Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy (?) New Year from Bethlehem

Bethlehem, a place of Christian pilgrims for centuries is quickly becoming engulfed by Israel's security barrier. Once consistently overrun with tourists it is increasingly emptied of life, now resembling a bleak prison town with its checkpoints, sandbags, breeze blocks and heavy military presence. A picture essay by Mark Power (Magnum Photos)

Friday, December 30, 2005

Forgotten horror

In case you are not aware of it, the Lord's Resistance Army is still tormenting the people of Northern Uganda.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Nepal, the new Cambodia?

"Nepal, sandwiched between the two rising economic and demographic behemoths of the age—China and India—could be the first country since the fall of the Berlin Wall where communists emerge triumphant." A provocative essay by Robert Kaplan, a correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly and author of "Imperial Grunts" (Random House, 2005).

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

2005, The Year in Pictures

Katrina, Iraq, John Paul II. The New York Times website has an interactive gallery of some of the biggest events of 2005.
What makes it fascinating is that there are no words here, just pictures. Which is something we'd love to see more often on the NYT...

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Brave souls

A story in the Guardian on some people who converted to Christianity in Iran. A serious predicament, to say the least.


This report from India is interesting. One could make many comments, e.g. on power, on how slippery the concept of "culture" is, on how humanity is affected by material factors etc. We will leave it at this quote from an unsurpassed classic: "The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations... The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication ... compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilization into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image." The one thing poor Karl did not expect was that the proletarians in Bangalore would end up joining the petit bourgeoisie at TGI Friday's...

But, is that all life is about?

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Friday, December 23, 2005

Merry Christmas from the President

"More than 2,000 years ago, a virgin gave birth to a Son, and the God of heaven came to Earth". Read President George W.Bush message for Christmas 2005. Maybe there is a lot of rethoric here, but is good rethoric...

Thursday, December 22, 2005

a good democracy requires a good people

The new column by Spengler draws an elementary but important observation from the Iraqi elections: DEMOcracy is only as good as the DEMOS, i.e. it relies on the existence of a people. In turn a people is shaped by education. All the problems involving both Western liberals and Islamic fundamentalists can be traced back to an inability to educate.

Urban privileges

The New Republic has what sounds like a convincing analysis of the New York MTA strike.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The designs of science

A new intervention by Cardinal Schonborn on evolution and intelligent design.

Utter confusion

This discussion of the comically named phenomenon of polyamory has a couple of good points: 1) the so-called "crisis of marriage" is really a crisis of fatherhood; 2) as civil marriage loses every significance, real families will lose state support, but it will also become clear that marriage does not originate from the state and does not belong to it.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Sunday, December 18, 2005

"Did we see only what we yearned to see?"

The New York Times reports on the big Korean stem-cell scandal. It is remarkable how "science" has an almost religious value for certain people, as if it were the only method of knowledge that is exempt from the weaknesses of human freedom (including social pressure, greed, unhealthy ambition, wishful thinking etc.). On the contrary it is very much a human affair, and desperately in need of "salvation."

For an interesting discussion on these issues, we invite you to attend the upcoming Crossroads Conference on regenerative medicine.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Robert Kaplan

makes a few interesting observation in the course of this interview.

Friday, December 16, 2005

You shall be alone

One may think that the problem of widespread nihilism is some kind of philosophical concern, until one realizes that one of the most violent ways to crush a human being is by destroying his/her affectivity.

Meet the Amari family, in Baghdad

Like other 15 million Iraqis, the Amari family yesterday went to the polling station.
The Amaris live a life that they say could not tolerate a descent into balkanization. Shiites who have sometimes married Sunnis, they also have a few relatives who are married to Kurds. Their story is a symbol of a new Iraq.
"God willing, I hope that all Iraqis will turn into a family like ours and have the freedom to chose."

