About Mapache

As a international innovator in system safety and risk, Matthew Weilert (Texas A&M '84), has advised billion-dollar brands like Kraft, Coca-Cola, Bacardi, GM & the US Navy on what it takes to go from “good to great” in enterprise risk. Matt is a “global mindset thinker” (Thunderbird Graduate School 2011), who has the privilege of leading finance, medical, military and university networks of leaders (see http://is.gd/JNTxkg) to better risk results.

Easter through the “lens of Christmas”

For our final Enchiridion post of 2011, let’s take a look at the “other” high point of the church year, Easter, from the “lens of Christmas.” Even while we’re still basking in the glow of Christmastide, the church wisely keeps us anchored in the reality of sorrow in the midst of gladness, with the Feast of the Holy Innocents on Wednesday the 28th.

Before the advent of the Anointed One, various calendar systems had been around for many thousands of years.

Image: Amazon

In J.L. Heilbron’s masterwork, The Sun in the Church, we get a guided tour through the history of commerce, politics, statecraft, architecture, mathematics—I could go on, yet probably more than a typical theology text, The Sun in the Church makes plain what Thomas Woods extols in another delightful tome:

Image: Barnes & Noble

How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization.

In order to administer the sacraments faithfully and globally, the church called on the finest craftsmen and scientists of the time, often in vigourous competition with each other, to advance the state of the art in astronomy, mathematical precision and mechanical craftsmanship, all for the purposes of determining the date of Easter accurately for all time. These days, we don’t need to depend on accurate planet sightings or worry if we have properly corrected for parallax in our observations and calculations. The US Naval Observatory, the go-to source for all American things chronological, gives us both the history of Easter calculations and the “rules of Easter.” Being an official Navy website, that blows away the smoke and shatters the mirror of the oft-repeated falsehood, that Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptist Association established separation of church and state, except for the multi-cultural advocates who know better for us than we know for ourselves…

For those so inclined, USNO has up-to-date code on how to calculate Easter ourselves!

Even more fun is to take it off the web entirely and calculate the accurate date of Easter right in your own spreadsheet. (These formulas work in MS-Excel 2003, your mileage may vary.)

Enjoy this mind-teaser and Happy New Year!

Embracing Our Destiny, Part III

Personal Re-integration

In his wonderful book The Martial Spirit, accomplished martial artist and author Herman Kauz shares the Japanese concept hara 原隆浩 which

implies an acceptance of the idea that we are connected with the world and with each other. We are not separated from the rest of life.…when we attempt to become as rational as possible in our approach, we often become too narrow or restrictive in our assessment of the “relevant” factors that constitute a problem or its solution. We forget that the world is actually an interrelated and intermeshed whole. [MS p. 58]

Echoing the Pope’s call to live authentically, management consultant Henry Mintzberg tells us to actually interact with people, rather than live in the myths posed by theories:

I believe that the researcher who never goes near the water, who collects quantitative data from a distance, without anecdote to support them, will always have difficulty explaining interesting relationships (although he may uncover them). Those creative leaps seem to come from our subconscious mental processes, our intuition. And intuition apparently requires the “sense” of things—how they feel, smell, “seem.” We need to be “in touch.” Increasingly in our research, we are impressed by the importance of phenomena that cannot be measured—by the impact of an organization’s history and its ideology on its current strategy, by the role that personality and intuition play in decision-making. To miss this in research is to miss the very lifeblood of the organization. [Mintzberg, Admin Sci Qtrly, Dec 79, pp.587-588, see entry 125 on linked article listing]

The Pontifical Council for the Family counsels us to start with “the basics,” and move on to strive for perfection (“Be perfect as Your Father is perfect,” Mt 5:48).

