Recent News

The Unobserved Anti-Christian Bias

When we think about the persecution of Christians at the present moment, what comes to mind for most of us are places like China, the Middle East, or pariah states like North Korea, Venezuela, or Cuba. These situations are occasionally noticed but not exactly well publicized in the secular media. We mostly have to rely on religious outlets, Catholic and Protestant, to do the heavy lifting of keeping us informed about the plight of fellow believers in the modern world.

But there’s a whole other dimension of threats against Christians that goes almost unnoticed. We know of the pressures that churches and religious organizations – and even single believers like florists and bakers – come under these days in America when they resist attempts by State or Federal agencies to impose the new sexual ethos, or to enforce rules on alleged “hate speech” or bias on believers.

The Supreme Court has so far been fairly good at protecting religious liberty. And if President Trump – as is highly likely – appoints another justice (or two?) to the Court, sensitive to Constitutional protections of religion, we may have at least some long-term shelter from the constant anti-Christian drumbeat in the universities, media, and Hollywood.

I’ve been aware for years of similar problems in Europe, where there are generally not the same kind of First Amendment protections or judicial recourse. But I had no real idea of the extent of the problems there – I think almost no one does – though we now have a very useful tool to take its measure.

Click here to read the rest of Dr. Royal’s column at The Catholic Thing . . .

Two Nations, Revisited

Almost two decades before J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, and 15 years before Charles Murray’s Coming Apart, James Q. Wilson, one of the most eminent social scientists of the 20th century, identified the root of America’s fracturing in the dissolution of the family. Wilson, professor of government at Harvard, professor emeritus at UCLA, and a former head of the American Political Science Association, received the American Enterprise Institute’s 1997 Francis Boyer Award at the think tank’s annual dinner. He used the opportunity to introduce a new line of sociological argument: what he called “the two nations” of America.

The image of “two nations,” Wilson explained, harked back to an 1845 novel by Benjamin Disraeli, the future prime minister of Great Britain. These were the separate, non-intersecting worlds of rich and poor. Between these two nations Disraeli described, there was “no intercourse and no sympathy” — they were “as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were…inhabitants of different planets.”

More than a century and a half later, Wilson argued, the United States had also become “two nations,” but the dividing line was no longer one of income or social class. Instead, it had become all about the family — specifically, whether one hailed from a broken or intact home.

Click here to read the rest of Mrs. Eberstadt’s column at National Affairs . . .

Satan Loves Porn

In Elise Harris’s report about the Instrumentum laboris [working document] of the upcoming 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (Youth Synod), she states that among the “key issues” mentioned are not only “increasing cultural instability and violent conflicts” but also that “many young people, both inside and outside of the Church, are divided when it comes to topics related to sexuality.”

Frankly, I doubt that when the bishops meet in October they’ll show us a new path to world peace, whereas they probably could help people – young and old – to better understand the truth about sexuality. It’s time we had a thorough, clinical restatement of Humane vitae! God alone knows, of course, what may actually emerge from the Synod.

Ms. Harris adds:

Things such as precocious sexuality, sexual promiscuity, pornography, displaying one’s body online and sexual tourism, the text said, “risk disfiguring the beauty and depth of emotional and sexual life.”

Although dated May 8th, the Instrumentum laboris was made public just last week, and, as of today, the text is available on the Vatican website only in Italian.

Click here to read the rest of Mr. Miner’s column at The Catholic Thing . . .

Francis Condemns “Eugenic” Abortions and Fake Marriage

I’d been on the road for much of the past week and hadn’t been very carefully following the news. But I woke yesterday to the heartening news that Pope Francis had strongly condemned selective abortion and the various attempts to redefine marriage as something other than a life-long commitment between one man and one woman.

Even more, he did so off-the-cuff, departing from the text he had prepared to deliver to the Forum delle famiglie, an Italian family association. It’s usually been on just such occasions – when he speaks spontaneously and “from the heart” – that he’s delivered the most troubling remarks of his pontificate. It was largely because of those remarks and his early criticism of Catholics who are constantly “insisting” and “obsessing” on life issues and marriage that he alienated and, sad to say, even lost the confidence of many active Catholics – even before the ambiguities and implied infidelities of Amoris laetitia.

