PopeWatch: Appeasement

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Sandro Magister at his blog Chiesa recognizes that the Catholic Church is in a war, something that the highest ranks of the Church utterly fail to comprehend:

 

 

 

 

ROME, November 21, 2014 – In a few days Pope Francis will go to Turkey, right into the thick of the new “piecemeal” global war that he sees overrunning the world.

The Islamic caliphate that has taken hold just beyond the Turkish border, between Syria and Iraq, pulverizing the old geographical boundaries, is global by nature. “The triumphant march of the mujahideen will reach all the way to Rome,” caliph Abu Bakr al Baghdadi proclaimed in the middle of November.

It has received declarations of obedience from patches of Islam in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Algeria, and Libya, opposite the coasts of Italy. In Nigeria and nearby Cameroon, Boko Haram has extended the caliphate to sub-Saharan Africa. New followers are streaming in from Europe and North America.

The black flag of the newly created Islamic State bears a Kufic inscription of its profession of faith: “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet.”

Christians are among the many victims of this puritanical Islam, which calls itself the only true form and also wants to make a desert of what it considers the greatest betrayals of original Islam: the Shiite heresy with its epicenter in Iran and the secularizing modernism of the Turkey of Kemal Atatürk, from whose mausoleum Pope Francis will begin his voyage.

In Ar-Raqqah, the de facto capital of the caliphate and the Syrian city from which the Jesuit Paolo Dall’Oglio disappeared, on the 15 out of 1500 Christian families that have survived the new Islamic State has imposed the jizya, a protection tax of an exorbitant 535 dollars a year, on pain of the confiscation of their homes and possessions.

In Mosul there is no longer any church where Mass is still celebrated, as also happened after the invasion of the Mongols.

It is impossible not to see in this the features of a “war of Islam” pushed to the extreme, fought in the name of Allah. It is illusory to deny the Islamic origin of this unbridled theological violence. This has been published even by the officially supervised “La Civiltà Cattolica,” only to be contradicted afterward by its fearsome director, Antonio Spadaro, the Jesuit who plays the role of Francis’s interpreter.

On Islam the Catholic Church stammers, the more so the higher up the ladder one goes.

The bishops of the dioceses of the Middle East are calling upon the world for effective armed protection, which never comes. In Rome, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran publishes the most detailed denunciation of the atrocities of the caliphate, and declares an end to all possibility of dialogue with those among the Muslims who do not stamp out violence at its roots.

But when the secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, speaks in New York from the tribunal of the UN, as he did on September 29, he carefully avoids the taboo words “Islam” and “Muslims,” and pays the obligatory tribute to the mantra that denies the existence of that conflict of civilization which is plain for all to see. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

November 24, 1864: Thanksgiving fpr the Troops

In 1864 the Union League decided to raise a fund to supply Thanksgiving dinner on November 24, 1864 for the Union soldiers and sailors fighting in the East.  The reaction of the Northern public to this plan was overwhelming.  over $56,000 in cash was raised, an enormous sum at the time, 250,000 pounds of fowl, and enormous contributions of foodstuffs of every type.  The Union soldiers and sailors loved their feast and the reminder that they had not been forgotten by the folks back home.  For Confederate soldiers, on starvation rations, there was of course no feast, a fact underlining the overwhelming tragedy of the Civil War.  Here is the Union League appeal which was printed in the New York Times on November 8, 1864.  Note that  Theodore Roosevelt, the father of the future president of the same name, is the Treasurer: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Some stirrings of discontent in U.S. Catholic higher education

 

It’s difficult to gauge precisely how many Catholics—in particular, those who are genuinely concerned about the Catholic identity of U.S. Catholic higher education—are feeling like Howard Beale, the fictional anchorman for the UBS Evening News in the film Network. Beale had a difficult time accepting the social ailments and depravity existing in the world he was reporting to his viewers. The image of Beale—his beige coat and wet, gray hair plastered to his head—standing up during the middle of his newscast and proclaiming, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” is arguably one of the most memorable scenes in cinematic history.

