Thursday, November 05, 2009

George Washington and Catholics

From Donald McClarey @ American Catholic, a great post on George Washington and Catholics, including his forbidding his troops to engage in "anti-popery" on Guy Fawkes Day.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Charles Carroll -- America's Catholic Founding Father

Charles Carroll of Carrollton was a delegate to the Continental Congress and later United States Senator for Maryland. He was also the only Catholic to have signed the The Declaration of Independence. One of the wealthiest men in the colonies, it is reported that -- upon fixing his signature,

a member standing near observed, "There go a few millions," and all admitted that few risked as much, in a material sense, than the wealthy Marylander.
(The Life of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, 1737-1832, by Kate Mason Rowland).

A new biography, American Cicero: The Life of Charles Carroll (Lives of the Founders) (ISI) will be published in February 2010. (Tip of the hat to Carl Olson). The author, Dr. Bradley J. Birzer, was recently interviewed by the Washington Times:

Q: Carroll was the last of the signers to die. What did he have to say about America at the end of his life?

A: He was so critical of what happened to the republic after the founding. He's very critical of the democratic element in the American republic - he's worried that self-interest and greed are replacing republican virtue. So from the late 1700s, Carroll starts being called "the hoary-headed aristocrat." He starts to be seen as a relic of an older age. But after Carroll dies, there's a resurgence of his reputation. All across the country, the headlines read, "The last of the Romans is dead."

And he was one of Alexis de Tocqueville's main informants. So there are moments in de Tocqueville's Democracy in America (Penguin Classics) when he is being critical of the democratic spirit, and it seems very clear to me that he is taking that from his interview with Carroll.

Q: What does history get wrong about Carroll?

A: I'm always amazed at how much our own history, especially [in] our textbooks, tends to portray the founders as merely enlightened figures. And there's no doubt they were. But the vast majority were Christian - Franklin and Jefferson being the exceptions that so many focus on. And the American people were intensely religious, mostly Protestant, at the time of the founding. I think it's dangerous that we secularize the founding so much. We need to know the context - we need to know what inspired them to fight for liberty.

Read the whole thing.

This would make the second book published recently about the Catholic founding father, the first being Scott McDermott's Charles Carroll of Carrollton: Faithful Revolutionary (Scepter Publications, 2001).

McDermott, a circulation librarian at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, writer and convert, began studying about Carroll after he came into the Church -- In 2005, Zenit News interviewed him about his biography and Carroll's influence on the founding fathers (Part I | Part II).

* * *

I concur with the observation that the religiousity of many of our founding fathers is sadly overlooked and much neglected. Michael Novak made an important contribution to restoring a proper recognition to the religious roots of America's founding with his On Two Wings: Humble Faith and Common Sense at the American Founding (2001), followed by Washington's God, a study of the religious faith of the pre-eminent 'Father of our Country'.

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Evangelical Catholicism: Pope John Paul II on Patriotism

Michael Joseph (formerly of Vox Nova), his wife Katerina and several of his friends are resurrecting the blog Evangelical Catholicism.

He commemorates the 4th of July with a thoughtful reflection on the nature of patriotism as distinguished from nationalism, with recourse to John Paul II's Memory and Identity.

Well worth reading.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Richard John Neuhaus, 1936-2009

From Jody Bottum:

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus slipped away today, January 8, shortly before 10 o’clock, at the age of seventy-two. He never recovered from the weakness that sent him to the hospital the day after Christmas, caused by a series of side effects from the cancer he was suffering. He lost consciousness Tuesday evening after a collapse in his heart rate, and the next day, in the company of friends, he died.

My tears are not for him—for he knew, all his life, that his Redeemer lives, and he has now been gathered by the Lord in whom he trusted.

I weep, rather for all the rest of us. As a priest, as a writer, as a public leader in so many struggles, and as a friend, no one can take his place. The fabric of life has been torn by his death, and it will not be repaired, for those of us who knew him, until that time when everything is mended and all our tears are wiped away.