He has, of course, condemned abortion and gay “marriage” on multiple occasions. But the world, Catholic and not, seemed to sense that his heart wasn’t in it. The coverage of his recent remarks in the main secular outlets was very brief, usually just reproducing parts of an Associated Press story – quite a contrast to the extensive coverage when he seemed to be moving towards modern culture.

The Wall Street Journal made the obvious observation that the latest remarks were “unusually strong for a pope who has generally played down medical and sexual ethics and taken a strikingly conciliatory approach to gay people.”

Click here to read the rest of Dr. Royal’s column at The Catholic Thing . . .

Power without Piety

Historians agree, generally, that Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204) was extraordinary but disagree, specifically, about what made her remarkable. Some declare that around this great lady coalesced the principles of chivalry and courtly love. Others maintain that nobleness was a stranger to her houses and courts and that the tales of valiant knights and fair ladies are woolgathering.

Eleanor was first a queen of France and then of England. She was mother to ten children (two in her first marriage to Louis VII of France, then eight with England’s Henry II). Among those she bore to Henry were kings Richard the Lionheart and John – characters known well from such films as The Adventures of Robin Hood(1938) and The Lion in Winter(1968). That latter film (for which Kate Hepburn won an Oscar) correctly notes that Henry imprisoned Eleanor for sixteen years after she supported an insurrection by his own sons.

In Eleanor’s day, the people of Aquitaine were as Spanish as French. Indeed, they were part Basque, a people who still covet their separate identity. Her native language was Occitan, also called Langue d’Oc – “oc” being the dialect word for “yes.” In Southwestern France today, some provincial writers employ Occitan or a modern version of it, Provençal (common, in several dialects, to all of Southern France). The area is still referred to as Languedoc, especially when referring to the region’s wines. In her day, the duchy comprised all of the southwest from Poitiers through Bordeaux to Lourdes and the Spanish border.

We know Eleanor was beautiful because troubadours who came to her court wrote songs fairly swooning over her loveliness.

Click here to read the rest of Mr. Miner’s column at The Catholic Thing . . .

Sexual Revolution: second thoughts

Fifty years after the sexual revolution promised female empowerment through casual sex “without consequences,”scholars — including FRI’s Mary Eberstadt — are looking into the far-reaching social effects of that revolution.

Click here for more information.

Swimming Against the Current

The great New Orleans classical/jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis said in a recent interview that hip-hop and rap music have done more harm to African Americans than have Confederate monuments: “I started saying in 1985 I don’t think we should have a music talking about n*gg*rs and bitches and hoes. It had no impact. I’ve said it. I’ve repeated it. I still repeat it. To me that’s more damaging than a statue of Robert E. Lee.”

That, even though Marsalis was involved in having the Lee statue removed in his hometown.

Musicians have disagreed with him, but no thinking person can deny his basic point: “You can’t have a pipeline of filth be your default position” and not have it take a toll on society.

Which brings me to the Irish referendum a few weeks ago and how two-thirds of a people with Ireland’s past could vote to kill their own offspring in the womb. If you haven’t already, look at photos from the post-referendum celebrations: mostly young people, not bad kids, happily convinced that they just advanced freedom and equality for women.

They actually and ignorantly advanced the equivalent of slavery in our time and degradation for women who choose to end an innocent life for their own purposes.

I’m not convinced by the piecemeal explanations: the bishops discrediting themselves by covering up priestly abuse, the Celtic Tiger’s seductions of wealth, the “sprint away from Catholicism” (as the New York Times gleefully put it) towards “modernity.” These were factors, of course, but a people firm in faith – or even just clear in thought about what human beings can and cannot do to one another – simply would never have approved such horrors without something more.

Click here to read the rest of Dr. Royal’s column at The Catholic Thing . . .

We Celebrate a Decade

Well, we made it. Today marks exactly ten years of The Catholic Thing. There were days – especially early on, after the housing bubble burst (2008-9) with devastating economic consequences – when our survival looked to be very iffy indeed. Somehow we weathered all that (largely thanks to our writers, who were willing to work pro bono until I could find modest compensation for their work). Now, with 35,000 daily subscribers  – many of you also quite generous supporters – and millions of page-views yearly, we begin our second decade in good fiscal, intellectual, and even – I think – spiritual shape. Thank you all.