But, when it comes to U.S. Catholic higher education, the scene is memorable not because Beale had grown insane. No, it’s memorable because Beale was prophetic, correctly discerning the “signs of the times.”

Beale

Yet, although many of Beale’s viewers shared his outrage, they didn’t voice their frustrations. Why?

  • Perhaps some figured they would live their lives the way they saw fit and allow others to do the same. “Live and let live,” they thought. After all, who were they to judge?
  • Perhaps others figured those social ailments and depravity would eventually disappear, collapsing upon themselves of their own weight of the unhappiness they bring. Isn’t that what the natural law teaches?
  • Perhaps yet others lived in fear of those who were actively promoting those social ailments and depravity. They asked, as did Rodney King, “Can’t we all just get along?”

For a very long time, some Catholics have been “mad as hell” about the direction U.S. Catholic higher education has taken. Yet, they have remained silent for whatever reason, just like many of Beale’s viewers. However, those Catholics may now be at the point they’re “not going to take this anymore.” Their decades-long, simmering discontent may be at the boiling point and close to boiling over. To wit:

  • A professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Randall Smith, recently argued in Aleteia that something must be done about those universities and colleges which self-identify as “Catholic,” yet are less-than-supportive of Catholic students, faculty, and Church teaching. Smith noted the hostility demonstrated at many nominally Catholic universities in recent decades that has rendered some of them what Smith called “hot-beds of anti-Catholicism.”
  • A Marquette University political science professor, John McAdams, recently posted an article at the Marquette Warrior in which he voiced his concern about the way the concept of social justice is communicated and typically understood at Marquette. McAdams noted how opposition to hot-button issues—like abortion and same-sex marriage—is not a part of the University’s version of social justice. “On the contrary, any opposition to gay marriage is called ‘homophobia,’” McAdams wrote.
  • James Schall, SJ, formerly a member of Georgetown University’s faculty, recently published “The Catholic Difference” at The Catholic World Report. In his post, Fr. Schall emphasized the importance of maintaining a Catholic distinction in this secular world. “Catholics see themselves being…separated out because of a radical cultural change that they did not always notice,” Schall wrote. However, this isolation “is not so much because of any specific doctrinal issue peculiar to Catholics but because of issues of reason and natural law concerning human life and family, the very pillars of civilization.” Losing sight of the search for truth through sober reasoning that’s rooted in natural law, Fr. Schall argued, those institutions are forsaking their Catholic identity at a time just when young people need to experience it most.
  • In Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching, a Providence College professor of English, Anthony Esolen, has argued that many of the nation’s Catholic universities and colleges have narrowed the rich tradition of Catholic social teaching. How so? By limiting it to papal writings of the last couple decades and, in particular, papal concerns about society in the post-industrial West. What this narrowing of the tradition has accomplished, Esolen believes, is to divide Church teaching into neat compartments—like sexual morality, marriage, family, and economics—rather than to present the integral whole that it is. In the end, “progress” has been made synonymous with “dispensing [with] the wisdom of the ages.”

The singular problem is the largely unchallenged motive that most academic administrators at those institutions have evidenced for nearly six decades. In short, they want their institutions to be exactly like their secular peers with a patina of Catholic—not too much, not too little, just enough to convince the folks that their institutions are genuinely Catholic. Moving those institutions in this direction is nothing new, tracing its history back to the Land O’ Lakes conference in the late 1960’s.

After nearly six decades, the outcome is a system of higher education that, in most of its policies, classrooms, and dormitories, consists of 240+ universities and colleges that are discernably similar to their secular counterparts.

For those Catholics who are frustrated with the current state of U.S. Catholic higher education, this history raises some fundamental questions:

  • If those institutions aren’t going to be distinctively Catholic and educate students in a decidedly Catholic body of tradition, for what purpose do they exist?
  • How would the virtue of justice adjure administrators who advertise and promote their institutions as “Catholic” when their fundamental motivation is to imitate their secular peers?
  • If a student is not going to receive a distinctive education in the Catholic tradition, is this not tantamount to “false advertising” or, worse yet, theft for charging tuition for something that’s knowingly not going to be provided whole and intact?

