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The Liberty Amendments by Mark Levin (Advanced Chapter 1)

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I undertook this project not because I believe the Constitution, as originally structured, is outdated and outmoded, thereby requiring modernization through amendments, but because of the opposite—that is, the necessity and urgency of restoring constitutional republicanism and preserving the civil society from the growing authoritarianism of a federal Leviathan. This is not doomsaying or fear-mongering but an acknowledgment of fact. The Statists have been successful in their century-long march to disfigure and mangle the constitutional order and undo the social compact. To disclaim the Statists’ campaign and aims is to imprudently ignore the inventions and schemes hatched and promoted openly by their philosophers, experts, and academics, and the coercive application of their designs on the citizenry by a delusional governing elite. Their handiwork is omnipresent, for all to see— 1
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2 MARK R. LEVIN

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a centralized and consolidated government with a ubiquitous net- work of laws and rules actively suppressing individual initiative, self-interest, and success in the name of the greater good and on behalf of the larger community. Nearly all will be emasculated by it, including the inattentive, ambivalent, and disbelieving.

The nation has entered an age of post-constitutional soft tyr- anny. As French thinker and philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville explained presciently, “It covers the surface of society with a net- work of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupe- fies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.”1 Continue reading

Philosophy Lost by Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg

Philosophy Lost Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg

by Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg

“It’s all in Plato, all in Plato: bless me, what do they teach them at these schools!” C.S. Lewis’ character Professor Digory Kirke calls to light an increasingly detrimental error concerning education in the modern era. The Great Western Tradition and the permanent ideas about education that flow out of it are grounded in a proper understanding of philosophy that seeks to order and reveal the natural law and the divine law for a proper understanding of reality. The modern schools and those who design them have abandoned real philosophy in a fool’s bargain to gain a moment in exchange for posterity.

Alfred North Whitehead would agree with Professor Kirke’s implied corrective, a return to Plato and a true sense of philosophy. He boldly proclaimed “the European philosophical tradition consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.” The declaration is arguably hyperbolic, but perhaps what has passed for philosophy in the universities for the last few centuries trends more towards self-conscious sophistry than the delight of encountering Lady Wisdom, revealing herself most clearly in the integrated whole of truth, goodness, and beauty. Continue reading

Christopher Dawson & Christendom by Bradley J. Birzer

Christopher Dawson & Christendom

Dawson books

by Bradley J. Birzer

The Christendom trilogy served as the last great work of English-Welsh historian and man of letters Christopher Dawson (1889-1970).  Sort of.  The trilogy derived, originally, from lectures Dawson had delivered while teaching at Harvard University between 1958 and 1962. As desired, the Christendom trilogy would consist of The Formation of Christendom (1967); The Dividing of Christendom (1965); and The Return to Christian Unity. (1)  In the broad, each volume represented one of three great periods of the Christian world: the ancient-medieval nexus; the Reformation and Counter Reformation; and the Church in the age of democracy, nationalisms, and ideologies.

(We hope you will read this excellent essay by TIC co-founder Bradley Birzer on Christopher Dawson. The complete essay can be found here on The Catholic World Report.)

Books mentioned in or related to this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore. Essays by Dr. Birzer may be found here.

Dr. Bradley J. Birzer is co-founder of The Imaginative Conservative and a Senior Contributor. He is the author of Sanctifying the World: The Augustinian Life and Mind of Christopher DawsonJ.R.R. Tolkien’s Sanctifying Myth, and American Cicero: The Life of Charles Carroll. He is also author of The Humane Republic: The Imagination of Russell Kirk (forthcoming, University Press of Kentucky). Dr. Birzer also teaches Catholics in the Public Square  for Catholic Courses. This essay appears in full onThe Catholic Word Report and is linked here with the permission of the author.

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Books That Make Us Human by Carl Olson

Books That Make Us Human: Carl Olson

Carl Olson

by Carl Olson

1. The Bible, It is one of the first books I read (not cover-to-cover, at first, of course), and the first book I memorized passages from as a child. I cannot imagine trying to think about or comprehend the human condition without it. A few specific books within The Good Book that merit note: Genesis and Exodus, the Psalms and The Book of Wisdom, the Gospel of John, and Apostle Paul’s Epistle to the Romans.

