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Something is wrong. Throughout the West, people are angry, anxious, and discontented. Paradoxically, the ill temper arises amid wealth unimaginable to our recent ancestors. (But perhaps this is not a paradox after all. Recall 1 Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is the root of all evil.”) Shouldn’t we be at ease, sated or at least palliated by material and technical advances that have taken so much suffering out of life?

In Everyday Freedom: Designing the Framework for a Flourishing Society, Philip Howard ventures to diagnose the cause of the puzzling distempers of our time. Our malaise proceeds from the fact that the most advanced societies of the West have deprived human beings of agency. We live, often well, but we are not in charge of our circumstances. We can’t act in accord with our own judgments. Although we’re afforded many rights, we’re not permitted to roll up our sleeves and get things done.

A lawyer and noted advocate of regulatory and government reform, Howard has written extensively about the suffocating grip of rules, procedures, and “best practices.” His 2014 book, The Rule of Nobody: Saving America from Dead Laws and Broken Government, documents the evolution of today’s technocratic regime. Well-meaning people fight corruption, waste, and fraud. Good! The problem is this: To prevent bad things from happening, we’ve adopted elaborate systems to check abuses, and these systems, replete with detailed regulations and bureaucrats to enforce them, have the unintended effect of preventing good things from happening.

Howard is alive to the ways in which tort liability and regulatory restrictions pinion private initiative. Imagine that a hurricane topples trees and blocks roadways. Common sense urges local residents to fire up their chainsaws and clear the obstructions. But they hesitate. Someone down the street notes that a local ordinance requires permits for tree trimming. Another person reminds the gathered men that occupational safety regulations dictate the use of helmets. Are there enough safety vests to go around? A lawyer chimes in, warning that any mishap might trigger civil liability. Instead of getting on with what needs to be done, local residents look nervously out their windows, waiting for “the professionals” to come and do the job.

This scenario is repeated countless times, often in circumstances in which explicit regulations are not at issue. In my childhood, adults would not hesitate to chastise neighborhood children when they misbehaved. Now, few intervene. They worry that they’ll be shamed as “judgmental” or derided as busybodies. Our therapeutic culture has become all-powerful, turning “no” into a hurtful word. And if the children are black or fall under another category protected in civil rights law, adults are doubly cautious, eager to avoid even the appearance of failing to respect diversity or violating the imperative of inclusion.

Taken individually, each rule, regulation, legal stricture, and cultural expectation is well intentioned. Construction helmets reduce head injuries. Legal liabilities encourage care and caution. It’s a virtue to respect cultural differences. But Howard’s argument is that, in aggregate, these constraints too often deter us from taking individual responsibility and getting on with what needs to be done. Inefficiencies pile up. A mess cleaned up spontaneously by confident citizens; a troublesome student dealt with according to the judgment of a seasoned school principal; infrastructure projects run by hurry-up bosses such as Robert Moses: These and other independent actions are replaced by clunky and often unresponsive procedures and bureaucracies.

As Bad as the inefficiencies are, the moral and cultural consequences are worse. Howard is right about human beings. We are spirited creatures. We take great satisfaction in solving problems and overcoming obstacles. People are proud of their ability to make a difference. When a group of strangers succeeds in freeing a car stuck in the snow, they high-five over their success. These moments, often trivial in the grand scheme of things, are deeply consequential for our sense of ourselves as purposeful agents capable of making a difference. This is what Howard means by “everyday freedom.”

Matthew Crawford has plowed this furrow with great insight. He’s alert to the imperium of experts that usurps individual judgment and initiative. In his account, “the scope for meaningful action by citizens has become so constricted that people don’t enjoy real ownership of their world, whether on the level of individual agency or of collective sovereignty.” His concerns echo those of Philip Howard. Crawford: “Initiative and discretion have been . . . crowded out by bureaucracy and expertise, wielded remotely.”

A culture of safetyism can quickly shut down initiative. A generation ago, parents readily volunteered to chaperone middle-school kids on their field trips. Today, they are deterred by required training and protocols to prevent the possibility of sexual abuse. Again, the intention is good. But costs can outweigh benefits. A zero-tolerance mentality introduces friction into what were once organic, well-functioning moments of collective action by ordinary people.

Moreover, as Howard observes, the zeal to drive out every possibility of bad things happening nurtures a “culture of distrust.” When we’re fixated on what can go wrong, we begin to view our neighbors as potential sources of harm rather than partners in common projects. The same holds in the realm of civil rights and anti-discrimination. These laws and expectations cast relationships between employers and employees, teachers and students, even neighbors and customers, as presumptively suspect. As a result, people tread carefully and minimize close interactions and cooperation with strangers, contact that can be difficult, awkward, and fraught, given our fallen state.