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Capitalism and Christianity

We have already published an excerpt from 'The Victory of Reason', the new book by Baylor sociologist Rodney Stark. In today's New York Times, columnist David Brooks (a Jewish, by the way) exalts the book and the importance of the Catholic Church in the economic history of the world.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Remember the Balkans

Ten years ago, on December 14, 1995, the signing of the Dayton Accords marked the end of the war in the Balkans. Here are some Magnus Photos to remember that tragedy.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The future of newspapers

This is a blog, that is an electronic media. So we shouldn't be worried about the future of newspapers, right? Wrong. Peter Johnson, UsaToday media reporter, tells why everybody should be worried. "My son is a junior in college and I've seen him pick up a newspaper maybe three times in his entire life."
Do you want more? "You don't save papers by cutting newsrooms", say Todd Gitlin and Olivier Sylvain.
Finally: Is there a liberal bias in the media? You bet there is, says Neil Cavuto.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The real spirit of Christmas

Pope Benedict XVI: "In today's consumer society, this time (of the year) is unfortunately subjected to a sort of commercial 'pollution' that is in danger of altering its true spirit, which is characterized by meditation, sobriety and by a joy that is not exterior but intimate".
"The Nativity scene helps us contemplate the mystery of the love of God, which is revealed to us in the poverty and simplicity of the grotto in Bethlehem."

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Monday, December 05, 2005

A TEMPI column

By Marco Bersanelli*

Since the “Intelligent Design” (or rather I.D., as they call it) neo-creationist movement started spreading in the United States, the debate about evolution has grown more and more heated. This is an important step for the traditional American creationist environment: till now the debate was shaped by protestant fundamentalist groups, who claim that the Bible should be used as a scientific treatise to be taught in schools, and in this way help those who are trying to ridicule the Jewish and Christian faith about the creation of man and the world.
On the contrary, those supporting I.D. are serious scientists, coming from the best American Universities and well-equipped to keep the level of the debate high. Everybody should acknowledge this as a merit.
The scientific debate around neo-Darwinist theories has grown as well, and this is a positive development because, while biological evolution is a fact supported by many genetic and fossil proofs, neo-Darwinism on the contrary is just a theory, not universally accepted, that tries to explain its mechanism. From a scientific point of view the debate is still open.
In addition to that, it [neo-Darwinism] is being proposed as an ideology. The word itself “neo-Darwinism” has become more and more ambiguous, a philosophical theory more than a scientific hypothesis as the article by James Watson on the September 29th issue of “Il Corriere della Sera” sadly shows: he says "One of the greatest gifts science –and especially Darwinism- made to the world is the ongoing elimination of the supernatural." The same intolerance of creationists here is supporting scientism’s materialistic dogma.

Free From Prejudice

But watch out. Some of the ID theories are looking for evidence of an “intelligent design,” guiding the evolution of biological complexity, inside the gaps of contemporary scientific theories. They somehow remind us Newton’s position, postulating God’s intervention to compensate gravity in order to prevent the collapse of the solar system. It is a new form for the old temptation to “prove” the existence of God on an experimental basis. Let us ask ourselves: is the role of God to fill the gaps of science? Does not gravity, like other things that science can somehow “explain”, also come from God? And by the way, if we fill the gaps, what happens to God? And even more important, who are we to judge how the Creator should have created reality? Free and rational man is not afraid of God’s freedom, he doesn’t impose Him conditions. If he’s not blinded by prejudice, such man can instead admire His work, even through science.

*Professor of Astrophysics - University of Milan (Italy)

The happiness lobby

The Guardian informs us that "research has established more clearly than ever what the most likely predictors of happiness are, and there are now proven methods to treat unhappiness...The huge ambition of the small but growing happiness lobby is that the state resumes a role in promoting the good life."

Talking of "happiness," here are some statistics.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Big daddy

'Young people end up confused because they don't understand what sex is all about.' So let the state explain it to them. Well, what is it about?

Maybe Her Majesty's government should try and explain them what being a human being is about. Do they have any "experts" on that matter?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Oh, well

Some of the most intelligent comments on the gay-priests controversy have been made by blogger Eve Tushnet. At least she hints at the word nobody understands and nobody talks about, namely virginity. Once it is understood that that there is essentially one Christian vocation that is offered to all but takes different forms, then keeping homosexuals out of the priesthood (or not) is strictly a practical question. Note this observation:

"In my own life, I can't unhook the longing for beauty that drew me to the Church with the longing for the beauty I saw in other women. (And I don't especially want to unhook those things, I must admit. It seems to me that Catholic faith and chastity might be one way for me to honor those women. Look how important you were!)"

Dante would agree, except he would correctly conclude that the world has gone nuts, since this is a woman speaking...

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Wahabis are toast

if the mentality of young Saudi women is being shaped by Oprah.

More on the situation in Saudi Arabia from the Chicago Tribune. What is striking is the inexorable power of Western (originally Christian) ideas, at the very same time when the West itself has been quickly losing its identity. "The West plays a very important role because it gives hope to people... Even among those who hate the West..."

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Splendor of the Truth

The Seattle Times meets the Wolfes.

Strategy for Victory

So, what about this 'National Strategy for Victory in Iraq' that President Bush released yesterday? First of all, it's a good idea to read the document itself, instead of just a news analysis of it.
Than, there are many interesting articles out there. Like this one by Fred Kaplan, who writes the 'War Stories' column for Slate. What about this sentence in the article: "The war in Iraq, even the war on terrorism (of which it has lately become a part, though it wasn't before Bush invaded), does not carry the same moral or strategic weight as the Cold War, much less World War II''?

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Feisty Lady

If you have never read her stuff before, you may want to experience this classic tirade by Oriana Fallaci on the alliance between the left and Islam to destroy Western freedom. The most interesting part is probably the account of her recent meeting with the Pope.


In many ways the Caucasus mirrors the tragic situation of our age: a struggle between the nihilism of the old decadent "European" powers and the nihilism of Islamic ideology. The two phenomena are deeply symbiotic. One way or the other, the obliteration of the human person marks the vanishing of civilization.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Victory of Reason

The new book by Rodney Stark is out. The amazing thing is that such obvious truths are completely counter-cultural.

Monday, November 28, 2005


This article from London illustrates the fate of a society that is no longer able to continue itself, i.e. to educate. One should not think that this trend only affects the poor: the only difference is that among rich people it manifests itself in different ways.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Do not take it for granted

Most people today seem to ignore that killing baby girls was a common practice in most cultures before the advent of Christianity.

"I have lost"

A somber interview with philosopher Alain Finkielkraut on the situation in France.

Cracking Shakespeare's Code

Was William Shakespeare a pillar of Reformation England or an
underground Roman Catholic dissident? Hidden for centuries, the 'Shakespeare Code' has finally revealed its secrets, thanks to Clare Asquith's ground-breaking scholarship, detailed in her new book, 'Shadowplay.'
From our friends at GodSpy

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Cultural suicide

This essay against multiculturalism shows well how the cultural implosion of the left led to the bitter nihilistic wave which is gripping most of the western world. And it also makes clear that this vacuum is the necessary condition for the rise of such a radically irrational and nihilistic ideology as Islamism.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Circling the Wagons

The Wall Street Journal reports that Ave Maria Law School is considering moving from its Michigan location to Ave Maria Town near Naples, Florida. Some alumni are upset about the proposal because they see the role of the Law School as producing Catholic attorneys "who would engage the world and not retreat from it."

Friday, November 18, 2005

Christians Oppressed in Egypt

The Second International Coptic Conference convens this week in Washington. Often overlooked is the fact that Egypt's population of nearly 75 million includes the Middle East's largest Christian minority, over seven million, the vast majority of whom are members of the Coptic Orthodox Church and have in the last half-century experienced institutionalized discrimination that renders them little more than second-class citizens. From today's Wall Street Journal, an Op-Ed by Saad Eddin Ibrahim.

Newton, Einstein and the Intelligent Design

"How ridiculous to make evolution the enemy of God". Charles Krauthammer attacks without mercy the ID, "a phony theory".
"Intelligent design may be interesting as theology, but as science it is a fraud".

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Narnia fever

The New Yorker has a long piece on C.S. Lewis. If anything, the article exemplifies the superficial understanding of Christianity common among educated Westerners: as a religious fantasy without any present reality. To some degree, the article makes one wonder whether Lewis himself struggled with the same temptation. On the contrary the real presence of God in the world through sacramental signs is completely obvious in the works of Tolkien, but that seems to be beyond the understanding of the New Yorker's critic.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

It is dawning on people

Alan Wolfe is correct that the great paradox of contemporary education is that it rejects a priori any attempt at investigating issues of meaning, and thus ends up not being education at all. His answer, however, seems inadequate because it claims once again that one can teach a "neutral" method (in his case, "passionate dispassion") in a vacuum, i.e. separate from a specific tradition. Things are just the opposite: only the honest proposal of a tradition (to be verified in the pupil's experience) can lead to the development of critical thinking. There is no escaping from the inner logic of the Enlightenment (aka "liberalism"), which is doomed to self-destruct by cutting the branch on which it sits (the specific Classic-Judeo-Christian-Germanic tradition that generated it). The problem, though, is not just going back to some dead canon (the great books); what is required is a people where a living tradition is constantly regenerated.

The Death of Curiosity?

College students don't know who Jack Kerouac is. Big deal? Peter Zane says it is: "It's not that they don't know, it's that they don't care about what they don't know." It seems that the Renaissance ideal of the "divo" has reached it's logical endgame: "We are forced to become specialists, people who know more and more about less and less." But who is introducing young people to reality and the quest for knowledge? Do the professors who complain about the lack of curiosity convey curiosity themselves?

Monday, November 14, 2005

"Don't Be Evil"

Google knows a lot more about you than you know about Google. For example, did you know that founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page see Google (its motto: "Don't Be Evil") as a populist force for good that empowers individuals to find information fast about anything and everything? What is their measure of evil, what is good? And what about the "Googling Your Genes" program?
Fasten your seat bealts for a trip into Google's soul...

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Death in Jordan

One of the victims of last week's Al-quaeda bombing in Jordan was a Hollywood producer whose wish was "to bring the peaceful message of Islam to the Western world," according to his ex-wife. Her conclusion: "That was his point and it hasn't been well-made yet, has it?"

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Heading for trouble

It seems more and more likely that the greatest threats to peace in the next few years may come from Iran. This article gives an interesting insight on the world view of the new leadership. For the situation of the Christian community, read this. The last paragraph is touching because it shows how the human quest for the truth can encounter God's mercy even in the most adverse circumstances. If you want the extreme-apocalyptic reading of the situation coming from the Iranian opposition in exile, you can always resort to (warning: take with a big pinch of salt). Spengler thinks a war is coming.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Time for something new

This editorial by Levy is interesting because it points out that the radical problem in France is neither Islam per se nor poverty, but rather alienation and the lack of a unifying ideal that can make it worth for young people to partecipate in society. Since 1789, France has been a country unified by the nationalist ideology of "citizenship," which of course was parasithical to the lingering Christian idea of a people. Now that the last vestiges of cultural Christianity are fading away, what is left is either the gay nihilism of the elites or the ideological nihilism of Islamists.

CIA, Torture and Vice President Cheney

90 senators approved an amendment by Sen.John McCain which requires all agencies of the U.S. government to comply with the Geneva Conventions and international law, which prohibit torture. McCain knows something about the issue, having been himself for five years a victim of brutal torture by the North Vietnamese. So, why are CIA and Vice President Cheney fighting the amendment? In order to understand what's at stake, we propose you this Op-Ed by Jeffrey H.Smith, former general counsel of the CIA. (from the Washington Post).

Monday, November 07, 2005

Nine Justices, Five Catholics?

