So many books! So little time!

Monday, December 13, AD 2010

So many books! So little time! And, unfortunately, not enough to afford them all. Erasmus’ motto, “When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes” worked during college, but is hard to get away with once you’re married with children and have a spouse to answer to. =)

We’ve heard much lately of Pope Benedict’s interview with Peter Seewald: Light of the World: The Pope, The Church and The Signs Of The Times, regarding which Ignatius Press’ Carl Olson has been doing a magnificent job rounding up reviews and discussion across the web; and George Weigel’s “sequel” to his reknowned autobiography of John Paul II: The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II — The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy, and Patrick W. Carey’s biography Avery Cardinal Dulles, SJ: A Model Theologian.

Here are a few more on the horizon that might be of interest to our readers (and which are definitely on my “to read” list from 2010).

Continue reading...

3 Responses to So many books! So little time!

2 Responses to Fr. Robert Barron on “Leaving The Church”

  • I very much enjoyed this short talk. Allow me to share my own experience: In my late 20’s, I had a crisis. For a number of reasons, mostly experiences of rejection, I began to feel that there was no place for me in the Church, that if my own gifts were to be rejected, just because I was a woman, surely the Lord had not made a mistake by giving me those gifts, therefore maybe the Catholic church was not for me. Luckily, at the time those thoughts began to bother me, I had already booked a trip in order to attend a 6-day retreat in France, and I did not want to change my vacation plans. Of course, during the retreat, I was helped to realize that there was a difference between the Church which is the body of Christ, and the human beings that Jesus has entrusted to oversee the Church. And I stayed…

  • Thanks for posting this Christopher.

New biography of Avery Cardinal Dulles

Thursday, December 9, AD 2010

As if one didn’t have enough books to read already. From Paulist Press, a new biography of Avery Cardinal Dulles, America’s most distinguished Catholic theologian, who passed away in December 2008. (And at 736 pages, it sounds like quite a read).

Avery Cardinal Dulles, SJ: A Model Theologian, 1918-2008
by Patrick W. Carey. Paulist Press. 736p.

Cardinal Avery Dulles, SJ, is the foremost American Catholic theologian of the post-Vatican II era. This book is a religious and intellectual biography that focuses on his contributions to the development of American Catholic theology and to the larger arena of American Catholic life. The book traces his life and thought from his childhood in a prominent American Presbyterian and political family to his days as a student at Harvard where he converted to Catholicism, to his World War II experience in the Navy, to his ordination as a Jesuit, and then to his career as a theologian in the post-Vatican II era. In the entire twentieth century, no other theologian, with the possible exception of John Courtney Murray, SJ, has had as important an impact upon American Catholic thought. Dulles, though, is unmatched in the twentieth century because of his prolific publications and the wide distribution and reading of his published theology. More bishops, priests, and religious, as well as large numbers of laity, have been influenced by his writings and by any other single American theologian. This book will put his contributions to theology within the wider context of his religious life and the cultural and religious transformations in the United States during the last half of the twentieth century.

Reviews and Related Info

Continue reading...

One Response to New biography of Avery Cardinal Dulles

Seminarians make a music video …

Wednesday, December 8, AD 2010

It all started in Dr. Blosser’s philosophy class …:

It all started with an off-hand remark I made at the beginning of the semester this fall while talking about the challenges of reading Aristotle and St. Thomas. Students today might find it preferable, I joked lamely, if somebody could come up with a different medium for communicating metaphysics, like, say, a MUSIC VIDEO!

The students politely laughed. But two of them approached me after class with the idea of undertaking precisely such a project. For a moment, I wasn’t sure whether they were joking or serious. They were serious. [more].

Continue reading...

The Messiah in the Food Court

Wednesday, December 1, AD 2010

SOURCE: On November.13, 2010 unsuspecting shoppers got a big surprise while enjoying their lunch. Over 100 participants in this awesome Christmas Flash Mob. This flash mob was organized by to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!

Personally, what I found equally impressive was the beautiful display of public (and explicitly Christian) religiosity — and the complete absence of disgruntled atheist loons protesting it. 😉

HT: The Anchoress

Continue reading...

Pope Benedict and the Great Condom Conundrum

Friday, November 26, AD 2010

As far as the Great Catholic Condom Conumdrum of 2010 goes (prompted by an excerpt of no more than 2 out of a nearly 200 page book-length interview God and the World), the myriad reactions among Catholic circles, seems to me largely (perhaps loosely) divided among two camps. But this is not simply a division between “progressives” and “conservatives”. Even those who would consider themselves orthodox, faithful adherents to Church teaching and admirers of Pope Benedict are divided.

On one side you have Fr. Martin Rhonheimer, Dr. Austen Ivereigh and even Fr. Lombardi himself. On the other side, you have Janet Smith, Fr. Joseph Fessio, and Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. Consider…

Continue reading...

9 Responses to Pope Benedict and the Great Condom Conundrum

  • I’ve stated my views in another comment thread… while the Church’s teaching on condoms isn’t as absolute as we often think, Benedict wasn’t addressing that question in this context.

    What I really hope, though, is that the controversy prompts people to actually buy the book and read it… I got my copy Wednesday night and am nearly done, and it really is a fantastic read. It’s vintage Ratzinger/Benedict… brilliant, insightful, and spiritually edifying. And when you read the entire book, the fact that this controversy is really a miniscule part of the text is even more apparent.

    So: tolle, lege.

  • I don’t think that Rhonheimer is saying anything that is at odds with what Long says. The former is simply saying that the Church is not in the business of counselling people how to “sin prudently”. The latter is giving a more penetrating analysis, however, in showing that the good intention to take responsibility is completely accidental to the act. No conflict here.

  • I’m curious what you make of the reasoning of Dr. Steven A. Long. I do think this (real? apparent) conflict of views among those explaining what the Pope meant is going to create a lot of problems.

    Even those “going to the text” are going to walk away w/ dueling convictions as to whether condom use is acceptable in such circumstances. The emphasis on the Pope’s words seems to be placed on either “NOT a real or moral solution” or “the first step in taking responsibility.”

    The lack of uniformity among those at the top is disconcerting.

    As far as your wish that people won’t let this impede their picking up the book and reading the whole thing, I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve been compiling non “condom-controversy” related reviews and discussions of the book here.

  • I think your breakdown is more or less accurate, though my inclination to take option #1, does not mean I don’t see some value in option #2. Could this question give some clarity:

    May a definitively infertile (say, post-hysterectomy) married, heterosexual, HIV-discordant couple use a condom that was known to be 100% effective?

    I think that they could. In this sense, I reject the idea that condoms are intrinsically evil. Nevertheless, I do no advocate their use because this situation (especially the last qualifier) does not exist in the concrete.

    What I do hold is that we do not need to feel we are somehow trangressing Catholic ethics if we hope that those we know to be engaging in dangerous sexual activity are protected from infection. We can hope this, if the infection reducing aspect of condoms is not itself evil (#1), by hoping that those engaging in such acts at the very least care for something more than themselves (#2).

  • Charles,
    I agree. Though I think Chris is right in showing that there have basically been two kinds of responses from orthodox Catholics and he catalogues them fairly accurately.

  • Chris,

    For the most part, I agree with Steve Long, particularly in that I think he’s right about this being an epistemic issue primarily.

    Again, though… while with Long, I disagree with Rhonheimer et al., I think it important to recognize that at least at this point their position with regard to condoms is within the bounds of orthodoxy. I think they misread Benedict to be in agreement with them, but that doesn’t mean that their position on condoms is heterodox.

    At this point I think it more important to correct their misreading of Benedict than engage them on the issue of condoms… that can wait for another day.

    Incidentally, I finished the book earlier today… my opinion as indicated in my comment above stands: it’s a fantastic read, and a book I’d heartily recommend to give to anyone interested in learning more about Catholicism, whether they be Catholic or otherwise.

  • I agree with Chris Burgwald that Benedict’s actual statements are best understood as limited to the “epistemic” sense of moral awakening that may, or may not, issue finally in a legitimately real and moral solution. So I agree with Steve Long on this score.

    However, Long’s statement that condom use is “wholly predicated upon, and willed as a function of, the intention of sodomy, and condom used participates the species of the sodomitic act,” is, on my understanding, not reflective of settled magisterial teaching but of Long’s own application of natural law to the issue of condoms. Here is where Long and Fr. Rhonheimer might disagree: Fr. Rhonheimer has noted, correctly, that the magisterium has *not yet* definitively decided upon the hypothetical case referenced by Brett in this thread, and to that extent at least Long’s claim that condom use is *intrinsically* sodomitical is open to question.

    Fr. Rhonheimer also has noted, again and again, that he will have no trouble assenting to whatever the Magisterium decides in this case; he should not be thought of as agitating for a “change” in the Church’s position here but rather as noting, correctly, that moral theologians can legitimately differ on the question at hand–i.e. whether *in every instance* the use of a condom is intrinsically sodomitical.

    This issue is not, I repeat, one whose discussion is necessitated by the Pope’s comments.

  • WJ,
    I am having a difficult time remembering the last time I disagreed with you. Think you could write my dissertation for me?

  • A new post regarding the remarks recently made by Fr. Rhonheimer–

    With all the best–

    S. Long

Notable Catholic news stories (I mean, besides condoms)

Wednesday, November 24, AD 2010

Providing a moment’s respite from what George Weigel dubs the media obsession with “Salvation by Latex”, here are some other notable (and/or interesting) Catholic stories that caught my attention:

Continue reading...

