In voting to legalize abortion nationwide this May, Ireland has become the land of ire toward unborn babies.
Are Catholic Colleges Becoming Left-Wing Seminaries?
As chronicled in your New Oxford Note The New Hate Speech: Catholic Teaching at a Catholic College (May), Providence College (PC) senior Michael Smalanskas posted a bulletin-board display in the hallway of his dorm supporting traditional marriage. He even quoted the words of Jesus, And the two shall become one flesh (Mk. 10:8). He was immediately harassed and threatened with bodily harm by other students. Campus security had to move him to a safe, undisclosed location. And all he did was affirm Catholic teaching at a Catholic college. Smalanskas aside, PC is producing left-wing secularists instead of committed Christians.
Like PC, many of our Catholic colleges have become secularized. Rather than teaching Christian values and biblical truth, the administrators encourage and support teachers who question and undermine those values and truths. They are indoctrinating students with diversity, gender equality, and other dogmas of secularism. Political correctness is the new religion. Our colleges have become left-wing seminaries.
Why did the students at PC become so hostile and threatening? Why do they fear Christian values and beliefs? And why did PC administrators encourage and support such aggressive, non-Christian behavior? It is because left-leaning universities (and high schools) have succeeded in demonizing Christian beliefs. They have effectively convinced a vast number of people that Christian beliefs are sexist, homophobic, racist, anti-science, and anti-intellectual. Once people believe this, they become, ironically, intolerant of any view they have labeled hate speech.
We are becoming a godless culture with no moral compass. Without the truth that only God can provide, right and wrong become relative. The good news is that its never too late to reverse the moral decline in our country. God is the cure. God gives us hope. All we have to do is turn back to Him.
The Wests Refusal to Acknowledge Brutalities
Casey Chalk brings a unique perspective as a devout Catholic living abroad and returning home to the U.S. to his fascinating series of articles related to Christian Pakistani refugee Michael and his family (most recently, The Lords Suffering Servant, May). Chalk shines a bright light on the human aspects of Christian persecution and the Wests refusal to acknowledge the brutalities that exist in the world at large. This Western failure seems, in no small part, to be due to the disconnected connected world, cultural rot, and the degradation of a civilization once built on seeking truth and the betterment of mankind.
While not every wrong in this world can be righted, the current lack of policy discussion (and, more importantly, action) to help persecuted people is a failure of leadership among those who claim the mantle of leadership.
Chalks perspective separates his articles from the pack. I am eternally hopeful that goodness overcomes evil. The good deeds and sacrifices Chalks family continue to make for a friend half a world away are an inspiring testament to the goodness that exists in this world even when political and religious leadership fails.
The present political realities of our world are making the work of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) much more difficult and restricting its impact to a significant degree. Where I live in Bangkok, the talk of the UNHCR is no longer about resettlement of refugees but community development, for here they will be for a long time, in a country where the government does not recognize illegal aliens. Life is tough for these people here and back home.
Fundamentalism in any religion is dangerous and can lead to the perpetration of evil. We are witnessing a clash of fundamentalist ideologies using (or, more correctly, abusing) religion to justify violence, which is never an act of religion. It is ultimately about power and control, not the common good of humanity.
Chalk asks what he can do to help now that he has returned from Bangkok to his comfortable life back in the U.S. The answer is: a lot, and he is doing it. Keep writing, Casey, and so advance a much-needed face to face conversation about the ongoing realities that matter in our world.
Fr. John Murray, O.S.A.
Two of Seven
My thanks to Christopher Beiting for his insightful and thoughtful review of my book on St. John Paul II and Ronald Reagan, A Pope and a President (May). Its always good to encounter a fellow academic who doesnt shy from but, rather, embraces the approach of a Gods-eye view of the hidden events of the 20th century, as Beiting describes it, not to mention a Marys-eye view, too, I might add. He nicely describes my work as theo-history, a term I like and also embrace. He is correct in seeing me as unusual, if not rare, in that contemporary historians will doubtless balk at this approach. They doubtless will, which I accept as a badge of honor, and also happily concede will prevent my book from being reviewed in The New York Times (or The New York Review of Books, or whatever the thing is called). Thats a double badge of honor; besides, I prefer the New Oxford Review to The New York Times any day.
