Category: Virtue

On The Catholic World Report, Acton’s Michael Matheson Miller offers a personal reflection on the recent canonization of Pope John Paul II.

There were pilgrims from all parts of the world: Spaniards, Australians, a remarkable number of French (including a couple whose five young children wore matching jackets), a large group from Equatorial Guinea were also matching with commemorative traditional garb marked with images of Pope John Paul. I saw Slovaks, Americans, Nigerians, Lebanese, Italians, and legions of Poles young and old, waving red and white flags and holding banners. More than one million Poles came to Rome to see their native son raised to the altars. A risk-taking American couple had brought along three of their children, including a five-month-old in a baby carriage. At moments it was unnerving to stand in such a crush of people, yet despite the multitude, nearly everyone kept their calm and minded their manners. It was no European football match.

The love that John Paul II evokes has long perplexed journalists. George Weigel tells the story of a reporter who was stunned to see ninety thousand people in Denver’s Mile High Stadium chanting “JP II We Love You!” She attempted to explain away the faithful as “Vatican plants.” There is an attractiveness about sanctity that doesn’t fit into our normal categories. Perhaps this is why it is easier for the media not to deal with it.

I think we love John Paul II for a very simple reason—because, as St. John says of Christ, “he loved us first.”

Read more of “The Love of Saint John Paul II” by Miller on The Catholic World Report.

Williamson_Free_Trade_SchoolOne of the benefits of a Christian theology of work is that it frees parents up to encourage their children to pursue various employment-related vocations that cultivate creation, rather than prod them to waste a life in the unfulfilling pursuit of the American Dream. Our obsession with the American Dream, as a means of achieving a life of comfort and ease, has distracted us from the fact that the world’s economy doesn’t need adults simply with college degrees so much as it needs people with skills. Real skills. Skills that contribute and facilitate human flourishing. Traditional college settings can serve as a wonderful opportunity for some to cultivate their minds, hearts, and souls, but it is important to remember that trade and technical schools do the same as well.

I was more than happy, then, to learn of The Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades in Media, Pennsylvania, a wonderfully dynamic option to traditional university education that focuses not only on the formation of skills needed in the marketplace but also on the formation of moral virtue.

The school has a fantastic history. According to the school’s website, “on December 1, 1888, Isaiah Vansant Williamson, a Philadelphia merchant and philanthropist, founded The Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades. His purpose in founding the School was to provide financially disadvantaged young men with the opportunity to become productive and respected members of society.” It was out of Williamson’s commitment to human dignity that he launched the school after seeing a generation of disadvantaged young men in danger of sabotaging their own futures and lacking a vision for how they could contribute to the common good. Here is the mission of the school:
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tenth-200In our modern era, the ancient sin of covetousness primarily manifests itself in three forms: greed, theft, and arguments about inequality. The greedy selfishly desire to acquire what others have, thieves illicitly acquire what others have, and equality advocates want the government to redistribute what others have.

It would be unfair, of course, to assume that all critics of inequality are driven by covetousness. But if you stripped away that sin as a motivation, the number of people who care about inequality could be fit into an Occupy Wall Street drum circle.

Imagine if we all took a vow to shun covetousness, especially when advocating public policies. Garett Jones suggest we do just that, with his proposal for the creation of the Tenth Commandment Club:
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John Turturro

John Turturro

Fading Gigolo,” a movie starring and directed by John Turturro, is apparently a sentimental look at the world of prostitution. NPR says the film keeps ” the mood light even as the filmmaker is gently tugging the plot in other directions, to look at loneliness and longing and heartbreak.” Turturro himself says that sex workers are rather like social workers (which should thrill  social workers):

I think there are positive things about what sex workers do. I know and consulted people who have been in that world, and it’s interesting on a human level that people sometimes go to these people for reasons beyond just sexual contact – maybe they’re looking for solace, or other things, and sometimes they are truly helped. I also think there’s a real exchange that goes on in these situations, whereas in so many other professions there isn’t.

He says a lot of other idiotic things that I won’t subject you to here; feel free to read the entire article if you must. (more…)

Acton Institute President and Cofounder Rev. Robert A. Sirico spoke with Neil Cavuto this afternoon on Fox News Channel, discussing recent polling data indicating that our culture’s skepticism toward political leaders has grown once again. You can check out the interview below.

Flannery O'Connor

Flannery O’Connor

Flannery O’Connor had a brilliant but short literary career. She died in 1964 at the age of 39 due to complications from lupus, yet managed to leave behind a legacy of keen insight into the human condition of sin, in ways some considered repulsive. Her best known story, A Good Man is Hard to Find, is a morality tale of stiff adherence to “good.” O’Connor manages to turn upside-down the moral code of the seemingly “good” people in the story while asking the reader to question religious beliefs that seem to be useful and right, but in the end, fall dismally short.

George Weigel, in the Denver Catholic Register, discusses O’Connor Catholic faith and how it can enlighten Holy Week. Saying she was not one for “cheap grace” or the “smiley-face” form of Christianity, Weigel asks the reader to meditate on a letter O’Connor wrote in 1955 to a friend.

…Flannery O’Connor looked straight into the dark mystery of Good Friday and, in four sentences explained why the late modern world often finds it hard to believe:

“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it emotionally. A higher paradox confounds emotion as well as reason and there are long periods in the lives of all of us, and of the saints, when the truth as revealed by faith is hideous, emotionally disturbing, downright repulsive. Witness the dark night of the soul in individual saints. Right now the whole world seems to be going through a dark night of the soul.”

