Shopping With the Poor

All my clothing comes from stores with names like “Community Thrift Store,” “Family Thrift,” and “Vintage Value.” These are places several retail notches below Macy’s or Target, and even further down the retail chain from all the “dollar” stores. If “cheap used clothing” has an endearing ring for you, these are the places to shop. Here “second hand,” if not “third hand,” is an honored and expected description. And “clean,” clean is a nice word to run across… . Continue Reading »

E.J. Dionne and the Contradiction of Progressive Catholicism

For over seven years, I have had a mailbox just above E.J. Dionne’s in the Department of Government at Georgetown University. E.J. and I have always shared cordial relationships, periodically getting together to discuss our shared and differing opinions on American politics. We have speculated on what might be a blood relationship, as my mother’s maiden name is Dionne and we both have family that hail from Fall River, Massachusetts, by way of French Canada… . Continue Reading »

The Cristeros and Us

Most Americans haven’t the foggiest idea that a quasi-Stalinist, violently anti-Catholic regime once existed on our southern borders. But those who don’t know how bad Mexico was in the late 1920s are about to learn, at least those who see For Greater Glory, a recently-released movie about the Cristero War, a passionate (and bloody) defense of Catholicism that’s remembered today, if at all, because of Graham Greene’s novel, The Power and the Glory… . Continue Reading »

Rights You Can’t Give Away

Most Americans know the Declaration of Independence states that God endows people with certain “unalienable” rights. When I ask my students what it means for a right to be inalienable, they respond that it means that government cannot take those rights away. I follow up that modal answer by asking whether that means that government can then take away rights that are alienable. At that point we usually need to pause to consider a bit more rigorously what it means for a right to be inalienable… . Continue Reading »

Christianity is Not for Quitters

At his famous Harvard Commencement address in 1978, Alexander Solzhenitsyn remarked, “A decline in courage may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West.” Thirty-five years later, one could add: “and an increase in pessimism and despair.” Defeatism and disillusionment have become fashionable in certain circles, considered high acts of sophistication. Books announcing the ruination and end of America flood the marketplace and are praised for their black humor. Hopelessness has become chic… . Continue Reading »

One Lord, One Table

The clash between Peter and Paul at Antioch is one of those back-water biblical incidents that changed the world. It’s ancient history, but it’s as relevant today as it was in the first century, if not more so. Paul recounts the incident in the second chapter of his letter to the Galatians, his main epistle against the “Judaizers.” According to some Jewish converts in the early church, Gentiles could not become full disciples of Jesus without first becoming Jews. They had to be circumcised, observe Jewish purity laws and dietary restrictions, and follow Jewish rules about table fellowship if they were going to be full members of the Christian community… . Continue Reading »

Shamscendence

I’m told that when a man is drowning, just before he succumbs, he sometimes thrashes violently side to side, believing himself to be swimming upward, all the while sinking lower and lower to his death. Something similar seems to be happening with the Episcopal Church today. Its fundamental purpose is to transcend the limits of life on earth by orienting souls upward toward God, but instead of transcendence it deals in “shamscendence,” thrashing sideways from one earthly fad to another as it sinks into decline. Its end must be near… . Continue Reading »