Wednesday, October 29, 2014

How Would Bilbo Vote?

The midterm elections and the final installment of The Hobbit film trilogy are just around the corner. It's past time somebody asked the burning question: How would Bilbo Baggins vote? For the uninitiated, Bilbo is the title character of the J.R.R. Tolkien novel behind the films, and most people's introduction to The Lord of the Rings, the grand sequel to The Hobbit.

To understand Bilbo, we need look no further than his creator, J.R.R. Tolkien. The clues are not only in Tolkien's collected letters, but also in the novels themselves.


Bilbo's nephew, Frodo, is a proponent of nonviolence near the end of The Lord of the Rings. Plus, Tolkien loved trees and detested the ugly side of industrialism. Surely if the Oxford don were alive today, the thinking goes, he would be a Prius-driving, organic smoothie-drinking, COEXIST bumper sticker-sporting liberal. Wouldn't he?

But wait. What of all the stuff in his work about honor, chivalry, family, battlefield courage and moral absolutes? Focusing on this, some on the left have concluded that, no, Tolkien must have been an old-fashioned dead white male conservative.

Both views can't be right. Is the truth somewhere in the middle? Was Tolkien a soft-edged moderate? Tolkien was a moderate beer drinker. He was a moderately good rugby player as a boy. But there was nothing moderate about his political views.

In the recently released The Hobbit Party: The Vision of Freedom That Tolkien Got, and the West Forgot coauthors Dr. Jay Richards, a Catholic, and Dr. Jonathan Witt, an Evangelical Christian, show how Tolkien's Middle-Earth novels championed liberty, trade and limited government, key issues in the upcoming midterm elections. They believe Tolkien's novels of Middle-Earth draw us a map to freedom and liberty, and that perhaps brushing up on our Tolkien lore can help us prepare for this midterm election vote.

For more information, contact CarmelCommunications.com.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Tectonic Plates of World Catholicism Shift

By Massimo Faggioli, University of St. Thomas

An extraordinary two weeks in Rome ended Saturday with a standing ovation. Pope Francis had invited 191 bishops and clergy to the Synod on the family to speak their minds on issues such as divorce, premarital cohabitation and homosexuality and they did.
CatholicMatch.com - senior successPope Francis’s invitation to bishops was to “speak clearly. No one must say, ‘this can’t be done.’” This was a big gamble. But the result is a victory for him. True, the final report is markedly less open to the aforementioned “irregular” situations that many had hoped for. But it is also clear that a stable majority of the bishops in Rome is on his side if we look at the vote tally of October 18.
Bishops are aware of the challenges to the so-called traditional model of the Catholic family and acutely aware that these challenges are not going to disappear. In this sense, the Catholic church of 2014 seems very far from that of Francis’s predecessors. What we are witnessing is an acceleration of Church history – something similar to the Second Vatican Council 50 years ago.

What took place over the two weeks of the Synod was a genuine debate between competing ideas of what the church’s relationship ought to be with modern culture, the sexual revolution, and gender identity. But above all what these two weeks have revealed, for the first time, is a tectonic shift – a movement in the plates that make up the map of the Catholic world.

A new map of the Catholic world

In this new map Europe and Latin America are at the forefront of the new openness. On the other hand, North America, Africa, and in general English-speaking Catholics are more inclined to hone to a firm countercultural line, refusing to evolve the doctrine and pastoral practice of the church with regard to marriage and family. Asia presents a more complex picture, although the Cardinal from Manila, Luis Antonio Tagle, for example, was one of the leaders of Francis’s majority.


These are new alliances. Until the Second Vatican Council – the most important church reform since the 16th century – it was the European churches and their theological traditions that had the leading role. The churches built by missionaries may have been important participants but they were not able to build a strong opposition to the Europeans. Not anymore.

This October the strongest objections to the German bishops' proposed welcome to gay and divorced Catholics came from the representatives of English-speaking Catholics from the United States, Africa, and Australia. Their opposition was carefully planned even before the Synod as one can see from the long paper trail of interviews, op-eds and books laid down by Cardinal Raymond Burke (USA) and Cardinal George Pell (Australia). Once in Rome they argued with the Europeans in a way that has created a new sense of self-awareness in their churches back home.

The ‘exceptional’ American church

There are different reasons for the creation of these new alliances. In Africa opposition to a post-modern understanding of sexuality is rooted in deep cultural differences with Europe. For the US in particular, marriage and family have an iconic role shaped by the history of the American frontier.
Until Vatican II, American Catholicism was on the progressive side of history, in a church still filled with cultural optimism. The church and Christianity were then part of mainstream culture. Then came the 60s, the new legislation on abortion, divorce, and more recently same-sex marriage. The Catholic church felt pushed to take a countercultural stance. The legacy of the Second Vatican Council became a contested narrative and captive of the “cultural wars” of these past 30 years.

All this is part of a much bigger change in what can be called the neo-conservative turn of a number of prominent lay leaders of English-speaking Catholicism. Taking part in the public debate through such publications as First Things (founded in 1990), they have voiced growing criticism of the welfare state in domestic politics; have endorsed the 2003 war in Iraq; and have been fiercely opposed to legislation regulating abortion and same-sex marriage.

