Media Watch: Motherhood
Tuesday, June 18, 2013, 3:36 PM

by Marcia Segelstein

As a former producer for CBS News, perhaps I’m especially sensitive to the often subtle bias (to say nothing of the obvious kind) that pervades the media.  It’s a bias found in questions asked and unasked, in conclusions drawn and not drawn, and in stories covered and not covered.

In Sunday’s New York Times, for example, Philip Galanes interviewed Pat Loud, matriarch of the California family followed around by PBS cameras in the early 1970’s.  “An American Family,” which aired in 1973, was famous (or infamous) for many things, among them the fact that Pat Loud divorced her husband and left her family while Americans watched with fascination from their living rooms.  In the Times interview, Loud says that she came to New York in 1974 and became a literary agent.  Galanes asks what she thinks her life would be today if they hadn’t done the TV show.  “I’ve often tried to figure that out.  I would have been up in that house, and my kids would have all gone, and I would have the empty-nest syndrome.  So I beat them to it.  I got out of there before they did.”  Carole Radziwill, a current reality TV star being interviewed along with Loud, responds with this:  “In a way, the show probably allowed you to live your more authentic life.”  “Absolutely,” Loud responds.  Really?  She isn’t asked if she has any regrets about divorcing her husband and leaving her kids, especially given what we now know about the negative effects of divorce on children.  Instead she gets a pat on the back for her “authenticity.”  It’s also interesting to note that Loud and her ex-husband reunited several years later (without remarrying) while taking care of one of their sons who was dying of AIDS.

Meanwhile, the Times Magazine section had a piece called “Unintentional Motherhood”  about a study conducted on women who were unable to have abortions for various reasons, mostly because they left it too late.  The piece starts with the story of “S,” not one of the women studied, but one who fits the profile.  “The pregnancy had crept up on S.  She was a strong believer in birth control – in high school she was selected to help teach sex education.  But having been celibate for months and strapped for cash, she stopped taking the pill.  Then an ex-boyfriend came around.”  Unable to have an abortion and unwilling to consider adoption, she had the baby and moved in with her extended family.  “S. now says that Baby S. is the best thing that ever happened to her.”  She told the reporter, “She is more than my best friend, more than the love of my life…She is just my whole world.”  It turns out that S’s experience is consistent with the study, conducted by Diana Greene Foster, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco.  According to Foster “about 5 percent of the women, after they have had the baby, still wish they hadn’t.  And the rest of them adjust.”  The piece continues, emphasizing the point:  “[W]omen rarely regret having a child, even one they thought they didn’t want.”  There’s real news here, but it’s never even stated.  If only 5% of the women studied still wish they’d had an abortion, that means that 95% don’t.  Now there’s a headline.



The Esolen
Tuesday, June 11, 2013, 4:50 PM

I hope you enjoy this as much as we did here at the Touchstone office. From Randall Smith for The Catholic Thing.

The Mystery of Esolen: Who Are They?

By Randall Smith   
Thursday, 09 May 2013

I had a bet going with a friend of mine, a priest who spends a lot of time reading Catholic magazines and web sites, who is convinced that “Anthony Esolen” isn’t just one person. It’s the pen name of a group of writers, feverishly working simultaneously, who all send out their stuff under the same name.

“Look,” said my friend, “here’s ‘Esolen’ on The Catholic Thing today.  ‘Esolen’ had another piece on Crisis yesterday, and I saw three pieces by ‘Esolen’ in Touchstone last week.  In the past week alone, this so-called ‘Esolen’ has pieces in Public Discourse, First Things, and the Catholic World Report.  You can’t open up a Catholic blog without seeing ‘Esolen’ these days. And this same guy has supposedly translated all of Dante’s Commedia, written The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization, and Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child?  And then, while I’m reading my copy of Magnificat daily, I regularly see reflections by the same guy?  Don’t tell me that’s all one person.”

I had to admit he had a point.

Anthony Esolen is probably just some coded acronym that stands for something,” my friend insisted.

“Like what?” I asked, still somewhat doubtful.

“Well, Anthony suggests oneness, like the hermit St. Anthony of the Desert.  And then the name Esolen probably stands for the six different writers who produce all this stuff in concert with one another, like Edward, Simon, Oscar, Luke, Earnest, and Nigel, or something like that.”

. . .

Continue reading.



