Christ the Physician Walks the Wards

Professor Carole Rawcliffe

This week our Newman Lecture from UEA is by Carole Rawcliffe of UEA. Here is part of her biography:

Carole Rawcliffe was an editor on the History of Parliament Trust (1979-92) before becoming a Senior Wellcome Trust Research Fellow at UEA (1992-7). She was made Reader in the History of Medicine (1997-2002) and Professor of Medieval History (2002).

Her research focuses upon the theory and practice of medicine in medieval England, with particular emphasis upon hospitals, the interconnection between healing and religion, and urban health.  As editor of The History of Norwich (2004), she maintains an interest in the East Anglian region, and has written extensively on its medical provision.  Her most recent book, Leprosy in Medieval England (2006), is a study of medieval responses to disease.  She is currently investigating concepts of health and welfare before the Reformation.

Her full biography is here.

I found this one particularly interesting, especially when I contemplated how few of our medical people even believe in God anymore,let alone that  He will help in particular cases. of course, that hit close to home with me, since I have seen His work, when all of our skilled people had given up.

You’ll also note that this week Professor Charmley has provided us with the visual aids as well. Actually there is a Storify story linked at the end of the article, I simply could not get it to embed, so I compromised.

Here’s Dr. Rawcliffe

And here is a slide show of the visual aids to watch while you listen. I am afraid the may have gotten somewhat jumbled. Sorry.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



The Decline and Fall of the Person

Dr. Jeff Mirus over at Catholic Culture did some musing the other day on his stack of unread books. I tend to be sympathetic because I have one of those plus a bunch of half-read ones on my Kindle. That tends top be life in the Information Age. His musing is a lot more informative and useful than my whining though. Here’s some of what he had to say:

The grand synthesis between Christian revelation and classical reason which formed Western culture placed the person at center stage. As a direct result, the universe was perceived as pregnant with meaning, created by and for persons, and capable of generating a kind of wonder that leads back to the Creator. But under various internal and external pressures, this intensely human synthesis tended to break down. People began to relativize ideas—the human grasp of meaning which is so often subject to disagreement, debate and conflict. And they began to absolutize facts—descriptions of material reality which are amenable to physical measurement and empirical proof.

There are so many ways to trace this shift in perception that it is difficult to know where to start. However it is traced, what we now call “science” gradually took the first place in human studies. Deeply dependent on earlier Western ideas about order in the universe as a whole, the rapid advance of the physical sciences won them deep respect. They offered largely non-controversial benefits to mankind while appearing to reduce the need for moral improvement.

The attraction is not hard to understand. Nobody has to grow in love or overcome habitual vices to appreciate the benefits of science and its resulting technology. In fact, whether good or evil, the achievements of science readily appeal to personal selfishness. They can make us healthier and more comfortable; they can reduce sweat equity; they can maximize pleasure.

I can’t really say I disagree with any of that nor, in some ways, do I think it bad.

Unfortunately, this relativization of what we might also call the moral or the spiritual, and this absolutization of what we must call the material, led the West as a whole to commit a fundamental error. We might call it a philosophical or a logical error, but it is just as much an error of common sense. A whole culture began by choosing to focus overwhelmingly on the material world. For obvious reasons, it then lost awareness of what it chose not to focus on. Finally, it proclaimed—completely without warrant—that what it was focused on is all there is. In other words, the West slipped progressively into a deeper and deeper materialism.

This has created gargantuan problems. If everything is material, how can we account for meaning and purpose? The answer is that we cannot, and the long-term result of this reticence concerning meaning is an insistence that everything must be random. In its evolutionary form, this randomness is thought to tend toward continuous improvement, at a huge but justifiable cost to whatever is left behind.

Nothing to disagree with here either but like the author, let’s think about this a bit. If there is nothing but the material world, then there is no cause for any morality at all, might is right is the way they phrased it in Camelot, if for some reason you are not the one with the power, you simply do not matter, get out of my way. Sounds a lot like a stone age tribal society, doesn’t it? Or maybe the twenty-first century industrialized world. Because in large measure we have devolved to a society in which if you can’t buy enough influence from the corrupt court, you’re gonna lose.

Another way modern Western culture has dealt with the absence of meaning is through the reduction of happiness to pleasure. It is an ever-present human tendency to prefer easily-gained and primarily physical pleasures over hard-won but more deeply satisfying growth in perfection (which presumes purposes and ends). Technology excels at producing pleasures for our consumption. Unlike ideology, pleasure does not provide an alternative form of “meaning”. Instead, it makes it easier to forget meaninglessness. In this sense it is also an escape from moral responsibility. But this is really a flight from despair, a flight from the frightening emptiness of a valueless existence, of a life without meaning.

