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Judas, Peter, and Me

Judas, Peter, and Me

In the Gospels, Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Christ, is depicted as a man generally disposed to underhanded activity.  Though he was entrusted with the treasury by which Christ’s earthly mission had been funded, it’s said that he stole from it for his own purposes (John 12:6). It was Judas, as well, who disparaged the thought of emptying an expensive bottle of perfumed oil over Jesus’ feet.  The bottle could have been sold and the money

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On Lent and Being Human: Penance, Fasting, and Abstinence

On Lent and Being Human: Penance, Fasting, and Abstinence

Lent is a penitential season, and among the features of a penitential season in the Judeo-Christian tradition are fasting and abstinence.  Fasting, of course, involves forgoing food.  Abstinence involves forgoing comforts of the body.  Think of fasting as giving up what we strictly need at a bodily level and abstinence as giving up those bodily goods that we can live without, but which make life a lot more enjoyable. Most Roman Catholics think of abstinence

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The Real Meaning of Happiness: Excellence, Character, and Rectitude

The Real Meaning of Happiness: Excellence, Character, and Rectitude

In a previous post I outlined the errors of what many take to be happiness, namely, creating certain feelings of contentment or satisfaction. I defined this approach as the results-based approach and pointed out that it fails to distinguish between good and bad feelings of satisfaction. In addition, it sets us up on an endless cycle of creating desired emotional outcomes. Feelings change and fade, so it follows that anyone following the sentimental-outcomes strategy will

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Purgatory as Surrender

Purgatory as Surrender

Once, when I was teaching moral theology, a student who wasn’t Catholic asked me about purgatory.  I explained that, in this life, we retain numerous attachments to earthy goods and concerns, selfish wants, resentments, prideful aspirations that have little to do with our relationship with God.  We dread the approach of death because there’s too much in this world we aren’t prepared to leave behind if that’s what going to heaven requires.  It’s not that

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HAPPINESS IS PROBABLY NOT WHAT YOU THINK: IT’S NOT ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS

HAPPINESS IS PROBABLY NOT WHAT YOU THINK: IT’S NOT ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS

It is safe to say that modern men and women are obsessed with happiness. Of course this is hardly a unique situation. Every generation and community is concerned with happiness in one way or another, although it is important to remember that not every culture has defined happiness in the same way; not ever culture defines happiness in terms of wealth and satisfaction. Indeed, the great philosopher Aristotle had much to say on the matter.

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Purgatory as Judgment

Purgatory as Judgment

We often imagine that purgatory is a sentence we serve before our admittance into heaven.  But what if purgatory doesn’t follow judgment?  What if purgatory is judgment, subjectively experienced by us? This is precisely the view articulated by St. Catherine of Genoa (d. 1510).  For her, purgatory isn’t an immersion in corporal fire but a metaphorical, spiritual fire.  Our inordinate attachments to lesser goods, or to false goods, which distract us from God are impurities

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EROS, WISDOM, AND POLITICS: PLATO’S CRITIQUE OF DEMOCRACY

EROS, WISDOM, AND POLITICS: PLATO’S CRITIQUE OF DEMOCRACY

Few beliefs are more deeply engrained in the modern mind than the primacy of democracy. Indeed despite the radical divisions and non-stop friction that characterizes modern America, almost everyone agrees on one thing: democracy is always the best form of government. Now to be sure, one can make a case for democratic government and there are important historical reasons for the American commitment to democracy — although it must be recognized that democracy now and

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Purgatory Beyond the Images of Flames and Punishment

Purgatory Beyond the Images of Flames and Punishment

In the third installment in our series on purgatory, we examined the opinion that purgatory involves actual corporeal fire.  We saw that this odd-seeming view has some basis in a sound understanding of the relationship between the soul and the body, and that it concerns an undo attachment to merely material goods.  We saw, too, that this view is related to other models of purgatory.  In Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  Jacob Marley is sentenced

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Discovering Absolute Truth: Plato’s Enduring Legacy

Discovering Absolute Truth: Plato’s Enduring Legacy

When I introduce students to philosophy, I frequently insist that they read significant passages from Plato’s Republic. This is not because I am a Platonist. Indeed, in the end I am sympathetic to Aristotelian and Thomist criticisms of Platonism taken as a whole. Nevertheless, Plato teaches us many invaluable lessons that Christians and all of those interested in right reason would do well to heed. Chief among these lessons is the need for permanent and

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Is there Actual Fire in Purgatory?

Is there Actual Fire in Purgatory?

In Part 2 of my series on purgatory, I talked about St. Paul’s reference to the typology of fire in 1 Corinthians 3:10–15.  Over the centuries, many great theologians and doctors of the Church took this reference, and references to the fires of hell in the New Testament, in a literal, corporeal sense.  But how could that be?  How is it even possible for a soul to suffer from corporeal fire after it’s been separated

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