All posts filed under: Articles

Neo-Colonialism and Reproductive Health

A little over a century ago the continent of Africa was carved up and shared among the European powers. Every African nation—with the exception of Ethiopia and Liberia—was colonized for upwards of 70 years by these European powers. My country, Nigeria, was one of those countries. However, I have no intention of rummaging aimlessly through the ash-heap of history today. I know that colonialism is a thing of the past and my country, alongside other African countries, have been independent, sovereign, and self-governing since the 1960’s. I am truly grateful for this independence. However, in recent years, we are noticing the return of Western footprints all across the continent of Africa. I am not speaking of the mostly welcome footprints of those seeking business investments, trade deals, or scientific advancements. No, I am speaking about the footprints of cultural imperialists, social engineers, and ideological neo-colonial masters who have presented themselves as enthusiastic donors, friends, and partners in the much desired development in the different African countries. Wealthy Western nations, powerful institutions, NGO’s, and private foundations …

Faith and the Expanding Universe of Georges Lemaître

On October 29th of last year, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) voted to recommend renaming Hubble’s Law the “Hubble-Lemaître Law.” That such a vote would take place today—during a time when science and faith are portrayed in the media as implacable foes—speaks to the remarkable character of Lemaître himself, the Belgian monsignor and astronomer who made a number of fundamental contributions to the science of cosmic structure and origins. His dual career as priest and scientist puzzled many in science and in the public at large when he was alive, and his struggles to defend his “Big Bang” model of the origin of the universe against those who accused him of being religiously motivated epitomizes the growing tension between science and organized religion in post-war Europe and the US. The story we will tell about Lemaître will of necessity be selective in the details of his life, which was complex and rich enough to merit multiple biographies,[1] [2] as well as numerous articles. I want to emphasize those aspects of his career that merited the …

Lent Intensifies

This final section of pieces from the 40 Songs for 40 Days playlist continues and intensifies the styles heard in the previous ten pieces. We hear from contemporary composers like Morten Lauridsen, Ola Gjeilo, and Paul Mealor, whose choral writing evokes a great sense of serenity in the listener, while James MacMillan and Francis Poulenc call to mind the intensity and drama of the Paschal Mystery. We also hear older pieces from the treasury of Catholic sacred music by composers like Gregorio Allegri, Giaches de Wert, and Thomas Tallis, as well as a chant whose composer’s name has been lost to the centuries, but whose musical legacy continues to lead people closer to God. Pieces like these are vivid reminders of why music has always held such an important role in the Church: the mysteries of the faith come alive in melody, harmony, and rhythm, allowing listeners to encounter them anew, paving the way for a deeper encounter with the One who dwells at the heart of them all. This music bears repeated listening not …

Ross Douthat’s Expanding Seamless Garment

Whatever one thinks of his views, it is clear Ross Douthat has an irreplaceable voice in American public discourse. As a New York Times columnist who is read disproportionately by those who would otherwise dismiss conservative ideas, he has the gift of somehow inviting this audience to take such ideas seriously. Sidebar: If you are not a regular listener to the Times’ podcast “The Argument”—in which Douthat spars and jokes with co-hosts Michelle Goldberg and David Leonhardt—you are missing out on a good weekly example of this kind of influence in action. He is also an acclaimed thought-leader when it comes to the religion he converted to as a teenager: Roman Catholicism. His recent book, To Change the Church, was widely debated in Catholic circles and sparked numerous important conversations. Though the book largely either angered or was cheered on by Catholic partisans, for moderates like CUA’s David Cloutier it offered a “fair assessment” of the Francis papacy, despite its flaws. In my experience of reading and listening to Douthat, he is at his best when …

