22 April 2010

Sex and Atoms

The terms in the title of this post have very little to do with one another, and the article to which I’d like to draw your attention doesn’t link them much more meaningfully than using one as an adjective for another.  Whether by that I mean “sexual atoms” or “atomic sex” must be discovered on your own.

A recent discovery of Front Porch Republic has proved to be a site thick with reflective offerings, the first of which situates the recent clerical scandals in the cultural context of our day.  The result is a chewy piece of writing that comes off like a speech in a Dostoyevsky novel.  The pacing is infectious; phrase builds upon phrase, the edifice rises, and crowds begin to gather.  Turgid fragments clamber over one another only to resolve, of a sudden, into peaceful vistas of clarity:
Of all the worldly empires that sought after power and wealth, surely none appears so pathetic as ours: we do not require great monuments or a grand historical narrative of man overcoming weakness and desire to establish something greater than himself.  We require only constant, super-saturating reminders that everybody is just a body that likes sex.
Anyone who has visited Italy would immediately recognize this shift, effected over centuries.  There, the monuments constructed half a millennium ago—many of which have ever been surpassed—seem transparent at times, like reflections in a lingerie-shop window.  They have not been defeated, but ignored as irrelevant.  More than once, the thought struck me: we are incapable of sustaining such projects. 

But as bad as things may seem, as overwhelming as the cultural forces arrayed against human flourishing may be, the author finds one, indefectible handhold: the goodness of creation.
Most of us live as isolated individuals whose daily life affirms the inconsequence of our actions, the meaninglessness of our role in any larger dramatic form, the blandness of our condition.  And yet, within that individuated loneliness, before which all social institutions, from the family to the city, to the nation and the Church wither as mere “subjective” and inessential extensions of the Cartesian bedrock of our selves—within that atomic certitude, I say, we sense some ineradicable spark of consequence and meaning.  While most of us root out and extinguish that spark as much as possible, it cannot be thoroughly dimmed so long as we retain a nervous system and therefore remain capable of the crude but inexplicable mystery, the ecstatic and superhuman but manipulable event, of sexual desire and satisfaction.
You may regard his optimism as naive.  Well, read the rest to see why he’s convinced sex can save the world.

20 April 2010

09 April 2010

A Light Kindled Against the Darkness

The tide of anti-pope journalism among the news outlets of the world isn’t universal, and it was nice to find one such holdout in the column of Damien Thompson over at the Telegraph.  The sorts of things I usually see on their site involve such ignorant claims as “Pope Appoints Opus Dei priest to Episcopacy As Revenge On Hollywood for The Da Vinci Code”.  Mr. Thompson, while not one to dismiss the gravity of the scandal, has been forthright with some of the facts overlooked in this most recent debacle.  Read about it at the following link, which pertains to the emerging scandal about financial malfeasance of the Legionnaires of Christ:

Pope Emerges as the Campaigner Against ‘Filth’

07 April 2010

The Church in Bondage to Therapy?

A recent “On the Square” web-exlusive at First Things makes for phenomenal reading.  Not too long ago, Rod Dreher pointed out the findings of the University of North Carolina’s National Study of Youth and Religion.  It summarized the general tone of American religious belief in three words: moralistic therapeutic Deism.  The article linked below takes up just what is meant by the term “therapeutic,” something I’d guessed at intuitively before, but probably couldn't have pinned down precisely.  John Buri makes it a little more specific. A sample:
Like the manager, the therapist is a specialist in mobilizing resources for effective action, only here the resources are largely internal to the individual and the measure of effectiveness is the elusive criterion of personal satisfaction. . . . Indeed, the very term therapeutic suggests a life focused on the need for a cure. But a cure of what?
The implications for ministry, preaching, liturgy (inculturation, anyone?) and evangelism are tremendous and far-reaching.  I look forward to reading your comments after you read the whole thing!

06 April 2010


Though the recent clerical abuse scandal that has broken in Germany and Ireland is once again wrenching the hearts of Catholics worldwide, the ramifications do not extend to the papacy--as the recent New York Times article has heinously alleged.  I find the whole situation (and by that, I mean all of it) terribly nauseating, but Raymond De Souza's response to the NYT article reveals another dimension of the tragedy:  the scurrilous character of the reporting.  I would insist that anyone who has read the NYT article or heard it discussed read over De Souza's response immediately.

I think it's clear that the press isn't just getting things wrong here and there; they're getting it completely backwards.