October 21, 2014

So, the Synod. I remember, at the height of the kerfuffle about dissident priests being “silenced” in Ireland, wondering if it wouldn’t be better if Bishops just took this as an opportunity to teach the faith. If instead of having less talk, we had more? That’s what just happened. Debate. Discussion. Dialogue. I wanted it, I got it. And, overall, I’m pretty pleased. I think Austin Ivereigh has the right take: the Church has nothing to fear from robust dialogue. This... Read more

October 13, 2014

I am often told, by a young Catholic gentleman of considerable intelligence, wit, and virtue, that I am an undiscerning consumer of narrative art. When I express my approval for this book, that film, or the other animated series, this gentlemen will – as reliably and good-naturedly as the rising sun – protest: “but Ben, you like everything!” My general positivity about the stories I expose myself seems to him to speak ill of my aesthetic judgment. This gentleman does not... Read more

October 5, 2014

  When my colleague Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry wrote his “What Should Abortion Penalties Be” blog post awhile back, I cheered – but I had one reservation, and it was to do with this passage. Let me put a fine point on it: members of my family founded the two most important pro-life organizations; in my somewhat idiosyncratic and roundabout way, I am involved in American politics and frequent many American pro-lifers; I’ve been in and around the pro-life movement literally all my life,... Read more

September 30, 2014

What happens to politicians? Why do they talk that way, in clichés, bromides, and waffle? Why do so many seem so comfortable with the arts of the fudge, the dodge, and the broken promise? Why does it seem like the further they climb up the ladder of power, the more likely they are to have forgotten why they ever began the ascent? Popular stereotype would have it that the people who get involved in politics tend to be unprincipled power-grabbers.... Read more

September 24, 2014

Sorry for the hiatus, everyone – I’ve been away playing Inspector Javert in a youth theatre production of Les Miserables.   Enough has already been written about Les Miserables as a story (and it is indeed A Great Catholic Novel), that I feel I have little to add: I recommend Leah Libresco’s posts on Inspector Javert, which I ended up using as research materials for playing the part. On the final night of the show I spent a lot of time just watching the... Read more

September 15, 2014

Last time, in throwing in my two cents on the discussion of “civility” in debate prompted by Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig, I distinguished between two different meanings of that word: civility as adherence to a speech code, and civility as an effort to understand your opponent, to speak their language. I said the first was very much optional, and the second strongly recommended. But there’s a third definition of civility which, in my view, should be defended in absolute terms. It’s civility as charity,... Read more

September 12, 2014

Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig wrote some really thought-provoking stuff recently about civility, which prompted interesting responses from Corey Robin and Freddie DeBoer. She argue that civility was an overrated virtue in discourse, and could often be used as a tool by the powerful to suppress prophetic, angry calls for justice, and allow wrongdoing and exploitation to continue. I don’t presume to respond to all the points she raised, except to say that the posts really made me think, and made me reconsider... Read more

September 8, 2014

Leah Libresco had two really great posts recently on the “Nice Guy problem” and the “Friendzone” (shudder). In the second one, she wondered if our romance-based relationship culture was partially to blame for a sense of frustration when our affections go unreciprocated. I’m going to quote at length here, but the post should really be read in full: … I find the “unfair” rhetoric around Nice Guy problems kind of off-putting.  I don’t mind “hard,” “sad,” or “frustrating.”  Those seem... Read more

September 3, 2014

Editors’ Note: This article is part of the Public Square 2014 Summer Series: Conversations on Religious Trends. Read other perspectives from the Patheos community here. There’s a fascinating conversation that’s been happening in slow motion in various corners of the internet about what Rod Dreher calls ‘the Benedict Option’, for Christians in the modern West. It’s based on Alisdair McIntyre’s famous words: “We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another—doubtless very different—St. Benedict.” McIntyre urges the formation of “local forms of community within which civility... Read more

August 29, 2014

RTE Radio One held a panel discussion on one of its chatshows last Sunday, one of those ‘review of the week’ things. Inevitably, the case of ‘Miss Y’ and her prematurely delivered child came up, and produced thse really striking words on the subject from Irish Independent Legal editor Dearbhail McDonald. In response to a reference by Irish Times columnist Breda O’Brien (full disclosure – Breda is my mother) to “a standard pro-choice person”, McDonald said: There is no such thing. There are... Read more

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