Months have passed since I last gave you a report on the work of our Center for the Restoration of Christian Culture. For that I must apologize. But now, at least, I have a great deal to report. Like so many other institutions, the Center (which, to save breath, I’m calling the Thomas More Center) was almost paralyzed by the COVID lockdown, which made it impossible for us to hold public events. But we regrouped, after the first weeks of confusion, and realized that while we were virtually forbidden to hold meetings, it was still possible to hold meetings virtually! So for nearly a year—again, like so many others—we did our business online. At the start of a new academic year, I’m delighted to report, we are scheduling public events once again. You’ll be hearing from us soon, with invitations to both public lectures and online offerings. But for now, in this report, let me give you a summary of what we have done—and what you can still find online. Over the summer, our most ambitious project was the Guillermo Aviles Lecture Series in June: a week of challenging presentations by outstanding speakers. If you haven’t yet seen the videos, I strongly recommend that you sample them:
- Ralph Martin, an extraordinarily effective evangelist and inspiring speaker, kicked off the series with a very candid appraisal of the crisis of faith that confronts the Catholic world: A Church in Crisis: Pathways Forward.
- Next, Samuel Gregg of the Acton Institute made some very useful and necessary distinctions about the authority of Catholic social teaching: Catholics, Politics, and the Economy: Principles and Problems.
- Catherine Pakaluk of Catholic University followed with a talk on education, centering her analysis on the rights and duties of parents. Her conclusion was particularly challenging, as she recommended: The Seton Option: Schools, Religion, and the New Science.
- Then, the acclaimed Catholic poet James Matthew Wilson offered some provocative ideas about the role of the artistic imagination in shaping our culture: The World Is Not Flat: The Task of Poetry in a Secular Age.
- And finally, Roger Severino—who led the fight to preserve religious freedom during his service in the Trump administration—gave some advice on Christian activity in the public sphere: Living a Life of Catholic Integrity in a Hostile World.
More recently, as the school year opened, our old friend Robert Royal, who recently completed his year as a Visiting Fellow at Thomas More College, returned for an encore appearance with a stimulating lecture on Dante, Alive after 700 Years. That lecture, held at Mercy Hall, was our first public event in many months: a cause for celebration. If you have noticed that the COVID lockdown seems to be a recurrent theme in this message, that may be because it was a major theme in my own work over the past year. My book on the topic—Contagious Faith: Why the Church Must Spread Hope, Not Fear, in a Pandemic—was published by Sophia Institute Press in April and generated dozens of radio and TV interview appearances. This past year, I also launched a podcast, my own Book of the Month club, in which I interview the authors of new books that I have found especially useful. On the Center’s site you will find, among other things, my conversations with:
- Journalist Edward Pentin, on his book, The Next Pope: The Leading Cardinal Candidates;
- Robert Reilly, on his America on Trial: A Defense of the Founding;
- Joshua Taylor, on American Awakening: Identity Politics and other Afflictions of Our Time;
- Michael Pakaluk, on his fascinating study, Mary’s Voice in the Gospel According to John;
- My wife Leila, on her study guide to the papal encyclical Casti Connubii, with the arresting title: God Has No Grandchildren;
- Father John Gavin, on his inquiry into how the Church Fathers understood the Mysteries of the Lord’s Prayer;
- Mike Aquilina, on another aspect of life in the early Church: Friendship and the Fathers: How the Early Church Evangelized;
- Bishop Athanasius Schneider, who spoke with me not only about his new book, The Catholic Mass, but also about the crisis of faith and, yes, the damage done by the COVID lockdown;
- And—last, but certainly not least—Raymond Arroyo, on his new children’s book, The Spider Who Saved Christmas.
This has been a long rundown of activities—too long, really. But then again, it has been too long since my last report. Next time, I promise, you won’t have to wait so long, or read so much. Until then, God bless,