History and Compromise at ‘The Everyman’

My latest post at The Everyman is up, comparing our present world to Austria in the 1930s. It’s depressingly apt.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:

A virulent ideological movement is spreading through a nation’s institutions. It presents itself as the wave of the future, elevating those who have been beaten down, and as a long-overdue correction of past injustices. It pretends to regard any attack on its mission as an attack on the people it claims to be advocating for and any check on its momentum as the cruelest of tyrannies. Those who oppose it are condemned as being motivated by hatred, base personal gain, or because they are beholden to entrenched interests. It is supported by student radicals who, encouraged by their professors, use protests and organized violence to silence dissent. It employs racially charged rhetoric, condemning one group in particular on account of their real or supposed past crimes. People suddenly find old friends and family members cutting ties, turning on them, or uttering shockingly brutal rhetoric. Riots and violent unrest become increasingly common as the supporters of the ideology seek to impose it upon their neighbors.

Meanwhile the Church (with a few exceptions), either mostly dithers or is complicit by focusing on the superficial points of common ground rather than the fundamentally anti-Christian nature of the ideology. Instead, the movement is chiefly opposed by an energetic, highly controversial political leader who couches his battle in terms of the nation’s historical ideals and identity.

Sound familiar?

As you probably guessed, I’m not referring to America in 2020. I’m referring to Austria in 1934. It has become gauche and tedious to make Nazi comparisons, and for good reason. The analogy has become so abused, misapplied, and overused that it now means practically nothing. And the worst of it is that we always seem to miss the real point of that sad episode of history, a point that really deserves to be brought into greater clarity.

One of the most fascinating accounts of the Nazi conquest of Germany and Austria is the memoir, My Struggle Against Hitler, by the great German philosopher Dietrich Von Hildebrand. In it he recounts his flight from Nazi Germany and his life of exile in Austria, where he used a journal called Der Christlich Standestaat (The Christian Corporate State), to wage an unending philosophical battle against the Nazis until Hitler’s Anschluss with Austria in 1938 forced him to flee once again.

What strikes me again and again in reading Von Hildebrand’s words is how willing so many people were to go along with the Nazis and how extensively and aggressively the Nazi ideology was pushed, compared to how hesitant and diffident most of the opposition was. Nazism really was the popular, dynamic, progressive ideology of the day. Those who opposed it were condemned as hating Germany and Germans, or at best considered quaintly backwards and Quixotic, since Nazism was obviously the way of the future.

The narrative then was “we have to find a way to work with Hitler” or “there are many points of similarity between Nazism and Christianity, such as value of the nation, of authority, and so on.” Or else “yes, but the Jews really are deplorable. They really do need to be taken down a peg.”

Again, this should all sound familiar (“many Communists have a truly Christian ethic” etc.), but again, to liken the American Left, or Red China, or any other evil ideological movement to the Nazis is not really the point here. For, as these examples themselves indicate, points of likeness can nearly always be found if you care to look for them. That in itself doesn’t mean much.

My point is that the rise of all these movements serves to illustrate the same lesson taught repeatedly in Scripture: that no man can serve two masters. Neither a person or a nation can hold to two contradictory ideologies. Nazism and Christianity, as are Christianity and Socialism, are essentially contradictory. This fact makes all compromise and all accommodation impossible. Worse, any such attempt to do so will mean actively damaging Christianity and Christian culture by obscuring its real character.

Read the rest here.

Patriotism

You know what makes me the most angry, looking back? The fact of being told so many times that I shouldn’t be.

I should be sad. I should be aware of the complexities of the situation. I should have sympathy for those in other countries. But I shouldn’t be angry. I shouldn’t feel it personally.

No one I knew died that day. In the years since, my political views, and my views of America as a country, and even the very concept of the modern nation satate have changed considerably (Or rather, have clarified).

None of that makes a difference. Because whatever I may think about it, America is part of me, as much as my own hands and feet, my own blood. It is something I have inherited, not something I have chosen for myself, and nothing can change that. I owe it piety simply on account of the fact that it is my country, just as I owe my parents piety simply because they are my parents.

