Letting in Protestants and Latinos

July 30, 2010

I want to alert all our readers to a very interesting conversation (which you may have already read) that took place at Vox Nova concerning evangelical converts to Catholicism.  For most of my life, I have viewed these converts as a great asset to the Church.  Much of that also had to do with my rather conservative friends.  Henry Karlson however presents what has more and more become my opinion on the matter: that many of these converts don’t go quite far enough and bring with them many protestant presuppositions that are dangerous to the Church, particularly in the political arena.  I don’t intend to reproduce his thoughts, you can read them and the extensive discussion here. Let me know what you think.  I’m quite genuinely curious.


Following up my latest comments on immigration, I want to briefly explain what the teaching on the Universal Destination of Goods has to do with immigration reform.  The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church explains in paragraph 172 (all bold words are my emphasis):

The right to the common use of goods is the “first principle of the whole ethical and social order” (Laborem Exercens) and “the characteristic principle of Christian social doctrine” (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis).  For this reason the Church feels bound in duty to specify the nature and characteristics of this principle.  It is first of all a natural right, inscribed in human nature and not merely a positive right connected with changing historical circumstances; moreover it is an “inherent” right.  It is innate in individual persons, in every person, and has priority with regard to any human intervention concerning goods, to any legal system concerning the same, to any economic or social system or method: “All other rights, whatever they are, including property rights and the right of free trade must be subordinated to this norm; they must not hinder it, but must rather expedite its application.  It must be considered a serious and urgent social obligation to refer these rights to their original purpose” (Populorum Progressio).

A brief thought on immigration reform

July 28, 2010

Just a brief note on the immigration news from today:

C.S. Lewis once wrote about patriotism in The Four Loves:

Of course patriotism of this kind (love of home) is not in the least aggressive.  It asks only to be let alone.  It becomes militant only to protect what it loves.  In any mind with a pennyworth of imagination it produces a good attitude towards foreigners.  How can I love my home without coming to realize that other men, no less rightly, love theirs?… The last thing we want is to make everywhere else just like our own home.  It would not be home unless it were different.

The above comment prompted me to write in the margins of my book, “Then America has little imagination.”  My perception of the growing hostility towards illegal immigration (and immigrants in general, even if legal) is that many Americans cannot imagine that they have their own homes too and are people like us.  At the same time, if we can imagine those homes, we want these people to stay in them.  Often the impression I have had in the South at least is the idea that people from other countries should become like Americans, but they should do so outside of America.  They should make their homes like ours, but not come here and make themselves at home. Read the rest of this entry »

Lying & Religion

July 25, 2010

As regular readers have no doubt deduced, I like movies.  Some movies rise to the level of great art—The Godfather and The Godfather II come to mind—while others are merely entertainment.  A very average movie that I saw recently was The Invention of Lying.

The Invention of Lying tells a rather familiar story:  chubby but sympathetic boy gets attractive girl.  It stars Ricky Gervais, of the British version of the TV show The Office, and it has a few amusing moments.  The premise of the movie is that it takes place in a world in which people always tell the truth.  They have not invented lying or even fiction.  In fact, they have no words for “truth” or “lying” because the concepts are beyond them.

I tend to like comedy in which people say terribly inappropriate things which also happen to be true, so the film’s premise appealed to me.  The plot thickens—and the film gets its title—when Mark, the Ricky Gervais character, who is kind of a loser, in a moment of inspiration, tells a bank teller that he has more money in his account than he really does.  Since nobody in their world lies, she assumes her computer has made an error and gives him all the money he asks for.  From then on, Mark realizes all the great things that can be accomplished by inventing one’s own truth.

Read the rest of this entry »

Elementary, my dear Watson!

July 17, 2010

Holmes and Watson

Over the past few months I’ve been working my way through a collection of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories published in The Strand Magazine.  The collection contains facsimile copies of the original Strand pages, including original illustrations (in which we see Holmes in his characteristic deerstalker hat, never mentioned in Conan Doyle’s text).

As I’ve been reading the stories, I’ve noticed more parallels between Holmes and my favorite TV character, Dr. Gregory House, than between the Holmes of Conan Doyle and that of the recent action flick staring Robert Downey, Jr.  Both Holmes and House use substantial deductive powers to solve mysteries, criminal and medical.  Both suffer from addictions, to cocaine in Holmes’ case and Vicodin in House’s, addictions witnessed with dismay by their respective sidekicks, Dr. Watson and Dr. Wilson.  And both bachelors have somewhat off-putting and eccentric personal habits.

In fact, the Sherlock Holmes short stories from The Strand bear a striking resemblance to a television series.   Read the rest of this entry »

Bernanos and Carmel

July 16, 2010


St. Teresa of the Andes

Our Lady of Mount Carmel, whose feast the universal Church celebrates today, is observed as a national holiday in Chile (where, by the way, I’ve been working this summer), the country consecrated to Mary under this title.  And perhaps not coincidentally, the first Chilean to be canonized was St. Teresa of the Andes (1900-1920), the Carmelite nun who died at the age of 19 after only 11 months of religious life–and without, it would seem, leaving so much as a ripple on the surface of Chilean society.  Teresa was canonized quite simply for “living, believing, and loving”.  Chile has, of course, her industrious “Martha” as well in the person of St. Alberto Hurtado, SJ (1901-1952), the social thinker, founder of institutions, and father of the poor.  But, all in all, the spirit of Carmel has been more notable in Chile over these last days.  And despite my loyalty to my Jesuit confreres, I have to admit that there is a special urgency to the holiness of Carmel.  For attention to the Church’s esteem for “unaccomplished,” contemplative lives helps to disambiguate two ideals so easily confused in our age: Christian holiness and philanthropic moralism—with the latter being understood more or less as the duty to reduce human human suffering whenever possible.

The Chilean Church’s seemingly disproportionate joy over these feasts of Carmel reminded me of a letter written by Georges Bernanos that I ran across some years back (and that has haunted me ever since). Read the rest of this entry »

What I love about House

July 2, 2010

I don’t watch much TV, but I’m beginning to suspect I have an addiction to House, M.D.  This might be appropriate, given that the show’s main character, Dr. Gregory House, is himself recovering from an addiction to painkillers.

House might seem like an unlikely, dare I say even unhealthy, addiction to develop.  As a Jesuit friend observed to me, explaining why he couldn’t stand the show, “He’s just so mean.”  And, I admit, Dr. House is not a very nice guy.

Read the rest of this entry »