All posts by sophiamason

Mere Charity

Most of the Inauguration I did not watch, but I wanted to hear the speech.  (These things can be important, as anyone who’s just seen Lincoln or done an American literature survey course will tell you!)  I must confess, it was rhetorically quite good.  They (the speechwriters) struck an impressive balance between using conservative and libertarian language at the beginning and undermining that language, explicitly, a few minutes later.  I hope the good guys were taking notes.

There was a good deal in the speech to grate on the soul; but a good deal of the grating I’d expected.  The pro-women’s lib, pro-gay marriage, pro-environmental protection stance of the administration is well known; and a second term president has notoriously less to worry about in expressing his well-known stance publicly, in so many words.  None of the generalities in the speech were much better, or worse, or scarier than should have been expected.

None of that struck me.  What struck me was a line no doubt intended splendidly, and possibly even meant to appeal to both sides of the American public—it came towards the end, when everyone ought to have been getting more excited.

“Not out of mere charity.”

That was how he defined the importance of welfare.  We must look after those less fortunate than ourselves “not out of mere charity,” but because peace itself depends upon social justice.

There is no denying that peace does depend upon justice, even as there can be much debate about how justice can and should and is best reached; with that part of his statement people of prudent good will are not likely to quarrel.  At the same time, even people of prudent good will will admit that what most Americans mean by “charity” is probably not the supernatural virtue that ye olde Catholicks have in mind when we utter the word.  Catholic charity is not a warm and fuzzy feeling but a rather tough and substantial supernatural habit, represented artistically by such spiky and uncomfortable things as pelicans stabbing their own breasts.

Picture shamelessly “borrowed” from WDTPRS.

Perhaps it is understandable, given the post-Victorian, poor-boxy images that the word “charity” conjures up for most people, that the President should snub the term in his inauguration address.  But the snub still troubled—still troubles—me.  For the traditional version of charity is something by which we love God’s creatures, and God Himself, the thing that is the most terrible and the things that are the most helpless; both—a fact that was symbolized by His coming as a child.  The sentimental kind of charity loses the strength of the virtue, but keeps its gentleness: at least we are giving to those in need.

But it was that sort of charity that the President snubbed.  Admittedly, it’s not my favorite kind; but it is … well, well, well, as King Lear would have it.

And what did he propose instead?  Justice.  We must help our neighbors out of justice.  The implication was heavy that if we did not, we would all regret not having done so—not in the next world only, but even in this one.

Again, it is a claim that people of prudent good will would never deny, but hardly a happy one.  And I couldn’t help thinking, as I listened to him say it …

Well, yes, “we’ll be sorry” if we don’t deal with the sufferings of immigrants and single parent families and inner city children.   We’ll be sorry, and we should be—we would be served right (in both senses of the phrase) for ignoring those things, if we chose to ignore them.  But not every injustice is repaid in that obvious manner.

He couldn’t rise up against us.  The social injustice of which he might have been a victim won’t lead to riots or civil wars.  But does that mean that we should not be sorry?

Even a warm and fuzzy kind of charity is better than none at all.

Economics at Catholic University

I don’t often blog these days (well, write blog posts here anyway!) but this bit of news seemed worth reporting.  Catholic University has created a new School of Business and Economics, and its new Dean is the author of an excellent and illuminating article on the economy of the Shire that was published in StAR a year or so ago.  (I believe the exact issue was Sept./Oct. 2011.  We don’t have the PDF up on this site, but it’s shared with permission here.)

Anyroad, the announcement of the appointment is below.  Little rays of light …


The Catholic University Of America

Office of the President

Washington, D.C. 20064

JANUARY 18, 2013

Just 10 days ago, Catholic University announced the creation of a new School of Business and Economics. Today, I am happy to report that I have appointed Dr. Andrew Abela dean of the school.

Dean Abela joined the faculty 10 years ago and served as chair of the previous Department of Business and Economics in the School of Arts and Sciences since 2009.  He is an expert on the integrity of the marketing process, including marketing ethics, Catholic social doctrine, and internal communication. His articles have been published in several academic journals and in two books. He is the co-editor of A Catechism for Business: Tough Ethical Questions and Insights from Catholic Teaching, forthcoming from Catholic University of America Press.

In 2009, Dean Abela won the Novak Award, a $10,000 prize given by the Acton Institute for “outstanding intellectual merit in advancing the understanding of theology’s connection to human dignity, the importance of the rule of law, limited government, religious liberty, and freedom in economic life.”

Dean Abela previously worked as brand manager at Procter & Gamble, management consultant with McKinsey & Company, and managing director of the Marketing Leadership Council of the Corporate Executive Board. He continues to consult with several leading companies, including Microsoft, JPMorgan Chase, and Wrigley’s, on internal communication. 

