Saturday, March 31, 2018

Friday, March 30, 2018

Atheism Anti-Clericalism: War Against God, Against Catholicism

"The Chief Shepherd: Go forth and feed my--lambs!"

In the picture a priest taking care of a swineherd.
You can read on the pigs “Rape, sadistic orgies in monasteries,”
“Sins against nature in religious houses” and
“Abuse of children and the mentally ill."

Satire of "Das Schwarze Korps" (The Black Army)
newspaper of March 6, 1937
The official newspaper of Hitler's SS
(Schutzstaffeln, "Protection Squadron") of the NSDAP
Die Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei:
The guardian of the true National Socialist doctrine.

Source: accessed March 30, 2018;
Photo also published in Anonymous,
The Persecution of the Catholic Church in the Third Reich:
Facts and Documents
, London: Burns Oates, 1940, 64-65.
There the the date given for the "Das Schwarze Korps" satire is May 6, 1937.

“When people want to destroy religion they begin by attacking the priest; for when there is no priest, there is no sacrifice: and when there is no sacrifice, there is no religion.”

— St. John Vianney

Wherein the Cure d'Ars is indicating the centrality of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for true religion.
If there were no priest there would be no Mass. If there were no Mass there would be no Real Presence of Jesus Christ on the earth today, hence no real religion.
Also, he who rejects and despises those sent by Christ rejects and despises Christ Himself and thereby rejects and despises the one true God Himself.

"He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me." Luke 10:16

Just a thought for Good Friday 2018 of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Metaphysics of Democracy

First Things
Thomas Joseph White
February 2018

Liberalism began as a political project that sought to curtail the role of religion in public life. Religious impulses haven’t proven easy to expel, however, even in secular societies. Contemporary secular liberalism aspires to be a universal project that supplants traditional religion and relegates it to the private sphere. Paradoxically, this process frustrates the spiritual desires of many modern secular people, who are unsatisfied with thin consumerism and wish to participate in something greater than themselves. Their mounting rejection of the liberal project has precipitated a crisis, one felt most acutely in the political realm. It has taken the form of a resurgent nationalism, an inchoate response to the suppression of faith that is inadequate and perhaps dangerous. We need to address the weakness of liberal modernity differently, which means metaphysically. No doubt, an appeal to metaphysics strikes many as strangely abstract and inconsequential. Politics is the realm of action, and people want to see church leaders, politicians, lawyers, and columnists fighting for religious causes. One can sympathize with this instinct, but it ignores the deeper problem. The dispute over metaphysics was the concrete issue from the beginning. It always has been.

One story of modern democracy goes like this: The conflicts over religious absolutes in the pre-Enlightenment Christian period of European civilization gave rise to the realization that our public life should not be constituted by absolutist commitments. In order to persist in a pluralistic, peaceful way, democratic governments need to surrender their alliance with religious creeds and distance themselves from robust metaphysical accounts of reality and human purposes. The space for mutual human concord arises only when there is a public square where metaphysical rivals can live in mutual toleration. Today, this view translates into a simple theoretical principle. The modern state should practice an “ecumenism” of theoretical minimalism: It affirms no one particular creed so as to allow for the multiple beliefs of all those who inhabit public space. Liberal modernity functions through asceticism, restraining our strongest metaphysical judgments, rather than saturating public life with them.

John Henry Newman took a different view of modern democratic liberalism. He famously declared in his “Biglietto Speech” the night before he was made a cardinal, “For thirty, forty, fifty years I have resisted to the best of my powers the spirit of liberalism in religion. . . . Liberalism in religion is the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion, but that one creed is as good as another, and this is the teaching which is gaining substance and force daily.” In an extensive note in the Apologia he offers a definition of liberalism in which he presents its principles in the form of a creed consisting of eighteen propositions. These function as a system of secular faith and give orientation to modern politics in England, not unlike the Thirty-Nine Articles did in the seventeenth century. Basic to this view of the world is the primacy of what Newman calls the “principle of private judgment” in all matters religious, moral, and philosophical. The modern person is free to define his own meaning, and to do so he must be free from the influences of religious authorities. But this comes at a cost: Modern society must distance itself from any collective account of meaning and from all authorities who articulate such claims. When it comes to defining or defending the meaning of life, it’s every man for himself.

The first view of democracy is more libertarian, of course, and it is compatible with Christian ideas in some important ways. The second view of democracy is less so and suggests that at the heart of the modern world, there is an implicit theological debate that rages (now joined by Islam) about whether and to what extent traditional religious faith is compatible with modern democracy.

Contemporary secular progressivists seem to fit Newman’s description in that they are animated by a creed that is both anti-Christian and absolutist, and they stridently promote it. However, the secularism of our time is rife with sectarianism and marked by ideological disagreement and heterogeneity, which doesn’t tally with Newman’s version of liberalism as a “catholic” movement with a unified doctrine. The intellectual turmoil is evident when one considers the three metaphysical visions of reality that secularists promulgate, each one incompatible with Christianity and with one another.

One of these views derives from classical liberalism—Locke, Kant, and Rawls. It emphasizes the metaphysical primacy of freedom of choice in the individual subject. Its battle cry is autonomy, and its fruits are the ethics of authenticity. Each person has the right to define the meaning of his life, his sexuality, his way of participating in civic space, and his consumer opportunities. From this metaphysics we get the culture of rights talk, and the notion that sincerity of conviction serves as a moral warrant for the views that one holds.

