The Kennedy Mystique

Monday, August 31, AD 2009

The past week has given me pause for thought on the Kennedy Mystique and what it means in Catholic circles today. I’d intended to remain silent on the topic of Senator Edward Kennedy, he wasn’t someone I had much admiration for, but death is a great equalizer. While it certainly doesn’t put someone beyond criticism, it’s polite not to take the opportunity to attack someone while those who loved him are mourning. And yet, in the end I made some rather strong comments on the topic. Why?

Ted Kennedy isn’t himself the sort of figure one would expect to arouse more than normal political feelings — a sometimes boorish and boozy character, but a party loyalist able to bring a fair amount of rhetorical power to pushing his party’s line and able to bring a self effacing charm into play (when he tried) which softened his partisan edges. The the sort of person I’d tend to admire, but also not someone I’d feel called upon to rail against.

I think the issue is that the combination of the Kennedy name and the Democratic party-line positions holds a certain place in American Catholic history which causes strong reactions among various Catholics depending on how they reacted to that period in Catholic history in this country. JFK was elected at a point when it seemed Catholics had finally “arrived” in the US. They’d made it out of the ethnic ghettos, through college, and into mainstream American society. And while public schools were heavily Protestant, and Catholic “smells and bells” still looked very strange to WASP eyes, Catholicism had become a large and mainstream religion in the US complete with famous converts and Fulton Sheen as a major TV personality.

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When did Senator Kennedy abandon his commitment to the unborn?

Monday, August 31, AD 2009

As has been pointed out, Senator Kennedy was pro-life at least until late 1971. Like Jesse Jackson, Al Gore and other prominent figures on the left, his stance changed as “abortion rights” became a major plank on the Democrat Party platform.

What happened?

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3 Responses to When did Senator Kennedy abandon his commitment to the unborn?

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  • I think it may be appropriate to compare Sen. Kennedy to the Senators and Congressmen of the 19th century who supported slavery, such as Henry Clay and Stephen Douglas.

    These men were significant figures in U.S. history, known for their political and oratorical skills, and were considered “lions of the Senate” in their own time. They considered themselves good Christians, did a lot of good things in their careers, and were admired by many people of all political persuasions. As far as I know they were personally nice, intelligent, well-mannered and trustworthy people. (Douglas, in fact, courted Mary Todd before she married Abraham Lincoln.)

    Yet, all the good they did cannot obscure the fact that on the number one moral issue of their era (slavery), they were wrong, and few if any people would even think of voting for someone with the same convictions today. Douglas, especially, is a prime example of someone who was “pro-choice” on slavery the same way many politicians are pro-choice on abortion today.

    Perhaps, by the grace of God and much prayer and sacrifice, the pro-abortion point of view will be just as unthinkable in the next century as the pro-slavery point of view is now.

    Here’s another analogy to consider. Suppose there had lived in the mid-19th century a famous politician who was a Quaker and came from a well-known Quaker family. Suppose this person claimed to be an observant Quaker, attended services regularly or attempted to, and made public statements about the value of his Quaker convictions and how they affected his votes on issues like war — but at the same time, he constantly defended the right of Southerners to own slaves, voted for the Fugitive Slave and Kansas Nebraska Acts, praised the Dred Scott decision, had a 100 percent favorable rating from pro-slavery lobbying groups, and repeatedly claimed there was no conflict between his Quaker convictions and embracing slavery.

    Now, how many Quakers do you think would have voted for such a man, and how would the press of the time have regarded him — as a sterling example of “progressive” Quaker thinking, or as a despicable hypocrite?

  • Those of that kind, not singling out Ted Kennedy, seem to serve special interest groups, Planned Parenthood, Unions.

Father and Daughter Reunited

Monday, August 31, AD 2009

Robert Schindler,Sr., the father of Terri Schiavo has died.  National Right to Life has released this letter:


WASHINGTON – The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the nation’s largest pro-life group, today joined with pro-lifers nationwide in mourning the passing of our dear friend Robert Schindler, Sr., the father of Terri Schindler Schiavo. Mr. Schindler died this morning in St. Petersburg, Florida.

“Bob Schindler was an extraordinary father, husband and friend,” said Wanda Franz, Ph.D., National Right to Life President. “His death is a profound loss for all of us in the pro-life movement. Today, our thoughts and prayers are with his loving wife, Mary and their children, Bobby and Suzanne.”

Despite facing legal setbacks at virtually every turn, the Schindlers, with their children at their side, fought unceasingly to defend the right of their daughter, Terri Schindler Schiavo, to receive food and fluids. Their brave struggle ended on March 31, 2005, when Terri died from a court-ordered withdrawal of nutrition and hydration.

Following Terri’s death, the family began advocating for other medically dependent and disabled patients facing similar circumstances through the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation.

In 2007, the National Right to Life Educational Trust Fund honored the Schindler family with the Proudly Pro-Life Award for their dedication and public witness to the cause of life.

“In life, Bob, and his wife Mary, never sought the spotlight. They only wished to care for their beloved daughter, Terri. Through their selfless dedication to Terri, they showed the nation and the world what it means when someone says they are ‘pro-life’,” added David N. O’Steen, Ph.D., National Right to Life Executive Director.

The National Right to Life Committee, the nation’s largest pro-life group is a federation of affiliates in all 50 states and 3,000 local chapters nationwide. National Right to Life works through legislation and education to protect those threatened by abortion, infanticide, euthanasia and assisted suicide.”


Terri Schiavo of course was judicially murdered by the State of Florida in 2005 at the behest of her “loving husband”, Michael Schiavo.  A few comments about that judicial travesty:

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21 Responses to Father and Daughter Reunited

  • I believe the Schiavo case showed me how much Jeb and GW were involved with the rhetoric for life, but did nothing which they could have done was done by their own authority to save one life (many options were available). Obviously many others were complicit here, but, we must recognize the failure of the Bushes here especially, since they were given many opportunities but appeared to be more interested in politics than life.

  • And the man sitting in the White House deeply regretted his vote in the Senate to attempt to save the life of Schiavo.

    I applaud the Bushes for their efforts to save Terri. Short of doing so at gunpoint there was nothing more they could have done after Judge Greer decreed her death and his ruling was upheld numerous times by the appellate courts.

  • The culture of death can always rely on Obama.

  • Donald

    Wrong, there was much which could have been done – that is the issue; there were all kinds of solutions given to them (I know this first hand), and only after she died, the one who gave the advice was told, “You were right, we could have done that.” They only played lipped service to the case, nothing else. This way they can look as if they were doing something, while doing nothing and not risk their political career.

  • “lip service” sheesh for the typo.

  • Karlson you are completely mistaken. Once the court made its ruling and it was upheld on appeal the only way out was to have an appellate court reverse Judge Greer. Jeb Bush attempted to do it by Terri’s Law which was ruled unconstitutional:

    George Bush attempted to do this by the legislation passed by Congress, but the federal courts refused to reverse the trial court.

    How about you telling us precisely what else could have been done and I’ll explain to you why it would have been unsuccessful unless Jeb and George Bush were willing to overrule Greer at gunpoint.

  • I’m completely mistaken? How close were you to the family and the legal situation as it was going on? Sorry, the problem – and the Schiavos themselves know this (hence the book I suggested you look into ) — the Bush team did lip service, but behind the scenes, well, it wasn’t so pretty.

  • The reason I have to be vague should be clear, if you looked into the book and see the reference. I heard things and know things, but some things are, well, you can guess, private things.

  • I saw the reference to a Professor Karlson who I assume is a relative of yours. Considering that the case is over I can see no legal reasons for you not to freely discuss what other legal means could have been undertaken to save the life of Terri, especially since you would not be bound by attorney client confidentiality in any case.

    A good discussion of the legal difficulties confronting those attempting to save Terri is linked below:

    I have been a constant critic of Judge Greer in this case. I believe his rulings were one-sided and that he showed clear bias throughout the case. However, the appellate courts consistently upheld him on appeals and once that is done in a law case there is very little that can be done in the face of a judgment of a court.

  • The reference sort of indicates the direction which could have been taken (the Justice Department admitted they could have done it and it would have been legal); it would have involved opening a new case where Terri would have been called as a witness (and given witness protection); in that time then some outside sources could have done real investigation while she was in governmental protection. The legal aspects of it, I know, was worked out and again, verified it could have worked — that was had to be done, something new, a side way — to deal with the issue. But the rest again, there are things I know and still feel out of bounds to speak upon.

    And yes, that is family, my father; hence the same name. And he’s quite active in many situations and issues (even was involved with the Vatican and its work on the the sexual abuse issue in the US).

  • Karlson such an attempt to protect Terri would have been voided by Judge Greer immediately and he would have been upheld on appeal. Any stay for Terri pending the appeal would have to have been granted by either Greer or the appellate court neither of which would have granted it.

  • As a side note, I remember my father in much talk with Rick Santorum during this time; while I am critical of him in other places, I think he was one of the few who was really trying to work this out beyond the political show.

  • No, this was outside of his jurisdiction, Donald, which is why he could not void it. That was the issue. The Justice Department itself admitted that what was suggested would have worked. You are still thinking of this as one case, when it would have been a new case, outside of his authority.

  • No it was not outside of his jurisdiction. Greer would have rejected this as a transparent attempt to overturn his ruling and he would have been upheld on appeal either in the state or federal systems.

  • Donald,

    Since you were not involved with the suggestions, and do not know all the legal precedents and statutes used to justify the action, you cannot say “it was not outside of his jurisdiction.” I have only given what I could without stating too much, while again, pointing out, again, when examined over, it was proper and would have worked and this was admitted. You are thinking of the situation within the box, this was about changing the box.

  • I do litigation each day to earn my bread and butter and I have been doing so for 27 years. The strategy you suggested would have been doomed from the outset in the courts.

  • Donald

    Once again, you are looking within a box; the problem is many who do litigation think within the box. My father was quite involved in all of this and knew what he was doing — again, it was verified it would work. That’s the problem. It would have worked! Admitted!

  • Karlson, I would have rejoiced if a legal strategy could have been devised to save Terri. Emotionally I wanted Jeb Bush to save her by sending in the National Guard or George Bush to send in federal troops. Unfortunately, I could also predict what the courts would have done instantly thereafter. Greer had ruled. His ruling was res judicata in that case. He had been upheld throughout several appeals by the reviewing courts. There was no way around this unless Greer changed his mind or he was reversed.

  • The idea of filing a new case and calling Teri as a witness in order to grant her witness protection priviliges was hardly some secret strategy, it was being discussed on the National Review blogs at the time. As I recall, the consensus there too was that it wouldn’t work — though of course it has a cheekiness that’s appealing.

  • Again, this was a new way of dealing with it – which got out of Greer’s jurisdiction. That is the point. There were ways, the problem is many were going about it the wrong way! And as I have said, the JUSTICE DEPARTMENT admitted what was put on the table WOULD HAVE WORKED. The consensus was based upon an incomplete understanding of the legal statutes which were being employed in this situation. Again, the whole point is this would have moved OUT of Greer’s court — read a bit more closely from the book, and you will see _where_ the foundation lay (though again, the legal aspect is more in depth).