When conservatives raise questions like these, they are routinely accused of being interested only in “indoctrinating” students. However, it’s the conduct of those making this accusation that ought to be critically examined. Have they not been using “Catholic” social justice as their Trojan Horse to indoctrinate students into their ideology?

That long-term project and its success is what makes conservatives “mad as hell.” Evidently, some of them are “not going to take this anymore” and are beginning to speak out.

 

 

 

To read Randall Smith’s article, click on the following link:
http://www.aleteia.org/en/education/article/should-catholic-universities-be-subject-to-bishops-accreditation-5327231924568064?

To read John McAdams post, click on the following link:
http://mu-warrior.blogspot.com/2014/11/marquette-how-do-we-deal-with-students.html

To read Fr. Schall’s article, click on the following link:
http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Item/3502/the_catholic_difference.aspx

To learn about/purchase Anthony Esolen’s book, click on the following link:
http://shop.sophiainstitute.com/Reclaiming-Catholic-Social-Teaching-P738.aspx

To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, Omnibus, click on the following link:
http://richard-jacobs-blog.com/omnibus.html

Ditto Patrick

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Pat Archbold calls a spade a spade:

 

How much longer we will have to endure this sort of disingenuous dreck of what amounts to little more than Catholic cover of democrat party initiatives?

In his statement on President Obama’s constitution-busting executive orders on immigration, Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration twice references the extra-legality of the move by saying that any such actions must be “within its legitimate authority” that these “pastors” (yes, the scare quotes are appropriate) welcome ANY action “within these limits.”
 

WASHINGTON—Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration, welcomed the news today that the Obama administration will defer deportations for many undocumented immigrants and their families.

“We have a long history of welcoming and aiding the poor, the outcast, the immigrant, and the disadvantaged. Each day, the Catholic Church in the United States, in her social service agencies, hospitals, schools, and parishes, witnesses the human consequences of the separation of families, when parents are deported from their children or spouses from each other. We’ve been on record asking the Administration to do everything within its legitimate authority to bring relief and justice to our immigrant brothers and sisters. As pastors, we welcome any efforts within these limits that protect individuals and protect and reunite families and vulnerable children,” said Bishop Elizondo.

By welcoming this action, an action for which the President himself publicly claimed no less than 25 times that  lacked legitimate authority, the USCCB adopts a “by any means necessary” approach to its public policy preferences.  That smacks of consequentialism, don’tcha know.

That the action lacks legitimacy and authority is implicitly acknowledged and dismissively side-stepped in the double “doth protest too much” reference of the statement to legitimacy and limits. The apparatchiks at the USCCB know full well that the President lacks the authority to conduct this action, they just don’t care. In this way, they are just like the progressives whom they unflaggingly support. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Patristic quote of the day…

 

If I should write the truth, I believe that I ought to flee all meetings of bishops, because I have never seen any happy or satisfactory outcome from any council, nor one that has deterred evils more than it has occasioned their acceptance and growth.

 

(St Gregory of Nazianzus, Letter 131 from 382 AD; cf. PG ).

Christ, not Man, is King

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I have always liked that our liturgical year now ends with the feast of Christ the King.  It reminds us not only of the Last Day when Christ will reign in Judgment over all men who have ever lived, but also that beneath the showy pomp of human history, the Captains and the Kings who march through its pages are of infinitely of less account than, as the atheist historian HG Welles put it, the penniless preacher from Galilee who is the center of History.   Just after the beginning of World War II the hero pope Pius XII wrote the encyclical  Summi Pontificatus in which he reminded all of humanity that in the final analysis Christ, not Man, is King.

