First Things RSS Feed - Charlotte Allen
en-usCopyright 2016 First Things. All Rights Reserved.firstname.lastname@example.org (The Editors)email@example.com (The Editors)Wed, 26 Oct 2016 11:20:20 -0400https://d25wp47b6tla3u.cloudfront.net/img/favicon-196.pngFirst Things RSS Feed Image
60Echoes of Phyllis Schlaflyhttps://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2016/09/echoes-of-phyllis-schlafly
Wed, 07 Sep 2016 12:40:00 -0400When Phyllis Schlafly died on September 5 at age 92 at her home in a St. Louis suburb, she left behind two monumental achievements. She had, if not single-handedly, at least pivotally, unleashed a grassroots conservative rebellion against a timid Republican establishment that ultimately led to the election of Ronald Reagan as president in 1980. Her best-selling 1964 book,
A Choice, Not an Echo
, pushing the presidential candidacy of Barry Goldwater, resulted in the debacle of Goldwater’s landslide loss, but the long-term result was the mobilization of large numbers of people, mostly in the Midwest and South and many of them women, who were appalled at the moral havoc that the 1960s had wrought and also, as time passed, at what they perceived as America’s growing defense weakness under Jimmy Carter.
Thu, 02 Jun 2016 00:00:00 -0400On January 20, a federal appeals court heard arguments in the highly publicized case of Kimberly Jean “Kim” Davis, county clerk of Rowan County (population 23,000) in mountainous northeastern Kentucky. There were many legal issues at stake—discrimination, sexual equality, religious liberty—but the whole affair had another component, rarely noted in popular accounts: Society’s winners, those who believe themselves on the right side of progress and have the success to prove it, think little of humiliating and attempting to ruin those who are less fortunate and cling to old beliefs.
]]>The True History of Women Deaconshttps://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2016/05/the-true-history-of-women-deacons
Fri, 20 May 2016 00:00:00 -0400When Pope Francis announced his willingness to appoint a commission to study whether women can serve as deacons in the Catholic Church, my first thought was: Here we go!
]]>Allen: Plan B Betrayalhttps://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2006/08/allen-plan-b-betrayal
Mon, 28 Aug 2006 00:00:00 -0400It’s hard to know what to make of the Food and Drug Administration’s sudden decision to let Plan B¯the “emergency contraceptive” pill¯be sold over the counter in pharmacies. Well, actually, it’s not hard to know what to make of it: It was a compromise struck by the Bush White House with liberal Democratic senators that enabled George W. Bush’s pick, Andrew von Eschenbach, to be confirmed as FDA chief. The FDA’s first high-profile official act? You already know. Memo from Andy to Hillary: Thanks!
This cynical bit of deal-striking was a slap in the face, not only to the pro-life pharmacists who have bravely risked their jobs in refusing to dispense Plan B on doctors’ prescriptions (they consider it an abortifacient, which it is), but to the pro-life movement in general. Some thanks pro-lifers get for their staunch support of Bush and his Republican party as an alternative to that wholly owned subsidiary of NARAL, the Democratic party. The Catholic gossip-blogger
Rocco Palmo summed it up best
]]>Fr. Fred Dailey and homosexualityhttps://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2006/08/fr-fred-dailey-and-homosexuali
Fri, 18 Aug 2006 00:00:00 -0400 Catholic blogger Gerald Augustinus of
this ABC story
about Fred Dailey, 59, a Catholic priest in Utica, New York, who had been scheduled to head a Catholic Relief Services mission in Lesotho:
]]>Charlotte Allen on Commonwealhttps://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2006/08/charlotte-allen-on-commonweal
Fri, 11 Aug 2006 00:00:00 -0400I like
Catholics, even though I don’t always agree with them. They’re smart, they’re often very funny, and several have been very good friends to me. At the top of my list is Luke Timothy Johnson. He’s liberal enough in the
fashion: a laicized priest now married (fine by me) who believes in women’s ordination and some sort of Church recognition of gay unions (not so fine by me)¯but he’s also the best and most readable New Testament scholar in America, combining vast learning with fervent Christological orthodoxy and an eye for the faddish and ridiculous in his field. His
The Real Jesus
should be required reading for anyone who thinks that “The Gospel of Judas” belongs up there with the Big Four, or that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a thing going that the Church covered up for two thousand years.