…parents are urged to dare to ask for more and to propose more. They cannot be satisfied with avoiding the worst — that their children do not take drugs or commit crimes. They will have to be committed to educating them in the true values of the person, renewed by the virtues of faith, hope and love: the values of freedom, responsibility, fatherhood and motherhood, service, professional work, solidarity, honesty, art, sport, the joy of knowing they are children of God… Parents must find time to be with their children and take time to talk with them. [The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality 49, 51]

Live life in layers

It’s been said that there are two classes of people: “life is turbulent” people and “life is laminar” people. Understanding that we do live our life in layers, each with its own set of conditions and characteristics; we can discretely manage or direct virtually all of those layers or levels, to “minimize our wake” and move us out of the turbulent eddies into the slipstream mode of living. Letter to Families, Gratissimam Sane, weaves in splendidly here as we conclude:

The richest source for knowledge of the body is the Word made flesh. Christ reveals man to himself. In a certain sense this statement of the Second Vatican Council is the reply, so long awaited, which the Church has given to modern rationalism.…

When the human body, considered apart from spirit and thought, comes to be used as raw material in the same way that the bodies of animals are used—and this actually occurs for example in experimentation on embryos and fetuses—we will inevitably arrive at a dreadful ethical defeat.… Man thus ceases to live as a person and a subject.… he becomes merely an object. …

Modern rationalism does not tolerate mystery. It does not accept the mystery of man as male and female, nor is it willing to admit that the full truth about man has been revealed in Jesus Christ. In particular, it does not accept the “great mystery” proclaimed in the Letter to the Ephesians, but radically opposes it.…it firmly rejects the idea of a God who became man in order to save man. For rationalism it is unthinkable that God should be the Redeemer, much less that he should be “the Bridegroom”, the primordial and unique source of the human love between spouses. [LF 19]

This seems to be most prevalent with the Western mind, but not universal. One of Rainer Maria Rilke’s most famous letters “to a Young Poet” Mr. Kappus, written in 1903 contains the passage:

And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, evolve some distant day into the answer. [Letters to a Young Poet, #4, 16 July 1903]

Until next time,

Keep the Faith!

Matthew

Embracing Our Destiny, Part II

Cultural Re-tuning

Four simple steps (simple, not easy):

  • Pray
  • Play
  • Build your bridges
  • Live life in layers (in next post)

Spiritual Solutions

Structural Trusses, such as in the Taos Gorge Bridge give us spiritual metaphors in two ways. {Due to Structurae image licensing, we’re putting the post up with links only, until our image use requests are approved. Until then, just open the link in a new tab or new browser, to have the image available as you study.}

In their triangular shape they echo the foundation of the Triune God, and in the fact that they help man create new order by holding and transmitting tensions from various constituencies, trusses echo the tension of maintaining the orthodox middle ground between an angelism which denies the body and animalism which gives it free reign.

Pray

A rule of thumb to avoid getting overly religious: pray only on those days you breathe.

Three action habits:

[Frequent] Prayer (structured, organized, spontaneous, private)

[Frequent] Eucharist (work your schedule around your participation in the “Paschal Marriage of the Lamb,” rather than fitting Mass into your schedule)

[Frequent] Confession (monthly or even fortnightly)

Woven throughout the expression of all three habits is the primacy of releasing control to receive God’s grace:

38.…commit ourselves more confidently to a pastoral activity that gives personal and communal prayer its proper place, we shall be observing an essential principle of the Christian view of life: the primacy of grace. There is a temptation which perennially besets every spiritual journey and pastoral work: that of thinking that the results depend on our ability to act and to plan. God of course asks us really to cooperate with his grace, and therefore invites us to invest all our resources of intelligence and energy in serving the cause of the Kingdom. But it is fatal to forget that “without Christ we can do nothing” (cf. Jn 15:5). [NMI 38]

Play

Maturity has its moments but growing up is highly over-rated. In the midst of your business—(for some that should be spelt busyness)—remember to play. Learning to play is probably the most novel, and most vital message of this series, more fully developed in David Billington’s The Tower and the Bridge.

image: Barnes & Noble

The Dutch cultural historian Johan Huizinga (1872-1944) argued in a full-length book that humanity goes by three names: Homo Faber, Homo Sapiens, and Homo Ludens (man the maker, man the knower and man the player). (18)… “Play has a tendency to be beautiful.” (19)…He really means to argue that play is central to civilization and that it is essential to an ordered society. [TBr 231]

Billington continues his commentary on Huizinga’s view of play:

Telford’s trussed arches, Eiffel’s crescents, Roebling’s diagonals, Maillart’s lens-shaped arches, Ammann’s single-braced towers, Menn’s thin polygonal arches, Nervi’s ribbing, Isler’s sheets of waved concrete, Candela’s hyperbolic paraboloids, and Khan’s skeletal walls are all signals of personal style; they stand for discipline and have universal appeal but, above all, they enliven the community by insisting that structure is play.

