Modernity

The Manchester Bomber: Martyr or Murderer?

The most radical part of President Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia was not the moment when he referred to “Islamic extremism” and “Islamic terror,” but the next moment when he said, “Religious leaders must make this absolutely clear… If you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief, [...]

How Christianity Civilized Mankind

Anyone who knows anything about the Judeo-Christian tradition (an increasingly small group, I know) is aware that the Hebrew law “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” was intended to limit the bloodthirsty drive for vengeance. As Saint Augustine observed, “For who will of his own accord be satisfied with a [...]

Why the Totalitarian Temptation Lives On After the Berlin Wall

“Happy the man that understands the causes of things,” wrote Virgil. Polish philosopher Ryszard Legutko, who is also a Member of the European Parliament, is one of those deep thinkers who likes to get to the root of matters. He is not content with superficial observations or political platitudes. In his new book, The Demon in [...]

For the Restoration of Reason and Reality

We live in times of radical change, so if we want to understand what's going on why not start with the sayings of revolutionaries? In the most basic of modern revolutionary texts, the Communist Manifesto (1848), Marx and Engels tell us that in modern industrial society “all that is solid melts into air, all that [...]

Asceticism: The Alternative to “Hope and Change”

In the midst of Trumpmania and the swooning over Bernie Sanders’ Kentucky Fried Socialism, we see, if not blatant calls for political salvation, at least the expectation of it. This is nothing new nor is it peculiar to the United States. But the advanced case of Carteresque malaise from which the country now seems to [...]

The Return of the Absent Clockmaker

At a certain point in modern times, it was decided that God, the Creator of heaven and earth, should stay out of the business of running the world he created. Supposedly, men could do it much better without him. All this was done, mind you, with a certain amount of tact and propriety so as [...]

The Decline of the West

According to the German Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper, the "wisdom of the West" expresses the sum total of what man “ought to” be. This wisdom was then discredited and rejected in the Modern era, and so is largely unavailable to post-modern man, who bobs along in the wake of Modernism, which has largely discredited itself. Here [...]

The Three Temptations of Philosophy

The Gospel of the First Sunday of Lent always features one of the Synoptics on the temptation of Jesus in the desert. This year, we read from Luke. Spiritual writers have long reflected on the meaning of the temptations—for bread, for goods, for worship—that those temptations embody. The temptations Jesus faced are temptations we all [...]

The Devil’s Greatest Trick

The modernist French literary figure Charles Baudelaire coined the maxim that “the devil’s best trick is to persuade you that he does not exist.” I respectfully disagree. The aphorism appears in a short story entitled "The Generous Gambler," told in the first person, in which the storyteller reflects upon a pleasant evening he spent with [...]

Subordinating the Sacred to the Secular

In recent decades the Church has softened her public witness for the truth of the Catholic vision of things. That tendency became much stronger after the Second Vatican Council, and can even claim some support from statements such as the address of Bl. Paul VI at the Council’s close. The change has corresponded to a [...]

Conciliation with Liberal Modernity is Not Possible

The transcendent aspects of religion have little meaning for most educated Westerners today. They may consider religion worthy of respect or at least toleration when it relates to practical matters like willingness to help others and accept them as they are. Otherwise, it’s “fundamentalist”—strange, irrational, dangerous, oppressive, and very likely fraudulent. So when the issue [...]

When Teaching Truth Stops Being a Church Priority

Basic issues have basic importance. Does God exist? If he does, what is he like? If he doesn’t, can an objective moral order survive his absence? It seems obvious that such questions are crucial to all aspects of life, including our life together in society. That conclusion has inconvenient implications. Christian societies, Muslim societies, and [...]

“When Will the Catholic Church Come into the 21st Century?”

"When will the Catholic Church come into the twenty-first century?" As a Catholic theologian, I often hear this question posed by non-Catholics and Catholics alike. One of the most important questions facing the Church today, it implies a set of issues that are known to all: same-sex “marriage,” contraception, and divorce (to name only a [...]

What if the 1960s took a Christian Course?

The 1960s were intended as a rebellion against the materialism, mindless conformity, soullessness, and general inhumanity and immorality of commercial and bureaucratic (“corporate and militaristic”) America. The answer, it was thought, could be found in freeing ourselves from a society gone wrong by rejection of social forms, pursuit of intense experience, and “doing your own [...]

A Defense of the Grotesque in Flannery O’Connor’s Art

Art is the pulse of the soul. It expresses much of what is kept hidden and even what could not be expressed in any other form. Many people talk of a crisis in modern art—its abstractness, banality, and, could we even say, ugliness. If there is such a crisis, to me, it is nothing other [...]

Christianity: Foundation of Western Success

In his famous critique of John Stuart Mill, Mill and Liberalism (1963) the Cambridge historian Maurice Cowling underscored just how much the views advanced by self-identified liberals were underpinned by the conviction that their conception of the historical background to any number of events is more-or-less universally accepted. Sometimes they are right in making that [...]

Conservatism: Its Meaning and Prospects

Conservatism at bottom is resistance to the technocratic project, the modern attempt to turn the social world into a sort of universal machine for the maximum satisfaction of preferences. That project has been growing up for a long time. It comes out of an understanding of knowledge and the world with its roots in the [...]

A Catholic Response to Utopian Modernity

The world goes its own way without much regard for the Church, because it has very little regard for truth—that is to say, for reality. The problems go to the roots of current ways of thinking. The modern movement of thought began as an attempt to attain security and certainty by emphasizing what is practical [...]

Beauty and Tradition Unmask Nihilistic Modernity

Mark Signorelli recently reviewed Gregory Wolfe’s book Beauty Will Save the World and characterized it as self-contradictory. I could not finish the book after having started enthusiastically, since it did not address my own interests in architecture and urbanism. Wolfe treats many writers whom I have not read, and the visual artists he embraces strike me [...]

“The Goodness and Humanity of God”

The sub-title of J. Budziszewski’s 2009 book, The Line Through the Heart, reads as follows: “Natural Law as Fact, Theory, and Sign of Contradiction.” The initial dedicatory citation in the book, from which the book derives its title, is a memorable one from Alexander Solzhenitsyn. It reads: “The line dividing good and evil cuts through [...]

Out of the Wreckage

The Sixties wanted Paradise Now: a paradise that ignores the distant and difficult in favor of the immediate and effortless. We wouldn’t transcend life’s conflicts and difficulties by striving after a higher unity, we’d abolish them by denying them recognition. Each would do his thing and follow his bliss, and all would be well. As [...]

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