Monthly Archives: January 2010
The faithful on earth, through the communion of saints, should honor the blessed in heaven and pray to them, because they are worthy of honor and as friends of God will help the faithful on earth. — The Baltimore Catechism, 1941
I am trying these days, as best I can, to come to terms with the Church’s reform of the liturgy. But when one truly examines the differences between the “Tridentine” liturgy and the “Novus Ordo” liturgy, and furthermore, compares the “Novus Ordo” liturgy to what Protestant “reformers” (if that’s what you want to call violent iconoclasm) have tried to introduce into the liturgy for the past 500 years, it is hard to remain sympathetic.
On the surface the liturgical revisions of Vatican II were aimed at “increasing participation” of the congregation in the liturgy. I’ll leave aside my complaints about that motive for now. If this were indeed the goal, however, what I cannot understand are some of the other changes that were made, changes that apparently, to my untrained eye anyway, have nothing to do with participation. When, however, I reflect upon the some statements made by Annibale Bugnini, who was at the forefront of liturgical revisions during Vatican II, the changes do make sense. Bugnini is often quoted as having said:
“We must strip from our … Catholic liturgy everything which can be the shadow of a stumbling block for our separated brethren, that is, for the Protestants.”
A number of years ago, Gov. Robert Casey warned that health care reform legislation that included public financing of abortion would be “dead on arrival” to Congress. For that very reason as well as several others, the attempt to overhaul the nation’s health care system went down in flames.
After the election of now Senator-elect Scott Brown, the Democrats are scrambling to figure out what to do about health care reform and they might have another pro-life Democrat problem, a Democrat with the spirit of Casey.
Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) told CNSNews.com “if they expect the House to accept the Senate bill, it’s going to go down in flames.”
CNSNews.com asked Stupak: “Are you prepared to vote for a bill that looks more like the Senate bill – and Senator Nelson’s language on abortion – than the House bill, with your language?” He replied, “No, absolutely not.”
Perhaps one of the most cherished freedoms of liberal democracy (in the sense of classical liberalism, not modern progressivism) is the freedom of religion. Much though I admire many elements of Western Civilization prior to the modern era, I cannot help thinking that the end of the formal confessional state has generally been a good thing not only for the state, but even more so for the Church. It has given the Church, no longer tied down by the need to support explicitly Catholic regimes, the freedom to speak more openly and forcefully on the demands that Christ’s message puts upon us in the public and economic realms.
That said, it seems to me that there is a built in contradiction in the place of religious freedom in classical liberalism: While religious freedom is a central element of classical liberalism, the ability of a state to function as a liberal democracy will collapse if a large majority of the population do not share a common basic moral and philosophical (and thus by implication theological) worldview. Thus, while religious freedom is a foundational element of classical liberalism, only a certain degree of religious conformity makes it possible.
At first glance, it would appear that Scott Brown’s unlikely victory is bad news for President Obama’s long-term political future. Senator-elect Brown explicitly ran against the current health care reform bill, favoring federalist experimentation rather than a one-size-fits-all national approach. As health care reform was the central focus of President Obama’s first year in office, and Massachusettes is one of the most liberal states in the country, Brown’s victory there is a clear repudiation of the leadership of President Obama and Congressional Democrats during the past year. Nevertheless, I think a case could be made that Scott Brown’s victory will help the President in the long run. There are three main reasons:
1) Brown’s victory was too stunning to ignore. No one would have predicted it even a month ago, and I was still skeptical yesterday that Massachusetts was going to elect a Republican senator for the first time since 1972 – and to replace Ted Kennedy, of all people. Congressional Democratic leadership and the Administration will no longer be able to convince Blue Dog Democrats they know best and that Obama will be able to leverage his popularity to preserve their seats. That card has been played – not only in Massachusetts, but also in Virginia and New Jersey – and it wasn’t a winner. This means that the Administration and the Congressional leadership will have to adjust their strategy, and pay more attention to voter sentiment. It’s probably too late at this point for this to help the Democrats much in November; they will take a well-deserved beating in this election. Nevertheless, it’s a lesson the Obama Administration will keep in mind going forward, just as the Clinton Administration pivoted after the Hillarycare debacle. President Obama will be forced to govern more like the moderate, fiscally responsible Democrat he campaigned as. And that is likely to increase his odds of re-election.
Well Massachusetts has elected a Republican US Senator for the first time in 37 years. What does this political upset of the century mean?
1. ObamaCare is dead. Not only because the Democrats now lack 60 votes to invoke cloture in the Senate, but because opposition to ObamaCare was the signature feature of Scott Brown’s campaign and the results of this race in bluest Massachusetts will send chills down the spine of too many Democrats.
2. We now have further evidence that the Democrats are looking at a political storm of the first magnitude in the Fall. If a US Senate seat in Massachusetts isn’t safe for the Democrats, it is hard to imagine what seat in Congress outside of urban centers they can take for granted in November.
3. The fundraising success of Scott Brown over the internet was astounding. A demonstration that the internet fundraising effort of the Democrats in 2008 now has a GOP counterpart.
4. Look for a wave of Democrat retirements in Congress as more Democrats decide that ending their political careers with a voluntary retirement is preferable to defeat.
5. More Blue Dog Democrats in Congress will follow the example of Congressman Parker Griffith and announce that they are switching to the Republican Party.
Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts tonight prompted an acquaintance of mine to remind me of my prediction that the GOP was a doomed party. “So much for that prediction”, I was told.