That may mean criticizing it, lamenting over it, praying for its reformation, but it can never mean being indifferent to it. It cannot mean standing back and taking a ‘nuanced’ view when the country has been attacked. To do so would not be to show reason or balance or open-mindedness or any of that nonsense. It shows a cramped, ugly little soul trying to hold itself aloof from its duties. It is a mark of that atomistic individualism that accepts benefits and denies responsibilities, that imagines itself to be wholly self-created, self-ruling, and self-sufficient.

But this, it seems, is the kind of person we are expected to be. Patriotism has been despised, deconstructed, and ridiculed with ever increasing vehemence for generations. Now it has practically been marked as a secular sin. We are gleeful to tear down our own country, to dig up its sins and failures, to spit in the faces of its heroes.

No one lives in a vacuum. No one can be without a tradition, without a culture, without a country. Broad-minded cosmopolitanism, ‘multiculturalism’, that seeks to sympathize with all nations and none at the same time, only ever means impiety toward your own.

Piety to country, to heritage, is part of traditionalism (for want of a better term). Again, that doesn’t mean ignoring or papering over past or present crimes; it means recognizing that this is where you come from and this is who you are. A German is a German, a Frenchman is a Frenchman, an Englishman is an Englishman, and that doesn’t change because they can all look back and see horrible things done in the name of Germany, France, and England. It is your duty, in such cases, to seek to redeem its name, to at least ensure that such things shall not be done by you. That you, at least, shall honor its name by your life, whatever your brothers do or have done. But the duty of piety towards one’s country simply because it is one’s country is never lessened.

That means being angry when it is attacked.

And so it is that this day every year brings back those painful memories of being struck hard by an enemy. And of subsequently having half my fellows preening themselves by evading the term ‘enemy’ and turning the event around into yet another impious attack on their own nation.

BREATHES there the man with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
‘This is my own, my native land!’
Whose heart hath ne’er within him burn’d
As home his footsteps he hath turn’d
From wandering on a foreign strand?
If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no Minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim;
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonour’d, and unsung.
-Sir Walter Scott

The Last Star has Gone Out

Olivia de Havilland, star of Gone with the Wind, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and dozens of other classic films, has passed away at the age of 104. She was Errol Flynn’s chief leading lady — they starred in eight films together, including his star-making role Captain Blood — one of the principle leads of Gone with the Wind and one of the great beauties of the Golden Age of Hollywood.

She was also the last one. The Golden Age of Hollywood is now officially consigned to the history books. John Wayne, Cary Grant, James Stewart, Maureen O’Hara, Katherine Hepburn, Jean Arthur, John Ford, Frank Capra, Cecil B. DeMille, Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland; they’re all gone. Whatever might be said of that vast cast of filmmakers, writers, actors and actresses, whatever might be said of the studio system that they worked for, they produced some mighty fine stories; stories that remain meaningful, entertaining, and uplifting even when all those who made them have passed away. That, I think, counts for something.

In any case, that era is now over. The last star of Hollywood has gone out.

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May her soul and the soul of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace.

Men are we, and must grieve when even the Shade
Of that which once was great, is passed away
.

Everyman Corona Thoughts

I offer some of my thoughts on the present insanity at The Everyman:

In fact, we are wedded to the idea that any given problem is solvable, and that we – those fortunate enough to be born in the age of science and reason – do not have to put up with what our poor benighted ancestors did. They may have suffered from cholera and typhus and smallpox, but with our medical care and hygiene, these things are in the past. They may have had to put up with world wars, institutional oppression, and grinding poverty, but we have evolved beyond that and know how to eliminate these things. It is, in fact, an article of faith with us that we can make a heaven on Earth and become like gods, if we have enough laws, enough knowledge, and enough good will.

This is what might be termed ‘Progressivism’, the belief in the advancement of man, so that man today is superior to man yesterday, and that man tomorrow will be greater still, and that mankind may, through science and reason, come to rule his world and supply all his wants and needs in perfect contentment. This is the chief religion of the modern west, and has been for some time, even among many who still claim the name of Christian.