One minor quibble I have with Beitings review is this statement: A Pope and a President isnt a perfect work. [Come now, really?] Kengors strength is at the same time his weakness: By focusing so closely on Reagan and John Paul II, he gives the impression that the defeat of the USSR was entirely their work, when in reality it was a team effort Margaret Thatcher, for example, is mentioned only twice, which seems a dreadful oversight.
To be sure, I havent heard this Thatcher criticism a lot, but I have heard it before and thus this is a good occasion to address it. The main reason I didnt focus on Thatcher is because, well, the book isnt about Thatcher and Reagan and John Paul II; its about Reagan and John Paul II. As for a thorough treatment on Thatcher and Reagan and John Paul II, that has been done already by my friend John OSullivan (The President, the Pope, and the Prime Minister, 2008). Of course, Beitings objection isnt that I didnt include Thatcher in the title but that I mentioned her only twice, which indeed isnt much. For the record, while I believe Thatcher was wonderful, Im certain she wasnt as indispensable as Reagan and John Paul II were to the cause of Cold War victory. But I think thats hardly a slight of the Iron Lady (even if my mere two mentions are an oversight). I do thank God that she was prime minister of Britain in the 1980s.
Ill add, for the record, that Ive long included Thatcher among what my students know as Kengors Cold War Big Seven. Those seven are Reagan, John Paul II, Thatcher, Mikhail Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin, Lech Walesa, and Vaclav Havel. They all deserve immense credit, as do others including entire groups like the Solidarity movement in Poland and the mujahideen in Afghanistan, to name only two.
But my quibble here with Beiting is minor at best. I thank him for his excellent review of my book, and I thank the glorious New Oxford Review for remaining the single best antidote to the lousy New York Times.
Professor of Political Science, Grove City College
Grove City, Pennsylvania
CHRISTOPHER BEITING REPLIES:
I would like to thank Dr. Kengor for his patience with my quibbles, and for the clarification he so graciously offers in his letter. I suppose my nitpicking comments come from my attempt to avoid an occasion of the sin of pride on my part, since, as a Catholic and an American, I would love to credit the destruction of communism as being due to the efforts of a Catholic and an American alone! As such, I find the Kengors Cold War Big Seven list provided in his response, which he routinely gives his students, to be very helpful in keeping my humility.
Kengors students sound like a fortunate bunch indeed; perhaps the good doctor would consider sharing his pedagogy with the rest of us through a Great Courses product? I have found his insights in A Pope and a President invaluable for my personal understanding of events through which I have lived, and I would love for there to be as many opportunities as possible for others to share in these insights.
Attack of the Unelected Agnostics
I appreciated Michael Wisniewskis guest column about the puzzling case of the bullying from Brussels that two non-Germanic EU countries have experienced in recent years (Why Is the European Union Bullying Poland & Hungary? May). Polish and Hungarian Christian conservatives have had no chance to have their voices heard in the U.S. because the American media establishment is serviced by foreign correspondents who are themselves far left and use far-left local stringers to spin fairytales about alleged departures from democracy under these two legally elected conservative governments.
As Wisniewski rightly notes, the selection of judges in Western countries has never relied on a single committee as the only source of candidatures. The system of a single committee is one of the poison pills the 1989 Warsaw Pact with the communists left as a stumbling block for future governments. It is impossible to avoid corruption if all judicial power rests in the hands of the same group of people all the time. In the Polish case, the committee was honeycombed with former communists who declared themselves social democrats and made sure their cronies were not kicked out of lucrative posts. The conservative government endowed three different bodies with the power of screening candidates for judges, and this is what evokes Brussels ire: How dare a junior EU member undertake any reforms that have not been previously approved by their older brethren!
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbáns admirable steadfastness in defending the borders of his small homeland has generated near fury. How dare this dictator of a small country oppose such great sages as unelected bureaucrats in Brussels! It does not take much intelligence to realize that, had Hungarians allowed mass immigration of Muslims into their country, they would have lost their unique Christian culture within a few generations. Not to mention the fact that every post-communist country except Russia regained freedom without any capital accumulation in their national banks (capital was either misspent or being accumulated exclusively in Moscow). The expense of bringing in Muslim immigrants would have created hardships incomparable to those borne by the relatively rich Western European nations.
