Tuesday, 10/3/17


  1. The Latin Mass
  2. Le pari bénédictin
  3. Who owns the GOP’s future?
  4. #Fail
  5. Adjuncts
  6. Shorts


The maxim lex orandi, lex credendi was on my mind even before I spotted this:

Traditional Catholicism is sometimes considered superstitious for the stress it places on formal devotions like the Rosary and meatless Fridays, but such practices are what have made the faith appealing to all nations and classes. When bishops began to discard traditional devotions at the time of Vatican II, the British anthropologist Mary Douglas accused them of turning the faith into an airy set of bourgeois ethical commitments. Liturgical change was a kind of class war. Available statistics bear her argument out: In the United States, Mass attendance remained stable among rich Catholics when the Latin Mass was abandoned, but dipped among the poor.

It is amazing that the leaders of a ritual faith imagined that they could dispense with traditional forms of prayer. Among the few elites who saw the folly of this project, most were artists, naturally alert to the way supposedly superficial things can in fact be essential. In a 1971 letter to Pope Paul VI, artists of all faiths and no faith — figures as varied as Vladimir Ashkenazy, Graham Greene and Agatha Christie — protested that the Latin Mass was a living work of art, belonging “to universal culture as well as to churchmen.”

Shortly after his conversion to Catholicism, Evelyn Waugh wrote a story about a visitor to London who is cast 500 years into the future, when the city is reduced to a cluster of huts. The English inhabitants are illiterate savages who cower as colonizers from Africa motor up and down the Thames. The traveler is disoriented, until his eyes fall on something he knows. “Out of strangeness, there had come into being something familiar; a shape in chaos.” An African priest is saying the Latin Mass.

Despite centuries of reversal and tumult, something “new and yet ageless” remained. When the Latin Mass was suppressed at the end of Waugh’s life, his youthful vision of it being said forever looked like folly. If it seems likelier today, it is due in part to people like Bishop Ochiagha and the worshipers here who have preserved an inheritance rejected by others. Against all odds, the body of Christ remains “a shape in chaos,” marked but unbroken by the passing of time.

(Matthew Schmitz, The Latin Mass, Thriving in Southeastern Nigeria)


Rod Dreher is in France promoting a French translation of the Benedict Option.

I’m having fun. I’m also working hard. Thing is, it’s hard to tell the difference. Let me explain.

I have a great publisher in France, Artège, and the staff has done a masterful job in setting up interviews and public forums in which to discuss the Benedict Option (called here in France le pari bénédictin; the full title of the French version of the book is: “How To Be Christian In A World That No Longer Is: The Benedictine Gamble”). The problem with these folks is that they’re so much fun to hang out with that I can’t tell the difference between business and pleasure. And not just “fun” in the social sense. For me, as someone who tends strongly towards pessimism, it has been a real joy to meet so many committed young Catholics who take the book seriously and who are working hard toward living out the faith in a country where that is not easy to do.

On Sunday, I participated in a round table at a Catholic mission congress — that is, a big meeting of Christians from all over France, who gathered over the weekend in Paris to talk about evangelization. Before my event, I met lots of folks outside the church of Notre-Dame-des-Champs, including my new friends Julien and Cecile[.]

We were only able to speak for a short time, but I was impressed by their seriousness and their optimism. I have yet to meet a French Catholic who has what strikes me as a false sense of optimism about the hard road Christians in this country face. But I have yet to meet one (at least one under the age of 40) who is not visibly hopeful, despite it all. That’s a powerful thing. People like Julien and Cecile are the Church’s future in France.

But in the meantime, French law and culture are immensely secularizing, and Rod met Christians suffering professional disadvantage and crises of conscience. After quoting Michele Onfray, a French atheist who has come to believe that “civilization is possible only with a spirituality which sustains it and which itself derives from a religion,” Rod reflects:

Seeing Christianity in instrumental terms — as “good for society” — may be true, in a strict sense, but it is also powerless. No man believes in God because it is good for him, or sacrifices for a God because it may result in material benefits. If I understand Prof. Merion correctly (and it is possible that I do not!), he is trying to convince post-Christian France that it should not be mean to Christians, because we can serve the social good. Is there not a serious risk that Christians who live according to that vision would come to conduct themselves so as to achieve approval in the eyes of a society that will never accept them as real Christians, only neutered servants?