The credentials of this faith rest on the real advancements, mostly in science and medicine, that have been made over the past few hundred years. Its promise is that it will, eventually, be able to do the same for every ailment of mankind. If we can’t do it yet, we will be able to in the future, but certainly there are no permanent evils of the human race; only those who have some interest in keeping their fellow men down would say such a thing (these same oppressors serve as excellent scapegoats when the promised benefits fail to materialize).

Consequently, we always have to do something in the face of any given problem. If there is an illness, we must march for the cure. If a Starbucks employee seems to act in a racist fashion, the company must impose sweeping new policies. If there is a shooting, we must impose gun control. If there is poverty, we must expand welfare. The point isn’t whether these things solve the problem, the point is that we can never admit that a problem is outside of our control, or that the best we can do is endure, because to do that would be to deny our faith in Progress.

Read the rest here.

A parting question:
Which had greater long term consequences; the Spanish Flu or the Great Depression?

An Important Video And Certain Questions

The following is a video that more people need to see. From the description:

Prof. Dr. med. Sucharit Bhakdi, specialist in microbiology and infection epidemiology, headed the Institute for Medical Microbiology and Hygiene at the University of Mainz for 22 years. He wrote an open letter to the Chancellor with 5 questions that require immediate answers to determine how justified the current massive restrictions on our fundamental rights are. The video explains the questions and their background.

It’s in German, but you can turn on subtitles:

Me, I don’t know the medical answers to this whole Corona thing. I’ve heard from both sides, people saying that it really is seriously dangerous and people saying it’s ridiculously overblown. But the most convincing arguments I’ve heard is that “we don’t know for sure. The data is too garbled and too incomplete.”

When I don’t have the relevant knowledge to decide for myself, I try to look at the arguments being made and, especially, what is being done or proposed to be done on either side.

Which side stays within its evidence? Which side makes clear distinctions between like and unlike cases? Which side lays its data out in the open and admits where that data is lacking? Which side tries to account for conflicts of interests, motivations, or emotions *on its own side*? Are they asking the same questions? If not, which side asks which questions?

And what does each side propose to be done?

I offer the video and these questions for your own consideration.

The Embodiment of Christendom

On Good Friday, the Archbishop of Paris held a small service in Notre Dame Cathedral, during which the Crown of Thorns was venerated. Only a handful of people were permitted to attend, and one of them, French actress Judith Chemla, concluded the service with the Ave Maria.

This, it seems to me, is the embodiment of Christendom in 2020: a tiny group of people standing amidst the half-ruined works of our ancestors, looking up at the cross and the few relics that have been preserved, and offering an ancient prayer into the silence.

An Architectural Fisk

Dipping a little into politics with this one. Kind of.

I recently learned that President Trump has drafted an executive order entitled Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again. Basically, it orders that “classical and traditional architectural styles” should be the default for constructing new Federal Buildings in the future, specifically saying that styles like ‘brutalism’ and ‘deconstructionism’ should not be used.

You know, I think that if I weren’t already, this alone would be enough to make me want to vote for Trump.

Predictably (you know, since it was a conscious action attributed to the Orange Wonder and all), it’s been met with outrage from some quarters. In particular, the American Institute of Architects issued a statement condemning the order.

I was going to do a quick article about this, but I found I had so much to say about the AIA’s tone-deaf and self-satisfied take that it turned into a full-on fisk.

Here is the link to the article, which is reproduced below; their comments are in italics, mine are in bold.

The American Institute of Architects has called on members to sign an open letter to the Trump Administration after a plan to introduce an order that all federal buildings should be built in the “classical architectural style” was discovered.

That sounds to me rather like the AIA is dictating to its members what their views on architecture should be. A rather odd note to start an argument couched in terms of artistic freedom. But that might be reading too much into it: we’ll see.

The AIA released the statement and online petition for the White House yesterday, shortly after the Architectural Record revealed it had obtained a draft of the order, called Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again.

If approved, it would update the 1962 Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture to make classical architecture the required style for any US federal courthouse.

Thank God!

A friend of mine, when I mentioned this, said this may be one of the most significant things Trump has done. He’s quite right. The thing about architecture is that it lasts; it’s not like a painting where, when it goes out of style you can stick it in a back room or quietly burn it in the dead of night with certain ceremonies. The building cost $70 million dollars to build and you can’t replace it until you have a very, very good reason to. Worse than that, you have to keep using it. A bad painting you look at and look away. A bad book you put back on the shelf after the third nonsensical chapter and never touch again. A bad building sits there for decades and forces you and everyone in the vicinity to notice it day after day.