The bullying was initiated by unelected officials whose political views place them closer to the defeated communists than to the conservatives who won elections in Poland and Hungary. I have observed with dismay how the Brussels folk have assumed the role of judges, legislators, and executors of law without giving a chance to the opposite side to reach the European and American public. Prof. Ryszard Legutko, author of The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies (Encounter Books, 2016) and EU Parliament member, has given numerous speeches in Parliament and before the European Commission defending the conservative position, but none of his arguments has ever reached Western media not even his name, whereas the names of such bullies as Guy Verhofstadt and Frans Timmermans have reached a wide audience.
Poland and Hungary are among the not-too-many countries in the world that treat Christianity seriously. Poland is unquestionably the most Catholic country in Europe today, and not only based on declared religious affiliation. Polish missionaries of both genders serve all over the world, as I have had the opportunity to personally experience in Oslo, Norway; Squamish, BC, Canada; Irkutsk, Russian Federation; Johannesburg, South Africa; and, yes, Dresden, Germany. Christianity in Europe seems to be moving from West to East, and this is one of the reasons why the non-Germanic Central European countries are under attack by the seasoned and powerful agnostics of the West.
Professor of Slavic Studies, Rice University
Ed. Note: The name Ryszard Legutko should be familiar to at least one small audience in the West: NOR readers. In our October 2017 issue we published Timothy D. Luschs exclusive interview with Legutko, which we titled A Demon-Haunted Europe: Democracys Totalitarian Impulse. Those readers who missed it, or who would like to revisit it, may read it online at http://www.newoxfordreview.org/article.jsp?did=1017-lusch, or by purchasing a copy of our October 2017 issue. For instructions on how to order back issues, see the notice on page 11 of this issue.
MICHAEL WISNIEWSKI REPLIES:
Ewa Thompson correctly connects European political discord to Christian conservatism. It is not merely a battle of East vs. West, Left vs. Right, religious vs. secular. At its core, the crisis staring the Left square in the eye is undeniably Catholic, and that is precisely why its assaults are so vicious. Certainly not all the movements sweeping Europe are Catholic in name or identity, but they principally share a respect for the natural law and a strict, accurate testimony of Catholic social teaching. For that reason, Italy has joined Austria, Hungary, Poland, and other nations in an effort to redefine what it means to be European. And for that reason, their opponents will be merciless in their attacks.
Staying in Touch
Fr. James V. Schalls article Why Are Things the Way They Are? (May) is about the kind of mind that built Western civilization. It was and continues to be a mind for science, not for wisdom. Even metaphysics, philosophy at its best, is called science. But the meaning of the word philosophy (philo-sophia) is love of wisdom. Western philosophy, however, has never been characterized by a love of wisdom, not since Socrates turned his back on wisdom and pursued the scientific definition of things.
Because the philosophers did not fully realize what wisdom is, they fell into the scientific way of thinking and even called first philosophy, metaphysics, a science. And we wonder why the Western mind is ending in atheism.
Wisdom is insightful; science is analytic. The difference is like touching versus grasping. Metaphysics is a science because it is grasping and analytic. Metaphysics as a science is not philo-sophia as the love of wisdom.
What, then, is philo-sophia? Philosophy, as the love of wisdom, begins, stays, and ends in an insight that is in touch with the is of things. Wisdom is a subject-subject, not subject-object, relationship. This means that wisdom is inter-subjective (being with being), not objective (between subject and object).
The subject-object relationship strongly tends to become grasping in the mode of science. But the subject-subject light of the human mind, present in the agent intellect (but never recognized as such), is a being-with-being relationship that is the beginning, persistent basis, and end of wisdom.
The subject-subject relationship remains in touch (within an insight) while grasping. Thus, wisdom can include science, but science, as such, does not include wisdom. Science, therefore, is meant to stay within wisdom. But it easily sets out on its own track and moves into technology, which then moves on its own track toward the big bang of atomic energy.