L.A. Cathedral Safe From Wildfires

Monday, August 31, AD 2009

Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral seems to be safe for now from the raging wildfires in Santa Barbara north of Los Angeles and from Orange County which is south of Los Angeles, both approximately 30 miles away.  Sadly two LA Cathedral tabernaclefirefighters have lost their lives in service to Angelinos.

Maps of the wildfires are temporarily out of service as servers have been overloaded for the Los Angeles Times, Google Maps, and Associated Content.

From the pictures it looks like all hell has broken loose.  Smoke continues to envelope major sections of Los Angeles and the fluorescent red light from said wildfires give an eery glow to the landscape.

The beautiful architecture of Our Lady of Angels is at risk of destruction from these wildfires.  The Cathedral’s exterior echoes the Famsa Warehouse District with its soaring brownish brick buildings and rectangular gray-stained windows.  The Plaze of the Cathedral resembles that of your local community college with directionless paths and no shading.

The treasure trove of art that this Cathedral holds is breath-taking.  Where else can you find non-Christian imagery than that on the giant bronze doors depicting images from pre-Christian Europe.  These giant bronze doors are conveniently located away from the LA Cathedral dragon massnarthex.  Neo-post-Christian artists such as Robert Graham decorated the door with an unveiled Mary showing her bare arms welcoming people to come in for happy-clappy Masses and liturgical dances.

Once your inside and find your way to the “church” you can marvel at the hand-crafted tabernacle sculptured by Max DeMoss.  Mr. DeMoss designed the tabernacle to blend with the the rest of the architectural style of the cathedral which is delightfully tacky, yet unrefined.

As you turn around from those three deteriorating pipes sticking out of the ground called the tabernacle you can view LA Cathedral jugs of juicethe complete interior of the Cathedral of the Angels.  Imagine one of those special liturgical celebrations as a Chinese dragon parades up and down the kneelerless rows with Cardinal Mahony waiting in the wings with pitchers of Jesus waiting to be distributed among the faithful.

What priceless treasures that this Cathedral holds that may well be burned to the ground along with the post-neo-Christian architecture.

One can only pray.


All information for this posting was done entirely from the Our Lady of Angels Cathedral website.

Pictures courtesy of Quintero from L.A. Catholic.

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11 Responses to L.A. Cathedral Safe From Wildfires

  • Do I detect w wee bit of sarcasm, or a whole symphony????

  • “kneelerless rows”?

    I can assure you that there are indeed kneelers there, and they are used, or at least they were when I was there and Cardinal Mahony instructed everyone to kneel for the Eucharistic prayer.

  • Alan,

    The first few rows have no kneelers.

  • First few rows? Maybe the very first row. There are some pews on the sides of the sanctuary area that do not have kneelers, but the pews throughout the nave have kneelers.

  • Alan,

    Next time I will be more specific how many rows are missing kneelers.

    The point is that the Cathedral contains kneelerless rows, among many other disturbing things that it contains, as representative of how off the rails Cardinal Mahony has guided the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.


    Monday, 08 May 2006 00:00
    My daily Masses, when I am not traveling, are held in a very small Blessed Sacrament Chapel, which is off to one wing of the large chapel/theater we have here in Fallujah. The place can accomidate 10-11 people.

    It has benches along three sides, a field altar in the center, and a tabernacle on the fourth wall, mounted on a wooden platform. Nothing fancy, but it is more than most places have, so I am more than satisfied.

    The floor is stone tile.

    One day I commented during my homily that maybe we should get foam rolls from Supply to kneel on.

    After Mass my collection of one enlisted sailor, two Navy officers (doctors both), one enlisted Marine, and four Marine officers had a quick huddle.

    As one of the officers was bringing in some of the gear from the Mass back to the sacristry/confessional/storage area (we make the best use of our spaces over here), he remarked that the group had decided that the pads were not needed.

    When I asked why not, he replied:

    “Real men kneel on stone.”

    This is my parish.

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  • Could the aisles without kneelers be specifically for the handicapped?

  • If I remember correctly, the side pews along the sanctuary are somewhat more elevated and awkward, so I’m not sure that would be ideal for the handicapped. There is room for the handicapped in the general nave area, which is the general seating (and kneeling) area.

  • When I was stationed in Spain I would go to the base chapel for daily Mass. Plenty of kneelers there. But on Saturday went in town at a chapel that was probably 200+ years old. Lots of old ladies and me. No kneelers. Stone floors. Good to see the Navy and Marines haven’t changed.

Where Are You Saint Ambrose?

Monday, August 31, AD 2009

Ted Kennedy Cardinal O'Malley pic

During a crisis within the Roman Empire, Emperor Theodosius I slaughtered 7,000 of his own citizens in 390 AD.  Shortly after this massacre Emperor Theodosius arrived in Milan where Saint Ambrose resided as bishop.  Upon hearing of the emperors arrival Saint Ambrose refused to meet nor offer the Holy Sacrifice to him.  Instead he castigated the emperor and demanded he repent for his sins.

Emperor Theodosius quickly obeyed [emphasis mine],

“and, being laid hold of by the discipline of the Church, did penance in such a way that the sight of his imperial loftiness prostrated made the people who were interceding for him weep more than the consciousness of offence had made them fear it when enraged”. “Stripping himself of every emblem of royalty”, says Ambrose in his funeral oration , “he publicly in church bewailed his sin. That public penance , which private individuals shrink from, an Emperor was not ashamed to perform; nor was there afterwards a day on which he did not grieve for his mistake.”[1]

Ted Kennedy was the leading proponent of abortion on demand.

Millions of innocent humans died due to the policies that Ted Kennedy championed.

Ted Kennedy passed away without repenting nor showing remorse for his direct actions in the death of millions.

Instead of performing his duty as Archbishop of Boston and teaching Ted Kennedy the errors of his ways, Cardinal O’Malley does absolutely nothing and then presides at his funeral.

Saint Ambrose, ora pro nobis!


(photo from WPIX)

[1] Loughlin, J. (1907). St. Ambrose. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved August 30, 2009 from New Advent:

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8 Responses to Where Are You Saint Ambrose?

  • At the time, Catholics in America regarded the election of JFK to the presidency as one of the best things that ever happened to them and an historic advancement of their cause. In retrospect, however, I am beginning to think it was one of the WORST things ever to happen to Catholicism in America.

    Without JFK’s election and subsequent assassination the myth of “Camelot” would never have been created, and the Kennedys would likely have remained a regional political dynasty similar to the Daleys in Chicago. The damage they have done to genuine Catholic social teaching and to the image of the Church would probably have been more contained, and their insufferable sense of entitlement to public office would not have been as pronounced.

  • Actually the Cardinal did not preside over the funeral. In fact an argument can be made by what he was doing he was making a subtle point. Perhaps it should have not been subtle but a point neverthe less

    Get Relgion discusses this today at

    Rites, wrongs and a letter from Rome

  • JH,

    Getreligion is not a Catholic website.

    Cardinal O’Malley was presiding. He didn’t celebrate, but he was presiding. I was careful in how I worded it.

  • JH,

    I finished reading the getRelgion blog and it’s open to interpretation.

    This may well be a learning experience, so if anyone can locate the GIRM regarding this I would appreciate it!

  • A priest once noted that the senior ranking cleric present presides at the liturgical function even if another cleric actually leads.

  • “Ted Kennedy passed away without repenting nor showing remorse for his direct actions in the death of millions.”

    Thank God somebody actually had the cajones to make this remark.

    Unlike Ed Peters who previously stated:

    Unless, that is, “they gave some sign of repentance before death.” And there is at least some evidence that Ted Kennedy did just that.

    Mark Leibovich of the New York Times notes that, among things, “The Rev. Mark Hession, the priest at the Kennedys’ parish on the Cape, made regular visits to the Kennedy home this summer and held a private family Mass in the living room every Sunday. Even in his final days, Mr. Kennedy led the family in prayer after the death of his sister Eunice . . . [and when] the senator’s condition took a turn Tuesday night a priest, the Rev. Patrick Tarrant of Our Lady of Victory Church in Centerville, was called to his bedside.”

    So, the man simply being visited by clergy and attending Mass at home is a sign of repentance?

    Come on!

    All throughout his life, he continued to attend Mass (and what not) all the while supporting the dispicable dismemberment of babies within their mothers’ wombs; how could he virtually doing the very same while deposed at home could possibly be a sign that he regretted his support for murdering babies and rightly repented for it?

    Being a visible figure, and given he was senator, he would have to have shown a public display of his great regret for this most abominable sin and endorse all efforts to undo the negative repercussions of his heinous Pro-abort stance, including an apology for the many deaths of so many innocents who died as a result thereof in his Culture of Death crusade!

  • e.,

    Cut Dr. Edward Peters some slack, he may have been referring to his many indiscretions such as womanizing, drinking, etc, and indirectly inferring his stance on abortion.

    Only God knows.

Eschaton Si, Immanent No!

Sunday, August 30, AD 2009

Over at Vox Nova, Henry Karlson offers some thoughtul reflections on eschatology (Part I | Part II | Part III), or rather — those who employ the catch phrase “Don’t immanentize the eschaton!” as a cudgel against those “doing the work of Christ”:

How many times do we find these words repeated, time and again, since Voegelin has suggested to do so is Gnostic? How ironic is this claim, when authentic Christian theology believes that the eschaton has been immanetized in Christ. Voegelin, and many of his followers like Buckley, became critical of anyone who would try to connect the supernatural with the natural in a way which understood the eschatological ramifications of Christ have any this-worldly implications. But this is exactly what Christian theology proposes. God became man; the eschaton has been revealed; the world and all that is in it has been affected by the immanentizing of the eschaton that history can never be the same. Christians are called to live out their lives in and through Christ, bringing the eschatological implications of Pascha to the world itself. The world is meant to be transformed and brought to its perfection, and we are to be Christ’s workers in helping to bring this about; of course, our work is not on the same level of Christ’s, but, if we truly become one with Christ in his body, we must understand this is exactly what we are called to do. Anything else is a rejection of the incarnation, anything else which tries to establish an absolute duality between the immanent and transcendent is what really qualifies as gnostic!

In response, I’d like to say a little bit about why I find myself sympathetic to Buckley and company.

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62 Responses to Eschaton Si, Immanent No!

  • Three questions, if I may:

    1) There is, however, the thorny matter of what it actually means to “transfigure the world and bring it to its perfection” (to quote Henry Karlson), or “prefigure the Kingdom in history” (to quote Michael Iafrate).

    That does indeed sound like something I would say, but from where exactly are you “quoting” me?

    2) Where/when did Ratzinger “encounter” “revolutionary Marxism”?

