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New Year’s Habits

New Year’s Resolutions tend to focus on new skills and habits to acquire. This is the year you’ll finally go to the gym or start taking lessons to brush up on your French or learn computer programming. But as the year begins, it can be salutary to think about what you already spend time practicing and if there are ‘lessons’ you’d like to drop. . . . Continue Reading »

Bread Upon the Waters

The death of Richard John Neuhaus shocked and saddened me. I learned of it by calling to express concern and assure him of my prayers in his fight against that cancer of unknown origin. It was too late. He had died the previous morning. . . . Continue Reading »

Little Sisters in the Political Madhouse

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has blocked the administration’s mandate that the Little Sisters of the Poor contract to provide contraception coverage to their employees. That the case has gone this far illustrates the sickness of the left, the complacence of our popular media culture, and the weakness (partly self-inflicted) of President Obama’s political opponents. . . . Continue Reading »

Evening Prayer

The Richard I knew and loved was a man of prayer and of liturgy. He knew that the greatest gift we could offer to God was not our words, not our ideas, not our projects, but a heart ablaze with the fire of love. “Honor and glory belong to God alone,” said St. Bernard, “but God will receive neither if they are not sweetened with the honey of love.” . . . Continue Reading »

The Poorest of the Poor

Pope Francis has ignited a useful and necessary conversation about our responsibilities to the poorest of the poor—those who some may be tempted to write out of the script of history as hopeless cases. That conversation would be enhanced if participants in it took a close look at Paul Collier’s suggestive book, The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It . . . Continue Reading »

Karl Barth’s Finite God

The concept of infinity has a long pedigree in philosophy. Taken on its own terms, it surely exceeds all the efforts of our understanding, but the story of its appropriation by Christian theologians can be briefly told. The ancient Greeks equated the infinite with matter in its unformed and thus chaotic state. The infinite was just another name for everything we can never know, since we know material objects only according to their form. When Christian theologians realized that an infinite nature is also eternal, they concluded that God’s freedom and power should not be limited. So they transferred the concept of infinity from matter to the divine, which laid the foundation for most of the philosophical moves that have come to be associated with classical theism. That’s where the matter rested until Karl Barth rejected the whole thing. . . . Continue Reading »

Conservatism, Evangelii Gaudium, and the Social Market

Liberal commentators, both religious and secular, have cheered what they take as the recent comeuppance Catholic and other religious conservatives received in the sections of Evangelii Gaudium, the Pope’s recent apostolic exhortation, that touch on market economics. While the cackling is partly unjustified, it is also partly justified. . . . Continue Reading »

Forgiveness and Spiritual Freedom

Among the highlights of his unfolding papacy is Francis’ emphasis on the sacrament of reconciliation. The confessional is not a “torture chamber,” he has said, but a welcoming place, where we ask for and receive forgiveness for our sins. But there is another, equally important, element of Christianity that is vital for a healthy spirituality: the ability to forgive others. . . . Continue Reading »

Truncating the Politics of Jesus

John Howard Yoder’s now-classic The Politics of Jesus sparked a revolution. For centuries, Jesus’ lordship had been foundational to Western political thought. By the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Jesus had become irrelevant. Locke doesn’t use the name “Jesus” in either of his two treatises on government. Adam Smith mentions Jesus only once in Wealth of Nations, in a footnote reference to the “compagnie de Jesus.” There isn’t even a footnote reference to Jesus in Theory of Moral Sentiments. . . . Continue Reading »

Marriage Is a Matter of Definition

November 18 marked the 10th anniversary of the landmark decision by the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) of Massachusetts which resulted in that state becoming the first to issue civil marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall’s ruling for the Court got just about everything wrong . . . Continue Reading »



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