March 28, 2012

Mario Monti's Big Challenge

Mario Monti (Reuters)
To boost growth and overcome its protracted debt crisis, the eurozone needs to undertake “ambitious structural reforms” aimed to reduce restrictions on labor mobility, ease job protection and change the wage bargaining system, says the OECD in a report released today. In Italy, the call for further reforms comes as a big help to Mario Monti in the wake of opinion polls showing a steady decline in support for the Italian prime minister—an ISPO poll for Sunday’s Corriere della Sera showed support down to 44 per cent, from 62 per cent in early March—who is spearheading a spate of labor reforms. More explicitly, OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria said that the reforms which the current Italian government has undertaken represent a major and consistent step towards finding a solution to the country’s most pressing labor market issues.

A well deserved support for Monti as well as for those who, in turn, support his efforts for a major overhaul of Italian labor laws (including the totemic Article 18 of the 1970 Workers’ Statute), namely the measures that were hashed out during a marathon meeting one week ago among ministers, labor unions and business leaders, and aimed to usher millions of young people into the job market and help the country’s struggling companies manage economic downturns by cutting jobs, but also create a wider safety net for the jobless.

The problem is that “unfortunately” (the inverted commas are necessary here, of course) the measures still need to be presented and approved by Parliament. In fact the center-left Democratic Party, which is one of the three parties of the “great coalition” supporting the government, has an understandable but irrational reluctance to vote the “unacceptable” bill—even in the light of the fact that Italy’s largest labor union, the CGIL, didn’t sign off on a key part of the overhaul and announced 16 hours of stoppages including a day-long general strike to fight the reforms. “If Parliament backs us, we will be able to say that Italy'’ labor market has modernized, and that there are no more hurdles to foreign investment,” Monti said during a news conference before heading to Asia, where he is now spending a few days to persuade foreign investors to put their money into Italy...

Well aware of the risks his government is running, Mario Monti said on Monday in another press conference (in Seoul, Corea) he would not cling to power if unions and politicians rejected his economic reform plans, putting pressure back on to opponents of the bill. “The objective is a lot more ambitious than just staying there. It’s trying to do a good job,” he said. “If the country, through its labor organizations and political parties, does not feel ready for what we consider a good job, we would certainly not seek to keep going just to reach a particular date.”

Strong, courageous words, and a big challenge, without a doubt. After all, as the WSJ rightly reminds, standing up to Italy’s labor unions takes courage, and not only of the political sort. Furthermore, since coming to power in November, Monti has passed some measures by emergency decree, bypassing parliament, but last Friday he announced that the bill would be voted upon in the parliament in the normal way. Another act of courage, says the WSJ—but, to be honest, it was President Napolitano’s credit (or fault, depending on the points of view...). However, as far as one can reasonably expect, the bill will be approved by the parliament, and this for the simple reason that no one wants the government to shut down.

Be it as it may, the WSJ piece is worth reading and remembering. Here are some excerpts from it:

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti has walked away from negotiations with Italy's labor unions and announced that he is going to move ahead with reforming the country's notorious employment laws—with or without union consent. If Rome is spared the fate that recently befell Athens, mark this as the week the turnaround began.
Mr. Monti has three chief advantages over his recent predecessors. He remains popular in Italy. He also says he doesn't intend to run for re-election. This gives him a chance to maintain control over his reforms as they move toward a parliamentary vote.

More importantly, Mr. Monti—a former economics professor—has a rare opportunity to educate Italians on the consequences of opposing reform. This won't require sophisticated explanations of why employers will still employ people even when the law does not force them to do so. He can merely ask Italians to look across the Ionian Sea. If that doesn't scare them sober, then nothing will help.

Postwar Italian politics has chewed up more than a few would-be reformers while career politicians and union leaders enjoy the spoils of power. The difference with Mr. Monti is that he didn't take this job to be a caretaker PM. If he means to make his current reform the first, not last, step in a more ambitious agenda for reviving Italian growth, he could make his one term in office a great one.

UPDATE March 28, 2012 - 9:45 am
Mario Monti, addressing the Forum organized by the Nikkei Shimbun editorial group in Tokyo to explain Italy’s political, economic and institutional situation: “It’s a reform that causes resentments and some sharp discussions in Italy. But I believe that the majority of Italians believes it is a needed step, in the workers’ interest.” “This Government has a wide consensus in the polls while the parties do not.” (AGI)

March 25, 2012

Lathe Biōsas - Live Secretly

Ernesto Galli della Loggia
Photo: Silvia Crupano
Italy’s elite has lost the noble taste for that disdain which is the reverse of affectation, a taking pleasure in, and appreciating the elegance of, sobriety. The celebrated apple that President Einaudi once asked if anyone wanted to share with him at an official dinner is perhaps no longer even on the Quirinale Palace menu. Nor does Einaudi’s famously snobbish, and more than a tad stingy, publisher son have many emulators nowadays of his treks to find delicious (in his opinion) food at out-of-the-way hostelries.
Fashion holds up a mirror to this debacle. Once upon a time, young people from Lombardy’s upper classes would sport loden topcoats and high Vibram shoes. The old English tweeds that bourgeois ladies from Naples so nonchalantly donned have given way to the fashion-driven elegance of today’s up and coming thirty and forty-somethings, accoutred strictly in black, like so many bodyguards or undertakers.

Today’s vast, eagerly seized opportunities to show off superfluous high-bling luxury say a lot about Italy’s elite in their sheer lack of restraint.

~ Ernesto Galli Della Loggia, Corriere della Sera, March 19, 2012
   [Read the full article here]

It’s Saturday, a great day for several reasons, one of which, for us blog writers, is that most readers are “off-duty.” Well, of course, I’m not saying that I don’t like blog readers. No, quite the contrary! In my view they are by far the most interesting of all readers. What I mean is that sometimes one can want to write without wanting to be read by too many people. And this because you don’t want to be misunderstood… In my case I don’t want to be associated with any kind of bigotry. Yet, there is a limit to everything; there are things I cannot stand. One of them is the above described “way of life” of the Italian elite.

Raphael, School of Athens (detail): Epicurus
Vatican Museums
That’s the kind of bad habits that may lead many people, especially young people (the most virtuous and ethical ones), to keep away from politics and to stop striving for higher levels of achievement in every field of study and in every area of life.

Perhaps that’s also part of what led the great Epicurus to utter the famous quote λάθε βιῶσας (lathe biōsas), “live secretly,” “get through life without drawing attention to yourself.” Consequently, unlike the Stoics, Epicurus and his disciples showed little interest in participating in the politics of the day. But then again, in the days of Epicurus Greece had already lost its independence. Does this have anything to teach us today?

March 23, 2012

The Brueghel Dynasty

Pieter Brueghel the Younger, "The Bird Trap" (Private collection)
What do the small Scottish town of Montrose (Angus) and the Italian town of Como (Lombardy) have in common? Well, seemingly very little, but over the next few days things will change, because both of them will become “Brueghel cities.” Better still, Montrose is already a Brueghel city, since the local Museum is currently hosting the “Pieter Brueghel The Younger” exhibition, which runs until April 14, while Como will have to wait until next Saturday, March 24, when the 2012 edition of the yearly exhibition in the Villa Olmo, which is dedicated to ”The Brueghel dynasty,” will open its doors to the public.

The Brueghel dynasty, whose founder, Pieter Brueghel the Elder (c. 1520/25-1568), was among the greatest painters of the 16th century, is one of the most famous families in art history. There are four generations, spanning two centuries, and half a dozen of Brueghels—it is to be noted that the name Brueghel is otherwise written as Bruegel or Breughel—including Pieter the Younger (1564-1637/38), Jan the Elder (1568-1625), Jan the Younger (1601-1678), Ambrosius (1617–1675), and Abraham (1631-1690).

”La dinastia Brueghel” will count 70 oil paintings and 30 drawings and etchings, insured for a total value of over one hundred million Euros, from important private collections and museums, including the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, the Palais des Beaux arts, Lille, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht, the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan, the Museo di Capodimonte, Naples. The exhibition, which will also feature “The Seven Deadly Sins” by Hieronymus Bosch, from whom Pieter Brueghel the Elder drew inspitration, is curated by Sergio Gaddi (Spokesman for the Arts) and Doron J. Lurie (Senior Curator at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art).

The exhibition—see here for further information (in Italian)—will run until July 29, 2012. It’s a great opportunity, not to be missed! I’ll do my best to be there, too. Perhaps in combination with a visit to my beloved Abbey of Piona—faith, art, nature, and history: what a wonderful mix!

March 22, 2012

Et Tu, Google? (A Little Help for Blogspot/Blogger Users)

And so Google, the owner of Blogspot/Blogger, has crossed the Rubicon of good manners by deciding to play a nasty trick—to say it as politely as possible—on bloggers outside the United States: now if you click on (and any other blog) from your non-U.S. country, instead of the domain extension, you will see your country specific domain extensions. In the last few days, this change had been rolled out in India only, but over the last weekend the practice seems to have become general. This redirection is called “country-code Top Level Domain” (ccTLD).

Why are they doing this? This is how they themselves explain their decision:

We are doing this to provide more support for managing content locally. If we receive a removal request that violates local law, that content may no longer be available to readers on local domains where those laws apply. This update is in line with our approach to free expression and controversial content, which hasn’t changed.

Of course, there are immediate and unpleasant consequences of this “amazing trick,” such as the fact that, in Google’s own words,

After this change, crawlers will find Blogspot content on many different domains. Hosting duplicate content on different domains can affect search results. We are making every effort to minimize any negative consequences of hosting Blogspot content on multiple domains.

Did you get it? If we receive a removal request… Et tu, Google? Well, perhaps this is what the future holds for us. Be it as it may, a fix must be found for this… and I actually found it by surfing the net. To disable the “country-code Top Level Domain” you simply need to add a little code to your blog template. Just follow six simple steps… Believe me, it works perfectly!

March 20, 2012


I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

~ A. J. Kilmer, “Trees”

It’s Spring Equinox. Happy Spring Everybody!

March 19, 2012

From the Thames to the Tiber

Benedict XVI and Archbishop Rowan Williams celebrate the Vespers 
at San Gregorio al Celio in Rome (Photo: Reuters)
Last Friday Archbishop Rowan Williams, who has led the Anglican Communion since 2002, announced that he will be stepping down from the office of Archbishop of Canterbury at the end of December 2012. He said it was time to move on after a decade as archbishop and his new post as master of Magdalene College at Cambridge University would give him the time “which I have longed for” to think and write about the Church. After presiding over one of the most turbulent periods in the Church of England's history, the archbishop told friends he would like to give his successor adequate time to prepare for the next Lambeth Conference–the summit of Anglican bishops held once every decade. All in all, he seems to be quite happy about his decision, and perhaps it was not by chance that he gave the announcement in Rome, where he was invited to take part in the celebrations of the 1,000th anniversary of the Camaldolese (Benedictine) monastic family. “I would hope that my successor has the constitution of an ox and the skin of a rhinoceros,” he also said.

As a matter of fact the Archbishop of Canterbury is even said to have considered quitting following the last conference in 2008, which was mired by boycotts, rows over homosexual clergy and challenges to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s authority. As Italian author and journalist Vittorio Messori wrote in yesterday’s Corriere della Sera newspaper (in Italian), “The continued mediation between opposed groups is part of the history of this heterogeneous community, but now, as we are made to understand by the prelate, they’re going too far. […] With a half-smile beneath his neat, white beard, he makes us to understand that he retires after nine years as archbishop ‘on grounds of patience.’”

After all, the Anglican Communion has been “unable to resist the hegemonic ideology of political correctness, even though it goes against the Bible,” as Messori himself told Italian financial newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore back in October 2009, when the Vatican announced a new structure which would make it easier for Anglicans, including married priests, uncomfortable with their church’s acceptance of female priests and openly gay bishops, to join the Roman Catholic Church while retaining many of their traditions. By the way, what did Rowan Williams have to say about that? Well, he did not disapprove of the Vatican’s decision, and while admitting he only learnt of it a couple of weeks before the decision was announced, he insisted the move was not meant as “an act of proselytism or aggression.”

Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams,
and Archbishop of York, John Sentamu 
Photo courtesy: Christianity Today
Of course, now the question is, Who will be the new leader of the Anglican Communion? The odds-on favorite, according to numerous observers, is Uganda-born John Sentamu, the current archbishop of York and the No. 2 official in the Church of England. Sentamu is one of four English bishops who in 1999 refused to sign the Cambridge Accord (an attempt to find agreement on affirming certain human rights of homosexuals, notwithstanding differences within the church on the morality of homosexual behavior). What is more, in an January 27, 2012 interview with The Daily Telegraph, he told ministers they should not overrule the Bible and tradition by allowing same-sex marriage. “Marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman,” he said. “I don’t think it is the role of the state to define what marriage is. It is set in tradition and history and you can’t just [change it] overnight, no matter how powerful you are.”

Sentamu’s standpoint is a conservative one. “A program which is not unlike that of Benedict XVI’s ‘re-evangelization,’” Messori says. “All in all,” he concludes, “it’s not apologetics, it’s a given: five centuries after Henry VIII, the Thames seems to be willing to run towards the Tiber.” Perhaps he is right. At least I hope so.

March 18, 2012

Obama's Administration's Policy on Birth Control for Religious Groups: Another Blow to Religious Liberty

In March 16, 2012 New York Times:

The Obama administration took another step on Friday to enforce a federal mandate for health insurance coverage of contraceptives, announcing how the new requirement would apply to the many Roman Catholic hospitals, universities and social service agencies that insure themselves.

Just one more gaffe, you might say, but that’s what I call a long-term strategy against religious liberty. (Via Fr. Philip Powell)

March 16, 2012

Blind to Beauty

Giotto, Lucifer
Cappella degli Scrovegni - Padua
This comes at the right moment: after my latest post, the subject of which was Dante’s Divine Comedy and its politically correct opponents. But this time there are neither opponents nor enemies, just people of good will trying to learn from that literary and philosophical-theological masterpiece. Like Fr. Robert Barron, who recalls that Dante places Satan, encased in ice, at the center of the earth (Inferno, Canto 34). Thus, Dante’s Satan is a perfect symbol of the soul stuck in the ice of self-absorption—all Satan does is weep from his six eyes, and his tears, born of his frustrated egotism, blind him to the beautiful that could liberate him from his prison...

Watch the compiled CATHOLICISM footage relating to the Scripture readings for next Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Lent.

March 13, 2012

Dante? Racist and Homophobic!

Domenico di Michelino, Dante and his poem (detail)
Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence
“Therefore, we call for the removal of the Divine Comedy from school programs.” Thus spoke Valentina Sereni, president of Gherush92, Committee for Human Rights—a scientific research organization which has been granted the special consultative status with UN Economic and Social Council—in an interview to Italian press agency Adnkronos (in Italian).

Whence does such a blatant “call to arms” come? “From both a lexical and a conceptual point of view,” Sereni says, “the Divine Comedy presents offensive and discriminatory contents.” Referring to Dante’s presentation of Jews as a direct antithesis of God in Canto 7 of Paradise, she complains about the fact that “by studying the Divine Comedy students are forced to appreciate, without filters and explanations, a work that defames the Jewish people; young people learn to confirm the message of anti-Semitic conviction.“ Thus, she continues, “Giuda is, by antonomasia, the false person, the traitor (from Judas, the name of the apostle who betrayed Jesus), and Giudeo is a common, derogatory term that means loan-shark, treacherous person, traitor.”

