The Emotional Affair of John Paul II

A couple of years before he became Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla wrote to a Polish woman: “God gave you to me and made you my vocation.” The letter was one of more than 700 saved letters between he and Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka, a Polish-American philosopher he met in 1973. The year before Wojtyla’s letter, Anna-Teresa had supposedly written that “she desired to be in his arms and remain there in happiness.” He gave her a scapular he had received from his father at his first communion. She sent him pressed flowers and photographs from her home. Their deeply intimate relationship lasted his lifetime, continuing as she read to him on his deathbed. The whole time she was married to Harvard economist Hendrik Houthakker. Continue reading “The Emotional Affair of John Paul II”

Love in the Landfill

My education at Notre Dame focused significantly on the ancient and medieval world. More than fifty of my 132 credits were on languages, cultures and ideas prior to the modern era, and these classes shaped the way I viewed my own life. I suspect the ways in which I lived and spoke were countercultural, not necessarily deliberately, but because many of my intellectual categories and contexts for thinking about life predated those of the contemporary world by millennia. Continue reading “Love in the Landfill”

Why Look at Porn?

Notre Dame students look at porn. It’s just a fact. In 2013, I conducted a very informal survey of more than 400 Notre Dame students on pornography use. Sixty-three percent of men and 11 percent of women admitted to viewing porn while on campus.

I don’t know entirely what to do with this fact. I don’t like pornography. I agree with Timothy Bradley and Hailey Vrdolyak’s recent claim that “pornography use erodes our ability to love real persons.” And yet, the lack of “real persons” is precisely what makes pornography so attractive. Continue reading “Why Look at Porn?”

The Pain of Parting

Michelangelo began sculpting the Pietá when he was about 23 years old, about a year older than most of the students who will soon graduate from Notre Dame. His Pietá was a novel piece among Italian art representing Our Lady. The artistic tradition had previously maintained a Mary who stood strong at the foot of the cross and who neither trembled nor wept upon her Son’s death. This tradition had stressed a kind of devotion to God that neither swayed nor sorrowed at times of loss or pain.  Continue reading “The Pain of Parting”

On poverty and the theology requirement

I recently attended the United Nations 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. Representatives from around the world discussed the relationship between poverty and the education of women. The Western nations tended to present abstract arguments for “disaggregating data” and the importance of increased access of opportunity to education, political office and economic capital as a means of eradicating the poverty suffered by women in both developed and undeveloped nations. Indeed, access to education seemed to me a valuable means to the empowerment of women until a Nigerian delegate objected that “access to education” does not ensure “quality education.”  Continue reading “On poverty and the theology requirement”

On Blind Faith

Ignorant people take things by blind faith. At least, this is the belief of our age, the age which calls itself the “enlightened age.” In an age of technological progress and scientific advancement, the obvious thing to do with “blind faith” is to reject it as a feature of darker times, of primitive man or of tyrannical religion. That being said, I’ve found that Catholicism does involve quite a bit of “blind following.” Catholics are, for the most part “blind followers,” who take up doctrines that they don’t understand and accept them blindly. Catholics, in other words, are just like everyone else. Continue reading “On Blind Faith”