Prof. Francis O’Gorman talks about John Ruskin’s life, writings, and devotion to beauty, July 14, 2018, hour 1

Prof. Francis O’Gorman, chairmen of the Ruskin Society, talks about John Ruskin, the Evangelical art critic who considered the art of the Italian Renaissance, and Venice in particular, as the idea of beauty. Ruskin, as O’Gorman explains, didn’t remain in Evangelical in later life. Prof. O’Gorman teaches at the University of Edinburgh.

Mass Hysteria Driving Attacks on the President

Deal W. Hudson

August 30, 2017

I know I am not alone in being bewildered by the daily pummeling of President Trump throughout the media. We are witnessing something more than the usual criticism any politician can expect. Instead, it’s become a kind of madness, where the president can be depicted with his head cut offstanding naked, or being hung from a tree.

All these images were reported by the major media. In the aftermath of Charlottesville, Virginia the president has been repeatedly called a “racist” in the mainstream media, including The Washington Post. But that’s not the worst. The president has also been routinely compared to Hitler and the Nazis.

The German magazine Stern published a cover depicting President Trump giving a Nazi salute while draped in an American flag. In England, The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland said, “We thought the Nazi threat was dead. But Donald Trump has revived it.”

Freedland went on to predict an American outbreak of anti-Semitism based on the fact that many white supremacists have free speech rights. Entertainers fantasize about “killing the president.” Rosie O’Donnell tweets to her 1,000,000 plus followers about a game she plays, “Pushing Trump off a cliff.” A New York Times reporter calls The first lady a “hooker.”

These attacks defy the standards of commonsense and public civility. Their sheer viciousness points towards an deep and more disturbing explanation — a mass hysteria elicited by the surprise defeat of Hillary Clinton. One could hardly find a better description than this published by John Waller of the British Psychological Society, “‘[M]ass hysteria’ are cases in which groups of people act upon beliefs which gain exaggerated credence in times of social and economic distress.”

This hysteria outbreak should have been widely recognized the day after the election.

Recall how college campuses across the nation responded to the election of President Trump with support groups, cancelled classes, creating “safe spaces,” and “self-care guides.”

Dan Gainer of Fox News described the media’s reaction to the election as a “primal scream.” In California, Washington, and Oregon, efforts are launched for those states to secede.

The central symptom of hysteria is “ungovernable emotional excess,” which in this case has become a case of mass hysteria, one largely due to the incessant use of social media to wage political and ideological war.

Writing in The Atlantic,  Laura Dimon connects increasing outbreaks of mass hysteria, or mass psychogenic illness (MPI), with the impact of Facebook and Twitter. Formerly people had to be in the same room to share in the hysteria, but that’s no longer the case. Today, social media has become “extensions of our eyes and ears.” It has made hysteria a global phenomenon.

Just think about it, Rosie O’Donnell has over 1,000,000 followers on Twitter. Many Trump-haters have far more. Katy Perry has over 100 million followers; Justin Bieber, 99,000,000, Rhianna, 76,000,000; Ellen DeGeneres, 70,000,000; and Lady Gaga, 69,000,000.

High-minded conservatives who sniff at these numbers and their cumulative influence are dissociating themselves from the way we live today.

Writing in Psychology Today, Romeo Vitelli, Ph.D., describes the symptoms of mass hysteria: including having “no known organic basis,” meaning no basis in fact; occurring in a specific group; extreme anxiety; spread by world of mouth or popular media; spread from older to younger victims; and predominately female.

Regarding the last symptom, I would offer the observation that both the viciousness and sobbing character of the anti-Trump hysteria does have, at least to me, a curious female aspect. Just as Esther Goldberg has described former FBI Director James B. Comey as talking “the way high school girls talk,” the catty displays of commentators like MSNBC’s Chris Matthews are positively feline, “One good thing Mussolini did was execute his son-in-law,” said Matthews — referring to Jared Kushner.