2. Confessions, by St. Augustine of Hippo. I’ve read it several times now, and I am always amazed by the depth of Augustine’s thinking and emotions, as well as by the clarity and profundity of his expression.

3. Summa Theologica, by St. Thomas Aquinas. It would be a mistake to assume this seminal work of theology/philosophy is dry or merely didactic, because a careful and reflective reading reveals an understanding of man’s origin, nature, and end that has rarely been rivaled.

4. The Sonnets, by William Shakespeare. I’ve enjoyed and profited from many of Shakespeare’s plays, but am drawn again and again back to the sonnets, which express not only the depths of human love, but what it means to be human in the simple and small ways.

5. David Copperfield or Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens. I first read them as a young boy and they brought to life a range of characters and aspects of humanity—the good, the bad, and the ugly—I had never seen or experienced before.

6. Four Quartets, by T. S. Eliot. The Wasteland got (and gets?) more attention, but this mature, post-conversion poem is, I think, the greatest poem of the twentieth-century, and one of the most moving descriptions of life, death, and spiritual awakening ever written.

7. My Name Is Asher Lev, by Chaim Potok. Certainly my most personal pick, a book I first read as a ten-year-old boy, and then several more times thereafter. An aching portrayal of a Jewish boy and his struggles with faith, family, and personal aspirations.

8. The Abolition of Man, by C. S. Lewis. My favorite book by Lewis, a short but penetrating work about the nature of man. If you want to read it in fictional form, check out Lewis’ “Space Trilogy”: Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength.

9. Lost in the Cosmos, by Walker Percy. A bit quirky, but more than a bit brilliant, full of wit, wisdom, caustic charm, and some very challenging questions about what it means to be human in a post-Christian, post-modern culture.

10. Redemptor Hominis, by Blessed John Paul II. The late Holy Father’s first encyclical (March 1979) is essential for anyone who wishes to understand his thought and his Christ-centric understanding of humanity: “The Redeemer of Man, Jesus Christ, is the centre of the universe and of history.” Amen.

Carl Olson is an incredibly cool human.  He’s also editor of Ignatius Insight, a husband, a father, an author, an artist, and a collector of good music.  His website is: http://www.carl-olson.com/Site/Welcome.html

Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture: Younger than Sin by Catherine Sims

Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture: Younger than Sin

by Catherine Sims

 Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture Crouched on the side of Notre Dame Avenue, visually eclipsed by the splendor of the Golden Dome, McKenna Hall is about as unprepossessing a building as you could imagine. Yet this past weekend, hundreds of scholars, professors, and students shook down the thunder from the sky within the drab enclosure of its walls.

From November 18 though the 20th, the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture held its 11th annual Fall Conference in McKenna. Entitled “Younger than Sin” the conference explored the recovery of simplicity through childlike joy, wonder, and humility. Such a topic naturally generated papers and presentations of the fine academic quality one would expect from one of the Center’s conferences. But the awestruck looks on the faces of the audience members listening to Fr. John Saward on St Thomas Aquinas’ childlike wonder bespoke another quality that suffused the conference: beauty.

When an elderly British priest delivering a talk on Thomistic theology moves his listeners to tears in an opening keynote address, the peculiar nature of the event should leave a deep impression. Fr. Saward’s description of St. Thomas’ joyful pursuit of God emphasized the Dumb Ox’s deep and abiding humility, and set the tone for the entire conference. There were other highlights: Anthony Esolen on the innocence in Dante and Shakespeare and Ralph Wood on Chesterton’s love for the Blessed Virgin Mary, but the truly amazing aspect of this conference was the omnipresent beauty and wonder characterized by the childlike approach to God.

The Center’s latest conference was its largest in both participants and attendees, and the effect this bastion of Catholic intellectual thought has on the academic world is quite simply inspiring.  The University of St. Thomas in Minnesota and Baylor University in Texas both sent large delegations of students and professors; as Director David Solomon noted, there were more college students at this conference than at any previous Fall Conference to date.

