July 4, July 14, and the Religious Question


  If you have French friends, thank them for their nation’s help during our revolution and I hope you invited them over for barbeque on July 4th.  And if they invite you to celebrate Bastille Day on July 14, gladly accept.  But you should not necessarily think you are celebrating the same revolutionary spirit.  This [Read More...]

Protestant Reformation Approaching 500

On October 31, 2017, the Protestant Reformation will turn 500.  How ought one commemorate such an epochal, complex, and influential historical development?  While the date is still a while off, I have been thinking about the question a lot lately.  In part, because my colleague Mark Noll at Notre Dame and I received a grant [Read More...]

The Agony of Papal Exits

Pius VI, who died in exile from Rome

“How heavy the papal mantle weighs,” wrote Dante in his Divine Comedy.  The shepherding of some 1 billion Catholics is no simple business, so one cannot begrudge the frail Pope Benedict for stepping down.  Given the rarity of such an event, the recent media frenzy is understandable.  Much commentary has and will focused on Benedict’s [Read More...]

Reading Tocqueville in Cairo

If Alexis de Tocqueville were alive today to witness the churning unrest and revolutions sweeping North Africa and Middle East in recent years, he would observe numerous contrasts with what he saw in America in the 1830s.  But permit me to speculate on one similarity that might catch his eye.  Unlike the French Revolution, which [Read More...]

God and Google


 “Dad, we can just Google it” is the reply I often hear from my children when I’m stumped by questions they ask.  Recourse to this high-tech oracle did not avail itself to me as a kid, so this reality represents yet another novum for parenting in our hyper-digital age. As most of us have discovered, [Read More...]

The “Modern Secular University”

Andrew Dickson White, Co-founder of Cornell University

  Members of religious orders who served as faculty on the first universities of the Middle Ages would certainly find it of more than passing interest that the term “university” today is often associated with adjectives such as “modern” and “secular” as in the “modern secular research university.” In the United States, pride of place [Read More...]

Two Anniversaries: Vatican II and the 95 Theses

Pope John XXIII who called Vatican II

Two noteworthy anniversaries are marked this month: the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, which occurred on October 11, 1962, and the 495th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, widely recognized on October 31, but transferred and celebrated by many churches as “Reformation Sunday.”  (This year it occurs on the 27th).  Admittedly, [Read More...]

Death with Dignity or Physician-Assisted Suicide?

Hippocratic Oath

  What happens out West does not necessarily stay there.  On November 6, voters in the State of Massachusetts, where I live, will have a “Death with Dignity” Act on their ballot, of the sort that has passed in recent years in Oregon and Washington State.  In an election year when economic issues seem to [Read More...]

Welcome New Anxious Bench Bloggers, Agnes and Tal Howard

A very warm welcome to the newest additions to our Anxious Bench roster of bloggers, Agnes Howard and Tal Howard of Gordon College! They’ll begin posting soon. Here are their bios: Agnes R. Howard teaches history at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, specializing in early America, particularly colonial New England.  She holds a PhD from the University of Virginia. She [Read More...]