 

To consider the State as something ultimate to which everything else should be subordinated and directed, cannot fail to harm the true and lasting prosperity of nations. This can happen either when unrestricted dominion comes to be conferred on the State as having a mandate from the nation, people, or even a social order, or when the State arrogates such dominion to itself as absolute master, despotically, without any mandate whatsoever. If, in fact, the State lays claim to and directs private enterprises, these, ruled as they are by delicate and complicated internal principles which guarantee and assure the realization of their special aims, may be damaged to the detriment of the public good, by being wrenched from their natural surroundings, that is, from responsible private action. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

An Invitation to the Pope

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When the Pope visits the US next year, I hope he can find time to come to Livingston County Illinois.  I would be happy to be his tour guide and host.  There is  a lot to see in the County, but like most of our foreign visitors I think he would be captivated by our farms.  Central Illinois has some of the most fertile soil on Earth, and our endless seas of corn and soybeans are a sight to see in the growing season.  I could take him to visit some of the farms, and he would meet the farmers who produce an agricultural miracle of productivity year after year.  Most of them are members of families who have been tilling the soil here year after year since the Civil War.  He could hear from them how much toil and capital it takes each year to make a crop.  The Pope could see their high tech combines and tractors, etc, and talk to the men and women who routinely put in 16 hour days, six days a week during harvest time.  He could learn just how risky a business farming can be, dependent on weather, and prices around the globe.  No doubt the Pope would be served food wherever he went because that is how our farm wives treat guests, so he should leave plenty of food for pies, cakes, fried chicken, watermelons, etc.

After the tour, I think I would hold a meeting where the Pope could address the farmers, and I would also invite to the meeting all those dependent upon the agriculture industry in the county, and that would include seasonal laborers, grain bin owners, truckers, bankers, etc.  It would be a very respectful and civil meeting and the Pope could say whatever he wished.

However, I would also ask the Pope about this statement he made this week at a UN conference on nutrition held in Rome.

Nowadays there is much talk of rights, frequently neglecting duties; perhaps we have paid too little heed to those who are hungry. It is also painful to see that the struggle against hunger and malnutrition is hindered by “market priorities”, the “primacy of profit”, which have reduced foodstuffs to a commodity like any other, subject to speculation, also of a financial nature. And while we speak of new rights, the hungry remain, at the street corner, and ask to be recognised as citizens, to receive a healthy diet. We ask for dignity, not for charity.

I would ask His Holiness what system in the world has fed more people than the free market system.  I would further ask the Pope if free market economies have a better record feeding the poor than command economies.  I would finally  ask the Pope what system, if that is what his frequent criticisms of market economies is leading to, he would wish to substitute.  In regard to farmers, no free market tends to mean that farmers become the serfs of the State, and the land of the farmers is stolen nationalized.  I think the farmers I know would have quite a few questions at that point.

After the meeting all of us would sit down and eat, and perhaps I could then mention to the Pope the food banks run throughout the county by churches and private charities and groups, the food directly contributed to the poor by ordinary people like my family, especially at this time of the year, and how many of the farmers do mission work to help teach people overseas new farming techniques.  In a small county, in population but not in size, like ours the poor are not an abstraction but people we often know, who frequently have family roots that go back far in the history of the County.  The Pope, I hope, would leave Livingston County with fond memories, a bellyful of food to digest and maybe a few things to think about.

 

Tad and the Turkey

Turkey Pardon

Stories cluster about Lincoln like barnacles on a great ship. Many of them cannot be sourced at all and have to be consigned to legend. One such story that is probably just a legend is that of Tad and the Turkey. The White House in 1863 received the gift of a live turkey that was to be fattened up for an eventual White House dinner. Tad grew fond of the bird, named him Jack and eventually begged his father for the Turkey’s life. Lincoln was reluctant at first, noting that the Turkey had been given as a gift for the table and not as a pet. Tad’s pleas however eventually caused Lincoln to give the Turkey a presidential pardon.

