Maureen Dowd Pitches Boo

Since moving from the White House beat to the op-ed page of the New York Times, Maureen Dowd has made a career of throwing stones. In general she reserves the heaviest of them for launching toward Rome, but now it appears that her already-cramped reach has gotten the yips, and even her praise misses the plate. In her June 5 piece on Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, a churchman of moderately progressive bent, Dowd discovers a Bishop she can like. … Continue Reading »

The Troubling Virtue of Ultra-Violence

Ultra-violence, as A Clockwork Orange’s protagonist reminds us, is an art. Takashi Miike agrees, judging from his new remake of Eiichi Kudo’s Thirteen Assassins (Jusan nin no shikaku). The thirteen warriors slash, spin, and sever their way through hordes of butter-fingered baddies, but the movie is not just a mindless display of butchery; somewhere between the rivers of blood and the piles of bodies, Miike has managed to hide a serious, if perhaps unintentional, discussion of virtue in a virtue-less world… . Continue Reading »

Why Liberalism Can’t Endure

What makes life worth living? For the most part Western society has settled on an individualistic answer: whatever I decide or desire. It’s judgmental”an act of cultural imperialism, as we’re taught to say at fancy colleges”to suggest that there’s a right answer to this question. Rather, we are told, people should be able to organize their lives around what they feel or think best. We’re happiest, the present-day liberal presumes, when we can make up our own minds about what makes life worth living”or even if life is worth living… . Continue Reading »

The Hidden Risk in Anti-Bullying Proposals

Bullying is a universal human phenomenon. Throughout history and the world, the strong have taken advantage of the weak, the rich have abused the poor, and the more physically attractive have disparaged the less attractive. On the playground, bullying is brutal and all too familiar… . Continue Reading »

The Desire of the Nations

Apuleius’s Metamorphoses (The Golden Ass) has been prized down the centuries chiefly as a whimsical, slightly grotesque, and occasionally ribald burlesque, but it is also perhaps the single most illuminating text we possess in regard to the spiritual disquietudes and aspirations of the late antique world. In fact, when one reaches its final chapters, one discovers that below the ludicrous surface of the tale lies a strangely moving religious allegory … Continue Reading »

Protecting the Innocent

In an earlier essay on this site”and building upon the insights of Fr. Richard John Neuhaus and Avery Cardinal Dulles”I argued that the norms of the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, as presently implemented, are straining the theology of priesthood. … Continue Reading »

Unraveling the ELCA

If the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America isn’t exactly falling apart at the seams, it certainly is becoming frayed at the edges. The North American Lutheran Church and another association, Lutheran Churches in Mission for Christ, are plucking former ELCA congregations up at a greater pace than I predicted… . Continue Reading »

Why Polls Make Us Dumb

There are three groups of people who consistently have a detrimental affect on American politics: Republicans, Democrats, and pollsters. Of this trio, the most nefarious are the pollsters. While politicians have the ability to create public policy, pollsters have the power to craft public opinion. Although opinion polls are often treated as if they were harmless detritus of the news-cycle, they are powerful tools … Continue Reading »

Reactionary Liberalism and Catholic Social Doctrine

The debate over Catholic social doctrine and U.S. social welfare policy took an unhelpful turn in May when a gaggle of academics fired a shot across the bow of House Speaker John Boehner, prior to his commencement address at the Catholic University of America. Their charge? That Boehner’s House voting record showed him to be a man who fails “to recognize (whether out of a lack of awareness or dissent) important aspects of Catholic teaching.” … Continue Reading »