Some theorists of mass hysteria say that these outbreaks usually pass quickly. That’s not been our experience. The hysteria over the bogus Duke University rape allegation did not subside until all charges were dropped over a year later. Similarly, it took over a year for the Charlottesville, Virginia police to find no evidence of the rape on campus reported by Rolling Stone for which they paid heavily in civil damages. In the meantime, in both cases, all the mainstream media joined in the chorus of defamation.

Who will play similar role in the case against President Trump? Who will help calm the hysteria? Perhaps, it will be people like Sen. Diane Feinstein , D-Calif., who recently stunned an audience in San Francisco with her refusal to support impeachment, saying Trump “could be a good president.” A reporter at the meeting said, “the crowd reacted with stunned silence, broken only with scattered ‘No’s’ and a few hisses and some nervous laughter.”

It’s in a moment of silence like the one elicited by Sen. Feinstein that the much-needed injection of reason and civility can take place and the mass hysteria can begin to pass.

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Are Your Kids Safe in a Catholic College?

Deal W. Hudson

Let me warn you up front: You’re not going to like this one bit.

Last time I wrote to you, I mentioned the great success of the March for Life. To me, one of its most successful aspects was the huge crowd of young people it attracted. The event was a family affair, but more than anything you got the feeling that the teens in the crowd were going to be the torchbearers of the pro-life movement.

Well, if a recent study is to be believed, many of those same pro-life teens who go to Catholic colleges won’t come out that way.

The Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA compared results of a survey administered to college freshmen in 1997 with a survey given to these same students as graduating seniors in 2001.

The results? Students attending Catholic colleges are more likely to increase support for legalized abortion and same-sex marriages than students attending private four-year colleges. See for yourself:

* After four years at a Catholic college, student support for abortion increased from 46.3 percent to 60.1 percent, a sharper increase than among students at private colleges (51 percent to 62.2 percent).

* With regards to same-sex marriage, Catholic student support jumped from 57.3 percent to 73.5 percent (80.4 percent among women). Students at private schools saw less of an increase, from 55.7 percent to 67.3 percent.

* Catholic college students increasingly agreed with the following statement after four years at school: “If two people really like each other, it’s all right for them to have sex even if they’ve known each other for only a very short time.” Agreement rose from 32.8 percent to 54.3 percent (68.6 percent among men), compared to only 51.8 at four-year colleges (62.5 percent of men).

* The number of students professing to be Roman Catholics at a Catholic college dropped from 73.4 percent to 68.8 percent. At the same time, students professing no religion rose from 6 percent to 10.9 percent.

What’s happening here? Parents used to worry that Catholic colleges would be no better for their children than regular four-year colleges. Now it seems that some Catholic schools might actually be worse!

Certainly, this isn’t the case at all Catholic schools. Places like Thomas Aquinas, Ave Maria, Christendom, Steubenville, and the University of Dallas all maintain a strong Catholic identity, and parents would have little to fear if their child attended these schools.

But this is only a handful of smaller schools in a much larger field of colleges and universities across the nation. The fact that a majority of them can’t be trusted to deliver a quality Catholic education is unsettling.

To tell you the truth, it really bothers me. My own daughter Hannah will start her college search in a couple of years, and it looks like her options for a good Catholic school are shrinking. There’s plenty of room for diversity, but how much diversity can there really be if a majority of the schools can’t be trusted?

First, there was the problem with professors at Catholic colleges not seeking a mandate from their bishops saying that their teaching would be in line with Church doctrine. The deadline for acquiring the mandatum has come and gone, and still many professors have refused to comply.

Then more recently, we learned that some Catholic colleges were providing links to Planned Parenthood from their Web sites. Most of the links have been taken down now but only as a result of media attention and pressure from outraged Catholics.

Many people argued that these approaches were pluralistic and allowed for a freer range of thought on college campuses, but it seems to have had only a negative effect on the minds of the students. These are undoubtedly some of their most formative years, and the reality that they might not be safe in a Catholic institution – even less safe than at a secular four-year college – is outrageous.

Unfortunately, there’s no surefire way to tell if the school your child is attending is up to par or not. Sometimes the school’s reputation precedes itself, but sometimes that’s not enough. The school might have a very strong president, but if the professors aren’t in line, then the administration will make little difference. Having strong professors is a better sign of health, but even then, a “progressively-minded” administration could end up stifling their good intentions.