Like all good legends this story has the participants behaving in character: Tad always did have a menagerie of pets in the White House, and Lincoln was soft-hearted about animals and was a fairly indulgent father. A sequel to the story had Jack the Turkey stepping to the front of a line of soldiers waiting to vote at a polling place set up at a White House. Then Lincoln is supposed to have inquired of his son if Jack was going to vote. Tad solemnly responded that Jack could not vote due to his being too young. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

PopeWatch: Did I Just Say What?

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From the only reliable source of Catholic news on the net, Eye of the Tiber:

 

VATICAN–Speaking to pilgrims during his weekly Wednesday audience yesterday, Pope Francis admitted that he was kind of having a hard time making any kind of sense whatsoever of what he just said.

The Pontiff, who has been known to make off the cuff remarks in the past, told those gathered in St. Peter’s Square that what he just said was “admittedly kind of weird.”

“I said what?” Francis asked those gathered. “There’s no way I just said that. OK, that’s just weird. Seriously, what the heck is it with me? Am I trying to change doctrine or something? How am I gonna explain this to my secular friends? Oh boy, I can see their faces now. I bet they’re just itching to ask when I’m gonna start allowing divorced gay Catholics to receive communion. This is great…just great. I’m so freaking pissed right now I think I’m gonna go blog about it.” →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Johnny Cash: Thanksgiving

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Something for the weekend.  A reminder from the late, great Johnny Cash that we all have so much to thank God for when we sit down with our families next Thursday.  Perhaps we should also recall these words from Theodore Roosevelt in his final Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1908:

 

For the very reason that in material well-being we have thus abounded, we owe it to the Almighty to show equal progress in moral and spiritual things. With a nation, as with the individuals who make up a nation, material well-being is an indispensable foundation. But the foundation avails nothing by itself. That life is wasted, and worse than wasted, which is spent in piling, heap upon heap, those things which minister merely to the pleasure of the body and to the power that rests only on wealth. Upon material well-being as a foundation must be raised the structure of the lofty life of the spirit, if this Nation is properly to fulfil its great mission and to accomplish all that we so ardently hope and desire. The things of the body are good; the things of the intellect better; the best of all are the things of the soul; for, in the nation as in the individual, in the long run it is character that counts. Let us, therefore, as a people set our faces resolutely against evil, and with broad charity, with kindliness and good-will toward all men, but with unflinching determination to smite down wrong, strive with all the strength that is given us for righteousness in public and in private life.

Wages and Hamburgers, A Pricing History

In the world of social media, articles can have a curiously restless afterlife, suddenly being passed around again for no apparent reason well after their original publication. In one of these, people starting passing around a chart on Twitter as “one of the most important charts you’ll see about the minimum wage” which proved to be from a Mother Jones post from December, 2013 claiming to explain why fast food workers are striking for a higher minimum wage.

This caught my eye because of the fast food association. I have an intellectual interest in the politics and economics of the minimum wage, but fast food I actually know a bit about as I ran pricing analytics for one of the big three hamburger chains for two years. So this allegedly so important chart got me thinking: How has the price of the hamburgers that fast food workers prepare changed over the last 40-50 years compared to the minimum wage? (Note: Contrary to popular belief, a lot of fast food workers make more than minimum wage. Around here, the advertised starting wage at major fast food chains tends to be $0.50 to $1.00 more than the minimum wage. However, the minimum is easy to track so it’s what tends to come up in these conversations.)
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The Left Has No Credibility on Abuse of Power Issues

Those of you who remember the space of time between January 20, 2001 and January 20, 2009 might recall that cries for George W. Bush’s impeachment rang out roughly every five seconds from some corner of the American left (and some libertarian circles as well). The Iraq War was a primary impetus for these calls, because I guess continuing a war that had been granted Congressional approval but was becoming increasingly unpopular ran afoul of some constitutional principle. Of course this was not the only motivating factor behind calls for Bush’s impeachment. At some point late in his second term his mere existence was viewed as grounds for impeachment. The most serious centered around supposed abuses of executive power, highlighted especially by his use of presidential signing statements. The anger over these relatively mundane statements revealed more about the bone-dry ignorance of those who sputtered the most outrage over them, because it was quite evident that these individuals didn’t even know what these signing statements were or what they were meant to accomplish.