Statement by Religious Leaders on Boy Scouts
Monday, May 20, 2013, 5:17 PM

We strongly support the Boy Scouts of America current prohibition on open homosexuality and retaining it without revision.  Nearly 70 percent of BSA troops are hosted by churches and religious institutions.  Upholding traditional morality is vital for sustaining this partnership, for protecting Scout members, and for ensuring BSA has a strong future.  A proposal from the BSA board to prohibit “discrimination” based on “sexual orientation or preference” for BSA members potentially would open the Scouts to a wide range of open sexual expressions.  In our current culture, it is more important than ever for our churches to protect and provide moral nurture for young people and for the Scouts.  We implore members of the upcoming BSA Council to affirm the BSA’s present policy, which the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed, and which has served BSA well.

(Titles are for identification only.)
(more…)



Give a Gift Subscription
Wednesday, May 1, 2013, 2:41 PM

Recently I was asked to give a short talk for a young couple at a bridal shower. As I prepared my remarks, I found that next to the Scriptures, I most relied upon past issues of Touchstone Magazine. I spent three days surveying the archives and my own hard copies for suitable commentary on the joy of marriage and the importance of recognizing the holiness of the covenant we make with each other and Christ. Each issue with which I reacquainted myself offered an article from which much Biblically inspired wisdom could be mined. I realized how very thankful I am for the wealth of Christian thought I have had access to over the last fifteen years. Touchstone Magazine has strengthened my convictions and sharpened my ability to defend my faith. This realization has prompted me to begin a tradition of giving Touchstone Magazine as wedding gift to young couples.

In Christ,
Gina M. Danaher

Give a subscription to Touchstone!

And here is a selection of articles on Christian marriage:

A Rite for the Uncommitted: Samuel Pascoe on “Shacking Up”

Five Rings & a Wedding: Marriage & the Concentric Communities That Surround It by Allan Carlson

Sexes United–A review of Marriage: The Dream That Refuses to Die by Elizabeth Fox-Genovese reviewed by Anne Hendershott

Meaningful Intercourse: The Rise & Fall of the Sexual Constitution of Christian Civilization by Allan Carlson

One Flesh of Purest Gold: John Chrysostom’s Discovery of the Blessings & Mysteries of Marriage by Mike Aquilina



Jonathan V. Last on Faith, Hope & the Coming Population Implosion
Tuesday, April 30, 2013, 9:29 AM

From the new issue of Touchstone:


cover 26 03 Jonathan V. Last on Faith, Hope & the Coming Population Implosion

May/June 2013

INTERVIEW by Les Sillars

Whispers of Doom

The overall U.S. birthrate fell in 2011 to its lowest point since the government started tracking it in 1920. It now sits at about 63 births per 1,000 women in the prime childbearing ages of 15–44, according to a Pew Research Center study released late last year.

That’s a bad sign of a problem that goes far beyond the United States, according to Weekly Standard writer Jonathan V. Last, author of the recently released What to Expect When No One’s Expecting (Encounter Books, 2013).

Les Sillars (LS): The subtitle of your book is America’s Coming Demographic Disaster, yet you emphasize that it’s hard to say what will happen, and some even speculate about positive effects of a “population implosion.”

Jonathan Last (JL): You don’t want to run around yelling, “We’re doomed! We’re doomed!” So I tried not to do that. Yet I do kind of think that we’re doomed. So I try to walk around whispering, “We’re doomed.”

LS: How soon until we’re doomed?

JL: Probably the 2050s, which is when you see the global population weaken and begin its contraction. Nothing will collapse in the next ten years. And in the very long term, as my demographer friend likes to say, everything will be fine, because birthrates are not constant across populations. In America, for instance, women who attend church weekly have a very healthy fertility rate of 2.5 or 2.6 children each. For secular women, it’s very low, something like 1.5. So in the very long run, the orthodox will literally inherit the earth [laughs].

We’re not going to breed ourselves into extinction. What worries me is, what will they inherit? Will we have a world in which social structures have collapsed? We like to think of Western civilization as being very stable. I’m of the view that it’s probably not; it’s something that needs to be protected and treasured.



“The Terrible Speed of Mercy: A Spiritual Biography of Flannery O’Connor” reviewed by Ralph C. Wood
Thursday, April 25, 2013, 10:33 AM

From the new issue of Touchstone.


A Fierce Holiness

The Terrible Speed of Mercy: A Spiritual Biography of Flannery O’Connor
by Jonathan Rogers

reviewed by Ralph C. Wood

In 1922 G. K. Chesterton famously described the United States as “a nation with the soul of a church.” Unlike virtually all European countries of his time, America had no established state church. Yet it was still founded on a creed—namely, on a set of stated Enlightenment principles that overtly acknowledged God while refusing to enforce religious tests. Though Chesterton was far from convinced that Americans had created a sure remedy against tyranny, he might have noticed what was strange about his attraction to the obstreperous and boundary-bending Walt Whitman.

