• Happy Labor Day. Adam Barnes reports:

    Independent workers – including freelancers, gig workers, or even those who rent out living spaces to others – make up an increasingly sizeable portion of the American labor force.

    McKinsey’s American Opportunity Survey (AOS) found that about 58 million Americans, or 38 percent of employed respondents, identify as independent workers.

    The projection of independent workforce numbers includes both full-time work and those engaged in a side job. Yet 72 percent said they only hold one job. …

    The survey showed that 50 percent of independent workers who hold bachelor’s degrees expect to experience continuous economic growth over the next five years.

    But a majority still expressed concern about job stability, when compared to workers in permanent positions.

    Reasons for independent work varied widely, according to the survey. About a quarter of Americans said their motivation is “out of necessity to support basic family needs.” Around half say they work independently for flexibility or because they enjoy the work – more than a quarter apiece for either response.

    But independent workers still face challenges compared to traditional employees despite outsized positive economic moods and the added flexibility independent work offers. Only around 32 percent said they receive insurance from their employers. The survey found that independent workers also experience challenges relating to food security, transportation and childcare.

    McKinsey noted that these issues could likely be the reason independent workers are more than twice as likely to seek assistance through government programs.

    One reading of this is that more Americans are seizing the opportunity to build freer and more flexible lives. Another reading is that it’s time for changes in American law to better provide for the common good—changes that would promote single earner householders, changes ghat would reward growing families by reducing taxes, and changes relating to healthcare and transportation.

  • Dr. Peter Kilpatrick, the new president of The Catholic University of America, delivered remarks at the Mass of the Holy Spirit—a mass that marks the opening of the academic year—that took place yesterday in Washington, DC:

    Peter Kilpatrick has a background in the hard sciences but on Thursday, the new president of The Catholic University of America spoke about matters of the soul.

    Addressing students, faculty, and staff for the first time since assuming his new post on July 1, the 65-year-old chemical engineer discussed the importance of seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit. …

    “The Spirit will not prey upon your insecurities or make false and overblown promises. Nor will the Spirit shrink your soul to fit worldly purposes,” he said. 

    “Instead, the Spirit of the Lord will show you your authentic worth and guide you toward true happiness.” 

    He encouraged students to ask “life’s big questions.”

    “Who are you? What is the meaning and purpose of your life? Where will your happiness lie? How do you become the person you most want to be?” he said.

    “These questions will determine the trajectory of your life,” Kilpatrick said, adding his recommendation to “ask them of the Holy Spirit.”

    The university’s 16th president, Kilpatrick, a Catholic convert, succeeds John Garvey, who led the school for 12 years.

    Kilpatrick previously served as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Illinois Institute of Technology from 2018 to 2022. Before that he was a professor and dean at the University of Notre Dame and was a longtime faculty member at North Carolina State University.

    Meanwhile Catholic University’s brand-new Garvey Hall, named in honor of former President John Garvey, is a welcome addition to campus.

  • Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” appeared nearly a decade ago. Now Helen Andrews believes it’s time to “lean out:”

    Obviously there are women today in America who are trying to have it all, and many appear to be doing so successfully, at least insofar as they have both demanding careers and children. But look more closely at those households, and almost invariably you’ll see that behind every woman who is balancing work and family, there is an army of low-paid labor, immigrant cleaning ladies, nannies who are paid cash under the table, Door Dash delivery men who deliver the meals that mom never had time to cook. It’s no coincidence that the vast increase in female workforce participation has coincided with the reappearance of something that the more egalitarian America of the early 20th century did not have, and that is a servant class.

    America today is more prosperous than it was 70 years ago, and yet it is no longer possible for an ordinary worker to support a middle-class family on a single income. The story of how that happened is bound up into a lie that has become gospel today, which is the lie that women can have it all. Undergirding that lie is a further lie that the Republican Party can have it all. The GOP has very much hitched itself to the idea that it can be the party of stay-at-home moms and girl bosses equally. Again, superficially this seems like it ought to be possible. Live and let live, it’s a free country. But this bargain is unsustainable in practice. We only have to look at the last 30 years to understand why.

    The official position of the Republican Party today is that the government’s job is to make it possible for everyone to make the right choice for their family. This rhetoric of maximizing choice requires politicians to talk as if some women will choose to be moms and some will choose to be girl bosses, and it’s really 50/50 which one you end up being. You know, both are equally valid. Who’s to say one is better? But that’s just false, and it’s false according to women’s own preferences. The number of women who say they do not want to have children is very low, in the single digits, around 5%—and that’s just the number who will tell surveys that they predict they won’t have kids when their childbearing years are over. The number of women who actually reach old age and feel satisfied with their life, being just a girl boss with no children to keep them company, is even lower.

    Squaring away all this family happiness is and ought to be a higher priority than maximizing women’s career success. It is also a more urgent priority. A woman cannot simply wake up at age 35 and decide she wants to have a family. Everyone says that the sexual revolution was brought about by the advent of the contraceptive pill, which was supposedly ushered in at an amazing new age of a new human experience thanks to science. But it actually changed a lot less than we think. We’ve gotten quite good at not having children when we don’t want to have them, but the science that gave us the pill has not made us very much better at making children arrive when we do.