Moreover, since buildings last so long, we are in effect giving them to our children; telling them, through architecture, who we are and what we value.

The Middle Ages left us Cathedrals, proclaiming the glory of God. The 19th century left us the US Capital proclaiming its belief in Republican government. We are going to be leaving a series of grey cubes proclaiming that we don’t care a straw about either the past or the future.  

That is why this is so significant; if Trump carries his point, he could ensure at least a partial uplifting of the American landscape for decades to come. Imagine beautiful new buildings actually being constructed all across the nation, buildings that people would enjoy going to work at, that we would be glad to show to our children, which have real character, and which we can picture growing old and venerable without ever going out of style.

We did that once, you know. In fact, we did it for most of our history. No reason we can’t do it again.

Also, as you’ll see from reading the order, it doesn’t say that classical architecture is “required” but that it or some other traditional and publicly preferred architectural style should be the “default” and only be deviated from for a good reason and after due consideration.  

The AIA said that it “strongly and unequivocally” opposed the change, which would also affect federal public buildings costing over $50 million (£38 million).

“A top-down directive on architectural style”

“The AIA strongly condemns the move to enforce a top-down directive on architectural style,” the organisation (sic) wrote in the open letter.

“Design decisions should be left to the designer and the community, not bureaucrats in Washington, DC,” it added. “All architectural styles have value and all communities have the right to weigh in on the government buildings meant to serve them.”

Okay, lots to unpack there. First, if you’re designing a building for the Federal Government, then the government very clearly should have a say in this matter. As the order lays out: how people see federal buildings affects how they view the Federal Government. Now, I have no love for the US Government as it currently exists, but surely the government is within its rights to set guidelines on how it is represented and ought to be allowed to at least attempt to clean up its image.

It’s funny that they add “and the community” and that “all communities have the right to weigh in on the buildings meant to serve them.” In the first place, I doubt any community, when asked, would knowingly choose a brutalist or deconstructionist style over classical ones. When (as we shall see) the present guidelines say to adhere to “the finest contemporary architectural thought,” it recommends adhering to something that just about everyone who isn’t an architect thinks is boring, ugly, depressing, or faintly ridiculous. In fact, the new order specifically points out the simple fact that most of the public do not like the kinds of designs that the AIA are promoting and much prefer more traditional designs.

In the name of the community, we disregard the community’s opinions (this is a common tactic of Progressives, by the way; as long as you claim to be representing the collective, any individual who disagrees with you can be disregarded, even if his views represent those of the majority of common people and yours are held only by a tiny cadre of elites). 

And besides, what is “the finest contemporary architectural thought” but a top-down directive on architectural style from an insular, select group of artists, architects, and critics? Because if you try to tell me that the distorted grey rectangle design arose organically from the community, I will laugh at you.

Also, in the order, it recommends that some proposed designs be reviewed by a public committee, specifically not made of engineers, architects, artists, or anything of the kind, so that, you know, the actual community should have a say in what they work in and have to stare at for the next few decades.

In short, when you read what is actually being said, the White House specifically calls for the local community to have a say in the kind of buildings they want, while the AIA is tacitly in favor of ignoring this in favor of what they think the community should want. 

According to the AIA, “classical architecture” as defined by the White House is derived from classical Greek and Roman architecture. There are some “allowances for ‘traditional architectural style'”, which include Gothic, Romanesque, and Spanish colonial.

 ‘Allowances’ seems to imply that the order sets stringent conditions for allowing other traditional styles. In fact, they’re pretty much just broadly encouraged, provided they are aesthetically pleasing and (where applicable) fit the local heritage. What is properly said to be ‘allowed’ is “experimentation with new, alternative styles”, with the proviso that “care must be taken to fully ensure that such alternative designs command respect by the public for their beauty and visual embodiment of America’s ideals.”

That is really the whole point of this order; when you make federal buildings, make sure they command respect and admiration rather than disgust and ridicule, and that they are suitable expressions of American ideals.

