Excellence Round-Up

(1)Archbishop Chaput's very moving piece about liturgy: "Glorify God By Your Life":
Our worship is an icon of heavenly things, a window through which the reality and destiny of our lives is glimpsed. And the heavenly liturgy is the key to the universality of the Church’s mission. In the Catholic vision of history, God’s plan of salvation is destined to culminate in a cosmic liturgy in which all creation gives praise and glory to God, the Creator of all things. We have a foretaste of the liturgical consummation of history every time we celebrate the liturgy on earth.

This truth should transform the way we worship. It should move us with gratitude that our God would grant us the privilege of joining the angels and saints who worship before him. It should make us strive for liturgies that are reverent and beautiful, and that point our hearts and minds to things above.

This truth should also change the way we think about our public witness in this culture. We’re called to testify to Jesus Christ, to make his teachings known, to fight against all that violates God’s holiness and justice. And we need to understand our mission in the light of God’s larger plan, conceived before the foundation of the world.

The ultimate purpose of our witness is to prepare the way for the cosmic liturgy in which all humanity will adore the Creator. Our work takes part in this redemptive plan in which Christ continues to reconcile all things, until that day when every knee in heaven and on earth shall bend in worship, and God is “all in all,” as St. Paul put it.

(2) Crankycon on everything political.

(3) Two new lectures from Professors Patrick Deneen and Peter Augustine Lawler. If you want to know what I think about politics, listen to these guys! It's a privilege to listen to them.


Community as Mirror of Self

A cousin of mine wrote this and I thought it was particularly perceptive.
I think I wrote in one of my previous letters that living in community can be like living with a mirror that shows you your true self in all your beauty and ugliness. It can be really hard, but at the same time very helpful if you’re willing to accept yourself as you are and as you must change. I think I also wrote that it’s the members of this community that function as this “mirror of true-self”.
This is probably how human beings are supposed to live - together. You can really only see yourself if you're looking at another person. I think that's some deep truth.


The Television Ethic

It seems to me that the shows on TV have gotten worse, much worse than they have ever been. Shows like "Cougar Town," "Super Nanny," "One Tree Hill" and "The Bachelorette" - basically any show on any of the major networks. These shows are either a shameless "sitcom" with bad and awkward sexual humor, a boring reality show that smug Americans watch so they can make themselves feel like they're better than the narcissistic dweebs who end up on those shows, or an overwrought "drama" that lacks any sense of humanity instead substituting gratuitous sexual content.

I suppose what's most striking is the total absence of anything sacred. If you watch TV, it's clear there's nothing special about human affairs and human relationships. Television teaches us that we're all really only out for ourselves. Other people are a means to increase our "happiness" and to the extent they do that they are valuable. Traditional human virtues like love, gratitude, forebearance, patience, loyalty, faithfulness, and peace are mocked on television. No one on television takes any of these things seriously. In fact nothing on television takes anything seriously (maybe a few rare exceptions e.g. LOST). After all, persons who take things seriously are really just fooling themselves that who they are matters or what they do matters. It's not who you are, it's what you have, or who you have. Television teaches an ethic of exploitation for personal gain and I think it's terrible.

But maybe it's always been this way and I haven't paid close enough attention.


the philosophy of science

Here's a really interesting section in Edward Feser's book on Aquinas! He's talking about how science has putatively rejected the Aristotelian notion of final causation, but in practice acts otherwise. Final causation, or the end, goal, or purpose of a thing, has been rejected by scientists as irrelevant and possibly anti-scientific, as purpose is an immaterial thing. Part of the project of modern science is to prove the philosophy of materialism, (look at neuroscience, for example) so they avoid talk of anything that even resembles such antiquated ideas as "purpose". But it seems that scientists have been unable to avoid using the concept, as Feser explains on page 49 of his book
Moreover, physicists do not in fact embrace a regularity as a law of nature only after many trials, after the fashion of popular presentations of inductive reasoning. Rather, they draw their conclusions from a few highly specialized experiments conducted under artificial conditions. None of this is consistent with the idea that science is concerned with cataloguing observed regularities. But it is consistent with the Aristotelian picture of science as in the business of uncovering the hidden natures or powers of things. Actual experimental practice indicates that what physicists are really looking for are the inherent powers a thing will naturally manifest when interfering conditions are removed, and the fact that a few experiments, or even a single controlled experiment, are taken to establish the results in question indicates that these powers are taken to reflect a nature that is universal to things of that type.
In my experience, as something of a scientist myself, this is absolutely true. No one would ever want to admit that what scientists are really doing is uncovering universal truths about a things nature and end, but it is probably the case.


