Sunday, February 26, 2006

Most Important Catholic Author for Today

It's somewhat hard not to say Chesterton, but I really think it's Pascal. You can download his Pensees or "Thoughts" here in a number of formats including a nice PDF. Kreeft also has a nice book which has the text of Pascal interspersed with his own notes.

One really nice feature of this work is that it consists in proverb-sized aphorisms which can be digested in small chunks.

Saturday, February 25, 2006


Don't know why I never thought to ask this before, but consider this question:

What is the most diverse religion in the world?

On about any reading of "diverse" the answer is without question Catholicism. That is one reason why a thousand years from now Catholicism will be the only currently existing religion still in existence. There will of course always be some form of Gnostic spirituality but by that time Protestantism and it will be indistinguishable. I suppose some form of Buddhism might still be around, it's pretty flexible. Other than vague Spiritualisms--panpsychism, shamanism, Episcopalianism, etc--the main threat remains, as ever, schism. That's no laughing matter.

Anyway, it's interesting we don't get much credit for diversity in the age which makes it an idol.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Scientism as Modern Religious Myth

*Scathing* review of Daniel Dennett's _Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon_ by NYT's Leon Wieseltier. Well worth taking a look at, since Dennett is one of the foremost proponents of scientism.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The stages of forgiveness

although I joined the blog a long time ago, this is my first post. So let me introduce
My name is Oksana, I was born in Ukraine in the city of Lviv, and about two and a half years
ago I came to the US to pursue my Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of Missouri-
Columbia. I was baptized as a Greek Catholic, so I belong to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic
Church, which observes the Bysantine right and is in the full union with the Pope.
In this post I would like to write about something I don't have an answer for, a current
problem with which I am struggling now. What are the stages of forgiveness? How do we
forgive and what does it mean to forgive?
A human being faces many unjust, hurtful and dangerous situations as soon as he comes to
this world.
For example, a child reacts dramatically on a situation in which he was punished by adults
for the misbehavior of another child. Children have a sharp sense of justice, which is
naturally engrained in them. I don't mean to write about the psychology of a child here, I
am rather interested in the resoponce of a fairly mature human being to all the situations
in his past in which he was unfairly treated, insulted or abused.
It seems that the first stage of forgiveness would be an acknowlendement of the fact that I
was insulted/offended/abused and living through all the feelings of the past situation again
as well as gazing at the present feelings and the responce on the event. This is, probably,
what every good psychologist would tell you.
But what happens next? I think that at this point we need to make a personal choice. It
seems possible to let it go if somebody hurt us unwillingly and is not responsible for our
pain. We still have to go through the pain, for it still exists, but there does not seem to
be a deeper moral contradiction here. Well, it happens, one may say.
I know several people, including myself in the past, who confuse forgiving with justifying
the actions of another person, or, worse, taking the blame and the guilt on oneself. I think
that such an attitude is self-destructive and that even the person from which we still the
responsibility for his actions does not benefit from that. We are called to develop in full
mature adult persons, to flourish in the world for others, and to help others to do so as
well. Taking the guilt on yourself while you are not guilty damages you self-esteem and
blocks you from the further growth. I know at least one person who seems to spend a vast
amount of her energy searching for reasons why in such and such situation she was treated
not in the way every human being deserves. Since she works hard, she comes up with
explanations which are full of flows, but quite convincing to her. Other people around such
a person are deprived of the responsibility for their actions by her since she takes it all,
so they can not flourish and develop to their full extent.
So this is clear, forgiveness is not a privatisation of responsibility, blame and guilt. So
what is it?
Another helpful flow of thoughts here would be about the need of forgiveness. Is it really
needed? If you work through all your emotions and don't let a hurtful event to bump down
your self-esteem etc., why would you need forgiveness?
Well, I thought so too. More precisely, I did not think that forgiveness may be crucial and
necessary. I thought you can always "move on". But what is the state of heart with which you
move on? What kind of a person you remain if you do not forgive?
There is a "position of an innocent lamb" you may take in case somebody wounded you. You may
tend to think of yourself as of foultless/less sinful if you bear the wounds that other
people caused in you. If they were wrong and you were innocent, you may forget about the
situations in which you were in the position of your wrong-doers. I know some people,
including myself, who spend a lot of energy on circling in a cycle and thinking over and
over again about how somebody, or sometimes very many, may be almost everybody in their
society, is wrong about something, has done something unjust or sinful. This is tempting,
for it attracts the attention from your own faults and issues on which you need to work on.
So there is another thing that the forgiveness is not: bearing your pain and concentrating
on it combined with a prayer or a positive thinking about another person so that you don't
have to worry about you own imperfections.
There is so much unjustice around us that there is even no need in being hurt personally in
order to feel offended. In fact, one may be offended by a trend in philosophy/psychology, by
a prevailing point of view on one or another issue. Catholics may be hurt and offended by
the pursuits on the stem cell research and legalization of abortions as well by an unfair
attacks on the Catholic Church. We may not realize how much there is out there that needs
to be forgiven. The hatred, the anger and the desire of vengeance are like a cancer that
eats and destroys us from inside. A part of our life or even the whole totality of it may be
overturned in order to serve our anger and hatred.
This, of course, does not mean that we should not stand for our values. But an essential
part of a Christian 'stand' is forgiveness. The message of forgiveness is clear and
transparent through the whole Scriptures. It culminates in the words of Christ uttered by
him at the moment of death on the Cross: "Father, forgive them , for they don't know what
they do". Christ was without stain, he had no fault, and he forgave. Can a Christian do
anything else?
I think that in many issues the temptation is to accept the 'language' of our offenders in
our responce to an insult. To forgive means to pass the worldly and human frames and to make
a step beyond the natural responce of our feelings, even the most spiritual ones. A man can
not forgive unless by the grace of God.
This is a long post, so thank you if you made it this far. I think it is good for me to
write about this, it should help.
To be continued,

