Recent News

Humanism – True and Untrue

We’re all lamenting many things that we cannot do because of the virus lockdown – true human goods to be recovered as the world now carefully begins to re-open. But we should also be grateful for many things that are not happening, some inside the Vatican.

Personally, I’ve been healthier, maybe even happier these past months, not having to spend hours on planes. Particularly, not having to fly, in March, to a meeting in Assisi on the Economy of Francis and, last week, to the planned activities in Rome on a Global Education Pact for a “new humanism,” both now postponed to the Fall.

Economists close to Vatican offices are trying to introduce more proven, less Socialist-Lite principles into the preparations for the economics meeting.

The “new humanism,” however, raises more fundamental questions, not least because, as we learned to our sorrow in the 20th century, wrong notions of the human person quickly led to enslavement and death for millions.

The problem begins, as all deep problems do, with theology.

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

Patriotism in the Fourth Commandment

The Fourth Commandment: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you.”

That’s not just a call to filial piety; it’s a call to patriotism as well.

One might argue that the regulation of our lives begins in God’s love for each of us, except there is nothing in the Ten Commandments about honor due to oneself. God knows most of us need no instruction in that, which is why the Commandments direct us out of ourselves: to family and the “land,” the ground we stand upon but also the people standing with us in neighborhoods, towns, cities, states, nations, and the world.

This comes across clearly in Luke 10:25-37. A lawyer has asked Jesus how he might inherit eternal life. Knowing this fellow’s profession, the Lord answers with His own questions: “What is written in the law? What do you read there?”

How elated the lawyer must have been! The Galilean preacher has fallen into my trap! The lawyer slyly quotes Christ’s own answer (see Mark 12:28-34), which he may well have heard Jesus say at another time in another place or heard it reported by someone else. The shyster recites the Shema Yisrael (Deuteronomy 6:4-5), the Commandment to love God totally, adding, as Jesus earlier had, the phrase from Leviticus (19:18) about loving one’s neighbor.

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

Courage: Grace Under Pressure

The Batflu has driven us all batty, with talk of many things most of us never expected we’d have to think about. But amid all the talk of safety and suffering, lives vs. livelihoods, deaths from the pathogen and deaths from isolation, there’s been one term strangely absent, except when it comes to our heroic healthcare workers: courage.

The absence is strange because the virtue of courage is precisely what is supposed to kick in, for everyone, at a moment like this when we’re all on the frontlines. Since we’ve lost touch with the virtue tradition and even with the simple wisdom that used to guide everyday life, we don’t much give something like courage – the need to “man (or woman) up” – a thought anymore.

Instead, we’ve been busy trying to create a world where everyone is “safe” and no one has to face anything “offensive.” And where institutions – or someone else, in any case – will someday arrange things so that no one will ever have to be personally courageous again.

This is the purest delusion and – sad to say – even widespread fear of death seems not to have brought many people back to reality. There’s an old Latin saying: mors certa, hora incerta (“Death is certain, the hour uncertain”). We know that it will all someday, perhaps even today, come to an end. Most people spend their lives trying to ignore or deny the fact. Still, every day brings uncertainties and dangers – that demand courage.

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

I Knew It When I Saw It

My friend (and fellow TCT contributor) Michael Pakaluk recently published a column here titled “Yes, I’d Become Catholic Again.” It got me thinking about my own decision at age 25 to enter (and remain in) the Catholic faith.

I was what you might charitably call an Augustinian youth. The reference is to the great Church Father and author of The Confessions, who, though born to a Christian mother, remained unbaptized until his conversion at the age of 33. Augustine’s account of his life (and sins) is vivid, although possibly defined to some extent by what’s left out. Anyway, he was a pagan with a vengeance – until he wasn’t.

The same may be said of me only more so, even though I was baptized as an infant.

For me, the summum bonum of life, from my teens until I entered the Church, is best captured in the phrase made famous by Alexandre Dumas: Cherchez la femme.

My father was a marketing professor at Ohio State, appreciated by his male students for “teaching Playboy.” From an academic point of view, my dad was fascinated by the success of Hugh Hefner’s magazine and business model. He read Hefner’s “The Playboy Philosophy” series (1962-65), treating Hef’s libertarian nattering as a modern version of Epicurus.

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

The Start of a Reckoning

As the coronavirus seems to be receding, many questions will now arise. Some quite surprising.  For instance, who – other than the historical greats like St. Benedict, St. John of the Cross, Dostoyevsky, Solzhenitsyn – knew that confinement could have beneficial effects? And in so many ways? Inspiring spiritual reflections. Good practical advice (here, here, here, here). And much (gallows) humor.

And that’s just scratching the surface. We’re not as poor and mean and savage as we sometimes seem, even to ourselves.

A legitimate Christian debate is underway about whether the virus is a “chastisement” for the many sins of the modern world, even in Christian and formerly Christian nations. In the nature of things, we can’t say for sure, unless we receive some message from on high. But whether God sent the plague or has merely permitted it, He must want good things to come from it. And in unexpected ways they already have.

On the personal side, the virus has made me, I’m convinced, healthier than before (antsiness aside): no exhausting professional travel; no crowded planes with their own pathogens; no nights in foreign hotels, and dinners in restaurants; more regular work, food, rest, and exercise; quiet time at home. Even a few better spiritual habits. Among things I once said I’d do “if I had the time,” I’ve learned the Hebrew alphabet (אלף – בית, hard labor, believe me). Simple OT passages are next – unless I forget what I’ve learned before I get around to that.

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

The Third Day: a fantasy

When his scribe informed Pontius Pilate that Titus was seeking colloquy, he knew something was amiss. The Prefect of Judea had sent Titus, his best man, for what was surely the easiest-ever assignment in the long career of one of Rome’s finest soldiers. So, why has he returned early?

