Wednesday, December 17, 2008

After Avarice

Comes faith. At least in New York, of all places!
I was waiting for this story to be written, and here it is.

Now, the Canadian Finance minister today announced that he expects the Canadian economy to shrink next year by 0.4%. Let's put that into perspective: the average economic growth in Canada over the past 15 years since the last recession has remained at ... what, a healthy 3% or so? Ok, let's say 2.5% per annum. That's a 37.5% increase in economic output since 1993, much of which is due to productivity gains c/o the internet.

This current projected 0.4% decline is barely going to put a dint on a decade and a half of production of goods and services, including the concomitant accumulation of wealth. So, let's ask a journalist to write the obvious story: the economic crisis is NOT what the media, in its frothing fervor, is making it out to be. Or, am I missing something?

Update, Jan. 23: 1) There has been a revision in the forecast for the percentage decline in GDP over the next few months, or actually, several revisions. The basic point of this post still holds however: if the economy were to shrink by an astonishing 5% in a few months, that is still a relatively small chunk of the GDP growth that we've experienced over the past decade and a half - we still need perspective on all the doom and gloom, no matter how gloomy it all sounds.

2) Check out this Canadian version of the Times' story, published Jan. 23. Seems Canadian news too often - and tediously - recycles the more exhilarating American story.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Wendell Berry & Herman Daly... almost live

Here is something a bit off the beaten track [for this blog]: the transcript from a panel discussion concerning agriculture and the support that could be provided for a different kind of rural economy, but with some gems about education, moral choices and all the other predicaments that attend the relationships between these things. Go to around pp. 13-14 for some really good chuckles... at the expense of certain economists I might add.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Monasticism and modernity

A short, pithy yet surprisingly sympathetic account of the Clear Creek Benedictine monastery in Oklahoma appears in the online Slate magazine recently. I'm not sold on the theological urgency of the Latin rite liturgy, to which this new monastic community takes a shining. Though aesthetically, I see the appeal straight away. And because of the aesthetic appeal, there are spiritual benefits that outweigh the benefits of the post Vatican II Catholic mass celebrated in the vernacular.

The intriguing reference in this article to groups of families uprooting themselves to go and live near the monastery is fairly instructive. With all the doom and gloom associated with the so-called economic "crisis" (Note: if you want to see what economic crisis really looks like, go visit the Gaza strip or a Lima, Peru shantytown), this development of a virtual mini-economy that is self-sufficient and centered on the manufacture of crafted goods is very important. What many people instinctively think of as an ideal way of life never-to-be realized is in fact very real, once the discipline of self-sacrifice and the limits of an agricultural (and therefore cyclical) way of life is embraced.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Richard Dawkins' Intolerance

Yet more evidence, and it's looking more authoritarian than ever. Robert Boyle and the other founders of the Royal Society are spinning in their graves.

Down with "Wall St." - Up with Adam Smith localism

Here is an interesting piece by Philip Blond (not Bond as the newspaper website has it) on why there are theological and moral roots to the current economic turmoil. The focus on what is happening in the United States hides the fact that in Europe too, there are serious economic imbalances owing to huge debts taken on by governments and households alike. I am looking forward to reading more of Blond's radical toryism in his forthcoming book. Here, his insistence on localism, as the logical tie-in with the Judaeo-Christian moral framework, consists of an important antidote to the mess into which globalization is leading us.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Theologians huddle

Pope Benedict XVI, John Milbank and Stanley Hauerwas (from right to left... wink wink) - to be an eavesdropper on that conversation would be a treat. See here for more info on the context for the meeting...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Abstract for submitted paper on the Soul

The following is an abstract for a paper I've submitted for publication:
Critical responses to classical body-soul dualism claim that physicalism is compatible with core Christian theological doctrines. Yet, such critics reject the soul as a doctrine that is unsubstantiated by scientific perspectives on personhood. This paper argues that the soul is a plausible concept that is coherent with emergence theory and the Thomist tradition, particularly in the thought of philosopher Bernard Lonergan. In the first part, I outline the Thomist perspective on the soul in terms of the substantial form of the person. I describe Lonergan’s interpretation of the Thomist perspective. For Lonergan, unlike classical Thomists, the soul is an ordering principle for the exercise of a wider rationality, one which mediates the self-transcendence of human subjects, moral emotions and God’s grace. Second, I show how the application of emergence theory to human personhood in act corroborates Lonergan’s account. For both Lonergan and emergence theorists, consciousness and mind are evolutionary realities which demonstrate top-down causation. The mind’s unified free potential implies the existence of the soul, a natural form that I show to be confused with the specifically theological concept of the imago dei, of humanity as image of God. In concluding remarks, I suggest that human dignity is a moral/political concept that necessitates a prior ontological evaluation of ordered personhood.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Culture of death