2 Responses to Notable Catholic news stories (I mean, besides condoms)

Thomas Wenski – “hard charging, hog-driving” Archbishop of Miami

Thursday, November 18, AD 2010

Michael E. Miller (Miami New Times) provides a detailed — and fascinating — profile of Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski:

Dressed all in black, the biker roars his 1,800-cc Harley-Davidson Street Glide to a halt on the gravely shoulder of Florida Avenue in Lakeland. Ray-Bans hide his eyes. With his spike-topped black helmet glinting in the South Florida sun, he more closely resembles a Prussian soldier than Easy Rider.

Lucas Benitez spots the motorcyclist and his palms begin to sweat. All day, the stocky Mexican with a buzzcut has led a thousand Latino tomato pickers on the 11-mile march from Plant City to Lakeland to protest the stingy pay of $50 per two tons of fruit torn off the vine. When he looks at the biker, all he can think is: Not another pinche redneck picking a fight.

Then the heavyset motorcyclist steps from his machine and ambles toward the marchers. “Buenas tardes,” he says, holding out a hand. “I’m Bishop Thomas Wenski.”

Continue reading...

3 Responses to Thomas Wenski – “hard charging, hog-driving” Archbishop of Miami

"The New Evangelization"?

Monday, November 8, AD 2010

Carrying on the mission of his predecessor, Pope Benedict announced in June 2010 a pontifical council for the “the new evangelization”, the principle task of which was to:

[promote] a renewed evangelization in the countries where the first proclamation of faith has already resounded and where there are churches of ancient foundation present, but which are living through a progressive secularization of society and a kind of ‘eclipse of the sense of God.

Fr. Mirilli of Rome seems to have interpreted the Holy Father’s directive in a rather novel manner:A section of the crypt of the Basilica di San Carlo al Corso near St. Peter’s Square has boasted tombs of cardinals for centuries, has been turned into a nightclub by Rome’s Catholic Church.

Image Source: The Beerean

Continue reading...

4 Responses to "The New Evangelization"?

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 30, AD 2010

In the spirit of the season, Taylor Marshall (Called to Communion) offers “top ten ways to have a Catholic Halloween:

This time of year introduces several debates. Among conservative Protestants it’s “Halloween or no Halloween?” which sometimes becomes “Halloween vs. Reformation Day,” the latter being the celebration of Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses on Oct 31. Even some Catholics are concerned that Halloween has become “evil.” Well, here are ten ways to keep good ol’ Halloween fun and sacred. …

Secondly, a great reflection by John Zmirak (InsideCatholic) on “the brightest, best moment of the whole liturgical year.”

And speaking of our Protestant brethren, John Mark Reynolds (First Things‘ “Evangel”) asks: Is Reformation Day the new Kwanzaa? 😉

Continue reading...

One Response to Happy Halloween!

A Catholic Ghost Story

Wednesday, October 6, AD 2010

What are Catholics to make of supernatural phenomena? and ghosts in particular?

There is little question that the Catholic Church believes in the reality of the spiritual realm — St. Paul in Ephesians speaks of “our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.” But it is a realm inhabited by angels, demons, and of course, Satan himself. (And, if you’re an enlightened “post-Vatican II” Catholic like Fr. Richard McBrien, you can scoff at the very mention of the latter).

As far as ghosts are concerned, the prevailing tendency among Catholics is to look askance at the concept of “lost souls”, trapped in this life and waiting to cross over. There is scarce mention of “ghosts” in the Catechism and judging by the absence of clear, definitive teaching — the Church has refrained from adopting a firm position on their existence.

According to Gary Jansen, a contemporary Catholic from Rockville Centre, Long Island, ghosts simply didn’t exist. For him, “heaven, hell, angels were basic tenents of my Catholic faith, but never basic tenents of my life. . . . these topics were never discused during my twelve years of attending parochial school.” While his devout Catholic mother would mention strange occurrences, he prided himself on his rationality.

Until, that is, when he had an unsettling encounter in his son’s bedroom in 2007. Holy Ghosts: Or How a (Not-So) Good Catholic Boy Became a Believer in Things That Go Bump in the Night is an account of one Catholic’s real-life haunting:

Continue reading...

29 Responses to A Catholic Ghost Story

  • I know there is no official teaching on ghosts, but doesn’t Luke 16:27-28 indicate that spirits (ghosts) can come to earth??

  • I was taught that all, or nearly all, ghosts were really demons attempting to deceive the faithful, since departed spirits would be either in hell, purgatory or heaven and would have no reason to come back. In that sense, I had the impression that good Catholics and other Christians did not “believe in ghosts”, and the only proper way to respond to an alleged ghost was to rebuke it in the name of Jesus. However, the brand of Catholic practice I grew up with was charismatic/Pentecostal and heavily influenced by Protestantism, so perhaps this is not really a “Catholic” idea?

  • Thanks for the review, Chris. I haven’t yet read my copy of Holy Ghosts, but I’m definitely going to do so after reading this. The next couple of months seem like a perfect time to crack open such reading.

  • I am curious. There would also seem to be the possibility of demonic forces here. From the things I have read on exorcism, there seems to be no doubt that the Church believes that hauntings may be the work of demons, as well as benign ghosts. Saints have been known to appear to people that knew them, or in places with which they were familiar (abbeys, etc). But, random encounters with spirits?

  • Similar to Elaine, I consider most ghost claims to be either misunderstood experiences, fraudulant, or demons at work. Anyone who has read about exorcisms will understand that they can interact with matter if allowed. I don’t doubt that God can and does allow (send?) some deceased to convey a message (after all that is what Marian apparitions are).

    However I don’t believe it has to be a recognized saint. I recall reading a really cool book called Hell – And how to avoid it. One story was about two young fellas who went to a house of ill repute. The one guy left without doing anything, went to bed and said his customary three Hail Mary’s. He had essentially lost his faith but retained that practice from his youth.

    As I recall his friend came to his room in the middle of the night all burnt and smoking. Told him that when he left the the whore house he was assaulted and murdered. That his body was still in the street, but demons came and dragged his soul away. He said by special priviledge of the Blessed Virgin he was sent to him in order that he might be moved to convert and that it was all due to the nightly three Hail Mary’s. It was true about the guy getting killed and the young man went to the local monastery the next morning and related the story to the superior and joined the monastery.

    I believe those kind of ghost stories. Very skeptical about the idea that human souls go bump in the night.

  • Speaking of subway commutes. The space-time continuum is more like a subway than anything close to perfect. But that shouldn’t make us laugh at the scientists; you do have to follow the rules posted in the ticket box if you have a body. Be consoled that the others have even stricter rules–in some ways.

    If you stop whatever it is your doing when you first think of them and say a prayer for them right away, they’re more likely to leave you alone. Otherwise… but you can’t blame them. You’d do the same thing. Hell, yeah, it’s scary, but they’ll be praying your ass out next.

  • Well, Moses and Elijah made a cameo at the transfiguration. And Marian apparitions as noted above. It’s God’s universe, I suppose He can allow whatever He wants. As others caution, I would be very wary of anything immaterial trying to communicate with me. Just saying.

  • I believe the Jesuit Herbert Thurston wrote a book dealing with paranormal phenomena.

    Another book dealing with ghosts in a Catholic Context is Muldoon: A True Chicago Ghost Story: Tales from a Forgotten Rectory. It tells the story of the haunting of a rectory in a Chicago parish.

    Some researchers suggest that poltergeists are the result of some kind of “psychic energy” generated by persons in a state of extreme emotional turmoil. The pastor of the parish in Muldoon was a self-serving man engaging in a number of irregular activities, and his actions contributed to the closing of his parish. I put down the book wondering if the strange events recounted there were the result of the priest’s own guilt over the things he was doing.

  • 1. So far as I know, I have never seen a ghost. (According to folklore, sometimes they are not recognized as such, as with angels.) However, a friend told me that in her parish, the pastor took a stipend to say Mass for a departed soul, but he himself died suddenly, and the new priest was unaware of the arrangement. The first morning the new pastor was “on the job”, he was surprised to find the parish safe with its door standing wide open, since he thought he had closed it the night before. Nothing seemed to be missing. He made sure to close it that night, but the same thing continued to happen. Eventually he decided to look closely at all the contents and found the Mass request. He said the Mass, after which the door to the safe remained closed.

  • 2. Remember, Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory are not places like Omaha; the idea of LOCATION pertains to a body, not a spirit. Thus the guardian angels always see the face of the Father (also not a corporeal reference, of course). Likewise, Marlowe has Mephistopheles say, “Why, this is hell, nor am I out of it. / Think’st thou that I, who saw the face of God / And tasted the eternal joys of heaven, / Am not tormented with ten thousand hells / In being deprived of everlasting bliss?”

    3. From what I have read, exorcists are split on the question of whether possessing spirits are all demons or if they also include the souls of the damned. Some spirits claim to be souls of the damned, but are they lying? At least one exorcist I have read thinks not, on the basis of what he was able to make them admit. (This pertained to someone who was possessed by many unclean spirits.)

    4. For an interesting work of fiction on more “mundane” hauntings, see A MIRROR OF SHALOTT by Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson,

  • For a fascinating discussion of many apparitions of souls in purgatory, read _Hungry Souls_, by Dr. Gerard van den Aardweg. Makes you realize how important it is to pray for the poor souls.