He holds a B.Sc. from the University of Toronto, an M.B.A. from the Institute for Management Development in Switzerland, and a Ph.D. in marketing and ethics from the Darden Business School at the University of Virginia.

The recent announcement of the new virtues-based business school has garnered attention from numerous media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, Catholic New Service, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Washington Business Journal. That’s a tribute not only to the visionary idea for the school but also to the person who has played the key role in crafting and articulating that vision. We look forward to a great future for the school under Dean Abela’s leadership.

John Garvey


White Christmas

When I left my family’s house on the 26th, it was snowing.  It had started snowing on Christmas Eve, and kept the habit up, on and off, with breaks for the air to crystallize, for two days.  It was the first white Christmas we’ve had in some time, and one of the best in memory.

Northern Virginia is a beautiful place, but it has its drawbacks.  One of them is that, despite the regional adjective, it really is a part of the Commonwealth and, ipso fatso (as my Freshman Philosophy prof., himself a rather large man, liked to say) a Southern State.  You have to live pretty far west, farther even than my parents do, and be pretty high up in the mountains if you want a traditional winter.  And even then, there’s no rain-making Merlin to ensure that your household, like Arthur’s in Camelot, will always have the right weather for the time.

But God is good; and this Christmas the weather was just right.  I don’t think it can have iced much even, since my dad didn’t complain when we drove to midnight Mass.  Even midnight Mass—which the kind pastor treacherously transferred to eleven p.m. without informing us—was just right, since we had all the good intentions of being midnightish and all the good luck of getting to home an hour earlier than expected.  This meant that we got to hear Old Radio on the way there, and on the way back, got to go in on Orson Welles’ Christmas Carol and out on the Christmas Story.  It doesn’t get much more perfect than that.

But how spoiled we would all be if it happened this way every time!  I might be, at least.  This Christmas wouldn’t have been half so beautiful if the last several hadn’t been dry or else greeny moldy grey.

It keeps on coming down.  Before I was even halfway into the city the snow had stopped; by the time I got home it was a nasty heavy rain—tolerable enough under ordinary circumstances, and even enjoyable in certain moods; but not an acceptable substitute for the alternative.  Yesterday and the day before were much the same, if dryer.  Then this morning I got up and went to Mass, and then to the grocery store: two good and noble things, but both in their own kind ways of avoiding the hour of office work I’d set myself to do this morning, before moving on to works more pleasurable.

As I was checking out, the cashier looked up and back over her shoulder, and her fact sprung out with a little smile of delight.  “It’s snowing,” she said—not in the glum way people generally do, but as if she weren’t quite done being a child either.  Then she became concerned.  “Do you have to walk home?”

I could have, with the not-so-many groceries; but I couldn’t because of my car, and I told her so.  “I wish I could,” I said.  “It’s beautiful.”

It’s still falling.  Half an hour ago it looked as if it might stop, but now the ground has started to trun frosty, and the narrow flashing on the top of the neighbors’ fence has a coating of white.  The dead pampas grass are beginning to have silver hairs among the straw; and the white lattice (left by the previous rentees who vainly attempted some kind of vegetables) looks afronted at no longer being the cleanest thing in the back lawn.

I think I appreciate the snow more for not having expected it, and more still for not having had it yet; it’s even better than it was at my family’s place.  But then, this whole season has been one of “even betters”.  After working sixty or more hours a week, I find myself working twenty; and the “even better” of this vacation has surpassed that of any other.  I know perfectly well what to do with myself—all sort of glorious things—Joseph Pieper was quite right about leisure—and perhaps I know all the better just what I ought to be doing, and what I want to do—and they are the same thing now, as they should be—better than I would have known if I hadn’t had a kind of Advent first.

Hearing “no” when you want something badly is always hard, whether it be a certain gift for Christmas, or snow, or the time to finish X, or … what you will.  I’ve always consoled myself by telling myself that the thing in the end will be “even better” than the thing that was denied.  It takes a particular kind of faith, not necessarily the theological kind, but if not then certainly its close cousin, to keep on believing that; and it is kind of faith that doesn’t come naturally.  Like all faith, too, it is destined to die—oh, not always in a terrible way (God forbid) but if not like that then by a kind of apotheosis, were you see, or at least begin to see, that you were right to believe in the existence of an “even better” all along.


GKC in London

London in November doesn’t sound like much fun I know (unless you’re one of those crazy people, like your humble servant, who positively enjoys rotten weather); but I would defy anyone not to want to be in London this November for … drumroll please! … The G.K. Chesterton Institute for Faith & Culture’s conference on “Chesterton @ the Daily News.”