Alongside this, there is the rival vision of the postmodern theorists who follow Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, and Foucault in outlining the ways that deep currents in human culture inform our mentality, structure our pre-reflective interpretation of experience, and privilege or disempower us in ways we fail to see. The metaphysics of Nietzsche are about power, not rights or the individual autonomy of each citizen. When one overturns social conventions that are arbitrary and oppressive, one makes room for artistic creativity and Dionysian freedom in a world marked by bourgeois convention and aesthetic mediocrity. From this strand of thinking we get the discourse of prophetic denunciation, militant calls for radical cultural transformation, and the politics of identity.

Finally, there are the scientistic materialists, who think that the great philosophical and religious visions of the past must be discarded after the modern scientific revolution. Their battle cry is progress. Modern science lays bare the illusion of our religious past and makes room for a better society and a more rational world. The twin motors of progress are scientific knowledge and better technology. Real humanism is material: better medicine and food, the fight to prolong life and fend off death. Typically, these advocates of democratic liberalism follow the New Atheism and favor a political internationalism that advances universal education in the sciences and the use of life-enhancing technologies.

The three strands of thought are incompatible with one another in important and basic ways. Materialism and scientism accept the objectivity of modern scientific knowledge and the physicality of the human animal, but no materialist accounts of the human person provide an adequate basis for the affirmation of freedom as an irreducible element in the human person, let alone the autonomy of the liberal person as an ethical subject of rights. Nietzsche and Foucault have no place in their thought for a Kantian theory of rights, nor for a theory of universal political morality of the kind mainstream modern liberalism presumes. On the contrary, their projects lead one to treat the pretensions of Rawlsian liberalism as an arbitrary imposition of the will to power. They argue that the philosophies of liberal secular elites are metaphysically groundless, once sundered from ancient religious beliefs. In truth, they say, secular liberalism aims at the establishment and maintenance of an arbitrarily willed system of secular capitalism and sexual conventionalism (and note that this can be true even when the conventions change). These figures do not argue that modern scientific knowledge is false, only that knowledge of physical structures alone is never enough to procure moral norms or deeper metaphysical claims about meaning. They would perceive in the “aims of progress” of a person such as Richard Dawkins a kind of theoretical incoherence and moral hypocrisy.

Secular progressivists have made little real progress in making these divergent strands of secular thinking cohere with one another. The incoherence has real consequences because it thwarts their efforts to motivate sustained political commitments. In contrast to their Marxist forebears, today’s secularists have no profound understanding of the human condition to offer their peers. Marxism may have been deeply errant and deadly on a massive scale, but it laid out foundational conceptions of nature and history and man. Contemporary secular metaphysics is hollow to the core. When pressed on these incoherent strands of thought, defenders of the secular orthodoxy fall back upon the key dogmas of progress, autonomy, and inclusivity as a way of uniting the disparate sects. A tenuous political pragmatism allows them to unite despite their metaphysical differences, often fueled by what they are against (the Christian intellectual heritage, the pro-life movement, traditional concepts of sexual complementarity).

Aquinas speaks of the virtue of pietas as that dimension of justice by which we are inclined to acknowledge our dependence upon a reality greater than ourselves. We show gratitude or piety to our parents who gave us life, love, support, and education. We show deference and love for the state, or the patria, which ensures political and cultural well-being. Pietas toward God stems from the recognition that all that we have and are derives from the creative act of God, who sustains us in being and governs the world by his divine providence.

Pietas can be eclipsed but not eradicated. The human thirst to belong to something greater than ourselves haunts the modern post-Enlightenment state. In a world in which family life is deeply attenuated (after the sexual revolution) and the public practices of religion are alien to many, pietas crystallizes around the state, which now assumes the burdens of providing meaning in life. For the state to become a religious and all-inclusive project, it typically needs to assume universal horizons, which means that patriotism has to diminish and a kind of messianic internationalism must advance. Each state is now part of a larger secular order of universal political history. Some states are more dynamic advocates of the new liberal order than others, but all are implicated. Every sincere secular liberal is a prophet ushering in the future. This vision is already manifest in Kant’s Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason. The religious horizon of the enlightened modern man should be political and this-worldly. The universal ethics of peace, the spread of constitutional democracy, a free press, secular limits on religious engagement in public life, and a cosmopolitan ethics of internationalism—these are the aims of the new man. He has a cosmology without transcendence, where the highest aim is the distribution of goods (both material and educational) to the many through market economies, international state accords, and bureaucratic oversight.

The liberal outlook has enjoyed a remarkable success among the elite in Western Europe and North America for at least two generations. However, we can also observe countervailing tendencies: populations that find insufficient sustenance (both spiritual and material) in the modern liberal vision. This anti-internationalist dynamic has taken on diverse forms in the past years, in Russia, England, Turkey, or the U.S., because national traditions are distinct. In each case, however, the rebellion against the liberal vision has taken on a primarily secular form, one marked by an alternative form of pietas that reaffirms the primacy of patriotism over the internationalist aspirations of secular modernity. This dynamic has shocked many of us, but perhaps it shouldn’t have. The state is, after all, a feature of human nature, even if a somewhat ontologically vague and historically unstable kind. It consolidates and manifests a coherent cultural unity, a covenant that binds people together. Measured patriotism is natural, not evil, and its cyclical reassertion in human history is inevitable.