The Gospels Manifest a Poetic Christ

Olivier-Thomas Venard, O.P. is a professor of the New Testament at the École Biblique in Jerusalem. The Dominican scholar integrates his training in post-structuralism, linguistics, and literary criticism into a “Thomasian” framework enriched by his Dominican vocation. Described as a “Toulouse Dominican with a différance,” Venard’s inquiry into the original meaning of Aquinas’s theology incorporates the best insights from a wide array of scholarly discourses (biblical studies, historical and systematic theology, philosophy and literary studies) as a means for both retrieving Aquinas’s thought and enabling it to unveil the unity of these discourses in the Word. We had the privilege of participating in a reading group dedicated to the recently translated anthology of Olivier-Thomas Venard, O.P.’s work entitled, A Poetic Christ: Thomist Reflections on Scripture, Language, and Reality (T&T Clark, 2019). A Poetic Christ was edited and translated by Notre Dame’s Francesca A. Murphy and Kenneth Oakes, drawing texts from across Venard’s vast theological trilogy: Littérature et théologie: Une saison en enfer (2002), La langue de l’ineffable: Essai sur le fondement théologique de la métaphysique (2004), …

Brideshead Revisited During Lent

Sorting out our many possessive, grasping loves, and redirecting them towards God is the objective of Lent asceticism. Charles Ryder, in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, is transformed by becoming friends with Sebastian Flyte. His love for Sebastian opens him up to a joy in life he has never known. Although their love is tinged with a possessiveness that eventually kills it, Charles is permanently changed. Their relationship raises a theological question: what is the nature of eros? Is it ultimately selfish and unworthy of a Christian, or is it the very soil without which grace cannot take root? In Charles’s spiritual journey, an answer is proposed through suffering and renunciation. It is through, and not in spite of his eros for Sebastian, and later for Sebastian’s sister Julia, that Charles is led to agape, self-gift, and so ultimately from agnosticism to the Catholic Church. Et in Arcadia Ego Charles and Sebastian in Arcadia By the time Charles Ryder and Lord Sebastian Flyte meet, they are in their second term at Oxford. Each has already begun …

Life, Language, and Christ Today

I. The Problem of Language Today: The Inadequacy of the Usual Philosophical Answers Language as such is a problem today. The fact that language is a problem is felt in the perpetual oscillation between overvaluing and undervaluing it within modern thought. For example, Ernst Renan—the 19th century French rationalist inventor of the “historical Jesus” fiction—deliberately identified human language with the divine Logos. For him, what previous thinkers dubbed “the divine origin” of language was merely a metaphor. Language results simply from the interplay of mankind’s natural faculties with the natural world. In this world no revelation was possible for Renan. The most divine ideas present in sacred literature are nothing but sublimations of human, all too human, thoughts. In this way, the world becomes entirely disenchanted—just as human language becomes all-powerful, the only provider of meaning in the world. Michel Henry stands at the other end of the spectrum. According to this prominent phenomenologist, since from the outset language situates thought in exteriority, because language brings about an essential division between words and things, it …

God Doesn’t Break Bad in the Old Testament

Every semester I teach the first required course in theology to our incoming students. My habit has been to use the book of Genesis as a window into the Old Testament. But as soon as we reach the story of Noah and the flood, my audience grows restless. God sees how wicked humankind has become and promptly declares: “I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created, for I am sorry that I have made them” (Gen 6:7). “What kind of God would wipe out every living thing with one sweep of his hand?,” my students ask. Can I put my faith in such a vindictive figure? I do not need Richard Dawkins to raise the problem; students at Notre Dame see it with their own eyes. The Lenten season’s Old Testament readings ensure that the rest of you will see it too. Things do not get much easier as the story moves forward. About a dozen chapters later we come to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and are faced …

Glimpsing Eternity Through Lent Melody

We enter into a more overtly sacred repertoire with music written in a more “classical” style, though the majority of the pieces included here were not written in the Classical era of Western music (c. 1750–1830), but in the 20th century. While many of these pieces were inspired by the liturgy, in particular the Mass, most of them would not have been heard in a liturgical context, though for today’s liturgies, some of the shorter sacred anthems such as Eli! Eli! and Mary Speaks certainly could be appropriate selections for the Good Friday Celebration of the Lord’s Passion. These pieces of sacred music are meant to foster a rich devotional life—the time spent living the liturgy out in the context of daily life, the time outside of the liturgical celebration proper. For most lay people, the devotional life—which flows from and leads back to the liturgical life—encompasses the majority of life in general. Listening to this music in the morning while getting ready for work or for school, or in the evening while preparing dinner …