  • And that is the salient point- the point is to continue praying in the dark -as it were- for all the people we know who have died, and for general intercessions for “all the poor souls in purgatory” also asking them for their prayers- this is an act of faith which requires special visitations from any spiritual agents. Add to this prayers for protection from the evil spirits- and then one can allow their curiousity to roam a bit- but only after the good work of prayer is accomplished lest we get sidetracked by idle speculation that goes no where and does no one any good- like being thrilled by a hollywood horror flick

  • Should have said- “which requires no special visitations from any spiritual agents” sorry

  • “Well, first, I would say this. It seems perfectly clear that these other stories aren’t sent to help our faith, or anything like that. I don’t believe that for one instant. We have got all we need in the Catholic Church, and the moral witness, and the rest. But what I don’t understand in your position is this: What earthly right have you got to think that they’re sent just for your benefit?”
    — Monsignor Maxwell, A MIRROR OF SHALOTT

    At least read the first chapter, which contains a very reasonable discussion of exactly the same issues that are being discussed here. The tales in the subsequent chapters are placed in a fictional setting, but they have a real ring of truth about them; I suspect they are fictionalized versions of stories Monsignor Benson heard first-hand.

  • You might almost be certain that if that silly man Fr. McBrien disparages the idea of demons, that demons do exist.

  • The main thing is to always remember that nothing lies beyond the control of our Savior Jesus of Nazareth. Never quiz or address the ghost. Always pray to Jesus, or ask for Mary’s or a saint’s intercession on your behalf to the Lord. If it should happen that a spirit has a message to convey, he or she will do so right away without your prodding. They don’t come to beat around the bush. If a ghost has a benevolent intent, it never has to be conjured or asked to appear. God will permit it’s coming.

    Likewise, you go around playing with a ouija or incantation, you’ll get something that’s been lazing around, looking for someone to bedevil.

    As far as benevolent spirits who visit the living, look up the origin of why a set of Gregorian Masses lasts 30 days (a soul appeared after the 30th Mass said for him and told the person his soul was saved from Purgatory and is now in Heaven). I had a friend whose uncle died. He had a dream of that uncle, standing with a boy and a girl in white robes, and the uncle told him to tell his mother “we are all in heaven now.” When he did, this floored his mother, since her sister in law (the friend’s aunt and wife of the deceased uncle) had lost a boy and girl stillborn, but my friend was never told about this, and it was a family secret.

  • Thank you everyone, for commenting. Just a few quick reactions/thoughts:

    Regarding the question of whether “ghosts” exist, I find Fr. Hardon’s explanation plausible. I agree that some instances may be attributed to the genuinely demonic, but I wouldn’t categorically state such of every “genuine” instance of supernatural phenomena.

    Personally, I approach the topic of ghosts and supernatural phenomena along the same lines that I regard UFO’s and/or “life on other planets” — I’m an agnostic. We live in a mind-boggedly large universe — realms visible and invisible; material and immaterial, of which humanity is only a minute speck. Our positive knowledge towards the spiritual is confined only to what is divinely revealed, and apart from which there’s a slew of phenomena that lies beyond the realm of rational / scientific explanation. So I can’t categorically rule out the existence of ghosts; nor am I particularly inclined to actively seek them out.

    The Church’s counsel is that we should refrain from actively seeking out encounters with the spiritual realm (hence refraining from ouja boards, etc.). Given the often-underestimated power of the demonic and the very real potential for such phenomena to have (but not necessarily so) a specifically demonic origin, this strikes me as perfectly sound, practical advice.

    The same for Tim Shipe’s admonition to “pray for the poor souls in purgatory”, which we should do with regularity (and I know myself, not nearly enough).

  • My mother recalls a series of manifestations in her childhood home, some benign, some spooky, and one violent, this last compelling her mother to seek speedy assistance from the Church. I don’t know if an exorcism was performed, but a Mass definitely took place in the house, and that was that for the ghostly stuff.

    So, um. “Who you gonna call?” A priest.

  • I might buy the proposition that God permits ‘ghosts’ to communicate to teach or warn, or request some favor of the living if the ‘ghosts’ (a) didn’t scare the snot out of the living (a very uncharitable thing to do)and if the communications weren’t largely confined to banging pots and pans, making the room temperature drop, flinging doors open, etc., all of which doesn’t seem to be the best way of requesting some particular favour of the living.
    Perhaps confinement to earth for a time is a punishment of Purgatory. Who knows?
    Mark 6:49 recounts how the disciples of Jesus took him for a ghost when He walked on the lake. When Jesus reassured them, He did not correct them by saying there were no such things as ghosts (a perfect time to disabuse them of that idea).
    If I’m not mistaken the Bible records that when angels appear to men they often times say “Fear Not!” by way of reassurance. So I don’t really know what to make of supposed ghosts and their terrifying antics.

  • “Perhaps confinement to earth for a time is a punishment of Purgatory. Who knows?”

    Here’s a well known central Illinois ghost story that has a significant Catholic connection:

    It was also dramatized on the Discovery Channel in 2005, although some details were changed and the location was not the same since the real Lake Club had burned down years before (the nightclub used in the film was in Norfolk, Va.)

    The prayers said by the priest in this case were not “exorcism” prayers as one might use to cast out a demon (which would have required formal permission of the local bishop) but prayers for the repose of the soul of the deceased person, and they did, apparently, have an immediate effect.

  • , I have have come to experience indifference and utter disbelief from Catholic clergy when relating a personal ghostly experience as a five year old child that occured over at least three specific incidents, which later became clarified during a deep meditative experience seventeen years later. The profound out of physical sensations meditation recalled and revealed in great detail, the incidents and related events, as an intuitive revelaion of what I had completely forgotten about for seventeen years and seemed totally incongruous with the reason I was attempting the meditative effort. And yet it all came so precisely to explained the forgotten past events with what was going on at the age of 22 years old. Because the Catholic faith has little teaching on ghost much more experience on the subject, and clergy are taught that Catholic funerals as a sacrament prevent any such wanderings of the deceased individuals soul, they dogmatically avoid any discussion to the contrary on average. Although my expereince and story is rather lengthy, it is quite clear and understandable as to how and why the resulting circumstances evolved and led to the revelatory meditative enlightenment. This would cause many Catholic clergy to have to question and some rather dogmatic beliefs to be reconsidered and the Church clergy don’t like having to revise personal faith dogma anymore than absolutely necessary. For us who have had personal revelation, faith is a luxury for those who believe but have not seen. These experiences by no means marginalize the teachings of Christ or the scriptures but rather clarify and strengthen them. But it does leave those of eclasiastic authority in fear of losing validity of what they have been trained to believe, teach and uphold as personal faith dogma. Their faith is often the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. We who have had such metaphysical experience, although far less knowlegeable or trained in Church and scriptural dogma, have seen and having seen know somethings beyond faith. It does’t lessen our Catholic faith but stengthens it through transcendental knowlege and being at one with Wisdom in our personal experience.

  • A voice crying in the wilderness.

  • Didn’t C.S. Lewis in (if I remember correctly) “The Great Divorce” describe ghosts as souls who could not bear to leave earth and their past lives? I think it provided Lewis with a chance to get in a little dig at his fellow authors, who were described as disproportionally represented among the ghostly population. The writer/ghosts took to hanging around libraries and bookstores, obsessively checking to make sure their books were still on the shelves and that their literary reputations were still intact. Lewis represented ghosts as more pathetic than frightening, spirits far more concerned with the petty things of this earth than with eternal life.

    Given his view of ghosts, I doubt any undergrads are running into the spirit of C. S. Lewis in Oxford pubs or library stacks:-)

  • Just a warning from the Catholic Culture website on one of the links:

    “Ohio Spiritual Warfare Center

    OSWC is self-described as “a free service devoted to educating the faithful on matters of spiritual warfare and the dangers of the occult, the new age, including information and help with ghosts, demons, poltergeists, hauntings, apparitions, oppression, possession, demonic infestation and the spiritual warfare issues of our current age.” ….

    ….Until July 2009 WHOIS had this site registered under John Paul Ignatius …. as part of the St. Michael’s Call site. It is now registered to Joe Meineke. John Paul Ignatius is apparently Richard Lee Collett Jr., a sex offender convicted as recently as 2005. Please see our review of St. Michael’s Call for more information.

    …(It) has no official standing in the Diocese of Columbus, the founder is of questionable character and Mr. Meineke’s qualifications and training are unknown. For these reasons we recommend that you be wary about contributing money, seeking personal advice, or joining in this apostolate. “

  • Thanks for the tip! (Link removed)

  • “Lewis represented ghosts as more pathetic than frightening”

    In “Great Divorce” Lewis distinguished between Ghosts, the souls in hell or purgatory, and Spirits, the souls in heaven. Ghosts were, literally, mere shadows of their former selves and could hardly bear even to walk or touch anything in Heaven, while Spirits were vibrant, solid beings.

  • I suggest that you guys read HUNGRY SOULS….it is a awesome book about purgatory!! it contains pictures of burnt articles touched by souls from purgatory!!

  • I cannot validate the author’s experience or the authenticity of his account. But a trip to Mary Ann Winkowski’s site is a good introduction to much that is wrong with the modern do-it-yourself spirituality, however much she may lay claim to a Catholic identity.