But liberals are not entirely wrong to mistrust it. Nationalism can indeed turn in on itself, fueled by irrational racism. We also must make sure that patriotism accommodates genuine respect for the natural human family, which is the basic cell of human culture, and for freedom of religion, including the ethical universalism that the Church provides. A nationalism (or cosmopolitan elitist liberalism) that substitutes itself for the family becomes totalitarian. When the state seeks to provide ultimate orientation in religious matters, it becomes the unwarranted pseudo-theological censor of the free mind. Truth be told, it is only the Catholic Church in human history that has shown any real long-term success in sustaining in concord the twin principles of balanced nationalism and ethical universalism. The caricature-substitutes of secular modernity that vie against the Church always err on one side or the other, usually to the detriment of both.

Democracy is not a problem per se. It is a means toward an end. The end in question is the political common good, the collective life of individuals, families, and organizations that are sustained within a larger whole in which they can flourish. As a means of government, democracy has its advantages. It encourages the participation and responsibility of the populace as a whole, provides measures to protect their freedoms, allows for the subsidiarity of smaller groups, and wards off tyrants and ideological despots. By its very nature it is anti-elitist, and this brings with it a variety of vulnerabilities. Democracies are subject to the whims of superficial collective ideologies: indoctrination of the masses based on television values, demagogy, political correctness, and the influences of plutocracy. In a democracy, the rich can purchase their influence. Political parties tend to stay in power by galvanizing massive financial resources on an ever-greater scale.

When Robert Bellarmine writes about the ideal form of government for the real world which is marked by human selfishness, he advocates for a balance of powers. His vision is that of a mixture of monarchy, aristocratic nobility, and representative democracy. The three forms of classical government each serve the common good in their own way and seek to maintain a check on the pretensions to absolutism that might arise in the others. This ideal is represented better by early modern forms of European government than twenty-first-century American constitutionalism, but it is not a world away from us. Aquinas also has surprisingly relevant thoughts on this issue. When he weighs in on the question of monarchy and the transfer of power, he asks whether a people should elect their king. His answer is affirmative. The best forms of government make the royal or executive branch directly accountable to the subjects of the state. This assures greater loyalty on the part of the subjects and greater accountability on the part of the royals. In another place, Aquinas asks whether a Christian people can obey an apostate or a pagan ruler. The question was not hypothetical for St. Thomas, since Emperor Frederick spurned the Catholic faith and promoted Islam as a purposeful affront to the pope of the time, with whom he was in open civil warfare. Two brothers of Aquinas were killed by this ruler. Aquinas answers that the Christian may live under a non-Christian ruler without disobedience to the faith, so long as the ruler in question is willing to recognize the natural law and permit his subjects to observe it.

The point of these examples is to signal, first, that there exists no perfect age. Human beings contest with the consequences of original sin under every political regime, even if some are healthier than others. And second, the principles of political realism that emerged among Catholic thinkers in previous, less democratic ages still apply fairly directly to our own. The idea of Catholic democracy poses no problem in principle. There are demons that haunt every democracy, but that is because there are demons in civic polity more generally. They are not defeated once and for all by any one form of human political self-organization. This type of demon can only be driven out by prayer.

What is needed today is a Catholic metaphysics of democracy. Cosmopolitan liberalism is inherently unstable, but so is the current Catholic response to it. The Church’s engagement of democracy as a positive good comes in two historical stages, each recent and limited in success. The first came after World War II: the demise of the totalitarian regimes and the advent of Christian democracy in Western Europe. It provided the cultural space and fueled the optimism that made the Second Vatican Council possible. We may be accustomed to thinking about the secularization that followed the council as a sign of its ineffectiveness, despite all good intentions. But things could have been much worse. The positive vision of Christian humanism that the council articulated was inspirational in Western Europe at a critical moment. The Church was able to develop a complex social doctrine in a democratic context just at the time that it mattered, in response to the rival system of totalitarian communism, which risked engulfing the larger political order of world history.

The second stage took place during the pontificate of John Paul II, first in direct confrontation with communism and, subsequently, in the wake of its defeat. Democratic market economies succeeded and communism crumbled, but the end of the Cold War was treated by many as a triumph of capitalism alone, not of the spirit. The Church found herself in a paradoxical situation. She advanced a system that now has no need to reference its own religious roots and is indifferent to them.

There was a time when the leaders of the Church could continue to promote democratic values as part of a strategy of forming the future of the modern West. That strategy has lost its force, and the Church now risks becoming a sociological ghetto, or worse, an archeological museum of ideas. Today it seems that three options remain. One is to re-emphasize the identification of Catholicism with modern liberal culture. The Church should reinvent herself as a flexible church of permission, one that embraces the metaphysical indetermination and moral fluidity of modernity. Our liquid culture can be genuinely spiritual and implicitly Christian just so long as each person chooses his options in a sincere way. Grace presupposes and builds on sincerity.