If Christians are truly to serve the common good, it will be as whole Christians, not a socially useful minority who has this odd habit of praying on Sundays. In a civilization that has dismissed all transcendence, we Christians must live transcendentally. That is, we must practice the presence of God in all times and places. Even as we live and move in the post-Christian world — as we must; I do not advocate for physical retreat — we must never lose the conviction that God is everywhere present, and fills all things. That everything around us is “enchanted,” is an icon through which we perceive the divine. This is why the monastic example is so valuable for we lay Christians who live in the world. Benedictine monks construct their lives to always remind them of God’s presence, and to incarnate the reality of Him into the routines of their lives. Through the disciplines of prayer, Scripture study, and fasting in community, they gradually, over time, sediment the faith into their bones.

Therefore, in the post-Christian age, Christians have to either get radical or get lost. There is no other realistic choice ….


Only half a decade ago, the perfect Republican candidate on paper was someone like Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), a lawyer who favors free trade, an absolutist reading of the Second Amendment, and a far less regulated economy; denies the existence of anthropogenic climate change; opposes abortion and same-sex marriage; and flirts with ideas like reviving the gold standard and auditing the Federal Reserve. He’s chamber of commerce in the streets, Bible camp righteousness in the sheets.

… The absorption of evangelical values voters into the Republican coalition between the nomination of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan’s first inauguration coincided with the party’s turn to libertarian economics, but there was no causal relationship between the two. There has never been a point in the history of the post-Reagan Republican Party in which the priorities of Christians have been allowed to interfere with the GOP’s commitments to laissez-faire economics. [Roy] Moore is the lunatic breakout star that Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell dreamed of.

To whom does the future of the Republican Party belong, [Bruce] Rauner or Moore? … Whether the Republican Party embraces a pro-business, Chamber of Commerce and NCAA-approved moderate social liberalism or continues on the absolutist course charted by Moore is not something that will be up to the president and the party establishment, who would prefer neither.

But there can no longer be a holding pattern. Is abortion murder or a human right that should be guaranteed by the state? Is marriage equality a meaningless neologism or a hard-fought victory for the civil rights movement of our day? What, if any, role should religion play in public life? These, not prudential questions about political economy, are the real fissures in American politics. They are also subjects about which it is increasingly impossible to be vague.

(Matthew Walther, This is the real schism in the GOP)


I was going to comment on the news coverage and commentary coming out of Sunday night’s Las Vegas mass shooting, but then realized that my commentary would be its own version of what I’d have been criticizing about the news coverage and commentary.

The preceding paragraph, in other words, is an artifact of a failure. But if I ran a newspaper, I couldn’t admit that.


From the department of “glad I read this, but …”:

In American academia there are two tiers of employment. The first consists of professors on the tenure track or already tenured. Once they’ve proved themselves as teachers and researchers, their jobs are secure. The second tier is everyone else: lecturers who might be hired full time for a semester, but with no promise of continued employment; graduate teaching assistants; post-docs who work in labs; and instructors brought on part time to teach a class or two.

The second tier — the adjunct tier — has been growing. In 1975, it made up 55 percent of the academic work force. Today it’s 70 percent.

The pay isn’t good. Although there’s considerable variation depending on the nature of the appointment, on average adjunct instructors receive only $1,000 for every course credit they teach. Most college courses are three or four credits, and full-time teaching loads pretty much max out at five classes a semester (at community colleges). You can do the math.

Adjunct teaching has been expanding for three reasons. First, it’s much cheaper for colleges and universities. Second, American graduate schools award an enormous number of Ph.D.s, even in disciplines where jobs are scarce. Graduates who can’t find tenure-track positions may take adjunct employment rather than give up on the academic dream. And third, for decades conservatives have railed against the institution of tenure, which they see as protecting ideologues. Their attacks have succeeded in weakening it.

But there’s reason to believe widespread reliance on adjunct faculty may encourage the very radicalism conservatives fear. Social scientists have found that when aspiring intellectuals face highly restricted employment opportunities, they often take refuge in extreme politics ….

(Neil Gross, Professors Behaving Badly) Anecdotally, adjunct professors are disproportionately responsible for comments like “it’s an honor to teach future dead cops.” Going beyond anecdote is the “social science” Gross discusses.

My introductory “but” is partly hesitation to let anyone off the hook for outrageous comments just because they’re underemployed, partly resignation that if somebody gets a doctorate in a discipline with dubious employment prospects, he really shouldn’t be surprised by dubious employment prospects even if he takes on huge student loans to finance that PhD. Reality bites.

But there’s a racket out there that encourages those huge loans and obliviousness to real-world consequences. And the lot of an adjunct isn’t a happy one.



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“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.