    3) What’s with the picture of the bullet-wearing Jesus? Where did you get it? And what does it have to do with liberation theology? Don’t you think that that picture has much more in common with ya’ll’s affection for the pro-gun, “open carry” movement than it does with “liberation theology” the latter of which advocated violence no more than standard “just war” Catholicism, and in fact leaned more toward a nonviolent ethic than mainstream Catholicism did/does?

  • Nevermind, I see now the quote you mean. Disregard #1. I would appreciate answers to 2 and 3.

  • Where/when did Ratzinger “encounter” “revolutionary Marxism”?

    Well, I was thinking primarily of Ernesto Cardenal (who he discusses in Church, Ecumenism, and Politics; not a face to face encounter per se. Likewise, Ratzinger’s encounter with Marxist political theory/theology while teaching at Tubingen.

    What’s with the picture of the bullet-wearing Jesus? Where did you get it? And what does it have to do with liberation theology?

    I thought it was illustrative of Marxist liberation theology per se, at least the type that advocates violent revolution (see Cardenal). (Of course, I understand at the same time that not all liberation theologians advocate such). Likewise, I suppose the image of the ‘revolutionary Christ’ is also illustrative of Ratzinger’s concern over theologies in which everything is subsumed into the political and class struggle, as expressed in detail here.

    Don’t you think that that picture has much more in common with ya’ll’s affection for the pro-gun, “open carry” movement than it does with “liberation theology” the latter of which advocated violence no more than standard “just war” Catholicism, and in fact leaned more toward a nonviolent ethic than mainstream Catholicism did/does?

    I’m not particularly a fan of the “open carry” movement, but gun-control isn’t exactly the focus of this post.

    Anyway, thank you for expressing your thoughts on the image. I’m curious what you think about the remainder (and actual content) of the post itself?

  • An excellent critique, Chris. The time and effort you put into this is greatly appreciated.

    There is an excellent Ratzinger homily called “My Joy is to Be In Thy Presence”, which appears in “God Is Near Us”, a collection of Ratzinger homilies.

    He most certainly “confronts” revolutionary Marxism in that work, rejecting the pursuit of utopia and insisting that our task is to do what we can to resist evil and promote good.

    It was one of the essays that helped me let go of, for good, any dwindling notions of “liberation theology” I might have held at one point.

    Ratzinger presents what I consider a mature Christianity that rejects the vainglorious aspirations of radical leftism without rejecting the kernel of moral truth in its message – a moral truth that the radicals themselves would have never possessed if it weren’t for Christianity in the first place.

  • Christopher – My point, as you can probably guess, is that Ratzinger did not “encounter” “revolutionary Marxism” at all, save in some books. Nor did he ever really encounter liberation theology, which is clear when one reads most anything he has written on the subject, whether as a private theologian or in his role in the CDF.

    I thought it was illustrative of Marxist liberation theology per se, at least the type that advocates violent revolution (see Cardenal). (Of course, I understand at the same time that not all liberation theologians advocate such).

    It’s not “illustrative” of liberation theology in the least. You are more interested in resurrecting the specter of the “violent” liberation theologian than you are in any serious engagement with liberation theologians and their actual views — which is clear from your post, as it simply relies on Ratzinger’s misreadings of liberation theology. Perpetuating the myth of “violent” liberation theology allows folks like yourself to distract attention from the violence involved in your own political views.

    I noticed that you did not answer my question about where you got the image of the “revolutionary Jesus.” That is telling.

  • Hi there!

    Just noticed an error: Joachim de Fiore wasn’t Franciscan, he lived before St. Francis. He was a Cistercia Abbot.

  • So after reading this more attentively, and riffling through your countless Ratzinger citations, it’s clear that you and Henry (and me, by extension) do not disagree. As I read you, this is the main concern you have with Henry’s (and my) position(s):

    At the same time, our work on this earth is provisional — we should enter into the social, political and economic realms, cognisant of the necessary imperfections of human affairs, accomodating the demands and reality of human freedom, and particularly vigilant concerning pseudo-messianic attempts to realize “the absolute in history.”

    I agree 100%. The problem I have is with the way you are following Ratzinger in the way that he implies liberation theologies to be an example of a “pseudo-messianic attempt to realize the ‘absolute in history.'” You, like Ratzinger, cite no liberation theologians as examples of such distortions, nor have you how even the few liberationists who participated directly in revolutionary movements have identified such activities and projects with the Kingdom in its fullness. When liberationists participated in these concrete political activities, they no more thought that they were bringing the Kingdom, in its fullness, to earth than you do when you advocate particular political programs such as the need to make abortion illegal.

    In other words, to become passionately involved in a concrete political project which seeks to make a social situation more in keeping with the Kingdom is not the same thing as believing one is helping to bring the Kingdom, in its fullness, to earth. Neither you nor Ratzinger has demonstrated that liberation theologians or the various European “political theologies” (Metz, Solle, et al.) ever made such ridiculous claims. In fact, what you find OVER AND OVER again is that they repeatedly show that they are “cognisant of the necessary imperfections of human affairs,” as you say.

  • Sorry, left out a word in paragraph 3. The sentence should read:

    “You, like Ratzinger, cite no liberation theologians as examples of such distortions, nor have you shown how even the few liberationists who participated directly in revolutionary movements have identified such activities and projects with the Kingdom in its fullness.”

  • Ralf: Thank you for the correction — and to Joe Hargrave, for the recommendation for further reading.

  • How is this an excellent critique when it fails to address the points I’ve raised properly? It fails to relate to the place Christians are in Christ, as Balthasar himself makes clear? It fails to deal with the fact that we are co-workers with Christ in the world. It fails to deal with the role of being stewards of creation.

    What does it mean to transfigure the world? I have already pointed to the work of St Maximus the Confessor– the divisions of the fall are to be worked out, in Christ, through humanity.

    If Christopher had done as I told Lizzy and read the post I did on the history of Gnosticism, he would also have read that I agree with Voegelin against making utopias — the problem is that his methodology is GNOSTIC -which is the irony of it all. Just because you agree with a conclusion does not mean the method to the conclusion is valid or just. Gnostics themselves laugh at Voegelin’s assertions — as I pointed out, basically anything and everything was called “Gnostic” by him as a catchphrase, though later in life he sort of realized the fault of it, but not others who had read his work. Ratzinger didn’t go the route of Voegelin in reference to Gnosticism. Again, the whole entire Gnostic enterprise is about the DENIAL of the immanence of the eschaton — that is the whole point of escape from this world! Just because others might therefore go the other direction in utopian fantasies does not mean they are Gnostic. If you want to know how Voegelin made the mistake, it is from the influence of Theosophia on early 20th century occultism; while there was elements of Gnosticism there, when put into this worldly roles, it was no longer Gnosticism but theurgia, which is NOT Gnosticism — Platonism is not Gnosticism, indeed, the Platonists refuted Gnosticism. But Platonic theurgia could lead to Promethean designs, as Balthasar much often suggested — that is the issue, Prometheus, NOT Gnosticism.

    Next, the idea that we must keep to the cross as central is right — but that does not mean we have no roles or missions in this world, as Balthasar also makes clear. Indeed, as my posts make it clear, THE CROSS IS THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD, and it is in and through the CROSS that IT IS FULFILLED.

    So, Christopher is trying to suggest something with my posts and refutes a strawman! WELL DONE indeed!

    Beyond that, it is always amazing to see people quote Ratzinger against “political theology” on the one side (ignoring all the contexts of the Pope’s thought, and indications where he does encourage Christian work in politics!) while engaging a political theology themselves! See my critique on utopia once again!

  • “His Kingdom is not an imaginary hereafter, situated in a future that will never arrive; his Kingdom is present wherever he is loved and wherever his love reaches us. His love alone gives us the possibility of soberly persevering day by day, without ceasing to be spurred on by hope, in a world which by its very nature is imperfect. His love is at the same time our guarantee of the existence of what we only vaguely sense and which nevertheless, in our deepest self, we await: a life that is “truly” life.”

    Is exactly the point; his kingdom IS PRESENT wherever he is loved! And when I have pointed out that time is flowing into the eschaton, that is exactly the point of the now-not yet, which I also specifically pointed out in post 2. As examples of Christopher’s strawman.

  • You know, Henry — I think I tried to be charitable, and at a number of points I even indicated where I completely agree with you. I was hoping to engage in something resembling a dialogue — recognizing the points of agreement, but I’ll address your sarcasm in the morning. Cheers.

  • Christopher

    Charitable to write a post which infers upon me positions I did not take? That’s dialogue? If you had said “he is right about Voegelin’s error, but Voegelin is right about these concerns…” that would have been different; but instead, to refute positions I didn’t take as if I did, that is not charity.If you wanted dialogue, you would have asked questions first before the hatchet job!

  • Thus, Christopher, I would once again recommend the post I suggested to Lizzy — where Voegelin is brought up and seriously engaged, where I pointed out I agreed with him on some things, but his claims about gnosticism was where the error lies — Gnosticism and utopianism are antitheses of each other, for Gnosticism is about escape from this world, while utopian thought is about trying to be saved in this world by this world in a completely secular order. The Catholic answer has always been the interdependent relationship between the natural and supernatural — there is, as Lubac would put it, no pure natural without the supernatural; this is also Balthasar’s point to Barth, when Barth seeks to undermine all that is human.

    So if you want dialogue, we can discuss what it means to transfigure the world in Christ. But since you like to post books, here are some references I would suggest: Mystery of the Supernatural by Lubac; Christian State of Life by Balthasar; The Eucharist by Schmemann; Maximus the Confessor by Louth (though hopefully the volume released in September will be more inclusive and reveal more of the cosmic work of humanity); Russia and the Universal Church by Solovyov.

  • In sum:

    1) I think Voegelin is right in his concerns about various attempts by man through history to ‘immanentize the eschaton’ or realize the absolute in history. (Whether Voeglin had an adequate grasp of gnosticism I’ll leave to Henry; apparently Ratzinger found his analysis of benefit).

    Ditto for Buckley’s concern about “rational limits to politics’.

    Ditto for Ratzinger’s assertion that “The demand for the absolute in history is the enemy of the good in it.”

    2) As for indications of those areas where I find myself in agreement with Henry, I invite a re-reading of the entire latter part of my post.

    [Henry]: Beyond that, it is always amazing to see people quote Ratzinger against “political theology” on the one side

    I don’t really think I was disputing that Christians ought to be involved in politics. (I seem to recall only recently where I was defending the need for Christians to take an active, legislative role in the legal defense of the unborn). I do, however, think there are obvious dangers in anticipating what politics can possibly accomplish.

    [Henry]: if you wanted dialogue, you would have asked questions

    Q: What do you actually mean when you assert “The world is meant to be transformed and brought to its perfection, and we are to be Christ’s workers in helping to bring this about”?

    It does seem that we might actually be in agreement — as far as the inherent limitations of political engagement and the imperfection of this present world is concerned. Do I understand correctly that you are in agreement with the excerpts I cited from Ratzinger and the Catechism?

    (I admit I am very much relieved).

