Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Among the many delightful people associated with Notre Dame's Center for Ethics and Culture that I got to spend time with in Rome over the past week is Ken Hallenius, Communications Specialist. Ken has created a very cool index linking to all of Pope Benedict XVI's general audience reflections. He has organized them by topic, such as "Prayer", "Faith", "Holy Women", "Doctors of the Church".
Ken also brought to my attention this excellent essay by Amy Wellborn, very critical of the Vatican's framing (but not the act) of the recent elevation of Mary Magdalenes’ July 22 memorial to a feast. Wellborn discusses the book she wrote about Mary Magdalene a few years ago (now out of print, but perhaps to be made available in digital form soon).
From "From Facts to Fiction" (1966):
If the first great discovery of my life was the beauty of the scientific method, surely the second was the discovery of the singular predicament of man in the very world which has been transformed by this science. An extraordinary paradox became clear: that the more science progressed, and even as it benefited man, the less it said about what it was like to be a man living in the world. . . . After twelve years of scientific education, I felt somewhat like the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard when he finished reading Hegel. Hegel, said Kierkegaard, explained everything under the sun, except one small detail: what it means to be a man living in the world who must die.
From "How To Be an American Novelist in Spite of Being Southern and Catholic" (1984):
The Christian ethos sustains the narrative enterprise in ways so familiar to us that they can be overlooked. It underwrites those very properties of the novel without which there is no novel: I am speaking of the mystery of human life, its sense of predicament, of something having gone wrong, of life as a wayfaring and a pilgrimage, of the density and linearity of time and the sacramental reality of things. The intervention of God in history through the Incarnation bestows a weight and value to the individual human narrative which is like money in the bank to the novelist.
Tuesday, June 14, 2016
Our dear friend and MOJ colleague, Fr. Araujo, left behind -- among other things! -- a really nice interview, with Fr. Paul Kenney, S.J., which has been preserved thanks to the New England Jesuits Oral History Program. You can get it here (and you should!). Among (many) other things, Fr. Araujo reflects in the interview on his participation in the Mirror of Justice project over the years. Check it out.
Rusty Reno wrote, recently:
What does it mean to be an intellectual? The word comes from the Latin word for understanding, intellego. Lego has dense, multifaceted meanings: to choose, select, collect, and gather. It also means to read. When inter gets added, which means “between,” we get a compound meaning, something like “to read between the lines.” Intellego translates the Greek wordkatanoesis, which can be translated as “knowing across.” If we put these clues together, we come up with a basic working definition of an intellectual. He is someone who can see the differences between things (choosing) and the connections between them (collecting). He attends to reality as it presents itself, but penetrates deeper as well. An intellectual can read not just words and books, but reality and the world. He knows the stories things tell or the ideas they express. In the case of the Christian intellectual, he knows how reality directs us towards the logos, which is the person of Christ.
The goal of the intellectual life, therefore, is to see things as they are, in themselves and together. The fullest kind of knowing knows across as well as about, among as well as in. The same applies to reading, the lectio in the word “intellectual.” We are always reading across words; we read individual words in relation to the others. Discerning an argument or message requires synthesis, a “knowing across.” . . .
Is "pluralism" a given, to be "dealt with" or "managed" -- or, is it a good thing in itself? The answer depends, I suppose, on what we mean by "pluralism." With the question in mind, here's an interesting essay by Peter Berger, in First Things, called "The Good of Religious Pluralism." (The essay summarizes Berger's recent book, The Many Altars of Modernity.) Here's a bit:
Secularization theory was not completely false; it was a massive exaggeration of what was a correct insight. It is beyond dispute that secular discourse, probably originating in modern science and technology, has transformed human life. (One such transformation: In premodern societies, almost half of all children died before age five; today most children, even in poor countries, live to adulthood.) The distinguished Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor wrote a big book with the title A Secular Age (2007). He gives a rich description of what he calls the "secular frame," a view of the world without religious transcendence. But he exaggerates the degree to which this discourse has pushed religion to the margins. We don't live in a secular age; we live in a pluralist age.
