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Motu proprio reverberations

Catholic bloggers, alert to opposition to the Pope’s motu proprio from suspects usual and otherwise, have come up with some notable examples, one by sometime America editor Fr.


Tempest in a chainak

There’s been enough interest in a side comment I made about Islam in a post several years ago to motivate a flurry of (to my mind) rather odd discussion on a couple of weblogs (e.g., here, here, here,


Turning point

The Pope’s long-rumored Apostolic Letter issued motu proprio (“on his own motion”) facilitating the use of the classical Roman liturgy is now out, along with an explanatory letter from the Pope addressed to the world’s bishops.


Get with the program or you're divisive

Senator Obama, whose own church seems quite ready to accentuate differences, repeats the common goodthinker’s complaint that

Somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together and started being used to drive us apart.


Darwinism and intelligent design

I don’t know much about the topic in its specific sense as a theory opposed to Darwinism. Some ideas associated with it do seem to make sense. It seems to me, for example, that mathematical analysis and basic physics and chemistry ought to set outer bounds on what random variation and natural selection can do, and so cast light on their plausibility as explanations for how life has developed. Whether much light has yet been cast I really have no idea.


Semper infideles

A study from the Barna Group has turned up some interesting info on the numbers, lifestyles and self-perceptions of American atheists and agnostics, and how they contrast with those of active Christians. The most striking findings are:


More on who gets to say what's what

It’s hard for someone who knows practically zero about the ecology of academic theology to say anything very definite about the recent demand by German theologians for ‘intelligent restructuring’ of the Vatican’s doctrinal office. Still, a theologian should admit it’s OK to talk about things that go far beyond our actual knowledge, and we all have to orient ourselves with regard to reality and how we know about it, so here are some comments:


Can pointlessness really be the point?

Michael Blowhard moseys though a discussion of G. K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, notes that part of his argument (the part MB likes), boils down to “Why, that’s how things have always seemed to me!”, and then asks “What do people really find appealing about Western-style monotheism? What emotional/imaginative thing does it serve?” Why, in other words, do things seem like that to people?


Beyond belief: irreligion as a natural phenomenon

A basic question that’s attracted surprisingly little discussion in spite of its obvious social importance is why so many people not only let religion slide practically but deny it as a theoretical matter. Their apparent claim is that one part of a universe that arose by chance and means nothing can interpret that universe correctly and so understand it as truly pointless. The theory has a certain perverse elegance as the self-liquidation of thought, but it seems surprising that anyone would actually hold it.


No sex please, we're Anglicans

It’s become routine to say that current Anglican disputes are really about scriptural authority or unity of doctrine within the Anglican communion rather than sex. To my mind that doesn’t wash. At bottom the basic issue is always truth, in this case the truth about sex. If the right answer is that its human meaning has no intrinsic connection to natural function, so that it becomes what we make of it, then that will also be the correct interpretation of scripture and ultimately the only acceptable basis for unity of doctrine.


The New Age marches on

So far as I can tell, the “rising tide of religious fundamentalism,” at least in the West, is really the “rapid dissolution of religion as a social presence.” That dissolution leads to occasional complaints from people who aren’t totally on board with the new program, as well as horrified outbursts from radical secularists who are shocked when they find that the new program has not yet gone to completion. Hence the stories about religion in the news.


The Woman Question

A quick review of Genevieve Kineke, The Authentic Catholic Woman (Servant Books, 2006):


When critics need criticism

Talking about what people should and shouldn’t do is a sticky business. Pascal was obviously right when he said that it’s difficult to speak humbly of humility or chastely of chastity, and it’s conventional to accuse obtrusively pious and moral people of hypocrisy. During my unfortunate stay in the Episcopal Church I noticed that people who talk about openness and community are mostly self-willed tyrants, and those who tell stories about their own honesty shouldn’t be trusted.


How many can play the game?

In an email discussion with Larry Auster (reproduced toward the end of this entry at his weblog) I suggested that our rulers would always give way to the group that combines maximum ability to disrupt with a colorable claim to leftish legitimacy, simply because things are easier that way. That’s the basis of European pre-emptive dhimmitude, and it’s why university administrators have often thanked black students for their efforts when they’ve taken over their offices.


More wrestling with Roepke

Wilhelm Roepke’s book A Humane Economy is intended to lay out the conditions for the existence and well-being of a free economy and indeed a free society. Those conditions are rather demanding. Here are some quotations:

The market economy, and with it social and political freedom, can thrive only as a part and under the protection of a bourgeois system. This implies the existence of a society in which certain fundamentals are respected and color the whole network of social relationships: individual effort and responsibility, absolute norms and values, independence based on ownership, prudence and daring, calculating and saving, responsibility for planning one’s own life, proper coherence with the community, family feeling, a sense of tradition and the succession generations combined with an open-minded view of the present and the future, proper tension between individual and community, firm moral discipline, respect for the value of money, the courage to grapple on one’s own with life and its uncertainties, a sense of the natural order of things, and a firm scale of values. 98.


Know-nothing gnostic

I read The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels some years ago and couldn’t see that there was much there. It’s always been notorious that in the second century and later various speculative writers composed riffs on Christian themes that aroused some interest for a while (although apparently never mass interest). They were debunked and denounced by Irenaeus and others and then declined into a sort of perpetual speculative temptation.


A slob like one of us

Here are a couple more instances of what happens when Christianity is eviscerated by abolishing its transcendent aspects: “Embracing Change”, as discussed by the inimitable Diogenes, and “Carnal Love”.

The former, of course, is a therapeutic expression meaning “do what you’re told and like it.” Its currency among touchy-feely ecclesiastical functionaries is a demonstration that the abolition of tradition and evaporation of dogma and discipline makes the arbitrary power of local bosses unlimited as long as they pretend they’re not really exercising power but just acting as experts or facilitators.


Papal jawboning

As mentioned in my last entry on the Tridentine Mass, the French bishops have been lobbying intensively against it. Rumor has it that some of them have pointed out that it’s wiser not to order changes those on the spot will refuse to carry out.


More on the intellectual and practical need for God

Here’s another way of putting a point I made in my last entry: we understand things by seeing them in a setting. We also need to have some sort of general understanding of the world at large to orient our lives and thought as a whole. That understanding can’t involve an infinite series of ever more comprehensive settings. We must therefore recognize some sort of super-setting within which we place all other things.


Is God an old man's tale?

Charles Murray has an interview at the Gene Expression weblog in which he mentions that he has been an agnostic since his teens but is growing more and more inclined to thoughts of God as he grows older. His case is common enough to be worth comment. Why is it that once men pass adolescence they get more religious as time goes by?

So far as I can tell, it’s not a sign of incipient senility. Murray still seems vigorous enough intellectually, and ditto for the adult reverts and converts to Catholicism I’ve known. I’ll let others decide whether my own status as a recent convert makes me more or less able to discuss this issue intelligently. Still, if I’m allowed to put aside my own possible precocious senile dementia, and say how things seem to me, I’d say that as we get older we rely less on close analysis of specifics and more on recognition of general patterns. In Pascal’s terms, we rely more on the intuitive and less on the mathematical mind. More particularly, we rely on our experience of the world in general to fill us in on the nature and implications of the specific situations we deal with.



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