Difficult Marriage in A Modern Age

In 1567, the famous reformer Pope Pius V condemned various propositions from the writings of a little known theologian by the name of Michael Baius, a professor at the University of Leuven in Belgium. Concerned with combatting a rising secularism, yet ironically yielding to it, his problems are to a great extent our own. Continue Reading »

Wanted: A Synod of Affirmation

Pope Francis has called a special session of the Synod of Bishops, which will meet from October 5–19 and prepare the agenda for the ordinary session of the Synod that is scheduled for the fall of 2015; both sessions will focus on the family. In my view, the Synod should focus on two related themes: Marriage culture is in crisis throughout the world; the answer to that crisis is the Christian view of marriage as a covenant between man and woman in a communion of love, fidelity and fruitfulness. Continue Reading »

Newman’s Bones

This coming October marks the sixth anniversary of the exhumation of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman’s corpse. From an austere burial site in a small cemetery near Rednal, Newman’s remains were to be moved—translated, as the term of art has it—to a marble sarcophagus standing opposite All Soul’s Altar in the Birmingham Oratory, the fraternal congregation established by Newman (with Paul IX’s endorsement) shortly following his 1845 reception into the Catholic Church. That the Church should take a keen interest in his corpse was no surprise. No, that interest was and is threaded deeply within a rather ancient pattern of thought that entails, inter alia, the disinterment, dismemberment, and distribution of the traces of the canonized or beatified dead for veneration among the faithful. This is how the Church came by the designator Cultus sanctorum, by performing a curious form of sacramental necrophilism by which Christians give honor to their saints by clinging to their material vestiges: bone, hair, bits of cloth, scapulars, and their like. Or so it goes, ideally. Continue Reading »

Are You Greek?

“Are you Greek?” This is the question I get asked the most when I tell someone that I am an Orthodox Christian. At first, this question rankled, because I am not Greek. (I am, among other things, Lithuanian.) Mind you, I would have no problem being Greek. It’s a wonderful, ancient culture with much to recommend it. But what rankled was the sense that being Orthodox means being Greek. Continue Reading »

Duty and Delight

It is difficult to spend much time on the Internet without tripping over advice–reams of it–on marriage. Tuning out the wit and wisdom of the hordes and looking instead to married couples I admire, mostly my parents, has been, for me, the path of sanity. So I watch, and think and ask questions. Mostly I watch. Continue Reading »

Dietrich von Hildebrand and Our Times

When Dietrich von Hildebrand died in 1977, his passing went largely unnoticed. The New York Times, to its credit, did publish an obituary—brief but respectful—and several other secular and religious journals followed suit. Most noted that this eminent German Catholic thinker held a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Gottingen, and was teaching at the University of Munich in 1933. When Hitler came to power, Dietrich was appalled, and left for his birthplace in Florence. 
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Why Scotland and Ireland Went Different Ways

In St. Andrews on Thursday, September 18, I voted in the Scottish referendum and the following morning flew to Ireland to give a lecture in the International Centre for Newman Studies at University College Dublin. The subject was Religion, Science and Philosophy, but it was hardly possible not to begin with a few remarks about the previous day’s “No” to Scottish Independence vote (55.3 percent). Whatever the significance for those in Scotland, and whatever the interest across the world, for many politicians and commentators in Ireland this was a surprise and a disappointment. Continue Reading »

Sacramental Economy

Money is something of a mystery. Classical economics views money as a commodity that is selected as a medium of exchange and standard of value, which enables a society to grow from a barter system to a more complex and efficient economy. As Ole Bjerg points out in Making Money, a recent excursion into the philosophy of money, the classical theory leaves some puzzles in its wake. For starters, it doesn’t fit known historical facts. Anthropologists have yet to find a pure barter economy. Media of exchange always seem to be there already. Continue Reading »

A Pessimistic Case for Hope

Ten years ago this fall, it seemed for a moment like social conservatives might be ascendant in our politics. Immediately after the 2004 election, some analysts on the right and left alike said George W. Bush’s reelection signaled a rising tide of “values voters” who would yield an enduring nationwide advantage for Republicans on social issues. Continue Reading »