R.R. Reno on the status of the Catholic Church:
"I don’t think, however, that the Catholic hierarchy has grasped the sociological and institutional consequences of counter-cultural status. If you’re not a player, you’re much more vulnerable: more vulnerable to being flayed by public opinion, more vulnerable to journalistic Jihads, more vulnerable to politically aware governmental officials who see that skewering bishops can advance careers, more vulnerable to angry protesters and bitter victims.
"So, yes, of course the Catholic Church has brought the current scandals upon herself, with a great deal of blame going to the hierarchy. But the social impact, the lasting consequences, the feeling that a great deal it in peril? No, it’s not a function of sin within the Church, however horrifying the sexual abuse might be on its own terms. Instead, the scandals reveals a change that is part of a realignment within European societies.
"Put simply: the Church has become largely disestablished on the ground, with few going to church (a social reality the consequences of which were masked, perhaps, by the remarkable charisma of John Paul II), and therefore it can no longer retain the privileges of social establishment, one of the most important of which is protection from debilitating criticism."
Scientifically underdetermined: a note on John Polkinghorne:
"It's with that recognition that there is a possibility of giving an account of divine action within nature, which is compatible with science. It relies neither upon a God who intervenes outside the usual play of nature, nor seeks low-level causal gaps. Rather, God's action could be viewed as analogous to top-down, emergent causation – particularly when it implies signs of purpose or intentionality.
"An obvious – though obviously contentious example – could be the relationship between mind and the neural components of the brain. To put it simply, if neurons affect our consciousness from the bottom-up, mind might be said to do so from the top-down. That'd be one way of understanding human agency. Divine agency could be described by analogical extension."
(Via Steven Riddle.)
Steven Riddle on books like Lolita:
"There are some subjects, no matter how beautifully couched or archly written, no matter how knowing or humorous, no matter how smugly self-assured and self-involved (I think here of Nabakov whose writerly persona is so thoroughly repugnant that if one wishes to enjoy the fiction one needs to forget who has written it, and whose opinions are as pertinent and yet blindly prejudiced as those of certain other professional critics) that simply cannot be ignored for the sake of art. When we do so we coarsen discourse and society. I know, that is not a popular opinion; however, I'm very willing to say that the epidemic of sexual child abuse and of attempts to legalize it (NAMBLA, for example) is directly attributable to Nabokov's broaching of the subject matter and the beautiful and even sympathetic treatment of the monster at its center. The critical acumen necessary to twist Nabokov's distant and yet not disapproving treatment of Humbert Humbert into an indictment of what he does is not present in the ordinary reader. And the fact that the victim is punished as thoroughly as the transgressor doesn't help the case of the critics who would argue that Nabokov's work is not at least superficially sympathetic to the monster in the middle.
"So too with American Psycho...."