Sound familiar? Yeah, it does to me as well, and I suspect it is true for a large part of our populations. There just aren’t many things our society thinks worthy of belief, are there?

There is quite a bit more at this link, The decline and fall of the Person: Musings on my stack of unread books – Catholic Culture. all of it worth reading, including Benedict’s  Caritas in Veritate. But let’s finish as Dr. Mirus does, because I don’t think it can be improved on.

[…] But when I looked at the clutter on my desk today, I realized that there was a very definite pattern to the clutter. A pattern, yes, and therefore purposes and ends and meanings which can only be discerned by persons.

To put the case in a nutshell, there really is a theology of the body. The end of our modern insanity is to learn again who we really are. I have chosen my words carefully: I do not mean what, but who.

The Catholic Pagan: 10 Questions for Camille Paglia

Frankly, I have little to add here, except that Camille Paglia is one of my favorite authors, not because I agree with her, I often disagree almost violently with her. But she is ruthlessly, inexorably honest, in her beliefs and in why she believes such. In fact, my first exposure to her was in a Playboy interview in the late 80s or early 90s (yes I did read the articles, although not always first, that was the joke page):)

I simply admire her, for above saying what she mean clearly, well, and honestly, no matter who gets caught in the crossfire. The world would be a better place if more of us did so.

Camille Paglia is an American cultural critic who serves as the University Professor of Humanities and Media Studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where she has taught since 1984. She received her B.A. from the State University of New York at Binghamton in 1968 and her M.Phil and Ph.D degrees from Yale University in 1971 and 1974, respectively.

Her six books are Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson (1990); Sex, Art, and American Culture (1992); Vamps & Tramps: New Essays (1994); The Birds, a study of Alfred Hitchcock published in 1998 by the British Film Institute in its Film Classics Series; Break, Blow, Burn:  Camille Paglia Reads Forty-Three of the World’s Best Poems (2005), and Glittering Images: A Journey through Art from Egypt to Star Wars (2012). Her third essay collection is currently under contract to Pantheon Books.

Professor Paglia was a co-founding contributor and columnist for, beginning with its debut issue in 1995.  She has written numerous articles on art, literature, popular culture, feminism, politics, and religion for publications around the world—most recently includingTIME and the Sunday Times of London. Her essay, “Theater of Gender:  David Bowie at the Climax of the Sexual Revolution,” was commissioned by the Victoria & Albert Museum for the catalog of its major exhibit of Bowie costumes, which opened in London in 2013 and is currently touring internationally.

Although raised Catholic in an Italian-American family, Professor Paglia left Catholicism in her youth and embraced the sexual revolution. Nevertheless, she still cites Italian Catholicism as the strongest influence on her personal identity. On Feb. 22, I conducted the following email interview with Professor Paglia about her secular work and its Catholic influences.

You’ve been teaching at University of the Arts since 1984. What do you love most about your job?

There is no doubt that my commitment to the vocation of teaching is part of my Catholic heritage. I view classroom teaching as a discipline and duty, a responsibility to convey the legacy of the past to the next generation. As I strictly monitor attendance and enforce order, I sometimes ruefully feel like a teaching nun from the over-regulated era of my upstate New York youth! I have a powerful sense of the descent of modern education from the medieval monasteries and cathedrals, whose Gothic architecture has been imitated on so many college campuses here and abroad. My faith in that nurturing continuity is certainly diametrically opposed to the cynically subversive approach of today’s postmodernist theorists, who see history as a false or repressive narrative operating on disconnected fragments.

Despite your teaching schedule, you’ve found time to speak and write a great deal, including your last book in 2012. What’s your next big project?

For the past five years, I have been researching Paleo-Indian culture of Northeastern America at the end of the Ice Age, as the glaciers withdrew. I am particularly interested in Neolithic religion, which was focused on elemental nature, a persistent theme in my work. I have been studying Native American tribal history and doing surface collecting of small stone artifacts. Professional archaeologists and anthropologists have tended to gravitate toward Indian lifestyle issues like kinship patterns, governance, hunting strategies, food preparation and fabrication of tools, clothing, and shelter. I have found surprisingly few attempts to approach Native American culture from the perspective of world art and world religion. There is a puzzling gap in the record, and I hope to be able to make a contribution. However, this challenging project will be long in the making. In the meantime, I am preparing for my third essay collection, which is under contract to Pantheon Books.

Identifying yourself as a “dissident feminist,” you often seem more at home with classical Greek and Roman paganism than with postmodern academia. How has this reality affected your public and professional relationships?