Is that seriously so much to ask?

Any references to Brutalism, the controversial style that only dates back to the 1950s, would be banned entirely.

Again, thank God.

“High bar” of new order would limit exceptions

‘Limit expectations’? What exactly do you think people’s expectations for modern architecture are now? Are you aware that it is considered, at best, a joke?

While the guidelines for Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again allow for the inclusion of some other architectural styles, the AIA said that the rules are so stringent they would limit creativity.

Yep, the styles that gave us the Parthenon, St. Peter’s Basilica, Hagia Sophia, Buckingham Palace, the Hofburg, Notre Dame Cathedral, Versailles, the whole city of Florence, and the US Capital Building are so limiting that they’ve only been in vogue for two-and-a-half millennia or so. They pale in comparison to the chance of making a box or another box or a distorted box. 

“The high bar required to satisfy the process described within the executive order would all but restrict the ability to design the federal buildings under this order in anything but the preferred style,” the added AIA.

Yes, that is kind of the point, and God forbid that a high bar be set for buildings representing the nation. And, again, this really isn’t that high a bar: make something people actually want to look at and work in rather than yet-another monument to your own inflated egos.

The existing Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture were written for President Kennedy by New York senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who architecture critic Paul Goldberger described as “the most architecturally sophisticated Federal official since Thomas Jefferson”.

I wonder what the designer of Monticello would have to say about your Goldberger’s idea of good architecture. In any case, I’m sure that if the senator promoted the kind of architecture that Goldberger liked, he would say anything and everything in his praise.

All I hear from this paragraph is “we are the smart people, you’re the stupid ones, so shut up and do as you’re told.”  

The new order – which is named after Trump’s campaign slogan Make America Great Again – comes in contrast to Moynihan’s guidelines, which call for the “finest contemporary American architectural thought”.

For illustration purposes, here are some examples of “the finest contemporary American architectural thought.”

 

File:Frances Perkins Building.JPG - Wikimedia Commons

Seems to me they’re already having trouble thinking outside the box, as it were.

Now here are some examples of designs that ‘stifle creativity’


40 Plantation Home Designs - Historical & Contemporary

Please get this through your head, AIA; we, the American people, have had half a century of what you consider “the finest contemporary American architectural thought,” AND WE HATE IT.

“Design must flow from the architectural profession to the Government”

As far as I can tell, the Government isn’t dictating what kind of designs you can make; only which ones it will pay to have represent it to future generations. You can design any kind of building you like there, Mr. Roark; just don’t go thinking you have an unalienable right to have someone drop a hundred million dollars to let you build it.

“The development of an official style must be avoided,” the guidelines read.

Why? Why should an ‘official style’ be avoided? In fact, seeing as how this is to represent the American government, and to an extent the American nation, doesn’t that mean there absolutely should be an ‘official style’ to convey the message “this is who we are” or “this is what the government looks like and aspires to be”? Again, the order makes this very point: that the classical style was chosen for Washington DC (by Washington and Jefferson themselves) specifically to make a statement of what they hoped the country would be. Unless you are suggesting that there should be no common ideal or no common identity for the United States (which is the same as saying that there should be no United States: an opinion that you can’t really expect the Federal Government to share), then on what possible grounds do you say that an official style should be avoided?  

“Design must flow from the architectural profession to the Government and not vice versa.”

Again, one, the ‘architectural profession’ as you define it has largely shown itself to be incompetent in this regard, and two, when the Government is the one footing the bill and will be represented by the final result, it really, really ought to be the one picking the design. The way you put it sounds like an elaborate way of saying, “shut up and like what your betters give to you.”

Also, to paraphrase someone whom I suspect is a rather more astute critic than Mr. Goldberger (namely Pinkie Pie), what kind of artist doesn’t like beauty? That’s insane!

The order is among a number of political issues that the AIA and the Trump Administration have locked heads over, including the climate treaty withdrawal and his immigration policies.

Those certainly sound like topics on which architects would have special knowledge and interest in.

In particular, the two have been at loggerheads over climate change after the president revealed his intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement in 2017. The following year, AIA called on its members to sign an open letter to Trump as a means of voicing its opposition to his climate change policies.