Friday, February 17, 2006


Over at my personal blog, I posted a quote Frank sent me regarding homeschooling and socialization which some readers might be interested in.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

General Rules of Catholic / “Bible Christian” Dialogue

For those of us who dialogue from time to time with that particular brand of Protestants who adamently refer to themselves as "Bible Christians", and whose every waking hour is seemingly spent criticizing the Church (think Jack Chick), I've drawn up a few general rules to keep in mind so as to avoid any unneccessary misunderstandings...

1) Catholics must refrain from using derogatory terms for Christians of other denominations. Catholics may be called any name you like.

2) When a Catholic quotes Scripture, it will be considered "out of context". When a Bible Christian quotes Scripture, it will be considered "God's interpretation".

3) Catholics do not have the right to explain the meaning and context of Scripture verses. Bible Christians reserve the right to explain the meaning and context of Scripture verses.

4) Whenever a Catholic's understanding of a particular doctrine or Scripture is different than a Bible Christian's understanding, it is the general policy that the Catholic is rejecting God's Holy Word.

5) Catholics are not allowed, at any time, to employ the rules of logic. Bible Christians are allowed to fallaciously employ the rules of logic when they believe it benefits their argument.

6) If a Catholic either asks a difficult question or points out a fallacious argument of a Bible Christian, we will revert to rule #4 and determine that the Catholic is rejecting God's Holy Word.

7) Although Catholics accept and cherish the Bible as God's holy, inspired, WRITTEN Word, they will henceforth be referred to as "Bible Rejecters".

8) Under no circumstances will a Catholic be allowed to speak in an insulting manner concerning Bible Christian doctrines or beliefs. Since Catholic doctrines and beliefs are so obviously erroneous and anti-Christian, insulting comments about them seem only natural.

9) It will be assumed that all Catholics apologists have a hidden agenda.

10) The sins of individual Catholics in the world will be considered evidence for the apostasy of ALL Catholics. The sins of individual Bible Christians in the world will be considered the sins of individual Bible Christians.

11) When someone who loves the Catholic Church explains the Church's teachings, it will be assumed that their explanation is skewed and biased. When someone who hates the Catholic Church explains the Church's teachings, it will be assumed that their explanation is authoritative and unbiased.

12) Books written by pro-Catholic authors will be considered dubious and orchestrated deceptions. Books written by anti-Catholic authors will be considered the result of careful, scholarly research.

13) All historical evidence is strictly prohibited unless it seems to promote Bible Christian beliefs.

