Links R & C 2


  • Peter Kwasniewski, Candlelight Missa Cantata at Wyoming Catholic College for the Seven Sorrows of Our LadyNew Liturgical Movement. I have often thought that the general introduction of electric light into churches was not good for the liturgy— Kwasniewski’s reflection show why.

  • Martin Kettle, Brexit was a revolt against liberalism. We’ve entered a new political eraThe Guardian. «Liberalism is a Hydra-headed and extremely resilient creature.»

  • James Chastek, The order of act and potencyJust Thomism, «Taking matter as logically prior to act is the foundation of all materialism, mechanism, the Analytic doctrine of “possible worlds”, and most other forms of primitive thought

  • Steven Long, The Common GoodThomistic Institute on Soundcloud. Excellent lecture on the deep teleological account of the common good.

  • Andrew Cusack, Norway’s New Passport. «The Scandos are known for being among the few peoples who can do modernism well.»

  • idem, The Spina di Borgo. Mourning the loss of the old approach to St. Peter’s.
  • Frater Urban Hannon, O.Praem. et al., Against GenderFirst Things Podcast. Frater Urban recalls the argument he made against the idea of sexual orientation when his name was still Michael Hannon, and also offers some reflections on the nature of canons regular, and on the Christian life.
  • There is a new browser called Brave by the fellow who got sacked at Mozilla for being against homosexual pseudogamy.
  • Some American scholars and writers, including Rusty Reno of First Things, endorse the American Caligula. May he appoint all their horses to the senate.



(I’ve decided to add a section for posts from my own archives, which it would seem slightly hubristic to include under “classic”).


Shiite Catholic

Google informs me that an American comedian likes to refer to his wife as a “Shiite Catholic.” If I understand the term correctly, I think I could apply it to myself given my religious self-understanding (not to mention my theory of the relation of religion and politics).

But this post is about a conference involving both Shi’a and Catholic scholars that I participated in last week. The conference was organized by a friend of mine as a follow up for a conference in Qom, the holy city of the Shi’a in Iran, two years ago. I had been planning to attend that conference, but it didn’t work out in the end. As I put it over on Owen White’s blog at the time:

I was actually hoping to go to a conference [in Qom] earlier this month, but sadly I wasn’t able to make it in the end. A friend of mine was there, however, and read my paper. Now my friend is back, and is quite euphoric about the Islamic Republic, and its resistance to the hedonism, secularism and other evils. He says that Shi’ite clerics there were very learned, and had not only read Plato, but could actually claim to have implemented some Platonic thinking in real politics—the dream of all anti-liberal philosophers.

Now having attended last week’s conference I can confirm at least some of what my friend said. I was deeply impressed by the four Shi’a scholars who took part in our conference. They were men of deep piety and learning.  I was especially struck by their emphasis on the harmony of reason and revelation. They often spoke of the Iranian philosopher Mullā Ṣadrā (c. 1571/2 – 1640), who apparently made a sythesis of Avicennan philosophy with neo-Platonism, Islamic law, and Islamic mysticism that I would like to learn more about. Googling him afterwards I found that Fr. Dave Burrell (whom I know of old) has written on him (eg. here and here), and that Peter Adamson has devoted multiple podcasts on him (starting here).

I gave a talk on freedom, contrasting the notion of freedom in the Christian tradition with that of secular liberalism. Our Iranian guests seemed to agree with my main points. The papers are to be published in a German-Farsi Tagungsband. Some of them will also be online on our new website The idea for the name “ViQo Circle” (short for “ViennaQom Circle”) came after the conference when we were giving a little tour of Austria to our guests. We went up the Kahlenberg to show them where Jan Sobieski saved Europe from the Sunnis (to put it diplomatically). And it was there that we decided to give our group a name. We are planning to have a conference in Iran again in two years time, and I very much hope that I will be able to make it.

Die Taubenwirtin


Some friends of mine are putting on an opera buffa in the style of Mozart in the Parish Hall of the Karlskirche in Vienna in November. The opera is entitled Die Taubenwirtin, and is set in a Viennese tavern in 1780.  The composer, Eric Peters, is a young American who lives in Vienna. The set is by my old friend Clemens Maria Fuchs, a classical painter.

Tickets can be purchased here.

