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.

Life in the Cosmos

A brilliant essay by Jeremy Holmes on how reason allows our lives to be extended beyond our bodies.

Peregrine Magazine

By Dr. Jeremy Holmes

Some time ago, I visited a friend who owns a Steinway baby grand piano. He told me about the history of the Steinway brand and the unlikely success of its orphaned and impoverished founder, but I could hardly pay attention. My fingers moved slowly over the keys, and old muscle memories stirred aching in my arms and back. I remembered how I would lean into the instrument, finding intensity in an old familiar rag. Some said I had­ a gift for it.

Then we moved away to graduate school and there was no piano around, and everyone studied late and woke early, and years went by and I did not play and did not play. I remember when I came home for vacation, sat at my parents’ upright piano to play the old favorites, and discovered that they were gone. The muscles tensed but nothing moved…

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Goggles at the Peregrine

Over at Peregrine Magazine I have a piece on the wonder and glory of swimming with goggles.

Peregrine’s Website


Peregrine is a new projet begun by some people from the same group that found The Josias. But it has a different focus. It is ordered not so much the exposition of principles  as to seeing the passing things of “ordinary life” in the light of those principles. I polemicize against the overrating of ordinary life. But of course, ordinary life as such is good, and ought to be formed with regard to our final end.

Benedict XV: Celeberrima evenisse

The Josias


Pope Benedict XV’s letter Celeberrima evenisse resulted from one of the diplomatic triumphs of his brief pontificate: the reëstablishment of diplomatic relations with Portugal. The anti-clerical revolutionaries, who in 1910 had overturned the Portuguese monarchy and established a republic, had soon passed laws on the “separation” of Church and state that in reality amounted to a programme of persecution of the Church. Monasteries and seminaries were closed, Catholic teaching in the schools was abolished, bishops were expelled from their dioceses, even the wearing of the cassock was forbidden. Pope St. Pius X vehemently protested these outrages in the encyclical Iamdudum in Lusitania. Such extreme anti-Catholic measures contributed to deep divisions in Portuguese society, and the country was torn by unrest in the years following the Revolution of 1910. By 1918 the government was ready to compromise with the Holy See, and it reëstablished diplomatic relations, asking that in…

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The Harm Principle

A recent article by the brilliant Matthew Walther reminded me of the following passage of Saint Augustine’s City of God (II,20):

This is our concern [they say] that every man be able to increase his wealth so as to supply his daily prodigalities, and so that the powerful may subject the weak for their own purposes. Let the poor court the rich for a living, and that under their protection they may enjoy a sluggish tranquillity; and let the rich abuse the poor as their dependants, to minister to their pride. Let the people applaud not those who protect their interests, but those who provide them with pleasure. Let no severe duty be commanded, no impurity forbidden. […] Let the laws take cognizance rather of the injury done to another man’s property, than of that done to one’s own person. If a man be a nuisance to his neighbor, or injure his property, family, or person, let him be actionable; but in his own affairs let everyone with impunity do what he will in company with his own family, and with those who willingly join him. Let there be a plentiful supply of public prostitutes for every one who wishes to use them, but specially for those who are too poor to keep one for their private use. Let there be erected houses of the largest and most ornate description: in these let there be provided the most sumptuous banquets, where every one who pleases may, by day or night, play, drink, vomit, dissipate. Let there be everywhere heard the rustling of dancers, the loud, immodest laughter of the theatre; let a succession of the most cruel and the most voluptuous pleasures maintain a perpetual excitement.