On Butterflies and Being

We are living this year in a cottage in the forest, halfway up the slope and under the slightly furrowed brow of a green mountain whose ridge forms our western horizon, and over which the brief twilight rises in the evening as a pale gold thinly fringed with dark amethyst. The days are filled with the incessant clamor of stridulating and timbalating insects, to which at night”undiminished”is added the mighty song of the Upland Chorus Frog (Pseudacris feriarum, for those with a taste for taxonomic Latin) and the sweet belling of the Cope’s Gray Treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis). Earlier in the summer, the woods were full of fireflies, but they are gone now… Continue Reading »

Confessions of a Health Care Rationer

My son summarized my new situation with typical teenage irreverence: “Gee, Dad, after thirty years of providing health care, your new job is denying it.” It’s a funny line, of course, if somewhat harsh. I’ll probably let him out of his room in a few weeks. But his quip is largely untrue. Its bite comes from the fact that it’s not entirely untrue. It’s a strange turn of events, really. After all, I have always been opposed to healthcare rationing. But, then, I have always been opposed to aging, too. I have come to recognize the fundamental similarity between the two… . Continue Reading »

The Politics of Selective Indignation

The online edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education for August 10, 2009 carries an article by Carlin Romano called “The Shame of Academe and Fascism, Then and Now.” I’m hoping that this essay will cause some pangs of conscience among the privileged classes of administrators, professors and students in our nation’s elite universities in regard to its eerie silence surrounding the crushing of the pro-democracy demonstrators in Iran, although it probably will not… . Continue Reading »

War, Progress, and Caritas

The recent encyclical on social doctrine, Caritas in Veritatae, has raised interesting questions about international cooperation and development. I’ve certainly had some good conversations. But I’ve been struck by a fairly widespread lack of acquaintance with War, Progress, and the End of History: Three Conversations Including a Short Story of the Anti-Christ by Vladimir Solovyov (1853“1900). It’s a book that is worth knowing, not the least because it bears directly on a central theme of Caritas in Veritatae: “humanity’s journey towards unity.” … Continue Reading »

Did God Really Evolve?

Historians of God most often gather to bury, rather than praise, their Creator; Karen Armstrong, Pascal Boyer, and Daniel Dennett being recent examples. Robert Wright offers an interesting break in the pattern with The Evolution of God. Wright, in his own way, is solidly in the materialist camp. In an earlier book he told how, like E.O. Wilson, he abandoned his Southern Baptist roots when he discovered evolution and recognized its power to tell the story of life… Continue Reading »

Flannery Without the Faith

At best, Brad Gooch’s Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor delivers a mixed cargo of goods. Gooch’s portrait of this major American writer, with its entertaining wealth of “Flannery” anecdotes from people who knew her in various capacities”family, neighbors, literary associates, spiritual advisors, admirers”depicts the kind of character for whom the phrase “an interesting person in her own right” was coined. And yet it’s a fragmented portrait, with a sour aftertaste… Continue Reading »

Benedict XVI, Economist

Benedict XVI recently issued his third and greatly anticipated encyclical Caritas in Veritate and it was immediately parsed by political analysts and operatives for partisan evidence of their Catholic bona fides. Liberals were generally pleased that the pope criticized the excesses of capitalism and globalization, extolled the virtues or property redistribution, and defended the claims of labor unions. Even better, they were dizzy with enthusiasm regarding his call for the creation of a “true world political authority” to protect the disenfranchised from systemic poverty… Continue Reading »

This essay is the sixth entry in a week-long symposium on the popes recent encyclical.

Is Benedict in Favor of World Government?

This essay is the fifth entry in a week-long symposium on the pope’s recent encyclical.

As observers continue to decipher the meaning of Benedict XVI’s latest encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, all appear to agree that the passage of note, the passage that may prove historic in its implications, is the one that is already becoming known as the “world political authority” paragraph … Continue Reading »

A Return to Augustinian Economics

This is the fourth essay in a week-long symposium on the pope’s recent encyclical. Despite belonging to an organization that recently celebrated its founder’s two thousandth birthday, some American Catholics exhibit the attention span of fruit flies when their faith impinges on their politics. Recent responses to Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Vertitate (“Charity in Truth”) closely parallel those that greeted the last economic encyclicals: John Paul II’s Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (“The Church’s Social Concern”) and Centesimus Annus (“On the Hundredth Anniversary” of Leo XIII’ Rerum Novarum)… Continue Reading »

Confirmed in Centesimus Annus; Perplexed by Caritas in Veritate

This is the third essay in a week-long symposium on the pope’s recent encyclical. Evangelical Catholics, supporters of the constructive working of the marketplace that we are, took well to the teaching of Centesimus Annus for it provided a vision of how to see both the accomplishments of free markets in the growth of all economies-and, most specially”the rise of millions of individuals from abject poverty in a short span of years. It was stronger than this, for it suggested a religious understanding of how the market has worked, how it has failed, and how it needed correction… Continue Reading »