- What are the principles for which America fights?
- The Sessions Nothingburger
- She was still Dana
- What breed is his birth mother?
- Notre Dame’s Commencement
- The greatest work of mercy
What are the principles for which America fights? This is a trick question. Countries can pursue principles to the point of sparking conflict. They can invoke principles to raise morale. They can follow principles in waging war. But few principles can be turned into a casus belli without driving a country headlong into fanaticism.
It is fanaticism, America’s fanaticism, that the Pulitzer Prize–winning University of Pennsylvania historian Walter McDougall blames when he considers the strategic advantages the United States has squandered since Osama bin Laden led an attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. George W. Bush, whom Americans had elected to the White House a year before the attacks, really did say in their aftermath, “Our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil.” His administration named its original Afghan invasion plan Operation Infinite Justice. And McDougall has a particularly bleak assessment of the Iraq invasion that followed the attack on Afghanistan. “To speak of draining the swamps of Islamo-fascism through democratization of the whole Muslim crescent,” he writes, “was mad.”
If so, it was a madness that has been a signature of American foreign policy at least since the end of the Cold War.
(Christopher Caldwell, America’s Fighting Faith – a review of Walter A McDougall’s The Tragedy of U.S. Foreign Policy: How America’s Civil Religion Betrayed the National Interest)
Originally, when writing this story, I intended to offer three hypotheses for what could have happened: (1) Sessions was colluding with Moscow and trying to hide it. (2) Sessions wasn’t colluding with Moscow, but he forgot about his meetings with Kislyak. (3) Sessions wasn’t colluding with Moscow, but decided to lie about contacts with Russians.
I dismissed Hypothesis 1. If you’re conspiring with Moscow, then you at least try to be sneaky about things. Maybe meeting your co-plotter in your Senate office is so obvious that it’s a brilliant fake, but—really. I was more partial to Hypothesis 2, especially since Senator Claire McCaskill just tweeted out today that during her years in the Senate she had had “No call or meeting w/Russian ambassador. Ever.”—only to be revealed to have had such interactions after all. But Sessions also submitted a Questions for the Record filing, or QFR, and such documents are completed with great deliberation and care. There’s no excuse for an omission or falsehood in that format. So that left Hypothesis 3: that Sessions was trying to avoid feeding perceptions of Russian coziness and therefore denied something that had happened.
Then I reviewed the tape. And now I dismiss all three.
(T.A. Frank, committing journalism at Vanity Fair) If you want to see why he dismissed all three, suffice that it had to do with putting the questions in context. If you want more detail, you’ll have to go to the linked story.
Even after she largely lost the ability to speak, I could look into her eyes and see she was still there. She was still Dana. I would tell her so. “I see you. I see you in there.” She would nod in response. Once or twice, I would even get a smile. Those were days of true value.
I wish no other family ever had to lose someone to “this disease.” But for all those on this path, please know that it does not mean you must be robbed of your loved ones before they leave this earth. They are still there, and the time you spend with them can be a gift of grace you might otherwise never have known. My hope for you is that you get to share the heavenly peace and love our family was able to share with our sister while she was with us. It is a blessing.
While [Notre Dame theology professor Francesca Murphy served as Senior Fellow at First Things last year], she was walking Olivier, a handsome golden retriever, a flamboyant man in the West Village who was walking his own dog asked Francesca, “What breed is his birth mother?” Birth mother!
Pet owners can become enthusiastic—to the point of the surreal. Another example comes from an advertisementFrancesca sent me. “The Distressed Dog Parent [Parent!] Support Group provides a safe, supportive environment for dog owners to express and share their challenges of caring for difficult pets. All too often, dog owners are left feeling isolated, frustrated and exhausted when coping with dog-specific issues.” Sounds very trying. But not to worry: “This group will offer an empathetic, nonjudgmental space to explore shared experiences, form new bonds and develop coping strategies.”
In 2009, Notre Dame invited the newly elected Barack Obama to address her graduates at the May commencement and announced the intention to confer upon him an honorary degree. Controversy ensued, which is not surprising, given Obama’s public stance against any limitations to the abortion license. Mary Ann Glendon, who had been designated the recipient of the university’s Laetare Medal, withdrew in protest. The local bishop declined to attend. Fr. John Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame, defended the university’s decision, saying it was a longtime tradition for Notre Dame to invite the newly elected president, adding that Notre Dame is committed to dialogue and that the university honors “all people of good will who have come to this discussion respectfully and out of deeply held conviction.” Last year, Notre Dame honored Joe Biden, someone not known for his support of the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of life or integrity of marriage. Again, Jenkins hymned dialogue.
Donald J. Trump is now president, and Jenkins is hedging. Which is not surprising. Academics are having a long, juvenile temper tantrum over Trump. This puts Jenkins in a tough spot. He has a history of anguished decision-making, though the Notre Dame president usually ends up deciding not to anger the liberal establishment, which in this case means finding an apparently impartial, high-minded reason for not inviting Trump. Jenkins recently floated the notion that he owes it to faculty, parents, and graduates not to allow commencement to become a distracting controversy and a “circus.” Dialogue, it seems, but only up to a point.
My suggestion to the Trump administration: Make it known that the president would like to give a commencement address explaining his change of heart on abortion and outlining why he thinks the protection of the unborn is a crucial imperative for a just society. That would make Jenkins’s decision difficult in just the right way.
It’s not uncommon for Catholics [or Orthodox — Tipsy] to think divorce and remarriage are fine, and that gay unions should be blessed. These people should not be pushed away, but instead drawn into a closer engagement with the Church’s teaching and communal life. This means pastors must be willing to be present to them to explain what the Church actually teaches. The greatest work of mercy, therefore, isn’t to bend rules. It is to form consciences according to the truth.
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“The truth is that the thing most present to the mind of man is not the economic machinery necessary to his existence; but rather that existence itself; the world which he sees when he wakes every morning and the nature of his general position in it. There is something that is nearer to him than livelihood, and that is life.” (G.K. Chesterton)