John Rawls Made a Mistake at the Beginning

And so he got everything basically wrong.
Because “comprehensive doctrines” and the robust moral convictions that stem from them tend to collide and compete, Rawls thought that a pluralistic society needs to take a very modest approach to political debate, restricting arguments to “public reason,” which in his terminology means giving arguments based on principles that most people will accept.

Here’s how it works. For the most part those who support voluntary euthanasia do so because of their beliefs about the meaning and purpose of human life. “It’s futile to prolong a life that has no hope of fulfillment,” someone might say. Meanwhile, those who are opposed to doctor-assisted suicide often say: “It’s not our place to decide who dies and when they die.”

Very different views of what it means to be human lie behind these statements, with one side elevating autonomy and the quality of personal experience, and the other side emphasizing a submission to reality, even it its painful and challenging forms. Yet, according to Rawls, because they—man-as-maker-of-meaning vs. man-as-grateful-recipient—are “comprehensive doctrines,” they should not be invoked as public reasons.
Thanks Prof. Reno!



G. E. M. Anscombe famously held that there are some positions in ethics that are so odious that in many cases the proper way to respond to someone who holds them is, not to discuss his error with him, but rather to refuse to discuss it. Her example was someone who proposes, in all seriousness, to kill an innocent person for the sake of some allegedly greater good. In Anscombe’s view, the person who makes such a proposal manifests a “corrupt mind,” even if he is sincerely open to debating its merits; we might even say that his corruption is all the greater precisely because he sincerely wants to debate it. One way to understand the reasoning behind her view is in terms of the Aristotelian idea that moral understanding is more a matter of having the right sensibilities and dispositions than it is the having of a correct theoretical understanding. Indeed, it is on this view difficult for someone even to have a correct theoretical understanding in the first place if he does not to some extent already have the right traits of character. This seems to me an eminently conservative view to take, insofar as it reflects the insight that much of our knowledge is tacit rather than articulate, embodied in habit and tradition rather than in the explicitly formulated propositions of a philosophical theory. It is a paradigmatically anti-rationalistic conception of ethics (which, of course, does not mean that it is anti-reason).
Feser on Anscombe.

Some propositions are so odious the correct response is to refuse to discuss them! A great truth.


busy busy!

buying a house, taking care of a newborn, working all the time. things might settle down in a few months!


Nancy Pelosi says: Give poor people contraception so they stop reproducing

Remember this gem from the wretched Speaker of the House?:
“Family planning services reduce costs.”

That’s what Speaker Nancy Pelosi told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week. She was defending a provision in the original stimulus bill that would have spent hundreds of millions of dollars for birth control. Republicans had criticized this provision, and so the Speaker responded that promoting contraception among poor people would both stimulate the economy and save the government money on welfare payments.

As the video clip shot around the web, public reaction was intense, and overwhelmingly negative—how could anybody think that preventing poor people from being born was the moral way to help poor people out of poverty? It had the air of eugenics about it, as if she were saying that one generation of poor people is enough. Even the liberal partisan Chris Matthews thought Pelosi’s position resembled China’s one-child policy. In response to the backlash, the President told Pelosi to remove the contraception funding from the stimulus bill.
And she's a Catholic. Now that's concern for the common good!


What the Church is Not

The Church is not perfect; The Church is not the Bishops; the Church is not the congregations; the Church is not the Pope; the Church is not the pedophile priests; the Church is not folk masses; the Church is not rule-based; the Church is not judgmental; the Church is not her sins; the Church is not omnipotent; the Church is not omniscient; the Church is not hypocritical; the Church is not your parents; the Church is not your CCD instructors; the Church is not in your mind; the Church is not empty; the Church is not full;the Church is not something you invent; the Church is not what Time Magazine says it is; the Church is not human; the Church is not something to be ignored.