Howard urges us to turn away from rules and procedures. We need responsible people to occupy positions of authority, people we can trust to make good decisions, not always, but often enough to make the mistakes and misjudgments tolerable. Effecting this change will require more than a relaxation of legal regulations that over-police decisions, although that’s certainly important. Howard urges that we need to pivot away from efforts to eliminate risk and toward a culture that tolerates imperfection. When we try to drive out the possibility of making mistakes or doing something wrong, we squelch freedom. We’re human beings, not machines, which means that we’re finite, imperfect, and prone to sin. A culture of freedom champions virtue and holds accountable those in positions of authority. But it’s not utopian. Everyday freedom will never be perfect, and trying to make it so has brought us only mistrust, disquiet, and pessimism.


Is everything Ockham’s fault? In the introduction to his postwar cri de cœur, Ideas Have Consequences, Richard Weaver seems to say as much. He traces today’s nihilistic denial of universals back to William of Ockham, “who propounded the fateful doctrine of nominalism.” But we need to be cautious in how we read Weaver. I don’t think he intended to formulate a perverse negative Hegelianism, a view that treats history as the fateful outworking of bad philosophies. His brief sketch of the history of ideas at the outset of Ideas Have Consequences is meant to develop a concept for readers to use, rather than to provide a historical explanation. His claim, developed across the pages of the book, is that our present outlook, the “metaphysical dream” of our time, is functionally nominalist.

Crudely put, nominalism holds that universal truths do not exist. They are conventions—names we coin, mental constructs, as it were. Weaver is certainly correct about our dominant metaphysical dream. When someone speaks of the “social construction of reality,” he is advancing a nominalist view. This way of talking is not restricted to the professoriate. Our society is functionally nominalist. Sure, some of us wince when people say that sex (a term that decades ago was replaced by “gender”) is “socially constructed,” and that therefore “men can give birth.” But even those who object rarely have an articulate basis for dissent. That’s because much of modern culture presumes the denial of universals. They are seen as dangerous threats to freedom and progress.

As I recently noted in these pages (“Idealistic Nihilism,” February 2024), Richard Rorty nicely illustrates the political reasons for today’s denial of universals. He claimed that old concepts such as essence, substance, and accident had been replaced by the modern scientific account that has no room for such notions. We may fix names such as “human being” to the ever-changing trajectory of DNA or speak of “natural right.” But these ascriptions are “nominal,” arbitrary conventions of language meant to pick out this or that moment in the continual flux of things. Rorty’s view does not teach that nothing exists. Rather, it holds that nothing is permanent; nothing anchors reality and provides constant, unchanging truths to which we must conform if we are to be wise and happy.

Rorty welcomed nihilism. (To my mind, this term is more apt than “nominalism,” which in Ockham’s formulation is most decidedly not nihilistic, since it was conceived to accentuate God’s omnipotence and sovereignty—for Ockham and his Franciscan followers, obviously something quite real.) Rorty celebrated the condition in which we are unburdened of truth, free to seek whatever future we want. Everything can be made and remade. Again, transgender ideology epitomizes this promise.

The gravamen of Ideas Have Consequences is that nihilism’s promise of empowerment is a false one. Yes, nihilism frees us from universal truths. But thus liberated, we are without resources either to think or to act with purpose and conviction. Freed from the obligation to act for the sake of truth, we have no resources by which to resist advertising, social pressure, ideology, and other homogenizing and dehumanizing forces of modernity. Put simply, without a metaphysical dream of universals, we are naked before the world. Thus unmanned, like nature herself in our technological mania for mastery, we are vulnerable to power’s designs; we become socially constructed. What are the countless embryos in storage at IVF clinics if not socially constructed, treated as mere things available for use by the powerful?

Weaver writes, “Man is constantly being assured today that he has more power than ever before in history, but his daily experience is one of powerlessness.” Substitute “freedom” for “power” and the insight becomes poignant. We live in a society that promises liberation yet delivers many iron cages of bondage. Philip Howard and Matthew Crawford limn a contemporary form of the bondage, our encasement in a legal and cultural regime that does not trust us to act wisely and responsibly. Let the experts decide!