Woody Guthrie vs. Joseph Ratzinger ;-)

Saturday, October 2, AD 2010

Communist Liberation TheologianOver at Vox Nova, Henry Karlson draws our attention to a video of Bono, expounding on why U2 felt compelled to cover Woody Guthrie’s song “Jesus Christ”. In short, “it’s more relevant today than when he wrote it.”

But why is it more relevant? — For Bono, “we decided to do it because of the line, “the bankers and the preachers, they nailed him in the air.”

Curiousity provoked, I took a look at the complete lyrics:

Continue reading...

20 Responses to Woody Guthrie vs. Joseph Ratzinger ;-)

  • Christopher

    Key word, “reduced.” One song does not prove a “reduction,” as much as just one part of the overall picture. The only reduction here is from you.

  • “You will find that a good many Christian-political writers think that Christianity began going wrong, and departing from the doctrine of its Founder, at a very early stage. Now, this idea must be used by us to encourage once again the conception of a “historical Jesus” to be found by clearing away later “accretions and perversions” and then to be contrasted with the whole Christian tradition. In the last generation we promoted the construction of such a “historical Jesus” on liberal and humanitarian lines; we are now putting forward a new “historical Jesus” on Marxian, catastrophic, and revolutionary lines. The advantages of these constructions, which we intend to change every thirty years or so, are manifold.

    In the first place they all tend to direct men’s devotion to something which does not exist, for each “historical Jesus” is unhistorical. The documents say what they say and cannot be added to; each new “historical Jesus” therefore has to be got out of them by suppression at one point and exaggeration at another, and by that sort of guessing (brilliant is the adjective we teach humans to apply to it) on which no one would risk ten shillings in ordinary life, but which is enough to produce a crop of new Napoleons, new Shakespeares, and new Swifts in every publisher’s autumn list. In the second place, all such constructions place the importance of their “historical Jesus” in some peculiar theory He is supposed to have promulgated. he has to be a “great man” in the modern sense of the world – one standing at the terminus of some centrifugal and unbalanced line of thought – a crank vending a panacea. We thus distract men’s minds from Who He is, and what He did. We first make Him solely a teacher, and then conceal the very substantial agreement between His teachings and those of all other great moral teachers. For humans must not be allowed to notice that all great moralists are sent by the Enemy, not to inform men, but to remind them, to restate the primeval moral platitudes against our continual concealment of them. We make the Sophists: He raises up a Socrates to answer them.

    Our third aim is, by these constructions, to destroy the devotional life. For the real presence of the Enemy, otherwise experienced by men in prayer and sacrament, we substitute a merely probable, remote, shadowy, and uncouth figure, one who spoke a strange language and died a long time ago. Such an object cannot in fact be worshipped. Instead of the Creator adored by its creature, you soon have merely a leader acclaimed by a partisan, and finally a distinguished charcter approved by a judicious historian.

    And fourthly, besides being unhistorical in the Jesus it depicts, religion of this kind is false to history in another sense. No nation, and few individuals, are really brought into the Enemy’s camp by the historical study of the biography of Jesus, simply as biography. Indeed, materials for a full biography have been withheld from men. The earliest converts were converted by a single historical fact (the Resurrection) and a single theological doctrine (the Redemption) operating on a sense of sin which they already had – and sin, not against some new fancy-dress law produced as a novelty by a “great man,” but against the old, platitudinous, universal moral law which they had been taught by their nurses and mothers. The “Gospels” come later, and were written, not to make Christians, but to edify Christians already made.”

    CS Lewis, Screwtape Letters, number 23

  • I heard that Arlo Guthrie made a 180 and is now a Republican…

  • “If Jesus is seen thus, if his death must be conceived in terms of this constellation of antitheses, his message cannot be one of reconciliation.”


    Need to read the Screwtape Letters again. A great work with a lasting effect, but refreshers would be useful.

  • Mr. McClarey: 100% correct!

    Mr. Bono: Infallible ignorance.

    I’ve been thinking (no, really!) about Lazarus and the rich man. Do theologians “think” Lazarus would rest in the “bossom of Abraham” if he envied and hated that rich man?

  • He does not envy or hate the “preachers and bankers” that crucified Him. Jesus is true God and true man, like us in all ways except sin. To equate His sacrifice (the Crucifixion was the most disobedient, ignorant, vicious and unjust sin in the history of mankind) to man’s fallen condition is simply WRONG.

    Jesus loved us so much and was so desirous of redeeming and saving us that His Sacred Heart was filled even more with love for us in His three hours of agony on His Holy Cross; and He asked God the Father Almighty to forgive us because we didn’t know what we were doing.

  • “I heard that Arlo Guthrie made a 180 and is now a Republican”

    I didn’t believe it at first, Jasper, but apparently it’s true; this is from Wikipedia’s entry on Arlo’s politics:

    “Guthrie endorsed Texas Congressman Ron Paul for the 2008 Republican Party nomination. He said, “I love this guy. Dr. Paul is the only candidate I know of who would have signed the Constitution of the United States had he been there. I’m with him, because he seems to be the only candidate who actually believes it has as much relevance today as it did a couple of hundred years ago. I look forward to the day when we can work out the differences we have with the same revolutionary vision and enthusiasm that is our American legacy.” He told the New York Times Magazine that he is a Republican because, “We had enough good Democrats. We needed a few more good Republicans. We needed a loyal opposition.”

  • Sounds as if this rediscovering of the ‘historical Jesus’ is the 21st century version of gnosticism.

  • For Bono, “we decided to do it because of the line, “the bankers and the preachers, they nailed him in the air.”

    Bono’s rather an ingrate. What would U2 and all the other lefty multi-millionaire rock stars do without bankers advising them on tax shelters? U2 was widely criticized a few years back when they moved their business operations to the Netherlands, cutting their corporate tax bill considerably.

    This was around the time when Bono was standing on stage telling his fans (you know, the ones who made him and his fellow band members fabulously rich) that they – the little people – should pay more in taxes.

    As I recall, Our Lord also had a few things to say on the subject of hypocrites.

  • I’d be wary of putting too much stock in Arlo’s “conversion”–Libertarianism and Republicanism are not interchangeable and his remarks sound pretty noncommittal to me.

    What I find interesting is that it appears Woody borrowed stylistically from a popular ballad about Jesse James–one that cast the outlaw as a “friend to the poor” who’d “never see a man suffer pain” (never mind that the James gang occasionally shot unarmed bystanders in the course of their robberies and weren’t known for their charitable work.) The meter and the repetition of the adjective “brave” and the line “laid…in his grave” are right out of it. Was his intention to cast the Son of God as a Robin Hood-ized folk hero in the fashion of James? If so, he sold God short–and the U2 guys ought to know better.

  • The U2 sound became repetitive, the lyrics trite and ridiculous but instead of fading away quitely as other better bands such as Steely Dan and Dire Straits have done, our friend Bono would rather ride out a little bit more on the name of Jesus.

  • … nstead of fading away quitely as other better bands such as Steely Dan and Dire Straits have done, our friend Bono would rather ride out a little bit more on the name of Jesus.

    Actually, U2’s cover of “Jesus Christ” was over a decade ago, on the Folkways Woody Guthrie Tribute — I’m actually a fan of their music, if not Bono’s pontificating. =)

  • Republicanism and libertarianism might not be interchangeable, but neither are they incommensurable.

    Also the Greek of Matthew 19:21 does not translate to “give your money to the poor.” It can be roughly, but more accurately, translated as “sell your possessions and give to the poor.” As always with Koine Greek there is wide room for interpreting the wording in American. The phrase lacks the linguistic articles common to ancient Greek that would specifically denote apposition, yet there are undeniably two clauses separated by a conjunction. So it is misleading to state that Jesus was commanding the young gentleman to sell everything he had in order to give the receipts to the poor. Rather, it sounds to me like Jesus was offering simple, practical advice on how to be His contemporaneous disciple, something that clearly involved a lot of travel and study and would therefore be difficult if one were the landlord of a large estate and concerned with maintaining many material possessions.

    U2 makes terrible music. Bono should stick to working on that.

  • I challenge the rich to prove their detachment to wealth by giving it away.

  • Nate,

    I like the way you think!

    There are some rich people that do donate their money to Catholic charities, but it can be said that more money by much more well-to-do should be giving their wealth away willingly.

  • …it is the Feast Day of Saint Francis. The very saint that gave away his tremendous wealth for a life of poverty. He was justly rewarded by God with an enriching life of harvesting many souls!

  • Nate,

    I would agree that the rich can give more. Though the rich man may in fact be more detached from his goods than a poor person. St. Josemaria Escriva used to tell a story of a noblewoman who had great wealth. She paid her servents well and was quite giving. He contrasted her to a poor man he saw in a soup kitchen who had one possession in his life – a spoon. That man he noted greedily held onto that one good and was quite attached to it. That person St. Josemaria noted was not living the virtue of detachment.

    I also recall in our area about two years ago a very rich family’s home burnt down. It turns out the family’s six year old with Down’s Syndrome accidentally set fire to the house. The father said that he loved his son even more after this. This was true detachment.

    I would also add that a rich person may donate more of his time and talent that he could otherwise use for himself. Donations that are not seen and that in their own way “cost” significantly.

  • Wealth today facilitates travel, which facilitates the continuance of the mission of Christ and His church. During the age in which our Lord lived on this earth, all the money in the world dcouldn’t buy a plane, train, or bus ticket. Back then, wealth surely encouraged people to be sedentary, or at the least immobile. I again maintain that the scripture (Matthew 19:21) has nothing to do with choosing to be willfully impoverished as a way to salvation.