This is the option of much of the northern European Catholic hierarchy. Its end is foreshadowed in the fate of modern liberal Protestantism. The social services of the state are already accomplishing the main political aims of this version of Christianity, and the state handily instrumentalizes the Church in view of its own ends. The sociological outcomes are predictable. When people are invited to participate in Christianity merely so as to educate themselves in what Newman took to be the doctrines of liberalism, set to an accompaniment of polyphonic music, they stay home and watch soccer instead.

A second option is to cultivate a creative minority that preserves and promotes the forgotten ideals of Christian humanism. This aim can be more or less countercultural. In recent decades a kind of dual rhetoric has emerged: one of accompaniment and one of strategic provocation. When John Paul II visited France for the first time as pope, his opening words were “First daughter of the Church, what have you done with your baptismal promises?” But he also strongly emphasized the core referents of the post–World War II period: modern human rights and the democratic market economy.

The third option is to acknowledge that we are entering new territory. Christianity is now alien and almost culturally inaccessible to most Western liberals, even when they think they know something about it. And modern secular democracy is failing. Not materially or practically, but spiritually, because it is not providing an adequate depth of meaning and cohesive kind of social unity. The trend toward nationalism will not be adequate to fill the void. Rightly understood, our new situation in fact represents an opportunity. The Church needs to emphasize the deeper meaning of things, against the various sectarian dogmas of modern secular liberalism, and by offering a rival version of modernity.

If we follow in the footsteps of Newman, what are the key metaphysical principles of the Catholic religion that should be promoted in the modern democratic context? Consider first the doctrine of Leo XIII in his 1888 encyclical Libertas. A fundamental priority of the Church in the modern world is to uphold the truth that the human being has a spiritual soul that is not subject to corruption at death and that has an eternal destiny, either for perennial happiness with God or for misery in perpetual alienation from God. As Leo noted, this teaching has a number of important effects in a modern context. It underscores the irreducible dignity of the human being as distinct from other animals. It affirms man’s true moral autonomy and freedom against all temptations to fatalism or materialism. It provides a fundamental metaphysical explanation of universal human equality and irreducible personal dignity. It shows that the temporal secular state cannot have final dominion over the destiny of the human person or over the competence of the Church. Most importantly, it establishes that man’s true purpose is found in something that lies beyond the horizon of temporal existence in this life, beyond political life in civic society and the realm of empirical measures and sensate pleasures.

So long as the Church’s message to the modern world is one of accompaniment in view of purely material ends (clean drinking water, a more just distribution of resources, the stability and harmony of families), her services to the state may be welcome, but they will never be essential to human flourishing. What is not essential is optional, and what is optional over time will fade to oblivion. If the Church does not offer the human being more than life in this world, she offers the human being nothing that he cannot find elsewhere. By contrast, if there truly is a spiritual dimension to the human person, then not only is the spiritual adventure of human existence invested with transcendent purpose, but also that purpose is to be found in the smallest details of temporal and civic life. As Solzhenitsyn noted in his famous speech at Harvard in 1978, religion can subsist without democracy, but democratic polity in its modern form becomes hollow and fragile without a reference to religious transcendence. The capacity to name evil and seek the good requires a moral code. A culture that cannot name God ceases to be able to name evil for what it is, and loses its capacity to name the ultimate good that can unite the aims of human beings to one another. Real progress is not measured by material technology, but by the advance toward spiritual life.

This leads to a second metaphysical principle, one regarding the true purpose of freedom. Traditional Christianity affirms that human freedom is spiritual and real. But it is not a mere capacity for autonomy, nor is it characterized primarily by the will to power. Human beings value their autonomy, and there are dialectics of power in human culture, but these “moments” in the life of freedom are neither first nor last. What is first and last is truth: truth regarding what is authentically good and the activities from which we derive real human happiness. In response to the orthodoxies of modern liberalism, John Paul II rightly emphasized that human freedom develops in its depths in reference to the mystery of God and to the grace of Christ. Real freedom is freedom for God and for grace. Constructive autonomy comes from the pursuit of a life of holiness. If this is true, then the dogmas of the Church, and her metaphysical teachings regarding grace and human personhood, remain the key to unlocking human freedom.

Third, there is the issue of knowledge of God. The most fundamental conflict between Catholicism and liberalism stems from the modern prohibition of public appeals to any real knowledge of God, whether natural or revealed. Kant’s theoretical agnosticism, Nietzsche’s diagnosis of Christianity as a repressed will to power, the materialist dismissal of religion as a social pathology—these three incompatible systems of thought share in common the conviction that all claims to real knowledge of God are intellectually dishonest. These rival versions of secularism are all profoundly in error on this fundamental point. The most basic claim of Catholic metaphysics that requires public defense and promotion in the modern context is this: that God exists, that monotheism provides the ultimate realistic explanation of reality, and that God can be known by human beings, both naturally and supernaturally. Truths about the human person and public life follow from this knowledge, which is reinforced by way of religious life, liturgical worship, and sacrifice.

Finally, there is the core ethical principle that follows from those noted above. Augustine notes in the City of God that the essence of the Church is sacrifice, which he defines as any act of the human person that is motivated by genuine love of God. Sacrifice, in other words, is mystical, and has to do with the union of human beings with God by love. Its center is found in the Mass, where the Church offers the unique sacrifice of Christ to the Father. Our modern world is not a culture without sacrifice, as many imagine. It is a place where human beings make important sacrifices in their lives, but often for things that are ephemeral. Metaphysical realism foretells the twilight of the idols, and disposes us to offer true sacrifice to the living God alone.