If Samuel A. Alito Jr. is confirmed to the Supreme Court, a majority of its nine justices for the first time will be Roman Catholics.
The Washington Post analyses the consequences...

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Behe vs. Darwin

Everything you wanted to know about Michael Behe, the biochemist who became the lead witness for Intelligent Design, is in this nice profile in the Los Angeles Times


This survey on the effects of divorce is interesting because it points out that children depend on their parents' marriage at least as much as they depend on them individually.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Looking for infinity

Scientists and theologians will join for a discussion of the concept of infinity at a scholarly conference to be held at the Pontifical Lateran University next week. The conference is the first international gathering of a project entitled STOQ: science, technology, and the ontological quest.
The purpose of STOQ is “to create a new climate of dialogue within the Catholic Church,” encouraging scientists and theologians to share their insights.
At a news conference on the Vatican project, cardinal Paul Popard said the faithful should listen to what secular modern science has to offer, warning that religion risks turning into "fundamentalism" if it ignores scientific reason.

Appointing Catholics

The New Republic has discovered why the US Supreme Court is being filled with Catholics: because evangelical protestants have gained political power but they lack cultural artillery. The question is: must this void necessarily be filled by the Catholic "neocons," who are philosophically very close to the evangelicals? Is there an original Catholic proposal to American culture?

California will do it for you

In summary, we hold that there is no free-standing fundamental right of parents “to control the upbringing of their children by introducing them to matters of and relating to sex in accordance with their personal and religious values and beliefs” and that the asserted right is not encompassed by any other fundamental right.

USA Court of Appeals
for the 9th Circuit, Pasadena CA, November 2 2005.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Radical despair

Theodore Dalrymple discusses the existential condition of suicide bombers. He wrote an impressive column about France three years ago. On Islam's inability to face modernity, you can also read the latest column by Spengler.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Turning point

Today's political landscape in the US was largely created by the McGovern Commission, that moved the levers of power in the democratic party from the urban (and largely Catholic) bosses to the college-educated liberals.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

"Stay hungry, stay foolish"

Here is an amazing reading. It's the text of the Commencement address by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, delivered on June 12, 2005 at Stanford University. "You'v got to find what you love", said Mr.Jobs. We are sure you'll love this. You can also watch the video, available here.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The atheist cathedral

This parable is actually very symbolic of the general situation of western "liberalism," not just in regard to marriage.

A new creation

Now, to cheer you up, something beautiful.


Peggy Noonan is usually quite perceptive of trends in American society. If there is any unifying source to her melancholy, it may be the perception of a progressive weakening (starting among the elites) of the shared Protestant/progressive ideals that gave America its identity and its historical energy.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Anne Rice's new career

This sounds somewhat interesting.

Pragmatism or Originalism?

The nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court has heated the debate on the future of the Court. Two books can help to understand better how the Court works. One is a biography of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who "run the nation for nearly two decades as a majority of one".
The other is an essay by Stephen Breyer, "the first extended defense of judicial pragmatism by a sitting Supreme Court justice".
The Los Angeles Times review is worth reading.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Hapless Dupes?

The New Republic assesses the relationship between the Bush presidency and "social conservatives." The upshot is that it is foolish to entrust one's hopes for a better society to politics ``in a vacuum" while neglecting the fundamental task of education.

Logical vs. reasonable

The nature of ideology is to take rigorously logical steps starting from partially true premises, while ignoring any input from experience. The result is always an amazing level of violence.

Monday, October 17, 2005

No freedom in education

By all accounts Schools of Education play a very destructive role in American society.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Rabbi Dalin's new book

Rabbi David Dalin's new book on Pius XII has come out. Have you seen the long review in the NYTimes? Neither did we.


