The Taste for Being Moral by Thomas Nagel

In The Taste for Being Moral, the philosopher Thomas Nagel reviews The Righteous Mind:  Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, by Jonathan Haidt, and Dignity:  Its History and Meaning, by Michael Rosen.


Saint Francis

In these last days
the grace of God our Savior has appeared
in his servant Francis
to all who are truly humble and lovers of holy poverty.
In him
they can venerate God’s superabundant mercy
and be taught by his example
to utterly reject ungodliness and worldly passions,
to live in conformity with Christ
and to thirst after blessed hope with unflagging
He was poor and lowly,
but the Most High God looked upon him
with such condescension and kindness
that he not only lifted him up in his need
from the dust of a worldly life,
but made him a practitioner, a leader and a herald
of Gospel perfection
and set him up as a light for believers
so that by bearing witness to the light
he might prepare for the Lord
a way of light and peace into the hearts of his faithful.

From The Life of St. Francis, by Bonaventure (tr. Donna Tartt).

Habemus Papum!

ABC News’ report is here.  He is from Argentina.  His name is Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis.

Here is the Catholic Herald’s profile of the new pope, which has this to say:

And then, of course, there is that Trappist silence. His press secretary, a young priest, spends his time interpreting what the Cardinal does not say. The other part of his job is to turn down, on Bergoglio’s behalf, interviews or invitations to write articles. The Archbishop of Buenos Aires has almost no published work, and seems to become less visible with each passing year.

When he does speak, however – in the annual Te Deums preached from the cathedral – it is dramatic. Bergoglio thunders like an Old Testament prophet; the government quakes in its boots.

Zenit says this about the significance of the choice of the name Francis:

Pope Francis has worked with the Curia, but he is an outsider, not an insider. He said the cardinals went to the “end of the earth” to find him. And he picks a name not ever used before. This marks something new. Francis of Assisi was asked by God to rebuild his Church. He at first thought it was the run-down church of San Damiano. He soon learned it was the whole Church, through a humble living of the Gospel.  Pope Francis I will be a man of reform. He has an Italian last name but a new fresh perspective. It will not be business as usual in Rome for long.

Here is John Allen’s profile.

And Sandro Magister’s, which includes this anecdote:

Someone in the Vatican had the idea to call him to direct an important dicastery. “Please, I would die in the Curia,” he implored.  They spared him.

He is spared no longer.

Philosopher John Haldane’s has this take over at First Things.

Lorenzo Albacete has this wonderful reflection on the true significance of the papacy:

Their reports sought to explain the events in Rome in terms of the election of American presidents. Some of the comparisons were clever and descriptive. Reports also dealt with the religious basis of the events. Even prayer and the Holy Spirit made their appearance in the reports.

Still, very few if any overcame the error mentioned at the beginning of this column, namely, the Church was looking for a leader who would be able and strong to clean up the scandal-ridden administration, and spiritual enough to attract the diversity of people for which other religions are competing as well as a secularism threatening all.

But this is not how we understand the mission of the Pope.

Before being someone with a job to do, he is the one sent to us to hear, see, and touch, whose physical presence is what links us to Christ. He is the custodian of the Incarnation.

My thoughts:  The news media seem to understand the Church on an analogy with a certain U.S. political party that recently lost an election decisively and is now repositioning itself on the issues in order to make itself more attractive to certain groups of voters.  The Church is not like that. Her obligation is to the truth; popularity is irrelevant.  The Church cannot change her teachings, even to become more popular or more modern.  She cannot teach one thing at one time, and the opposite thing at another time.  If she ever did, then she must be wrong at one of the times or the other or both.  But if the Church were ever wrong that would undermine her claim to possess teaching authority.  Each generation of Church leaders has the sacred obligation hold on to the deposit of faith, i.e., the teachings of the Church, handed down to them by the previous generation of Church leaders and by all the generations that came before them for 2,000 years all the way back to Peter, to proclaim those teachings to the world in their time, and in turn to pass them down  whole and uncorrupted to the next generation of Church leaders that will come after them.  The relentless focus in the news media on what the choice of new pope may portend for changes in Church teaching fails to appreciate the claims that the Church makes about herself.


Adam Liptak has an article in the New York Times describing the unequal apportionment in the U.S. Senate and the impact that it has on our politics.  Here is an excerpt:

But the Senate is in contention for the least democratic legislative chamber.  In some other countries with federal systems, in which states or provinces have independent political power, a malapportioned upper house may have only a weak or advisory role.  In the United States, the Senate is at least equal in power to the House, and it possesses some distinctive responsibilities, like treaty ratification and the approval of presidential appointments.  A recent appeals court decision severely limiting the president’s power to make recess appointments, if it stands, will further increase the Senate’s power.

Professor Dahl has calculated the difference between the local government unit with the most voting power and that with the least. The smallest ratio, 1.5, was in Austria, while in Belgium, Spain,  India, Germany, Australia and Canada the ratio was never higher than 21 to 1.

In this country, the ratio between Wyoming’s representation and California’s is 66 to 1.  By that measure, Professor Dahl found, only Brazil, Argentina and Russia had less democratic chambers.  A separate analysis, by David Samuels and Richard Snyder, similarly found that geographically large countries with federal systems tend to overrepresent sparsely populated areas.