In 1965 Jürgen Moltmann wrote a letter to the aged Karl Barth, who had challenged the theological warrant for Moltmann’s Theology of Hope. Moltmann responded to Barth by noting that the culture that was emerging in their period was one in which the political theology of Joachim of Fiore had much more importance than that of Augustine of Hippo. Joachim was a twelfth-century Cistercian monk who famously claimed that there would be a third age that would emerge after the time of Israel and the time of the Church: that of the Spirit. After the era of visible institutions, there will be a new age of deinstitutionalized spirituality, one that is purer than the time of the visible Church with her fixed creeds, sacraments, and hierarchy. Henri de Lubac’s last book consisted in a massive study of Joachim’s heretical idea and of the myriad historical echoes of it in the modern age, marked by the theology of historical progress from Marx to Nietzsche to the liberalism of the post–Vatican II period.

Today the dogmas of liberalism that Newman identified animate the historical narrative of progress, or the “Joachimism” of the secular ethos. Catholics are naturally tempted to join in this spirit of fluidity as a means to advance the kingdom of the spirit, razing the bastions of institutional stability and references to traditional authorities. We should go back and contradict the problematic affirmation of Moltmann. In fact, the great political theology of our age should be that of Augustine in the City of God. The Church neither conforms to the world artificially nor retreats from the world. Instead, she bears witness across time, in every age, to the perennial truths that endure: the dogmas of the Church, principles of metaphysical realism, the ethical norms of human virtue and happiness. This stance does not produce historical revolution but a continual consideration of the metaphysics of the things that remain. God is our eschaton, not the profane aims of the Gentile nations.

The future belongs to the tribe that can articulate correctly the human orientation toward transcendence that cannot be eradicated and that remains at the heart of modernity, and especially at the heart of modern democracy. Newman was right to see in modern liberalism a theological adversary. Today we need to formulate a Catholic view of democracy that is not based on the dogmas of liberalism. Our task is to challenge the premises of Kant and rediscover the basic claim of Aristotle: “First philosophy” is not politics or ethics. It’s metaphysics.

Thomas Joseph White, O.P., is director of the Thomistic Institute at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

"Co-Workers of the Truth" Links Love and Truth

"Love" and "community" are not enough. Thugs are a community. We need unity. But the foundation of the unity must be the truth, or else the unity is merely external.

Essential to the truth is being "with." That is what "co-worker" means in 3 John 8. It means that the task of the bishop is to act " his own name but [that he] is always and totally linked to a 'with'. Only when he acts 'with' Christ and 'with' the whole believing Church of all times and all places does he do what he is meant to do."

"A mere community of interests without truth would be just a drug, not a healing. Perhaps, in the last analysis, the crucial element in the unfathomable expression 'co-workers of the truth' is the relationship between truth and love."

With this phrase Saint John "...cautions against the self isolation of communities that regard themselves as closed circles; he equates the refusal to offer hospitality to missionaries with a rejection of catholicity and a repudiation of the truth. By comparison, the act of love whereby the faithful provide food and shelter for itinerant messengers of the Faith is a service to the truth."

"Christ is the Way because he is the Truth (Jn 14:6)."

Joseph Ratzinger, Co-Workers of the Truth, San Francisco: Ignatius, 1992, 5-6.

Right dogma and right hospitality are two sides of the same Catholic coin!