The election to the papacy of a Latin-American bishop like Jorge Mario Bergoglio who does not adhere to any one political ideology has set different experiences of Catholicism in different parts of the world on a collision course.

When the Pope speaks about economic and social justice and the international financial system, Africa and America are on opposite sides of the argument. But on the issue of family values, Africa and America have built an alliance, and there is no doubt that, in the contemporary role of churches in the social and political debate, marriage and family play a particular role.

Unlike their neighbors to the north, Latin American Catholics have left behind the dream of building a “Christian nation” and have become convinced, like European Catholics, that it is time to adapt to changed social conditions.

It is interesting to see how a deeply traditional Catholic such as Pope Francis has unsettled the culture of important sectors of Anglo-Saxon Catholicism – in the US in particular. After 35 years of pro-American popes such as John Paul II and Benedict XVI, the Vatican and the US need to rebuild a lost harmony.


This now is the “American problem” of Pope Francis: the first pope after World War II with virtually no contact with the USA and its cultural empire, partly because of the difficult relationship between the US and its Latin American backyard and partly because of the personal background of Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Francis has never been to the US. His English is not as fluent as that of his predecessors. This is going to be a crucial challenge for Francis and the future of Christianity.

America and the so-called global south are placed at the intersection of two worlds. In one corner there is the Christian West, where there has been a loss of faith in God and loss of trust in the power of human reason or what the Italian philosopher Gianni Vattimo calls “weak thought.” In the rest of the world there is a resurgence of religious belief or as French political scientist Gilles Kepel has dubbed it, “the revenge of God.” In this sense, the 2014 Synod is the dawn of a new era in the history of the Catholic church.

The Conversation
Massimo Faggioli does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Lessons from the Charterhouse

Due to the kindness of a benefactor, the Brothers recently came into possession of the book, The Prayer of Love and Silence [1], which Father David Phillipson had recommended from our pulpit some weeks previously. Its author is “A Carthusian,” so named due to a custom of the Carthusian Order1 [2] that guards the monks’ hiddenness and silence.

The volume is a translation of two works that originally appeared in 1951 and 1948 respectively. Its subjects are varied, but all pertain to the interior life. Two parts of the book, “An Introduction to the Interior Life” and “The Blessed Trinity and the Spiritual Life,”are systematic in their approach. A third section — in the middle of the work — is a series of “Sermons in Chapter” given by the Abbot to his monks in their chapter meeting [3] on feast days.

It would be difficult to do such a work justice in a review. My intention herein is to give the reader a taste of a work at once so simple and so deep that it defies summary.

With the exception of the section entitled “The Blessed Trinity and the Spiritual Life,” which is the last one third of the book, reading it was easy. It was like drinking good water: nothing to prevent the effortless imbibing of the material — and refreshing! After a few draughts, though, I realized that I was drinking strong stuff, so I had to slow down and read sections over again — even though the words and the syntax were quite simple. The thought occurred to me that the life of the Carthusians is productive of such an experience. In their slow, silent, hidden existence, they distill the complexities of the ancient liturgy, the great spiritual writers they read, and the manual labor they carry out, all into a life of great simplicity.

This makes their writing itself highly distilled, rather like the liquor they make [4]. Yes, this strong stuff is spiritual Chartreuse!
. . . 

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Source: Brother-AndrĂ© Marie On August 4, 2014 @ 10:51 am In Articles, Book Reviews, Spiritual Life, Theology





Tuesday, October 14, 2014

An Appreciation for Church History

Brother Francis has a tremendous appreciation for the history of the Church. He likes to call Church history “the laboratory of wisdom.” Why? Because the history of the Church is the history of human salvation, and choosing the best means to save one’s soul is the highest prudence. And prudence, says St. Thomas Aquinas, is wisdom in action.

History is the laboratory of wisdom, but the application today of the lessons learned from history is prudence.

How, for example, are we to understand what St. Pius X meant when he said that “modernism is the synthesis of all heresies,” if we are ignorant of the history of the Church’s battles against heresy? How are we to evaluate the causes of what Pope Benedict referred to a “crisis of Faith,” if we unfamiliar with any of the twenty ecumenical councils that preceded Vatican II?

There are twenty-two books of the Bible that are history books: the first nineteen of the Old Testament, the two books of Machabees, which end the Old Testament, and the Acts of the Apostles in the New.

A knowledge of Church History is a knowledge of the life of the Body of Christ extended in time throughout the past twenty centuries. It is a glorious history, with its martyrs, confessors, saints of the desert, great doctors and popes, apostles of nations, proliferation of contemplative orders, active orders, teaching orders, advances in science, medicine, the arts, missionary life, and victories over the enemies of true religion, who engaged her by pen and sword.

Without a knowledge of history, of its facts, dates, and events, a Catholic is ill-prepared to defend the Church against those who would gainsay her by misrepresentation, misinformation, or deliberate disinformation. Nor can we forget that we all have an obligation to instruct the ignorant who have been misled by error and who, in their hearts, nurture an affinity for the truth.

source: catholicism.org