I don't cite Richard Neuhaus too often, but sometimes it's impossible not to. In today's FT blog, his recent address to a Right to Life conference includes this gem:

The culture of death is an idea before it is a deed. I expect many of us here, perhaps most of us here, can remember when we were first encountered by the idea. For me, it was in the 1960s when I was pastor of a very poor, very black, inner city parish in Brooklyn, New York. I had read that week an article by Ashley Montagu of Princeton University on what he called “A Life Worth Living.” He listed the qualifications for a life worth living: good health, a stable family, economic security, educational opportunity, the prospect of a satisfying career to realize the fullness of one’s potential. These were among the measures of what was called “a life worth living.”

And I remember vividly, as though it were yesterday, looking out the next Sunday morning at the congregation of St. John the Evangelist and seeing all those older faces creased by hardship endured and injustice afflicted, and yet radiating hope undimmed and love unconquered. And I saw that day the younger faces of children deprived of most, if not all, of those qualifications on Prof. Montagu’s list. And it struck me then, like a bolt of lightning, a bolt of lightning that illuminated our moral and cultural moment, that Prof. Montagu and those of like mind believed that the people of St. John the Evangelist—people whom I knew and had come to love as people of faith and kindness and endurance and, by the grace of God, hope unvanquished—it struck me then that, by the criteria of the privileged and enlightened, none of these my people had a life worth living. In that moment, I knew that a great evil was afoot. The culture of death is an idea before it is a deed.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Theo-politics lite - Milbank et al

This post from the Ipsum Esse blog is intriguing for its' discussion of the mixture of conservative and socialist political orientations within a distinctly Christian set of commitments. The immediate point of reference is British politics, but the ramifications are far broader in scope.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Quote of the Day

"In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute."
- U.S. justice Thurgood Marshall (1908 - 1993)

Thursday, July 3, 2008

An Anti-dote to the Dis-"order of canada"

Written by a formerly pro-choice woman who walks the reader through her conversions step-by step. Wonderful.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

On Teaching in the University

Here is a moderately interesting article by Nicholas Guilhot with links to more arresting reflections on teaching in higher education, a common pre-occupation of mine. And toward the end, a good quote:

"in most countries where a primarily public higher education system is being restructured according to these principles, students don’t want more loans that will be used to pay for expensive Masters selling mostly a brand name and to mortgage an already uncertain future income. They usually want more teachers who have more time to engage with them, and extended library hours rather than a more expensive version of Courseworks or WebCT. As for those of us who believe that teaching should remain primarily a meaningful and enriching form of socialization, we should ask ourselves what we can do to meet their demands and to avoid becoming the tamed simians of the Taylorized academic factory."

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

By analogy...

See this lampooning of creationist / ID thought... or is his tongue in his cheek? Oh boy.

Monday, June 9, 2008


Obama conservatives? Yes, apparently. Andrew Sullivan is calling them Obamacons. The TNR is on it here. First Things has weighed in last week with a piece by Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, which "encourages" pro-life Obama supporters. "Encourages", as in : goooooooooooood luck!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

R.R. Reno on Traditional Marriage

Citing Doug Farrow's latest book, here is R.R. Reno's brief yet articulate defense of traditional marriage. However, I see problems with the reference to the blanket castigation the left's embrace of the state. Thinking only, for the moment, of important social teachings of various religious traditions, the Catholic Church included, it appears that the defense of traditional marriage is going to need further nuancing when it comes to the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate claims of the state in order for this defense to be credible. This would be my twist on it - again, a kind of left conservatism. Embracing traditional marriage while at the same time seeing plenty of room for the state as a central actor to promote or restore justice and equity as in the social democratic political tradition. This tradition is an excellent example of a politics of true toleration - a central role for the state practiced by various European governments for decades which did not - in the main - interfere in family life.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

My piece in the Montreal Gazette

Here is a piece I wrote in response to a story in the April 13 Gazette (Montreal) on the local Catholic archdiocese's public fundraising campaign, which is designed to stave off parish closures and similar signs of decline in Catholic life in Montreal.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Best Blog piece of 2008 so far

It comes from Edward Oakes, which does not surprise. Here is a brilliant analysis of the new atheism that goes somewhat further than the many critiques I've read. His leading idea is that by ignoring the 'predictions' of Nietzsche regarding certain inevitable consequences of atheist belief, the new atheists are engaging in a rhetoric, the thrust of which is a resort to violence. Read on...