Having graduated from college forty years ago, I can report that today’s students receive far more assurances than I did that they have freedom, more freedom than ever before in history. They are told that they are not to be bound by archaic notions such as patriotic duty, and certainly not by anything as untenable as divine commandments. They’re free to have sex with boys or girls, or perhaps both at the same time. They’re free to choose their pronouns! These freedoms and others are not just offered. They are guaranteed, even to the point of punishment for those who create a “hostile environment” by dissenting.

Yet in 2024 these same young people are more anxious and constrained than were my classmates many decades ago. To a degree unimaginable to my younger self, those coming of age today are career-fixated, status-fixated, and appearance-fixated—all conditions of bondage to society’s rules. And when not conformists in this respect, they are moral conformists, caught up in various moral panics, from “white privilege” to “climate catastrophe.” When so many Ivy League undergraduates are on medication to address psychological disorders and distress, one can hardly speak of our time as one of great and expansive freedom.

Are Ockham and nominalism the root of all evil? I am hostile to the Lord of the Explanations, the one explanation to rule them all. Human freedom plays a role. We are not passive victims of bad ideas; by and large, we embrace and endorse them. I think Weaver would agree. As he observes throughout Ideas, a denial of universals reduces us to the unhappy condition of endless public contest for power. That denial does not liberate us. It enslaves us to the fickle flux of our desires. Weaver worried that this reduction to savagery and instinct foretold the end of Western civilization. He was right to worry.

War in Ukraine

Count me among those who harbor growing concerns about the ongoing war in Ukraine. Don’t get me wrong. The Russian invasion clearly constitutes unjust aggression, and as an action of self-defense, Ukrainian resistance enjoys the greatest possible legitimacy. But a just cause does not exhaust the moral calculus of war. As I observed last year (“Peace in Ukraine,” April 2023), political leaders must weigh the probability of success. It’s wrong to throw men into the maw of battle when the odds are strongly against any kind of victory. Futile sacrifice may seem a heroic gesture, a way to win the honor of one’s nation. But it is a mentality rejected by the Christian just war tradition.

A wiser and more knowledgeable friend recently drew my attention to the peace proposals put forward by Pope Benedict XV during World War I. His calls for peace in the war’s first year were ignored. Those leading the entrenched armies were confident of decisive victory. In August 1917, after three years of slaughter in the trenches, the pontiff formulated a seven-point plan for peace. Vatican diplomats knew that French, German, and British leaders were interested in finding a way out of the man-killing stalemate on the Western Front. Austro-Hungarian Emperor Karl endorsed the plan. German and British governments briefly entertained the possibility of a negotiated peace, but their generals argued against it. France and Italy rejected the peace plan out of hand. The war continued for another fifteen months.

There were many heroic deeds performed by brave men in the trenches of northern France. Some of the warring nations could make legitimate claims to be prosecuting the war for the sake of a just cause. Yet the historical consensus holds that the four million men who died on the Western Front did so to no good end. For four years, armies were locked in a war of attrition that neither side could win. Even after the Doughboys arrived and tipped the balance in 1918, the final territorial and political outcome was, if anything, worse than what would have obtained had the Great Powers adopted Pope Benedict’s peace plan in 1917.

In the Great War’s immediate aftermath, the peoples of Europe were not unaware of its moral reality. They were patriots, to be sure, but they sensed that millions had died for causes that could not be won. They suspected that their political leaders, captive to their own war-making propaganda, had not weighed the probability of success; they had not acted in a morally responsible fashion when the lives of fathers, sons, and brothers were at stake.

It was the awareness of pointless death on an unheard-of scale and suspicion of irresponsible leadership at the highest levels that led to the moral collapse of Europe. Had the Great Powers agreed to an armistice and peace process in 1915, as Pope Benedict urged, the Russian Revolution would not have occurred. Germany would not have been catapulted into the failed experiment in democracy that ended with Hitler’s rise to power. Mussolini would not have emerged in Italy. French and British societies would not have suffered crises of legitimacy. Even in 1917 the possibility of salvaging the old order remained. But the dogs of war barked fiercely. Causes were deemed sacred, concessions traitorous. During the final months of 1918, as the Allies pressed for victory, casualties on both sides exceeded 1.4 million. Looking back on the futile carnage of World War I, one cannot but conclude that the pope was wise and the political leaders were fools.

The situation in Ukraine is different, but not entirely so. Many military analysts have noted conditions similar to World War I: static fronts, trenches and minefields, endless artillery bombardments, man-eating defensive positions. There’s a political similarity as well. Ukrainian war aims, supported by NATO, seem disconnected from reality. Russia won’t be expelled from the eastern oblasts of Ukraine. Moreover, events on the battlefield in 2023 and early 2024 suggest that Putin will succeed in his war aim of preventing Ukraine from becoming a functional participant in an American-led military alliance.

