When Josef Pieper Asked Carl Schmitt About the Common Good.

On the very first evening I asked him why, in his book on “the concept of the political” he had not written a syllable about the bonum commune, since the whole meaning of politics surely lay in the realization of the common good. He retorted sharply: “Anyone who speaks of the bonum commune is intent on deception.” Of course it was no answer; but it had the effect of initially disarming his opponent. (From Josef Pieper’s autobiography, via Incudi Reddere)


Two Ways of Staging the Marriage of Figaro

Andrea Carroll as Susanna

There are two ways of staging The Marriage of Figaro. There is the old-fashioned way, as a comedy; and then there is a regietheater way of staging it as a tragedy. Both ways are legitimate. As I once wrote, “Mozart’s (and Da Ponte’s) Così fan tutte and Le Nozze di Figaro sparkle with comic brilliance on the surface, but under the surface is a deep sadness, and an unbearable pain.” To stage it as a tragedy one has only to take the background sadness and bring it into the foreground. A brilliant example of such an approach is the 2006 Salzburg Festival staging by Claus Guth  with Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducting. It is a wonderfully sad and moving performance and completely riveting. Like all regietheater, however, it is meant for an audience that already knows the opera well. It would be a pity to be introduced to Le Nozze through that performance. For first time listeners, the old-fashioned approach is better. Continue reading

Steven Wedgeworth’s Response to Thomas Pink


The Regensburg Forum is hosting a debate between Thomas Pink and Steven Wedgeworth (a Reformed Protestant) concerning the compatibility of Dignitatis Humanae with the historic teaching of the Church. Pink (famously) says it is compatible because it concerns only the coercive power of the state and Wedgeworth says it isn’t compatible. Pink’s opening argument is here. Wedgeworth’s reply is here. Wedgeworth’s argument is that DH is just too enthusiastic about religious liberty and the fact that it is a fruit of the Gospel for the Declaration to be merely a grudging concession that the state alone has no power to coerce in religious matters – but don’t you worry when we have our hands on the temporal power we will be burning heretics again by right of the spiritual power to coerce (via the temporal). DH does not, Wedgeworth contends, merely observe that modern secular states cannot coerce in religious matters in a…

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The City of God: An Introduction

The Josias

by Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist.

1. Occasion and Intention

The sack of Rome by the Visigoths in 410 shook the Roman world to its foundations. Although Rome was no longer the capital even of the Western Empire, nevertheless she was the symbol of the civilized world. To many Romans this catastrophe seemed to be a refutation of Christianity. Clearly, the Christian God was unable or unwilling to protect the city in which he was now honored. Christianity was unable to fulfill the function that political theology assigned to it of assuring the safety of the empire, and especially of that city from which the empire had originally sprung.[1] Saint Augustine of Hippo responded to this argument in The City of God.

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On Clerical Wigs

In discussing “spiritual worldliness,” the most recent Ratio Fundamentalis for priestly formation speaks (among other things) of “obsession with personal appearances,” and  “a merely external and ostentatious preoccupation with the liturgy.” Anyone who has moved in clerical circles knows that the description is not without fundamentum in re. One can recognize the type that Dumas père describes in Aramis: Continue reading

Pius XI: Mit brennender Sorge

The Josias

Introductory Note

Pius XI’s 1937 encyclical on the Church and the German Reich, Mit brennender Sorge (With burning concern),is today probably most known for the circumstances under which it was brought into Germany. Composed in German—allegedly by Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli, then secretary of state, and Michael Cardinal von Faulhaber, longtime Archbishop of Munich—the encyclical was smuggled into Germany, distributed by the nuncio by courier, and printed in the utmost secrecy. Then, on Palm Sunday 1937, it was read out from the pulpit to German Catholics throughout the Reich. Hitler’s furious response came quickly: the Gestapo was sent out to round up those who participated in the distribution of the encyclical and to shut down the printing presses used. To Hitler and his circle, there was no mistaking what Mit brennender Sorge was: it was a declaration of war against the Reich by the Church.

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Lament for a Fox

Taking a walk after Mass today, I noticed a dead fox by the roadside. Apparently hit by a car, but still beautiful. I composed the following rhyme for poor beast:

Your cunning was no match, poor fox,
For the speed of the iron box.
Ban cars. Bring back cart and ox.

The Eighth Degree of Pride: “I meant well.”

There are many ways in which defence is made for sin. A man either says ‘I did it not’ or ‘I no doubt did it, but I acted rightly in so doing’, or ‘I may have acted wrongly but not to a serious extent,’ or, ‘If I was seriously wrong, I had no bad intention‘. If, however, he, like Adam and Eve, is proved to be guilty, he attempts to excuse himself on the ground that he was tempted by some one else. (St. Bernard of Clairvaux, The Twelve Degrees of Humility and Pride, XVII)