Cahiers Péguy

23Aug/120

Archbishop Tomasi on Ideologies and Religious Freedom

Posted by clairity

“We need to make an extraordinary effort to convince and create a different public understanding that our differences should not lead to conflict, but should lead to more dialogue. It becomes also more and more evident that the intolerance that is increasing is not only based on conflict or violence, but it also is based on more subtle strategies like the attempt to eliminate the influence of persons with religious convictions from contributing to the common good by participating in public life. So instead of having the understanding - that is projected by some media - that religion, especially Christianity, is limiting the freedom of individuals, we should take notice that it is the other way around: That certain forms of ideology are preventing the free exercise of religion on the part of Christians, Catholics in particular."

via Vatican Radio - Archbishop Tomasi at Rimini Meeting

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4Mar/111

Compromise: A forgotten republican virtue

Posted by Joseph Orrino

Alan Greenspan called compromise on public issues “the price of civilized society, not an abrogation of principle.” Greenspan’s position is probably the result of advising and working closely with each president from Gerald Ford until George W. Bush.  Yet his pragmatic approach is lost on many politicians, especially those with parties in the majority.  The passage of health care reform and the present conflict in Madison, Wisconsin are sure examples of politicians using majority status as an excuse to avoid compromise.

“No compromise” is the default position almost whenever the opportunity pokes its head. Compromise is written off as politically inexpedient, weak, and unnecessary when there is a legal means to avoid it.  These assumptions are inappropriate in light of our history, the Constitution’s spirit, and political reality.

On the road to passage of health care reform, Republicans were told to take a back seat.   Democrats had been elected to govern, and they were going to govern.  Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s goal was to create a bill that would pass by one vote, not a bill that could enjoy wider bipartisan support.  This, even though some Republican support may have been added by cutting out components like the individual mandate or by adding in stronger tort reforms and real pro-life protections.

Now, in Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker is staring-down the Democratic minority in the legislature.  Senate Democrats have left the state to prevent passage of a bill that would limit the benefits and collective bargaining rights of teachers.  Democrats are willing to accept some of the bill's provisions, even some that would decrease teacher take-home pay, but Democrats will not support the bill as long as it limits collective bargaining.  Gov. Walker and his majority won't budge.  He says that the changes are necessary to fix the state's budget crisis, a somewhat tenuous connection since we are talking about a present budget crisis and future collective bargaining rights.

In either case above, the possibility of real compromise was categorically written-off, at least publicly.  This way of governing, though possible and technically constitutional, is out of step with the Framers’ intention.  In Federalist 51, James Madison touted how a system of rival interests would prevent one branch of power from dominating the whole republic.  In Federalist 10, he showed us how the Constitution would prevent, insofar as possible, a majority faction from controlling the whole government, which would make the protections outlined in Federalist 51 ineffectual.  Taken together, Federalist 10 and 51 are persuasive because compromise was necessary to the survival of the Republic; the Framers built compromise into the system.

Compromise is sought, but not mandated.  If a majority faction (the target of Federalist 10’s criticism) or party refuses to compromise, it is within its right.  But exercising a technical Constitutional right is not always consistent with the spirit of the Constitution, which sought to avoid total majority rule.  The positive law attempts to manifest a greater goal, where the positive law is not sufficient to bring about that goal, leaders should still abide by the goal.  Leaders with majority status should not write off compromise as quickly or as casually as they do.

In his Lyceum Speech, Abraham Lincoln called attention to the insufficiency of our governmental framework alone to prevent abuse.  Observing that the passion that once sustained us was now gone, Lincoln appealed to reason, reason restrained by “general intelligence, sound morality and, in particular, a reverence for the constitution and laws…”  We are bound to something higher than the letter of the law, higher than the structure defined by the Constitution.  The same values that made the Constitution worth defending in The Federalist should be revered when the structure falls short of its goal.  Compromise may not always be the solution, but compromise carries its own merit that shouldn’t be dismissed by leaders of controlling majorities like Gov. Walker, despite how much merit his proposals may have.

Political realities also warn against readily dismissing compromise.  As the Democrats learned last November, a disenfranchised minority is loud and powerful.  By settling on “no compromise” from the beginning, Gov. Walker limited his chances of pure victory.  He may successfully limit collective bargaining for teachers, but will his victory be Pyrrhic?  Voters in his traditionally left-leaning state will wonder if they want an uncompromising Republican governor.  If he does not successfully limit collective bargaining rights this late in the game, then not only will he be perceived of as ineffective, but also unreasonable.

Politics is a game of practicality.  That is why Lincoln, who was uncompromisingly anti-slavery as president, idolized “The Great Compromiser,” Henry Clay.  It is how a student of Ayn Rand’s black-and-white-there-is-no-grey worldview can grow up to call compromise, “the price of civilized society.”  Today, Gov. Walker is convinced of his cause, but his approach deserves a second guess.