    Look at the Supreme Court—a perfect example. The first woman on the court, Sandra Day O’Connor, had three kids, Ruth Bader Ginsburg had two kids, and both of them had their kids quite young. I think the last one was at 32. Both of these women followed the life course of having kids young and then pursuing their career ambitions afterward. And apparently it worked. They wound up on the Court.

    Then look at the two women appointed to the court afterward. Sonia Sotomayor had a brief marriage to a high school boyfriend when she was young. It was annulled shortly after she graduated from law school. Elena Kagan never married. There was some speculation during her confirmation that she might be a lesbian, but her friends confirmed to reporters that she’s straight. She just never managed to put it together, to have a family.

    So, this generation gap between the female Supreme Court Justices born in the 1930s and those born in the 1950s illustrates the paradox of having it all. If you put family first, you can end up doing both. If you set out trying to do both, you will end up probably or likely enough with just the career. And worst of all, you’ll end with neither in the sense that you’re not going to be a Supreme Court Justice, you’re not going to have wonderful, stimulating, intellectually accomplished work to console you in your childlessness. You’re going to have a laptop job doing corporate busywork.

    Sotomayor and Kagan are both boomers, and even among the boomers childlessness is still relatively rare. That’s not the case for millennials. Millennials are on track to be the most childless generation in American history. Projections have it that 25% of millennials will be childless. By comparison, for boomers it’s closer to one in nine. For millennials, it’s going to be closer to one in four.

    Andrews concludes by offering “three things we could do right now that would put a big dent in the multiplying lies” concerning happiness.

    It should be fairly obvious that most husbands and wives, most American households, would prefer to be able to rely on a single income rather than two (or more) incomes. Elizabeth Warren’s book “The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Parents Are (Still) Going Broke” underscores the frustrating point that two (or more) incomes is not only not a path toward empowerment for many families, but is in fact a trap whose numerous trade-offs are too often taboo.

    Blake Masters, the U.S. Senate candidate in Arizona, picked up where Elizabeth Warren left off, releasing this campaign ad during the primary last year:

    Let’s have more courage to speak about this.

  • Alasdair MacIntyre’s God, Philosophy, Universities: A Selective History of the Catholic Philosophical Tradition contains this passage, which I came across at some point thanks to Urban Hannon:

    “From [the standpoint of the atheists] a theist is someone who believes in just one more being than they do and who therefore has the responsibility for justifying her or his belief in this extra entity. But from the standpoint of the theist this is already to have misconceived both God and theistic belief in God. To believe in God is not to believe that in addition to nature, about which atheists and theists can agree, there is something else, about which they disagree. It is rather that theists and atheists disagree about nature as well as about God. For theists believe that nature presents itself as radically incomplete, as requiring a ground beyond itself, if it is to be intelligible, and so their disagreement with atheists involves everything.”

    God is not simply another creature or thing out there in the universe.

  • Bad, even in the best light

    I took this photo while at a red light on Leesburg Pike in Falls Church, Virginia near Bailey’s Crossroads.

    What we’re seeing is a whole built environment, an entire intentionally crafting landscape, in what is probably literally its best possible light. And still, nearly everything is still bad and suggests a lack of intention.

    A gargantuan, undistinguished, glum-to-look-at rectangular apartment tower, with another just off to the left. Super-tall highway-style street lamps. Traffic lights strung across suspension-wire. An intersection too large for the youngest and oldest living nearby to cross comfortably. A thin median offering no protection from oncoming traffic that might jump the meager curb height. A sea of asphalt.

    The trees and modest shrubs are arguably the only soft and attractive things in this scene. The apartment tower would look all the more titanic without those two large trees obscuring its lower floors.

    They’ll tell us this is normal, but all that has been normalized is banality.

  • Saint Teresa of Calcutta in Schwenksville

    Earlier this month we attended mass near Philadelphia at Saint Teresa of Calcutta in Schwenksville. It’s a newer church, one of the last of the expansionist wave of new Catholic Churches that were built in the past generation when population projections forecasting regional growth implied a similar growth among faithful Catholic church-goers. Unlike so many of the suburban churches that I’m familiar with, this one got its architecture right. The altar here is visually striking as the focal point of the sanctuary, and it is striking not for its novelty but for its ancient reverence in elevating our gaze toward God. In contemplating Christ crucified, we are called literally to raise our gaze higher—to the heavens and toward all those things necessary for divine filiation.

    Thanks be to God.

  • Hadley Arkes writes that although the U.S. Supreme Court has reversed Roe v. Wade, the cultural and moral logic of Roe has altered the American heart on abortion:

    With Roe, the Court removed abortion overnight from a thing to be abhorred and forbidden — and turned it into something that should be endorsed, celebrated, and promoted. Roe is gone, but that moral teaching remains strong, and it is now vibrant in the most populous states where abortions may now be performed massively, with almost no restrictions and inhibitions.