But Dante, she says, also damns Muslims in Canto 8 of The Inferno, with its burning mosques, and in 28 with Mohammed and Ali being torn apart. And, as it was not enough, he also damns sodomites (Cantos 15-16), whose punishment is to walk eternally on flaming sand, under a rain of fire. In short, he was not only anti-Semitic and Islamophobic, he was also homophobic! Enough is enough, Sereni must have thought. Hence Gherush92’s revolutionary request. “This is racism that symbolic, metaphorical and aesthetic readings of the work cannot remove.”

Did you get it? Symbolic, allegorical, metaphorical meanings? What the hell are—forgive my inflammatory language (a bit too Dantesque, I know)—those ugly things? Let’s get rid of them all! Let’s show these right-wing intellectuals—along with centuries of studies and researches by philologists, historians of literature and literary critics—the door… Very tough words indeed.

But then again, maybe not everything is lost, maybe we shouldn’t worry about that. Well, not yet, at least. In fact we must thank our lucky stars that they are merciful and compassionate: “But we don’t call for censorship,” Sereni concedes, “nor do we call for books to be burned at the stake.” Yeah, perhaps we’ll manage it—somehow or other...

P.S. Read also here

A Time to Listen, a Time to Speak

There is a time to speak and a time to listen. There is a time for everything, and what may be good at one time may be evil at another...

March 9, 2012

The U.S. Adds the Holy See to Money-Laundering Concern List

This is a news that you wouldn’t really know whether to cry and laugh. It sounds crazy and it is crazy, but also it is serious, it seems incredible but it is true…

(Reuters) - The Vatican has for the first time appeared on the State Department's list of money-laundering centers but the tiny city-state is not rated as a high-risk country.

The 2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report was made public on Wednesday and Washington's list of 190 countries classifies them in three categories: of primary concern, of concern and monitored.

The Vatican is in the second category, grouped with 67 other nations including Poland, Egypt, Ireland, Hungary and Chile.

It was added to the list because it was considered vulnerable to money-laundering and had recently established programs to prevent it, a State Department official said."To be considered a jurisdiction of concern merely indicates that there is a vulnerability to a financial system by money launderers. With the large volumes of international currency that goes through the Holy See, it is a system that makes it vulnerable as a potential money-laundering center," Susan Pittman of the State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, told Reuters.

Last year, the Vatican adapted internal laws to comply with international standards on financial crime.

Via The Gateway Pundit

March 8, 2012

Never Trust Friends!

F. Hayez, portrait of Alessandro Manzoni
Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan
One of the greatest comforts of this life is friendship; and one of the comforts of friendship is that of having someone we can trust with a secret. But friendship does not pair us off into couples, as marriage does; each of us generally has more than one friend to his name, and so a chain is formed, of which no man can see the end. When we allow ourselves the comfort of depositing a secret in the bosom of a friend, we inspire him with the wish to enjoy the same comfort for himself. It is true that we always ask him not to tell anyone else; and this is a condition which, if taken literally, would break the series of comforting confidences at once. But the general practice is to regard the obligation as one which prevents a man from passing the secret on, except to an equally trusted friend and on the same condition of silence. From trusted friend to trusted friend, the secret travels and travels along an unending chain, until it reaches the ears of the very man or men from whom the first speaker meant to keep it for ever. It would generally require a long time to get there, if each of us only had two friends—one to confide the secret to us, and another to whom we can pass it on. But there are some privileged men who have hundreds of friends, and once a secret reaches one of them, its subsequent journeys are so rapid and multitudinous that no one can keep track of them.