To be playful with structure is not to be willful. …[Structural artists] studied long and hard to learn the rules (of nature); they tried continually to play fair (with society); and in creating order they surprised others with the beauty of their works. At the heart of technology, they found their own individuality; they created personal styles without denying any of the rigor of engineering. [TBr 274]

The same principle is true in engineering as in business: theories must fit data, not the other way around.

Robert Maillart, the Swiss bridge designer, developed in 1923 a limited theory for one of his arched bridge types which…infuriated many Swiss academics…[because they were so fixed on real forms fitting theory rather than theory describing real forms]…In the United States, by contrast, some of our best engineers understood the general theory well, but not understanding Maillart’s specific ideas, they failed to see how new designs could arise. They were trapped in a view of an engineering analysis which was so complex that it obscured new design possibilities. Today the undue reliance on complex computer analyses can have the same limiting effect on design… [TBr 10]

Bridge-building:

Applying the lessons of this Polish Pope’s Wednesday Audiences is what being friends with people is all about: seeing the good in them from different points of view. Translating from the human dimension to the human-created dimension, a beautiful example of this is in the Garabit Viaduct which Gustave Eiffel designed in 1884 to span the Truyère River 17 km south of St. Flour, France. The crescent supporting the railway

image: bridgink on flickr

gets narrower but deeper as it rises from the supports in the valley, “…handsome in pure profile (its two-dimensional aspect),

Garabit Viaduct, lit-up at night

image: urban-exploration.com

but in addition, it provides visual surprise and delight from different perspectives (its three-dimensional aspect).” [TBr 69].

Such created beauty inspires and evokes the potential for indwelling infinite Goodness that Adam and Eve saw in one another in original innocence. Through mature growth, we can approach that interior innocence again. This is just one of a global supply of examples where man, “created for his own sake,” [GS 24] recapitulates God’s creative activity and transforms the world around him. (Gen 1:28) Living in the center of the Gift, the created becomes creator. Not alone, not in solitude, but as a part of a “corpus structuræ” inspired by Corpus Christi. As we wrap up Ordinary Time and the close of another church year with the Feast of Christ the King this past Sunday, the corrected Mass translations for the English-speaking world mean we will be depending more on each other than we have in the previous four decades. That is something to be thankful for!

Most likely there will be no post this Thursday (US Thanksgiving), so we’ll continue this series next week.

Until next time, keep the faith!

Matthew

Embracing Our Destiny, Part I

Our Destiny Demands an Authentic Response

Einstein’s quote “it is easier to disintegrate an atom than a prejudice” (in the original German, «es ist leichter, ein Atom zu zertrümmern, als ein Vorurteil») point to the fact that reclaiming the landscape for faith and family is an inter-generational process, with many seeds scattered and sown for each one that takes root.

Culture is destiny” thinks Lee Kuan Yew, former Prime Minister of Singapore. A society that does not place much value upon learning, scholarship, hard work, thrift, and says Lee, the deferment of present enjoyment for future gain, isn’t going to grow rapidly.

Redemption through the Cross

Embracing the enemy is a jujitsu concept and lends itself to understanding the value of embracing the Cross. Discipline and discipleship have the same root, training in self-control. Robert Longman Jr. says “Disciples” take in not only “what they learn from being with the teacher, they take it into their core identity, so that it defines who they are.”

In developing this “philosophical project” John Paul is at once theologically deep and quite practical. Because of our sinful nature, marriages are “built and maintained;” they are repaired on a daily basis, rather than the effortless “happily ever after” of shallow sentimentality.