George W. Bush was obviously not the first, and he certainly won’t be the last president to receive such treatment. Every president faces hostility from members of the opposing party, and every president will be the subject of frivolous and not-so frivolous impeachment talk. Perhaps this is just indicative of our polity’s reflexive desire to howl “IMPEACH HIM!” at every instance of executive overreach. After all, while Bush was not guilty (IMO[NS]HO) of any impeachable offense, arguments that he extended his executive powers to the breaking point are not exactly unreasonable. That Bush merely continued the long tradition of augmenting presidential powers beyond their constitutional breaking point is really no excuse. We can endlessly debate the merits and demerits of executive actions undertaken by our 41st president, but the point is that they are in fact at least debatable.

Which brings us to our 44th president. President Obama’s imperial edict issuance of amnesty by executive order is so breathtaking in its abuse of presidential authority that even advocates of comprehensive immigration reform such as the editors of the Wall Street Journal are left shrieking in horror. We’ll leave aside the Journal’s insistence on using the idiotic phrase “anti-immigration” Republicans and note that even they think he clearly went beyond the scope of his powers. There is no shortage of commentary explaining why President Obama lacks such authority, so I’ll leave that discussion aside right now (although here’s one for starters). I also won’t get into a detailed discussion of what the Republicans ought to do (although you can go here, here, here and here  if you’d like).

What I would like to note is the utter silence of the left on this issue. Actually, it’s not really silence – rather, the left is in full-throated support of this action. Okay, maybe that’s not true, as some on the left don’t think the president went far enough. But, by and large, the left is completely hunky dory with this decree. And they are not alone, as some of the geniuses at the USCCB had already signaled their contentment with Obama’s act of contempt for the constitution. We’re not even two years removed from the Bishops marching out in opposition to the HHS contraception mandate, and there they are providing a wink and a nod this round of executive overreach. I guess some violations of the constitution are okay so long as they accord with your policy preferences.

Which brings us to the nub of the issue. After years of bemoaning every real and imagined instance of George W. Bush overreach, the left in almost its entirety has either remained silent or actively applauded every instance of Obamian executive rule-making. This most recent example is just the latest in a long line of executive abuses of authority by this administration. Whether it be forcing Churches to cover contraception, or “recess” appointments when there wasn’t any Congressional recess to be speak of, or name your favorite example of some departmental rule-making beyond the scope of its Congressional authority, and there have been opportunities for honest citizens of the left to cry out in opposition. But their silence is deafening.

You see for progressives it’s all about the ends, not the means. If the ends are good, then the means don’t really matter. Now if the ends are bad, then well, any means is de facto illegitimate.

Jay Nordlinger talks about an example of this from his own personal experience.

In 2003, I was at a dinner party on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. All liberals, plus me. The Texas sodomy decision had just come down from the Supreme Court. My hostess asked me what I thought. I said that I agreed with Justice Thomas — who wrote essentially this: “The Texas law is dumb. If I were a member of the state legislature, I would vote to repeal it. But I find nothing in the Constitution that forbids a state to make such a law.”

My hostess looked at me as though I had come from Mars. She did not look at me with hostility. She looked at me with incomprehension. If you’ve got the power, you use it, for good ends. If you’ve got the black robe and the gavel — why, ram home what is right!

When I was in college, and figuring things out, I noticed that the Left had a disdain for process. They would use it, if the process was to their advantage. But they would jettison it the second the process was inconvenient. What mattered was the result, period.

Jonah Goldberg has written about all this in his excellent book, Liberal Fascism. For over a century the American left has steadily worked to undermine the constitutional process. It has done so via the Courts. It has done so through the presidency. It has even done so in subtle ways culturally. Why do you think there has been so much bellyaching about gridlock and Congress’ failure to “compromise?” The left wants to leave the impression that the failure to produce legislative action is a bug and not a feature of our constitutional process. This impatience with our peculiar republican form of government is what has spurred all of the actions that have degraded our constitutional system.