~ Alessandro Manzoni, The Betrothed, Chapter 11. Transl. Bruce Penman, 1972, Penguin Books, London/New York

Yesterday, March 7, 2012, was the 227th anniversary of the birth of Alessandro Manzoni, and Google celebrated him with a doodle. I myself couldn’t help but do my part to celebrate him, and decided to quote one of my favorite passages of The Betrothed. This passage is fairly representative of Manzoni’s style and sense of humor. Do you think he is too pessimistic about friendship? Well, not as much as this guy:

“Trust not any man with thy life, credit, or estate. For it is mere folly for a man to enthrall himself to his friend, as though, occasion being offered, he might not become an enemy.” (Lord William Cecil Burleigh)

Google Doodle: Alessandro Manzoni's 227th Birthday

Welcome Back to Reality, Folks!

Credit: la Repubblica
Okay, let’s talk once again about the rating agencies. But this time positively—well, not that much, to be honest, but I’m trying to do my best… Let’s put it this way: Yes, usually they are months late, but in the end they get it right. That’s exactly what happened yesterday, in Cannes, with Standard & Poor’s chief economist for Europe, Jean-Michel Six, who speaking at MIPIM, the world’s largest property conference, said, “If we look at what Italy has done in a few months, we cannot but be surprised. Now Italy is over-performing the other countries.” As for 2012, he said that it will be another “very dangerous” year: “We have to see what will happen in emerging markets, but I don’t want to paint too dark a picture, because there are also situations of positivity, such as Italy” (Il Sole-24 Ore, in Italian). In other words, he now acknowledges what (almost) everyone already knew a couple or three months ago. As the saying goes, better late than sorry!

By the way, Bernhard Berg, chairman of the management board of IVG Institutional Funds GmbH, one of the major real estate companies in Europe, is on the same wavelength: “After what happened in the last few months,” he said, speaking at the same meeting, “investors ask us to invest in Italy and we are studying the market. The change of government is seen very positively by foreign investors; therefore we are doing our homework by studying the market” (la Repubblica, in Italian).

March 7, 2012

Great Poetry: 'Invictus'

William Ernest Henley
A couple years ago I posted about Clint Eastwood’s movie Invictus, the title of which comes from the homonymous poem by William Ernest Henley. I come back to this subject again to propose a comparison between two renderings of the poem: that of English actor Alan Bates, in the video below, and that of Morgan Freeman, in another YouTube clip showing an excerpt from the movie—sorry, embedding not available, but here’s the link. If I had to choose I’d say the second one, but they are two very different schools of acting.

March 6, 2012

Quaerere Deum (To Seek God) - Updated

A. Mantegna, St Benedict
Brera - Milan
As the saying goes, and as this post proves, “All good things come in threes,” in fact this is the third post I’m writing this year about the Benedictine monks—which is, needless to say, a good thing from my point of view, and I’m sorry for those who think otherwise, namely that Benedictine monasticism is an irrelevant or boring subject: they simply don’t know what they’re missing. But hey, I’m not going to preach a sermon, I just want to introduce … a trailer for a documentary on Benedictine monks. Filmed in the summer of 2011, the documentary—directed, produced and edited by Peter Hayden and Wilderland Film Studios—takes us into the life of the Benedictine monks of Norcia. By the way, the recent history of the Monastery of San Benedetto in Norcia is quite interesting:

On December 2, 2000, a tiny band of American monks with faith and courage and not much else re-founded monastic life in Norcia, Italy at the birthplace of St. Benedict. Powerful forces hostile to the faith had expelled the monks in 1810 and almost two centuries were to pass before Providence brought them back.

Inspired by the Holy Rule, these monastic pioneers are going back to the roots of the Benedictine tradition. Chanting the Divine Office in Latin by day and by night at the very place where their holy patron was born, they are able to return to the spirit of their founder, as Vatican II urged all religious to do, in a very tangible way.

As a result, something extraordinary is happening in Norcia. Young men from around the world, leaving home and country for the love of Christ, are drawn to the new monastery and commit themselves to stability, conversion of life and obedience at the birthplace of their founder. Their goal is focused and compelling: to prefer nothing whatever to the love of Christ!