  • Christopher

    1) As I pointed out in my series on Gnosticism, which has a lengthy discussion on Voegelin, my concern is his claims of what is or is not Gnostic, and this in part is because I’ve seen people quote “Do not immannentize the eschaton” as a way to criticize liturgy! I think one can agree that Promethean/Utopian attempts are erroneous and leave it at that; to try to claim it’s all because of Gnosticism, that’s problematic. To be concerned about Joachim is right as well (and I’ve read Ratzinger’s work on Bonaventure — it lead me to read Bonaventure’s work on the Six Days).

    2) The issue for me is not where we have agreement, but where you seem to discuss, debate and imply positions which I have not raised. The concern for me is Gnosticism, and the proper understanding of it (Gnosticism is other worldly, period, anything this worldly is anti-Gnostic). But, I agree with the problem of seeing the state as some sort of savior figure, not because it is about Gnosticism, but because it is about idolatry. That’s a different issue.

    Thus, the whole question of prudence and debate as to what politics can accomplish is an important point, but it has nothing to do with immanentizing the eschaton. Indeed, one of the criticism which is often given is that the abortion dialogue is often “idealism,” ignoring what is possible (for now) in politics. I am myself one who is very anti-political, which is why I agree with Tolkien on politics, a position I’ve said a few times on VN.

    3) Thus, when I am talking about transfiguring the world and making it better, working to heal the sick, alleviate the poor, etc, I am thinking on many levels. Of course Christians should work for respectful politics on these issues, but not rely upon them — they are to be the ones doing these outside of the political sphere and transcending the political sphere, because we are the ones with the mission in Christ.

    And so of course I agree with the catechism — indeed, with Balthasar who points out that with the work of Christ done, the evil will be made more apparent as well, and will fight and gain power in history even though the eschaton has already been revealed — it is because of the eschaton this confrontation in history is possible, for history is made in the light of the establishment of the kingdom in the cross, which ends with an “apparent victory” of evil only to find the true victory of love. But in the light of this, we are to live out the work of Christ in history, which, despite the increasing “no” of humanity (and the dangers of the industrial-scientific utopianism, which I’ve also written of many times), Christ’s work does also heal within history and work to keep the presence in history as well.

  • So to continue for 3, of course I agree with the Catechism and the Pope. That, to me, is the problem. Where assumptions of my position which was not my position came into play.

  • If it would help, here is some of what I said in the post I have suggested people look into:

    With all of this talk about Gnosticism, we must be careful and not propose more about it than can be demonstrated by the facts. Not everything which is uniquely American is Gnostic. Nor must we believe that everything which we find to be wrong in the world is Gnostic. Nor is everything which is Gnostic false in all its particulars. Strange as it might seem to some, there are many elements of Gnostic thought which orthodox Christianity readily affirms with its Gnostic rivals and this does not mean it is Gnostic or influenced by Gnosticism. For example, which Christian could say Gnostics are wrong when they say that some sort of God exists? Even if they are wrong in how they understand God, clearly Christians must agree with them here. These points need to be made so we do not follow Eric Voegelin who, at one time at least, saw Gnosticism as the root error behind all that is wrong in the modern world. “For Voegelin, Gnosticism becomes a catchall term that embraces everything in Western civilization that he hates and fears,” Richard Smoley, Forbidden Faith: The Secret History of Gnosticism (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2006), 177. For it could lead us, like it did him, to call things as Gnostic which actually are not. In The New Science of Politics, a rather influential work of political philosophy, Voegelin, properly understood that Gnosticism had not died out and that it has had a tremendous amount of influence in the development of Western thought. Nonetheless, he confused Gnosticism with any system of thought where he could find traces of Gnostic influences (a distinction which must always be kept in mind, otherwise one could incorrectly suggest that St Augustine, even at the end of his life, was a Gnostic). Despite Voegelin’s desire to classify utopian thought as Gnostic, this must not be done: utopianism is vehemently anti-Gnostic. Utopian visionaries look for perfection here on the earth. They want to bring paradise to us in the here and now. Gnosticism denies such perfection is possible in the world, because as we have seen, the world to them is fundamentally evil and ruled by an evil principle and that evil cannot be turned into something good. Voegelin is correct in assuming that alienation is a problem, and like the Gnostics, utopian thought addresses that problem and tries to find a solution to it. But so does Christians theology. The theology of the fall is a theory of alienation; but instead of Gnosticism, Christian theology believes in the original purity of creation and the final salvation of creation by the work of God’s grace. Thus, we all know that something is wrong in the world; just believing this does not make us a Gnostic. Christians do not put the blame on the creator God; Gnostics do. Marxists, if they are orthodox, clearly cannot claim the problem lies with God, because they do not believe in the existence of God. Since the problem is percieved to be different, the solution is different for each as well. Christians look for salvation which manifests itself not only in the spirit, but in a materialistic, bodily fashion; Marxists, like Christians, hope for salvation here on earth, but do not see any spiritual dimension to it; the Gnostic, on the other hand, desires liberation from the material world and entrance into the realm of pure spirit. And this is where Voegelin really went astray. Christianity, not Gnosticism, is about the immantization of the eschaton, where the two join together as one in the person of Jesus Christ. Marxism is interested in the immanent world; Gnosticism in the transcendent world; Christianity is interested in joining the two together into one non-dualistic integration. The two are one (but not confused). In his extreme denial of Marxism, Voegelin is the one who became the Gnostic. Despite this flaw, Voegelin presented a telling and important critique of secular utopianism, one which demolishes not only the utopian vision of Marxism, but of American neo-conservativsm as well.

  • Even though I have always been actively interested in Catholic social and theological issues, worked in the Catholic press for nearly 15 years, and visit this and other Catholic blogs regularly, this is the first time I ever encountered the phrase “immanentize the eschaton” and the first thought I had upon seeing it was “What the heck does that mean?”

  • I think Voegelin and all would have done something better if they said, “Don’t identify the absolute with the non-absolute.” It’s when you do such identification (instead of communio-participation) which gets problematic — and where Balthasar’s point against Prometheus could be raised, and is where Ratzinger/Benedict is coming from. And it would be something I would agree with as well. The problem to me is that catchwords/slogans often bring more with them than people realize, and this was one such case, and I think revealed the dualistic/idealistic background Voegelin himself was infected with, and that infection continued in Buckley. The ideal would be to look at the situation through the anaologia entis, which then shows why human action is important and should continue, even if in history, there is also the apocalyptic side to be revealed.

  • Henry,
    If we assume Voegelin was a smart fellow, why was he so wrong about the relationship between gnosticism and utopianism? What you say about Gnosticism and it’s other-worldliness coincides with what I remember of my studies in the history of early Christianity. Why did he attribute the desire to transform the world through politics to gnosticism? My only guess might be that gnosticism denies connection of divine things to worldly politics, which secular utopianism (with its Kingdom lacking God) also does, although that hardly happens in liberation theology.

  • Henry,
    I fear you’ve gone too far over my head this time. I don’t know what “anaologia entis” means, but I assume it has something to do with comparing politics to the order found among the tree-herds of Fangorn.

  • Zak,

    As I sort of hinted at the situation, it goes back to the 19th century and Theosophia (Blavatasky, Steiner, and others), whose occultism had an influence in Germany (and other places, even Russia, even in Communist Russia — there is a good book I have which points out some of the occult influences involved with communist science). Anyway, so we have Blavatsky and other theosophists who merged many traditions (Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Gnostic — especially Gnostic, Platonism, Theurgia, etc). This was a major foundation for the modern occult movement (although it was founded upon the Renaissance movement which has Ficino, Pico, Bruno, Reuchlin, et. al. involved). The interest in Gnosticism in this group was quite apparent, so that it was seen by some as “this is what Gnosticism is about.” The problem is, it wasn’t pure Gnosticism, and more importantly, while it influenced 20th century occultism, and with it, various ideologies, how it influenced went outside of its Gnostic side and into classical occultism and theurgia — and of course, the Promethean times of the Enlightenment (idealist+ absolutist+ monism; think Goethe) but not Gnostic. But since “occultism” was seen as “secret knowledge” some still called it “Gnostic,” and misconnected it with Gnosticism. Voegelin’s connection of course is with the occultism in Germany which was influenced by the revolution of Blavatsky et al but again, became materialistic absolutist, contrary to Gnosticism proper.

    As for “analogia entis,” that is the principle of the “analogy of being.” It’s the point that the human person is both like and radically different from God — but because there is this analogy, the positive is not to be distrusted just because it is human, though it is understood, because of the difference, that it is limited and not unlimited in power. Hence why it is the mediating balance — it points to our condition as good, but limited; the problem with Prometheus is to identify the absolute with the non-absolute, which moves for a monistic-totalitarian society, philosophy, etc.

  • Zak; you are welcome — I hope the further explanation made sense to you?

  • The “analogia entis” is also what underlies the general Catholic approach/view of “both/and” rather than “either/or.”

    Wow, I thought I was up late.

  • I’m coming on this late, as I haven’t read Henry’s series of posts, but by reading this thread I have some comments.

    I do think Henry has a point in which Voegelin goes overboard with Gnosticism, but I don’t think that has to do with Voegelin’s mis-understanding of Gnosticism but of his very strong animosity towards dogmas. Essentially, Voegelin is very wary of declarations of unchanging truth (at least in the moral/metaphysical sense, not the hard sciences), as this makes finite the infinite (or immanentizing the eschaton-the role of the philosopher is simply to contemplate the divine in a very mystical way). This really renders the philosopher helpless to say much of anything without being Gnostic. Indeed, Voegelin seems to have not liked the Church, and bashes it unfairly in his book “Hitler and the Germans.”

    Of course, since such declarations were dogmatic and not in the infinite, they had to be based on secret knowledge. Voegelin does like to find secret knowledge where there is none, but I don’t think that means that it’s unfair to note that the ideologies of fascism and communism where based on a secret knowledge. Indeed, the strength of Voegelin’s analysis comes from looking at the connections between the ages of history conceived by Joachim, Nazi fascism, and communism and that this conception of history came from a belief that we have discovered the key to unlocking history and that we can predict history using this ideology (another favorite word of Voegelin).

    So I think Voegelin and Ratzinger were fair to diagnose one of the ills of fascism and communism as Gnosticism. Ultimately, they both asserted eschatons that could be immanetized through this secret knowledge.

    Ultimately, I think the dispute here gets back to the question of “Was Voegelin a Christian and if so why?” If Voegelin was a Christian (as a lot of his followers assert) then you have to ask on what grounds people could make declarations like “Christ is God” without having secret knowledge that renders it dogmatic/ideological? If Voegelin is not a Christian, then you can see why he embraces this heavily Platonic (which PS-Voegelin loved Plato and hated Aquinas/Aristotle. someone said something that sounded like Voegelin hated Plato on this thread) conception and attacks way too much stuff as being dogmatic and “immanentizing the eschaton”

    I’ve kinda rambled, but I hope this helps.