As I look back, I’m struck by how many deep changes occurred over the past ten years. Our country and our Church  – much as we love and hope to mend them both – are in greater turmoil than at any time since the years immediately after Vatican II. Both seem besieged by a post-Christian culture that talks about tolerance and inclusion, but practices a sharp intolerance and exclusion of views not ratified by our economic and academic elites.

Murray, Royal, & Arroyo: EWTN’s “Papal Posse”

Several people urged me to lay out a program today for combating all that over the next ten years. And I wrote one, but then decided we can do that any day. This is a day for celebration.

Brad Miner, ever a wise counselor, urged that we let the readers speak for once. We yack at you every day. But other than the few Comments posted, you probably have no idea of the kind of words we receive from your fellow readers.

So here, with names redacted to protect the innocent, a brief selection from some of the messages – eloquent, humorous, prayerful – that I’ve received from readers . . .

Click here to read the rest of Dr. Royal’s column at The Catholic Thing . . .

Social Justice Warrior: a Review of “Pope Francis”

On the day the German director Wim Wenders’ documentary Pope Francis: A Man of His Word opened (May 18th), I went to the earliest morning show at the nearest multiplex. I arrived about 20 minutes early and took a seat. The 10:30 start time rolled around, and I was the only one in the theater.

Wenders is a documentarian of note, as well as a feature film director. His romantic fantasy Wings of Desire (1988), a drama about a guardian angel who falls in love with a trapeze artist, was much-acclaimed, and his 1999 documentary about Cuban musicians, Buena Vista Social Club, received an Oscar nomination – and, again, much acclaim.

Mr. Wenders’ most recent drama, Submergence (2017), a spy thriller of sorts, was an artistic, critical, and financial disaster. Pope Francis may be a sign that the director has lost his touch.

It’s wrong to dignify this exercise in hagiography with the word “documentary.” It’s more akin to the kind of promotional video one might expect to see at a political convention – the kind that uncritically ballyhoos the accomplishments of the party’s nominee.

Wenders, who was raised in a Catholic family, went over to Protestantism and now carelessly describes himself as “Catholic and a Protestant at the same time,” is not at all interested in the pope’s religion. It’s the pope’s activism that hooked him and that led to his decision to accept the Vatican’s request that he make the film.

Click here to read the rest of Mr. Miner’s column at The Catholic Thing . . .

From the Dark Wood to the Beatific Vision

Several people have asked me lately how to read Dante. I’ve written a book about that, one that takes Dante for what he is and doesn’t try to make him into a modern therapeutic guru. We used to offer, through Libertas University, a live online course on the whole Divine Comedy– something I hope to revive one day. Much else might be done to make better known the greatest Catholic poet, and his ambitious poem, which takes you from being lost in a dark wood of sin to the Beatific Vision.

There’s nothing in all of world literature like it. I’ve written here about how we want to re-emphasize our cultural mission as we approach TCT’s 10thanniversary next month. For anyone who senses the urgency of recovering Christian culture – not just theology, philosophy, and ethics (important as they are), but ways of thinking and feeling that breathe living fire into Christian logic – familiarity with a poem like the Comedy must be high on the list, for both sheer poetic power and unequalled scope.

Dante’s work doesn’t neglect formal logic and theological categories; he studied with one of Thomas Aquinas’ earliest students, Remigio dei Girolami, O.P. at Santa Maria Novella in Florence. And his mastery of several disciplines shows in the science, history, political theory, aesthetics, philosophy, and theology of his poem. In fact, one of the best jokes in the Comedy hinges on strict moral reasoning.

Guido da Montefeltro, the original for later mafia Guidos, is in Hell (Canto XXVII) among the “false counselors.” He spent most of his life as a kind of Machiavelli before Machiavelli, conquering towns by treachery. Late in life, he got religion and entered a monastery to do penance. Pope Boniface VIII (Dante’s sure he’s bound for Hell too) comes along and says (my quick summary): “You have to help me overrun one more town.” “Don’t do that kinda thing no more.” “Don’t worry I’m the pope, I forgive you in advance.” “You can do that?” “I’m the pope. Sure.”

Click here to read the rest of Dr. Royal’s column at The Catholic Thing . . .