Recent News

Where the Revolution has Led: An Interview with Mary Eberstadt

Flynn: What are identity politics?

Eberstadt: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines identity politics as “political activity and theorizing founded in the shared experiences of injustice of members of certain social groups.” This is not politics as usual. It’s instead an assertion of identity with one or another group that’s said to be oppressed. Believing oneself to be a victim is part and parcel of “identifying” in this way.

Identity politics, as scholars note, has only come into existence in the last thirty years, meaning that it is mostly younger people who believe this is what’s meant by “politics.” The results include theatrical repercussions that we’ve all seen in person or in the news – violent protests, increased numbers of speaker shut-downs on campus, other disruptions on the quad and elsewhere – whose common denominators are emotionalism and unreason.

I wrote the essay not to dismiss the primal nature of identity politics, but instead to try and understand where all that deeply felt irrationalism is coming from.

What do we lose because of the surge in identity politics?

For starters, we’re losing an elemental piece of Catholic and other theology: The idea of free will. Identity politics says that biography is destiny – that how you’re born determines your political and moral interests in life. Nothing could be further from the idea that we are made in God’s image, and given the unique power of freely choosing good – or, as the case may be, evil.

The anthropology behind identity politics amounts to a crabbed, crippled, unfree view of the human person. It divides the world into victims and oppressors, leaving no room for free agency or redemption. For that reason alone, Christians above all should be wary, and reject this new way of looking at the world.

Beyond Christians, though, identity politics is toxic across society. The decibel level of unreason makes it hard to advance a civil, rational case about anything. And the Manichean division of the world into victims and oppressors leaves little space for nuance or anything else. All identity politics, all the time, makes for a dumbed-down, dreary conversation out there – just one more reason why figuring out the attraction of such politics in the first place seems like work worth doing.

Click here to read the rest of Mr. Flynn’s interview with Mary Eberstadt . . .

Saving Babies and Time Off in Purgatory

As I write, Washington lies under light snow and, with wind chill, is 90 F. In most of the country, not too bad for January. In Washington – between the incompetence of government and a population that rarely encounters (read: “drives in”) snow – it means near paralysis. During the Cold War, I used to say that the Soviets were wasting money on nukes and sophisticated weaponry; a few well-placed snow machines would have crippled the capital of the West. But as decades of experience have proven, none of that will stop tens of thousands of people from showing up tomorrow for the March for Life, one of the most selfless public causes on the planet.

None of them comes for personal gain. But this year you can get a plenary indulgence for participating in the events. What a great, good thing: save innocent babies and get time off in Purgatory, too.

Pope Francis has recently – and rightly – been warning the world about the dangers of nuclear war. In Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two relatively small atomic bombs killed almost 250,000. Today’s numerous and powerful weapons would be much more deadly. But for those of us marching tomorrow, it’s hard to overlook the undeniable fact that we’ve basically had four Hiroshimas and Nagasakis – 1,000,000 dead every year for the past forty-five years. And that’s in America alone, where abortion is still contested, even limited in many states, compared with the past, thanks to heroic public witness and action.

It’s a puzzle why the pope, energetic as he is on many good causes, has been so relatively quiet on this one. He speaks against abortion occasionally and sometimes forcefully (see Notable in column to the left), but he set the tone quite early in his pontificate in an interview with La Civiltà Cattolica about contraception, abortion, and homosexuality that left many pro-lifers speechless: “The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.” Presumably, this reflects some experience of the pope’s. But I know a fair number of pro-lifers – leaders and the ordinary folks who, generously, seeking no personal benefit, turn out every year in the cold and remain active back home throughout the year – on abortion, but also helping the poor, visiting the sick, and much else. The pope’s description doesn’t fit them. And what he calls “disjointed” seems to many consistent and comprehensive Catholic teaching that needs to be emphasized as such.

It’s doubly painful to learn this year, just days before the Pro-Life March, that Lilianne Ploumen a Dutch politician and prominent promoters of homosexuality, contraception, and abortion, not only in Europe but around the globe, was given a medal making her a Commander in the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great. She claimed in an interview that it was in recognition of her work and that “the Vatican, especially under previous popes, had a rather rigid attitude when it came to girls’ and women’s rights.”

Click here to read the rest of Dr. Royal’s column . . .

The Un-Credible Shrinking Man

Alexander Payne’s new film, Downsizing, is a humorless comedy about people who decide to make it big by becoming small – about five inches, more or less. Some Norwegians have invented a process by which people can be shrunk with no other side effects than the need for a whole new wardrobe. The conceit is that you can tell yourself you’re saving the planet by consuming less.

After all, the doll maker who tailors your new suits uses a lot less fabric. A nice illustration of the premise comes when a scientist reveals the first-ever miniaturized man to an audience agog, then displays a half-full trash bag, proudly proclaimed as the waste that the little fella and his three-dozen shrunken comrades have accumulated over four presumably full-sized years.

But the real reason most people go tiny is to become rich. It’s all about scale: your $100,000 estate is suddenly worth millions, because small stuff costs less than big stuff – and, as the saying goes, it’s all small stuff!

Our sad-sack hero is Paul Safranek (Matt Damon). He and the Mrs. (Kristen Wiig) decide to solve their financial problems by downsizing and moving to Lesiureland, a tiny city under a bubble in which all the insects have been killed. (Hey! I thought we were saving the planet.) Unfortunately for Paul, his wife panics, and he ends up in Leisureland mate-less, followed by a divorce that forces him out of the mansion they’d bought and into a high-rise condo, right below a neighbor (played by Christoph Waltz) who throws loud parties, at one of which Paul passes out, and awakens on the neighbor’s floor, just as a crew of tiny, poor (minority) women comes in to clean up.

One of these is a Vietnamese immigrant, Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chau), who takes over Paul’s life, cajoling him to help her help the poor in an area outside the bubble where she and others of the indigent small are living. One man’s utopia turns out to be another woman’s hell.

The question becomes: What’s actually being downsized here?

Click here to read the rest of Mr. Miner’s review at Tne Catholic Thing . . .


Vatican: “Amoris Laetitia” Is Magisterial

Host Raymond Arroyo, FRI President Robert Royal, and The Catholic Thing contributor and canon lawyer Fr. Gerald E. Murray discuss the ever-widening controversy of the pope’s apostolic exhortation.

FRI’s Brad Miner and George Marlin: Sons of St. Patrick

Robert Royal and Fr. Gerald Murray on EWTN

Camus Between God and Nothing

Robert Royal reflects on the enduring significance of Albert Camus one hundred years after his birth.

I happened to be in Paris several years ago on the evening they were giving out the Césars, the French equivalent of the Oscars. Early the next morning, I turned on the television to see who had won. The first news story was not about film stars, but the posthumous publication of Albert Camus’s novel about the French settling of Algeria, The First Man. The French love to be in love with their intellectuals, but that news story, that early, on that morning, about a man already dead more than thirty years, says something about Camus.

Click here to read the rest at First Things.

Pope Francis: misunderstood

Robert Royal discusses the way the pope is taken him to be saying one thing when he has not been saying that sort of thing at all.

Robert Royal discusses Pope Francis on EWTN

The Interview begins at 34:27 . . . But do watch Cardinal Burke.