Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Joshua Skinner is among those researching that troublesome Chesterton quote about those who do not believe in God ending up by believing not in nothing but in anything. He thinks we get pretty close to it in a Father Brown story, “The Miracle of Moon Crescent” in The Incredulity of Father Brown (the passage is found on pages 385-386 of The Penguin Complete Father Brown ). Here is the quote:

"’By the way,’ went on Father Brown, ‘don’t think I blame you for jumping to preternatural conclusions. The reason’s very simple, really. You all swore you were hard-shelled materialists; and as a matter of fact you were all balanced on the very edge of belief¯of belief in almost anything. There are thousands balanced on it today; but it’s a sharp, uncomfortable edge to sit on. You won’t rest till you believe something . . . That’s where you all split; it’s natural to believe in the supernatural. It never feels natural to accept only natural things . . . ’"

With all the attention, and confusion, being heaped on the recent instruction regarding homosexuality and the priesthood, it is refreshing to have a constructive statement on what Christians believe about human sexuality. Here is a perceptive statement recently issued by Bishop Robert Baker of Charleston, South Carolina. He writes:

"The Catholic Church believes in a complementarity of women and men, both physically and spiritually, that is essential to being truly human. We believe that the giving of oneself in nuptial love reflects the inner life of the Trinity. This truly human giving of oneself in intimate sexual union is at once free, total, and permanent, excluding gratification as a mere self-centered, sterile, and ultimately depersonalized act. This self-giving, which is the product of the divine Love of the One in whose image both male and female are created, engenders a fidelity that is spousal in nature and scope. So great is this gift that celibacy is a fitting way of life that truly mirrors the dignity and beauty of the heterosexual married state. Therefore, in a sense, all human beings are meant to be spouses¯either in a lifelong chaste relationship with another, committed to his/her good as husband and wife, or in celibate dignity. Parenting, the living of maternity and paternity, is a part of each adult human life, whether physically or spiritually.

"Consequently, it is precisely this complete gift of self and spiritual fatherhood that is required of a priest to serve the Church. The celibate priest expresses his sexuality, not through denial, but through spiritual paternity, living his life as a committed father of his flock, and as one ‘married’ to the Church. He is called to relate in an emotionally mature way to his flock as father and to his bride, the Church, as his spouse with generosity, compassion, and fidelity. He is called to live and unequivocally teach the truths which God has entrusted to His Church. That commitment necessarily excludes living or promoting a way of life that by its very nature opposes the gift of chastity.

"The Instruction recognizes the reality of these demands on a faithful priest. A candidate for priestly ordination must be capable of displaying affective maturity in his dealings with all people¯men, women, and children. The commitment to chastity becomes the vehicle that provides freedom for that self-giving. That self-giving is provocative of spiritual paternity. A man who acts upon or suffers from deeply-rooted same-sex attractions or supports the ‘gay’ subculture is simply not in a position to fulfill these requirements, even though he may be able to perform other priestly functions well. Chastity is at the heart of the Christian understanding of humanity."

To which the remarkable Amy Welborn adds the observation:

"I am not a big fan of the ‘complementary’ line because I see it used most frequently to tell women why they shouldn’t try to do things that their ‘natures’ don’t suit them for. (Remember, too that ‘nature-based’ gender identification isn’t confined only to traditional Catholics. Lots of secular feminists have made plenty of hay off of women’s ‘unique voice,’ ‘way of listening,’ ‘learning styles,’ and so on over the past few decades.) But that caveat is not about the fundamental point, an observation about humanity that is not unique, by any means, to Christianity¯yin and yang, call your office.

"And note, too, that the priest or other leader who buys into the secularist gay ethos is not the only problem. We’re all problems, of course, and I have heard the faith mangled by all sorts of folks working out of all sorts of motivations, obsessions, and obfuscations. Including me. But, while this is not the only problem, it is a pressing problem at the moment."

Be nice to the French, they feel so very misunderstood. That is kindly advice, and you should get started on it tomorrow. Meanwhile a friend sends a sampler of observations to be enjoyed before going on the wagon:

“France has neither winter nor summer nor morals. Apart from these drawbacks it is a fine country. France has usually been governed by prostitutes.”
¯Mark Twain

“I would rather have a German division in front of me than a French one behind me.”
¯General George S. Patton

“Going to war without France is like going deer hunting without your accordion.”
¯Norman Schwartzkopf

“We can stand here like the French, or we can do something about it.”
¯Marge Simpson

“As far as I’m concerned, war always means failure.”
¯Jacques Chirac

“As far as France is concerned, you’re right.”
¯Rush Limbaugh

“The only time France wants us to go to war is when the German Army is sitting in Paris sipping coffee.”
¯Regis Philbin

“The French are a smallish, monkey-looking bunch and not dressed any better, on average, than the citizens of Baltimore. True, you can sit outside in Paris and drink little cups of coffee, but why this is more stylish than sitting inside and drinking large glasses of whisky I don’t know.”
¯P. J. O’Rourke

“You know, the French remind me a little bit of an aging actress of the 1940s who was still trying to dine out on her looks but doesn’t have the face for it.”
¯Sen. John McCain (AZ)