Not so fast. My analysis, which I was toying with a year ago before and after Obama’s victory, was that demographic factors were threatening the long-term survival of the GOP. In spite of tonight’s spectacular victory for the GOP, I’m not quite ready to toss my analysis out the window just yet. The main reason is that I am not convinced that what I call “the politics of hate” can sustain either party.
What are the politics of hate? By that I do not mean that the platform of either party is based in a hateful ideology, though I’m sure many would find aspects of either that they would describe that way. What I mean is that I see what was once a tendency in politics becoming the obsessive, dominating factor – visceral hatred for the incumbent, regardless of the party he or she belongs to, and regardless of the party affiliation of the voters.
The Tide Is Turning Toward Catholicism Because Nonsensical Believers & Non Believers Are Unwittingly Showing Many the Way
Throughout the last few years and specifically the last decade or so, the voluminous number of kooky quotes and statements coming from religious believers (heterodox Catholics included) and non believers alike is mind boggling. It can’t but help push the reasonable minded into the Catholic Church. Most casual observers are familiar with the number of high profile converts and reverts to the Catholic Church in the last 25 years or so. They range from theological luminaries like Dr Scott Hahn and Dr Francis Beckwith to political figures like Deal Hudson, Laura Ingraham and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Many like them have come to the Church after years of study and reason, but many also have come to the Church after years of seeing their particular religious denomination become unrecognizable.
The latest world calamity has given us two examples of sheer kookery coming from a religious leader and a secular voice. After the horrific earthquake that left the western world’s most impoverished nation in tatters, the Reverend Pat Robertson chimed in with a quote that was not only tragically insensitive but historically inaccurate. The onetime presidential candidate (who actually came in second in the 1988 GOP Iowa Caucus) and a leading voice of the Evangelical world blamed the earthquake on Voodoo, a cult that sadly far too many people practice in Haiti. Robertson voiced his opinion on his popular 700 Club television program. Robertson repeated the fundamentalist canard that in the early 1800s the leaders of a slave revolt fighting against French colonial forces forged a pact with the Satan to thrown off the chains of their oppressors.
Deal Hudson at Inside Catholic wrote recently about the divisions in the pro-life movement over the Personhood Initiative, a nation-wide effort to legally define “personhood” as beginning at the moment of conception. The testing ground for the initiative was Colorado, where the movement’s founder, an admirable 19 year-old by the name of Kristi Burton, hails from. The lowdown, according to Deal, is that,
Colorado voters turned down the amendment by a stunning 73 percent to 27 percent, in spite of support from Focus on the Family, American Life League, and legal advice from the Thomas More Law Center. But the effort had failed to gain the support of either National Right to Life (NRTL) or the Colorado Catholic Conference.
Whether or not that extra support would have resulted in a less unbalanced result, I cannot say. For those wondering why the Catholic Conference, and many American bishops are hesitant to embrace the PI, the concern was apparently that if it were taken to, and shot down by, the Supreme Court, it would have the effect of “actively reaffirm[ing] the mistaken jurisprudence of Roe.” According to Deal, however, some Catholic bishops are reconsidering their position on the PI.
Not long ago, in the context of the debate over the efforts of Bart Stupak and the pro-life Dems, I wrote about pro-life pragmatism. I argued that the much-derided “incrementalism” is actually the most viable way of winning the long-term war against the abortion industry in light of the facts about where the American electorate stands on abortion. With respect to the PI, and with all due respect to the founders and supporters of this movement, I must reaffirm that position.
Go here to see the last polls on the Senate race in Massachusetts. The seat that is up has been in the hands of the Kennedy family since 1953, four years before my birth. The last time the Republicans won a Federal senate race in Massachusetts was in 1972 when I was 15 years old. Against all the odds Scott Brown has engineered the political upset of this century. In November he trailed Martha Coakley by 30 points. He has run a superb campaign and she has run an abysmal one, but the key issue has been his opposition to ObamaCare. If ObamaCare is a losing issue in Massachusetts, in what State in the Union can it be a winning issue? Brown 52; Coakley 47; Kennedy 1. That is my prediction. What is yours?
I have long been, and remain, a temperamentally conservative person. To my view, the ills created by radically overturning a social order are usually far greater than the benefits realized. And yet, there are times when justice demands change that is not gradual. One of the counter-examples I generally keep in mind to my Burkian conservative tendencies is this selection from Martin Luther King’s “Letter From a Birmingham Jail”, which a friend once emailed me during an extended discussion on conservative versus progressive mentalities:
I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
“Once let the Black man get upon his person the brass letters US, let him get an eagle on his button and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pockets, and there is no power on earth which can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship in the United States.”
Blacks after the Civil War would be shamefully denied equal rights for a century. However, that sad fact does not detract in the slightest from the heroism of black troops fighting to preserve a nation that had given them little reason to love it. The great lesson of the Civil War is that we are all Americans, all part of this experiment in self-government, and it is a lesson to be remembered on this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Thomas Sowell has a new book about intellectuals that looks very interesting. The National Review has a review:
Sowell writes that it “was part of a long-standing assumption among many intellectuals . . . that it is the role of third parties to bring meaning into the lives of the masses.” Many people were shocked when in early 2008 Michelle Obama proclaimed, “Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. . . . That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.” Sowell probably just shook his head in knowing disgust.
Hattip to commenter Cathleen and her moving story of how Abide With Me was being sung on the radio by Katherine Jenkins as her sister died. The song was written in a magnificent act of faith by Henry Lyte as he lay dying of tuberculosis.
In the movie A Bridge Too Far, wounded survivors of the British First Airborne Division are shown singing the song as they await capture by the Wehrmacht at the conclusion of Operation Market-Garden.