Recent News

The Haircut: a Review of “Samson”

In 1935, Cecil B. DeMille paid Harold Lamb, a writer of historical novels, the 2018 equivalent of $150,000 for a “treatment” (a dozen-or-so pages) of the story of Samson from the Book of Judges – such was the popularity of the Biblical epic. And DeMille’s Samson and Delilah would become a huge success, although it wouldn’t reach the screen until 1949. It became the highest-grossing film of 1950 and was the precursor of DeMille’s even more successful The Ten Commandments (1956), itself a remake of his own 1923 film of the same name. (His 1927 King of Kings is, in my opinion, one of the best silent films ever made.) DeMille, who pretty much founded Hollywood, never stopped looking to the Bible for inspiration.

Reviewing The Ten Commandments for the New York Times, Bosley Crowther wrote:

This is unquestionably a picture to which one must bring something more than a mere wish for entertainment in order to get a full effect from it. But for those to whom its fundamentalism will be entirely credible, it should be altogether thrilling and perhaps even spiritually profound.

By “fundamentalism” one assumes Mr. Crowther meant the film’s respect for its Biblical source, and he would probably have agreed with Variety’s take on Samson and Delilah: “a fantastic picture for this era in its size, in its lavishness, in the corniness of its story-telling and in its old-fashioned technique.”

Those are fair judgments about most Biblical epics – at least until Franco Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth (1977), which was a bridge between what Variety, two decades earlier, had called the “smarties and the hinterlanders.” I’ll get to Mel Gibson in a minute.

It’s surprising that the story of Samson wasn’t retold in the era of bodybuilder wannabe-epics. I mean: Schwarzenegger: Samson!

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

1968 at 50

A wise priest/professor at Notre Dame told me recently that the great Catholic historian Philip Gleason (now emeritus at ND) often counseled people to keep calm: “Remember, at least it’s not 1968.”

I’m not so sure. We’ve just had an archbishop, head of two pontifical councils, praise a nasty Communist China with a recklessness not seen since Hanoi Jane Fonda visited Communist North Vietnam. We’re seeing the return of priests, bishops, and cardinals teaching contradictory things, sometimes even claiming that what was once “intrinsically evil” is in some cases now required – and certain they’re riding a new outpouring of Spirit. Centuries of moral theology seem in peril when the pope steps on a plane. And the message out of Rome hasn’t been so confusing since Paul VI.

A remark I just came upon by a well-known American priest (not Fr. James Martin) took me back to those troubling days. He claims that belief that human beings are divided into male and female is the product of our “binary” minds.

This priest’s other work has some spiritual heft and, until I look further into what he meant, I’m not going to name him. Besides, my concern is less with him personally than with a way of moral reflection that now seems everywhere in the Church, from ordinary laypeople in the pews to Rome.

Because it’s important to recognize that some people now think such statements are a Christian approach to neuralgic sexual conflicts. For time out of mind, the question never even came up; it was settled “by inspection.” Our creative species has produced some exotic blooms across cultures and millennia, but never until now LGBTQQIAAP. . . .

 

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

Five Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution, Part II

A third paradox has become the dominant social media soap opera of our time, a story that goes like this: The revolution was supposed to empower women. Instead, it ushered in the secular sex scandals of 2017 etc., and the #MeToo movement. In addition to the fact that it made marriage harder for many women to achieve, it also licensed sexual predation on a scale not seen outside of conquering armies.

Take Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy, who died last year. His commercial empire was founded, of course, on pornographic photos of a great many women. He made himself an exemplar of his own supposed philosophy – the Playboy philosophy of sophisticated drinks and music and, naturally, easy sex. It was an idea that caught on quickly, and it seems safe to guess that most people didn’t know the sordid truth, which would later emerge from the Playboy mansion and elsewhere, about the exploitation behind the slick advertising.

Nonetheless, when Hefner died, many progressives, including self-styled feminists, glowed with praise for the apostle of the revolution. Why? Because he cloaked his predatory designs in the language of sexual progressivism. As a Forbes writer summarized the record, “Playboy published its first article supporting the legalization of abortion in 1965, eight years before the Roe v. Wade decision that permitted the practice – and even before the feminist movement had latched onto the cause. It also published the numbers of hotlines that women could call and get safe abortions.”