But there are other interesting
Catholics. Grant Gallicho and Peter Nixon are terrific writers and patient people: I recently edited their lively debate on the future of liberal Catholicism for Beliefnet without a hitch. I worked for John T. Noonan for a year, and we got on like gangbusters. Paul Baumann’s a great guy, although we haven’t communicated a whole lot since I wrote a not entirely kind review of Peter Steinfels’ last book for the
Wall Street Journal
—just as I was trying to persuade Paul to publish another of my book reviews in
(bad timing—that was the end of that!). And Peter and Peggy Steinfels . . . sigh. They can be exasperating, but they do hold the line on abortion.
So why, if I’m charmed by
Catholics, why do I find
the magazine, well, mostly a snooze? Let’s pay a visit to its website to see why. “Commonweal: A Review of Religion, Politics and Culture,” it says. No mention of the word
, although everyone knows that
is a Catholic magazine.
The lead story in this biweekly issue: ”
Unions and Immigrants: No Longer Enemies
” by Clayton Sinyai. Zzzzzz—do I really want to read an article about labor groups and undocumented aliens in the construction trades singing, “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” OK, click. Sinyai turns out to be an official in the Laborers Union trying to organize them—so it is understandable that he doesn’t wish to tackle such thorny questions as, How can the rights of American workers, all granted under American labor law, apply to people who not only aren’t Americans but shouldn’t even be here? The word
does not appear at all in Sinyai’s article, although nearly 100 percent of Hispanic immigrants are Catholics.
Click again: Margaret O’Brien Steinfels writing ”
Can We Say No to a Friend?
” The “we” is America, and the “friend” is Israel. Steinfels is none too friendly to our “friend.” Hamas bombings in Gaza seem to be all Israel’s fault, and Israel also keeps resorting “to brute military force” in Lebanon. I’d like to know what else besides “brute military force” would work to get Hezbollah off Israel’s northern border. Again, the word
does not appear in the piece, even though it’s our Holy Land.
It’s all like that. Richard Alleva’s
fine movie reviews
do not bring a particularly Catholic perspective to bear. Not a single one of the five books under review deals with Christianity. Indeed, only three articles in the entire issue involve Catholic or Christian themes:
a column by Eastern Orthodox priest John Garvey
on suffering and death, an editorial wondering when the Democrats will start taking Catholics’ religious and moral concerns seriously, and
a piece by Notre Dame professor Cathleen Kaveny
confidently predicting that the Catholic Church will eventually change some of its doctrines (a very ”
Catholic” view!). But the main interests of
‘s contributors are resolutely secular: contemporary art and Bush’s war against terrorism.
None of this fare is badly written, but if I want to read a critique of Israel, or an account of a labor organizer’s hopes and dreams, or yet another Bush-bash, or a review of
A Prairie Home Companion
, there are numerous secular magazines and newspapers to which I can turn—indeed
of the secular magazines and newspapers out there, most of which offer livelier graphics (and sometimes snappier prose) than
. What is all this material doing in a Catholic magazine in the absence of any links to Catholic teaching or Catholic culture or a Catholic ethos?
The Catholic media are in generally sorry shape these days, and even the literate Catholics don’t buy Catholic books or subscribe to Catholic periodicals.
Catholics, who are supposed to be hip and sophisticated, complain that that’s because most of the Catholic media’s offerings aren’t sufficiently challenging. So why doesn’t
, their flagship magazine, rise to the occasion instead of tagging along behind the secular media and serving up warmed-over versions of the secular media’s views?
]]>CA: Episcopal disintegrationhttps://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2006/08/ca-episcopal-disintegration
Fri, 04 Aug 2006 00:00:00 -0400 Back in early July, right after the Episcopal Church USA finished its general convention, declining to “repent”—as requested by the Archbishop of Canterbury—of its confirmation of the openly gay, openly cohabitating V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire, I wrote
an op-ed piece for the Los Angeles Times
. The gist of my article was that the Episcopalians’ capitulation to secular liberal culture hadn’t simply catapulted their church into severe demographic decline”—a drop of nearly one million members since 1965, and a median number of eighty worshippers per church on any given Sunday—but its literal disintegration.