  • What kind of commentary did you expect from a man who gave only 1.24% of his charity’s money to the poor? I also think he has a tax and wife problem in Ireland.

    And the born agains use U-2’s music in worship services… We truly live in strange times.

  • Guthrie was the scion of one of the wealthiest families in one of the wealthiest states in America. He adopted an offensive and false hillbilly persona and a BS story about “ridin’ the rails” and was flown out to California and given a coast-to-coast radio show with support from the Governor, a US Senator, and LA’s fanciest folks. After he retired from mass media he spent the rest of his career working for the US Government.
    Enough of this hagiography already!

Praying the Holy Rosary in October

Saturday, October 2, AD 2010

The month of October is dedicated to the Holy Rosary — by personal recommendation of Pope Leo XIII:

In a letter of September 1, 1883, mindful of the Rosary’s power to strengthen faith and foster a life of virtue, he outlined the triumphs of the Rosary in past times and admonished the faithful to dedicate the month of October to the Blessed Virgin through the daily recitation of her Rosary in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, in order to obtain through her intercession the grace that God would console and defend His Church in her sufferings.

Beginning on September 1, 1883, with SUPREMO APOSTOLATUS OFFICIO, Pope Leo wrote a total of eleven encyclicals on the Rosary, ending with DIUTURNI TEMPORIS in 1898. (Source: Rev. Matthew R. Mauriello,

The spread of the devotion of the rosary is attributed to the revelation of Mary to St. Dominic, who sought her help in battling the heresy of the Albigenses. Robert Feeney’s “St. Dominic and the Rosary” gives a detailed account,

Continue reading...

One Response to Praying the Holy Rosary in October

  • Every day: beginning to end using a small prayer book (my grandmother gave me) with the prayers, meditations and scheduling.

    Prayer Before the Rosary
    “Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, you have deigned to come to Fatima to reveal to the three shepherd children the treasures of grace hidden in the Rosary. Inspire my heart with a sincere love of this devotion, in order that by meditating on the Mysteries of our Redemption which are recalled in it, I may be enriched with its fruits and obtain peace for the world, the conversion of sinners and (was Russia) America, and the favor which I ask of you in this Rosary. I ask it for he greater glory of God, for your own honor,and for the good of souls, especually my own. Amen.”

    The Blesed Virgin Mary (my Mother); legions of angels at her bidding; and the Holy Rosary have brought me through many “issues.”

    Each day last year my Rosary was for my son in Afghanistan. Now, it’s for another son or a brother with a chronic disease.

    When my mother was dying, we left her each night with her Rosary in her hands. She prayed the Rosary all her life. When I was taking a test for a scholarship, she was simultanepusly praying that Rosary for me. I scored enough to go to college. It may not have happened otherwise.

    Today and tomorrow will be the Glorious Mysteries.

"The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II" — George Weigel's sequel to "Witness to Hope"

Wednesday, September 29, AD 2010

George Weigel’s new book, The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II — The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy, which was published by Doubleday on September 14, is the fulfillment of a promise the author made to Pope John Paul II less than four months before the pope died. In “A Promise To Pope John Paul II” (“The Catholic Difference” 9/17/10), Weigel gives his account of his parting words to the late Pope before his death:

The conversation over dinner was wide-ranging, and at one point, after the usual papal kidding about my having written “a very big book,” John Paul asked about the international reception of Witness to Hope, his biography, which I had published five years earlier. He was particularly happy when I told him that a Chinese edition was in the works, as he knew he would never get to that vast land himself. As that part of the conversation was winding down, I looked across the table and, referring to the fact that Witness to Hope had only taken the John Paul II story up to early 1999, I made the Pope a promise: “Holy Father,” I said, “if you don’t bury me, I want you to know that I’ll finish your story.”

It was the last time we saw each other, this side of the Kingdom of God.

The End and the Beginning covers the last six years of John Paul II’s life, including:

  • Karol Wojtyla’s epic battle with communism through the prism of previously classified and top-secret communist files
  • the Great Jubilee of 2000 and his historic pilgrimage to the Holy Land
  • September 11th, and the Pope’s efforts to frustrate Osama bin Laden’s insistence that his war with the West was a religious crusade
  • the Long Lent of 2002, when the Church in America grappled with the twin crises of clerical sexual abuse and episcopal misgovernance;
  • John Paul’s ongoing efforts to build bridges of dialogue and reconciliation with the Churches of the Christian East
  • his struggle with illness, “which brought him into at least one ‘dark night’ spiritually; and his heroic last months, in which his priestly death became, metaphorically, his last encyclical”

(Given that Weigel was personally engaged in the Catholic just war debate over the war in Iraq, it will be interesting to see the extent to which he covers this aspect of John Paul II’s pontificate).


Continue reading...

6 Responses to "The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II" — George Weigel's sequel to "Witness to Hope"

  • Witness to Hope was very well written.

    I never enjoyed a book that long ever since I read the Summa in under a week*.

    *not really.

  • I’m having dinner with him next week. (Weigel, not JPII.) Any questions you’d like me to ask?

  • Patrick,

    Not a question, but a request. =) I think of all the books by Weigel I’ve read, besides Witness to Hope I particularly appreciated Tranquillitas Ordinis: The Present Failure and Future Promise of American Catholic Thought on War and Peace (1987). Unfortunately, it’s out of print and I’ve often wondered, with the various developments in just war debates since the time of publication, whether he would consider revising, expanding and putting out a new edition?

    Just a thought. =)

  • I ordered the new book on Monday… should arrive next week… can’t wait! As Christopher knows, I’m not always in agreement on Weigel when it comes to the interaction between Catholicism and liberalism (broadly speaking), but Witness to Hope was, all in all, fantastic, and I’m looking forward to this one.

  • I’ve put it at the top of my Amazon wish list!

  • (Given that Weigel was personally engaged in the Catholic just war debate over the war in Iraq, it will be interesting to see the extent to which he covers this aspect of John Paul II’s pontificate).

    That will be interesting to see. Personally, I found the sections of Witness to Hope on the lead-up to the Gulf War particularly interesting, as here to Weigel was clearly grappling with an application (or some would say, development) of just war teaching that he found himself fundamentally at odds with. I think the way he dealt with that controversy in the book was thoughtful and to his credit, and I’ll be interested to see the treatment of the second half of the war in the new book.

Are you ready for Pope Benedict's next gig?

Monday, September 13, AD 2010

Preparing for Pope Benedict’s journey to England and Scotland later this week, Catholic bishops have likened the Pope to the headline act at a series of gigs in a ‘cringe-worthy’ guide, exposing the Church to new heights of ridicule.

The Daily Mail reports (September 12, 2010):

In a list of ‘useful terms’ in the official booklet, the three open-air Papal masses – the most solemn occasions of the historic trip – are referred to as ‘shows’ or ‘gigs’, terms normally associated with rock concerts.The document also compares the clergy who organise services – known as liturgists – to ‘performers’ or ‘artists’ …

The unusual glossary raises fresh questions over the handling of Pope Benedict XVI’s four-day visit, which starts on Thursday and has already been mired in controversy.

The Church is distributing thousands of copies of the glossy, eight-page booklet produced by the Papal Visit Team, overseen by Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols. Its cover carries the official slogan of the visit – the first to Britain since 1982 – Heart Speaks Unto Heart.

Insiders said the pamphlet is aimed at workers from companies arranging events, police officers, broadcasters and journalists who may not be Catholics and are unsure about the Church’s rituals and beliefs.

Thomas Peters (The American Papist) puts the Bishop’s phrasing in the most charitable light:

Continue reading...

8 Responses to Are you ready for Pope Benedict's next gig?

  • I see it as condescending to the press

    And? The press has thought that the pope wore green to show his support for environmental causes. People attacking the papal visit team forget the endless bounds of stupidity and ignorance shown by the press. While “gig” & “headline act” might be a stretch, it’s not unthinkable and the rest of the terms I believe I’ve seen used before in previous coverage of catholic events.

  • Michael,

    The press has displayed abominable ignorance at times. There’s no denying it. But this should be seen as an opportunity to lift up and educate. Instead of providing a brief-but-substantial dictionary of Catholic terminology, the Bishops’ take the opposite approach by ‘dumbing down’ the language.

    Treating the readership as if they were in elementary school only encourages this ignorance. An elementary paper like USA Today could have done a better job.

  • Yeah, this is tough. Probably better off having said nothing. The real scandal in my mind is that too many Catholics seem to think of the sacred items in the list like the “similar terms”.

  • I hope he is “taken care of”….so to speak.

  • And by taken care of, I mean given great accomodations!!!

  • “it’s hard to see how this type of glossary can be received as anything other than an insult to the reader”.

    I don’t find it hard at all: this is an insult to the Eucharist and to the Mass. This is not an “explaining” of anything to anyone, this is a willed banalisation of the sacred for the sake of appearing “hip” and “connected”.

    I also suspect that those who have thought this genial initiative have no clear idea of what a Mass or what the Eucharist is. If they had had it, they would have never dared to make such comparisons.


  • Apparently, we’re wrong. It’s not to the press, it’s the people producing the Papal Event-people for whom “gig” and “headline act” are common usages. This appears to be a hatchet job.