    We now find ourselves in our new version of the “House Divided,” and it is an unsteady balance. The power to tilt it one way or another will be in the federal government, and if one side does not reach for those powers, the other side surely will. And if the culture of abortion flourishes in the blue states, the decisive leverage may well fall to them. The pro-life side has become soberly aware now that the overruling of Roe has not diminished the burdens of their work or delivered several hundred thousand unborn children from lethal dangers.

    Earlier in the piece Arkes writes that although Dobbs “returned [abortion] to the political arena in the states,” it’s “a trick of the eye to see no role for the federal government any longer on this issue.”

    The Supreme Court’s relinquishing of exclusive control over abortion actually raises the stakes, as abortion must now be confronted directly by presidents, governors, and lawmakers just as directly as by those judges and justices who will continue to confront abortion-related litigation.

    Focusing on the states without providing clarity for those at the federal level, or simply hoping for the best from a future pro-life president, will not get the job done.

  • Shia LaBeouf speaks with Bishop Robert Barron on his new film on Padre Pio and his conversion to Catholicism:

    It’s a rich conversation, with many worthwhile moments. This is one of those moments:

    Shia LaBeouf: Latin mass affects me deeply. Deeply.

    Bishop Barron: How come?

    Shia: Because it feels like they’re not selling me a car. And when I go to some mass[es] with the guitars and stuff… there’s a lot of what feels like they’re trying to sell me on an idea. Whereas what I feel when I went to Oakland—and, by the way, there’s a very incredible version of that as well [the Novus Ordo], that’s super activating and super emotional—Christ the King in Oakland does a Latin mass every day of the week, and it feels like it’s not being done to sell me on anything. And it feels almost like I’m being let in on something very special… It activates something in me where it feels like I found something. It’s a little bit like a band. When a band is pushed on you, it doesn’t feel the same way as you finding it. When you find it, then you root for it. It feels like this special thing that you found, and you protect it and you hold it, and it’s yours. When somebody’s selling me on something, it kills my aptitude for it, and my suspension of disbelief, and my yearnings to root for it. There’s an immediate rebellion in me.

  • EWTN profiled Sacred Art School Firenze in a segment that aired while MaryKate and I were there this summer:

    I spent the month of July working remotely while my wife completed the Sacred Art School‘s summer painting program alongside two friends from Fransiscan University of Steubenville and others from all over.

    Sacred Art School offers summer programs focused on painting, sculpture, and gold smithing, as well as three-year masters-style specializations in each of those areas.

  • The late Roger Scruton on the “metaphysical nature of our city temples and tombs:”

    Adolf Loos, founding father of architectural modernism, maintained that only in two of its applications is architecture an art—in the temple and the tomb. For it is only in these structures, built to house the non-existent, that architecture escapes from its everyday function as a shelter against an inhospitable reality. …

    Tombs, temples, and memorials form the heart of our ancient settlements, marking the public squares, the crossroads and the places of pilgrimage. They are the nodes of the urban network, and the streets radiate out from them, carrying the message of belonging to the furthest reaches of the city. Every town in Europe is built around a church, and public spaces are marked by monuments and chapels, reminding us that the place has a meaning more durable than the people who reside there. …

    People moved out to the suburbs, and into the suburbs from the fields. And yet no new places were created. The suburbs were no-places, and the city itself became a concrete platform, on which the glass boxes could be shifted back and forth like pieces on a chess-board. In an astonishingly short time, many of  the places that we knew had disappeared, and no places had come in their stead.

    … I have been even more struck by a deeper metaphysical difference. The old buildings belong in the places that they create; the new buildings typically belong nowhere, and create a nowhere wherever they are constructed. Physically the old city center is a space; metaphysically, however, it is a place, a somewhere to which buildings, people and the institutions that unite them can belong. But the new developments are spaces that refuse to be places, spaces where nothing belongs. …

    How does the peculiar experience of belonging enter human consciousness, and to what end?

    These questions return me to Adolf Loos’s observation concerning the temple and the tomb. In constructing these memorials to the non-existent we are fixing ourselves to a space. Temples and tombs are massive, immovable, as though the spirit contained in them has been fixed forever to the ground. The god and the hero cling to their allotted space with all the force of the imagination, and this causes us to reimagine that space as a somewhere to be shared and defended. In a space that has become a place it is not the body only but also the soul that finds a home. So much recent attempt at placemaking fails because it bypasses those core emotions. Yet how can you make a place for people if you do not first make a place for their heroes and their gods? We settle down by inviting our gods and heroes to settle beside us. And in that way the place is sanctified as ours.

    When the Antifa activists gather in the squares to pull the statues from their pedestals and the busts from their plinths, they are sending the message that this place is not ours, that we do not belong here, and that we want to start again outside the community that brought us into being. And the result of their destructive pranks will surely be no different from the result of so much modern building—the replacement of somewhere by nowhere. And I suspect that that is where we are going.

    I like Ave Maria so much because it is a space that strives to be a place—a place with Our Lord at its center and with the life of the community radiating from the reality of his Eucharistic presence.