This conference is co-sponsored by the Center for Catholic Studies @ Seton Hall University.  For information and to register please contact: [email protected] Keynote Speaker: Dr. Julia Stapleton Speakers: Fr. Ian Boyd, C.S.B. Dr. John Coates Dr. Sheridan Gilley Dr. William Oddie Dr. Dermot Quinn Gilbert K. Chesterton, (1874-1936) was an English writer. His prolific and diverse output included journalism, philosophy, ontology, poetry, plays, public lectures and debates, literary criticism, biography, Christian apologetics, and fiction. During his time at the Daily News, from 19011913, Chesterton engaged in most of the key debates of the time, such as education, eugenics, secularism, criminal justice, social reform, imperialism, temperance reform, women’s suffrage and Britain’s foreign alliances. Saturday, November 17, 2012 From 2—7 pm At the Marlborough Room Oxford and Cambridge Club 71 Pall Mall, London.


About the Speakers


FR. IAN BOYD C.S.B. is an internationally recognized Chesterton scholar, he is the author of The Novels of G.K. Chesterton (London 1975). For many years he was Professor of English at St. Thomas More College, University of Saskatchewan. Currently he is a member of the Department of English at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey. Father Boyd also lectures on the subject of “Sacramental Themes in Modern Literature.” Among the Christian authors whose work he discusses are T.S. Eliot, Graham Greene, C.S. Lewis, Flannery O’Connor, Piers Paul Read, Muriel Spark and Evelyn Waugh. In nineteenth-century literature, he is interested in the work of such authors as Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Father Boyd is the Founder and Editor of The Chesterton Review and the President of the G.K. Chesterton Institute for Faith & Culture based at Seton Hall University.


JOHN COATES (M.A. Cambridge, Ph.D. Exeter) is a retired member of the Department of English, University of Hull, U.K. he has published Chesterton and the Edwardian Cultural Crisis (1984) and Chesterton as Controversialist , Essayist, Novelist and Critic (2002), together with books on Romantic Prose, Kipling, Elizabeth Bowen and most recently (2011) on Walter Pater. He is now working on another study of Kipling.


SHERIDAN GILLEY is Emeritus Reader in Theology in Durham University. He is a member of the Editorial Board of The Chesterton Review , and of the Board of Trustees of the G. K. Chesterton Institute for Faith & Culture, U.K. Dr. Gilley is author of Newman and His Age (Darton, Longman & Todd: London, 2012)


WILLIAM ODDIE is a former editor of The Catholic Herald , and has produced a number of books, including Dickens and Carlyle (1970), What will happen to God? (a study of feminist theology, 1984), The Roman Option (1995) and John Paul the Great (2005). His book Chesterton and the Romance of Orthodoxy, was published by the Oxford University Press in 2008, and he edited The Holiness of GK Chesterton (2010). He was ordained an Anglican clergyman in 1977, and became chaplain to postgraduate students at Oxford University. In 1981 he was elected a fellow of St Cross College, Oxford. In 1987 he became a full-time journalist, writing regularly for such papers as The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Times , and The Daily Mail . In 1991 he was received into the Catholic Church.


DERMOT QUINN is a Professor of History at Seton Hall University, a member of the Board of Advisors of the G. K. Chesterton Institute for Faith & Culture and a member of the Editorial Board of The Chesterton Review. Educated at Trinity College, Dublin and New College, Oxford, where he was awarded a doctorate in 1986. He has written extensively on Chestertonian themes, has authored three books The Irish in New Jersey: Four Centuries of American Life (Rutgers University Press, 2004)(winner, New Jersey Studies Academic Alliance, Non-fiction Book of the Year, 2005); Patronage and Piety: The Politics of English Roman Catholicism, 1850-1900 (Stanford University Press/Macmillan, 1993) and Understanding Northern Ireland (Baseline Books, Manchester, UK, 1993 and many articles and reviews in the field of British and Irish history. He was Fellow of the James Madison Program at Princeton University, Academic Year 2008-2009.


JULIA STAPLETON is a Reader in Politics at Durham University. Her research is focused on British intellectual history in the twentieth century, with particular reference to political thought and national identity. Her publications include Englishness and the Study of Politics: the Social and Political Thought of Ernest Barker (1994); and Christianity, Patriotism and Nationhood: the England of G. K. Chesterton (2009). She is the editor of G. K. Chesterton at the Daily News: Literature, Liberalism and Revolution, 1901-1913 (2012). 




