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Opinion Roundup

February 14, 2011

In London’s Catholic Herald, former editor William Oddie argues that the current debate over the introduction of a new Mass translation should be recognized as the last, desperate offensive by an aging generation of Church bureaucrats who have tried—and ultimately failed—to plot a new path for Catholicism, guided by what they identified (inaccurately) as “the spirit of Vatican II.”

Sandro Magister of L'Espresso reports that Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, has roused a lively debate in Italy with his frank criticism of current church architecture. Cardinal Ravasi spoke of the churches "in which we find ourselves lost as in a conference hall, distracted as in a sports arena, packed in as at a tennis court, degraded as in a pretentious and vulgar house." Architects quickly joined the chorus, and L'Osservatore Romano has furthered the debate.

In the National Post, Father Raymond de Souza writes that Charlie Sheen, the actor whose wild partying recently sent him first to the hospital, then to rehab, is really, deep down, looking for God, whether he knows it or not. Sheen's frantic search for pleasure, he explains, betrays the need for something more than he has experienced; "all his success simply mocks the contemptible man he has become."

Joan Frawley Desmond observes that First Things is showing signs of recovery after a difficult transition following the death of the magazine’s visionary founding editor, Father Richard Neuhaus.

And meanwhile, on the First Things site, Michael Novak chooses Valentine’s Day to make the provocative argument that romantic love does not ultimately end in “growing old together.” He explains:

If and when eros does vanquish all obstacles, it ceases to be romantic love. It now must choose between commitment to a concrete other with all the limitations of that other, or a once-and-for-all break-up. For with consummation, illusion is shattered. Flesh meets flesh. The reality of the human condition sets in.
Novak is not simply bursting lovers’ balloons, however. Citing Dietrich von Hildebrand, he argues that married love—which takes up where romantic love left off—is more concrete, more practical, more Incarnational.
Christian love is this worldly and realistic. Resistant to romantic illusions, feet-on-the-ground. Realism supreme. Reality is always better than illusion. And in regard to marriage, especially so. ?
Finally, writing in Vanity Fair, Michael Lewis has an incisive analysis of Ireland’s economic collapse. While his post-mortem on the demise of the “Celtic Tiger” may not seem immediately relevant to Catholic interests, one aspect is worth noticing. Lewis notes that in 2003, two Harvard economists advanced the theory that the spectacular boom being experienced in Ireland at that time was attributable to contraception:

Bloom and Canning argued that a major cause of the Irish boom was a dramatic increase in the ratio of working-age to non-working-age Irish brought about by a crash in the Irish birthrate. This had been driven mainly by Ireland’s decision, in 1979, to legalize birth control. That is, a nation’s fidelity to the Vatican’s edicts was inversely proportional to its ability to climb out of poverty: out of the slow death of the Catholic Church arose an economic miracle.

Ireland’s phenomenal growth rate was fueled by the real-estate market, with the building industries accounting for a quarter of domestic production. Then in 2008, developers suddenly realized that they didn’t have buyers for all the homes and offices they had built, and the housing bubble burst, with catastrophic consequences.

In the late 1970s, the Irish embraced contraception. Thirty years later, they found themselves desperately in need of a few million young adults looking to buy their first homes. Does anyone else out there notice a connection?


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