That wise old pagan Aristotle once described human beings as the “rational animal” – in one way merely an accurate description, but in another way nothing to get too optimistic about since, as he notes elsewhere, there’s only a modicum of reason or virtue in any of us, individually or collectively.
Actually, what he said is that we’re the kind of being that “has logos,” which Christians later appropriated, particularly via the opening of St. John’s Gospel: “In the beginning, was the Logos.” Both pagan and Christian agreed that there’s something in us akin to the divine Reason that lies behind the whole order of Creation.
Aristotle also said that we’re “political” animals – not, I’m happy to say, in the current sense of people whose whole lives are consumed by politics. That is, to be clear, a political perversion because there are many things as important – and more important – than politics. But we are the kind of beings who live and flourish in a properly constituted social order, a polis in ancient Greece (hence our modern word politics). When that phrase was translated from the Greek in the middle ages and commented on by great thinkers like Aquinas, they expanded it, saying we’re “political and social animals.”
The two definitions are related. A human social and political order depends on there being rational human beings capable of weighing situations and deliberating about how to order their lives together. And choosing in obedience to the truth, because there are limits to such deliberations, rooted in God and the nature of the things he created.
As you’ve probably noticed, little or none of this plays much of a role in public life these days. And even within the Church we’re seeing a decline of interest in a strong and consistent interplay between Faith and Reason.
Which is why The Catholic Thing is needed now more than ever.
In just a few weeks, on June 2 to be precise, we will complete our ninth and begin our tenth year of daily publication. Some of you have been with us since the beginning – a friend in Florida told me just last weekend, when I was speaking to a group there, that she read the first column the very day it appeared – and has read every one since. Others of you I meet in my travels say you’ve discovered us more recently. But I’m amazed, even after all these years, everywhere I go at the great and continuing enthusiasm for our work.
Which is why, as we do only twice a year – May/June and December – I want to ask you for your generous support. If you value what you find here, can you give $35, $50, $100, $500, or more, to make sure that The Catholic Thing continues to come to you and many other people, every morning, 365 days a year?
Or if you can’t give the full amount now, can you set up a regular monthly donation of $10, $25, $50, or more? That’s relatively painless for you, and very helpful for us since we can then count on a steady stream of support.
We’ve experienced amazing growth – there are now over 25,000 of you who receive our daily email, from all parts of the world. Our business manager, Hannah Russo, predicts 30,000 before the end of the year (she’s never wrong about such things.) And that doesn’t even count those who come to us via other channels or read us in foreign languages in the pages of our partners abroad. Check the upper right-hand corner of the site; if you click on some of those languages, you’ll be surprised what people interested in Catholicism are getting direct, in their own languages, from America. Virtually every column appears in French, for example, within a day or two of its appearance in English.
Our writers are quoted and interviewed in everyplace from the New York Times to Il Foglio to Die Tagepost; EWTN to Fox News to RAI (Rome) – just to mention a few outlets.
And now Brad Miner and I have been working on an exciting new development. We’ll soon be bringing you some Catholic Thing Conversations via podcast – interviews or discussions with our writers, friends, interesting authors, artists, and thinkers of various sorts. People have been encouraging us to do this for a while and now it just seems the logical next step in getting even more high-quality content into people’s hands – and minds.
And be of good cheer. Not everything is bleak, to be sure. So we like to bring you good news wherever we see it. Next week I’ll be in Rome again for the Marcia per la Vita, the Italian version of our March for Life. Last year – despite the dismay over Amoris laetitia in Catholic circles – the entire Via della Conciliazione, the broad boulevard that leads to St. Peter’s, was filled with pro-lifers. This year it will be even bigger. If many of us in America had not kept that pro-life flame alive over these four plus decades, it might have gone out around the world.
After that I’ll be in Budapest speaking at the World Meeting for Families, another American-led initiative making an impact in this country and abroad.
Of course, we’ll continue to bring you analysis on the complex developments in the Vatican both via the “Papal Posse” (Raymond Arroyo, Fr. Gerald Murray, and myself) and reports on this page about events in Rome.
And we’ll soon be announcing a new cultural initiative that I’m sure you will find intriguing.
Sad to say, if we’re going to be able to inject stronger reason, purer forms of faith into the Church and the world – or even just to stop things from getting worse – it’s only going to happen via what Benedict XVI called “creative minorities.” For the moment, we cannot count on most institutions, even most Catholic institutions to carry out the task.
If you’re a regular reader here, you’re part of that crucial “minority.” Given all that’s gone awry in the Church and the world, there’s a lot of work for us all to do.
So, please, be a rational animal. Make your tax-deductible contribution to The Catholic Thing today.