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adhdCultural progressives often talk about something called “hegemonic masculinity.” By this progressives and feminists mean the standards we use to determine what an ideal man is in a particular culture. Michael Kimmel and Amy Aronson, in The Gendered Society Reader, describe American hegemonic masculinity this way:

In an important sense there is only one complete unblushing male in America: a young, married, white, urban, northern, heterosexual, Protestant, father, of college education, fully employed, of good complexion, weight, and height, and a recent record in sports . . . Any male who fails to qualify in any one of these ways is likely to view himself–during moments at least–as unworthy, incomplete and inferior.

With this definition, progressives and feminists are on what seems to be a campaign to “dismantle” any sense of “American” masculinity. Additionally, part of the mission is to redefine all of America’s problems in terms of what males, especially white males, have done to ruin society. As many have argued before, the first step in solving social ills is to pathologize boyhood and numb it into oblivion.

Esquire Magazine recently ran a story titled “The Drugging Of The American Boy” which highlights the seemingly settled disposition that developing masculinity is something to be diagnosed as ADHD and, therefore, a problem to be solved. The article cites this data:
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Today at Ethika Politika, I review The Ox-Herder and the Good Shepherd: Finding Christ on the Buddha’s Path by Addison Hodges Hart:

Addison Hodges Hart, a retired pastor and university chaplain, offers in The Ox-Herder and the Good Shepherd a wonderful exercise in comparative religion, examining the common ground that can be found in spiritual practice between Christianity and Buddhism. Hart focuses on the ten ox-herding icons of Zen, originating in China by the master Kakuan and accompanied by his verse and prose commentary. Hart, then, adds his own Christian perspective on the spiritual journey depicted and described by Kakuan, highlighting in the end his emphasis that outer acts of compassion require a prior, inner transformation.

One such person who was inspired by an inner, spiritual conversion not only to “outer acts of compassion” but also to build a freer and more virtuous society was the Indian Emperor Ashoka.

Lord Acton writes in his address “The History of Freedom in Antiquity,”

But in all that I have been able to cite from classical literature, three things are wanting: Representative Government, the emancipation of the slaves, and liberty of conscience. There were, it is true, deliberative assemblies, chosen by the people; and confederate cities, of which, both in Asia and in Europe there were so many Leagues, sent their delegates, to sit in federal councils. But government by an elected parliament was, even in theory, a thing unknown. It is congruous with the nature of Polytheism to admit some measure of toleration. And Socrates, when he avowed that he must obey God rather than the Athenians, and the Stoics, when they set the wise man above the [civil] law, were very near giving utterance to the principle. But it was first proclaimed, and established by enactment, not in polytheistic and philosophical Greece, but in India, by Asoka, the earliest of the Buddhist kings, 250 years before the Birth of Christ.

Tantalizingly, this is all that Acton says about Ashoka (=”Asoka”). Who was he? Why does Acton single him out? (more…)

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Monday, March 24, 2014

Lorde LikenessAt Reason Thaddeus Russell argues that Macklemore and Lorde embody a kind of progressive cultural critique of capitalism, captured in the attack on “conspicuous consumption” made famous by Thorstein Veblen. Russell traces the “progressive lineage” of this critique: “Their songs continue a long tradition, rooted in progressivism, of protests against the pleasures of the poor.”

Having never listened to him, I have no opinion about Macklemore. Russell’s piece makes me want to take a moment to hear “Thrift Shop.” But over at Q Ideas today, I argue that in Lorde we find some cultural resources to inoculate us against the corrosive effects of envy.

The Christian tradition has long recognized that the poor can be just as materialistic and greedy as the rich. The poor just don’t usually have the same resources to bring those vices to such “conspicuous” manifestation. And it really is a stewardship problem to spend money on luxury goods when basic necessities are given short shrift.
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coolidge bioCalvin Coolidge’s autobiography was published in 1929, shortly after Coolidge left the White House. He wrote the book in long hand completely by himself. Sales at the time were great but some commentators panned it as being too short and simplistic with little new information or juicy tidbits. In Amity Shlaes’s biography of Coolidge she notes, “Not every reader appreciated its sparse language, but the short book would stand up well to the self-centered narratives other statesmen produced, especially those who relied on dictation and, in their vanity, failed to revise.” Those who read it will find the writing style impressively clear and will easily comprehend the deep well of conservatism which shaped Coolidge’s thought.

Coolidge devoted a number of pages in his autobiography to the positive influence he received from some of his professors at Amherst College. Much of the praise was given to Charles Garman, Coolidge’s favorite professor. Garman, an alumnus of Amherst, was a professor of moral philosophy and metaphysics. Garman also studied theology at Yale and offered a high degree of religious instruction in his courses. He cultivated critical thinking and class discussion. A short overview on the Amherst College website of the Garman years, reads in part: “Garman’s teaching was considered subversive by some for he encouraged his students not to memorize or parrot what they had heard, but to think through the issues for themselves and come to their own conclusions.” In his autobiography, Coolidge said Garman “was one of the most remarkable men,” and he “truly drew men out.” Throughout his life, Coolidge leaves little doubt of the positive influence Garman had in shaping his thought and character. In this excerpt from Coolidge’s autobiography, he describes the spiritual learning that went on inside Garman’s class. It also serves as a pronounced contrast to the kind of instruction that occurs in most contemporary philosophy classes across colleges and universities in America today:
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