Modernity

When Suns Collide

Americans like to think of themselves as living in a classless society, and historically this is largely, but not entirely, true, with a large middle class dominating the country’s economic, political, and social life. In the traditional social model, there was a small and moneyed upper class above the middle class, typically marked by its willingness [...]

Humanae Vitae’s Challenge to Modernity

July 25, 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Humanae Vitae (HV). This encyclical, and its subsequent contestation in certain “Catholic” circles, has been a defining moment of the past half-century. The central teaching of HV (#12) is that there is an “inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative [...]

Christianity and the Radical Transformation of Culture

Man is not a body of mass in motion with the aim of peaceable consumption as modern anthropology suggests. Man does not live on bread alone; man is, as the ancients knew, a social animal. However, the great revelation of Christian anthropology is that man is also a cultural animal. Culture, rooted in the Latin [...]

The Annunciation: A Cure for Many Modern Ills

Perhaps the most under-appreciated feast of the General Calendar is the one celebrated on April 9, the Solemn Feast of the Annunciation. Truly worthy of the title “First Class Feast,” for centuries it marked the first day of the year, connecting the civil calendar with the idea that, at the Incarnation, the world was born [...]

“Bless Me Father For I Have Sinned”

Vainly do men of our time seek remedies for the cultural maladies affecting us. Each exertion of the political elite or the bien pensant only seem to deepen their woes. Faced with such existential crisis modern men seek corrupting escapes or the violence of bankrupt political extremism. Indeed, these things assume the kind of devotion [...]

Modern Liberty a Cruel Parody of Christian Freedom

As Easter comes ever closer the importance of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ should be magnified for every Christian. Christians should not forget the underlying message of the Easter story—the freedom won in Christ’s death and resurrection. For this is one of two major competing stories in modernity, and one that modernity would [...]

Anniversary Reflections on the Last Days of King Louis XVI

Early on the morning of January 21, 1793, King Louis XVI heard his last Mass. Following Mass, the king was taken from his prison to the Palace Louis XV, where he would suffer the same fate on the same date as Agnes of Rome, the ancient martyr commemorated in the Mass of the day. This [...]

A Syllabus of Errors: An Update In Ninety-Five Sentences 

On October 31, 1517, a 34-year-old Catholic priest affixed a notice of disputation, consisting of ninety-five theses, to the door of the castle church in the German town of Wittenberg. That act has come to be seen down the ages as a dramatic gesture of defiance and an open declaration of rebellion. It was not. [...]

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 [...]

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