Seeing abortion

We stand at a pivotal point in the great moral debate over abortion in our country — not because new arguments have emerged, but rather because laws so breathtaking in their barbarism have been passed, and a film so visceral in its presentation of the reality of abortion has found a wide audience. As John Henry Newman reminded us, assent to a proposition is rarely a matter of acquiescing to rational demonstration alone; instead, it often has to do with the accumulation of argument, image, impression, experience, and witness.

The internet and Satan’s game

By now the entire country has seen a video of a supposedly racist confrontation, in front of the Lincoln Memorial, between a grinning young high school student and a Native American elder, chanting and beating a drum. The immediate and ferocious judgment of the internet community was that the boy was effectively taunting and belittling the elder, but subsequent videos from wider angles as well as the young man’s own testimony have cast considerable doubt on this original assessment. My purpose in this article is not to adjudicate the situation, which remains, at best, ambiguous, even in regard to the basic facts. It is to comment, rather, on the morally outrageous and deeply troubling nature of the response to this occurrence, one that I would characterize as, quite literally, Satanic.

Spinoza, secularism and the challenge of evangelization

During this Christmas holiday, I’ve been reading Anthony Gottlieb’s breezy and enjoyable history of modern philosophy, entitled The Dream of Enlightenment. Throughout his treatment of such figures as Descartes, Hobbes, Locke and Voltaire, Gottlieb reveals his own rather strong bias in favor of the rationalism and anti-supernaturalism advocated by these avatars of modern thought. Toward the end of his chapter on Spinoza, Gottlieb avers that what he calls “the religion of Spinozism” is more or less identical to the secularist worldview espoused by so many in the West today, including himself.

Tolkien, Chesterton and the adventure of mission

There is a common, and I’ll admit somewhat understandable, interpretation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy that sees the great work as a celebration of the virtues of the Shire, that little town where the hobbits dwell in quiet domesticity. Neat, tidy hobbit holes, filled with comfortable furniture, delicate tea settings, and cozy fireplaces are meant, this reading has it, to evoke the charms of a “merrie old England” that existed before the rise of modernity and capitalism. As I say, there is undoubtedly something to this, for Tolkien, along with C.S. Lewis and the other members of the Inklings group, did indeed have a strong distaste for the excesses of the modern world. 

The McCarrick mess

When I was going through school, the devil was presented to us as a myth, a literary device, a symbolic manner of signaling the presence of evil in the world. I will admit to internalizing this view and largely losing my sense of the devil as a real spiritual person.

A reflection on the Irish referendum

I will confess that as a person of Irish heritage on both sides of my family, I found the events in Ireland last week particularly dispiriting. Not only did the nation vote, by a two-to-one margin, for the legal prerogative to kill their children in the womb, but they also welcomed and celebrated the vote with a frankly sickening note of gleeful triumph. Will I ever forget the unnerving looks and sounds of the frenzied crowd gathered to cheer their victory in the courtyard of Dublin Castle? As the right to abortion now sweeps thoroughly across the Western world, I am put in mind of Gloria Steinem’s mocking remark from many years ago to the effect that if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament. I say this because abortion has indeed become a sacrament for radical feminism, the one, absolutely sacred, non-negotiable value for so-called progressive women. 

A case for priestly celibacy

There is a very bad argument for celibacy which has reared its head throughout the tradition and which is, even today, defended by some. It runs something like this: Married life is morally and spiritually suspect; priests, as religious leaders, should be spiritual athletes above reproach; therefore, priests shouldn’t be married. 

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