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Over at the Against the Grain website , Christopher Blosser has done a first-rate job collecting links to the various initial reactions to Deus Caritas Est , the new encyclical from Pope Benedict XVI. The immediate press reports, as he summarizes them, seem to vary from the silly to the unimportant. But the bloggers have dug in and started to work their way through the text step by step. Their conclusion . . . well, I’m not sure they’ve reached a conclusion, yet. But the careful readings are worth examining. And this phenomenon is a fascinating one: many, many readers¯most of them laymen¯sharing their interpretations, correcting one another’s mistakes, and building toward a consensus interpretation.

Christopher Wolfe, the widely published professor from Marquette, writes to ask if we’d note a dinner in Washington in honor of Ralph McInerny on April 1, at the Capital Hilton, with Michael Novak as the main speaker. That seems a good thing for the magazine to do, since the March issue of F IRST T HINGS will contain an autobiographical essay from Ralph¯the fascinating tale of how he became a novelist, writing away in the night after teaching his philosophy classes, with a sign above his desk that declared: "No One Owes You a Reading."

The dinner¯you can find the details and RSVP information at ¯is part of a larger plan to honor Ralph by raising money to build a new think tank and study center called the Ralph McInerny Center for Thomistic Studies. As the press release announces, "The Ralph McInerny Center aims at promoting a strong and accurate rereading of Aquinas’ philosophy and theology but, at the same time, it aims at making Aquinas’ thought fruitfully converse with contemporary culture, especially in the areas of bioethics, legal theory, economics, political theory, literature, science, and sociology." It’s an interesting idea, and a honor fully deserved by Ralph McInerny.

John Leo writes about the curious way in which the hard left has turned against the media. The examples he cites seem minor, but if in fact the crowd has decided to attack the nation’s press, we’re in for interesting times. Some while ago, the right accepted the analysis of books like Bernard Goldberg’s Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News and insisted that predominately liberal newsrooms were determined to see the Democrats win elections and the conservatives become figures of mockery. As developed in Hugh Hewitt’s book Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That’s Changing Your World and innumerable postings on places like Instapundit and Powerline , the notion developed into a full-scale attack on "MSM"¯the mainstream media, which was declared a dinosaur and slated for extinction.

There was a great deal of truth to the complaints of the right, but I always suspected the MSM would survive it. If, however, the left is going to join in, then things are worse than I imagined. If nobody believes the press, then we’ve reached at last the complete end of high 1950s consensus liberalism. Good riddance, one might say. But all sorts of tricky and disturbing political-theory questions arise when we live in a nation without any organs of an agreed-upon cultural center. Hold on to your hats. There’s a hard wind starting to blow.

In addition to which :

Avery Cardinal Dulles has this to say about the new book by Father Richard John Neuhaus:

"It would be difficult to find a guide so knowledgeable, so theologically astute, and so engaging as a writer. Father Neuhaus presents the ‘high adventure’ of a Catholic orthodoxy that stands firmly against the winds of adversity and confusion."

The book is Catholic Matters: Confusion, Controversy, and the Splendor of Truth and is just out from Basic Books. It can be ordered from Amazon by clicking here .

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