It is tempting to bemoan the hypocrisy of the left and its refusal to hold President Obama to the same standards it held President Bush. But the left is not being hypocritical, at least not now. No, the real hypocrisy occurred in the years between 2001 and 2009 when the left pretended to care about things like separation of powers, checks and balances, and limits on the Executive’s authority. In reality, they didn’t give a fig about any of these constitutional checks on the presidency except insofar as the wrong guy got to exercise said authority. So when Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, or some other individual with an -R next to his name next occupies the Oval Office, please lend all leftist cries about abuse of power all the credence they deserve.

Napoleon on Christ?

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I have been reading, and enjoying, Andrew Roberts’ new biography of Napoleon.  Although I am not a fan of the Little Corporal, and Roberts clearly is, I appreciate the freshness he brings to a man who has been studied endlessly since his emergence from the maelstrom of the French Revolution.  I am taking this opportunity to repost a post I wrote in 2008 on purported comments made by Napoleon about Christ:

 

 

Napoleon purportedly made some remarkable statements about Christ while he was imprisoned on Saint Helena.  This one was supposedly made to General Bertrand:

” Such is the fate of great men ! So it was with Caesar and Alexander.   And I, too, am forgotten.   And the name of a conqueror and an emperor is a college theme!   Our exploits are tasks given to pupils by their tutor, who sit in judgment upon us, awarding censure or praise.   And mark what is soon to become of me!   Assassinated by the English oligarchy, I die before my time ; and my dead body, too, must return to the earth, to become food for worms.   Behold the destiny, near at hand, of him who has been called the great Napoleon!   What an abyss between my deep misery and the eternal reign of Christ, which is proclaimed, loved, adored, and which is extending over all the earth!   Is this to die?   Is it not rather to live?   The death of Christ!   It is the death of God.”

For a moment the Emperor was silent. As General Bertrand made no reply, he solemnly added, ” If you do not perceive that Jesus Christ is God, very well, then I did wrong to make you a general.”

And this statement, also to General Bertrand:

“The conversation at St. Helena very frequently turned upon the subject of religion. One day Napoleon was speaking of the divinity of Christ. General Bertrand said,

” I can not conceive, sire, how a great man like you can believe that the Supreme Being ever exhibited himself to men under a human form, with a body, a face, mouth, and eyes. Let Jesus be whatever you please—the highest intelligence, the purest heart, the most profound legislator, and, in all respects, the most singular being who has ever existed—I grant it. Still he was simply a man, who taught his disciples, and deluded credulous people, as did Orpheus, Confucius, Brama. Jesus caused himself to be adored because his predecessors Isis and Osiris, Jupiter and Juno, had proudly made themselves objects of worship. The ascendancy of Jesus over his time was like the ascendancy of the gods and the heroes of fable. If Jesus has impassioned and attached to his chariot the multitude, if he has revolutionized the world, I see in that only the power of genius and the action of a commanding spirit, which vanquishes the world as so many conquerors have done— Alexander, Caesar, you, sire, and Mohammed—with a sword.”

Napoleon promptly replied,

” I know men, and I tell you that Jesus Christ is not a man. Superficial minds see a resemblance between Christ and the founders of empires, and the gods of other religions. That resemblance does not exist. There is between Christianity and whatever other religion the distance of infinity.”

 I say these statements were purportedly made by Napoleon because controversy surrounds these and similar statements allegedly made by Napoleon about Christ on Saint Helena.  Go here for some background on the difficulty of confirming these quotes. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

PopeWatch: Pope Emeritus

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Well, this is interesting:

In Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s complete works, an article from 1972 by the young theologian Father Ratzinger, has been published minus a passage referring to the possibility of Communion for the divorced and remarried.

