FIRST CIRCULATED underground in communist Czechoslovakia in October 1978, Vaclav Havel’s brilliant dissection of totalitarianism, “The Power of the Powerless,” retains its salience four decades later. It should be required reading for politicians given to describing the Knights of Columbus as an “extremist” organization because of the Knights’ pro-life convictions and activism.
WRITING RECENTLY on women seeking the presidency and the “likability” factor in our politics, Peggy Noonan made a tart observation: “There are a lot of male candidates with likability problems. Some, such as Andrew Cuomo, a three-term governor of a large state, are so unlikable they aren’t even mentioned as contenders.”
PETER STEINFELS’ long career in journalism included years of service as editor of Commonweal (from which perch he took me to the woodshed more than once), followed by a decade as senior religion correspondent of the New York Times.
The morality of tyrannicide is not much discussed in today’s kinder, gentler Catholic Church. Yet that difficult subject once engaged some of Catholicism’s finest minds, including Thomas Aquinas and Francisco Suárez, and it was passionately debated during the Second World War by German officers – many of them devout Christians – who were pondering the assassination of Adolf Hitler.
The slogan “Nothing about us without us” was used by Solidarity in the 1980s in Poland, borrowing a royal motto from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the mid-second millennium. Then, it was expressed in Latin: Nihil de nobis sine nobis.
The Vatican is a hotbed of rumor, gossip and speculation at the best of times — and these times are not those times. The Roman atmosphere at the beginning of 2019 is typically fetid and sometimes poisonous, with a lot of misinformation and disinformation floating around. That smog of fallacy and fiction could damage February’s global gathering of bishops, called by the pope to address the abuse crisis that is impeding the Church’s evangelical mission virtually everywhere.
To be a pilgrim is to be going somewhere. That somewhere is the Kingdom come among us at Christmas, and coming again in power and glory. The St. Patrick’s Advent Mission procession invited an aggressively secular and sometimes sordid part of London to join that journey to beatitude.
Take a stand against the electronification of everything – give (real) books this Christmas. Some recommendations:
TWENTY YEARS AGO this month, I found myself seriously double-booked, so to speak.
“Father, We Thank Thee, Who Hast Planted” has long been one of my favorite hymns. Its tune, taken from the 16th century Genevan Psalter, is eminently singable. The hymn text – when not corrupted by that politically correct scoundrel, “alt.,” – is even better. For Francis Bland Tucker’s lyrics put 21st-century congregations in touch with the second generation of Christians, and perhaps even the first, by combining various phrases from an ancient Christian prayer book and catechism, the Didache.