Funeral Arrangements

A Funeral Mass was celebrated for Father Richard John Neuhaus at the Church of the Immaculate Conception—414 E. 14th Street, New York City—on Tuesday, January 13, 2009.

A Christian wake service in the form of a Vigil for the Deceased was celebrated at the Church of the Immaculate Conception on Monday evening, January 12.

In lieu of flowers, donations are requested for Fr. Neuhaus’ work, the Institute on Religion and Public Life, online at this page or by mail to:

Institute on Religion and Public Life
156 Fifth Avenue
Suite 400
New York, NY 10010

“When I come before the judgment throne, I will plead the promise of God in the shed blood of Jesus Christ. I will not plead any work that I have done, although I will thank God that he has enabled me to do some good. I will plead no merits other than the merits of Christ, knowing that the merits of Mary and the saints are all from him; and for their company, their example, and their prayers throughout my earthly life I will give everlasting thanks. I will not plead that I had faith, for sometimes I was unsure of my faith, and in any event that would be to turn faith into a meritorious work of my won. I will not plead that I held the correct understanding of “justification by faith alone,” although I will thank God that he led me to know ever more fully the great truth that much misunderstood formulation was intended to protect. Whatever little growth in holiness I have experienced, whatever strength I have received from the company of the saints, whatever understanding I have attained of God and his ways - these and all other gifts received I will bring gratefully to the throne. But in seeking entry to that heavenly kingdom, I will…look to Christ and Christ alone.”

Richard John Neuhaus. Death on a Friday Afternoon



* * *

The story of the modern social conservative movement is all about activism and politics, petitions and court cases, but Father Neuhaus’s great testament was about something grander: through those he inspired, through his writings, through his organizing, and through something as simple as connecting people over lunch who may share nothing in terms of what they can eat on the table but share greatly in what is unseen, Father Neuhaus fundamentally changed religious life in America forever.

This is not an exaggeration. Nor by any means is it a dismissal of anyone else’s influence - but ultimately, the changes most other conservative thought leaders have helped achieve in the twentieth century were made at the hands of other men, elected to office. Father Neuhaus did not merely inspire the intellectual undergirding of change: with God’s help, he fashioned it himself, through hard work, a gift for eloquence, and always a wry smile at the end.

The world Father Neuhaus leaves is one where evangelicals and Catholics are more united than they are divided - where the old ethnic politics and arguments have faded, and where we worship and work together in harmony. My mother, never anything but a Protestant, upon learning of this Catholic convert priest’s passing, wrote to say she paused on learning the news to sing Faure’s Pie Jesu for him. I can think of nothing more fitting.

-- From Ben Domenech,

* * *

His conviction that abortion was the great crime of the age and his disgust with the American system’s failure to expunge the crime led to the most controversial act of his editorship, the publication of a symposium entitled “The End of Democracy?” in which he and other participants flirted with the notion that the United States had lost its legitimacy. COMMENTARY’s editors responded in part with a symposium entitled “On the Future of Conservatism,” in which various contributors argued heatedly against what they perceived to be an unacceptable radicalization of conservative discourse.

The breach was never fully healed, and yet, through it all, there was Richard, a man of great personal good cheer and bonhomie, always in possession of a terrific piece of gossip he always knew exactly when and how to drop in order to cause the biggest commotion, who somehow found the time to crank out thousands of words a month while jetting back and forth from Rome, engaging in plots and subplots and side bets. He was an exemplar of the truism that a righteous man need not be or conduct himself as though he were holier-than-thou. But in the end, his work was his life, and whether he was ministering to fatherless youths in Brooklyn or offering his considered and always highly informed opinion on the matter of stem-cell research, Richard John Neuhaus did what he did and said what he said for the betterment of humankind and for the greater glory of God.

John Podhoretz, Commentary Magazine

(More tributes are being collected by Steve Dillard @ Southern Appeal)