Links R & C 1

Having reduced my twitter account to a bot that post links to this blog, I have decided to post a list of links here from time to time. I am calling the series “Links R & C,” because I shall be posting the links under two headings: “Recent” and “Classic.” Blogging is an ephemeral medium, but certain blogposts of long past years have caught like burrs in the trouser-legs of my memory, and I think it worth while to re-read them from time to time.


  • Eugene Vodolazkin, The New Middle AgesFirst Things. An amusing essay by a Russian novelist in which he argues that post-modern literary culture is more akin to the manuscript culture of the Middle Ages than the print culture of modernity.
  • James Chastek, Dialogue on Religion and LaïcitéJust Thomism. The ever fresh and philosophical Chastek on the paradox of cordoning off religion out of fear of death.
  • Idem, The critique of contemporary conservativism, ibidem. The most memorable point is #2 on the vacuity of the term “big government.”
  • Michael Gilleland, DisloyaltyLaudator Temporis Acti. «To the average pagan their refusal to burn a few grains of incense on the Emperor’s birthday must have appeared as a deliberate and insolent expression of disloyalty, rather like refusing to stand up when the national anthem is played.»
  • P.J. Smith, We’re back on the trainSemiduplex. Smith’s reflections on the Holy Father’s recent endorsement of an Argentine implementation of Amoris Laetitia. Semiduplex is solid as always, though I think he is a bit too harsh on St. John Paul II’s letter to Cardinal Baum on how one can intend not to fall into a certain sin again while expecting that one will. This is certainly often the case with habitual sins (eg. gluttony and drunkenness). Of course, one ought to avoid the near occasion of sin, but the supposition here is that there are very serious reasons for not extricating oneself from the occasion. This does, of course, show that those reasons must be very strong indeed, if they are to justify staying in a situation so dangerous to one’s immortal soul. Update: Smith has clarified his position.
  • Ronaldo as a Theologian, Ludorum Pulcherrimus Football. Over at my new soccer blog I reflect on the Brazilian Ronaldo’s Augustinian understanding of the Pauline principle that “in everything God works for the good of those who love Him.”


  • 2011: Berenike, Lublin, philosophy and shoesLaodicea. Berenike was a true master of the blog form. It is hardly fair to regret that she gave up blogging to devote herself to higher things, but she has certainly been missed. This post had everything: odd, endearing autobiographical detail; Lucky Jim style put-downs of great academic philosophers; and even a little philosophy!
  • 2010: J. Nordlinger, Salzburg SouvenirsNational Review. Even people who are wrong about most everything can write good blogposts about the beauties of Salzburg.
  • 2011: James Chastek, The death wish in the contemporary westJust Thomism. My all-time favorite Chastek post.


Footnote 329 and the Argentine Letter

As many readers will remember, footnote 329 of Amoris Laetitia makes the following point about divorced and civilly “remarried” persons who have serious reasons for not separating:

many people, knowing and accepting the possibility of living ‘as brothers and sisters’ which the Church offers them, point out that if certain expressions of intimacy are lacking, ‘it often happens that faithfulness is endangered and the good of the children suffers’.

In my letter to Cardinal Schönborn on Amoris Laetitia I made the following comment on that note: Continue reading

Pilgrimage to Mariazell

Last week I took part in a four-day walking pilgrimage to Mariazell with a large part of our community. Many of us had walked to Mariazell with groups from the monasteries parishes or elsewhere, but it was the first time that the community as such made such a walking pilgrimage. The occasion was the year of mercy. Many of us had received new assignments, and it was a good opportunity to entrust them to Our Lady.

There are two main routes to Mariazell from Vienna: the Via Sacra, which is the oldest route, and the Wiener Wallfahrerweg. We took the Wiener Wallfahrerweg, which is supposedly more scenic, as it is more mountainous and goes through less densely populated areas. It is however the “more challenging” route, as the Mostviertel Tourism Office puts it. This made it a real penance for those of us who spend most of our time in doors. On Tuesday there was torrential rain, and we took the steepest ascent from Kaumberg to Kieneck. We completely exhausted when we reached the cabin at the top of Kieneck. But entering that warm cabin after the cold and wet outside was like going to Heaven. This is perhaps one of the main reasons for walking pilgrimages: to remind us that we are in via toward the heavenly city. “If they had been remembering the country from which they came, they would have had oc­casion to turn back; but as it is they long for a better one, that is, the one in heaven.” (Hebrews 11:15-16)

Mariazell is the most important Marian shrine in Austria. The name “Zell” comes from a cell built by a 12th century monk of Sankt Lambrecht to house a statue of Our Lady after a boulder was miraculously split. The “cell” is still vaguely visible in the marble construction in the center of the Church. Mariazell is in the Southern Austrian province of Styria, but near the border to Lower Austria. Growing up I lived for some years in Gaming, which is just on the Lower Austrian side of the border. We often visited Mariazell.