Inspired by Philip Gröning’s Into Great Silence (2005), which was a full length documentary of the everyday lives of Carthusian monks of the Grande Chartreuse, high in the French Alps, Peter Hayden sought to produce a medium length film of high quality which would expose those far away from the monks to the inner workings of their life. Thus the idea of Quaerere Deum was born. The title comes from the first task of all monks, To Seek God, as described by the Rule of St Benedict.

Enjoy the official trailer of Quaerere Deum:

P.S. My previous posts on the Benedictine monks:

UPDATE March 6, 2012, 10:30 am

There is something I missed in my original post, something that I could/should have discovered before, but that somehow was able to sneak past me—perhaps just because it is almost too good to be true! And in fact I could assert that it was somehow a felix culpa, because otherwise I wouldn’t have the chance—and the pleasure—to make amends right now… Well, here is what I’ve got to say: the full-length version of Quaerere Deum is posted on the homepage of the Monastery of San Benedetto in Norcia, so you can view the entire 40 min documentary, and not just the trailer—by the way, it’s awesome! Thank you so much to Bryan, the Benedictine monk of Norcia who has been kind enough to let me know this.

March 5, 2012

What Would Fr. Richard Neuhaus Say?

Father Richard John Neuhaus, the man who redefined the church-state debate in America and introduced the phrase “public square” into the national vocabulary, died three years ago. Yet, says George Weigel in a piece in National Review Online, he left such a voluminous body of work behind that it’s not impossible to suggest some answers to the question, “What would Father Richard say?,” were he still among us and surveying the current controversies over church and state. In particular, in his 1984 The Naked Public Square, Neuhaus made three points that remain as salient today as they were 28 years ago... Read the article here. Via FIRST THINGS

March 4, 2012

Once a Nominal Catholic, Now a Clarion of Faith

Rick Santorum and his wife Kare Santorum
Credit: Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)
I have no idea what the average NYT reader thinks, or might think, about this piece. Nor do I have any idea what my non-Christian readers’ opinion is. What I’m sure about is that I found the story it tells very inspiring and, in a certain degree, familiar. It’s about how Rick Santorum, once a “nominal Catholic” became a “clarion of faith” and a conservative icon. As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” This is true for everyone—Panta rei, everything flows…—or at least me! And here is wow the article concludes:

To listen to Mr. Santorum speak to an audience of the faithful is to hear a man for whom God is at the center of everything. In his talk to the anti-abortion group last October, as his presidential campaign was just beginning to heat up, he likened himself to his special-needs daughter, Bella — a child capable, he said, of nothing but love.

“I think, ‘That’s me with the Father,’ ” Mr. Santorum said then. “I am profoundly disabled in his eyes. I can do nothing for Him, except love Him.”

March 1, 2012

Ciao Lucio!

Lucio Dalla
Lucio Dalla, one of the greatest Italian singers and songwriters ever, died of a heart attack this morning in Switzerland during a European concert tour at age 68. A great loss for us all—especially for those of my generation—because he was nothing less than a living legend. And I say this even though my musical tastes were rather different from his. But a genius goes far beyond the normal boundaries of musical genres, and Dalla was a true musical genius, there is no question about that.

Dalla’s haunting melody “Caruso” (see the video below) sold 9 million copies worldwide and was sung by Luciano Pavarotti with Dalla at a 1992 concert in Modena. His version of Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” was performed in Rome’s Santa Cecilia auditorium in 1997.

What was perhaps most surprising about his life, though, was his genuine Christian faith, so rare among the most gifted singers and songwriters. “I believe more in what we cannot see than what can be seen,” he recently said in an interview. He would read both encyclicals and the books by Pope Benedict XVI (Jesus of Nazareth, I and II), and would attend church every Sunday. He was also said to have converted his friend Gianni Morandi—another great Italian pop singer—to the faith. Now that he is face to face with the Lord, I’m sure he won’t miss us too much, it will be us who will miss him the most.