Monday, March 26, 2018

iPhone Generation Crisis

The Deficits of the iPhone Generation

Members of iGen suffer from serious intellectual and moral deficits: they are ill-informed, uninterested in pursuing relevant information, passionate without being active, afraid of debate with those who disagree, and uninterested in learning or exploration.
“iGen” is both the title of Jean M. Twenge’s most recent book (subtitle: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids are Growing up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy, and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood), and the name she has coined for the generation succeeding the Millennials. Twenge, who has been studying generational differences for a quarter century, includes within iGen those born between 1995 and 2012, plus or minus a bit. What ties this generation together? It is their hitherto unknown relationship to social media and its technological platform: they are “the first generation to enter adolescence with smartphones already in their hands.”
Twenge sees that smartphone as the thread running through ten features of this generation: heavy internet use, decline in person-to-person interaction, a rise in mental-health issues, a decline in religiosity, a concern with safety, a lack of civic involvement, income insecurity, “new attitudes towards sex, relationships, and children,” inclusivity, and political independence. While her effort is primarily descriptive, she does see normative differences. She shows real concern over what she sees as a mental-health “crisis” but praises iGen for “leading the way toward more equality and acceptance” on LGBT issues.
Despite her attempt at a balanced assessment, however, I think the verdict to render on iGen on the basis of Twenge’s book is even more negative than she does. I see it as a catalogue of deficits, of which four stand out.
Mental Health and Meaninglessness
First, as Twenge argues extensively, there is a mental-health deficit, one clearly correlated with screen time: “teens who spend more time on screens are more likely to be depressed, and those who spend more time on nonscreen activities are less likely to be depressed.” This, in turn, leads to a higher risk of suicide. One reason for the connection between smartphone/internet use and depression is the predominance of cyberbullying. Another is the negative impact that excessive smartphone use has on sleep. And surely yet another is the simple disconnectedness from real things and real people that is experienced by those whose primary forms of personal interaction are mediated by a screen.
Twenge’s advice in response to this is admirably direct: “Put down the phone.” This is exactly right. But this will never happen unless parents are smarter about when to introduce smartphones in their children’s lives. I was interested recently to hear of a “Wait Until 8th” movement, attempting to convince parents not to allow their children to use smartphones until at least eighth grade. That is a start, but what eighth-grader really needs constant access to the internet? “Nein until 9th” or “When? 10th” would be even better.
Second, there is a deficit of meaning. This deficit shows up in several places in Twenge’s book. The smartphone and its virtual spaces seem to be the primary place where teens spend time together. Their capacity for and interest in serious personal relationships with others is deeply impaired. Another example: Twenge devotes a chapter to the declining religious participation of iGen. According to Twenge, by 2016, “one out of three 18-24 year olds said they did not believe in God.” Twenge attributes this in part to “American culture’s increasing focus on individualism,” and this seems plausible. A third example: Twenge describes the attitude of iGen students entering college as “money is in, and meaning is out.” Academics located in humanities departments will hear this as a familiar refrain, linked as it now is to the imperative, if you are teaching history, philosophy, or English literature, to show that the knowledge you are imparting can be made “to pay.” The idea that some activities, including the pursuit of knowledge, are valuable for their own sake is uncommon, and results in a massively instrumentalizing attitude toward the value of a university education.
All three of these examples, and more, add up to a deficit in iGen of interest in genuine human goods for their own sake. Similarly, members of iGen are not particularly interested in marriage or meaningful work. Anecdotally, I have found recent college students, for the first time in my career, to show actual interest in plugging in to Robert Nozick’s famous “experience machine.” It could provide one with a lifetime of pleasure or the illusion of great activities, were you to plug in for good, but at the expense of any real personal relationships or genuine projects and pursuits. Nozick thought it obvious that one should not plug in; today’s students, not so much.
Seeking Safety, Avoiding Risk
A third deficit is one of responsibility. Repeatedly, Twenge tells us that iGen is not interested in “growing up,” nor does there appear to be any pressing need to do so. Far fewer teens are driving, or working; their parents are apparently willing to drive them where they need to go and provide what money they require. The aversion to driving is, in turn, linked at least in part to an overwhelming interest in personal safety. There are certainly benefits to this: today’s teens are safer, affording to Twenge. But the aversion to risk demonstrated by iGen extends beyond the physical to “intellectual, social, and emotional risks.”
It is here that Twenge locates the dismal recent phenomenon of “safe spaces” on college campuses. In a survey conducted by Twenge on her own campus, “three out of four students agreed” that safe spaces should be created on campus when controversial speakers were invited to speak. She notes further how increasingly common is the equation of speech with physical violence, and concludes that “all this focus on protection, safety, comfort, and home is the downside of teens growing up more slowly: they are unprepared to be independent and thus want college to be home.”
Linking the theme of safety with the instrumentalization of higher education previously mentioned, Twenge writes:
To Boomer, GenX’er, and even many Millennial faculty and administrators, college is a place for learning and exploration, and that includes being exposed to ideas different from your own. That, they believe, is the whole point of going to college in the first place. iGen’ers disagree: college, they feel, is a place to prepare for a career in a safe environment.
As I mentioned earlier, iGen is largely descriptive, yet Twenge shows admirable awareness of the ways in which these generational characteristics are negative. That is easy enough with impaired mental health, but Twenge is alive to the fact that the loss of meaningful activity and the hyper-concern for safety are also deficits, as I have described them. Yet it seems to me that Twenge allows ideological agreement to trump sober assessment where a fourth deficit is concerned.
The Downside of Inclusivity
iGen is, Twenge says, “inclusive.” They are deeply supportive of LGBT issues, including same-sex marriage, and their inclusivity is tied even to the decline of spiritual and religious interest and activity. After all, religion has “too many rules,” many about sex. iGen’ers are not terribly interested in sex itself—porn is “safer.” But they are resolutely opposed to anyone telling anyone else how to live their lives. At the same time, they are themselves not terribly tolerant of controversy and disagreement: as we’ve seen, they favor safe spaces and trigger warnings, and share a suspicion of microagressions.
They are, Twenge writes, politically independent (though she also accurately describes them as libertarian); but they are also fairly uninvolved, politically. They are suspicious of government, and, despite talking a good game, are “less likely to take political action: political participation reached all-time lows in 2014 and 2015.” Your average iGen’er is, in Twenge’s words “Not a huge news fan,” and they are “considerably less informed than their predecessors.”
Twenge is alert to some of the dangers here. iGen’ers are as polarized as the rest of the nation, and their smartphone dependence is a contributing factor. This could lead, she thinks, to “more candidates resort[ing] to the politics of celebrity to get iGen’ers’ attention, with fame and bombastic proclamations the key to leading in the polls.”
Yet she also sees some virtues:
iGen’ers are finding new ways to move for social change, from changing their Facebook profile picture to an equality sign to hashtagging a tweet about a cause. It might not be marching in the streets, but – as the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage showed – such pervasive awareness can start to shift the opinions of average Americans and eventually the law. Much of the awareness of Black Lives Matter spread online. That is where iGen’ers shine – not in traditional political action but in spreading the word about a new issue.
Elsewhere, she describes iGen as “leading the way toward more equality and acceptance.”
Let’s grant this as a descriptive matter. iGen is, in Twenge’s words, “exquisitely tolerant,” and has plausibly played an important role online in changing social attitudes—or at least in making life difficult for those whose attitudes have not yet changed. Suppose that we were to agree with Twenge in thinking that change of attitudes a good thing, and the social changes that have emerged from those attitudes as progress. Should we think it a good thing that iGen has played the role it has? Should we be pleased that they are “leading the way”?
I do not see how such sentiments could possibly be in line with the rest of the data Twenge has provided. iGen suffers intellectual and moral deficits: they are ill-informed, uninterested in pursuing relevant information, passionate without being active, afraid of debate with those who disagree, and uninterested in learning or exploration. “Hashtagging a tweet for a cause” and using social media to stigmatize those who disagree are not laudatory actions, they’re symptoms of precisely these ills.
Who should be concerned with these symptoms? Everyone. But I suggest that those who should care the most are those who agree with the substance of iGen’s views. If you are, like most iGen youth, a great supporter of LGBT acceptance and same sex marriage, they are the last people you should want as the voice of your cause, for their position is born not of study and argument but of unreasoned sentiment and intellectual torpor. These are the last grounds on which a defender of a cause—any cause—should wish them settled. Just causes should be settled by the truth, and by their defenders’ reasoned acceptance of that truth.
And this, to mention just one further issue requiring more words than I have here available, brings me to Twenge’s all-too-brief discussion “iGen’ers in the Classroom.” As she notes, college students come to the classroom with little experience reading books “or even long magazine articles.” A video of more than three minutes length is likely to tax their attention spans. What can be done to bring them to the point at which they can be intellectually informed participants in debates of national and international significance?
I have no silver bullet solution, but I worry that Twenge’s suggestions are too capitulating to iGen’s deficits: textbooks should cover less, classrooms should have more discussion, instructors should rely more on videos to capture students’ attention. Against this, I can offer only the recommendation of a colleague of mine in English who has said that a professor must sometimes “dare to be boring”. Looking back, I see that I have quoted that colleague once before in Public Discourse, in a 2009 essay marking the first anniversary of this journal, in a discussion of the requirements for reasoned “public discourse.”
The topics of education, public discourse, and politics are deeply intertwined. If Twenge’s descriptions of iGen are accurate, then the health of all three is in real jeopardy.
Christopher O. Tollefsen is College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Carolina.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