After a year as curate in the parishes of Trumau and Pfaffstätten I have returned to Heiligenkreuz to assume the duties of Vizedirektor of the Überdiözesanes Priesterseminar Leopoldinum.

The Leopoldinum is the place where diocesan seminarians who study theology at the Hochschule in Heiligenkreuz live. It was originally established by Bishop Rudolf Graber of Regensburg (author of Athanasius and the Church of Our Time), as part of an institute for the renewal of priestly formation known as the Opus Summi Sacerdotis. After Bishop Graber’s death it was called Collegium Rudolphinum. It remained under the care of the bishop of Regensburg, but also accepted ever more seminarians from other dioceses. But in 2007 the then bishop of Regensburg decided to bring all of his seminarians to Regensburg, and to end involvement in the Rudolphinum. At that point it was decided to turn it into an inter-diocesan seminary, and to rename it the Leopoldinum, after St. Leopold III, Margrave of Austria. Today it is under the immediate care of the abbot of Heiligenkreuz, and is supervised by a permanent commission of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference—the three members of the commission are the Archbishop of Vienna, and the Bishops of Graz and Sankt Pölten.

There are currently 35 candidates for the priesthood living in the Leopoldinum. The Direktor is Martin Leitner, a diocesan priest and alumnus of the Hochschule in Heiligenkreuz. As Vizedirektor I will be “supporting the Direktor in his work,” as the statutes put it. If my readers would say a prayer for me as I begin this new officium I would be most grateful.

Don’t Even Try (Again)


On the General calendar tomorrow’s Mass has the Epistle to Philemon and the Gospel of the man who tries to build a tower without calculating the costs (on the Cistercian calendar we celebrate the Nativity of Our Lady as a Solemnity). So I thought I would revise some thoughts that I posted on this Sunday three years ago.


S. Paul’s tone in the epistle is remarkably peaceful and  joyful. An old man alone in prison, it seems that Onesimus has been sent to him as a consolation. He says that Onesimus has become a son to him, and is as dear to him as his own heart, “whom I would have retained with me.” But he sends him away quite joyfully. In his place I would have found plenty of excuses to keep him with me. After all, I am in prison, I need Onesimus far more than Philemon. Moreover…

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St. Thomas on Job

Perhaps after finishing Gregory’s Moralia I shall read St. Thomas’s Commentary on Job. Jeremy Holmes has a splendid introduction to the new English translation at the Aquinas Institute for Sacred Doctrine. He makes an interesting point about the constraints that a commentary makes on its author, as opposed to a speculative work such as the Summa Contra Gentiles:

Everyone knows that the artist flourishes under constraint: the poet’s creativity is unlocked, not diminished, by a rigid sonnet structure; the architect’s brilliance emerges especially under the demands of an unusual terrain; the painter’s genius rises to the challenge of a fresco where ceiling and walls dictate the contours. The same is true of a theologian. It is one thing to compose a treatise on divine providence in the open spaces of unshackled speculative reason; it is quite another thing to teach about divine providence through respectful engagement with the complicated, pungent, and often obscure poetry of Job.

In St. Gregory’s case, “constraint” is perhaps not the right word, as he uses Job as an occasion to talk about everything. As Gregory explains, he sees what we might call “going off on tangents” as a duty of the commentator:

He who explains the word of God should imitate the behavior of a river. when a river flows in its bed and the side of the bed dips down, the river promptly turns its course to include the dip. When it has filled the lower level, the river returns to its normal course. the one who explains God’s word should act in like manner; whoever is explaining something and notices a chance occasion of edification close at hand should direct the waters of eloquence there, as though it were a dip at the side, and then when the lower ground has been inundated by instruction, he may return to his former discourse. (Moralia, Letter to Leander, 2)