  • It’s been ten years at this point since I was reading and writing about Voeglin, so I’m working from memory and impression here, but my reading of him was not that he was (as Henry seems to think) convinced that political utopianism (with its accompanying dualism) was in fact Gnostic in the sense of considering the world evil and the non-material good, but rather that he diagnosed the idea of the world consisting of a titanic stuggle between dualistic forces as being a fundamentally Gnostic concept.

    So no, he wasn’t asserting that Gnosticism was politically utopian, but rather that politically utopian movements fall prey to a false view of the world and our place in it which he described as originating in (or being identified with) Gnosticism.

  • Michael

    I think we are on the same track, though I would add a few things. The occult is about “that which is hidden.” The occult transcends Gnosticism, but Gnosticism can be a part of the occult. Which is where I was pointing out that I would agree that the Nazis, the Russian Communists, et. al., embraced ideologies which had elements of the occult shaping their viewpoint. It’s when it is said to be Gnosticism which the problem comes about, because it then begins to misrepresent what Gnosticism is and encourage, from it, a misreading of Christianity and its fight against Gnosticism, allowing real Gnosticism to come into play (which is in part my point of my posts). And I’ve seen this before; indeed, when I first did a discussion on this issue, it came out of one such person claiming incarnational thought was Gnosticism because it immanentized the eschaton.

  • Darwin

    As I have said many times- utopian visions are the complete opposite side of the Gnostic coin: Gnostics look for salvation outside of this world, in the spirit, while the utopian tradition is for salvation in this world, in the purely material world while denying the spirit. In this way one can discuss a common aspect of the two, but it is a common aspect of Christianity as well: looking for salvation. But Christianity looks for the unity of the spirit and the material for its salvation — the Gnostics deny the material, the utopians the spiritual. That they deny the spiritual of course means they deny the transcendent, which is again why this phrase is troublesome. If he just kept with a criticism of Promethean tendencies of utopia, he would have helped everyone more — and if he wanted to discuss some of the occult qualities of modern ideologies, that too would have been fine. But it is the confusing of genus and species which is problematic and causes, in the end, a Gnosticism within some Christians who work within his tradition. And again, the idea that “we can’t have utopia” also leads to a kind of quietism is a trouble, but that is a different issue for a different day.

  • Michael

    One more thing, I didn’t say Voegelin hated Platonism. I brought up Balthasar, who, despite have much appreciation for Platonism (especially Plotinus) saw within it, and with philosophy in general, a Promethean attempt of synthesis of all things into a monism. Having a criticism of this tendency was not to show dislike, but rather, caution. Indeed, Balthasar, who would also put Goethe with Prometheus, was highly influenced by Goethe as well.

  • However, it is when the idea of “the Kingdom” becomes politicized and ultimately perverted, taking the form of a political manifesto or concrete program for revolution — when we perceive politics itself as a suitable vehicle for “the transfiguration of the world”, that I find myself sympathetic to the wariness expressed by conservatives.

    This is the key point.

    I am in the middle on Kenneth Keulman’s The Balance of Consciousness and hope to be able to contribute more as the week draws to a close on some of these points. V has a lot of very important things to say about symbolisms in the history and development of communal order.

  • I think as to Darwin’s point, I think I can formulate Voegelin a little clearer:

    Gnosticism is not necessarily utopian, as Henry has pointed out. However, Voegelin would argue that utopianism, I think in general but at least in the modern forms, is necessarily gnostic.

    Henry, I gather you are challenging Voegelin’s point by saying that to be utopian is to necessarily reject Gnosticism. I’d like to challenge you on that, b/c I tend to think Voegelin is right on that point, but I’d like to read your post on Gnosticism before I stick my foot in my mouth. Could you provide a link to that post? (Assuming it’s not one of the ones Chris links to). Ultimately this seems to be a fight over the definition of Gnosticism.

    As to Plato, I just wanted to be sure. I got the impression but I couldn’t find the quote when I scanned the thread again, so thanks for the clarification.

  • Henry Karlson:

    Why do you keep referring to things relating to the utopian enterprise as being “Promethean”?

    If anything, wouldn’t things pertaining to the utopian notion actually be Platonic rather than Promethean, especially since Plato happens to have been the very person (a la Res Publica) who conceived the earliest notion of a utopia in the first place?

  • Michael

    As I have pointed out, Gnosticism is inherently anti-material. Utopian thought is materialistic. They are opposites of each other.

    I’ve written many things on Gnosticism on VN. I did a series on Gnosticism: is the start has links to all but the final part

    Is the final part. As you can see it goes through the history of Gnosticism, the kinds, and also its influences.

    Now that was a point I also raised: being influenced by Gnosticism is not the same thing as Gnosticism. St Augustine, even as a Catholic, had tendencies from his past creep into his writings; despite those problems, I wouldn’t call him Gnostic.

  • e.

    Prometheus is the attempt of super-man to unite everything in one great system, and to do so by usurping the place of the divine in the process. This is a self-assertion which places man on top over everything, including God, and assuming the place of the absolute — which is exactly the problem of utopian ideals. And where do I get this from? Among other places, the many works of Balthasar, esp his Apocalypse of the German Soul. But you will find his discussion of Platonism within this context in his Theological Aesthetics Volume 4.

  • e.

    Ok, I put up a post which will explain this better:

    It comes from an rough draft of my dissertation work, in a section which had to be later excised as the dissertation moved from a historical analysis to a systematic one.

  • Henry,


    All things considered, there is erudition in you that I have yet to survey and plum the very depths (in spite of your apparently leftist tendencies, ofcourse)! Much appreciated! ;^)

  • You are welcome (it could interest many people, not just you); however, the claim that I have “leftist tendencies,” certainly shows you are right and you have indeed failed to survey and plump the depths of my thought. The idea that I am “leftist,” is laughable to say the least; I’m a Tolkienesque man.

  • Henry,

    I’m not sure how one could actually “plump” the depths of your thought (or lack thereof); however, adducing as evidence the historicity of your very conduct at VN wherein you preeningly played advocate for Obama would make you such.

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  • e.

    I did not support Obama. I criticized him and continue to criticize him.

  • Oh, and that typo is a laugh. But that’s what happens when I had 5 hours sleep last night!

  • michael — if you’re really curious about where the picture came from (and if you really believe what you just posted on VN), you might want to take the trouble of clicking on the picture itself. Lo and behold, it is linked to (and came from) a pro-liberation theology article.

  • It’s interesting that in his lengthy response to this post on Vox Nova, Michael Iafrate spends a full three paragraphs discussing the painting of the revolutionary Christ above. Michael speculates:

    (Of course, he didn’t tell where he got the picture. It’s more likely that he got it from a right-wing site than from a site about liberation theology.)

    Unfortunately, the depths of research that have allowed Michael to classify both Benedict XVI and Chris Blosser (I hope someday I write something that gets me refuted in the same mouthful as the pope!) as ignorant of liberation theology does not extent to things like clicking on the image, which is itself a link to it source, a fairly pro-liberation theology assessment of the status of Latin American liberation theology today on :

    The source for the image is listed as artist David Silva and this website:

    Looking through the paintings on the site, I don’t see the revolutionary Christ painting there, but from the general tenor of the paintings I think I can assure Michael that the source is not conservative.

  • Michael

    It comes as little surprise that you would focus on two single excerpted paragraphs of Ratzinger’s commentary on liberation theology out of the entire post. I personally happened to find Ratzinger’s analysis helpful. However, given that you pride yourself in your familiarity with the topic, I look forward to your post explaining why our former Prefect / current Pope simply didn’t know what he was talking about.

    (P.S. Michael, as to the source of the image, simply put your mouse over it).


    Initial late-night/early-morning tensions aside, I’d like to honestly thank you for your continued comments and more than helpful explanations of your research into Voegelin and gnositicism. The discussion here has been good and clarifying and offers much food for thought.

    The chief purpose of the post was really to note some common and hard-not-to-notice themes I had picked up reading various books by Ratzinger across the spectrum of his life on politics / political theology; Dr. Twomey’s observation of Voegelin’s influence on Ratzinger was helpful.

    Suffice to say I look forward to reading your additional posts on the subject of gnosticism and further evaluation of Voegelin.

    Jonathan Jones

    Looking forward to your input on Voeglin as well when you’ve finished reading.

    All others to date

    Thanks for commenting!

  • Granted, the source of the image is not “conservative,” one of the main points of the article is to criticize the portrayal of liberation theology as violent. Thus, the use of the image is precisely to critique that kind of imagery, that kind of false perception, of liberation theology. Blosser’s use of the image and the liberation theology article’s use of the image could not be more different!

  • I personally happened to find Ratzinger’s analysis helpful.

    It’s helpful, but only as an abstract warning about potential theological dangers, but that’s all. It’s not helpful in the least in terms of offering any understanding of what liberation theologians actually say.

    However, given that you pride yourself in your familiarity with the topic, I look forward to your post explaining why our former Prefect / current Pope simply didn’t know what he was talking about.

    Ratzinger’s descriptions of liberation theology are merely descriptions of a very very marginal portion of those who identify as liberation theologians. He notes this in his article on liberation theology, as well as in the first CDF document on liberation theology. (Of course, as I said, he NEVER CITES any particular theologians.) But then he proceeds to continue the discussion of “liberation theology” as if these marginal voices represent the views of “liberation theology” as a whole… right after he acknowledged that he was only describing the views of a few.

    Of course this has led to the impression that “the Vatican” “rejects” liberation theology as a whole, a view parroted even today by Vatican officials. It’s a myth. JPII said liberation theology was “useful and necessary.”

  • Christopher

    I’m not sure if/when I will do a part 4 yet. I have something else I want to write upon next, and this week, I’m having to revise a huge portion of my dissertation work, while also working on applications for teaching positions for next fall, both of which will keep me from doing the writing I would otherwise desire. But I expect I will write more on Gnosticism later — it’s an issue which has many connections to me, in part because I like many authors who have been influenced by it (Solovyov, PKD) it’s made me be more aware of it so to be careful (also when I first started reading patristics, after the Apostolic Fathers and Athanasius, I took on the anti-gnostic works of Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria, and that continues to influence my theological studies). I’ve also had, and continue to have, a serious interest in the development of science, and that connects to the history of the occult (obviously) — a history which also is used in fiction I write from time to time.

    On the other hand, you might find the piece on Balthasar interesting (as I said, it’s from a rough draft of my Balthasar section of my dissertation, and this is what is being rewritten; this part of it is not going to have much of a place in the rewrite). It goes into some of the same issues and concerns we are discussing here.

    As for tensions, well, when I wrote in the morning, I had woken up around 2 am and couldn’t get back to sleep. So today I’ve been on the edge in general.

  • Christ as a revolutionary is not an unsual motiff at Leftist websites.

    Well of course. Christ was a revolutionary. But the important question is what kind of revolutionary?

  • Then for that Leftist revolutionary on your Christmas List:

  • Donald – Surely you’re not suggesting that depicting Jesus with a gun is inherently wrong? I thought guns were just neutral objects? Maybe Jesus was part of an early version of the “open carry” movement? How dare you condemn gun owners by suggesting that Jesus would not own and carry a gun!

  • A lot to digest. I hope to comment in some substantive way soon.

  • Careful, Donald, michael is likely to start saying litanies to those shirts.

  • Rather, my intent was to identify what I think were the perfectly valid and shared concerns, of Voegelin, Ratzinger (and perhaps even Buckley): that time and again, humanity’s desire to “immanentize the eschaton”, to bring the world to its perfection through political means, has resulted in a complete (and oftentimes bloody) disaster.

    I appreciate this clarification. I never thought that you thought that I hold such positions.

    What I take issue with is the way you and Ratzinger continually point to “liberation theology” as the preeminent example of the “bloody” dangers of “immanentizing the eschaton.”

  • Well of course. Christ was a revolutionary.

    I’m sure that sounds wonderfully edgy, but if you’re going to go around saying that you’re going to have to accept that you’re intentionally associating Christ with people who are almost invariably violent in their ideologies. One can’t have the Che chic without celebrating a man who like to dialogue with opponents by putting a revolver bullet in the back of their heads.

    Especially in a political context, revolutionary strongly implies violent. When you’re talking Marxist revolutionaries in Latin America, there can be no doubt one is talking about violent people. (Not to say they were the only violent people in play, but they were unquestionably violent.)

  • I’m sure that sounds wonderfully edgy, but if you’re going to go around saying that you’re going to have to accept that you’re intentionally associating Christ with people who are almost invariably violent in their ideologies… Especially in a political context, revolutionary strongly implies violent.

    Baloney. There are countless nonviolent revolutions and revolutionaries throughout history.

    When you’re talking Marxist revolutionaries in Latin America, there can be no doubt one is talking about violent people.

    Many of them were violent, but many of them were not. You are making blanket statements that are inaccurate and unhelpful.

    One can’t have the Che chic without celebrating a man who like to dialogue with opponents by putting a revolver bullet in the back of their heads.

    It’s astonishing that you can make such a critique considering your own politics which has no trouble justifying violence, so long as it’s the “right kind” of violence.

  • What I take issue with is the way you and Ratzinger continually point to “liberation theology” as the preeminent example of the “bloody” dangers of “immanentizing the eschaton.”

    Like I said, out of a 4140 word post on a lot of other topics besides ‘liberation theology’, you focus on two single paragraphs. As with Ratzinger and Voegelin, I’d just as likely point to National Socialism and Communism as examples of ‘immanentizing the eschaton.”

    And actually, the two paragraphs I cited were not so much a criticism of liberation theology per se as Marxist hermeneutics, which I specifically noted — and Ratzinger’s observation of how, within such, fundamental Christian theological concepts like “Hope”, “People of God,” “The Kingdom of God”, etc. are perverted.

    JPII said liberation theology was “useful and necessary.”

    John Paul II’s letter to the Brazilian Bishops, 1986. I know. He charactized it as one being “in complete fidelity to the Church.”

    Do you have an actual copy of the full text in English? (Italian translation via Google is a bit choppy).

  • Yes I have a copy but it’s in a book.

  • You can claim all you want that liberation theology is only present in “two” paragraphs, but it is clearly one of the gigantic boogey men haunting nearly the entirety of your post.

Two Letters.

Sunday, August 30, AD 2009

I know that I have been an imperfect human being, but with the help of my faith I have tried to right my path. I want you to know Your Holiness that in my nearly 50 years of elective office, I have done my best to champion the rights of the poor and open doors of economic opportunity. I have worked to welcome the immigrant, to fight discrimination, and expand access to health care and education. I have opposed the death penalty, and fought to end war. Those are the issues that have motivated me and been the focus of my work as a United States Senator.

I also want you to know that even though I am ill, I am committed to do everything I can to achieve access to health care for everyone in my country. This has been the political cause of my life. I believe in a conscience protection for Catholics in the health field, and I’ll continue to advocate for it as my colleagues in the Senate and I work to develop an overall national health policy that guarantees health care for everyone.

Excerpt, Letter of Senator Edward Kennedy to Pope Benedict XVI, which President Obama delivered to the Pontiff in July, 2009.

* * *

While the deep concern of a woman bearing an unwanted child merits consideration and sympathy, it is my personal feeling that the legalization of abortion on demand is not in accordance with the value which our civilization places on human life. Wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain rights which must be recognized — the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grow old. […]

I share in the confidence of those who feel that America is willing to care for its unwanted as well as wanted children, protecting particularly those who cannot protect themselves. I also share the opinions of those who do not accept abortion as a response to our society’s problems — an inadequate welfare system, unsatisfactory job training programs, and insufficient financial support for all its citizens.

When history looks back to this era it should recognize this generation as one which cared about human beings enough to halt the practice of war, to provide a decent living for every family, and to fulfill its responsibility to its children from the very moment of conception.

Excerpt, Letter of Senator Edward Kennedy to Thomas E. Denelly, August 1971.

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7 Responses to Two Letters.

  • I want you to know Your Holiness that in my nearly 50 years of elective office, I have done my best to champion the rights of the poor and open doors of economic opportunity.

    When I read this earlier today, I thought it must be someone’s idea of a parody. Why would a dying man brag to the POPE about his accomplishments??? What a massive ego! Cardinal McCarrick found this “moving.” The pope’s response, however, was more . . . measured.

  • What struck me was simply the fact that an entire segment of humanity — one which the Senator himself referred to previously as “[America’s] unwanted as well as wanted children, protecting particularly those who cannot protect themselves” — was omitted from his current list of those he had fought to save.

  • What a complete political hack Kennedy was. He was facing death and decides to use this transparent ploy to drum up support for ObamaCare among Catholics and to use the Pope as a bit player in the effort. Of course not a word in his letter about his massive efforts to defeat the teaching of the Church on abortion. I pray that Kennedy was in a better spiritual state of mind when he made his last confession than when he penned this piece of tripe. His letter to the Pope should have consisted of three words: “Forgive me Father.”.

  • … and here I was hoping that he would have quietly asked for forgiveness for what he knew was a complete contradiction of both faith and reason… disappointing to say the least.

  • I admit the first thing that came to my mind on reading Kennedy’s letter was Luke 18:9-14.

  • Kennedy says that he believes in conscience protection for Catholics in the health field, but what has he done to ensure it?

    If Kennedy was in a better spiritual state of mind when he made his last confession, he would have refuted this letter and written another, better one.

    Let’s face it, faith meant nothing to Kennedy. He used it to claim the moral high-ground when it suited him. He shed it when it meant political damage. The sheople ate it up. Shame on all of them.

  • Well, I wonder if anyone here has been with their Father when he is receiving the last Sacrament, that one would say it is bragging. My Dad related a story, in which he took men to Mass during WWII and that there were more men when fears were higher, of being attacked by the Japanese … when he was near to death. It is something that Ted Kennedy believed showed his deep Catholic Faith, just like Dad. Lighten up folks! It was rather wise that it was read then, and, if it was Ted’s wishes, more the better. Big issue, very current, very Catholic. Perhaps his family can speak more eloquently, but, it is important for all of those who loved him and love the Church. Pope Benedict, it seems, gave a response that wasn’t from having known the Senator personally, that’s all. I don’t think that the Pope would favor anyone. Even saintly folk need proofs.

Doug Kmiec on the Death of Kennedy

Sunday, August 30, AD 2009

Doug Kmiec, betrayer of the pro-life cause, future ambassador to Malta and spiritual descendant of Richard Rich,  the subject of few posts on this blog, see here, has taken the opportunity of the death of Ted Kennedy to engage in some predictable spaniel like fawning over Obama and ObamaCare.  The ever cogent Erin Manning at her ever readable blog and sometimes tea, fisks the resulting mess here, so you don’t have to.

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10 Responses to Doug Kmiec on the Death of Kennedy

  • I see Cardinal McCarrick has even shared with the world the late senator’s deathbed letter to Pope Benedict–the one that begins with a tribute to Obama’s “deep faith” and ends with a pitch for government health care. The cardinal describes this bit of self-serving political propaganda as “deeply moving.” Richard Rich had almost all the bishops of England on his side; I suspect Doug Kmiec may have the majority of our bishops with him.

  • Ambassador Kmiec is a deeply confused man with the ability to do either great good or great harm to the Church and its values by virtue of his God-given intellect. It’s terribly sad that he has chosen, of late, to turn that intellect against crystal clear teachings related to social issues ranging from abortion to same-sex marriage. We must pray for his re-conversion and may he publicly refute his errors and the damage they have caused to this nation and most especially to the souls of those he has helped lead astray.

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  • Cardinal McCarrick brings to mind one of the most intriguing quotes from the Council of Nicaea when debating the Arian heresy.

    Saint Athanasius was quoted as saying, “The floor of hell is paved with the skulls of bishops.”

  • This scene from ‘A Man For All Seasons’ is one of my most favorite.

    It’s interesting that Richard Rich doesn’t blink an eye when Sir Thomas quotes the Bible in reference to his Medal-of-Office.

  • I actually thought he seemed rather hesitant throughout the scene Tito. Note that the bailiff had to remind him “So help you God, Sir Richard”. I thought John Hurt played well the role of a man who has subdued his conscience, but still feels faint pangs of shame.

  • I agree that he played the role very well. He could’ve have been grappling within himself and only later realized the gravity of what he had done.

  • I hope both you gentlemen are well aware of the fact that hagiography was not really the intention of the Scriptwriter; indeed, the man himself was actually an atheist.

    I admit that the movie remains top on my list of favourite films; yet, I’d place more historical accuracy in Roper’s own account of More’s life than this, however poetically it depicts More.

  • Actually e, Bolt was an agnostic. He wrote plays and screenplays about characters in conflict with their society. Although he did not share the Faith of More, he obviously greatly admired him and that shines through the play.

The Kennedy Funeral

Sunday, August 30, AD 2009


Canon Lawyer Ed Peters has some thoughts here on the Ted Kennedy funeral.  Distressingly the funeral had on full display the tendency of modern Catholic funerals to have eulogies that “canonize” the deceased.  I prefer the traditional Catholic practice of banning eulogies and merely requesting prayers for the soul of the deceased.  There are other venues to praise the deceased.  The funeral Mass is not for praise, but rather for the sacrifice of the Mass and for prayers.  A good post on the subject is here.

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5 Responses to The Kennedy Funeral

  • I watched the funeral on Fox and was shocked and saddened that the intercessory prayers would be used by the Kennedy’s for political purposes. I wanted to watch the funeral as a Catholic in respect for the family and Senator Kennedy’s service to our country. I grieve with them for their family loss and wanted to offer up prayers for their family. But I was very disappointed as a Catholic that the focus wasn’t on the Sacrifice of the Mass in commeration of Jesus’ Sacrifice for us and prayers for Senator Kennedy, the deceased as he journeys home to his heavenly Father. The Mass for deceased is beautiful and unites us here on earth with the deceased and the hope one day we will all be together with our heavenly Father.
    May Senator Kennedy rest in peace.