I feel lucky to have taught primarily at art schools, where the faculty are active practitioners of the arts and crafts. I have very little contact with American academics, who are pitifully trapped in a sterile career system that has become paralyzed by political correctness. University faculties nationwide have lost power to an ever-expanding bureaucracy of administrators, whose primary concern is the institution’s contractual relationship with tuition-paying parents. You can cut the demoralized faculty atmosphere with a knife when you step foot on any elite campus. With a few stellar exceptions, the only substantive discourse that I ever have these days is with academics, intellectuals, and journalists abroad.

In your view, what’s wrong with American feminism today, and what can it do to improve?

After the great victory won by my insurgent, pro-sex, pro-fashion wing of feminism in the 1990s, American and British feminism has amazingly collapsed backward again into whining, narcissistic victimology.

Read the whole article, The Catholic Pagan: 10 Questions for Camille Paglia | America Magazine. it’s all this good.

H/T to somebody on Twitter, sorry I forgot who, though. :(


Honestly guys, I’m feeling better but I’m still loopy from the drugs. be glad I’m not fixing your wiring today :)

But a little George Herbert will help the day go by, I think.

THE PEARL.         


Matt.  XIII.
I KNOW the wayes of learning ;  both the head
And pipes that feed the presse, and make it runne ;
What reason hath from nature borrowed,
Or of itself, like a good huswife, spunne
In laws and policie ;  what the starres conspire,
What willing nature speaks, what forc’d by fire ;
Both th’ old discoveries, and the new-found seas,
The stock and surplus, cause and historie :
All these stand open, or I have the keyes :
Yet I love thee.

I know the wayes of honour, what maintains
The quick returns of courtesie and wit :
In vies of favours whether partie gains,
When glorie swells the heart, and moldeth it
To all expressions both of hand and eye,
Which on the world a true love-knot may tie,
And bear the bundle, wheresoe’er it goes :
How many drammes of spirit there must be
To sell my life unto my friends or foes :
Yet I love thee.

I know the wayes of pleasure, the sweet strains,
The lullings and the relishes of it ;
The propositions of hot bloud and brains ;
What mirth and musick mean ;  what love and wit
Have done these twentie hundred yeares, and more :
I know the projects of unbridled store :
My stuffe is flesh, not brasse;  my senses live,
And grumble oft, that they have more in me
Then he that curbs them, being but one to five :
Yet I love thee.

I know all these, and have them in my hand :
Therefore not sealed, but with open eyes
I flie to thee, and fully understand
Both the main sale, and the commodities ;
And at what rate and price I have thy love ;
With all the circumstances that may move :
Yet through these labyrinths, not my groveling wit,
But thy silk twist let down from heav’n to me,
Did both conduct and teach me, how by it
To climbe to thee.

The Ballad of the White Horse

Sorry, guys. I’ve got a cold, a head full of antihistamines, and a full inbox. So you get one of my favorite poems; G.K. Chesterton’s Ballad of the White Horse. You’ll recognize some lines that are used here often. Enjoy!

The Culture of Prayer Amongst Persecuted English Catholics; 1560-1760

PROFESSOR JOHN MORRILL University of Cambridge

This is a very interesting lecture, I think. It’s sponsored by the University of East Anglia Institute,  and the Newman Lectures. This is the second season of the lecture series they sponsor each spring, and I think they need more exposure here as well as in England.

In full disclosure the head of the Institute, Professor John Charmley is one of my closest friends, and yes, I met him through Jessica.  In fact I was one of several people worldwide who urged John to make these available to the rest of us in podcast or video form. As he told us, it is up to the speaker what form, if any, we will have available but we will have them here as available. He is ably assisted by another friend of mine, Siobhan Hoffmann Heap. The appropriate biographies are here.

But you know me well enough to know that I don’t feature things here because a friend had something to do with it, for me it’s all about quality, and John is the same way. He is also why you get a fair amount of British history here, through John I  have interacted with quite a few distinguished British historians, some whom you will see on TV (if you watch British history anyway).

This lecture was delivered by Professor John Morrill of Selwyn College, Cambridge. One of his main research interests is the religious dynamics of early modern British History. His biography is here.


John and I commented yesterday that knowing how the Catholics managed their prayer life in early modern Britain may be useful knowledge given how poorly our governments are doing in dealing with ISIS, although Elizabeth was far kinder to her Catholic subjects than ISIS is likely to be. And it looks to me like what she really wanted to do was look the other way, until the Pope foolishly told her Catholic subjects that they should depose her.

%d bloggers like this: