The Right Side of History, or Simply the Right Side?

This election season is full of colorful characters, among them the Green Party’s candidate, Dr. Jill Stein. (No pun was intended between “colorful characters” and “Green Party,” but a pun having been found, it is happily accepted.) A Harvard physician with an open warrant out on her, Dr. Stein is, among other things, a proponent [...]

When Should We Ignore Tradition?

In a recent column I noted that tradition is not self-contained or absolute. It's complex, so that superior, subordinate, and parallel traditions often come into conflict. Local tradition may say one thing, Church or national tradition quite another. Also, tradition is not about itself but about goods toward which it's oriented, so it's relative to something [...]

Faces of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty used to be the face America projected to the world. A gift from the people of France in 1886 and an emblem of how Americans saw themselves and how they wanted to be seen by the world. Liberte eclairant le monde is the name given the statue—"Liberty enlightening the world." The [...]

Advocates for Women in Combat Value Diversity over Victory

The prospect of drafting women is exposing some of the second-order consequences of fully integrating the combat arms. Constitutionally speaking, women’s combat exemption was the primary circumstance standing between America’s young women and registration for Selective Service. Now that women’s exemption has been repealed and the House and Senate are weighing amendments that include forcing [...]

Against Choice as the Supreme Good

Arguments based on rights seem irresistible today. Unlike arguments based on natural law, let alone those based on revealed religion, everyone seems to understand them without further explanation. So if someone wants to say abortion is bad he says it violates the right to life, and if he wants to oppose the current deconstruction of [...]

The Advantages of Natural Law Over Ideological Fantasies

Last month I noted that Catholics, along with presenting the Faith, should try vigorously to make natural law more visible in public discussion. But how? The very idea of natural law provokes incomprehension today. It favors principles that aren't engineered or controlled, so they don't fit into a technological understanding of rationality. Even worse, it means [...]

The Collapse of Gender Sanity

Men were built for fighting. Women were built for childbearing. It’s interesting to note how stubbornly true—even obvious—these statements remain, despite aggressive efforts to bury them. Modern people have a penchant for denying obvious things. Dysfunctional politics and political correctness have brought us to the point of potentially approving women’s inclusion in a military draft. [...]

The Left vs. Human Nature

The Left does not like the idea of human nature. It tells them they are not free to do what they want. From a factual perspective, it tells them people do not change much, so the way things were in the past is mostly how they will be in the future. From a moral perspective, [...]

A Catholic Reply to the Charge of Bigotry

Bigotry looms ever larger as a public concern today. Among the educated, articulate, and well-placed, it’s considered an intolerable moral flaw, a revolting psychological deformity, and a totally unnecessary pathology responsible for most of the world’s evils—war, crime, poverty, suicide—you name it. As bigotry has grown in prominence as an issue, what counts as such [...]

De Sales vs. Luther on Freedom and Religious Devotion

One of the major tenets of the Wittenberg Reforms implemented by Martin Luther in the early 1520s was his insistence on the equality of all men before God. A recognition of the “priesthood of all believers” was essential, according to Luther, to ensure proper respect for the rights of each individual person in regards to [...]

How to Form a Real Conscience

“For all I am of poet,” says the stranger to the two men climbing the mountain of Purgatory, the Aeneid was my mama and my nurse; without it, all my work weighs not a dram. And I'd content to spend an extra year— could I have lived on earth when Virgil lived— suffering for my [...]

Economic Inequality and the Hypocrisy of Power

That a French socialist economist is trashing the American economy for fomenting inequality should hardly be news. But Thomas Piketty is enjoying some moments in the popular press, before returning to the usual comfortable sinecure for the left—academia. Why? Well, we are told, economic inequality is on the march again, and must be stopped. Stopped [...]

Mark Shea’s Economic Inquisition

The topic of income inequality is popular not only among secular progressives but politically minded Catholics as well. If income inequality is a problem—and even libertarians would agree that it can be, depending on how the inequality comes about—the proposed solution is often for the government to “do something” about it, usually through confiscatory taxation [...]

Catholics: Increasingly a Dissident Minority

Pro Deo et Patria is the motto of the Army chaplaincy, and an English version of the phrase is part of the Boy Scout Oath and the Girl Scout Promise. The phrase is well chosen for those organizations. It’s a call for loyalty to the particular society in which we live, and to the moral [...]

Don’t Let Social Engineers Define Normality

The great political, social, and moral issue of the present day is the authority of the natural and normal. Accepting that authority means accepting a vernacular form of natural law, and thus a belief that the world has an innate way of functioning that is presumptively good. We can understand a great deal about that [...]

The Real Inequality in New York City

At the January 1 inauguration ceremony for New York City’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, the Rev. Frederick Lucas, pastor of the Brooklyn Community Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant, invoked God’s help to “let the plantation called New York City be the city of God.” While he was echoing Mayor de Blasio’s concerns about inequality, many denounced [...]

Subsidiarity: Why is It Praised More than It is Practiced?

Subsidiarity is a basic principle of Catholic social teaching. Like other such principles, it is praised more than practiced, because it is at cross purposes with the outlook that now governs our public life. It springs from concern for man in all his dimensions. Each of us participates in the human nature that is common [...]

Inclusiveness: Bad Religion and Bad Reason

In a recent piece in Crisis I argued that secular and rationalizing ways of thought applied to the social environment soon bring us to inclusiveness. Giving people what they want equally, which is the goal of a liberal technocratic society, includes giving them equal social positions. Inclusiveness is thus part of the modern effort to [...]

Inclusiveness: A Harmful Ideology

We hear a lot about inclusiveness, but the topic is never discussed analytically. The idea seems to be that it’s warm and fuzzy and what Jesus would do, so it’s obviously a good thing. The result is that our world is being remade for the sake of a goal that hasn’t been thought through. With [...]

Sex and the Public Order

Sex and the institutions, customs, and restraints related to it are basic to social order. That claim shouldn’t be controversial, and it’s odd that it has become so. Older political philosophers such as Aristotle, who viewed man as naturally social, found it self-evident to start their analysis of society with the union of man and [...]

The Good and Bad of Democracy

I’ve been rereading Alexis de Tocqueville’s masterful Democracy in America.  This book, written in the first half of the nineteenth century by a French aristocrat for his countrymen, remains standard reading for American college students and even some of their professors.  In a way it is too bad that we tend to read it as [...]