So we need to go back before Socratess subject-object way of thinking and start over again with an inter-subjective way of thinking. That would be a true love of wisdom, which can include science, instead of love of science without wisdom.
Mary Rosera Joyce
FR. JAMES V. SCHALL REPLIES:
I thank Mary Rosera Joyce for her comment. With proper distinctions, wisdom, revelation, metaphysics, philosophy, and science are not contradictory to each other. By being what it is in a certain order, each one illuminates the other without being the other.
A Complex Enmeshing
I am grateful to Brian Welter for his generous review of my book Theo-Poetics (May). He has offered a summary of its major parts, from the discussion of Rainer Maria Rilke to the emphasis on the analogy of being to the conclusion in Gerard Manley Hopkins. Most of all, he has seen that at the heart of the work is a desire to encourage the kind of renewal that Vatican II sought. I am impressed that he was able to express all of this in the small space allowed, and I am most of all glad to be included in that space.
It is true that a deep analysis of Hans urs von Balthasars scriptural perspective has yet to be achieved, and it is true that he sees the heart of the analogy of being also at the heart of the Old Testament: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one (Deut. 6:4). It was this glory of the one God that Karl Barth expressed so well, in Balthasars eyes. Barth would have been suspect of the very claim that the analogy of being is a scriptural claim, and indeed to collapse the two Scripture and metaphysics would have been a disaster, to Balthasars mind as well. So it is that my book mainly constricts itself to the metaphysical and poetic elements of Balthasars thought to show how they rest together while also functioning distinctly, so that a reader of Balthasar might look to his scriptural reflections and see much the same dynamic.
Balthasar is only able to unite art and metaphysics without then confusing them through the person of Christ that is, in a particularly Chalcedonic reading of Christology. I am concerned that at times Welter conflates these three elements Christology, metaphysics, and poetry but that may well be the constriction of space rather than of thought. One of the elements of Balthasars oeuvre that makes it both fascinating and difficult is the unity of these three poles, a unity that, nevertheless, allows each of their distinctive features to remain intact. It is to this complex enmeshing of ideas that I devoted my work, and I am grateful that it has been read by others.
Anne M. Carpenter
Asst. Professor of Theology, St. Marys College
Richard Fafaras article Are Islam & Democracy Compatible? (May) reveals not only how little Alexis de Tocqueville understood Islam but how limited his vision of democracy was. A functional democratic system presupposes a number of notions to be already inherent in a society. The most important of these is freedom, as Tocqueville rightly identified. However, freedom is a concept completely alien to Islam.
Since Muhammad failed to comprehend or appreciate the importance of inner conversion and repentance, he justified conversion by coercion. The idea that sin is sin because Allah wills it makes the salvation of a soul dependent on submission, not contrition. It follows that this submission needs to be attained at any cost because it is the most merciful thing to do. What is more crucial than making sure someone goes to Heaven? Surely, the worldly notion of freedom cannot compare to eternal bliss.
Democracy is only possible with a Deity who wants His creatures to love and follow Him freely. The reason this form of government was successful in the West for a time is belief in the conversion of the heart and surrender to Someone who loves everyone equally. While Tocqueville correctly points out that religious belief is necessary for democracy, he falls into the trap that any religion can be compatible with democracy as long as certain tenets, like the existence of dogmas, are in place.
The mere fact that a belief system has dogmas means absolutely nothing to the success of a political system. For instance, Western democracies are becoming tyrannical because of the increasing distance between the temporal and spiritual realms. Freedom has come to mean freedom for the strong few to do anything, instead of freedom for everyone to do what they ought. When democracy without the principles infused by the guiding light of the Church inevitably fails, it is naïve to think that Islam, a religion of servile fear, can truly embrace or even desire to embrace democratic governance.
Unlike Catholicism, which enforces separation not isolation of Church and state, Islam does not teach a distinction between mosque and state. After all, Muhammad himself was a warrior, a king, and a religious leader, an arrangement that is unthinkable for democracy to flourish.
