Archive for April, 2005


That teenager-ism was the first thing that popped into my head a little while ago when I caught the end of a CNN news clip on the radio as I pulled into the parking lot at work. The journalist was interviewing someone about the conclave. I missed the beginning of the segment where the interviewee was presumably identified, but judging by the tone and vocabulary I would guess her to be an academic, perhaps a theologian.

As I tuned in she was saying "The next pope will have to dialogue with modernity, rather than simply dismiss it." And she went on to say she was "not sure" that Cardinal Ratzinger is the man for the job. "Not sure" is, among intellectuals, a falsely humble way of saying "I don’t believe." "I’m not sure you’ve proved your case" means "I think you’re wrong."

I often find myself thinking that people don’t really believe what they say in polemics. The charge that John Paul II–and for that matter Cardinal Ratzinger in his role at the CDF–did not engage in dialogue with modernity is so preposterous that I can’t believe anyone could say it and really mean it. But if this woman really did mean it she really is not very bright at all.

There’s a third possibility: that she uses the word "dialogue" in other than its literal sense. I’m not sure that progressive theologians don’t intend it as a synonym for "surrender."

Maclin Horton

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Happy Trails, Humanity

Recently, as Terri Schiavo was slowly starved to death, there was a lot of
discussion about whether a life such as hers was worth living. If the worst
opinion of her consciousness was true–that she was incapable of thought, and
not truly responsive–was she still a person?

This reminded me of the discussion, also current, about the status of
captured accused terrorists. The Bush administration insists that they are not
recognized combatants of any nation, are not regular soldiers, and thus have no
protection and no rights under international law. It is further argued that as
they are not American citizens they have no legal rights.

In both of these cases it is assumed that one must meet certain criteria to
be considered worthy of possessing human rights; in the Schiavo case, even the
right to life.

But this is arbitrary; to some–the young and healthy–anything short of a
vibrant physical existence is deemed not worth living. If rights inhere in
anything but humanity the door is opened to all sorts of horrors. I
fear we will see this played out to its logical, and terrible, conclusion.

I have long thought that I would end my days waiting in line at the Happy
Trails Peaceful Passage Center, explaining to my hapless fellow baby boomers,
awaiting termination, just how this thing had come to pass, and where the responsibility lies.

Daniel Nichols

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Over on the right there’s now a link to a photo album containing several icons by Daniel Nichols. Right now there are only three–more to come.

Maclin Horton

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UPDATE #2: If you scroll way down in the comments on the Church Renewal thread linked below–like 150 comments or so–as of right now, app. 9:30 CDT, it’s near the end–there is a great post by Rod Dreher of the Dallas Morning News which could have come straight out of CetT.

Thanks to the reader who noted that the Adam Smith link was wrong. It’s fixed now.

Hardly a day goes by that I don’t see something on Amy Wellborn’s blog, Open Book, to which I consider posting a link here. I usually don’t do it, partly on the grounds that I figure a lot of C&T readers are also Open Book readers. But there are two discussions going on there now which I think are particularly apropos:

The Next Pope and Adam Smith. You can guess the drift of this one, I think, and there is a lively discussion going on, although as so often happens when this subject comes up there is a tendency for the anti-capitalist side to dwell on abstractions and for the pro-capitalist side to minimize the serious problems of capitalism-as-we-know-it. (Exhibit A: the entertainment industry.)

Did Church Renewal Happen? During the papacy of John Paul II, that is. How to reconcile the glory of  the pope’s thought and personal witness with the unsatisfactory state of Catholic life in general? My opinion: renewal began. It has quite a long way to go.

Maclin Horton

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Journalists Baffled by Commutative Property

In trying to come to grips with the teachings of John Paul II, it sometimes seemed that most of the journalists of the world
had more or less simultaneously uttered a great cry of “We
don’t get it!”

–Maclin Horton

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I read two things today that, taken together, provide considerable food for thought. I would really love to hear some reader discussion on the topic.

Item one: this Baltimore Sun story about John Paul II’s home town, Wadowice. The current parish priest where Wojtyla was baptized laments the state of Poland after Communism: "We in Poland have opened up to Western culture, and it is destroying the church."

Item two: this National Review Online piece by John Derbyshire, a retrospective and evaluation of the late Pope’s life and times. Those of you who can’t abide NR (if any are present), please hold your fire, and don’t react too hastily without reading the whole piece. Derbyshire is a non-Catholic, a sort of old-school Anglican, but sympathetic to the Pope and most of that for which he stood–what I think of as a temperamental conservative. Here is his key idea: "..the real culprit [in the decline of orthodox religion] is the irresistible appeal of secular hedonism to healthy, busy, well-educated populations."

This is something I’ve given a lot of thought to. Those of us who are more or less traditionalist Catholics argue a lot about the baleful influence of various philosophical and political parties: "It’s the liberals." "No, it’s the conservatives." "No, it’s the neo-cons." "It’s the Enlightenment." "It’s Protestantism." "It’s Darwin." "It’s Europe." "It’s the USA." "It’s Marx." "It’s capitalism." "It’s Thomism." "It’s Vatican II." Etc.

But I am more and more inclined to believe that we are up against something more fundamental, and Derbyshire is onto it: if people have wealth and freedom, they will abuse it. Like those (legendary?) rats who dosed themselves with cocaine till they died, they will most likely abuse it until it is taken from them.

(Now I’m being pessimistic.) Of course it’s possible in principle for more than a minority to turn away from decadence when it’s freely available, but is it likely to happen?

Like I said, I would really love to hear what other people think about this.

Maclin Horton

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A Captain for the Storm

I really don’t have much to say about the papacy of John Paul II that hasn’t already been said by other people. This is more about the sudden shock of realizing that we are without him (I started to call it Enough About the Pope–Let’s Talk About Me) and what it could mean for the Church if he is followed by a much lesser man.

Maclin Horton

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