14) Scriptures that literally support Catholic beliefs will be understood metaphorically. Scriptures that metaphorically support Catholic beliefs will be understood literally.

15) Bible Christians are freely permitted to violate the law of non-contradiction (A and not A cannot both be true at the same time and in the same sense), especially if the contradiction seems to prove Catholicism wrong.

16) The writings of early Church Fathers and pre-Reformation theologians will be considered "the dribble of feeble-minded men"-- unless a particular quote seems to suggest a Bible Christian belief.

17) When the doctrines of Reformation leaders oppose Catholic doctrines, said leaders will be considered "heroes of God's Word". When the doctrines of Reformation leaders oppose present-day Bible Christian doctrines, said leaders will be considered "still under the influence of Rome".

18) If one Bible Christian disagrees on doctrine with another Bible Christian, he too will be considered a "Bible Rejecter", unless, of course, he is condemning Catholicism, in which case he will be considered a "true brother in Christ".

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Blessed Saint Valentine's Day! 3/3

And finally... I was actually going to post a few days ago on a little practice I've adopted to reclaim a small part of our language: I've stopped using the abbreviation "St." for "Saint" and I always refer to a Saint by that designation. It's a small thing, but I really believe that just seeing that little word "Saint" could--at the right moment--be provocative in just the right way.

Also, though it's quite common in philosophy to refer in an article to Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas merely as "Augustine" or "Aquinas" I've retired that convention and keep the hagiographic moniker in there. It is clear that they were such good philosophers because they were such good Christians and that connection deserves explicit affirmation.

Blessed Saint Valentine's Day! 2/3

I thought it best not to neglect the *official* feast days for today: Saints Cyril and Methodius, especially since Saint Cyril was a philosopher and linguist, basically inventing--with his bro--the Cyrillic alphabet in order to witness to and educate the Slavs. More info here.

Blessed Saint Valentine's Day! 1/3

Busy busy day, almost didn't get a Saint Valentine's day post up!

Rather than a long rant about commercialization ($14 billion last year) and sexualization of this old-calendar feast day, I'll merely note that it was Saint Valentine's support of the the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony for which he was martyred in 273 AD by the Emperor Claudius. So it might be a good time to renew your support for that Sacrament (lots of ways to do that).

In the pagan mind--broadly construed as the non-Christian mind, which is alive and well today--Marriage is put in the service of love. It's a tool that people use to express their love or, at best, a piece of art to honor their love. With love having fallen in status as something in the service of sex--for men anyway: men use love to get sex and women use sex to get love--as I say with love now conceived as being in the service of sex, it follows that marriage is now in the service of sex: marriage is for love is for sex.

Contrariwise, the Church teaches us that rightly ordered sex is in the service of the Christian Marriage characterized by self-less love imaging the love of our Grace-giving Father , and, ultimately, images the Holy Trinity when the this love becomes an actual new person in the completed Christian family. On a personal note, I lived this out today as we celebrated our Saint Valentine's day with a family ski through the woods around where we live.

It would be a great sign of renewal if we started reconnecting Saint Valentine with marriage rather than mere sex (which in the end is a poor substitute).

Monday, February 13, 2006


This was the google quote of the day:

"There are no wise few. Every aristocracy that has ever existed has behaved, in all essential points, exactly like a small mob." - GK Chesterton

In other Chesterton news I've got a former classics student who's at Oxford right now and has pretty much decided to do graduate work in Chesterton. I told him it would be nice to have my own personal Chesterton scholar. I've appointed him Undersecretary of the Department of Chesterton.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


So I went on a retreat at Warwick House this weekend, and Scott Hahn, leading light of Evangelical converts to the Church, shows up as a retreatant. Of all the retreats in the world for me and Scott Hahn to show up at together, it had to be the silent one....sigh....

Scott Hahn Highlight #1: I'm sitting in the living room, reading Cassian's Conferences, and Dr. Hahn leans over and whispers "That's a great book." I feel like a 13-year old girl who's just met Britney Spears (or whoever it is that 13-year old girls get excited over nowadays)

Scott Hahn Highlight #2: I catch the good doctor in passing the next day, and politely corner him, recapping our story as X-Catholics, and thanking him for his work, as well as the influence he's had on my life. He graciously tells me "welcome home, " and that he appreciates our prayers...we then return to the discipline of silence. I am again reduced to 13-yr old girlhood. My wife is now thoroughly exasperated with me, as she claims that Scott Hahn probably thinks I am a total freakshow....