    See Thomas Peters who has a statement from the Papal Visit team and the document in full:

  • I still can’t see your argument, Denton.

    The last page of the document is delirious even following the pages of the documents.

    No one in his right mind would ever dare to make any comparison whatever between a Mass and a “Gig”, and say that for a non-catholic the one may have the merest resemblance to the other.

    No one has ever tought or said that the last page is everything there is in the document, it is not about that.

    As for the affirmation that there is no intention of being patronising, this is more than risible. The explanations made in the previous pages make the last page even more offensive for a journalist, not less.

    The last page could have been cut out entirely, and no one would have missed it. But no, the “see, my Mass is a kind of gig” part had to be inserted.


48 Responses to Thomas Woods and His Critics, The Austrian vs. Distributist Debate Among Catholics

  • Good post, David. Off-topic, but are you in CL?

  • Great post – I agree this discussion is fascinating. IT it is very much improved by the frank admission and acceptance of the principle of the autonomy of the temporal order, and the civility of the contributors to the discussion. I hope to see more posts like this here.

  • I hate this post. I don’t like things that remind me of how poorly read I am. 😉

    In seriousness, thank you very much for writing this; I think it will give people like me a basis for understanding this debate. Now if only you could out enough time to go with the many links!

  • Great roundup. Thanks.

    Let us generalize about right-liberals and libertarians of various stripes (I might be described as paleo-libertarian, but the concept still seems to me to be in development, and I dislike all liberalism):

    Insofar as they are fine with a determinism of the “free market” economic conduct, they are wrong:
    by this I mean a view that the market is incompatible with ethics. “Efficiency” is NEVER to be valued above morality. The “market” has NO “inner logic.”

    Thus a good society is built upon the morality of its people, and culture is more important than politics and the construction of economic structures.

    Market-Determinism, it might be called, is anti-human, just as collectivism is anti-human (Ayn Rand was right about the Soviet Union and wrong about herself).

    Markets come from society. They are social institutions, flowing from law and custom. A market mechanism punishes inefficiency – great. But morality and family (and from family, tribe, and from tribe, nation, if a nation is not to have large-scale internal conflict) must be the foundational basis of organizing influence upon a polis.

  • Chris,


  • I have one issue with this debate – it seems too narrowly framed. Although I admire distributism, I don’t really regard myself as one. It’s a little narrow in its focus. And the Austrians are a little kooky and fringe. The real argument is between Catholics who support the postwar experiment in Christian democracy (which, as the pope says, is very close to social democracy in its economic aspects), and the resurgent laissez-faire liberalism that held sway long before Hayek started worrying about welfare states and dictators.

  • I’m curious about something and would like to it throw something out here. I am not very well read on economics, but I’m under the impression there are no major true laissez-faire capitalist voices out there. My impression is that most everyone acknowledges a role of the government in the economy, and that the debate is really one of degree and type of involvement. Is that a fair assessment?

  • resurgent laissez-faire liberalism

    The Libertarian Party is good for 0.7% of the national vote. Dr. Paul won about 5 1/2% of the Republican primary and caucus ballots two years ago; Alan Keyes once did about as well.

  • MM,

    If you really want to talk about real, current alternatives in the current political and economic landscape, I’m not clear that Christian Democracy or even Social Democracy are much on the table either.

    If I were to venture a guess though, I think that the appeal of Distributism for many Catholic readers/writers is that:

    a) It is a specifically Catholic phenomenon, which Social Democracy is not and Christian Democracy only partly is and

    b) For many Catholics, I think that the European example of Christian Democracy and Social Democracy in the post-war years is seen as tainted by what seems to have followed naturally from it: a breakdown of the communal in favor of the individual, and a relationship between individual and state replacing other more subsidiary relationships.

    Distributism, in it more communitarian forms, appeals to those who might be more receptive to ideas of Christian Democracy if they hadn’t seen how it worked out in reality. In that Distributism has (or can have) communitarian elements, yet lacks the centralizing and statist impulses of Christian Democracy, its fans hope that it would fair better.

  • Regarding a supposedly resurgent laissez-faire liberalism….since when exactly? Maybe in the time of McKinley and Taft, but certainly not since the first large-scale American centralizations, which began with Wilson (who could make W. Bush look like the head of the ACLU) and continued with the New Deal and the Great Society and continues right on up to the corporatist spirit and value transferrence of….well, today’s Republicans and Democrats (although, hey, maybe the big banks and companies and major foundations and Wall Street crowds will give a lot less to leftist parties and causes this year, given the economy – typically they fill up those coffers).

    The real argument is, increasinly, between our elites (government, media, big business, big public sector labor unions, ethnic activists, those that transfer instead of create value) and the folks really getting hammered – small business owners, family farms, manufacturers, ect (ie people that make our economy hum and don’t want to think too much about politics as they raise their families). Douthat hinted at this yesterday:

  • My impression is that most everyone acknowledges a role of the government in the economy, and that the debate is really one of degree and type of involvement. Is that a fair assessment?

    I’d say so. These days even anarchists acknowledge a role for government.

  • Chris,

    Thanks for this excellent overview!

    Many of you know that I am intimately involved in this dispute. I was a contributor to the Distributist Review, and was unceremoniously dumped when I began to take more libertarian positions.

    Indeed I have been characterized as a “Distributarian” for my attempt to reconcile the two positions (and I thank you for including my old article, my first attempt at that).

    I have been fascinated with the work of Hayek and Ropke, and I have come to believe ever-more strongly in the positive goodness of economic liberty. I think my evolution is quite similar to David Jones’, in that it is impossible for me not to acknowledge what the Austrians get right.

    Those who want to learn more about my perspective are also invited to read:

  • Blackadder,

    Yes I am in CL. Drop me an email if you desire.

  • The Distributists err when they claim the Austrians are a bunch of heretics. In Catholic Social Doctrine there is the principle of the “Autonomy of the Temporal Order”. The Church does not mandate we embrace a specific economic (or political) model. The Church has been critical of both Socialism and Capitalism in the past, but also recognizes that we live in a global economy today. The prudential application of moral principles can be applied in both a Distributist and Capitalist economic model.

    Actually, the charge is that the Austrians deny that the Church has any sort of teaching role in economic matters (and the concomitant claim that economics is completely separate from ethics). The Church does not mandate any particular order for all polities, but it does provide general principles.

  • (and *affirm* the concomitant claim that economics is completely separate from ethics).

  • Let me also say that I agree with Johnathan Jones about the importance of culture. We cannot have Locke without Burke. We cannot have freedom without values. We cannot have liberty without Christ!

    But having said all that, I believe many of the critics of economic liberalism undermine the free-will that is inherent in human nature, that is a property of the souls God gave us. It is free-will that bestows a dignity upon man above all of the animals; it is free-will that makes us moral beings. To undermine free-will by attempting to micromanage the economy is to degrade humanity, in my opinion. There should certainly be a framework, but within it, there should be as much freedom as possible.

    I think we are voluntary collectivists by nature. So I reject involuntary collectivism as well as voluntary individualism. And I think Christianity is ultimately voluntary collectivism, and what we ought to be working towards.

  • Excellent. Thanks for taking the time to put all that together – I hope to get through it all someday.

    I think a great point made, that deserves to be mentioned again, is that the issue is morality, virtue and character.

    Austrians maybe right about the market (I happen to agree); however, men are not angels. Although the market is the preferred method for ferreting out problems, it fails without Church (conscience) and government (fair broker). The problems we face are that we do not have a church in this country, we have churches and although there is really only One Church in truth, we are not there yet. We also have to deal with the fact that centralized statist power necessarily attracts men of low character and questionable morality, if any. Therefore, the government is not a fair broker.

    The government and the corporatists look out for each other at the expense of everyone else. This is what caused Jesus to flip tables in the Temple.

    We need to have this debate; however, in order for it to be something more than an academic and theoretical one, we need to restore the US Constitution, apply subsidiarity (federalism) and restore the moral order – first within ourselves, our Church, our communities and then elect men of character as our representatives. Then this discussion can have practical results.

    In the current corporatist-statist paradigm neither Austrian theory, nor Distributism have any place. We are given the option of Socialism leading to Communism leading to an evil oligarchy and reducing us to serfs (slaves), or Capitalism leading to corporate usurers being in control leading to an oligarchy and reducing us to employees (slaves). The result is the same either way.

    Me thinks the majority of people given the latter two choices, would prefer either of the former choices as an economic system for this country.

  • In meaning that culture is more important than politics, and that the family is the very foundation of a good society, it should also be noted that the strands of activist statism and liberalism (because even right-liberalism is an invitation to statism, as “freedom” is isolating and people become open to state-sponsored communion, and so I use liberalism to mean “equal freedom”, as enforced equality is left-liberalism) invite hubris. Protection against this is the genius of Madison in Federalist 10, writing that a dim view of human nature is most reasonable for the conduct of public affairs. “The good life of man” he traced to the Greeks, who asked not what kind of society can we mold but how can we mold ouselves to a concept of the good. Such (proper!) questions are why literary insight matters so much to governmental organization – as governmental organization should be concerned with following the good order of souls, which will always gravitate towards communion (hopefully in the Eucharist), no matter their stated desires (and so I agree about humans being “voluntary collectivists).”

  • Actually, the charge is that the Austrians deny that the Church has any sort of teaching role in economic matters (and the concomitant claim that economics is completely separate from ethics).