It was strange because Whitman’s heterodoxy is in thorough accord with the other major nineteenth-century American authors: Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Twain, Melville, Dickinson. Like Faulkner and Frost and Stevens in the twentieth century, they all had deeply religious concerns, but none of them was animated by a confessionally Christian vision. On the contrary, they found themselves ill at ease with a Christianity that closely tracked the nation’s political life, such that being American and being Christian were virtually synonymous. The worship and witness of the churches offered them a challenge insufficiently distinctive for their embrace as imaginative writers.

Not until the middle years of the twentieth century did such a writer appear on the American scene, a woman who came from the margins rather than the center of the nation’s churchly “soul.” Flannery O’Connor was an outsider in almost every sense. She grew up in Milledgeville, a small city in middle Georgia. She was a devout Roman Catholic in an overwhelmingly Protestant region. And she created a fiction marked by such physical violence and religious vehemence that many readers find it uncongenial. Yet therein lies her revolutionary importance: her fiction goes against the grain of American moral and religious life.



Endorsement and Academic Freedom by John Garvey
Thursday, April 11, 2013, 9:59 AM

Debates About Commencement Speakers & Student Groups Reveal a Double Standard

This is the time of year when we begin to argue about commencement speakers. Every spring Catholic colleges attract attention for inviting (or disinviting) speakers whose messages are at odds with the teaching of the Catholic Church. This matter of honoring commencement speakers is a lot like another issue we wrestle with throughout the academic year—giving official recognition to student groups. Both issues touch on an institution’s expression of its own identity. I’d like to offer some thoughts relevant to this year’s inevitable round of debates.

In spring 2012 there was a flap over Georgetown University’s choice of Kathleen Sebelius to speak at the commencement of its Public Policy Institute. The Department of Health and Human Services, which Sebelius heads, had just announced that it would force Catholic colleges and universities to cover surgical sterilizations and prescription contraceptives, including some that may cause early-stage abortions, in the healthcare plans they offer to students and employees. The archbishop of Washington protested the invitation of Sebelius, as did some 27,000 people who signed a petition.

It was like the dispute in 2009 when Notre Dame invited President Obama to give its commencement speech and awarded him an honorary degree. Let me focus my attention on that one, because the facts are better known. The president is a strong supporter of abortion. As a state senator in Illinois, he opposed the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, intended to prevent the killing of infants who survived an abortion attempt. As a presidential candidate, he criticized the Supreme Court’s decision in Gonzales v. Carhart, which upheld the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. He wasn’t in office as president for three days before he lifted restrictions on government funding for groups that provide abortion services or counseling abroad.

Giving the president an honorary degree seemed to be a tacit endorsement of these views by the university. Fr. John Jenkins, Notre Dame’s president, disowned this meaning in his speech to the graduates. When he introduced Obama he said, “We are fully supportive of Church teaching on the sanctity of human life, and we oppose [the president's] policies on abortion and embryonic stem-cell research.” But that did little to still the controversy. Bishop John D’Arcy of Fort Wayne–South Bend decided not to attend the graduation rather than suggest his approval of the president’s policies, and 82 other bishops joined him in condemning Notre Dame for its action.

Who was in the right there?

Continue reading. . . .
(with responses by Russell D. Moore, Patrick Henry Reardon, Hunter Baker, and Gregory L. Jao)

This article is from the upcoming May/June 2013 issue of Touchstone.



Anthony Esolen on the Hymn “The Story of the Cross” by Edward Monro
Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 11:47 AM

From the March/April 2013 Touchstone:


 

smallcover 26 02 Anthony Esolen on the Hymn The Story of the Cross by Edward MonroAt the Cross of Jesus

At the end of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the good Gawain approaches the Green Chapel, where he is certain he must die. It’s New Year’s Day, the snow lies deep, and a grindstone hums nearby. As far as Sir Gawain knows, it’s sharpening the ax that will shear off his head. “I’ll be with you right away,” calls the demonic Green Knight from behind the chapel. That chapel is a place of foreboding. There is no cross.

I’ve been to a chapel without a cross. It was converted from an old factory. The windowless inner “worship room” boasted electronic equipment for music and videos, but no cross. I felt, there, a little like Gawain. There’s something wrong, in the sense of being crooked, bent, about a chapel without a cross. It cannot lead to good.

The Question of Christianity

Quite different is the wisdom of a remarkable five-part hymn by one Edward Monro: “The Story of the Cross”(1864). The first part is The Question:

See Him in raiment rent,
With His blood dyed:
Women walk sorrowing
By His side.

Heavy that Cross to Him,
Weary the weight:
One who will help Him stands
At the gate.

Multitudes hurrying
Pass on the road:
Simon is sharing with
Him the load.

Who is this travelling
With the curst tree—
This weary prisoner—
Who is He?

The terse meter provides, at the end of each stanza, a moment of extraordinary pathos. For the last line is “missing” its first syllable. It begins on a strong beat, set apart from the meter of the rest of the stanza. The women walk in sorrow, where? By His side. Who is this weary prisoner? Who is He? That is the question of Christianity, right there.



Folke T. Olofsson on The History & Revelation of Anamnesis in Platonic, Jewish & Christian Thought
Monday, March 4, 2013, 12:00 PM

An excerpt from the article “All This in Remembrance” in the March/April 2013 Touchstone:


smallcover 26 02 Folke T. Olofsson on The History & Revelation of Anamnesis in Platonic, Jewish & Christian ThoughtZikkaron is the Hebrew word for the Greek anamnesis. The difference between the two conceptions can hardly be exaggerated: they represent two different worlds, two different modes of understanding human existence.

The Hebrew word is “a sacrificial term that brings the offerer into remembrance before God, or brings God into favorable remembrance with the offerer” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia). It refers to something given in time and space, which is the point of reference and contact between man and the Absolute, between man and God—in this case, man’s action in the form of a sacrifice, offered in the context of liturgical celebration. This commemoration of something that has happened in space and time becomes clearly visible in the celebration of Passover. It is a memorial set up to be observed as a liturgical remembrance of sacred history.

At the celebration of Pascha, the youngest participant asks why this night is different from all other nights (Ma Nishtana), and, in an elaborate liturgy, the Exodus from Egypt is not only remembered and commemorated, but is re-actualized, re-presented through the retelling of the Exodus story (Maggid). Those present are not only remembering something in the past, as if they were witnessing the event from afar, but are participating in the actual Exodus through the liturgy. Their celebration is a part of God’s ongoing saving activity, not only in the past, but here and now, concluding with the expression of hope that the Messiah will come and that the next celebration of Passover will be in Jerusalem, the Holy City. In the present, the celebration looks back to something that once occurred, and it looks forward in hope to something that will happen in the future, and all is encompassed in God’s mighty and liberating deeds for his people.

We can say that the reason for the celebration of Pascha is man’s reaction to God’s action. It is not an end in itself, a nice tradition to strengthen the Jewish identity, although that may come as a byproduct. It is God’s initiative, his action, which is “the reason for the season.”

Read the article online.



Death and Afterlife: A Theological Introduction reviewed by Graeme Hunter
Thursday, February 21, 2013, 9:48 AM

NEW from the March/April 2013 issue of Touchstone.


 

death afterlife theological introduction terence nichols paperback cover art1 Death and Afterlife: A Theological Introduction reviewed by Graeme HunterThe End Is Clear

Death and Afterlife: A Theological Introduction
by Terence Nichols

reviewed by Graeme Hunter

Diane, a mother in her mid-forties, is dying of leukemia, leaving behind her husband and two teenage boys. The stuff of domestic tragedy. You can easily imagine distraught relatives, and nagging questions that have no reply.

However, in Terence Nichols’s fine book, Death and Afterlife, Diane’s death figures as a luminous episode, which left her loved ones with “an inexplicable sense of peace and joy.” Her story serves as a frame for Nichols’s book, not only to introduce the wider themes of death and what comes after, but also to prepare the reader to consider the forgotten art of “dying well,” the master theme towards which the story builds.

It was wise to defer that unfamiliar theme to the end of the book. Modern people need all the help they can get to grasp an idea so out of keeping with the age. A world as materialistic, scientistic, and consumerist as ours inclines by its nature to impulsive self-absorption, and is little given to introspection about death or the inscrutable reality behind death’s door. Instinctively the modern mind thrusts aside such meditations as morbid and medieval. In their place we put the celebration of life. Think of the new style of obituary, in which we are promised a celebration of the loved one’s life but seldom a funeral, much less a Service or Mass of Christian Burial. Lacking the concepts to deal intelligently with death, we think it better to avert our gaze.

A Better Approach

Nichols’s engaging book offers readers something better. It presents the Christian Church’s considered wisdom about death and the afterlife in a manner that is both informed and practical. It addresses the difficulty of integrating Christian belief on these matters with modern presuppositions, and only then turns to offering practical ways of making the contemplation of mortality, resurrection, and eternal life our means of dying well.

continue reading . . .


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