Men can be thrown into battle and suffer defeat without rancor and resentment. Napoleon’s ability to command the loyalty of men was not diminished by his disastrous retreat from Moscow. But feckless, incompetent, indifferent, and irresponsible leadership is a powerful acid that erodes a social organism. Thus my concern. The fruitless expenditure of human life in pursuit of unwinnable causes is among the most egregious failures of leadership. Is America courting that danger? Does our ardent support of Ukraine and our refusal to entertain diplomatic openings with Moscow amount to the irresponsible use of Ukrainian men as cannon fodder in pursuit of unattainable goals? If the answer is “yes” (and I worry that it is), then it will become increasingly difficult for the United States to exercise global leadership.


On February 15, a large crowd gathered for the funeral of Cecilia Gentili, a former male prostitute who had refashioned himself as a woman and transgender activist. The ceremony took place in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. More spectacle than funeral, it was not a somber event. One eulogy pronounced the deceased “Saint Cecilia, the mother of all whores,” evoking cheers and rapturous applause. The atmosphere was that of a triumphant rally celebrating a progressive victory.

Gentili was known to declare: “I don’t believe in God, but God wanted me to be always, always, the star of the show.” No doubt he would have approved of the raucous event, which used the sacred setting of St. Patrick’s to put a stick in the eye of any who object to the LGBTQ agenda of limitless liberation.

One wonders why the clerical authorities in New York accommodated what amounted to a deliberate mockery of the Church’s teaching. Beforehand, the ever-predictable Fr. James Martin pronounced the ceremony “wonderful.” Out of town and unable to attend, he told a reporter, “To celebrate the funeral Mass of a transgender woman at St. Patrick’s is a powerful reminder, during Lent, that L.G.B.T.Q. people are as much a part of the church as anyone else.” Ah, playing the “radical inclusion” card. One wonders what Fr. Martin’s views (which he half-retracted the next day) would have been if the funeral had been for a noted white supremacist during which the crowd celebrated with loud, shameless cheering of his views.

No doubt the Archdiocese of New York was caught off guard. The funeral’s organizer reported that Gentili’s family kept the activist’s gender-bending, role-playing identity “under wraps.” The priest conducting the funeral cut it short. After the spectacle, the Archdiocese of New York put out a press release saying that the authorities had “no idea our welcome and prayer would be degraded in such a sacrilegious and deceptive way.” I’m sure that’s true. Nonetheless, I have the impression that a funeral at St. Patrick’s is not like making a reservation at the local Olive Garden. It takes pull, which suggests that the lavender mafia in the central bureaucracy that administers the Archdiocese of New York knew exactly who Cecilia Gentili was, were complicit with the family’s subterfuge, and ensured that the funeral got scheduled.

Gentili’s family defended the event, saying that it “brought precious life and radical joy to the cathedral in historic defiance of the church’s hypocrisy and anti-trans hatred.” Against the notion that there was prevarication, they announced, “The only deception present at St. Patrick’s Cathedral is that it claims to be a welcoming place for all.” The family’s bravado clarifies nicely the intent of the entire affair. New York Times writer Liam Stack gets it exactly right: The funeral was “an exuberant piece of political theater.”

Our own Carl Trueman provides the best analysis of the cultural and spiritual meaning of the sacrilege staged in St. Patrick’s Cathedral (“Desecration at St. Patrick’s Cathedral”):

One obvious question is why an atheist man convinced that he is a woman and committed to a life of prostitution would wish to have a funeral in a church. One answer is that the struggle for the heart of a culture always takes place in two areas: time and space. As the Christian transformation of the Roman Empire was marked by the emergence of the liturgical calendar and the turning of pagan temples into churches, so we can expect the reverse to take place when a culture paganizes. The pagans will respond in kind. And so we have a month dedicated to Pride and church buildings used for the mockery of Christianity. Time and space are reimagined in ways that directly confront and annihilate that once deemed sacred. A funeral in a Catholic cathedral for an atheist culture warrior is a first-class way of doing this.
This goes to a point I have made before: Our age is not marked so much by disenchantment as by desecration. The culture’s officer class is committed not merely to marginalizing that which previous generations considered sacred. It is committed to its destruction. Disenchantment has passive connotations, a dull, impersonal, somewhat tedious but inevitable process. But desecration speaks to the exultation that active destruction of the holy involves. When Gentili is celebrated as a “great whore” in Spanish by trans rights advocate Liaam Winslet in a eulogy greeted with wild applause, then “desecration” seems the only word that captures both the blasphemy and the exhilaration of the moment.