    The Austrian position is more limited than this. Here, for example, is Woods:

    My position, therefore, in no way involves the claim that the sciences per se, including economics, are exempt from moral evaluation. They are, however, exempt from technical critiques on the part of the Church, since churchmen may speak only as individuals on such questions and not for the Church as a whole. Thus if a certain medicine could be produced only by ripping the hearts out of living human beings, the Church should condemn such a thing, no matter how many doctors were in favor of producing the medicine. But if two kinds of medicines are suggested to treat a particular ailment, and no moral objection can be raised to either one, then in such an area the Church must defer to those who are schooled in that specialized science.

    The confusion arises, I think, from the fact that Catholics often make moral claims which presuppose certain factual assumptions. These assumptions can seem so obvious that a person doesn’t even realize they are there. It just seems like straight morality. So when an Austrian denies the conclusion and says it goes beyond the Church’s competence, it sounds like he is denying a moral teaching.

  • Blackadder: Do the Austrians claim that economics is purely descriptive? If so, then on what basis do they make normative claims?

    Medicine or pharmaceuticals is a product of art subordinate to biology — it’s not exactly a good analogy since all human transactions are moral in nature and cannot be studied in abstraction of their morality. One cannot say that these are just our observations about how operate work in the “marketplace” and they are morally neutral. If economics were just like physics or biology, one could claim the Church has no competence to criticize. But it’s not.

  • “We cannot have Locke without Burke.”

    That’s a good argument for getting rid of Burke.

  • Joe H. Says, “We cannot have Locke without Burke.”

    Why would we want Locke at all?

  • In America, we’re stuck with Locke, and I don’t think he was all bad.

  • @ John C.M.


    …Locke, Stocke, and Two Smoking Barrels!

    (Couldn’t resist)

  • It’s not longer a matter of will, intention, rationality, etc.? We’re just stuck with him?

  • Well, I think Locke is a part of the American political tradition via the founding fathers and particularly Jefferson.

    So no, I don’t think you can just will the legacy of Locke’s ideas out of the American political consciousness.

  • Locke’s influence on the Founding is overrated. Locke was but one of many writers that were quoted and cited in the literature of the time, but if you look at the philosophy of the men who truly formed our republic – Madison, Hamilton, Adams, etc – he was not a formative influence in any meaningful way.

  • And how did we even get onto this discussion in the first place? We make some funny detours around here.

  • David & BA,

    CL as in Communion and Liberation?

  • One thing that strikes me as peculiar about the point of origin of this discussion is your identification of ‘Austrian’ economics as the counterpoint to certain trends in Catholic social thought. ‘Austrian’ economics is an odd and controversial set of conceptions and not accepted by aught but a small minority of macroeconomists with an affinity for libertarian notions of justice.

  • jonathanjones02 & DarwinCatholic – All brilliant comments and observations. I agree with them, I think.

    Joe – Blosser referred me over to your blog. Wow, great stuff. You and I will be talking I am sure. I will definitely read the links you provided above. I am especially interested in learning more about Ropke’s thought. If memory serves me correctly ISI publishes some of his works or at least book(s) about his thought. At this moment I am reading the foundational texts of Distributism. I also what to read the newer books of Distributism that the Distributist Review Press is putting out. I also desire to read more Robert Nisbet, Russell Kirk, & Karl Polanyi. Maybe I can find time for Ropke as well. You might find this article of interest.

    PB – I agree with you.

    American Knight – Brilliant comments as well. I would slightly differ with you on that it is possible to find small ways to live the Distributist lifestyle in our time. Refer to the works and thought of Wendell Berry, Eric Brende, Rod Dreher, Caleb Stegall, etc. The work and thought of John Médaille and Richard Aleman are especially helpful in this regard. Refer to the Aleman’s recent talk at the Chesterton conference. I am not sure it’s available yet though.

    Maybe he will be kind enough to provide the text of the talk to us. Refer to his podcast interview though on Uncommon Sense #17.

    John Médaille – As a 2001 IRPS grad (last class under Bushman) from UD I salute you. Thank you for all your years of work advocating Distributist thought. What you and others have done with the Distributist Review is simply beautiful. I am really excited about where DR is going.

    WJ, John & Joe – I prefer Burke over Locke… I wonder what Russell Kirk has to say about Locke? I would also remind folks of Masonic influence on Locke’s thought. Blosser is now beating his head on the table. hehe

    Tito – yes CL means Communion and Liberation in my case.

  • What concerns me about the Austrians or anarcho capitalists, especially Rothbard’s and even Lew Rockwell’s thought as far as I have read or heard them, is this… They never it seems to me distinguish between the local, state and federal governments. All government is bad, all the time. This is simply not reasonable. This is not in line with Catholic Social Ethics either. Things should be handled at the lowest level possible (subsidiarity) – individual, family, neighborhood, parish, community, state, nation, etc. Government is not evil though, which is the presupposition of the Austrians. I reject that. Government is necessary for the common good in a fallen world.

  • In addition to the above link that I provided here are some others. Here are just some of the historic conversations I have had with Blosser and others on the influence Masonic thought on our Founding Fathers refer below.

    Locke and others are talked about in the comments of this last link.

    One could argue the liberalism (classical?) that they Austrians argue for is related to this topic as well.

  • As an attempt to gently guide us back to the topic of the main post. If you had to put me in a box politically I would state I am a traditional conservative, or to use Rod Dreher’s term – a crunchy conservative. Refer to his book, Crunch Cons. Libertarianism for me is like a shoe one size too small. I am very attracted to it at times, but the shoe just doesn’t fit. I like what the Austrians have to say about the monetary policy (i.e. fiat currency & the Federal Reserve), but I can’t swallow their promotion of anarchy, either in the economic or political spheres. I agree with the comments above about the importance of morality and values. A government can enact moral and just laws. A government can regulate the market for the common good. I would just argue this needs to be done at the lowest level possible. I share the same concerns of many above about collectivism.

  • I hear you David. I think matters would be helped if we considered that there is a difference between:

    1) “government” and “the state”, and

    2) “the state” and “the State”

    Re. 1, I think it is arguable that “the state” – the modern state as we know it – is a relatively recent invention. It is a permanent set of coercive institutions operated by professional bureaucrats. Governments, I think, are the sum of administrative institutions. At least that’s how some people would draw the distinction. There are anarchists who say they are “anti-state” but not “anti-government”, and that’s how they do it (crudely, roughly). Personally, I don’t see how you have a government without at least a minimal state – the “minarchist” position.

    I’m closer to minarchism these days, but I do see a positive role for government in providing benefits and incentives to inherently good and socially beneficial activity. Really I’d just like to go back to city-states, in my fantasy land 🙂 Catholic city-states… like medieval Venice… I think those accord much better with CST than say, the reign of the Sun King.

    Re. 2, here much confusion arises, especially among Catholics. I think when the pre-councilar popes, especially Leo XIII, are speaking of “the State” with a capital S, they are speaking about something somewhat different than say, our federal bureaucracy. When I read Aristotle’s Politics, for instance, it seems rather clear to me that in many places in which “State” appears, we might use the word “society” or even “civil society” – as a sphere distinct from coercive authority. And I see a similarity in Leo’s encyclicals. It could mean both, it could mean either.

    So “State” capital S seems to suggest a great deal more, and at the same time, a great deal less from the coercive power.

    I could be wrong I suppose. But if I’m right, then it puts some of the social teaching in a new light.

  • Joe – I am curious to get your judgment of Carlson’s article on Karl Polanyi when you get a free moment.

  • David,

    I have the tab open. That means it will be read today 🙂

    It looks fascinating, and so yes I will comment!

  • David,

    I read the article. Polanyi’s arguments are very familiar to me, and indeed I used to share many of them. At the root I still share them, but I think many of the individual ideas are based in a selective and incomplete historical narrative.

    “Laissez-faire” is a slippery term. But the argument that production for exchange isn’t “natural”, i.e. Aristotle’s argument, is just not obviously true. It makes sense in Aristotle’s world, but then, so did slavery and the total subjugation of women. At the same time, Aristotle recognized the implications of technological progress in a very poetic and perhaps unintentional way when he wrote in Book I of the Politics, justifying the reduction of a man to an instrument of production:

    “For if every instrument could accomplish its own work, obeying or anticipating the will of others, like the statues of Daedalus, or the tripods of Hephaestus, which, says the poet,

    of their own accord entered the assembly of the Gods;

    if, in like manner, the shuttle would weave and the plectrum touch the lyre without a hand to guide them, chief workmen would not want servants, nor masters slaves.”

    Arguably our modern technology has brought us far closer to this fantastic ideal than Aristotle could have ever imagined. So those who use Aristotle to try and justify reactionary economic arrangements today would do well to realize that Aristotle was something of a technological determinist himself.

    Next, the idea that there was this marvelous social order on the eve of the 19th century that laissez-faire broke apart forcibly is only partially true. These processes had been taking place for centuries, and it is arguable that it began with the massive labor shortages caused by the Black Death.

    It also ignores the rise of commercial capitalism in the Middle Ages, and particularly in the Italian city-states, in which there were limited-liability contracts, profitable lending (some would call it usury), and other financial instruments to encourage economic growth. The maritime trading empires of Venice and Genoa especially were built on the “unnatural” form of wealth-getting.

