Sir Isaiah Berlin begins his justly famous essay on Tolstoy by invoking a fragment of poetry found in Athens and attributed to Aeschylus. The fragment read: “The fox knows many things; the hedgehog knows one big thing.” Berlin than goes on to categorize certain great contributors to Western civilization based on whether they were foxes or hedgehogs, whether they pursue many ends or relate all ends to a central objective or theme, whether their ideas exhibit centripetal or centrifugal tendencies, whether they are pluralists or monists. Among the foxes, Berlin puts Shakespeare, Herodotus, Aristotle, Montaigne, Erasmus, Moilere, Goethe, Pushkin, Balzac and Joyce. Among the hedgehogs, he places Dante, Plato, Lucretius, Pascal. Hegel, Dostoevsky, Ibsen and Proust.
Cardinal Angelo Scola of Venice, who has been at the forefront of inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue between Christians and Muslims has some interesting comments about the situation in Libya at Sussidiario.
Among other things, Scola says, "What I can observe is that we Europeans are often victims of a strong presumption. We think we know how to evaluate and solve problems without taking account of the testimony of those who live in these situations. This often prevents us from considering all the factors in play." It seems to me that President Obama's cautious approach to the situation reflects, in part, this concern that Scola pinpoints, the sense that "we know best in the West" which, as we learned tragically in Iraq, is not always the case.
The question of whether or not hell is empty is an old, but it is getting new life because of a forthcoming book by an evangelical preacher who holds the universalist position. Father Robert Barron who teaches theology at Mundelein recaps the history of the debate and sides with the position of the great Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, namely, that we have reason to hope that hell is empty.
This article recalled an event in the 1990s, I can't remember exactly when. The Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, made a reference to Balthasar's teaching in this regard at one of his Wednesday General Audiences. It happened to be during the summertime when Cardinal Raztinger was on holiday. The Italian press had a field day with headlines that said, as I recall, "While Ratzinger is away, Pope becomes heretic." But, Balthasar catches something important, and it is the thing that drove Pope John Paul II in his finer moments. Of course we can't know if hell is empty, but in contemplating the power of the Cross, we must hope that it is so.
[Update - It has been called to my attention that Cardinal McCarrick spoke before the Senate panel representing the USCCB, so his words are not simply reflective of his individual judgment but reflect the will of the corporate body of bishops. This is an important distinction.]
Among those testifying before a Senate panel to defend the rights of Muslims to practice their faith was Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington. McCarrick said, "A justified concern for security and the appropriate pursuit of those who pervert religion to attack others cannot be allowed to turn into a new form of religious discrimination and intolerance," the prelate pointed out....This is why we stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters in defense of their dignity and rights, just as we welcome and expect their reciprocity and solidarity with us when the rights of Christians and other religious groups are violated around the world."
Does President Obama's decision to intervene in Libya, and the rationale for that intervention he set forth in his speech Monday night, amount to an "Obama Doctrine?" That is the question posed to a group of analysts at the New York Times.
It is difficult to discern the kind of sweeping vision in the President's words that we normally associate with the word doctrine. This President, to his great credit, seems to recognize that enshrining a doctrine runs the risk of becoming doctrinaire. Indeed, you could say that the Obama Doctrine is that we should avoid doctrines. We should look at the facts on the ground. We should analyze the threats to our security, our interests and our values posed by problems in the world, and posed, too, by the prospect of intervention itself which always brings a host of unintended consequences. We should assess our ability to affect positive change, e.g., is an American fleet nearby and do local political conditions favor an intervention?
As the budget stalemate continues and the prospect of a government shutdown looms, moderate Democrats, known as Blue Dogs, are getting a lot of attention from the leadership of the GOP in the House, as detailed in a front page story in this morning’s Washington Post. The Blue Dogs sit in the center of the electorate and, if they survived last year’s shellacking, they are pretty well settled into their careers, unless redistricting alters the mix.
An interfaith coalition of religious leaders, joined by labor and civil rights groups, is organizing a day of protest and witness on next Monday’s 31st anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Interfaith Worker Justice committee is leading the effort and organized a press call this afternoon. Specifically, the groups are calling attention to the need to defend workers’ rights in the face of political attacks unleashed on organized labor in recent months. Dr. King was shot in Memphis, where he had gone to stand with striking garbage workers.
Rev. Nelson Rivers III, vice president for stakeholder relations at the NAACP said, “In the context of our time, we face increased attacks by right-wing groups…engaged in a gigantic effort to turn back the clock.” Rivers noted that the NAACP has long stood with organized labor defending workers’ rights. He said many local NAACP chapters are organizing special events for Monday’s protests, including “Teach-ins” at several universities.
No, Pope Benedict did not specifically "smackdown" anybody, nor did he mention the union-busting Wisconsin Governor by name. But, according to Zenit, Pope Benedict did recall Pope John Paul II's words of affection to, and solidarity with, workers at Terni during a recent audience. I submit one has a hard time imagining those words coming from the mouth of the mean-spirited Governor of the Badger State.
Mike Kinsley, writing at Politico, looks at the most ignored words in the Constitution: "The Congress shall have the power...to declare war." Of course, in today's political climate, it is probably easier to get a resolution past China and Russia on the Security Council at the UN than it would be to get something through John Boehner's House. Not least, because the GOP seems to be willing to change its criticisms on a near-daily basis to make sure they are not saying anything favorable about the President.
The Supreme Court has granted cert to the case Hosanna Tabor Church v. EEOC. According to my friend and legal scholar Rick Garnett, this could be "the most important religious freedom case in 20 years," and Garnett offers a quick, sound summation of why the Supreme Court should overturn the lower court's decision. I see no reason to quibble with Garnett's reading of the case which will have enormous ramifications for the Catholic Church's hiring practices, indeed, for its ability to carry out its many ministries.