Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.
Showing posts with label G K Chesterton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label G K Chesterton. Show all posts

Babies and Distributism

Here's a little taste of G. K. Chesterton, whose writing style is somewhat ironic because as he writes, the reader has the constant sensation that he is being led somewhere and only the author knows.  He is a master of paradoxical conclusions designed to blow his ideological opponents out of the water.

I hope it is not a secret arrogance to say that I do not think I am exceptionally arrogant; or if I were, my religion would prevent me from being proud of my pride. Nevertheless, for those of such a philosophy, there is a very terrible temptation to intellectual pride, in the welter of wordy and worthless philosophies that surround us today. Yet there are not many things that move me to anything like a personal contempt. I do not feel any contempt for an atheist, who is often a man limited and constrained by his own logic to a very sad simplification. I do not feel any contempt for a Bolshevist, who is a man driven to the same negative simplification by a revolt against very positive wrongs. But there is one type of person for whom I feel what I can only call contempt. And that is the popular propagandist of what he or she absurdly describes as Birth-Control.


I despise Birth-Control first because it is a weak and wobbly and cowardly word. It is also an entirely meaningless word; and is used so as to curry favour even with those who would at first recoil from its real meaning. The proceeding these quack doctors recommend does not control any birth. It only makes sure that there shall never be any birth to control. It cannot for instance, determine sex, or even make any selection in the style of the pseudo-science of Eugenics. Normal people can only act so as to produce birth; and these people can only act so as to prevent birth. But these people know perfectly well as I do that the very word Birth-Prevention would strike a chill into the public, the instant it was blazoned on headlines, or proclaimed on platforms, or scattered in advertisements like any other quack medicine. They dare not call it by its name, because its name is very bad advertising. Therefore they use a conventional and unmeaning word, which may make the quack medicine sound more innocuous.

Second, I despise Birth-Control because it is a weak and wobbly and cowardly thing. It is not even a step along the muddy road they call Eugenics; it is a flat refusal to take the first and most obvious step along the road of Eugenics. Once grant that their philosophy is right, and their course of action is obvious; and they dare not take it; they dare not even declare it. If there is no authority in things which Christendom has called moral, because their origins were mystical, then they are clearly free to ignore all the difference between animals and men; and treat men as we treat animals. They need not palter with the stale and timid compromise and convention called Birth-Control. Nobody applies it to the cat. The obvious course for Eugenists is to act towards babies as they act towards kittens. Let all the babies be born; and then let us drown those we do not like. I cannot see any objection to it; except the moral or mystical sort of objection that we advance against Birth-Prevention. And that would be real and even reasonable Eugenics; for we could then select the best, or at least the healthiest, and sacrifice what are called the unfit. By the weak compromise of Birth-Prevention, we are very probably sacrificing the fit and only producing the unfit. The births we prevent may be the births of the best and most beautiful children; those we allow, the weakest or worst. Indeed, it is probable; for the habit discourages the early parentage of young and vigorous people; and lets them put off the experience to later years, mostly from mercenary motives. Until I see a real pioneer and progressive leader coming out with a good, bold, scientific programme for drowning babies, I will not join the movement.

But there is a third reason for my contempt, much deeper and therefore more difficult to express; in which is rooted all my reasons for being anything I am or attempt to be; and above all, for being a Distributist. Perhaps the nearest to a description of it is to say this: that my contempt boils over into bad behaviour when I hear the common suggestion that a birth is avoided because people want to be "free" to go to the cinema or buy a gramophone or a loud-speaker. What makes me want to walk over such people like doormats is that they use the word "free." By every act of that sort they chain themselves to the most servile and mechanical system yet tolerated by men. The cinema is a machine for unrolling certain regular patterns called pictures; expressing the most vulgar millionaires' notion of the taste of the most vulgar millions. The gramophone is a machine for recording such tunes as certain shops and other organisations choose to sell. The wireless is better; but even that is marked by the modern mark of all three; the impotence of the receptive party. The amateur cannot challenge the actor; the householder will find it vain to go and shout into the gramophone; the mob cannot pelt the modern speaker, especially when he is a loud-speaker. It is all a central mechanism giving out to men exactly what their masters think they should have.

