills Clytemnestra; Medea murders her children. Yet, even as we shrink from the brutality and avert our eyes in horror, we are nonetheless strangely attracted to and sometimes ravished by the scenes. What is ugly and brutal can exercise an aesthetic power as great as”perhaps even greater than”beauty itself.

A special centenary exhibition of the work of Francis Bacon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (on view until August 16, 2009) offers an ideal occasion to experience the strange aesthetic appeal of deformity, pain, and the darkness of life. Bacon famously filled his studio with images of disease from medical books and murder scenes from tabloids. The paintings that resulted are not ugly. On the contrary, many have alluring color and form. But there can be no doubt about Bacon’s genius. It was energized by the grotesque. Continue Reading »