This pluralist age has important implications for religion, but they are different from those of secularity. We can speak of two pluralisms. The first concerns the fact that many religions and worldviews coexist in the same society. This is not unique to the modern era. The second kind of pluralism involves the coexistence of the secular discourse with all of these religious discourses. This pluralism, which is uniquely modern, has tended to accentuate the first kind, the pluralism of religions and worldviews. When I'm sick and my doctor is Jewish or Hindu, our shared secular vocabulary gives us a commonality that makes our religious differences something almost scandalous. How is it that we can agree on medical and other scientific or technical questions, yet not on ultimate matters?
There are some people who avoid the scandal of pluralism because they operate exclusively within a secular or a religious discourse (say, atheist Swedish sociologists, or Russian monks who practice the perpetual Jesus Prayer). However, most people of faith today manage to operate within both discourses. The question is not whether this can be done; we know that millions of people do it. The interesting question is how they do it.
In the April 2016 issue of First Things, there's a short notice in Rusty Reno's "Public Square" section on Russell Moore's new book, "Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel." As Reno describes, Moore proposes an alternative both to the older, "Moral Majority" notion of "taking back" "Christian America" and to the almost-certainly-naive notion that it's possible and necessary to "move beyond" the "culture wars." "As [Moore] knows, we can't avoid them. . . . The battle is coming to us, even if church leaders wish to avoid controversy." Moore: "If we do not surrender to the spirit of the age -- and we must not -- we will be thought to be culture warriors. So be it. Let's be Christ-shaped, Kingdom-first culture warriors." I take it that "Christ-shaped" means, necessarily, charitable, humble, merciful, etc.
Interestingly, almost a year ago, Moore warned his fellow Protestant Christians about Donald Trump and the costs of endorsing or embracing his campaign:
Jesus taught his disciples to “count the cost” of following him. We should know, he said, where we’re going and what we’re leaving behind. We should also count the cost of following Donald Trump. To do so would mean that we’ve decided to join the other side of the culture war, that image and celebrity and money and power and social Darwinist “winning” trump the conservation of moral principles and a just society. We ought to listen, to get past the boisterous confidence and the television lights and the waving arms and hear just whose speech we’re applauding.
Here, Rod Dreher compares Moore's stance and tone to his own "Benedict Option" work.
After reading Rick's post, I noticed that Cornell law prof Steve Shiffrin (here) and others have linked to this defense of Hillary Clinton, a defense now attracting a lot of attention on the web. Thought that given Rick's post, some MOJ readers would be interested in reading another view.
Monday, June 13, 2016
From a 1986 essay by Walker Percy:
Everyone remembers exactly where he was and what he was doing when Kennedy was shot -- how places and things and people and even green leaves seemed to be endowed with a special vividness, a memorable weight. But what the novelist is interested in is the in-between times, the quality of ordinary Wednesday afternoons, which ought to be the best of times, but are, often as not, times when places, people, things, green leaves seems to be strangely diminished and devalued.
Could it be that his paradoxical diminishment of life in the midst of plenty, its impoverishment in the face of riches, is the peculiar vocation of the novelist to catch a glimpse of, by reason of his very dislocation, but also because none of the experts seem to recognize its existence, let alone explain it? There is something worse than being deprived of life: it is being deprived of life and not knowing it.
The June issue of the Harvard Law Review carries a book review by Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The book reviewed is by Judge Robert Katzmann of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The Harvard Law Review Forum runs a response by J. Katzmann to J. Kavanaugh. The interchange is stimulating. I particularly appreciate the insights each brings to bear from their appellate adjudication experience. These pieces are the sort of "extrajudicial writings ... in which judges engage in self-reflection and situate their own thought in relation to their peers, past and present" that Marc DeGirolami and I tried to call attention to in our article on Judge Posner & Judge Wilkinson.