    Alongside commerce and trade existed the Church, whose morality was the foundation upon which all was built. Leo XIII recognized this as a great example of the Church’s positive contribution to civilization in Libertas:

    ” Neither does the Church condemn those who, if it can be done without violation of justice, wish to make their country independent of any foreign or despotic power. Nor does she blame those who wish to assign to the State the power of self-government, and to its citizens the greatest possible measure of prosperity. The Church has always most faithfully fostered civil liberty, and this was seen especially in Italy, in the municipal prosperity, and wealth, and glory which were obtained at a time when the salutary power of the Church has spread, without opposition, to all parts of the State.” (46)

    Here, btw, is another example of Leo’s use of the word “State” meaning something different than our use of the word “state”. Clearly here “State” means more than the coercive power and its bureaucratic appendages.

    This brings me to the last critique I would make of Polanyi: his belief that the artificial, bureaucratic interventions of the welfare-regulatory regime somehow “restored balance” to a social order upset by laissez-faire. I can see how at the time these institutions and interventions were seen as necessary; I believe a century of historical experience has shown that they make the problem worse. The state cannot replace local, organic, spontaneous institutions created through a shared culture and values. Instead it becomes something like a powerful magnet that, through sheer force, draws all of the atomized individuals to it in an undifferentiated mass.

    And the labor unions have proven to be a reactionary force as well. I think they actually prevent the Distributist goal of widespread ownership by bolstering illusions in wage labor. Nisbet mentions “unions and cooperatives” as if they are part and parcel of the same process; I say that the latter will really only begin to thrive as the former finally disappear. I see them as rival visions for improving the lot of the common man.

  • Pingback: Is Economics Universal? « The American Catholic
  • the Daily Bell
    Let’s Talk About Natural Rights by Dr. Tibor Machan

    When various skeptics question the soundness of the American political system, one of their targets is the idea of human nature. After all, the founders took their political philosophy mainly from John Locke who thought human nature does exist and, based on what we know of it and a few other evident matters, we can reach the conclusion that all human beings have certain rights. This is what is meant by holding that there are natural rights and that they are pre-legal, not a creation of government…

  • Pingback: Catholic Distributariaism: A Preemptive FAQ « Non Nobis
  • Pingback: Catholic Distributarianism: A Preemptive FAQ « The American Catholic
  • Pingback: The Next Great Depression « The American Catholic
  • Pingback: Libertarianism vs. Catholicism « The American Catholic
  • “It’s not an either/or solution, it’s a both/and solution. Test everything, hold fast to what is good in both camps.”

    I have been saying this very thing for a couple of years. Both “camps” seem to me to be excessively doctrinal (and academic) in their writings and debates; so much so that I felt the need to withdraw and take a “time out” to digest it all.

    It’s hard enough for non-academics to absorb this stuff without the the exchange of missiles between the two sides.

  • Pingback: A Union of Conservatives and Libertarians? | The American Catholic

Understanding Pope Benedict XVI on the Liturgy

Tuesday, August 31, AD 2010

Assessing Benedict’s views of the liturgy

In “Where Truth and Beauty Meet”: Understanding Benedict (The Tablet August 14, 2010) – Eamon Duffy, Professor of the History of Christianity, and Fellow and Director of Studies at Magdalene College, Cambridge, aptly summarizes Pope Benedict’s view of the liturgy and his calls for reform

[Pope Benedict] believes that behind many celebrations of the new liturgy lie a raft of disastrous theological, cultural, sociological and aesthetic assumptions, linked to the unsettled time in which the liturgical reforms were carried out. In particular, he believes that twentieth-century theologies of the Eucharist place far too much emphasis on the notion that the fundamental form of the Eucharist is that of a meal, at the cost of underplaying the cosmic, redemptive, and sacrificial character of the Mass.

The Pope, of course, himself calls the Mass the “Feast of Faith”, “the Banquet of the reconciled”. Nevertheless Calvary and the empty tomb, rather than the Upper Room, are for him the proper symbolic locations of Christian liturgy. The sacrificial character of the Eucharist has to be evident in the manner of its celebration, and the failure to embody this adequately in the actual performance of the new liturgy seems to him one of the central problems of the post-conciliar reforms. …

Continue reading...

7 Responses to Understanding Pope Benedict XVI on the Liturgy

  • Chris,

    I understand the good intentions behind your post and those you quote in it.

    It is extremely difficult for me to restrain my dislike for the Novus Ordo.

    Novus Ordoism is mediocrity incarnate, and I detest nothing more than deliberate mediocrity, than a deliberate shunning of the beautiful for the plain and the banal.

    To think that we have fallen so far from the aesthetic heights reached by the Church during the Counter-Reformation, to think that we now dishonor God by presuming to offer to him during worship a bundle of sub-par prayers, songs, and movements that reflect more the subjective desires of misguided liberals than objective standards of beauty and reverence.

    Relativism has placed objective truth, egalitarianism has replaced hierarchical truth, and emotionalism has replaced spiritual truth. These are the marks of Protestantism. I have read several articles recently detailing the rapid flight of young Protestants from their churches. One of the primary reasons they do so is because young people – as opposed to the out-of-touch liberal boomers who wrecked everything – don’t want these things. They don’t want this phony “participation”, this phony “inclusiveness”, this forced leveling of everything. They want to be confronted with the truth.

    Catholics are losing young people for very similar reasons. But at the traditional Mass I go to, I see more young families all of the time. It isn’t just old people who are “sentimental”; it is young people who reject the banality of the Novus Ordo, who want a fuller, richer, deeper spiritual experience. The Church may not gain millions of new adherents by returning to her greatest traditions, but those she does retain and attract will be of the highest quality. And that’s more important.

  • Eamonn Duffy mystifies me. The Stripping of the Altars is the finest, most moving account available of the catastrophic consequences of radical liturgical revolution. When I read it, I presumed that he was a traditionalist. In fact however he sounds like a typical product of the revolution, blind to its failure and tone deaf to its consequences. When he implies that “most Catholics” are content with the Novus Ordo, is he really unaware of the war that the bishops and clergy have waged against the traditonal Mass for the last four decades, or of the profound ignorance of the traditional liturgy that now prevails among the vast majority of Catholics under the age of 50? How can you oppose a reform of the reform that nothing in your religious education or experience prepares you even to understand? It saddens me to read someone I admire so much writing like a clueless apparatchik of the “magic circle.”

  • I’m a fairly young Catholic (32), and for years I’ve been going to a Latin language Ordinary Form at a parish that celebrates Mass in both forms.

    I like the Extraordinary Form. I just prefer the Ordinary–when it is celebrated in accordance to liturgical tradition.

    I do think that sometimes enthusiasts for the Extraordinary Form of the Mass tend to shoot themselves in the foot by excessive bitterness towards the Ordinary Form, which often turns off people who are unaware of liturgical tradition.

  • Ah yes, the ol’ unprovable Freemasonic conspiracy theory. “I know a guy who heard from a priest who knew a cardinal who swore that Bugnini was a Mason.”

  • Anywhere I have heard the Traditional Mass it has been sublime.

    The Novus Ordo, although valid, leaves far too much room for ‘innovation’, which is politically correct speak for irreverent.

    I was on holiday for the Sunday on which the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary fell this year and found a Roman Catholic parish, although the building did not look like a church, at the beach. What I had a tough time finding was the tabernacle. I blessed myself facing the crucifix, thank God they had one. Eventually, I located the tabernacle – at the back of the Church!!!!

    I was also privileged to hear a rock & roll Mass, with guitar and Lady Ga Ga like headset microphone. It was great and oh so Holy. Not to mention that the celebrant was so nice as to order all of us to remain standing AFTER we received Eucharist so as to be in the same posture, how democratic. The picnic like assembly IN the Sanctuary, with female altar servers too, was especially pleasant. I was clearly noticed for doing two things in complete and utter disobedience: I received on my tongue, while kneeling and I went back to my pew and hit my knees and bowed my head.

    Is that something wrong with the Novus Ordo? No, but it seems when you give liberals an inch, they’ll take a mile, or is that a centimeter and a meter – I can’t keep clear which ‘standard’ we’re using today, I’m sure it will change tomorrow.

    The Holy Mass MUST be the most important and sacred thing we experience – if it isn’t, why bother with the Faith at all. I don’t think the Novus Ordo is all that bad (although sometimes I struggle greatly to accept that) and I am looking forward to the better translations coming Advent of 2011. Nevertheless, the real problem is having too much wiggle room. I am a big proponent of liberty in the secular world – the Mass is not secular, it is not profane – it is Sacred and when it comes to Sacred things, innovation is not pleasant and should be discouraged.

  • I did have a deep discussion with my SD about the ‘innovative’ Mass. He has directed me in the past to seek God’s Peace and look for positive things, so I stated that the Mass I heard was ‘interesting’ – that is the most positive thing I could say.

    Actually, the rubrics were valid, so the issue was irreverence and not improper form, which is precisely the problem with lax rubrics and the Novus Ordo, as practiced, in general. In some ways we are actually given more grace when we can remain peaceful and reverent during an irreverent Mass.

    Christ told (supposedly) Gabrielle Bossis, “Even if you do nothing at Mass but try to drive away distractions, you please Me all the same. I understand.”

    I also knelt on the floor in front of the tabernacle, after I located the tabernacle, and begged Christ to have mercy on all of us, especially those charged with celebrating the Mass. It was a very powerful experience. Nevertheless, I pray that the new translation and accompanying catechesis helps prevent this blatant irreverence from continuing and spreading.