If you embrace nature, embrace natural law

The Pope’s encyclical “Laudato Si” is winning fulsome praise from the left for its embrace of environmentalism.  But, as the editors of The Stream point out, those folks aren’t saying anything about 11 other teachings in that document that don’t accord so well with the spirit of the times.  These include the condemnation of abortion, a rejection of sexual immorality, and a tempering of feminism.  (See the 11 after the jump.)

The Pope is indeed advocating environmentalism, but he is doing so in the context of a larger theological perspective on matter, the physical universe, and objective reality.  Let me sum it up this way:  Embrace nature, but that means also embracing the natural purpose of sex (conceiving children), the natural body (so no transgenderism), the natural difference between men and women (so feminism will have its limits), and natural law in general (the connection of moral truth to objective reality).

We can still quarrel with the Pope’s environmentalism and his theology, but he is working from a worldview that flies in the face of most postmodernists who, in believing that there is no objective reality they are subject to, reject the very concept of nature.  That number includes, ironically, many environmentalists. [Read more...]

Thomas More vs. the Reformation

Now that Hilary Mantel’s superb novels about Thomas Cromwell have been made into a TV series, Wolf Hall, her points about the good guys and bad guys in Tudor England are attracting attention and controversy.  Conventionally, Cromwell has been considered a Machiavellian villain who helped Henry VIII  break from the Church of Rome because of his romance with Anne Boleyn, only to later frame her for unfaithfulness.  His foil was Thomas More–later, St. Thomas More–the humanist scholar who refused to go along with these schemes at the cost of his life.

But Mantel portrays Cromwell as a decent man, carefully navigating the whims of an unstable king, while deftly advancing the cause of reform and Reformation in a corrupt society and a corrupt church.  More, on the other hand, as Mantel tells it, is a reactionary bigot, who sought to stamp out the Reformation by burning the “heretics” at the stake (which would include William Tyndale, for translating the Bible into English).

Now many Catholics are outraged at this treatment of their Renaissance saint, who has lately been held up as the model of the Christian intellectual who puts the laws of God over the laws of the state.  Mark Movesian goes so far as to say that Wolf Hall is part of the attack on religious liberty.  The depiction of More, he says, is an example of today’s mindset that the demands of the state should trump the teachings  of the church.  But, of course, it finally comes down to whether you support the beliefs of More or his victims.

Anthony Sacramone has given a quite brilliant Lutheran reply to all of this.  He includes what More said about Luther (who also opposed Henry VIII and his shenanigans), More’s defense of heretic burning, and what Purgatory meant to the people of the time. [Read more...]

Evangelicals who believe in Purgatory

It has long struck me how many evangelicals–including some of the most anti-Catholic–actually hold to a Roman Catholic soteriology, though without the sacraments, putting a big emphasis on the role of the will, good works, and moral perfection in salvation.  Now some evangelicals are advocating belief in Purgatory.  Scott McKnight reviews a book that makes the case for an evangelical doctrine of Purgatory. [Read more...]

The new culture war?

The liberal Catholic columnist E. J. Dionne says that the old culture wars are fading, but that a new culture war is taking shape.  The new one has to do with battles over immigration and poverty.  Complicating those controversies, he says, is that the Roman Catholic church of Pope Francis takes “liberal” positions on immigration and poverty, while still taking “conservative” positions on the old culture war issues of abortion and sex. [Read more...]

What a Shakespeare folio does not prove

A copy of the 1623 folio of Shakespeare’s collected plays has been discovered as part of a former Jesuit library in France.  This has re-ingnited speculation that Shakespeare was a Roman Catholic.  But, as Shakespeare scholar David Scott Kastan points out, that a Jesuit would own a copy of a Shakespeare book published after his death proves no such thing.  In fact, another folio in another Jesuit library was heavily censored for what the owners back then considered anti-Catholic sentiments. [Read more...]


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