Praise God

Thanks be to God for the overturning of Roe vs Wade. Abortion is one of the great evils of our time. As Pope St. John Paul II put it:

The moral gravity of procured abortion is apparent in all its truth if we recognize that we are dealing with murder and, in particular, when we consider the specific elements involved. The one eliminated is a human being at the very beginning of life. No one more absolutely innocent could be imagined. In no way could this human being ever be considered an aggressor, much less an unjust aggressor! He or she is weak, defenceless, even to the point of lacking that minimal form of defence consisting in the poignant power of a newborn baby’s cries and tears. The unborn child is totally entrusted to the protection and care of the woman carrying him or her in the womb. And yet sometimes it is precisely the mother herself who makes the decision and asks for the child to be eliminated, and who then goes about having it done.

Evangelium Vitae 58

Many innocent human beings will be saved from murder through the Court’s decision. Thank God!

I want to take this opportunity of eating a bit of humble pie: In 2016 I wrote that Catholics were mistaken who were voting for Donald Trump in the hope that he would appoint justices to the Supreme Court who would overturn Roe. I thought such strategic votes mistaken, because I did not expect the calculation to come off: I did not expect Trump to appoint judges who would actually overturn the decision. Well, those voters were right and I was wrong. Trump’s appointments to the Court were indeed key to attaining this long hoped-for victory.

Even if this victory is only a first step, it will surely save countless innocent lives, and will give hope for the continued struggle against the great evil of our times.

“János-Brenner-Haus”

After three years as parish priest in Gaaden I will be returning soon to Heiligenkreuz to take up a new post as director of the new “János-Brenner-Haus” at our theological college, as well as continuing with teaching and research. The “János-Brenner-Haus” will be a house of discernment for students at our theological college, who have begun studying theology, but are still trying to decide whether to enter the religious life, or the secular priesthood, or to continue in lay/secular life. The new building is named for Blessed János Brenner, Hungarian priest and martyr, who was a Cistercian novice under the name of Frater Anasztáz.

I am happy to be returning to Heiligenkreuz, although a part of me is sad to be leaving the parish of Gaaden. Three years is not very long to be pastor of a parish, but here are a few things I learned about that difficult but beautiful vocation. In dividing the active and the contemplative life, St Thomas tells us that the division is based on a difference in what different persons delight in most, and on which they are most intent:

Properly speaking, those things are said to live whose movement or operation is from within themselves. Now that which is proper to a thing and to which it is most inclined is that which is most becoming to it from itself; wherefore every living thing gives proof of its life by that operation which is most proper to it, and to which it is most inclined. Thus the life of plants is said to consist in nourishment and generation; the life of animals in sensation and movement; and the life of men in their understanding and acting according to reason. Wherefore also in men the life of every man would seem to be that wherein he delights most, and on which he is most intent; thus especially does he wish to associate with his friends (Ethic. ix, 12). Accordingly since certain men are especially intent (praecipue intendunt) on the contemplation of truth, while others are especially intent (principaliter intendunt) on external actions, it follows that man’s life is fittingly divided into active and contemplative.

Parish work certainly has a contemplative side, but it is principally vita activa. I have always felt myself drawn more towards the vita contemplativa. For this reason, I am mostly happy to be returning to Heiligenkreuz.

Walter Scott Against Historicism

Walter Scott’s historical novels were wildly popular in the century that saw the rise of historicism. But Scott himself was not an historicist. Nature remains the same, despite the flux of fashion and custom:

Considering the disadvantages inseparable from this part of my subject, I must be understood to have resolved to avoid them as much as possible, by throwing the force of my narrative upon the characters and passions of the actors;—those passions common to men in all stages of society, and which have alike agitated the human heart, whether it throbbed under the steel corslet of the fifteenth century, the brocaded coat of the eighteenth, or the blue frock and white dimity waistcoat of the present day. Upon these passions it is no doubt true that the state of manners and laws casts a necessary colouring; but the bearings, to use the language of heraldry, remain the same, though the tincture may be not only different, but opposed in strong contradistinction. The wrath of our ancestors, for example, was coloured gules; it broke forth in acts of open and sanguinary violence against the objects of its fury. Our malignant feelings, which must seek gratification through more indirect channels, and undermine the obstacles which they cannot openly bear down, may be rather said to be tinctured sable. But the deep-ruling impulse is the same in both cases; and the proud peer, who can now only ruin his neighbour according to law, by protracted suits, is the genuine descendant of the baron who wrapped the castle of his competitor in flames, and knocked him on the head as he endeavoured to escape from the conflagration. It is from the great book of Nature, the same through a thousand editions, whether of black-letter, or wire-wove and hot-pressed, that I have venturously essayed to read a chapter to the public.

Waverley

Alchemy, Ambition, and Revolution

I had been meaning to read Samantha Cohoe’s A Golden Fury for a long time. When I finally took it up I read it straight through in breathless haste. It is marvelously exciting and beguiling. Afterwards I read some of the reviews on Goodreads, and was amused to see that some readers found the pacing “on the slower side.” It all depends on one’s frame of reference. I suppose I haven’t been keeping up with developments in young adult historical fiction. But if one compares A Golden Fury to the leisurely pace of the classics of historical fiction— Walter Scott’s Waverly novels, for instance— the pace is positively frenetic. I found it thrilling.

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The Meaning of Words

Chad Pecknold gave a brilliant a brilliant summary of De Koninck on the common good at a panel at a recent conference in Dallas (embedded above). The discussion that followed, moderated by Ryan Anderson, was also very good. Anderson’s questions were quite trenchant.

Pecknold’s Gegenüber was Daniel Burns who raised a question about the love of one’s country, including love of one’s regime (in the Straussian sense of politeia) as a prerequisite to effective political action. I think that Pecknold and Anderson answer it quite correctly: To love one’s politeia rightly is to love what is good in it and wish to improve it by correcting what is not good. This is also a point that Gladden Pappin made at a recent conference in Steubenville: following Aristotle, he argued that action taken to “preserve” a “regime” in the right way actually changes it for the better. And, as Pecknold argues so persuasively, to make something better you need to have the right standard. How such “preservation” might be done in the current American was indicated with much insight by Patrick Deneen in another panel at the same conference.

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