  • It’s an all too common abuse of the purpose of funerals — and I think a particularly unfortunate one in that when people assure themselves prematurely the deceased is “in heaven now”, I can only assume that far fewer prayers are actually offered for the soul of the deceased.

    One of my father’s absolute directives was that there be no eulogies at his funeral and no presumption that he was already in heaven. (He’d wanted to hold out for black vestments too, but there were none to be had.)

  • Was it a funeral or a beatification?

    Watching Sunday’s edition of Meet the Press, I couldn’t help but notice that, at least in the eyes of Kathleen Kennedy Townshend, yesterday’s proceedings have transformed an understandable hope into a concrete certainty:

    MR. GREGORY: […] Kathleen, the imperfect part of his being was something that was very public, from Chappaquiddick to the incident in Florida in 1991 to other struggles.
    MS. TOWNSEND: Right.
    MR. GREGORY: How did he make–take stock of that in the end?
    MS. TOWNSEND: Well, that’s what–I mean, I have to say, I think that’s one of the great, important parts of the Catholic faith. We used to joke we were the church of sinners rather than the church of saints, and therefore you–we’re all sinners. And you can pray to God and say, “I–are you going to believe that I can make, make something better of my life?” rather than if you sin, you can never come back. And that is really what I think the Catholic faith is. And you saw that yesterday when the, the cardinals were there, the priests were there. There–they were saying, “This man is going to heaven, because he was there for the least among us.”

  • And you saw that yesterday when the, the cardinals were there, the priests were there. There–they were saying, “This man is going to heaven, because he was there for the least among us.

    Wow, just wow. I agree with the Ed Peters post that Donald cited earlier. But what a case this makes for denying Kennedy a Catholic funeral, or at least limiting the clergy to the celebrating priest. I’m afraid that KKT is not alone in her false connections and assumptions and that these actually serve to cause scandal. How many sensible and decent people of other faiths watching that broadcast walked away with a false sense of Catholic theology and may never consider the Truths of the faith because of that? It seems to reinforce the misconception of many Protestants about the Catholic faith concerning sin and forgiveness and the role of clergy.

    Mark Shea says sin makes you stupid, apparently leftist ideology makes you blind to sin and stupidity.

  • If I remember correctly, Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark in 2003 issued an edict explicitly banning eulogies at funeral Masses — save for one relative or friend who can speak for no more than 5 minutes. The ban was prompted by clergy complaints that eulogies were getting “out of control,” including incidents such as impromptu piano performances and Osama bin Laden jokes. I know people want to share memories of the deceased, but isn’t that what the wake is for?

    As Rick points out, if Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s remarks don’t provide proof positive that public scandal was indeed caused by the way this funeral was conducted, I don’t know what would. Perhaps people have forgotten what “scandal” really means — it doesn’t mean causing people to be shocked or outraged; rather, it means giving them the impression that something is morally acceptable when it really isn’t.

    Could the archdiocese in this instance have limited the number of clergy involved, or forbidden or severely limited media coverage of the funeral itself? There’s nothing stopping the Kennedys from having a big public memorial event or tribute on some other occasion.

Lenin, Stalin, and the Secret War Against the Vatican

Sunday, August 30, AD 2009

Adolph Hitler’s evil twin in terror, Joseph Stalin, once remarked “How many divisions has the Pope?”.  This was done in response to the  future saint Pope Pius XII’s[1] disapproval of his policies.

Well it wasn’t a mocking tone nor was it a sarcastic remark in reference to the Vatican.  It was a serious concern to the ‘meddling’ of the Catholic Church in thwarting Communism’s attempt at world domination.  Stalin was well aware of the tremendous moral power that the Vatican wielded and Vladimir Lenin implemented the full power of the KGB and the eastern bloc spy agencies to monitor and undermine the mission of the Catholic Church.

A new non-fiction book by John Koehler titled, Spies in the Vatican, has recently come out that documents the final twenty years of the Cold War and how it played out as the Soviet Union and their allies infiltrated the Vatican.

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4 Responses to Lenin, Stalin, and the Secret War Against the Vatican

  • The French Revolution must have been a pretty long lasting catalyst, I guess, as the Romonov’s fell more than a half or full century later, depending on how you count such things, with the intervention of minor things like Napolean and WWI, again depending on how you count it.
    And although 70 years of “athiestic terror” may have occured, subsequetly, I can’t say that it was much worse than the centuries of very theistic terror that occurred under the rule of the Romanovs.

  • Lenin, Marx, and most Socialists and Communists have read up and were inspired by headless French intellectuals from the French Revolution.

    It’s an invention called the Gutenberg Press that has been able to facilitate the knowledge of evil.

    As for the Atheistic terror, more people died under Stalin and the Soviet Union in 70 years than all the previous centuries combined under the Romanovs.

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Frances Kissling Mourns Ted Kennedy

Saturday, August 29, AD 2009

Catholics for a free choice

Frances Kissling, former head of pro-abort Catholics For a Free Choice, mourns the passing of abortion champion Ted Kennedy here.

“On the right to choose abortion, he was fully pro-choice. He supported the right of women who got their medical care from the government whether they were federal employees, in the military or on Medicaid to the same right of conscience that women with their own money or private insurance have.  And, on every other issue related to reproductive health and rights, he voted for women.

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9 Responses to Frances Kissling Mourns Ted Kennedy

  • At the risk of being repetitive, the third paragraph needs emphasis:

    Of course, the Kennedys had access to the best theological insights of the times and they used it. I remember the late Giles Milhaven, a former Jesuit priest and theologian who served on the Catholics for Choice board, describing some days in 1970 he spent at the Kennedy compound discussing abortion with members of the family. The theologians at the meeting included Joseph Fuchs, who had served on the Papal Commission on Birth Control and chaired the committee’s majority report; Richard McCormick, who is recognized as one of the founders of modern bio-ethics, then Catholic University star Charles Curran. Albert Jonsen, a then Jesuit bioethicist, and Father Drinan, who was Dean of Boston College Law School, rounded out the team. According to Giles, the moral theologians and priests met together for a while and then were joined by the Kennedys and Shrivers who asked questions. Ted Kennedy had the good fortune to engage in discourse about abortion and Catholicism before the papacy of John Paul II virtually closed the window on the lively debate that was going on among theologians about abortion.

    Truly, this is one of the most disgraceful incident in the history of Catholicism in America — as the supposed best and brightest minds in Catholic academia gathered the plot the slaughter of millions. It takes a truly Dante-an sense to describe the evil of the gathering described above — and of someone who is prepared to celebrate it or its members.

  • The first issue was whether federal Medicaid funds could be used for abortion, and the Senator was always in favor of such funding. Perhaps he understood the preferential option for the poor to be determinant; perhaps he simply saw the tragedy that surrounded very poor and very young women forced to have children they did not want.

    This is certainly a problem we face in the battle for life and within the broader disagreements within the church. There are a fair number of Catholics who may not be like Kissling or agree with her vehement pro-abortion stance, but they still try to divorce the killing of innocents from matters of justice and charity. All the talk of a seamless garment usually comes down to justifying the rending of the garment at the expense of the most helpless. It goes without saying that we’ll never convince everyone that the unborn have the same dignity we do and that their lives should be protected under the law. But maybe it’s time we come to the conclusion that we’ll never convince a large number of the secular minded Catholics.

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  • Darwin, while I agree that the all-star team of Catholic dissidents described by Kissling is indeed a black spot in American Catholic history — on a par with the infamous Land O’Lakes conference — to say that they met to “plot the slaughter of millions” is IMHO an exaggeration. Abortion was ALREADY legal in some states by 1970 and was openly being practiced even in places where it wasn’t legal, so the “slaughter” was already underway.

    The issue facing Kennedy and Co. at the time was whether to fight it or go along with it, and they of course chose the latter for reasons of political expediency. However, to say they “plotted the slaughter” implies that legalized abortion didn’t exist at the time and it was all their idea.

    I suspect their main concern was how to provide some kind of Catholic faith-based justification for going along with what appeared to be an inevitable change in society (the spread of the sexual revolution and abortion on demand) rather than risk their political and academic futures by appearing to be “reactionary.” Certainly nothing to be proud of, by any means.

  • Donald,

    To mourn is simply to grieve or lament for the dead. I’m saddened that Senator Kennedy held an intellectually flawed view and that he had not the opportunity to resolve it — because of the gravity of it — in this life. I am saddened that it is even amongst the list of sins he must account for. I have hope in his reception of the last Rites and in the mercy of God — for there is where his salvation lies.

    There is no honor nor anything won, justice or otherwise, in listing alitany of a man’s sins after he has died. One might judge the legacy or lack thereof left behind, but that should not render any ultimate judgment on the person.

    A true, pious Catholic would mourn his death in my view. Otherwise, we are presupposing he is incapable of salvation and being saved — and that is a judgment.

    Kissling mourns Kennedy as a champion for “reproductive rights.” Her mourning is misplaced. Her ideological committment is unjust as it opposes the absolute right to life of the unborn. Nothing justifies what she and Kennedy in his life advocated.

    But I do extend the benefit of the doubt, perhaps too kindly. I have not always been pro-life in the Catholic sense. And when I believed things contrary to what is asked of us by the Magisterium, I did not actually — as some would say — really know the Truth explicitly and just reject it anyway. On the contrary, I literally believed what I thought reflected reality and I didn’t advocate just “opinions.” Every relativist is an absolutist trying to undermine their opponent’s argument by taking away the absolute while not applying the standard to their own position.

    I think the tragedy of the pro-choice position is that one literally convinces one’s self to not believe the most obvious reality — the humanity of the unborn. I have once denied this reality. Even when I first became Catholic, it took a while for me to come around. But it was patience — real patience — not relativism that persuaded me.

    I feel sometimes this does not happen because of the abrasive way — though I understand the frustration — we go after those who fool themselves on this issue.

    If anything, if Kennedy has not won union with God — and I sincerely with every fiber of my being pray that he has — then I think it is a sadness worth mourning. For a creature, a beautiful creature — as is all humanity — who has been offered a gift, the Lord Himself and union with Him, to be adopted as His Sons, and offered the Eucharist, a gift not even endowed unto angels — ultimately would be found guilty of rejecting that gift and will suffer the unmentionable reality that such fallen creatures will endure for eternity.

    That’s my two cents. Pray for him.

  • I have already stated that I pray for his soul Eric. I hope he had a glimmer of true repentance before he departed this life. I seek not to judge his soul but rather what is of public record as to his life. As for his life, I mourn the great evil that he did, the children who are not alive because of his championing of abortion and the Catholics led astray on abortion and other matters by his abysmal example.

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  • This untouching tribute is certainly more realistic than the blather from the funeral that is now enshrined on YouTube and linked on Vox Nova.

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16 Responses to Was Kennedy "More Right Than Wrong"?

  • Actually Kennedy was more Left than either Right or Catholic, and that was his whole problem.

  • Outstanding post, Darwin!