Fafaras questions at the end of his article point to the problems faced by those who attempt to build a bridge between a belief system with despotic tendencies and a political system that relies on freedom. Since Islam does not encourage critical thinking or allow questioning of its founder or its book, how can there be reconciliation? The Quran is not like the Bible, but more like Christ in that it is the word of Allah. Just like Christs divinity is the founding pillar of Christian belief, the Quran, as the literal word of Allah, cannot be brought under scrutiny by mere mortals.
Therefore, the lack of openness to reason and criticism, in addition to the lack of a proper understanding of freedom, is the reason Islam as taught in the Quran and hadiths is not compatible with democracy.
As a former student of Islamic scholar George F. Hourani, I commend Richard Fafara for his excellent article on the complex question of whether Islam and Western democracy are compatible. And, like Dr. Fafara, I do not think that question is totally answerable in its present form.
One reason I say this is that the article appears to assume that the political order that dominates in the contemporary West is chiefly democratic when, in fact, it is mainly plutocratically oligarchical, chiefly consisting of different species of utopian-socialist plutocracies (what is currently dubbed the Deep State). These socialist utopias were necessarily generated as a logical consequence out of the Western Reformation/Enlightenment reduction of the whole of scientific reason to mathematical physics, what is often in the West called positivism or positivistic science. Analogously, much like many adherents to the Quran, these scientific positivists maintain that the whole of knowable truth is supposed to be contained within contemporary mathematical physics. Being unable to rationally justify this absurd epistemological reduction, in which all psychological activities other than mathematical physics become a set of emotionally held opinions or a belief system, Western Enlightenment intellectuals have been forced to set up misnamed educational and cultural institutions that ideologically impose these convictions on the general population subject to their political rule.
In general, because Western intellectuals tend to conflate socialism with an economic teaching that favors centralized governmental controls over free-market capitalism, such intellectuals tend to suffer from the delusion that the U.S. and Western European nations are chiefly republican forms of government, or, loosely considered, democracies. While I do not think Fafara is one of those intellectuals, I suggest that we can gain more mileage related to how the West should deal with Islam if we recognize, as did Tocqueville, that the contemporary West and Islam are psychologically dominated by two essentially opposing metaphysical and moral cultures. As Fafara well knows, civilizations essentially grow out of metaphysical and moral cultures and their educational and political institutions, which, in turn, are generated essentially by metaphysical and moral principles.
Pope Benedict XVI made this point several years ago in his famous Regensburg address, in which he recognized that, without a broadening of the contemporary Wests fundamentalist/Enlightenment reduction of reason to positivistic science, the West would be incapable of entering into what he called that genuine dialogue of cultures and religion so urgently needed today. Claiming that the Wests widely held presumption that positivistic reason and the forms of philosophy based on it are universally valid has put the West in diametric opposition to the worlds profoundly religious cultures, which see the exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions. A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures.
The chief areas of conflict between the West and Islam today consist in an opposition between two essentially contrary, fundamentalist metaphysical and moral psychologies. Precisely because of his keen psychological understanding of the impact of metaphysical and moral principles on cultural and civilizational formation, as Fafara shows in his article, Tocquevilles reflections on Islam and the possibility of its reformation are a great place to start such a study. However, to continue this study so that it might produce some fruitful results in the political order, we need to expand it a bit more precisely into the psychological order of metaphysical and cultural principles.
For several centuries, Western civilization has been forced to suffer utopian-socialist ravages (in the forms of communism, fascism, American pragmatism, and the world wars and many global conflicts their misguided principles have essentially helped to generate) of the influence on its institutions of the fundamentalist understanding of pure positivistic reason (will to power), or Enlightenment, falsely so called. Centuries before this disorder of animal rationality happened in the West, Islam had suffered an analogous fate of still-born, Enlightenment, fundamentalist reason at the hands of Sunni Islamic reformers al-Ashari and al-Ghazali. Prior to this narrowing of Islamic reason, Islam had had a rich tradition of influence by ancient Greek thinkers like Plato, Aristotle, and Plotinus, and even Church Fathers like St. Augustine. Medieval Islamic scholastics had even contributed to translations of the works of Aristotle into the West.
