Pope Francis

Art Appreciation: Pope Francis, Chagall, & Bolsheviks

Is papal art appreciation all that it seems? Pope Francis once cited Chagall’s “White Crucifixion” as one of his two favorite paintings. Perhaps he really meant it. Or maybe his stated preference was a cost-free instance of diplospeak. A polite ceremonial gesture to cover an entrenched imbalance in his Middle East sympathies? Either way, as an expression of sympathy for the Jewish people, papal art appreciation is easy but insubstantial.     It is no substitute for unambiguous support for Israel, a tiny Jewish state targeted for extinction from the date of its founding. Continue Reading
Lamentation

The Lord has delivered me into the grip of those I cannot resist. (Lamentations 1) Readers have written to ask why Studio Matters had gone quiet. There was the September essay in The Federalist on art work about 9/11 by eighth graders in 2011. After that, only radio silence. There was—still is— much in need of saying. I am simply not the one to say it. The catastrophic cruelty and ignorance—assuming it was ignorance rather than demented malice—of the manner in which the Biden regime fled Afghanistan are beyond my capacities for coherence. Continue Reading
Mortality, Magic, & Chinese Virus

Mortality was much on the mind of St. Augustine. In The City of God, he exhibits skepticism that a world thoroughly free of death-dealing plague could ever be possible. The tenor of this old quatrain has an Augustinian ring: Doctor, Doctor, will I die? Yes, my child, and so shall I. Like the original wording of many eighteenth century nursery rhymes, the lines irritate modern ears. Twentieth century sensibilities revised it to suit a well-fed, housed, and vaccinated generation poised to dismiss dispiriting reminders of mortality. Continue Reading
Frank Sheed; Love of Enemies; the Death Penalty

A sword lays buried within the mandate to love our enemies. Paul nodded to it in his letter to the Christian community in Rome. He quoted a passage from the wisdom literature familiar among Jews: “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you” (Prov. 25: 21-22). There is a compelling paradox here, a tension between kindly acts and anticipation of eventual punitive outcome for the recipient of the kindness—those burning coals! Continue Reading
On Loving Popes & Other Strangers, part 2

Declarations of love for everyone are a bluff. To love Everyman, an abstraction, is akin to loving no one. In our heart of hearts, we concede we cannot love anyone we do not know. Love of neighbor binds us in kindliness to certain others. First among them are individuals we live among. These are family, followed by persons we abide with in friendship, encounter in daily life, greet in passing, conduct business with. St. Paul places “those who belong to the family of believers” (Gal. Continue Reading