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12Jan/110

Letter to the Christians of the West: Josef Zvěřina, 1971

Posted by Fred

Brothers,

You have the presumption of being useful to the Kingdom of God assuming as far as possible the saeculum, its life, its words, its slogans, its way of thinking. But reflect, I beg you, what it means to accept this world. Perhaps it means that you have gradually lost yourselves in it? Sadly, it seems you are doing just that. It [is] difficult these days to find you and recognize you in this strange world of yours. Probably we still recognize you because in this process you are taking your time, because you are being assimilated by the world, whether quickly or slowly, but late all the same. We thank you for many things, or rather for almost everything, but we must distinguish ourselves from you in one thing. We have much to admire in you, so we can and must send you this warning.

"Do not conform to this world, but transform yourselves by the renewal of your minds, so that you will be able to recognize the will of God, what is good, what is pleasing to him, what is perfect" (Rom. 12:2). Do not conform! Me syschematizesthe! How well this expression reveals the perennial root of the verb: schema. In a nutshell, all schemas, all exterior models are empty. We have to want more, the apostle makes it our duty, "change your way of thinking, reshape your minds" metamorfoùsthe tè anakainósei toù noós. Paul's Greek is so expressive and concrete! He opposes schèma or morphé – permanent form, to metamorphé – change in the creature. One is not to change according to any model that in any case is always out of fashion, but it is a total newness with all its wealth (anakainósei). [It's] not the vocabulary that changes but the meaning (noùs).

So not contestation, desacralization, secularization, because this is so little compared with Christian anakainósis. Reflect on these words and your naïve admiration for revolution, Maoism, and violence (of which, in any case you are incapable) will abandon you.

Your critical and prophetic enthusiasm has already borne fruit, and we cannot indiscriminately condemn you for this. We simply realize, and tell you sincerely, that we have more esteem for St. Paul's calm and discriminating invitation, "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?" (2 Cor. 13:5).

We cannot imitate the world precisely because we have to judge it, not with pride and superiority, but with love, just as the Father loved the world (Jn. 3:16) and for this reason pronounced judgment on it.

Do not phroneîn – think, and in conclusion hyperphroneîn- but sophroneîn, think with wisdom (Cf. Rom. 12:13). Be wise, so that we can discern the signs of the will and the time of God. Not the fashion of the moment, but what is good, honest, and perfect.

We write as unwise to you who are wise, as weak men to you who are strong, as wretched men to you who are even more wretched! And this is stupid of us because there are certainly among you some excellent men and women. But precisely for this reason we need to write foolishly, as the Apostle Paul taught us when he took repeated Christ's words that the Father has hidden wisdom from those who know a lot about these things (Lk. 10:21).

This translation of Fr. Zvěřina's letter is taken from pages 110-112 of the book Generating Traces in the History of the World: New Traces of the Christian Experience, by Luigi Giussani, Stefano Alberto, Javier Prades.

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7Jan/112

A Liberated Liberal Arts

Posted by Fred

(with apologies to Peter Maurin)

I'm for the liberated liberal arts not the monetized
and politicized liberal arts,
the virginal liberal arts, not the pandering liberal arts.
The humanities after all, belong to the humans and the humane.
Why should the university be the gatekeeper of the human?

In the university, students do not learn to connect
the particular to the whole, but instead
to regard each subject as the master of all the others
during class... and as an abstraction immediately afterward.

A bachelor of arts is a certified human;
a master of arts is a certified teacher;
a doctor of arts is a certified teacher of teachers;
but certification is not essential to the human.

What’s essential to the human person is
connection to the whole, establishing ties,
that is, religion.
Without religion, says Peter Maurin,
so-called education is:
“plenty of facts
but no understanding.”

Without religion,
universities are no longer the wardens of merit, but
the gatekeepers of mammon and power.
In their book Trust Agents, Chris Brogan and Julien Smith advocate
gatejumping for the sake of the human.
A gatejumper builds credibility
man to man — without the approval of gatekeepers.
Gatejumpers are not automatically worthy of trust
but at least they don’t rely on credentials
purchased with borrowed funds.

Is it just for students to complain
that the liberal arts are too pricey when they borrow
with the expectation of earning many times the amount?
Is it just for the university to train adjunct professors at costs
beyond what can be recovered?

If you want to be human,
learn the liberal arts at personal cost.
Read The Quiet Light as background to The
Divine Comedy
. Read Christopher Dawson
for a non-sanitized history. Fr. Giussani gave books
to his friend, Enzo Piccinini.
These books became Books of the Christian Spirit.
And Spirito Gentil is a classical music series
with notes from Fr. Giussani.

So on vacation, on lunch break, in the evenings,
and weekends, get together with friends to
learn appreciation for music and drama;
learn politics and philosophy and economics and
the sciences.
For Christ’s sake,
for humanity’s sake,
for yourself and your children,
and their children.

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1Jan/110

A Christmas Carol of Doctor Who: Review

Posted by Fred

"Doctor Who 'Christmas Carol': When Half-Spent Was the Night" IlSussidiario.net - The 2010 Christmas episode of the Doctor Who series was based on "A Christmas Carol" by Dickens. In this Christmas Carol change is caused by a love for beauty and sorrow at one’s own pettiness

In you video below, you can hear the beautiful voice of Katherine Jenkins from this holiday special:

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