]]>The Great Woman Theory of Historyhttps://www.firstthings.com/article/2005/11/the-great-woman-theory-of-history
Tue, 01 Nov 2005 00:00:00 -0500Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism: A Woman’s Crusade
by Donald T. Critchlow
Princeton University Press, 438 pages, $29.95
]]>The Patriarchal Bargainhttps://www.firstthings.com/article/2005/03/the-patriarchal-bargain
Tue, 01 Mar 2005 00:00:00 -0500 Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands
by W. Bradford Wilcox
University of Chicago Press, 328 pp. $20 paper
Sat, 01 Jun 2002 00:00:00 -0400 Nicholas Orme, a professor of history at Exeter University in Great Britain, has published more than a dozen books about ordinary life in the Middle Ages. His latest one,
, is a delightfully encyclopedic survey of everything imaginable concerning young people from birth to adolescence during a time span extending from the Anglo“Saxon era until the sixteenth century: toys, games, church“going, family life, education, jobs, even fickle teenage crushes.
Orme, however, has more in mind than simply using the rich collection of sources he has amassed to tell readers everything they would like to know about medieval childhood. His book is a deliberate counterattack against a notion that still has quite a bit of popular currency: that the whole concept of childhood as a distinct phase of human life is a social construction, an invention of bourgeois modernity whose origins go back no further than the seventeenth century. The instigator of this theory was the French historian Philippe Ariès, who contended in a widely read book, translated into English as
Centuries of Childhood
(1962), that medieval people regarded youngsters as inadequate adults, too small to work productively, and that most parents, perhaps because of the high rate of infant and childhood mortality during the Middle Ages, declined to form strong affective bonds with their offspring. Moreover, we were told that those offspring married in their teens and spent only short portions of their lives with their mothers and fathers.
Following in Ariès footsteps, the Princeton University historian Lawrence Stone argued in his
The Family, Sex, and Marriage in England 1500“1800
(1977) that the premodern family was a large, porous, multigenerational unit that accommodated a constantly shifting membership of husbands, wives, in“laws, shirttail kin, and assorted offspring whose ties to others in the household were largely loose and opportunistic.
This sort of message resonated across the ideological spectrum. It was naturally appealing to Marxists inclined to view the nuclear family as an oppressive creation of modern capitalism, and also to Freudians inclined to view the nuclear family as a wellspring of Oedipal tension and all“around neurosis. Radical feminists who believed that women could and should raise their children unencumbered by such patriarchal impediments as husbands bought into the Ariès“Stone interpretation of family history, as did advocates of easy divorce, who maintained that there was nothing particularly natural about the two“parent household and that children were tough enough to take the household disruptions to which their fulfillment“seeking parents might subject them. Many secular social conservatives also enthusiastically adopted the Ariès paradigm. For Protestant apologists, it represented yet another opportunity to bash the Catholic Middle Ages as morally lax and to demonstrate that Martin Luthers domestic church marked the first time Western European fathers took an interest in their childrens Christian upbringing. And for those who regarded the rise of capitalism as a good thing, what could be better than its fostering of the middle“class Victorian household that sentimentalized children and devoted substantial and emotional resources to their rearing and education? To this day, it is not unusual to hear highly educated people remark offhand that there was no such thing as childhood in the Middle Ages.
Ormes book joins a large number of more recent studies suggesting that the Ariès paradigm has little to do with medieval reality. The most stunning riposte was
The Ties That Bound
(1982) by Barbara Hanawalt, then a historian at the University of Minnesota. Hanawalt, unlike Ariès, actually looked at medieval documents, specifically the coroners rolls and other court records of the peasantry of fourteenth“ and fifteenth“century England that tell as much about how people lived as how they died. She concluded that although medievals did not sentimentalize childhood to the extent that Victorians did, they were deeply attached to their children and saw them as different from adults, with their own distinct childrens culture.
In fact”surprise, surprise”children of the Middle Ages by and large lived with both their parents in nuclear, not extended, families, with perhaps one or two siblings at most. Rather than marrying in adolescence, they tended to delay wedlock until they were in their twenties just like most of todays young people, and when they did marry”again, just like most of todays young people”they were not keen on having their in“laws and other relatives underfoot, preferring to form their own households in which their children were the chief objects of parental attention and gifts of property. Hanawalts book and several others that followed it suggested that childhood (not to mention the nuclear family) might be a natural human phenomenon after all.