Now a child is the very sign and sacrament of personal freedom. He is a fresh free will added to the wills of the world; he is something that his parents have freely chosen to produce and which they freely agree to protect. They can feel that any amusement he gives (which is often considerable) really comes from him and from them and from nobody else. He has been born without the intervention of any master or lord. He is a creation and a contribution; he is their own creative contribution to creation. He is also a much more beautiful, wonderful, amusing and astonishing thing than any of the stale stories or jingling jazz tunes turned out by the machines. When men no longer feel that he is so, they have lost the appreciation of primary things, and therefore all sense of proportion about the world. People who prefer the mechanical pleasures, to such a miracle, are jaded and enslaved. They are preferring the very dregs of life to the first fountains of life. They are preferring the last, crooked, indirect, borrowed, repeated and exhausted things of our dying Capitalist civilisation, to the reality which is the only rejuvenation of all civilisation. It is they who are hugging the chains of their old slavery; it is the child who is ready for the new world.


G. K. Chesterton, "Babies and Distributism," from The Well and the Shallows


I hope you enjoyed that little article as much as I have. Little did Chesterton know... or perhaps he did suspect... that before long an age would come in which men would murder babies in the womb, starve them in hospital janitor closets, and openly speak in the classroom of murdering them into their first years of life postpartum.

More on the Concert

The concert was great.  Here are some random, unorganized recollections and reflections.


U2 did a good mix of old and new.  That is very much their style: classic because unchanging on some substratum, but yet always keeping up with the times, and never mindlessly following them.

I would have liked to hear "Angel of Harlem" but am happy to exchange that experience for what I did get: Bono sang a medley in honor of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, a hero of mine, that started off with the first verse of "Amazing Grace," sang reverently and beautifully.  The whole audience joined in.  So much for America not being a Christian nation.  The medley transitioned into "Beautiful Day," causing the audience to explode and join in.  He sang other songs in tribute to the following people, perhaps among others I missed, and in no particular order:

  • Bishop Desmond Tutu;
  • President George W. Bush (no joke - in gratitude for Pres. Bush's previously unsung but heroic efforts against malaria in Africa - people were stunned into silence by this tribute, but they loved the song, so it was OK); and
  • Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma.
Bono was not explicit with his own Christian faith, not in the sense of preaching at the audience - it wasn't a revival and faith witness - but he was really unabashed about it his Christian beliefs and spiritual anchoring.  That was cool.  Cardinal McCarrick was in attendance and got one of the first shout-outs.  Rumor has it that Bono and the Cardinal are fans of each other and have met on a number of occasions.  The late Holy Father John Paul II also had such a relationship, more visible, with the Rock Star.  That relationship went so far as to include gift exchanging, as if Bono were a head of state.

Last night at the concert, when Bono introduced the band, he gave each of the band members titles: Secretary of Defense, etc., making Larry Mullens, Jr. into the leader of the opposition party, for example, and announcing himself as majority leader of the Nation-State of U2.  He ended his introductions by speaking a bit about how much he likes Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, having visited the region a number of times aside from his concert tours.  Naturally, the crowds enjoyed these compliments.  He also praised America, and thanks Americans for "the idea of America."  That's very Chestertonian of him.  G. K. Chesterton wrote in What I Saw in America something to the extent that "whereas other countries are bloodlines, America is an idea," the idea of democracy and plurality in harmony - what Holy Father Benedict has called America's healthy secular ideal - in opposition to the atheistic secularism in Europe, and gaining ground even here under the cover of the older kind of civic life that called itself secular once.

They sang all the staples in their canon, some that you might not expect, like "Vertigo", some of the stuff from All That You Can't Leave Behind ("Beautiful Day" was for Eunice; thinking of her makes me choke up sometimes; God rest her well), and a couple songs from their new album.  I especially enjoyed hearing "Moment of Surrender" played.