Again, why is the American Institute of Architects directing its members on what they should think about climate change? While complaining that being set guidelines of what kinds of designs will be accepted by a particular client is a top-down imposition? I have no idea how the organization works, but it honestly sounds much more autocratic to tell your members – who no doubt derive professional benefit from being part of your organization and would suffer if that membership were lost – what you expect them to say on given political issues than that the government would set broad style guidelines for its official buildings.

Late last year, it called for Trump to reverse his “shortsighted decision” to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement amid the global climate crisis.

Gottta love the institution that champions things like Brutalism over classical architecture having the gall to call anyone ‘shortsighted.’

Quoth Rifftrax: “And you can burn in Hell if you think this problem can’t be solved with a rectangle. In Hell.”

Read the full statement from the AIA below:

What follows is mostly what we just read. Which kind of makes me wonder why they bothered with the above article rather than just posting the statement. I suppose it was a word count issue (which would also explain the odd digressions into climate change and immigration).  

The AIA learned several months ago that there is a draft executive order being circulated by the Trump Administration for consideration by agency officials that would officially designate “classical” architecture as the preferred style of all U.S. federal courthouses.

We have voiced our fervent opposition directly to the White House and officials in the relevant agencies. Additionally, all federal public buildings in the Capital region would be required to adhere to the same “classical” style (and all other federal public buildings whose costs exceed $50 million in modern dollars). The AIA strongly and unequivocally opposes this change in policy to promote any one style of architecture over another for federal buildings across the country.

The draft executive order defines “classical architectural style” to mean architectural features derived from classical Greek and Roman architecture. There are some allowances for “traditional architectural style” which is defined to mean classical architecture along with Gothic, Romanesque, and Spanish colonial. The draft executive order specifically prohibits the use of Brutalist architecture, or its derivatives, in any circumstance.

Except for Brutalism, there is some language in the draft executive order that would allow for other architectural styles to be used. However, the high bar required to satisfy the process described within the executive order would all but restrict the ability to design the federal buildings under this order in anything but the preferred style.

Again, this narrow ‘preferred style’ being “anything used in the civilized world up until about 1950,” or basically anything that is actually pleasing to look at, with allowances for experimentation provided you come up with something actually good that doesn’t trample on the local community.  

The AIA strongly condemns the move to enforce a top-down directive on architectural style. Design decisions should be left to the designer and the community, not bureaucrats in Washington, DC. All architectural styles have value…

You’ve pretty much disproved that over the past few years.

…and all communities have the right to weigh in on the government buildings meant to serve them.

What strikes me most about this statement is the way it is framed as though the architects who can command multi-million dollar projects and the socially-connected art critics who set the standards of “high-brow taste” are the victims here and the people who prefer beautiful buildings over ugly ones are the ones out of line. I noticed something similar in the entertainment world, where some people get furious if ever ordinary viewers dare to criticize or fail to support a multimillion-dollar corporation’s bad product (e.g. some people actually were angry that Sonic’s design was changed, since it was ‘catering to the fanboys’). This usually comes from those most apt to express their solidarity with the common man and hatred for large corporations and the like. Go figure.

 In any case, the situation, as I see it, is this. For the past half-a-century or more the AIA and its ilk have simply been creating bad work. They have been permitted to do so because of a transitory accident of taste and ideology among those with decision making powers. Now Trump is issuing an order that the Federal Government should no longer accept this kind of work.

Because when you design a multi-million-dollar building that represents the United States of America and will do so for at least the next several decades, it is just possible that your personal artistic vision is not the most important factor.  

Saint John Henry Newman

It’s rare that we get good news from the Church these days, so cherish it when it comes! Cardinal Newman, the great English convert of the 19th century, whose return to Rome sparked something of a Catholic renaissance in that noble, yet obstinate island kingdom, is now declared a Saint. 

Cardinal Newman is one of those writers whom I regard as something of a personal spiritual master – though alas, I haven’t read as much of him as I would like – along with St. Francis de Sales, Dietriech von Hildebrand, and Professor Tolkien. What I mean is that his approach to spirituality, his understanding of the world, and his insights are of the kind that fit especially with my own personality and make the most sense to me. This, incidentally, is one of the glorious things about the Communion of Saints: there are so many and they are all so unique that if one doesn’t make an appeal to you, there are always others who will. The transforming power of Christ can be expressed through an infinity of personalities; in one it leads to the recklessly joyful abandon of a St. Francis, in another the intense focus and genius of a St. Thomas, and in still another the energy and regal authority of a St. Lewis.