“You know why the French don’t want to bomb Saddam Hussein? Because he hates America, he loves mistresses and wears a beret. He is French, people!”
¯Conan O’Brien

“I don’t know why people are surprised that France won’t help us get Saddam out of Iraq. After all, France wouldn’t help us get Hitler out of France either.”
¯Jay Leno

“The last time the French asked for ‘more proof’ it came marching into Paris under a German flag.”
¯David Letterman

“Only thing worse than a Frenchman is a Frenchman who lives in Canada.”
¯Ted Nugent

“The favorite bumper sticker in Washington now is one that says ‘First Iraq, then France.’”
¯Tom Brokaw

“What do you expect from a culture and a nation that exerted more of its national will fighting against Disney World and Big Macs than the Nazis?”
¯Dennis Miller

“It is important to remember that the French have always been there when they needed us.”
¯Alan Kent

“They’ve taken their own precautions against al Qaeda. To prepare for an attack, each Frenchman is urged to keep duct tape, a white flag, and a three-day supply of mistresses in the house.”
¯Argus Hamilton

“Somebody was telling me about the French Army rifle that was being advertised on eBay the other day¯the description was, ‘Never shot. Dropped once.’”
¯Rep. Roy Blunt (MO)

“The French will only agree to go to war when we’ve proven we’ve found truffles in Iraq.”
¯Dennis Miller

“Do you know it only took Germany three days to conquer France in World War II? And that’s because it was raining.”
¯John Xereas

Q. What did the mayor of Paris say to the German Army as they entered the city in World War II?
A. Table for one hundred thousand, m’sieur?

The AP and UPI reported that the French government announced after the London bombings that it has raised its terror alert level from Run to Hide. The only two higher levels in France are Surrender and Collaborate. The rise in the alert level was precipitated by a recent fire which destroyed France’s white flag factory, effectively disabling their military.

French Ban Fireworks at Euro Disney (AP)
Paris, March 5, 2003
The French government announced today that it is imposing a ban on the use of fireworks at Euro Disney. The decision comes the day after a nightly fireworks display at the park, located just 30 miles outside of Paris, caused the soldiers at a nearby French Army garrison to surrender to a group of Czech tourists.

Alan Jacobs book on C.S. Lewis, The Narnian , has been receiving mixed, although mainly favorable, reviews. (I very much like it.) In the forthcoming issue of F IRST T HINGS , Dermot Quinn begins his review with this:

"C.S. Lewis is hard to like and easy to love. As a solitary, clever, and bookish child he was a study in precocity, a model prig. ‘I have a prejudice against the French,’ he announced, a four year old, to his father. Why? ‘If I knew why it wouldn’t be a prejudice.’ At the age of nine he was reading Paradise Lost and (he told his diary) making ‘reflections there-on.’ At the age of fourteen, he had written an entire novel. As a schoolboy classicist, brightest of his peers, he graded ancient authors as if competitors with him academic prizes: Thucydides ‘desperately dull and tedious,’ Plato and Horace ‘charming,’ Homer a ‘giant.’

"Many adolescents speak like this but with Lewis it was no bluff. His self-belief, his assurance of superiority was utterly serene. Reading more, thinking more, remembering more than his contemporaries, he was formidable in debate, a person to admire at a distance but avoid in the deeper intimacies of life. A childhood of ‘long corridors, empty sunlit rooms, upstairs indoor silences and . . . endless books’ prepared him to take on the world and to win. He was happiest when, Johnson-like, he argued for victory." (To become a subscriber to F IRST T HINGS , check out the “Subscribe” button above.)

It will be some time before the issues are clarified in the disputes over neo-Darwinism, Intelligent Design, and other questions about the origins and nature of the reality of which we are part. Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna and chief editor of the Catechism of the Catholic Church , is a major voice in that process of clarification. This is from his article, “The Designs of Science,” in the forthcoming issue:

"The Darwinian biologist looking at the history of life faces a precisely analogous question. If he takes a very narrow view of the supposedly random variation that meets his gaze, it may well be impossible to correlate it to anything interesting, and thus variation remains simply unintelligible. He then summarizes his ignorance of any pattern in variation by means of the rather respectable term ‘random.’ But if he steps back and looks at the sweep of life, he sees an obvious, indeed an overwhelming pattern. The variation that actually occurred in the history of life was exactly the sort needed to bring about the complete set of plants and animals that exist today . In particular, it was exactly the variation needed to give rise to an upward sweep of evolution resulting in human beings . If that is not a powerful and relevant correlation, then I don’t know what could count as evidence against actual randomness in the mind of an observer." (To become a subscriber to F IRST T HINGS , check out the “Subscribe” button above.)

Be the first in your neighborhood to know exactly what Christoph Cardinal Schönborn is saying in the next issue about neo-Darwinism and Christian doctrine. That is easily managed by becoming a subscriber to F IRST T HINGS . For our survival we depend upon subscriptions and advertising¯and a generous response to our annual fund appeal, which is now in the mail. It’s easy to help. Just hit the “Subscribe” or “Contact Us” button above. Thank you.

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter Web Exclusive Articles

Related Articles