“…one is aware of the different nature, of solidarity and of expiation, of this ‘atheism’ of hers: ‘I wish to live in this world that is so far from God, which has turned so much from the light of Jesus, to help them — to take upon myself something of their suffering.’ The clearest sign that this is an atheism of a completely different nature is the unbearable suffering that it causes to the mystics. Normal atheists don’t torment themselves because of the absence of God. The mystics arrived within a step of the world of those who live without God; they have experienced the dizziness of throwing themselves down… Because of this the mystics are the ideal evangelizers in the post-modern world, where one lives 'etsi Deus non daretur' (as if God did not exist). They remind the honest atheists that they are not ‘far from the Kingdom of God’; that it would be enough for them to jump to find themselves on the side of the mystics, passing from nothingness to the All." [National Catholic Register]
“'Before it is too late, courageous choices must be adopted that are capable of recreating a strong alliance between humans and the Earth,’ the Pope said on Sunday to a vast outdoor crowd… ‘There needs to be a decisive ‘yes' in defense of creation and a strong commitment to reverse those trends that risk creating situations of irreparable degradation…’ Pope Benedict warned them to be vigilant and critical of the powerful persuasive action of the mass media. And he challenged them not to be afraid of being criticized for seeming out of fashion because of following what he called the ‘alternative’ ways marked out by true love. He said these included ‘a sober and simple lifestyle; sincere and pure relationships; an honest commitment to study and work; and a deep interest in the common good.’” [The Tablet]
“By the early 19th century, two schools of thought about religion and politics had grown up in the West. Let us call them the children of Hobbes and the children of Rousseau. For the children of Hobbes, a decent political life could not be realized by Christian political theology, which bred violence and stifled human development. The only way to control the passions flowing from religion to politics, and back again, was to detach political life from them completely… For Hobbes, the first step toward achieving that end was to get people thinking about — and suspicious about — the sources of faith. The children of Rousseau followed a different line of argument… Religion has its roots in needs that are rational and moral, even noble; once we see that, we can start satisfying them rationally, morally and nobly. In the abstract, this thought did not contradict the principles of the Great Separation, which gave reasons for protecting the private exercise of religion. But it did raise doubts about whether the new ppolitical thinking could really do without reference to the nexus of God, man and world. If Rousseau was right about our moral needs, a rigid separation between political and theological principles might not be psychologically sustainable. When a question is important, we want an answer to it… Rousseau had grave doubts about whether human beings could be happy or good if they did not understand how their actions related to something higher. Religion is simply too entwined with our moral experience ever to be disentangled from it, and morality is inseparable from politics.” [NYT Magazine]
“On why invading Iraq at the end of the Gulf War was a bad idea: ‘If we’d gone to Baghdad we would have been alone… it would have been a U.S. occupation of Iraq… Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took down Saddam Hussein’s government, then what are you going to put in its place?” [C-Span]
“Pope Benedict XVI is working on a doctrinal pronouncement that will condemn tax evasion as ‘socially unjust’, according to Vatican sources. In his second encyclical – the most authoritative statement a pope can issue – the pontiff will denounce the use of ‘tax havens’ and offshore bank accounts by wealthy individuals, since this reduces tax revenues for the benefit of society as a whole. It will focus on humanity’s social and economic problems in an era of globalisation… The encyclical, drafted during his recent holiday in the mountains of northern Italy, takes its cue from Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum Progressio (On the Development of Peoples), issued 40 years ago. In it the pontiff… called on the West to promote an equitable world economic system based on social justice rather than profit.” [Times Online]
“The striking feature of private-equity deals is the heavy reliance on debt to ‘leverage’ investors’ returns—and also, since the two things go together, to raise the investors’ risks. The industry has boomed thanks partly to a global glut of risk-tolerant capital and low interest rates… Private-equity general partners, the people who manage the investors’ money, have been getting a fabulous deal on tax. Most of their income is paid in the form of ‘carried interest’—a bonus paid in proportion to the profits on the firm’s assets under management. This is then taxed at the low rate currently applied to capital gains rather than ordinary income. This treatment seems to me indefensible—and so far as I know, the only people even trying to defend it are the beneficiaries and their representatives. The issue is open and shut. Carried interest should be taxed like ordinary profit-related pay. This will make the most successful private-equity managers a bit less rich. I suppose that’s OK.” [The Atlantic]