I cannot help but see the Center for Ethics and Culture as the last great stand for Truth in Catholic intellectual thought at Notre Dame. David Solomon and the staff, fellows, and trustees of the Center are the fearless warriors in the clash of orthodoxies, as uncompromising in their stand for truth as they are in their insistence on the beauty of that truth. They perpetually labor to bring the glory of Catholicism to the student body of Notre Dame through the encyclicals and work of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. They never cease to go further up and further in, their joy and wonder unsullied despite the petty politics and power grabs that are apparently inescapable in University administration. Theirs is a grander cause, that rises above the ebb and flow of popularity.

Because of this, Solomon’s everlasting optimism still compels even in the face of administrative hostility. There is a sense in which the Center is too big to kill; not in terms of financing, but in terms of what will live on in the imagination of all the people from around the country they were able to touch in their conferences, especially this latest one.

The Golden Dome will not grow too dull to reflect the sunlight so long as the Center remains on Notre Dame’s campus. The Virgin Mary atop the Dome may be a Mater Dolorosa in these dark times. But as long as the Center continues to contend for the permanent things at a University suffering the temptation to compromise for prestige, old Notre Dame may win over all.

Books on the topic discussed in this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.

Catherine Sims, a native of Washington State, is a junior majoring in American Studies at Hillsdale College, Michigan.  She is also an ISI Honors Fellow.

The Decline of Virtue by David Bozeman

The Decline of Virtue

by David Bozeman

Bottom line: American politics is a rotten popularity contest.  Every four years freedom hinges on one man’s ability to navigate a minefield of slander and spin and to assuage one more group than the other guy.  Conventional wisdom says that voters prefer clean campaigns based on issues as opposed to mudslinging, outright pandering and blatant calculation.

If only. The current immigration reform bill being debated represents just the latest cynical, numbers-based, group-focused political calculation.  Both parties are hedging their bets on winning the votes of a large group, in this case, Hispanics, roughly 20 million of whom could ultimately gain citizenship under the proposed legislation.

Its bi-partisan support is baffling, given that its passage might be an electoral disaster, if not a death knell, for the Republican Party.  Hispanics have supported President Obama and his re-distributionist, transformative policies by overwhelming margins.  GOP support of a single issue — amnesty, for instance — may yield only marginal support.

But our public servants crunch numbers and flush founding principles and the values of their law-abiding, traditional-minded constituents down the toilet.  With not nearly enough jobs to go around and state and local budgets buckling under massive debt (and let’s not forget ever-increasing health care costs), self-serving politicians are placing party before country, with Democrats, at least, sharp enough not to destroy themselves by empowering the other side. Continue reading

Ronald Knox on “The Modern Distaste for Religion”

Ronald Knox on “The Modern Distaste for Religion” Print E-mail
By George J. Marlin
WEDNESDAY, 03 APRIL 2013

In the moments of Pope Benedict’s announcement that he was abdicating the Chair of St. Peter, secularists began demanding that the College of Cardinals choose a less rigid, more progressive pontiff; in other words, a pope who would repudiate Church teachings on chastity, same-sex “marriage,” divorce, contraception, abortion, and priestly celibacy.

Leading the charge was The New York Times, which devoted plenty of front page, above-the-fold space to castigating the Church and Benedict. The op-ed editor published, ad nauseam, the usual tired-old Catholic critics, including Garry Wills and Hans Küng.

And the moment secularists realized that Pope Francis is not a South American liberation theologian, but a bona fide Roman Catholic, a smear campaign against him commenced. He was falsely accused of being sympathetic to authoritarian Argentine governments and responsible for the deaths of two outspoken anti-government Jesuits (who were liberation theologians).

We should not be discouraged by this viciousness: attacks on the Church and demands that it abandon dogmas are hardly new. Secularist objections to many Church teachings go back generations and in some cases centuries.

To get a sense of these age-old battles, I recommend readers turn to the writings of the British convert Monsignor Ronald Knox.