This deletion is interesting since that passage has been quoted frequently by Cardinal Walter Kasper, who, as was noted at the Synod, is a an enthusiastic advocate of the divorced and remarried being admitted to the Eucharist.

According to the Irish Times, Father Vincent Twomey (a theologian, who studied under Professor Ratzinger) is of the opinion that the editorial modification is important; the theologian suggests that Pope Emeritus does not want his ideas as a young theologian, never repeated as Prefect for the Congregation of Faith nor as Pope, being manipulated. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

November 21, 1864: Letter to Mrs. Bixby

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Executive Mansion, Washington, Nov. 21, 1864.

Dear Madam,

 

I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom.

 

Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,

 

A. LINCOLN.

 

It is a magnificent letter and repeats themes from the Gettysburg address and looks forward to the Second Inaugural.  Alas, the letter demonstrates how frequently ill advised it is to rely on government records.  Two of Mrs. Bixby’s sons died fighting for the Union, another died as either a deserter or a prisoner of war and another deserted and survived the war.  The final son was honorably discharged from the Army.  (This is not that unusual.  One of my friends, when it came time for him to retire from the Marines, had quite a time convincing the Pentagon that he had not died fighting in Hue during the Tet Offensive in 1968.) Mrs. Bixby did not find the letter of comfort apparently.  According to a granddaughter, Mrs. Bixby was secretly in sympathy with the Confederacy and had little good to say of Mr. Lincoln.  She probably destroyed the letter soon after it was delivered to her on November 24, 1864, as the original letter, which was published at the time, promptly vanished from history.

 

Lincoln, although he signed the letter, may not have written it.  Theodore Roosevelt had a copy of it in his office and greatly admired it.  A witness indicated that at one point his Secretary of State John Hay, who had been one of Lincoln’s private secretaries, stated that he had written the letter, which would not have been an unusual procedure, although Lincoln wrote quite a bit of his own correspondence as President.  The question remains open, although on balance I think the authorship of the letter by Hay, mimicking Lincoln’s thoughts and style, probably has the stronger case than Lincoln’s own authorship. Having said all of that, I assume that Lincoln’s heart did go out to Mrs.  Bixby.  He had seen two of his own sons die, and friends and relatives of his had fallen in the War.  He was a frequent visitor to Union hospitals around Washington to visit the Union wounded and knew well the immense human cost of the War that now, mercifully, was drawing to a close. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

The Old Issue

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“Here is nothing new nor aught unproven,” say the Trumpets,
“Many feet have worn it and the road is old indeed.
“It is the King—the King we schooled aforetime !”
(Trumpets in the marshes—in the eyot at Runnymede!)

“Here is neither haste, nor hate, nor anger,” peal the Trumpets,
“Pardon for his penitence or pity for his fall.
“It is the King!”—inexorable Trumpets—
(Trumpets round the scaffold at the dawning by Whitehall!)

.     .     .     .     .

“He hath veiled the Crown and hid the Sceptre,” warn the Trumpets,
“He hath changed the fashion of the lies that cloak his will.
“Hard die the Kings—ah hard—dooms hard!” declare the Trumpets,
Trumpets at the gang-plank where the brawling troop-decks fill!

Ancient and Unteachable, abide—abide the Trumpets!
Once again the Trumpets, for the shuddering ground-swell brings
Clamour over ocean of the harsh, pursuing Trumpets—
Trumpets of the Vanguard that have sworn no truce with Kings!

All we have of freedom, all we use or know—
This our fathers bought for us long and long ago.

Ancient Right unnoticed as the breath we draw—
Leave to live by no man’s leave, underneath the Law.

Lance and torch and tumult, steel and grey-goose wing
Wrenched it, inch and ell and all, slowly from the King.

Till our fathers ‘stablished, after bloody years,
How our King is one with us, first among his peers.

So they bought us freedom—not at little cost
Wherefore must we watch the King, lest our gain be lost,

Over all things certain, this is sure indeed,
Suffer not the old King: for we know the breed. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

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