In other words, Hefner’s support for these causes appears inextricably tied up with his desire to live in a way that exploited women. This same Siamese twinning joins many of the secular sex scandals that have been exploding in the news. The Weinstein etc. stories revealed the same strategic role occupied by abortion for numerous men who objectify women and disdain monogamy. Without the backup plan of fetal liquidation, where would such men be? In court, of course, and paying lots of child support.

More and more thinkers, even outside the religious sphere, have come to the same conclusion. The sexual revolution did not deliver on its promises to women . . .

Click here to read the rest of Mrs. Eberdtadt’s column at The Catholic Thing . . .

Five Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution, Part I

Academics vary about their definitions of the sexual revolution, but here’s one straightforward, uncontroversial formula. The “revolution” refers to the changes in sexual behavior and mores following the widespread adoption and approval of reliable contraception over a half-century ago. The first accelerant here is the birth control pill, approved by the FDA in 1963, and widely dispersed in the population thereafter. The second accelerant is the legalization of abortion on demand in 1973 via Roe v. Wade – a development that approval of the Pill made all but inevitable. Modern contraception and legalized abortion changed not only behavior but also attitudes. Around the world, social tolerance of non-marital sex in all its forms has risen alongside these other changes, for logical reasons that I’ve talked about elsewhere, including in my book Adam and Eve after the Pill.

Except for the Internet, it’s hard to think of any other single phenomenon since the 1960s that has re-shaped humanity around the world as profoundly as this particular revolution. Some of the resulting record is very well known indeed: four years ago, on the 50thanniversary of approval of the birth control pill, there was an outpouring of commentary and reflection, most of it in a positive vein. The revolution, it was claimed – and acclaimed – by TIME magazine and most other secular sources, had leveled the playing field in the economic marketplace between women and men for the first time in history; it had conferred freedom on women such as they’d never known before.

All true, so far as it goes. But there’s another side of the record that’s been mostly ignored by a mainstream society saturated with the revolution’s pleasures. With every passing year, more evidence accumulates that must someday change that predominant, happy storyline. Towards that end, I would like to discuss five ways in which the revolution has re-configured human reality as we know it, five seeming paradoxes that point to the revolution’s power – in particular, to its awe-inspiring destructive power.

Click here to read the rest of Mrs. Eberstadt’s column at The Catholic Thing . . .

The Apostolic Secession

An axiom in the legal profession is that a lawyer should never ask a question in court to which he doesn’t already know the answer. Getting an answer you don’t want can be embarrassing and may even harm your case.

Pope Francis has asked young people to write to him with their concerns. This is part of the lead up to October’s synod: Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment. Reading that text, you may be surprised that every papal document cited is by Pope Francis. No Paul VI, no John Paul II, no Benedict XVI? This somewhat narrows the catholicity of the Catholicism framing the upcoming discussions.

In addition to the request for letters to the pope, there are surveys being circulated in every diocese – all designed to take the temperature of Catholics in their teens and twenties, who are, of course, the “future of the faith.”Perhaps not coincidentally, a recent report by Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) about why young people leave the Church states flatly that: “eighty-seven percent of these former Catholics [in their teens and twenties] said that their decision to leave the Church is final.”

We may wish to chalk that up to the arrogance of youth, but 87 percent is an impressive number. As Crux summarized the shocking takeaway: “More Catholics are leaving the faith than ever before – more so than in any other religion . . .” and also at ages younger than ever.

Of course, it has long been the case that, as the Pew Research Center put it a few years back: “Americans change religious affiliation early and often.” One expects young people to wander, whether it’s Christian kids off to college or Amish kids on their Rumspringa, although there’s also the expectation that they’ll return. But will this new generation of Catholic youth come home?

Click here to read the rest of Mr. Miner’s column . . .

The China Syndrome

In several decades of living in Washington DC, I’ve met my share of scamps and scalawags, fabulists and outright liars. It would take a modern Dante to determine which circle of Inferno each type of misbehavior merited. But of one thing, I am certain: at least in my own my own experience, I’ve never encountered more brazen and manipulative liars than Communist Chinese officials responsible for relations with religious believers.