We are foolish to downplay the spiritual exhilaration of breaking taboos and tearing down structures of authority. Do not underestimate the dark appeal of spiritual demolition. After all, angels founded hell.


♦ Writing about Richard Weaver this month brought me back to his delightful autobiographical essay, “Up From Liberalism.” He details his “conversion to the poetic and ethical vision of life” in a memorable paragraph:

I recall very sharply how, in the Autumn of 1939, as I was driving one afternoon across the monotonous prairies of Texas to begin my third year [of teaching at Texas A&M], it came to me like a revelation that I did not have to go back to this job, which had become distasteful, and that I did not have to go on professing the clichés of liberalism, which were becoming meaningless to me. I saw that my opinions had been formed out of a timorous regard for what was supposed to be intellectually respectable, and that I had always been looking over my shoulder to find out what certain others, whose concern with truth I was beginning to believe to be not very intense, were doing or thinking. It is a great experience to wake up at a critical juncture to the fact that one does have a free will, and that giving up the worship of false idols is a quite practicable proceeding.

To which I will add an important nugget of Weaver’s moral wisdom: “It is good for everyone to ally himself at one time with the defeated and to look at the ‘progress’ of history through the eyes of those who were left behind.” To do so brings a richer, more complete sense of the fullness of the human condition because “lost causes and impossible loyalties” are gateways to freedom. They allow us to wriggle free from the iron grip of prevailing measures of success and worth, to counter “the pragmatic verdict of the world.”

♦ In Weaver’s spirit, I am presently reading (on the recommendation of Curtis Yarvin, underscored by Matthew Rose) The Eastern Front, the wartime memoirs of Léon Degrelle, a romantic Belgian nationalist who volunteered to fight the Soviets as part of a Walloon detachment of the German Wehrmacht’s Waffen SS. His ambition was to defeat godless communism, redeem Belgium, and purify his soul with suffering and sacrifice. To fight with the Nazis as the highest moral and spiritual calling: It’s hard to imagine a cause more lost and a loyalty more impossible.

♦ Since the beginning of the war in Gaza, the Egyptian government has deployed soldiers and armored vehicles to prevent Palestinian refugees from entering that country. As pressure has grown, Egypt has built a compound with towering concrete walls to contain any spillover of refugees. Their intent is to maintain a sealed border between Gaza and Egypt. Meanwhile, in Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico . . .

♦ Speaking of discordant realities. Progressives call for a ceasefire in Gaza. There have been casualties in the hundred thousands in Ukraine. Not a peep about a ceasefire in that conflict.

♦ Analysis of survey data indicates that progressive “wisdom” about sexual experience and premarital cohabitation as important steps to take before entering into the marriage covenant turns out to be false. As the Institute for Family Studies puts it, “Overall, we found that ‘sexually inexperienced’ individuals, or those who have only had sex with their spouse, are most likely to be flourishing in marriage. These ‘sexually inexperienced’ individuals report the highest levels of relationship satisfaction, relationship stability, sexual satisfaction, and emotional closeness with their spouses.” Conversely, those who have had ten or more sexual partners report significantly lower marital satisfaction, and they suffer higher rates of divorce. For the full report, see “The Myth of Sexual Experience,” composed by the Institute for Family Studies and published by BYU’s Wheatley Institute.

♦ Nondenominational Protestant churches have grown in recent decades. In the early 1970s, less than 3 percent of American adults attended nondenominational churches. Since 2000, the percentage has increased steeply. At this point, 13 percent of American adults describe themselves as nondenominational Christians. Meanwhile, Protestant denominations have lost members. The shift reflects the broader loss of trust in institutions of all sorts, from marriage to the military. People still “do church,” but they conceive of their institutional affiliations in more fluid ways. One sees something similar in Catholicism. Two generations ago, it was taken for granted that you attended the parish in your neighborhood. In recent decades, more and more Catholics have chosen their parishes.