The best way to protect your children is to arm them with a solid foundation in Catholic morality and theology BEFORE they go to college. You simply cannot assume that the “Catholic” college they’re heading off to will form them in the faith. More often than not, they won’t.

College is often the first real test of a young person’s values and integrity. Sadly, we can no longer be confident that Catholic colleges will help him pass that test.

A Catholic College Stands Up for the Faith

Deal W. Hudson
February 14, 2008

Belmont Abbey College is one of the few Catholic colleges in the southeastern United States, located about ten miles west of Charlotte, North Carolina. Unfortunately, its president and chancellor are currently embroiled in a defense of the college’s Catholic identity against eight faculty members who insist on insurance coverage for voluntary sterilization, abortion, and contraception.

Here’s the story…

Founded by Benedictine Monks in 1876, Belmont Abbey College has 120 faculty and 1,200 students. Under its new president, Dr. William Thierfelder, the college has begun to get national attention with an aggressive and innovative advertising campaign (found on and numerous other Catholic publications).

I talked with Ken Davison, Vice President for College Relations, about the sequence of events that led to the present controversy.

The college asked its insurance carrier, Wellpath, to meet with faculty and staff to brief them on their various insurance options. Following the meeting, a faculty member, reading the documents closely, discovered the coverage for voluntary sterilization, abortion, and contraception, and alerted the administration by e-mail.

The president immediately asked Wellpath to remove this coverage, since they ran contrary to Catholic teaching. The faculty and staff then received an e-mail memo explaining that the coverage had been changed and why. (While the state requires this coverage, it offers an exemption for religious institutions.)

The Vice President of Administration and Finance then received an e-mail complaining about the changes in insurance coverage. As Davison says, “The next thing we knew our legal counsel received notice from EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] that a complaint had been filed that the changes in insurance coverage were discriminatory on the basis of sex and religion.”

The charges had been filed by eight Belmont Abbey faculty – six men and two women. In addition, the college found out that one faculty member had complained to the Department of Insurance about the insurance changes and the religious exemption.

Unfortunately for the community of Belmont Abbey College, this all broke out during the Christmas holidays.

On January 16, a letter was mailed by the National Women’s Law Center to the president threatening a lawsuit on behalf of the eight faculties. The letter demanded that the college reinstate the coverage, and pay any damages and out-of-pocket costs.

Two days later, the president and chancellor held a meeting of faculty and staff and explained why Belmont Abbey College could not offer this coverage. As Davison told me, “This insurance coverage is contrary to the clear moral teaching of the Catholic Church so we will not offer nor will we subsidize these medical services. To do so would be contrary to our stated Catholic mission and identity.”

On January 25, the professor who had complained to the Department of Insurance received a letter stating that Belmont Abbey College qualified for the religious exemption. The response of this faculty member was to ask the National Women’s Law Center to contest the decision.

This is where things stand at present: Belmont Abbey College has hired legal counsel to reply to the EEOC complaints. Thus far, no lawsuit has been filed by the National Women’s Law Center, and the decision of the state insurance department has not been reversed.

President Thierfelder recently sent a letter to faculty and staff addressing the controversy. He was asked why he and the chancellor did not consult the faculty or other administrators in making changes to the insurance coverage. Here is what he wrote:

The teaching of the Catholic Church on this moral issue is clear. The responsibility of the College as a Catholic College sponsored by the monks of Belmont Abbey to follow Church teaching is equally clear. There was no other course of action possible if we were to operate in fidelity to our mission and to our identity as a Catholic College. Therefore, consultation was not an option. However, Abbot Placid and I have publicly and repeatedly expressed a willingness to discuss the matter at any time with anyone who would like to talk to us.

Catholics have been crying out for Catholic colleges to reaffirm their identity. In President Thierfielder and Abbot Placid Solari, we have examples of leadership committed to following the moral teachings of the Church wherever they lead.

Such bold leadership should be applauded.