We must see a just warning for those who—as at times young people do—hold that conjugal union and living together must bring them only happiness and joy. The experience of life shows that spouses are not rarely disappointed in what they were greatly expecting. The joy of the union brings with it also those “troubles in the flesh” that the Apostle writes about in his Letter to the Corinthians. These are often “troubles” of a moral nature. If by this he intends to say that true conjugal love—precisely that love by virtue of which “a man cleaves to his wife and the two become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24)—is also a difficult love, he certainly remains on the grounds of evangelical truth…” [General Audience 30th Jun 1982]

Self-Mastery: living rightly takes effort

In Be Not Afraid!, the Holy Father writes:

We cannot acquire…purity without renunciation, without inner struggles against our own weakness, but once acquired; this maturity of heart and mind makes up a hundred-fold for the efforts it rewards. The result is a new spontaneity of feeling, of gesture and of behavior that facilitates relations with people, especially with children. [BNA p. 16]

The price of our fallen nature is the continuing challenge to appreciate the person, living as a gift given and received and not sink into “grasping” after an object of desire.

2. We mean here freedom especially as mastery of oneself (self control). From this aspect, it is indispensable that man may be able to “give himself,” that he may become a gift, that he will be able to “fully discover his true self” in “a sincere giving of himself” (referring to the words of the Council). Thus the words, “They were naked and were not ashamed” can and must be understood as the revelation—and at the same time rediscovery—of freedom. This freedom makes possible and qualifies the nuptial sense of the body. [General Audience 16th Jan 1980]

The family as a source of “corporate” integrity

As a leading theologian of the Catholic Church, Cardinal Wojtyła’s work Love and Responsibility [LR] has an enduring appeal, just as fresh and timely in its 1981 English translation as it had when in appeared in Lublin in 1960.

Anyone who is capable only of reacting to the sexual values connected with the person, and inherent to it, but cannot see the values of the person as such, will always go on confusing love and eros, will complicate his own life and that of others by letting the reality of love, its true “relish” escape him. For this “relish” as I have called it, goes with a sense of responsibility for the person, a concern for the true good of the person – which is the quintessence of altruism in any form, and also an infallible sign of a broadening of one’s own existence…To feel responsibility for another person is to be full of concern, but it is never in itself an unpleasant or painful feeling. For it represents not a narrowing or an impoverishment but an enrichment and broadening of the human being. [LR pp. 130-131]

That’s all for this week! Until next time, keep the faith!

Matt

On Women: Revealing the fullness of perfection

There’s no such thing as “women’s issues”

From Mulieris Dignitatem (MD) and (then) Cardinal Ratzinger’s address “On the Collaboration of Men and Women,” (CMW) we find reason to herald Mary as “Theotókos,” (God-bearer) “revealing the fullness of perfection of ‘what is characteristic of woman,’ of ‘what is feminine.’ Here we find ourselves, in a sense, at the culminating point, the archetype, of the personal dignity of women.” [MD 5]

Let no one be confused, there are indeed issues relating uniquely to women, just as there are issues relating uniquely to an individual woman, man, son, daughter, or owned good (home, pet, etc.) yet truly living the Freedom of the Gift makes plain that any “outlook which presents itself as a conflict between the sexes is only an illusion and a danger: it would end in segregation and competition between men and women, and would promote a solipsism nourished by a false conception of freedom.” [CMW 14]

In the “social litmus test” as Cardinal George calls it, abortion is just as much a man’s issue as a woman’s, because without the man, there would be no child to abort. A demand for “sexual freedom” is more likely a demand to be allowed to remain in slavery to one’s passions. If self is the only reality, it is the deceiver’s work writ large.

In our times the question of “women’s rights” has taken on new significance in the broad context of the rights of the human person.…

The personal resources of femininity are certainly no less than the resources of masculinity: they are merely different. Hence a woman, as well as a man, must understand her “fulfillment” as a person, her dignity and vocation, on the basis of these resources, according to the richness of the femininity which she received on the day of creation and which she inherits as an expression of the “image and likeness of God” that is specifically hers.…The overcoming of this evil inheritance is, generation after generation, the task of every human being, whether woman or man. [MD 10]

Philadelphia’s new Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM tells us that:

In some areas, even in the military, women clearly outperform men.

But there’s a catch. There’s a cost. The price tag of this kind of “equality” too often means denying the differences between women and men.…It can mean fearing the things that make up the feminine genius—the acts that make women, women. That’s why so much of today’s secular feminism hates fertility. …

This kind of false “equality” doesn’t work because it tries to escape who we are. It makes us look at and interpret the world through a broken piece of glass…And now we have a generation of new thinkers making exactly the same mistake, not with some bad racial or economic theory as their lens, but with gender…

Women express their genius through mercy, patience, endurance and forgiveness…But they also have a realism that comes from the labor of bearing new life. I think women, better than men, know what’s true and important about the world. Sigrid Undset, the great Norwegian woman writer, once said that, “Facts may be true, but they are not truths—just as wooden crates or fence posts or doors or furniture are not ‘wood’ in the same way a forest is, since it consists of the living and growing material from which these things are made.”…

The genius of every woman is to love; to protect and nourish the lives entrusted to her; and to support the full development of life in others… Women who love well become real women. And in becoming real women, they draw men into being true men. Role of Women, Address of 19 Oct 2003, Archbishop Chaput of Denver

Up next: Embracing Our Destiny.

Until next time,

Carpe Diem!

Matt

Staggering Costs, Part III

continued from Staggering Costs, Part II, 24 Oct 2011.

Economic

Redistributive economics has at its core a desire to re-order God’s plan that “those who don’t work, don’t eat.” [2Thes 3:10] It takes away the incentive to strive for achievement. Deprived of drive, man’s productivity drops, while business and social costs soar. Thomas Sowell’s Affirmative Action Around the World documents this second thrust of our thesis, that essentially every time and place that multi-cultural activists (MCA) have been given rein to reshape the world, the results have not lived up to the rhetoric:

The empirical consequences of affirmative action preferences and quotas have been paid remarkably little attention—with hard data being sparse to nonexistent in some countries—while controversies surrounding these policies have been discussed in terms of the vision and the rationale behind them and the counter-vision and counter-rationales of critics. Vague, emotional, confused, and dishonest words, which are incidental aspects of many controversial issues, are central to discussions of affirmative action in countries around the world. Few such programs could stand on the basis of their actual empirical consequences. Nor are their moral bases any more solid.

Some groups in some countries imagine themselves entitled to preferences and quotas just because they are indigenous “sons of the soil”—even when they are in fact not indigenous, as the Sinhalese in Sri Lanka and the Malays in Malaysia are not. Yet indigenousness has acquired a moral aura, not only among those claiming such status, but among observers and scholars as well. Why an accident of history and geography should have moral implications that last for centuries is a question seldom raised, much less answered. ~from the Hooover Institution’s Review

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch…

In The Two-Income Trap (TI), we learn that the two biggest expenses two-income families with children face are child-care and schooling. Over the past generation, as wave after wave of cultural revision has swept our land, we see widespread evidence of the fruits of original sin: “attempts to destroy fatherhood” (see chapter 35 of Crossing the Threshold of Hope), for Blessed JohnPaul II’s radical insight). This key to interpreting reality has simple solution: study the conventional wisdom (popular morés) and do the opposite. It’s been said that the most important distance in the world is the six inches between our ears. People’s attitudes shape their outcomes. In the span of a generation, we’ve normalized poor parenting:

In 1965 only 21 percent of working women were back at their jobs within 6 months of giving birth to their first child. Today that figure is higher than 70 percent. Similarly, a modern mother with a three-month-old infant is more likely to be working outside the home than was a 1960s woman with a five-year-old child. (55) As a claims adjuster with two children told us: “It never occurred to me not to work, even after Zachary was born. All the women that I know have a job.” [TI p. 30]

While “colleges have engaged in an arms race of expenditures triggered by the pursuit of prestige,” [TI p. 44] their grasping is driven by ego or pride, a deadly sin. In the Summa, St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that “inordinate self-love is the cause of every sin,” [Summa Theologica (STh), I, 77:4,1] while “the root of pride is found to consist in man not being, in some way, subject to God and His rule.” [STh, IIa, 162:5,1] Temperance marks a pathway from pride to servant-centered competence, with the “sincere gift of self” providing the milestones.

Courage and backbone, two aspects of the solution to the soaring costs of the two-income trap, (itself an artifact of the anti-family agenda), are not qualities typically associated with modern politicians. Warren and Tyagi contend:

In order to free families from the trap, it is necessary to go to the heart of the problem: public education.…A well-designed voucher program would fit the bill nicely.…We recognize that the term ‘voucher’ has become a dirty word in many education circles. The reason is straightforward: the current debate is framed as a public-versus-private rift…[which] misses the central point. The problem is not vouchers, the problem is parental choice. [TI 33-34]

Their logic is sound, and as reflected in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), supports the church’s position:

2229 As those first responsible for the education of their children, parents have the right to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own convictions. This right is fundamental. [CCC]

As for the school-prestige issue, writing in Forbes, Dan Seligman calls it “The Big Lie.” It’s your brains and effort, not the school that determines how well you do in your working career.

At the low end, we learn from NBER Working Paper 7450, “Schooling, Inequality, and the Impact of Government,” published [in] December [1999], that kids who do poorly in bad schools tend also to do poorly in schools with abundant resources.…

The Dale-Krueger paper [NBER Working Paper 7322, published August 1999, “Estimating the Payoff to Attending a More Selective College,” by Stacy Berg Dale and Alan B. Krueger] reports on studies indicating that even modest differences in SAT are associated with measurably higher lifetime incomes.…Were their postgraduate careers diminished because they had turned their backs on Harvard, or Princeton, or whatever?

Crisp answer: Not at all. The authors tell us: “Students who attended more selective colleges do not earn more than other students who were accepted and rejected by comparable schools but attended less selective colleges.”

While this post is longer than the norm, I wanted to retain the continuity of thought. Hope you are enjoying these as much as I did in putting them together some time back for my Masters.

Until next time,

Carpe Diem!

Matthew

Staggering Costs, Part II

continued from Staggering Costs, Part I, 18 Oct 2011.

Social

I agree with Christopher West that the heart is man’s deep interior self. It’s where we experience the forces of good and evil fighting each other. One of the major challenges facing the modern Western mind in applying the Pope’s message is that many people seem to be narcissistic omphoeloskeptics. That Scrabble® triple-value phrase means that folks are stuck on themselves, stuck in a rut, gazing at their own navel. Understanding the un-level playing field of the real world, where cause and effect are ruthlessly efficient, is like a song in a very foreign tongue to those who chant the mantra of “diversity.” Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago says it much more effectively:

Because of a concerted campaign in movies and TV shows in recent years to shape public imagination and opinion into accepting same sex relations as normal and morally unexceptional, obvious truths now are considered evidence of homophobia. Because a morality based upon desires has largely supplanted a morality based upon the truth of things, a teaching which limits sexual self-expression of any sort becomes oppressive. In this context, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that people of homosexual orientation should be treated with every respect and with compassion; but the Catechism also teaches the truth about the nature of God’s gift of human sexuality, a truth our bodies themselves proclaim and the lives of married couples attest to.

In the United States economic issues are often masked under labels. The spiritual ennui that has led to murder-on-demand of the pre-born masquerades as free choice on sexual themes, (few seem to be advocating the free choice to be bank robbers); the desire to violate the natural order of our very architecture as male and female is heralded as “tolerance.”