Ronald Arbuthnott Knox (1885-1957) was the son and grandson of Anglican bishops, attended Eton and Oxford, became a fellow at Trinity College, and then an Anglican cleric in 1912. While serving as a chaplain at Oxford, he embraced Catholicism in 1917, and two years later was ordained a priest. A noted preacher, essayist, and literary stylist, he published numerous collections of sermons, retreat talks, and radio broadcasts.

Like his contemporaries, G.K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, and Martin D’Arcy, Knox was a champion of what T.S. Eliot called the “permanent things.”  He believed that to effectively combat modernists one must merely “trust orthodox tradition to determine what he is to believe, and common sense to determine what is orthodox tradition.”

The forebears of contemporary Modernism, who today promote pantheism in cosmology and voluntarism in ethics, were peddling a similar agenda in Knox’s time. He wrote that there existed:

philosophers who question the adequacy of thought itself as a method of arriving at speculative truth; there are psychologists who deny the reality of human free will; there are anthropologists who would explain away religion as an illusion of the nursery; and meanwhile, aiming their shafts more directly at the Church to which I belong, historians are for ever turning up flaws in our title-deeds, and prophets of the age arraign our narrow outlook before the tribunal of human progress.

To counter these and other assaults on faith, Knox penned a work of classic apologetics entitled The Belief of Catholics (1927).

Msgr. Ronald Knox

        

In the first chapter, “The Modern Distaste For Religion,” he concedes that “agitators, publicists and quack physicians” have had a negative impact, with the result that religion “as a factor in English public life has steadily and visibly declined.”

For instance, the early twentieth-century Church of England experienced declining clerical vocations, falling charitable donations, weakening “Churchmanship” in the public square, and declining numbers of laity in the pews. In reaction, High Anglican churches panicked and abandoned many doctrines inherited from Catholic antiquity. They not only tolerated “the expression of views which their fathers would have branded as unorthodox” but became “infected by the contagion of their surroundings, and los[t] the substance of theology while they embrace[d] its shadow.”

To accommodate the latest secular trends, fundamental Christian dogmas were “subjected more and more to criticism and restatement.” Broadminded Anglican ministers preached that hell no longer existed and said very nearly the same about sin. Their churches became places one visited, not to hear a Gospel message, but to listen to good music and be served tea and cookies afterwards.

Knox concluded that the decline in church membership goes hand in hand with the decline in dogma: “The average citizen expects any religion which makes claims upon him to be a revealed religion; and if the doctrine of Christianity is a revealed doctrine, why all the perennial need of discussion and restatement? Is the stock [he put the question in a commercial context] really a sound investment, when those who hold it are so anxious to unload it on any terms?”

This is precisely what has happened to U.S. mainline Protestant denominations. The reducing of their doctrines to fashionable platitudes has not attracted people back to the pews, but instead has driven people out of institutions that seem now to stand for nothing much at all.

American Catholicism suffered similar losses after Vatican II for some of the same reasons. Vacillating bishops, rebellious priests and nuns, and revisionist theologians caused confusion in parishes, Church schools, and Catholic colleges. As a result, weekly Church attendance, 75 percent in 1960, dropped to 25 percent by 1980.

During the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, the Church once again promoted and defended its core teachings, and the results are promising: the Church is growing by leaps and bounds in Africa and Asia; a generation of “John Paul II priests” has been ordained; orders of nuns loyal to the Magisterium, have waiting lists; and trendy bishops of the Seventies have mostly been replaced with orthodox ones.

But the effort to re-instill the doctrine that God, not man, is the measure of all things is far from complete. It will take years of patience and hard work to undo two generations of damage.

No doubt Pope Francis will carry on the work of his two predecessors and would agree with Monsignor Knox’s observation that as Catholics, “we shall have to face, more and more, the glare of the world’s hostility. For that reason, we must rally closer than ever round our bishops, our clergy, our churches, our schools; we must be active Catholics, instructed Catholics, if need be combative Catholics, to meet the demands of the new age.”

George J. Marlin is an editor of The Quotable Fulton Sheen and the author of The American Catholic VoterHis most recent book isNarcissist Nation: Reflections of a Blue-State Conservative.

© 2013 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: info@frinstitute.org
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.
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