    Kennedy is being lauded by the Catholic left for being a far-left Democrat, but they’re trying to dress it up as something more (witness Sr. Fiedler’s “he made me proud to be Catholic”). That’s the sum total of the lionizing the so-called “Lion of the Senate” is receiving by “progressive” Catholics.

  • Abortion, and the outrageous judicial power grab that forced it from the democratic process, is the most important issue in the public sphere.

    Here, Sen. Kennedy was a grave failure – both in his lamentable treatment of Judge Bork and in the many lamentable votes he cast related to the issues of life, abortion first among them.

    Just as his detractors should respect his passing and leave the scoring of “political points” for another time, so too should partisans like Winters and various bloggers refrain from elevating Kennedy as a great “Catholic example.”

    On the biggest issue of our time, he was gravely in the wrong.

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  • To dismiss his career because of his stance on abortion is to be ignorant of the complicated way the issue of abortion manifested itself in the early 1970s: I think Kennedy got it wrong but I do not find it difficult to understand why and how he got it wrong. If the pro-life leaders would stop ranting for a second and study that history they might become more effective at advancing their cause.

    I find this paragraph fascinating. Mr. Winters apparently believes that all he has to do is assert that something is ‘complicated,’ and that ‘only ignorance’ could account for the criticism Mr. Kennedy received, and voila, it’s washed away. Moreover, if pro-lifers – you know, Catholics who agree with the Church – would stop ‘ranting,’ they would be able to more effectively advance their cause (despite the Herculean efforts of politicians like Mr. Kennedy to prevent such advancement, it is supposed).

    The fact of the matter, of course, is that Mr. Kennedy fought tooth and nail against the protection of unborn life. It was a deliberate political decision that was both tragic and reflected a near-complete rejection of the Catholic conception of the human person and the common good. His accomplishments in other areas should be given their due, but his faults were very real. Let’s not ignore either, particularly with patronizing nonsense about how ‘complicated’ abortion was in the 1970’s (through the late oughts?), or how voting along party lines was somehow a deep reflection of Catholic conviction. I should add that my intention here is to criticize Mr. Winters, rather than Mr. Kennedy. It is telling that Mr. Winters, while stating that he thinks Mr. Kennedy was wrong about abortion, shows far more sympathy to Mr. Kennedy than to either his “fellow” pro-lifers or the persons for which they seek legal protection.

  • It perplexes me that so much attention and credibility to given to a writer at AMERICA [THE Catholic weekly, except THE Catholic weekly is the Nat Cath Rep, except that Commonweal is THE Catholic weekly …].

    That journal [and the others] are quietly but vociferously declining. They are as like as peas in a pod. They have nothing interesting to say. Be kind; let them expire.

  • “I am an American and a Catholic; I love my country and treasure my faith,” Kennedy said. “But I do not assume that my conception of patriotism or policy is invariably correct, or that my convictions about religion should command any greater respect than any other faith in this pluralistic society. I believe there surely is such a thing as truth, but who among us can claim a monopoly on it?”

    Vile, pure and simple.

    What can be more wrong than facilitating and, thereby, enabling the deaths of what will amount to be so many millions of children?

    “Cruel & Unusual Punishment” has nothing on deliberate dissection of your very person while still alive in your mother’s womb!

    If only Catholics would stop trivializing abortion (and, more importantly, stop abortion altogether) as if it were some casual thing to be selected on some diner menu, then perhaps they would start acting and, even more, start being “Catholic”!

  • “I think we can be assured that such a deviation from liberal orthodoxoy would be considered far less “incidental” by Catholic progressives than his deviation from Church teaching on abortion.”

    Sadly, I believe this observation is 100% accurate.

  • A friend of mine remarked in an email that even those Catholics who didn’t have much respect for Kennedy attempted to deal initially with his death with sympathy. That it was the over the top attempt by some on the left to virtually canonize the reprobate that basically called for voices to be raised in service of truth.

    If I read something like that a couple days ago, I would have rejected the idea that we should take the bait and speak up. Not today. The attempts by the leftist ideologues to write a hagiography on Kennedy has only served to make us recall and shine a light on his true character and deeds. Let’s pray for him because if he’s going to experience the Beatific Vision it’s not going to be because of his defining deeds but in spite of them.

  • Rick,

    I have to agree. One would like to let time pass to assess the man. But at the same time, if that time is used to distort the record, then the demands of truth AND charity require speaking up.

  • Rick, you took the words right out of my mouth.

    Because Ted Kennedy’s life and legislative legacy have been so overrated and puffed up by the mainstream media and liberals, some on the other side can’t resist the temptation to go equally overboard in trashing him. I have in mind those bloggers (not here, of course) who were absolutely vicious about his cancer diagnosis and saying he deserved to suffer as much as possible, or those right now who are openly saying he is or should be burning in hell and expressing glee at the prospect.

    Gifted speaker, yes. Skilled politician, sure.
    Champion of the poor and downtrodden (provided they made it out of the womb intact), maybe.
    Lion of the Senate on a par with, say, Daniel Webster or Henry Clay — I don’t think so.
    Exemplary Catholic politician — excuse me while I go get a barf bag.

  • Has anyone read Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer column? Check it out here

  • The fact of the matter, of course, is that Mr. Kennedy fought tooth and nail against the protection of unborn life. It was a deliberate political decision that was both tragic and reflected a near-complete rejection of the Catholic conception of the human person and the common good.

    John Henry’s point is very important in understanding Kennedy’s legacy to Catholics in America. In rejecting the human-dignity principle, Kennedy kicked the base from under the many authentic human-rights causes he espoused–and thereby rendered almost all of them suspect in the minds of Catholics loyal to the magisterium. Some of these Catholics today reject not only Kennedy’s party but every plank in its platform–sometimes just because it is in that platform. Those who remain Democrats tend to cite their support for an assortment of “progressive” causes as evidence of their faith, even as their opposition to basic tenets of Catholic teaching–and to the authorities who periodically remind them of those tenets–grows ever more strident.

    There is no way to throw holy water on the ugly divide in American Catholicism that Senator Kennedy’s cynical choices may not have caused but certain helped to entrench. Everyone who posts here today but used to post on Vox Nova surely understands and regrets it.

  • I believe there surely is such a thing as truth, but who among us can claim a monopoly on it

    What garbage. If you cannot know the truth, what good is it?

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The Unavoidability of Faith

Friday, August 28, AD 2009

Over at the First Things blog, Joe Carter highlights an excerpt from an article by Randal Rauser, a professor of theology at Taylor Seminary, Edmonton, Canada:

At the end of his tremendously irritating film “Religulous”, Bill Maher states that “Faith means making a virtue out of not thinking.” With this strange definition Maher summarizes a notion of faith which has become enormously popular in recent years, particularly with the rise of the new atheists. (Consider Richard Dawkins who dismisses religious believers as “faith heads”.)

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3 Responses to The Unavoidability of Faith

Brideshead vs. RCIA

Friday, August 28, AD 2009

Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited is one of my favorite novels, and unquestionably my favorite Catholic novel. (Spoiler warning for those who haven’t read it — this post has to do with events which take place at the very end.) Not only does Brideshead give powerful and beautiful expression to Catholic themes, but having read it in my late teens, not long before leaving home, it represents one of those crystallizing experiences for me through which Catholicism became not merely something I was brought up in, but something deeply my own and at the root of my understanding of the world.

And yet, there’s a key element of the plot which clashes with the modern experience of joining the Church — as I was reminded tonight when attending the opening RCIA meeting as a member of this year’s team. Near the very end of the novel, Julia (a cradle, though intermittently lapsed, Catholic) tells the man she has been living with for several years (they’re in the process of divorcing their estranged spouses so they can marry):

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9 Responses to Brideshead vs. RCIA

  • As co-director of our RCIA and the so-called “marriage expert” for our parish, I came to the same conclusion as to why so many marriages are declared null – lack of catechesis with no understanding of what a Catholic marriage is. And, I know what it is to be married outside the Church without an annulment – my husband and I both went through the annulment process when he decided to convert after 23 years of “civil” marriage. In fact, nearly every member of our RCIA team has been through the process. It is, indeed, an incredibly rewarding process to walk the journey with the candidates and catechumens.

  • I had a similar thought when read The End of the Affair (not to give too many spoilers, but as in Brideshead, part of the plot turns on the fact that one of the characters was in a voidable marriage and thus was “trapped” according to the Church). My assumption was that whatever the official doctrine, remarriage in the Church in England at that time was just not done (the trouble C.S. Lewis had in marrying Joy Davidman despite her prior marriage being invalid and the fact they were Anglican tended to re-enforce this impression). But the biographical detail about Waugh throws me a bit (I had somehow got the impression that his first wife died after the divorce before he remarried).

  • But the biographical detail about Waugh throws me a bit (I had somehow got the impression that his first wife died after the divorce before he remarried).

    This sent me off into paniced googling, since I had basically assumed that the marriage had been annulled by the Church since I knew his second marriage was Catholic. As it turns out, though, she lived until 1994:

  • Yeah, I’m not quite sure how I got the idea that she had died. Weird.

  • I’ve been interested in a while now on how Brideshead is a lament for the losses of the First World War.

    Anyway, here is a good piece on his early life

  • “My assumption was that whatever the official doctrine, remarriage in the Church of England at the time was not possible.”

    How ironic, given that the Church of England was created more or less for the sole purpose of enabling King Henry VIII to divorce and remarry.

    It has also occurred to me that Jack and Joy Lewis’ dilemma regarding their marriage would have been easily resolved had they been Catholic, even though the Catholic Church at the time was regarded as much stricter about divorce. The Catholic Church would have regarded Joy’s first marriage as null and void on the grounds of “ligamen” or a prior bond on the part of Bill Gresham, who had been married and divorced before he met Joy.

  • Is it is possible that the author was presenting people who were under the mistaken impression of how the church dealt with matters and acted accordingly? (I’ve never read Brideshead)

    It is not uncommon though for authors, even sometimes catholic authors, to present the church in a more rigid or legalistic manner than it actually is… and in some ways it is a stereotype often employed in the popular culture.

    God Bless,

  • Interesting post, Darwin. The same thought had crossed my mind second time I read it. Perhaps Waugh was relying on the readers’ ignorance, his point being that Charles was an occasion of sin for Julia–that Julia’s change of heart has her wanting a purer state of life. I never liked Julia–and Charles always seems so wimpy. I never could believe in their love as a higher love. And yet I like the book. Best is the dying Signum Crucis, and Sebastian’s finally finding peace.

  • And yet something Waugh reveals to us, through Lady Julia, is that sometimes God gives us extravagant grace through which we can do what seems impossible and unbearable. When He speaks to us in such a way, the only possible answer is a resounding, if fright-filled, “Yes!”

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Concord Coalition: 14.4 Trillion Dollar Deficit

Friday, August 28, AD 2009

14.4 trillion

In this earlier post I reported that the Obama administration is predicting a 9 trillion dollar deficit over the next ten years.  Now, the non-partisan Concord Coalition is predicting here a 14. 4 trillion dollar deficit over the next 10 years.

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