Friday, 21 February 2014


The next in our series of colloquia in which Christian and Islamic thinkers engage in a conversation about notions of society, the secular, and the human vocation takes place on Saturday afternoon 1st March at St Benet's Hall, Oxford (free admission). If “the greatest single antidote to violence is conversation” (Rabbi Jonathan Sacks), such initiatives may make a contribution to the development of a culture of peace. The first meeting took place at Blackfriars Hall on 29th July 2013 and was focused on "God's call to the creature" – in other words, creation and vocation. This time we take the discussion a stage further....

Saturday 1st March 2014 2:00 – 5:00 pm
2:00 – Crafts: Karim Lahham (Tabah Foundation)
2:30 – Architecture: Warwick Pethers (Gothic Design Practice)
3:00 – Teaching: Roy Peachey (Woldingham School and Cedars School, Croydon)
    and Dr Talal al-Azem (Oriental Institute and Pembroke College) 

4:00 – Discussion: chaired by Stratford Caldecott and Karim Lahham
Secularisation poses a challenge to religious believers in the practice of their professions, more so as the dominant view creates an environment hostile to traditional conceptions of morality and even social order. Are these conflicts inevitable? What kind of public engagement with these issues would be most fruitful?

FREE ADMISSION  For further information contact us at 

Friday, 3 January 2014

The science of economics?

An extract from John Medaille's article in Second Spring, issue 17 on The Economy. The journal is available from Thomas More College.

Far from being an “exact science,” economics resembles nothing so much as a war of ideologies, each proffering a different view of man. And this is how it should be; economics, like every other humane science, must begin with a view of the human person, and we must start comparing economic systems with a comparison of their view of the human person. Everything else depends on that. And it turns out that there really are only two views, albeit there are multiple variations of these views: man is ether a free contracting individual, or else he is a social being always enmeshed in a series of relationships and obligations.

The men of the 19th century, repelled by the messiness of humane considerations, looked with envy on the precision of the physicists, and attempted to emulate them. But this turned out to be a romantic quest, a heartfelt desire to resolve all things by a formula, and so get at the root of all things in a way no one could doubt. But this cannot be a realistic enterprise. For the humane sciences consist not in rejecting the complexity of human life, but in embracing it. At base, all our systems are moral systems, describing not only what we are doing, but what we ought to be doing.

In this science, the Roman Pontiffs are not interlopers but full participants, offering a realistic view of human relationships, a view upon which every other human science depends.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Unimaginative conservatism

Evangelii Gaudium is full of interesting passages. One of them concerns the "worldliness" that creeps into the Church, which has been one of the big themes of the pontificate to date. Para 94 summarizes the Pope's analysis using a number of long, technical words – though Francis carefully explains each term when he uses it. Each of the attitudes identified here as an obstacle to evangelization is a form of adulterated Christianity, a manifestation of anthropocentric immanentism, by which he means an obsession with man in this world rather than man as constitutively related to God.
"This worldliness can be fuelled in two deeply interrelated ways. One is the attraction of gnosticism, a purely subjective faith whose only interest is a certain experience or a set of ideas and bits of information which are meant to console and enlighten, but which ultimately keep one imprisoned in his or her own thoughts and feelings. The other is the self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism of those who ultimately trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain

Thursday, 28 November 2013

The Joy of the Gospel

In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis lays out a vision for his pontificate, much as John Paul II did in Redemptor Hominis (although the latter was an encyclical and the former is an Apostolic Exhortation).

It begins with a call to joy through a renewed encounter with the risen Lord. It includes a reiteration of John Paul’s appeal for help in transforming the papacy itself—a “conversion of the papacy” and of the “central structures of the universal Church”, all of which “need to hear the call to pastoral conversion” (n. 32). He clarifies many of the remarks he has made in interviews since the election, which have been widely misinterpreted. Sections 34 to 39 are particularly helpful, where he speaks of the “hierarchy of truths” (citing St Thomas Aquinas and Vatican II) and the priority of the virtue of mercy.

The Pope also points out that theology, doctrine, and pastoral practice (and the way they are expressed) continue to develop. “For those who long for a monolithic body of doctrine guarded by all and leaving no room for nuance, this might appear as undesirable and leading to confusion. But in fact such variety serves to bring out and develop different facets of the inexhaustible riches of the Gospel” (nn. 40-41).

In this brief summary of some of the main points of the Exhortation, which does not claim to cover everything of importance, I will begin by mentioning some of the most controversial.

Social Teaching
A number of paragraphs are devoted to economic, social, and political issues. This is not a social encyclical (see n. 184) and therefore the treatment must be somewhat cursory, but the basic outlines are clear. Francis condemns the “throw-away culture”, a culture of exclusion, and the idea that wealth will “trickle down” to the poor from the rich (it sometimes does, but hardly enough), the idolatry of money, the obsession with consumption, the accumulation of debt, and the spread of corruption, calling for a financial reform based on a firm grasp of ethics (nn. 53-59). “We can no longer trust in the unseen

Thursday, 26 September 2013

The Issue you've been waiting for...

The new issue of Second Spring is on the Economy – or oikonomia, the management of the household, which we see the Holy Family doing quite well in this splendid stained glass window photographed by Lawrence Lew OP, and used strikingly on our cover. The Thomas More College shop, where you can order copies, will be updated soon, or you phone them in the US at (603) 880-8308, or email our main address here and we will pass on your request.

It's an exciting issue. The culture wars have been going on for some time now, and caught up in them have been political positions that owe a lot to different economic ideologies. Second Spring stands with the so-called "paleo-conservative" or "imaginative conservative" values and philosophy of Burke, Chesterton, Kirk, and Communio. But under the impact of Pope Francis, the very terms of reference are changing, and this is a great time to think things through for yourself.

Several but not all of the articles are about economics, and they are written in an accessible, non-technical way. William Edmund Fahey, the President of Thomas More College, and John Medaille, the leading contemporary writer on Distributism, takes us deep into that philosophy of life, while Michael Black and Edward Hadas take a more independent but still radical stand. (Dr Black presents an unusual perspective on the importance of the Corporation in the modern world, and its theological origins. You'll never look at Wal-Mart the same again!)

In addition to all this, and the Reports, book reviews, and a collection of brilliant poems by Megan Furman, there is a major article on the mysterious and controversial Valentin Tomberg, the author of Meditations on the Tarot, and an important article on Evangelization by Edmund Adamus, Director for Marriage and Family Life for the Diocese of Westminster.

Don't miss it! And make sure your college library subscribes. Second Spring is here to stay.