Which is what makes it so disturbing that last week reports surfaced that the Vatican asked two underground Chinese bishops, loyal to Rome, to step aside in order to allow two bishops of the Patriotic Church, submissive to the Communist regime, to take their places. That news drove the heroic 86-year-old former Cardinal of Hong Kong Joseph Zen to go to Rome without an appointment, stand outside the Casa Santa Marta, and ask to be allowed to present a letter from the underground believers – who are willing to resist despite personal costs – to Pope Francis. Reliable sources say the pope received the letter and promised to read it.

Cardinal Zen has been energetic in warning about the unreliability of agreements with the Communists. Asia News, a publication of the Vatican, itself reacted to last week’s news with a warning about substituting “illegitimate” bishops for “legitimate” ones. The ChiComs (as we used to call them during the Cold War) are smart and shrewd. They know how to manipulate Western values, in this case, “unifying” the churches, i.e., the religious inclination to think we can fix all problems with dialogue, building bridges, diplomatic arrangements.

Meanwhile, China continues to cut crosses off church buildings, close some, dynamite still others. The New York Times reported just two weeks ago that China had destroyed the Golden Lampstand church – with 60,000 worshippers the largest evangelical community in the country. The reason: the large, conspicuous edifice had been “secretly” constructed, had failed to get official building permits, etc. These are the usual fig leaves of tyrannical regimes all over the world when they attack religion. I’ve heard top Chinese leaders blame local authorities for “excesses and errors,” but these seem to recur with a suspect regularity that no one seems to take steps to stop.

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

Journalism of peace?

Raymond Arroyo and Faith & Reason Institute’s Robert Royal discuss the pope’s recent comments about journalism (the Serpent in the Garden of Eden spread the first “fake news”), the Holy Father’s sex-abuse comments in Chile, and the Vatican’s decision to replace validly appointed Chinese bishops with state-sponsored ones.

Why the Pro-Life Movement Will Live Long and Prosper

At First Things magazine, FRI’s Senior Research Fellow reflects on the future of the movement and its goals. The situation may seem dark indeed, but as Mary writes:

. . . there’s a light on the horizon that pulses brighter with every passing year. One area we shouldn’t worry about when we worry about secularization is this: the fate of the pro-life movement itself. And that is so for three reasons.

Click here to read the whole article.

Hillbilly Thomists

I grew up in the Midwest. My folks were both well-educated people. In fact, both were Phi Beta Kappa – a standard to which I failed to ascend – and my father was a professor and department chairman at THE Ohio State University. The Miners and my mom’s people, the Earnharts, were all Buckeyes, unto the fourth generation. I’m the only Catholic.

Ohio is not Kentucky. Think of Ohio and maybe you think of the Rust Belt. Think of the Bluegrass State and you may think of the South, although Kentucky was not secessionist during the Late Unpleasantness, despite the fact that the sympathies of many Kentuckians leaned that way.

Anyway . . . Bluegrass music (hereafter capitalized to distinguish it from the stuff that carpets lawns and grows on the infield at Churchill Downs) also apparently evokes the South. And that’s about half right because Bluegrass is Appalachian; if you look at a map you’ll see that Appalachia is pretty much bisected by the old Mason-Dixon line, except there’s actually a bit more of it in the North. West Virginia, you know, is northern, as are Western Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio, and Southern New York.

Click here to read the rest of Mr. Miner’s review . . .

Catholicism in the 21st Century

Fr. Thomas White talks about his new book on Catholicism, In the Light of Christ, and the challenges and promise of Catholicism in the 21st century, followed by comments and conversation with Mary Eberstadt and Robert Royal.

The Light of Christ provides an accessible presentation of Catholicism that is grounded in traditional theology, but engaged with a host of contemporary questions or objections. Inspired by the theologies of Irenaeus, Thomas Aquinas and John Henry Newman, and rooted in a post-Vatican II context, Fr. Thomas Joseph White presents major doctrines of the Christian religion in a way that is comprehensible for non-specialists: knowledge of God, the mystery of the Trinity, the Incarnation and the atonement, the sacraments and the moral life, eschatology and prayer.

Click here to read more and watch a video of the event.