♦ Thomas McKenna reports that euthanasia proponents are preparing to sue St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia (“Pro-Euthanasia Activists to Sue Catholic Hospital in Canada,” National Review, February 3, 2024). The transgression: refusal to provide “assistance in dying,” the Canadian euphemism for the medical killing of patients. From Canadian law professor Daphne Gilbert: “It would be my hope the case would pave the way for ending the ability of religion to dictate health care.” Her ambition is to compel Catholic institutions to adhere to every dictate of the progressive magisterium. “Religious institutions would either have to decide to get out of the business of offering medical care—and it could be taken over by the province—or these institutions would have to align their care with the Constitution, even if it opposes their values.” Diversity, but only among the like-minded. Inclusion, but only of those who are “inclusive.” George Orwell would not be surprised.

♦ Undergraduate enrollment appears to be in the steepest decline on record. Between 2019 and 2022, enrollment fell by 8 percent. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the downward trend is continuing. It can be explained by demographic decline. Colleges are facing a smaller cohort of eighteen-year-olds. But that’s only part of the explanation. The sharp fall also reflects a decline in the number of high school graduates who are deciding to go to college. It’s hard to know how to interpret this trend. Are young people making prudent judgments about the value of higher education? More than 25 percent of students who start college end up dropping out. Others finish their degrees but take jobs that do not require a B.A. For them, college turns out to be an expensive prospect with little financial payoff. Whatever we make of the trend, we can be sure that university administrators are having sleepless nights. Fewer students mean less tuition revenue, a formula for bankruptcy.

♦ The Alabama Supreme Court recently ruled that frozen embryos are human persons subject to the protection of the law. The decision has roiled the assisted fertility industry, which some estimate currently has more than a million embryos in storage. Abortion proponents insist that a fertilized egg, which, if given the opportunity, possesses everything necessary to develop into a newborn child, is not a person. But surely they should worry about the commodification of the human genome. What kind of society develops a reserve supply of embryos—human material available for adults to use as they see fit?

♦ Image is calling it quits. Founded thirty-five years ago by Gregory Wolfe (author of a number of essays in First Things over the years), the journal has sought to nourish our impoverished artistic and literary scene “by demonstrating the vitality of contemporary art and literature invigorated by religious faith.” We appreciate the many years of quiet Christian witness and regret the journal’s passing.

♦ Thirty-plus Harvard students went on a hunger strike to pressure the university to divest from Israel, joining a similar effort by students at Brown. They refused to eat for twelve hours. Not exactly Bobby Sands, an IRA member in a British prison who died after more than sixty days on hunger strike. To go along with their grade inflation, these Ivy Leaguers are subject to protest inflation: Ten minutes of hunger at Harvard and Brown equals an entire day.

♦ I dwelt upon the desecration of St. Patrick’s Cathedral above. The counter-response is consecration. Poetry consecrates language, shaping it to serve the unending human task of speaking truly about the world, our inner lives, and God. I am proud of our long history of publishing poetry. And I’m pleased to announce that we will expand our commitment to serving the Muses. In 2024 First Things will launch an annual poetry prize, endowed through the generosity of the Tim & Judy Rudderow Foundation. We will award $2,000 to the winning poet and $1,000 to the runner-up. Entrants are asked to submit two original poems that are attentive to the demands of form. Poems should not exceed forty lines, and they must be unpublished and not under consideration elsewhere. Submissions will open in May. The winners will be announced in August. We will of course publish the prizewinning poems in our pages.

♦ It’s with a heavy heart that I must report the passing of Fr. Larry Bailey. A Lutheran pastor for many decades, Larry, along with Richard John Neuhaus, was a founder of the Community of Christ in the City, an ecumenical Christian sodality. In 1979 the Community purchased 338 East 19th Street, a modest town house that long ago had been cut up into small apartments. Both RJN and Larry lived for the rest of their lives in the modest abode, along with a steady stream of young people, who in one way or another were seeking a Christian vocation. Larry was famously the cook at the many dinners Richard hosted. After First Things got going, our junior fellows became members of the Community, which fell under Larry’s leadership after RJN’s death in 2009. I enjoyed Larry’s hospitality on many evenings, which often began with the recitation of evening office from the Lutheran Book of Worship and ended with after-dinner drinks. A man of deep faith, Larry touched many lives. I’m grateful to have known him. May he rest in peace.

♦   Paul Wilson heads the Northern Colorado Front Range ROFTers group. They are looking for new members. Contact Paul to join: paulwilson4872[at]

     William Dillingham seeks to form a ROFTers group in North Dakota. Become a founding member by contacting him: roft_greatplains[at]

     C. R. Wiley of Battle Ground, Washington is trying to form a ROFTers group. He can be reached by email: crwiley62[at] 

R. R. Reno is editor of First Things.

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