“The politicians who killed the Senate bill for offering ‘amnesty’ have never offered a workable alternative. Their one big idea is that harsh, unrelenting enforcement at the border, in the workplace and in homes and streets would dry up opportunities for illegal immigrants and eventually cause the human tide to flow backward. That would be true only if life for illegal immigrants in America could be made significantly more miserable than life in, say, rural Guatemala or the slums of Mexico City. That will take a lot of time and a lot of misery… The American people cherish lawfulness but resist cruelty, and have supported reform that includes a reasonable path to earned citizenship. Their leaders have given them immigration reform as pest control.” [NY Times]
“…the Allens have banded together with their neighbors [and] along with more than 100 communities nationwide — a dozen of them planned here in Washington and its suburbs — their group is part of a movement to make neighborhoods comfortable places to grow old, both for elderly men and women in need of help and for baby boomers anticipating the future… Their group has registered as a nonprofit corporation, is setting membership dues, and is lining up providers of transportation, home repair, companionship, security and other services to meet their needs at home for as long as possible… Almost 9 in 10 Americans over the age of 60… share the Allens’ wish to live out their lives in familiar surroundings.” [NY Times]
“On ‘Hardball’ tonight I acknowledged that most elites' kids don't serve in the military, but Matthews cut me off and insisted people who support the war deserve more criticism if they or their children don't serve than "an antiwar liberal" does. There's no transcript yet (and I wasn't taking notes!) but Matthews went on at length about how too many people who support Bush's unilateral, disastrous war of choice, including five-deferments Dick Cheney, are "chickenhawks" who should be blasted for putting other people's children in harm's way. I was impressed." [Salon]
“While his wife, Sue, watches television in the living room, Ric Hoogestraat chats online with what appears on the screen to be a tall, slim redhead… He's never met the woman outside of the computer world of Second Life… But their relationship has taken on curiously real dimensions... Their bond is so strong that three months ago, Mr. Hoogestraat asked Janet Spielman, the 38-year-old Canadian woman who controls the redhead, to become his virtual wife… The woman he's legally wed to is not amused. ‘It's really devastating,’ says Sue Hoogestraat, 58, an export agent for a shipping company, who has been married to Mr. Hoogestraat for seven months. ‘You try to talk to someone or bring them a drink, and they'll be having sex with a cartoon… This other life is so wonderful; it's better than real life. Nobody gets fat, nobody gets gray. The person that's left can't compete with that.’ …Second Life and other multiplayer games are moving into the mainstream. With some 30 million people now involved world-wide, there is mounting concern that some are squandering, even damaging their real lives by obsessing over their ‘second’ ones...” [Wall Street Journal]
“Forty years ago in France, philosopher Jean Vanier [a Catholic] founded an international movement, L'Arche. The L'Arche community in Clinton, Iowa is part of this movement — people of faith living and worshipping alongside developmentally handicapped adults. There are now over 120 L'Arche communities in 18 countries. The community in Clinton is one of the oldest and most rural of the 14 American communities… a radically different faith community that confronts our assumptions about service and diversity, and the worth of individuals.” [Speaking of Faith]
“[Pope Benedict XVI’s] ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ is leagues in advance of both the theological and biblical underpinnings of 90 percent of the preaching or catechesis encountered in Catholic America… If a thorough, open-minded assimilation of the learning and reflection in these pages were to be the mark of a new generation of Benedict XVI priests, I would certainly welcome them. Benedict’s book does not address, let alone resolve, many a question about God and Jesus. Its central case ultimately rests on the coherence and power of its portrait of Jesus as a person for whom ‘communion with the Father’ was ‘the true center of his personality.’ It is a case built not on psychological speculation or devotional fervor but on an imposing web of Old and New Testament texts. It is a case I find persuasive and deeply helpful.” [Commonweal]
When, last year, the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania forgave the gunman who killed five young girls, millions watched in awe. Some were disgusted. Have we learned anything since about what makes forgiveness possible?
In ‘A Mighty Heart,’ there’s no missing Angelina Jolie’s pillowy lips and striking bone structure. Yet distraction soon yields to admiration for her focused performance in this compelling new film about the kidnapping of American journalist Daniel Pearl.
“Christ is a divine judge with a human heart, a judge who wants to give life. Only unrepentant attachment to evil can prevent him from offering this gift, for which he did not hesitate to face death. ”
As I sat in the dark theater watching 'Into Great Silence,' my thoughts drifting back to my former monastic life, I suddenly grasped the meaning of director Philip Groning’s stated goal: To create a film experience that actually ‘transforms into a monastery.’