Strictly speaking, as Dr. Hourani drove home to me on more than one occasion, Islam has no theology in the sense of a uniform set of doctrines. Like Christian Protestantism, it is not a Church. It has no central religious authority. Its mullahs are not theologians. Chiefly, they are theocratic lawyers, or legal executives. To some extent, Islam has a few commonly accepted pillars of the faith, which are sets of moral prescriptions. And not even these are uniformly accepted by its many sects. In a sense, Islam is a theocratic moral psychology chiefly consisting of some generically held moral practices, or duties, in need of a rational set of metaphysical and moral principles to help liberate it from a narrow fundamentalism that might not be essential to its nature.
In my opinion, the best hope for moving beyond Fafaras terrific study of Tocquevilles reflections on Islam is the contemporary work of Richard Taylors Aquinas & the Arabs program at Marquette University and the contemporary research into the work of Avicenna (Ibn Sina) spearheaded decades ago by Parviz Morewedge of the State University of New York at Old Westbury.
Peter A. Redpath
Cave Creek, Arizona
As Richard Fafara shows, Tocqueville possessed great insight concerning the strange political religion of Islam, geared to encompass the world and eradicate all other religions. Anyone who has read the Quran and learned about the uncensored life of Muhammad will conclude that Islam is not only incompatible with democracy but a scourge of the world. G.K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, and Winston Churchill studied this religious cult and issued dire warnings about its future. Probably one of the most incisive analyses was written by John Quincy Adams after he finished his presidential term, at about the same time as Tocquevilles discussions in the 1840s. Adams writes, In the seventh century of the Christian era, a wandering Arab of the lineage of Hagar, the Egyptian, combining the powers of transcendent genius, with the preternatural energy of a fanatic, and the fraudulent spirit of an impostor, proclaimed himself as a messenger from Heaven, and spread desolation and delusion over an extensive portion of the earth. Adopting from the sublime conception of the Mosaic law, the doctrine of one omnipotent God; he connected indissolubly with it, the audacious falsehood, that he was himself his prophet and apostle. Adopting from the new Revelation of Jesus, the faith and hope of immortal life, and of future retribution, he humbled it to the dust, by adapting all the rewards and sanctions of his religion to the gratification of the sexual passion. He poisoned the sources of human felicity at the fountain, by degrading the condition of the female sex, and the allowance of polygamy; and he declared undistinguishing and exterminating war, as a part of his religion, against all the rest of mankind. The essence of his doctrine was violence and lust: to exalt the brutal over the spiritual part of human nature. Between these two religions, thus contrasted in their characters, a war of twelve hundred years has already raged. That war is yet flagrant; nor can it cease but by the extinction of that imposture, which has been permitted by Providence to prolong the degeneracy of man. While the merciless and dissolute dogmas of the false prophet shall furnish motives to human action, there can never be peace upon earth, and good will towards men. The hand of Ishmael will be against every man, and every mans hand against him. It is, indeed, amongst the mysterious dealings of God, that this delusion should have been suffered for so many ages, and during so many generations of human kind, to prevail over the doctrines of the meek and peaceful and benevolent Jesus.
A contemporary ex-Muslim, Ali Sina, who operates the Faith Freedom International website (FaithFreedom.org) and is in the process of raising funds for a movie about the life of Muhammad (the script of which I have read), has this to say to those who hope for the democratization of Islamic countries: Islam is a religion with a very political agenda. The ultimate goal of Islam is to rule the world. But what kind of government an Islamic state would have? It certainly wont be democratic. Islam is not compatible with democracy. Amir Taheri, an Iranian born author/journalist, in a debate on Islam and democracy, argued that in fact the word democracy does not exist in any of the languages spoken by Muslims. To understand a civilization, Taheri said, it is important to understand its vocabulary. If it was not on their tongues it is likely that it was not on their minds either. Democracy implies equality. But equality is unacceptable in Islam. Un-believers cannot be equal to believers and women are not equal to men. Even the non-Muslims are not deemed to be equal. The People of the Book (Jews and Christians) are accepted as second-class citizens and allowed to live in an Islamic state provided they pay the protection tax, Jizyah. But the pagans, atheists and idolaters are not regarded as fully human. According to the Quran, the idolaters are to be killed wherever they are found (9:5).
Howard P. Kainz