Veritatis Splendor (“The Splendor of Truth”) stands clearly in opposition to these forms of lust-for-power or pseudo-godhead which often parade in the garb of social engineering:

78. The morality of the human act depends primarily and fundamentally on the “object” rationally chosen by the deliberate will. … there are certain specific kinds of behaviour that are always wrong to choose, because choosing them involves a disorder of the will, that is, a moral evil. (127) And Saint Thomas observes that “it often happens that man acts with a good intention, but without spiritual gain, because he lacks a good will. Let us say that someone robs in order to feed the poor: in this case, even though the intention is good, the uprightness of the will is lacking.” Consequently, no evil done with a good intention can be excused. … It is not enough to do good works; they need to be done well (129). [VS 78]

Up Next: Part III, Economic Effects

Until next time, keep the faith!

Matthew

Staggering Costs, Part I

Muddled minds look at life through a lens of race, gender, income or other segregating themes. Such thinkers produce soggy decisions because their lens distorts, darkens or filters out basic facts about the nature of the world in which we live. The aggregate costs of such decisions are staggering: primarily to families—the “domestic church,” but these costs are passed on through every sphere: neighborhood, nation, world. I will briefly address some spiritual, social and economic costs of the policies and politics of the cultural avant–garde, as well touching on as how the Theology of the Body fosters a sense of self that transcends the moral ambivalence of this self-appointed elite.

Spiritual

“Egotism is the anesthetic which deadens the pain of stupidity,” says Knute Rockne. In Evangelium Vitæ, the Holy Father details a litany of counterfeits that are serving as vehicles for egotism in our modern age.

23. The eclipse of the sense of God and of man inevitably leads to a practical materialism, which breeds individualism, utilitarianism and hedonism.…The values of being are replaced by those of having. The only goal which counts is the pursuit of one’s own material well-being. The so-called “quality of life” is interpreted primarily or exclusively as economic efficiency, inordinate consumerism, physical beauty and pleasure, to the neglect of the more profound dimensions–interpersonal, spiritual and religious–of existence.

In such a context suffering, an inescapable burden of human existence but also a factor of possible personal growth, is “censored”, rejected as useless, indeed opposed as an evil, always and in every way to be avoided.…Consequently, sexuality too is depersonalized and exploited: from being the sign, place and language of love, that is, of the gift of self and acceptance of another, in all the other’s richness as a person, it increasingly becomes the occasion and instrument for self-assertion and the selfish satisfaction of personal desires and instincts.…

The criterion of personal dignity—which demands respect, generosity and service—is replaced by the criterion of efficiency, functionality and usefulness: others are considered not for what they “are”, but for what they “have, do and produce”. This is the supremacy of the strong over the weak. [EV 23]

Sin is what keeps us from being ourselves. Our gospel (“good news”), as emblazoned by the Pope’s Wednesday audiences, is that our identity in its fullness (as children of God) along with the “echo of original innocence,” (Gen 2:25) is deeper than any disordered attractions.

There is a small but dedicated minority who go by various names and cross cultural, socioeconomic and racial profiles, yet they are unified under the curious mantra of knowing better for us than we know for ourselves. In so doing, they commit the sin of Lucifer: attempting to be God rather than to worship God with the ultimate delight in seeking eternal union with God.

That’s all I have time for now. Part two will take up the social costs.

Keep the faith!

Matthew

Crunchy or Soggy Solutions

In this age of decisions based on “focus groups” and up-to-the-minute opinion polls, there is no doubt where both JohnPaul II and Benedict XVI stand on timeless issues. They deliver “crunchy” rather than “soggy” solutions. The terms crunchy and soggy come from a classic 1988 editorial in the Economist. “Crunchy systems,” Nico Colchester explained, “are those in which small changes have big effects—leaving those affected by them in no doubt whether they are up or down, rich or broke, winning or losing, dead or alive. … Sogginess is comfortable uncertainty.”