Titus was an old man – by Legion standards – but still twice the warrior of men half his age and the most reliable of all.

Yet he has abandoned his post. Why?

Titus entered the hall, slapped his right fist against his breast: “Prefect!”

Pilate looked up from behind a desk covered with dispatches. He met the soldier’s eyes and frowned. Then he looked back down at whatever it was he’d been reading and said:

“Why are you here, sergeant?”

Titus knew that the prefect was more irritated than angry. So far.

“Prefect, the tomb has opened and the man, Jesus, is gone.”

The scribe stood to Pilate’s right. He had been scribbling the prefect’s dictated messages. At the entrance to the room – the one through which Titus had just marched in – two guards stood silently at attention.

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

Redeeming the Time

This week we remember and re-enact the most important events in the entire history of the world. The coronavirus outbreak has changed some of the ways we can do so this year. But like all worldly things, the change is temporary, while Christ’s Passion – despite historical changes in leaders, regimes, cultures, even the collapse of whole civilizations – remains. And changes everything else.

Widespread suffering and death are – to be sure – serious things. Especially so in the larger perspective of what we are right to call Holy Week. At least that’s the case if we fully recognize what happened during these days.

There’s been a strange drift lately in how Christians remember and talk about Christ’s Passion, Crucifixion, and Death. And it’s not only the maverick theologians. It’s even infected some Christians – Catholics and Protestants – who still believe enough to fill the pews.

We’re told repeatedly: God loves us, Jesus accompanies us – and comforts us – in all our troubles and sufferings. That we should be filled with joy. There’s a good deal right in this – except when it becomes the only way we see things.

We’re Catholic, which means we grasp after the whole.

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

Hitch and Jack in Isolation

From the bunker we used to call “our house,” where Herself and I now dwell in isolation – not sick but staying distant from our neighbors (besides, New York’s closed until further notice) – we read and walk and talk and watch movies.

And it’s a good time to really watch them, looking for those aspects of a film that sometimes flash by unnoticed, but which are part of what makes a film great. Where better to begin than with the films of Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) and John Ford (1894-1973), both Catholic filmmakers?

As you know, Hitchcock always made quick (blink-and-you’ll-miss-‘em) cameo appearances in his films: from The Lodger (1927) – he’s a man sitting at a desk – right up to Family Plot (1976) – his famous silhouette behind a translucent glass door.

Hiding in plain sight.

His cameos were always wordless scenes, often of him crossing paths with the film’s female star: in Psycho, he’s standing outside the real estate office where Marion (Janet Leigh) works, as she returns from a noontime tryst; in The Birds, he’s leaving a pet store as Melanie (Tippi Hedren) enters. (By the way, the typist in that Psycho scene is Hitchcock’s daughter, Patricia.)

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

Our First Priority

A priest wrote me recently: “I was in church with parishioners until 8:00 tonight, the official closing of all public Masses, devotions and gatherings in the diocese through at least April 1. Many people are distraught at the loss of the sacraments. It’s an eerie thing for a priest and pastor not to be a part of these graces in the lives of his people. One of our parishioners is in hospice and I’m prevented from visiting. Happily, at least I brought him the last sacraments a few days ago, but still. . . .”

He goes on: “It’s funny. We’re completely shut down and I’m more swamped with calls, emails, and individual meetings, than ever. Let alone implementing ‘creative’ ways to stay in touch, support, pray with, and encourage parishioners. Both last night and in these last two days, I’ve noticed two general attitudes. The first is a beautiful, genuine  (and sad) upset at not having access to the sacraments. The second is a disturbing fear and anxiety over the virus and the unknown future. The former is good, the latter may be understandable, but it’s hard to deal with. And this only a few days in!”

Amid the wall-to-wall coverage of the Coronavirus pandemic and, in Catholic circles, discussions about what the Church’s response should be, this frustration among priests – the good priests – has gone all but unnoticed. Note: the frustration here is a wish to be with the people, but uncertainty how, precisely, to do that without doing harm.

Several priests have written me to say they want to get out there, boldly (at least ten priests have died from the virus in Italy). And in some places – my own parish, for example – priests are trying “creative” ways to hear Confessions that (we hope) won’t put parishioners or themselves at risk.

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

Ego Patricius: a Review of “I Am Patrick”

Is there a saint more Catholic than St. Patrick? Yet, as you probably know, the great Apostle of Ireland (and one of that nation’s patrons) wasn’t Irish at all but a Roman Briton, son of a decurion, the mayor/tax collector of the town (possibly in Cumbria) where Patrick lived as a boy. His father was also a Catholic deacon.

But history – not least the parading passion of Irish immigrants and their ancestors in the United States – has arguably made him, after Paul and the Gospel writers, among the most popular saints of all and for all: many Catholics but also some Protestants, Jews, and – for all I know – Muslims and atheists will put on something green tomorrow and try speaking with an Irish accent.

I won’t because I’ve always found St. Paddy’s just about the worst day of the year in New York City – a too-often tasteless, drunken embarrassment. But that’s a subject for another column, one I hope never to write.

But, as Fr. George W. Rutler did write a few years ago, were Patrick to see New York’s parade:

[He] would bond more instinctively with the beheaded and crucified martyrs in the Middle East and Nigeria (whose official patron is Patrick) now spilling their blood for Christ, than with some revelers on Fifth Avenue who pantomime his name while spilling beer. There is a difference between martyrs and leprechauns.

Meanwhile, there’s a new movie coming called I Am Patrick, which is notable for being good drama and fascinating history . . .

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