One can disagree with Mark Steyn on many things, but he is good at ridiculing the liberal pieties of the media.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

An ordinary man

The inventor of the food bank passed away. A very ordinary guy who ended up feeding 10% of Americans.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Bioethics and ideology

Among secular journalists who write about bioethics William Saletan is one of the more thoughtful.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Living in Mogadishu

Reports like this remind one of the deep drama of history: that the human impulse for good is powerless in front of the violence of sin unless Christ is recognized. It is a problem of education.

Cardinal Schoenborn and Darwin

"I see no problem combining belief in the Creator with the theory of evolution, under one condition -- that the limits of a scientific theory are respected," said Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn in a conference in Paris.
Read more on Reuters.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Intelligent design

For interesting commentary on the "intelligent design" controversy, read this Salon interview with Michael Ruse, this op-ed by Kenneth Woodward in the NYTimes and above all the piece by Msgr. Albacete here below.

TEMPI Column

by Lorenzo Albacete

Many have asked me to comment on the debate concerning the ability of science to detect an "intelligent design" in its study of nature, particularly the evolution of the species culminating in man. Religious conservatives (mostly Protestant Evangelicals and some Catholics) are insisting that the "scientific" view of "intelligent design" be taught to students in the public school. This is of course being resisted by those who see it as an intrusion of religion in the public school curriculum, as well as those who appeal to science to justify a cultural agenda hostile to faith.
The debate on intelligent design in the United States is thus more a political struggle than a scientific or religious debate. It originates in the efforts of Protestant Christian believers to resist the political power of the radical secularists who appeal to neo-Darwinism to justify their political policies. It would seem that, at least theoretically, Protestant fideism would not care what science holds or does not hold, since for fideists faith and reason are split. But what to do when an anti-faith ideology with a cultural agenda gains political power and appeals to science to support its view of what it means to be human? "Intelligent Design" is an attempt to respond to this cultural challenge. It represents an attempt to reconcile science with the Protestant view of faith and in some way escape from the limitations of fideism. Ironically, this response surrenders too much to science by letting science be the norm of what is ultimately affirmed as the ultimate, defining truth about man's origin and destiny.
The Catholic approach to this issue starts from a completely different point. Catholics insist that there is no opposition between properly understood views of faith and reason. Reason does not clash with faith, provided we do not equate reason to the method of scientific inquiry. The scientific method is a particular application of reason that seeks to understand the relations of causality between events that are purely material and measurable. The spiritual or non-material dimension is excluded from this method from the very beginning of the inquiry. Reason, whose power lies in its openness to the totality of all the factors that constitute reality, is thus restricted in its scope. An event or a series of events examined from this limited perspective will show no evidence of intelligent design, since intelligent design betokens freedom and purpose. The Catholic affirmation of the ability of reason to grasp an intelligent design behind reality does not depend on the results of such a scientific method. We do not require that science understood this way show evidence of intelligent design in order to affirm that a reasonable gaze at reality points to design or purpose and providence. The current debate is framed within a view of reason that is not our view.
Reason can grasp intelligence behind reality, but our Catholic faith grasps Love as the ultimate ground of all that exists and man as the creature created to freely respond to that creative Love as the "self-consciousness of the universe," so to speak. However, it is not to science that we appeal to make this affirmation, but to reason enlightened by faith.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Why Crossroads

Crossroads New York Cultural Center is a meeting place for people who share a passion for knowing.
This passion is aroused by wonder and attraction because "out there" things are, because life is given, always as a new and unexpected event that nourishes our experience.
This focus on reality as event (and not on ideas) determines the "style" of our cultural work:
We prize encountering people, because every human being is an irreducible novelty.
We want to meet them at the "crossroads" of life, regardless of any cultural, religious or social boundary.
We value beauty, because it sparks the wonder and attraction at the origin of human experience.
We are interested in the events that shape our world, because what happens always contains a suggestion, a hint that affects and may change our lives.
We cherish appreciating and testing our heritage, because the fabric of our life is woven from all the events that happened before us.
Thus, Crossroads aims to be, above all, a place where education takes place, that is, where we may learn to look with openness, curiosity and critical judgment at every aspect of reality.