Reclaiming the Market Square for Faith and Family

In “Reclaiming the Politics of the Family” from The Two-Income Trap, Warren and Tyagi discuss putting a face on individuals:

Ultimately, two strange bedfellows—a small group of socially conservative Republicans and a handful of progressive Democrats—gathered enough momentum to defeat the bankruptcy bill against the best-financed lobbying campaign in the 107th Congress.…

There is a lesson here. To put sound economic policies on the political agenda, families also need a face. So long as they are “debtors” or “bankrupts,” their needs can be dismissed. Instead they need to be seen as members of powerful constituencies, members of groups that command the respect—and the fear—of the political elite. [Warren & Tyagi, 158-159]

The Catechism puts it in a similar vein: “The neighbor is not a ‘unit’ in the human collective; he is ‘someone’ who by his known origins deserves particular attention and respect.” [CCC 2212]

This marks the first and most central tenet of our exposition or perhaps even exegesis of John Paul II’s masterwork: how and why Theology of the Body matters to men and women of business in transcending anti-family propaganda in the workforce. Whether it’s the so-called feminist agenda under the guise of “advancing women’s rights,” the same-sex-crowd under the guise of “promoting tolerance,” or the affirmative action proponents under the guise of “achieving diversity,” there is a whole slew of characters who strut about clucking to whomever will listen, that they know better for us than we know for ourselves.

Let’s be very clear about the word warping that this series examines. Reagan famously said, “the difference between a democracy and a people’s democracy is the same difference between a jacket and a straight-jacket.” If there is any confusion remaining, ask yourself three questions:

  1. How many self-proclaimed feminists do you know who are pro-life?
  2. How many self-proclaimed homosexuals do you know who are in favor of defining marriage as one-man, one-woman?
  3. How many affirmative action advocates have ever studied the results of these programs globally as Thomas Sowell has so cogently?

Business leaders have a unique “bully pulpit” (in Teddy Roosevelt’s phrase) as opinion shapers, (not thought leaders, PUH-lease! We need a moratorium on that phrase), as job creators and those who direct the flow of money, materials and labor throughout the economy. From their positions of influence they can transparently convey the universal appeal of this timeless “adequate anthropology” and what it means to be fully human. By modeling and living authentic and mutually nourishing relationships, these leaders can through their witness, help restore a sense of personal responsibility to those in their charge, managerially or personally.

Foster Friess received Hillsdale College’s Adam Smith Award on May 11, 2002. Speaking on the Hillsdale campus he says:

Friends of mine who homeschool their five kids, ages 7 to 15 years, told me the following story: At one point Dad suggested issuing report cards like other schools. Mom replied, “Fine, but they’d all get As.” Classic maternal favoritism, the father thought at first—then was astounded when Mom added, “Because we don’t move them on until they get it.” Consider this mother’s radical common sense: If our entire education system were converted to learning levels based on real progress rather than grade levels determined by age—and if the pernicious concept of social promotion were eliminated—the door would be open to significant achievement in our education system.

Under this “radical” policy, a student would go over the multiplication tables or the important dates in U.S. history until he knows them. Age would be irrelevant. A ten-year old could be at level three in math, level six in history and level eight in science. No child would be left behind because no child would advance before he is ready. But in order for this policy to get off the ground, we must break the current and disastrous public school monopoly.…[Imprimis, Feb 2004]

Next up: Staggering Costs

Until then, Carpe Diem!

Matthew

Two thoughts on Ecumenism

It’s been a full week, so two quick thoughts on The Holy Father’s recent trip to Germany:

The depth & maturity of these seemingly simple observations is marvelous. They call to mind the information guru Ed Tufte, (paraphrased): to clarify, add data density while you reduce clutter. With a focus on the richness of faith that we share, there’s less energy to argue. Rather than gloss over differences, simply, practically and with charity, focus on the agreement and get on with the business of living.

…Faced with a new form of Christianity, which is spreading with overpowering missionary dynamism, sometimes in frightening ways, the mainstream Christian denominations often seem at a loss. This is a form of Christianity with little institutional depth, little rationality and even less dogmatic content, and with little stability. This worldwide phenomenon – that bishops from all over the world are constantly telling me about…

…Are we to yield to the pressure of secularization, and become modern by watering down the faith? Naturally faith today has to be thought out afresh, and above all lived afresh, so that it is suited to the present day. Yet it is not by watering the faith down, but by living it today in its fullness that we achieve this.…
Address to Council Of The Evangelical Church In Germany, Benedict XVI

Recommended Reading:

Joint Catholic-Lutheran Declaration On The Doctrine Of Justification