Orme, who also focuses primarily on England, is very much of the Hanawalt school, which includes such other prominent medievalists as Shulamith Shahar, Pierre Riché, Danièle Alexandre“Bidon, Sally Crawford, and Ronald Finucane, along with the folklorists of childrens culture Iona and Peter Opie. Ormes aim is to demonstrate that the line between modernity and premodernity is not a bright one when talking about family life.
As he points out, the very vocabulary that medievals used in reference to the young indicated that they were capable of distinguishing, via separate words, not only when childhood began and ended, but several stages of childhood, between infants and little boys and girls as well as between adolescents and full“grown adults. He shows that medieval parents looked forward to the births of their offspring, marking childbearing, baptism, and the churching of the mother with elaborate and festive rituals. They had a notion of the family as an ideal institution, frequently making images, especially on the tombstones of the fourteenth century, of husband and wife surrounded by their loving children. One fourteenth“century writer, Geoffrey de la Tour Landry, declared that parents should pray for their children every day. Adults delighted in the baby talk of their infants, imitating their sounds”ba“bay and da! da!”in songs about Jesus nursing in his mothers arms or jokes about how to address Daddy.
contains one hundred twenty“five illustrations, most in color, most taken from manuscripts. Many represent adults loving views of children just having fun: boys spinning tops, or egging on a cockfight, girls taking in a puppet show, adolescents wrestling, a toddler manipulating a surprisingly modern“looking walker. Adults made ingenious toys for youngsters: hobbyhorses, toy knights, dolls, dollhouse“size plates and candlesticks, marbles, balls, board games, puppets, chessmen and dice, pint“sized lances and bows and arrows. A 1559 painting by Pieter Bruegel that adorns the cover of Ormes book depicts seventy“five different childrens games, including hoop“rolling, swimming, wrestling, and handstands. People of the time made rhymes and games and songs that were passed down orally for centuries to our own time. There was even a medieval version of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John / Bless the bed that I lie on.
The pleasure that medieval adults took in children, whether in making objects with which to amuse them or in recording their play in manuscript illustration, is palpable in Ormes book. They venerated child“saints, and in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries there were cults of supposed victims of ritual murder by the Jews, a routine (if grotesque) medieval allegation. They watched their children astutely enough to realize that the onset of puberty in girls comes at a much earlier age than for boys.
Medieval adults also took seriously their responsibility to educate the young. Many children picked up their ABCs and simple prayers written on hornbooks and in primers from their parents, probably their mothers in many cases, as female literacy during the Middle Ages was far more widespread than is commonly thought. (The ubiquitous medieval image of St. Anne giving a reading lesson to her daughter, the Virgin Mary, seems to assume that it was not unusual for a woman to be literate.) Orme suggests that some medieval literature”animal stories, fables, Arthurian romances, rhymes and songs that dealt with children”might have been specifically written for young audiences. Teenage girls especially seemed to enjoy love stories. Later, schoolmasters entertained their charges with off“color and scatological rhymes to translate into Latin; He lay with a harlot all night is a sample of one those exercises.
Life was certainly not as comfortable for medieval children as it is for todays, as Orme points out. The poorer ones had to go to work as servants at puberty or before; they typically spent their entire teenage years or more in service. The killer epidemics of the Middle Ages, especially the Black Death of 1348“1349, hit young people hard. Children born with deformities could be barred from the priesthood or even marriage”although they were often the objects of compassion as well. Orme describes two fourteenth“century Siamese twins born in Yorkshire who managed to live to about age eighteen, undoubtedly thanks to the care and sympathy of others.
Orme has written a rich, satisfying, and highly readable compendium of just about every practice and custom pertaining to children in the Middle Ages. But he has done something more: he has made it clear that they were indeed children, in the eyes of society and in their own eyes, and that medieval adults left them free to enjoy the pastimes, rhyming games, jokes, and rough sports that seem to have distinguished all the worlds children since time immemorial. As Orme writes: Medieval children shared many of the thoughts and interests of children today. They responded to wordplay, both in speech and in writing. They liked animals and imagined them as people. They had an interest in magic and the supernatural. They mocked one another, and derided unpopular occupations and races. They savored scatological and sexual matters. In other words, medieval children were kids, kids we ourselves would recognize on a playground or in a schoolroom today. Of course thats because childhood is a natural phase of life, not a social construction, as ahistorical theorists would have us believe.
Charlotte Allen is the author of
The Human Christ: The Search for the Historical Jesus