Chesterton @ the Daily News London, England SOUTH ORANGE, N.J, September 2012—The G. K. Chesterton Institute for Faith & Culture at Seton Hall University (US), has the pleasure of announcing the 2012 Conference in London on the theme of “Chesterton @ the Daily News.” The conference is co-sponsored by the Center for Catholic Studies at Seton Hall University. The conference will focus on Chesterton’s years at the Daily News, from 1901–1913. Dr. Julia Stapleton, the keynote speaker, has published a critical edition that includes all his contributions to the newspaper including some that have never been republished since their initial appearance. As well as a regular columnist from 1903, Chesterton was a book reviewer throughout these years at the paper and wrote many “letters to the editor,” too. During his time at the Daily News, Chesterton was engaged in most of the key debates of the time, on such subjects as education, eugenics, secularism, criminal justice, social reform, imperialism, temperance reform, women’s suffrage and Britain’s foreign alliances. Other speakers include: Fr. Ian Boyd, C.S.B., Dr. John Coates, Dr. Sheridan Gilley, Dr. William Oddie and Dr. Dermot Quinn The conferences will be held on Saturday, November 17, 2012 from 2-7 pm at the Oxford and Cambridge Club (71 Pall Mall, London SW1Y 5HD) The conference is free and open to the public. For more information and to register please contact: [email protected].



The G. K. Chesterton Institute, a not-for profit educational organization incorporated in the United States, Canada and Great Britain, is located at Seton Hall University, South Orange, N.J. Its purpose is to promote the thought of G. K. Chesterton and his circle and more broadly, to explore the application of Chestertonian ideas in the contemporary world. The Institute’s work consists of conferences, lecture series, research and writing. The Chesterton Review, founded in 1974, has been widely praised both for its scholarship and for the quality of its writing. Edited by Father Ian Boyd, C. S. B., it includes a wide range of articles not only on Chesterton himself, but on the issues close to his heart in the work of other writers and in the modern world. It has devoted special issues to C. S. Lewis, George Bernanos, Hilaire Belloc, Maurice Baring, Christopher Dawson, Cardinal Manning, the Modernist Crisis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Fantasy Literature, and a Special Polish Issue. The Chesterton Review also publishes one annual issue in Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese. For information about the Institute or The Chesterton Review please contact



For over 150 years, Seton Hall University has been a catalyst for leadership, developing the whole student, mind, heart and spirit. Seton Hall combines the resources of a large university with the personal attention of a small liberal arts college. Its attractive suburban campus is only 14 miles by train, bus or car to New York City, with the wealth of employment, internship, cultural and entertainment opportunities the city offers. Seton Hall is a Catholic university that embraces students of all races and religions, challenging each to better the world through integrity, compassion and a commitment to serving others. Founded at Seton Hall University in 1997 and directed by Rev. Msgr. Richard M. Liddy, PhD, the Center for Catholic Studies ( is dedicated to fostering a dialogue between the Catholic intellectual tradition and all areas of study and contemporary culture, through scholarly research and publications and ongoing programs for faculty, students, and the general public. The Center co-developed the present University Core Curriculum and originated the undergraduate degree program in Catholic Studies, which in 2012 became the Department of Catholic Studies. The Center supports the Department with student scholarship aid and an ongoing program of co- curricular activities. Focusing on the central role of faculty, the Center sponsors regular Faculty Development programs, both internal and national. A focus of international scholarship, the Center is the home of the G.K. Chesterton Institute for Faith & Culture, as well as the Bernard J. Lonergan Institute. In addition, the Micah Institute for Business and Economics communicates Catholic Social Teaching and ethics to business education at Seton Hall and the wider business community. The Center also publishes the prestigious Chesterton Review, The Lonergan Review, and Arcadia, a student journal. As of Fall 2012, The Newman Association of America will be housed under the auspices of the Center for Catholic Studies.





Used to Be

So I was driving home Sunday night, listening to 88.5 FM as usual, and heard that Andy Williams had died.  Aside from the fact that he was a good singer, in the mode of Bing Crosby or Dean Martin, I knew (and still know) next to nothing about him.  But Ed Walker played a couple pieces of his that started me thinking.

OK, so it’s sentimental. And very possibly Williams’ religiosity was, like that of Martin and Crosby, fairly superficial.  But at least they were unabashed and reverent in their treatment of religion in their art.  And these were the cool kids in those days!

There are very few things that make me wish for a time capsule, but this is one of them.  How nice would it be to open the paper and read that Andy Williams, the guy who made the smash hit with “The Hawaiian Wedding Song” and would later go on to more or less make “Moon River” his own, had just done a thing about Lourdes?  And you would know that “a thing about Lourdes” meant a good thing too …

When Virtue Pays III: Pearl Hunting

I hope you all enjoyed the professor on Wednesday.  Harold Hill is an instructive example of a rather curious phenomenon—call it the anti-Shtcherbatsky, the hypocrite who, due to circumstances outside of his control but relating directly to his practice of hypocrisy, ends up a good man.  (Another example of the same phenomenon, I would argue, is Shakespeare’s Prince Hal—but that is another story.)