Art

Two Popes, Nehemiah,  & Walls

Overlooked in the flurry of objections to this year’s Vatican crèche is what the installation indicates about the personal—not to say profane—ambition of our current pope. Jorge Bergoglio is in a posthumous contest with Karol Wojtyla for a papal legacy. On October 16, 2002, John Paul II left his mark on the rosary, adding five more decades—the Luminous Mysteries—to a beloved devotion untouched for eight hundred years. Now comes Francis I to stamp his identity on the eight hundred year old crèche, rebranding it as a marketing tool for his trademark promotion of limitless migration and open borders. Continue Reading
The Vatican's Social Justice Créche

Joy to the world and a lump of coal in your bourgeois stocking. That is the mixed message of this year’s updated créche in St. Peter’s Square. Admonitory additions to the traditional créche illustrate Orwell’s contention that all art is propaganda. He did not have the ancient manger scene in mind, but he might as well have. Right-thinking Vatican set designers appear intent on proving him correct. And exhibiting their own high moral conscience at the same time. A polemic in disguise, this year’s installation is a leaden tutorial from earnest men with stern expressions and furrowed brows. Continue Reading
Jesuits West, the Musical

The Society of Jesus explains the recent launch of a West Coast province under the headline: “The Dawning Of Jesuits West.” The caption is too suggestive to have been inadvertent. So let us take the Jesuits at their word and run with the allusion. This glistening new province hints at itself as the final coming of the Age of Aquarius. That grand epoch of astrological hope is really on its way this time ‘round. Peace will guide the planets and love will steer the stars. Continue Reading
Amuse-Bouche For August

It is August. This is the time of year to loll in a hammock, take bribes, and be fanned by eunuchs. But I have no hammock. No one is coming forward with a bribe. And all the eunuchs are clustered where they have always been—in high places, far from here and out of reach. Still, I can dream. In reality, there is no alternative to getting on with the job. This time, though, hot weather gives me a plausible excuse to put aside a proper essay and just . Continue Reading
Dreary Apparitions (Complaints, Part 2)

Credulity is not a virtue. Nor is it a compliment to faith. We are advised to be always ready with a cogent answer “to every man that asketh you a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15) The words emphasize faith’s footing in rationality. The faith is to be defended in accord with reason and logic. Admittedly, reason is chastened by its own limits. As Paul wrote to the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for.” There is no acid test for “the evidence of things not seen.” But, following Paul, the search for understanding cannot—must not—be abandoned to sentimental mystification. Continue Reading