"I Want You to Evangelize the Culture!"

"YouTube Heresies"

A deep misunderstanding about...

1. God
2. The way the Bible is to read.
3. The relationship between religion and science.
4. About religion and violence.

"What the atheists deny I also deny."

God is not the summum bonum, he is ipsum esse subsistens. He is not the biggest thing around. He is far beyond all "things." "To be God is to be To Be." God is not competitive with the world.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

A Measured Response to Gaydom

Keep your
shameful venereal preferences
to yourself.
I am not
in the least interested,
and find your
public display of them
very offensive;
lewd, in fact.

"For the things that are done by them in secret, it is a shame even to speak of." Ephesians 5:12

Dynamic Catholic "The Best Lent Ever" Matthew Kelly

Go here for the daily email Lenten guide.

Opus Dei has daily spiritual texts here.

Bishop Barron has homily podcasts here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Real Unedited Letter of Emeritus Benedict on Francis Books

Below are photos of the full two pages of the letter written by Pope Emeritus Benedict on a series of books on the theology of Pope Francis. Vatican Communications had misrepresented the letter which is decidedly critical of the series, particularly of a volume by a priest theologian, Father Peter Hünermann, who has been a leader of dissent against Catholic moral dogma as expressed in "Veritatis splendor."

Here is the Plinthos full English translation of the text.

Most Reverend Sir
Monsignor Dario Edoardo Vigano
Prefect of the Secretariat for Communication
00120 Vatican City

Most Reverend Monsignor,

I thank you for your courteous letter of January 12 and for the attached gift of the eleven small volumes edited by Roberto Repole.

I applaud this initiative which is intended to oppose and respond to the foolish prejudice according to which Pope Francis would be only a practical man devoid of particular theological or philosophical formation, while I would be solely a theoretician of theology who could understand little of the concrete life of a Christian today.

The small volumes rightly show that Pope Francis is a man of profound philosophical and theological formation, and they therefore help to see the interior continuity between the two pontificates, albeit with all the differences of style and temperament.

Nonetheless, I do not feel that I can write a brief and dense theological page about them because for my whole life it has always been clear that I would write and express myself only on books that I had also truly read. Unfortunately, even if only for physical reasons, I am not able to read the eleven little volumes in the near future, all the more so in that I am under other obligations to which I have already agreed.

Only by way of gloss I would like to note my surprise at the fact that among the authors is also Professor Hünermann, who during my pontificate had been exposed for spearheading anti-papal initiatives. He played a major part in the release of the "Kölner Erklärung (The Cologne Clarification)," which, in relation to the encyclical "Veritatis splendor," virulently attacked the magisterial authority of the Pope, especially on questions of Moral Theology. Also the "Europaische Theologengesellschaft (The European Society of Theologians)" which he founded was initially designed by him as an organization in opposition to the papal Magisterium. Later, the ecclesial sentiment of many theologians prevented this orientation, making that organization a normal instrument of encounter among theologians.