St. John Henry Newman (not to be confused – though I’m sure he will be – with St. John Neuman, Bishop of Philadelphia) was more of the St. Thomas school; a crushingly brilliant scholar and masterful writer, he found his way into the Church through careful study of the early fathers and church history, along with his perceptive understanding of the flaws in Anglicanism and Protestantism. The account of this journey he laid down in his masterful autobiography Apologia pro Vita Sua, then later presented a fictionalized account of his experience in Loss and Gain: the Story of a Soul, both of which I have read and highly recommend, not only for their spiritual and theological insights, but also for the beautiful portrait of a now lost world of manners, intellect, and peace: the world of the middle and upper class England of the early-to-mid 19th century. Newman was as much a part of that world as St. Thomas was of the Medieval, and his example and ideas of gentlemanly behavior are, perhaps, as important a witness as any other to us today.

Loss and Gain mostly amounts to intelligent young Englishmen sitting around holding intellectual discussions. For me that’s enough to make it interesting, but I suppose it’s an acquired taste (though there is a very funny scene near the end where the hero is besieged by advocates for fashionable new religious communions, apparently figuring that if he’s considering Rome he must be up for grabs). Apologia is definitely worth reading both for the insight into his own life and for the brilliant argumentation on display (it was prompted by a slanderous attack by the Reverend Charles Kingsley, author of Westward Ho!, who was a virulent anti-Catholic and accused Newman of being secretly in the employ of the Roman Church all along. Seeing the Saint destroy his accusations is a delightful exercise in proper argumentation).

Alas, I’m not in a position to give a really good overview of St. John Henry Newman’s life or works: I’ve read (or listened to) several, but he is a great river and I can’t claim to have explored more than a few stretches. Suffice to say, he is an ornament to the Church, and his kind of clarity and intellectual insight are desperately needed today.

I shall let him have the final word:

“[T]here is no medium, in true philosophy, between Atheism and Catholicity, and…a perfectly consistent mind, under those circumstances in which it finds itself here below must embrace either the one or the other.”
-Apologia

Lead, kindly Light, amid th’ encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on;
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on;
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou
Shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path, but now
Lead Thou me on;
I loved the garish day, and spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will; remember not past years.

So long Thy pow’r has blest me, sure it still
Wilt lead me on,
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile,
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.

Ora pro nobis.

Realist Catholic Climate Declaration

WM Briggs, Statistician to the Stars, presents the second draft of what a Catholic Declaration on Climate ought to look like. Short, sweet, and to point:

The Magisterium of the Catholic Church has no, and should not have, an official position on the earth’s optimal atmospheric mean temperature, nor on the best rate of change of this temperature. Neither optimum is known to anybody.

The earth’s climate has always changed, is changing now, and will never cease changing. There is no earthly force capable of stopping climate change.

Mankind influences the atmosphere, as does every creature and thing. The extent to which man is responsible for climate change is not known, only surmised.

Extreme caution, even skepticism, is warranted in any statement about global warming given the decades of failed and overreaching forecasts and hyperbole from official and interested sources. Beyond individual prudent stewardship, no Catholic is obligated to support any environmental measure.

There is no evidence any particular global temperature will cause fewer or more souls to descend into Hell. Pray to God and pray for your neighbor, not to the planet.

It is an appalling state of affairs for the Church that the Bishops waste their time on trendy issues like climate change in an age where the very foundations of not only Christianity, but rational human culture itself are under such relentless attack (people are being hounded and losing their jobs for saying that male and female are real categories and you’re issuing statements about the weather). It would be as if, after Pearl Harbor, the US directed the bulk of its forces to prevent a resurgence of the Mexican Empire: ignoring a clear and present danger to guard against a theoretical one that isn’t even relevant to your responsibilities.

There is honestly no excuse for this kind of negligence and incompetence.