The graphic and special effects were out of this world.  Just amazing.

Prototype of the Convert

Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul (Jan 25)

St. Paul's conversion becomes in our mind the very prototype for a conversion to our holy Faith because of the dramatic change he underwent. From killing Christians to proclaiming Christ seemingly overnight, if the account from Acts of the Apostles is read without interpretation.

In reality, things weren't quite as decisive as all that. Firstly, tradition holds, and the his letters themselves seem to indicate, that St. Paul spent several years in Arabia between his initial conversion and the beginning of his preaching (Gal 1:17). During this time, the zealous and violent Pharisee was transformed gradually into the zealous and gentle Apostle.

Moreover, it must be borne in mind that Saul the Pharisee did not knowingly oppose God. Quite to the contrary, according to his own best natural lights, Saul was passionately obedient to God. His problem was not caring for God too little, but knowing Him too little. "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" the Pharisee was asked. He responded with a telling question of his own, "Who are you, Lord?" (Acts 9:4-5). It hadn't occured to him earlier that the Jesus whose followers he hounded might actually have been God. The radical repositioning that changed Saul into St. Paul was, at least firstly, a recognition. He didn't change his mind about God, but about Jesus, by recognizing Him to be God. Most of us need a much more radical conversion, because even if we recognize Jesus to be God, we do not recognize God to be God - that is, we make ourselves God while paying mere lip service to the Creator. While Saul was mostly in error, we are mostly in a much more serious spiritual problem - hypocrisy.

All that said, Saul's conversion into Paul was radical and shocking enough to alarm and amaze the Christian communities he encountered (Acts 9:21). And even though his vocation needed maturation and testing in the harsh Arabian desert, his zeal was never dampered and he immediately began to preach the One whose disciples he had murdered (Acts 9:20).

Most of our conversions don't happen with the apparent pace of St. Paul's. The Holy Spirit works in all of us, but what was patent in St. Paul immediately is latent and subtle in most of the rest of us. Gradually the Holy Spirit molds and kneads our soul, strengthening from without and supporting from without. The rate of our growth is exactly equal to our willingness, and a major work of the Holy Spirit is to increase our willingness, our attitude of obedience to God. Those unbaptized persons or unconfirmed Christians who seek admission into Holy Church and so receive her holy sacraments manifest the same sort of obvious conversion that St. Paul did. Still, all of us need ongoing conversion, and some of us, even while practicing the Faith externally yet need a much more radical conversion.

I thought it would be fun to include a roughly chronological list of some cool converts who have already departed this life for the eternal, coming from different walks of life throughout the ages. Many of them paid a steep price, even martyrdom, for their integrity and commitment to Christ. May they be rewarded for it, and may we imitate them! If you can think of others, please tack them up as comments!

St. Justin Martyr, Ss. Perpetua & Felicity, St. Ambrose of Milan, St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Martin of Tours, St. Patrick of Ireland, St. Stephen the King of Hungary, St. Juan Diego, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, Alphonse Ratisbonne, John Henry Cardinal Newman, Buffalo Bill, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Oscar Wilde, Fr. Robert Hugh Benson, G. K. Chesterton, Fr. Ronald Knox, Sigrid Unset, Evelyn Waugh, Dorothy Day, Max Scheler, Dietrich von Hildrebrand, Edith Stein, Jacques Maritain, Salvador Dali, Graham Greene, Walker Percy, Valery Goulding (nee Monckton), Adrienne von Speyr, Malcolm Muggeridge, Thomas Merton, Andre Frossard, Rene Girard, Christopher Lasch, Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger, Catherine Doherty, John Wayne, Lord Alec and Lady Merula Guinness, Bob Hope

Coincidentally, this post is my 100th on the blog. Happy reading!

St. Paul and all other Holy Converts in Heaven, pray that we ourselves be converted.