I am sure that you will understand me for my denial and I greet you cordially,


(Signed) Benedict XVI

Monday, March 19, 2018

Happy Feast of Saint Joseph!

Current Death Toll and Cause of Death in America 2018

Below I copy a page giving approximate figures in real time of the estimated number of people who are dying at every moment in America, based on the latest statistics.
One category which is obviously missing is AIDS and STD's in general. Otherwise pretty good. Click here or on the REALTIME icon below for that webpage.

United States of America
from Jan 1, 2018 - Mar 19, 2018 (4:23:48 PM)

Someone just died by:Death Box

Just the Data ... Raw and Undigested

Abortion *:232288
Heart Disease:130682
Medical Errors:53488
Lower Respiratory Disease:30406
Accident (unintentional):28941
Hospital Associated Infection:21059
Alzheimer's Disease:19898
Kidney Failure:9096
Blood Infection:7118
Drunk Driving:7192
Unintentional Poisoning:6755
All Drug Abuse:5319
Prescription Drug Overdose:3191
Murder by gun:2445
Texting while Driving:1274
Fire Related:745
Domestic Violence:311
Smoking in Bed:166
Falling out of Bed:126
Killed by Falling Tree:31
Spontaneous Combustion:0

Your chance of death is 100%. Are you ready?

Totals of all categories are based upon past trends documented below.


© 2008-2018 

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Google Doodle Gets Religion?

St. Patrick's Day 2018
Today Google Doodle has surprised me with, to my memory, its first explicit reference to Christianity, in the title of today's artwork. Good.

But wait. No Christmas, no Lent, no Good Friday, no Easter, where do you get a Saint and a Bishop Missionary Saint at that with your pretend positivist post-Christianity Neo-Gnosticism?

Surprise, surprise there is no religious symbol identifiable in the Doodle. Why not do something really original and show the saintly bishop expelling the snake-gods from the false religion infested Island with the light of Christ, according to the historical record!

Happy Saint Patrick's Day indeed, Year of the Lord Jesus Christ MMXVIII! Google needs to figure out what it means by 2018!

March 19th, the Feast of Saint Joseph, Patron Saint of Italy, will surely be ignored on Monday,  and not because the Irish are more important to Google or to the world than the Italians, nor because Patrick is more important than Joseph. So, either Google is dumb or actively corrupting the culture, or a combination of both. You decide.

The logic here is going tests both the secular and the religious mettle of Google. Because true secularity cannot be anti-Christian. Anti-Christian bias is not secularity but secularism, an ideology (i.e. belief system). There is a difference. Secularity is actually a Christian principle, it comes from belief in Creation and it's Creator, and therefore is based on respect because it admits the ten commandments.

The world is good only because the good God made it so. And Saint Patrick in expelling superstition and false worship is a testimony to that fact. The creature shall not be worshiped, only the Creator. Jesus Christ is He!

Google Doodle Ignores Easter!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Why I Love the Priest Zucchetto: Priestly Pajamas!

1. Fits nicely under the saturno/birretta extraliturgically.
2. Goes with the cassock better than a baseball cap.
3. It is consistent with the priestly rank and right.
4. To Promote all things Catholic and Traditional.
5. Ecumenical! So what if the Jews like it? Theirs is actually different, materially and ontologically.
6. Educational for the faithful and for the infidel.
7. Since it is a house item it is very practical to wear in my shirtsleeves (as is my wont) in the rectory, in the living quarters when not receiving visitors. Staff and chance intrusions will never catch me totally unclerical!
8. Here is also one of the great benefits of the saturno, on the rare occasion that I must spontaneously run out of the rectory on the parish grounds to do some non-priestly diligence I am sure to have either the zucchetto or the saturno on or both. It keeps one from having to be excessively scrupulous about the cassock.
9. Even in my pj's I can wear it, in my quarters, and on the rare occasion that I must go out into the rectory living quarters in pajamas after hours!
11. On the even rarer occasions when a priest is visiting family or friends for overnights he can use it as he would in the rectory quarters. It sort of keeps you covered, even in your rare shirtsleeves off-campus occasions. If you never have those occasions, salute!
10. That's how our forebears did it! Thereby avoiding extremes. 
11. Always giving clear priestly witness to oneself and to others.
12. Simple, human, elegant, clerical and clearly Catholic and Traditional.
13. Having eight panels it is a sign of the creation and the redemption (the first and eighth day).
14. It thereby makes the priestly habitual wearing of clerical attire more perfect! The soli Deo always has you covered.
15. The priest haters hate it along with all things priestly!
16. Oh, I almost forgot, it also keeps your bald head warm? Minimally, at best. Any ski cap will do that much better. It keeps the head the Summer too.

My dictionary defines "solideo" thus:
"Un género de gorro o casquete de seda u otra tela, que usan los eclesiasticos para cubrir la corona.
Pileum, vertice capitis a sacerdotibus gestatum."
[A type of cap or skullcap of silk or other cloth which priests use to cover the crown (of the head). Plinthos]
Vicente Salvá, Nuevo diccionario de la lengua castellana, Paris: Garnier, 1890.
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