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Aquinas on the Transcendental Unity of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty

Most of you have probably heard me talk about this from time to time, but I thought I'd post this excerpt from an email I sent today, since I just love this teaching:

Have you ever heard of Saint Thomas's "doctrine of the transcendentals"? It's one of my favorite parts of Thomistic philosophy (and a good thing because it's the cornerstone) and as fortune would have it I taught it today.

The idea is that Truth, Goodness, and Beauty ore "transcendentally one" in the sense that each is *being* apprehended via a different modality. Truth is being as known, Goodness is being as rightly desired, and Beauty is being as rightly admired. Kreeft, I think, maps this onto the trichotomous soul: Truth is being's imprint on the mind, Goodness is beings imprint on the will, and Beauty is beings imprint on the emotions. So Truth, Goodness, and Beauty are all different modes of Being as apprehended by the Mind, the Will, and the Emotions.

Mortimer Adler's Book _Six Great Ideas_ is a good introduction to this great intellectual triad, though he doesn't go into the theological aspect that since God is the Supreme Being and the Ground of all Being he is the Supreme Truth, the Supremely Good, and the Supremely beautiful and the ground of all truth, goodness, and beauty.

I happen to think that doctrine is true, good, *and* beautiful!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Vatican Scientist on Intelligent Design: Yuck!

An interesting brief discussion of the recent comments of Father George V. Coyne, director of the Vatican Observatory on the Intelligent Design movement and "Creationism".

One socialogical note is that he will probably be universally heralded as a "Vatican Official" in the Press, though he is no such thing and speaks with no official authority whatsoever.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

New Catholic Convert via Wheaton

Our friend Brette Fostour of Wheaton College by way of the University of Missouri, Boston University, Oxford, and Yale brought to my attention the recent firing at that bastion of Anglo-Catholic literary sensibility of one Joshua P. Hochschild for the high crime of converting to Catholicism. Joseph Bottum of First Things sort of game them an "attaboy" for sticking to their principles, but for another take see this article.

Bottum's point is basically that firing him was an act of doctrinal integrity in an age where that is rare. At many "Christian" schools there's effectively a "don't ask, don't tell" policy. I agree with Bottum that the straightforwardly right thing to do when someone can no longer affirm a statement of faith is to give them the boot (if they they lack the character to withdraw).


However, the Wheaton doctrinal statement is general enough that I can see a Catholic signing it in good conscience (though I couldn't). My understanding was that he was willing to sign it and the President invoked the "spirit" of the statement as being definitively Protestant. Of course, Wheaton had the option of adjusting the statement so that it expressed only the "small 'c'" catholicism--or mere Christianity--of which, in theory, they are so fond.

Wheaton publishes a journal called SEVEN: An Anglo-American Literary Review which is focused on the books and papers of seven British authors: Owen Barfield, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, Dorothy L. Sayers, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams. Their The Marion E. Wade Center houses a major research collection of their works.

However, as far as I can tell not a single one of them would be allowed to teach there or would sign the statement in good conscience, certainly not Lewis. Not to put to fine a point on it, this is hypocrisy. To say in one official breath that these seven intellectual luminaries are the brightest guiding lights the Anglophone world has produced in the last century and that their works should be studied and their personal effects collected like the relics of Saints, but that they do not qualify to teach here themselves is absurd.

I want to dwell on this for just a bit more. There have no doubt been many classes which have had as their reading material items drawn exclusively from these seven literary giants. One reason is that their works not only train the mind but the affections, Christianizing them. Now, on what basis is someone else more qualified to teach these classes than those greats themselves. Wheaton has several fine faculty including our separated brother mentioned above. However, he would be the first to admit that Lewis or Tollers would be more qualified on every dimension to teach their own works.

I can see no virtuous basis for this inconsistency.

"..and we look for the resurrection of the dead..."

Catholic doctrine of the Resurrection came up over at Logic and Inquiry while discussing the Mind/Body problem.