Monthly Archives: April 2010
Karen L. Anderson of Online Christian Colleges wrote a timely piece on the many myths, misconceptions, and outlandish lies told about Catholics:
With nearly one quarter of the U.S. population Catholic, they make up a huge part of society and the largest Christian denomination. Yet with so many, how is it they are so misunderstood and characterized by films, television shows, etc.?
Failing to do the proper research explains a great deal of it. With a simple search on the internet, we were able to find many interesting answers to the top 15 misconceptions about Catholics. They are both from official sources, reporters, academics, and more.
1. Priests Are More Likely to be Pedophiles : The most dangerous of all myths concerning Catholics, this can lead to many negative and unfair consequences. Recently in a book entitled Pedophiles and Priests, an extensive study – and the only one of it kind – took a look at the pedophile statistics of over 2,200 priests. It found that only 0.3% of all Catholic clergy are involved in any pedophilia matter, guilty or not. This number is actually very low and according to Counter Pedophilia Investigative Unit, who reports that children are more likely to be victims of pedophile activity at school with nearly 14% of students estimated to be molested by a member of the school staff.
2. Everything in “The Da Vinci Code” is True : Even author Dan Brown himself doesn’t agree to this. In this free film from Hulu, Mr. Brown admits to writing his novel as a step in his own spiritual journey. As he confesses to being swayed by his extensive research, the experts behind the research weigh in with facts. Simon Cox is the author of “Cracking the Da Vinci Code” and tells more about his work in this documentary. If you don’t have 90 minutes to view it, you can get the real story behind Opus Dei, the villain organization in the novel, from ABC news.
3. Women Are Oppressed in the Catholic Church : Although women are still not eligible to become priests as explained by Pope John Paul II, they were still acknowledged as valued members of the church as far back as 1947. In a Papal Directive from then Pope Pius XII, he expressed his admiration of women “to take part in the battle: you have not sought to do so, but courageously you accept your new duties; not as resigned victims nor merely in a defensive spirit.” Also, in 2004 then Pope John Paul II historically appointed two women theologians to the International Theological Commission and named another as the president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.
As I’m a week and a half from law school exams, I don’t have the time to do this justice but there’s an important case involving a group I’m involved in at law school that was argued in front of the Supreme Court today. In sum, the school banned the CLS (Christian Legal Society) because it wanted the Christian Legal Society members to be…well, Christians. The school defends itself on the idea that allowing any discrimination is intolerable and would open a slippery slope to racist groups (no, seriously-read the article and the questions of Sotomayor & Stevens. Glad that Obama appointment is doing well for Christians).
So pray for a just result that will protect the rights of Christians to assemble.
One of the priests at our parish spoke about the pedophile scandals and how we should confess our sins (and he said it like that – sounding like it implied we should as a group ask for forgiveness as Catholics for these terrible crimes) and seek forgiveness for allowing this to happen. Even though I think that these are horrible, awful, abominable events, and pray for both those who have been damaged by these sins, and as difficult as it is, those people who committed these sins, don’t exactly feel responsible for doing this myself so am having a hard time wrapping my head around repentance for the sins of others. I have sinned in a multitude of other ways but do I need to carry the burden of other people’s sins as well? Do I need to ask forgiveness for this myself? Are we supposed to ask forgiveness as Catholics even though we individually didn’t have anything to do with it?
Mark’s reply is worth reading in its entirety, but I think the key passage is: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
One of my favorite living historians is Victor Davis Hanson. I have read every book he has written and most of his articles. Trained as a classicist and historian of antiquity, he has written on a broad range of topics, from the hoplites of ancient Greece, ancient Greek agriculture, a searching examination of the Peloponnesian War, the farming crisis of the 80’s, the history of warfare and culture, the teaching of the classics and the debacle of our non-policy on immigration, and I have been astonished at how skillfully this man writes and with what intelligence, and very dry humor, he cuts to the essence of whatever subject he addresses. He moonlights as a pundit on current events and in that capacity I have found a recent column of his intriguing on the question of just why the Obama administration is hellbent on compiling such huge annual deficits. Here is a portion of the column:
We are going to pile up another $3 trillion in national debt in just the first two years of the Obama administration. If the annual deficit should sink below $1.5 trillion, it will be called fiscal sobriety.
Why, when we owe $12 trillion, would the Obama administration set out budgets that will ensure our collective debt climbs to $20 trillion? Why are we borrowing more money, when Medicare, Social Security, the Postal Service, Amtrak, etc. are all insolvent as it is?
What is the logic behind something so clearly unhinged?
I present seven alternative reasons — some overlapping — why the present government is hell-bent on doubling the national debt in eight years. Either one, or all, or some, or none, of the below explain Obama’s peculiar frenzied spending.
1) Absolutely moral and necessary?
The country is in need of massive more entitlements for our destitute and near to poor. Government is not big, but indeed too small to meet its moral obligations. Deficits are merely record-keeping. Throwing trillions into the economy will also help us all recover, by getting us moving again and inflating the currency. And we can pay the interest easily over the next 50 years. Just think another World War II era — all the time.
So big spending and borrowing are genuine efforts of true believers to make us safe, secure, and happy.
2) “Gorge the beast”
The spending per se is not so important, as the idea of deficits in general will ensure higher taxes. Nationalized health care, cap and trade, new initiatives in education, more stimulus — all that and more is less important than the fact that huge defects will require huge new taxes, primarily from the upper-classes. I see no reason why the total bite from state income, federal income, payroll, and health care taxes cannot soon in theory climb to 70% of some incomes (e.g., 10% state, 15.3% FICA, 40% federal, 3-5% health care). In other words, “redistributive change” is the primary goal. This aim is premised on the notion that income is a construct, if not unfairly calibrated, then at least capriciously determined — requiring the more intelligent in the technocracy to even out things and ensure an equality of result. After all, why should the leisured hedge-funder make all that more after taxes than the more noble waitress?
So big spending and borrowing mean big deficits, and that means taxing the greedy and giving their ill-gotten gains to the needy.
3) Big Brother?
Or does rampant borrowing for government spending reflect our despair over the inability of millions to know what is best for themselves? For democracy to work, all of us must fully participate. But because of endemic racism, sexism, class bias, and historical prejudices, millions of Americans do not have access to adequate education and enlightenment. Therefore, a particular technocratic class, with requisite skill and singular humanity, has taken it upon themselves to ensure everyone gets a fair shake — if only government at last has the adequate resources to fix things. If it proves problematic for one to register and vote, then there will be a program to make 100% participation possible. If some of us are too heavy and too chair-bound, we can be taught what and how to eat. If some of us do not study, we can adjust academic standards accordingly. In one does something unwise, like buying a plasma TV rather than a catastrophic health care plan, then we still can ensure he is covered. In other words, an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-moral guardian class requires resources to finish the promise of participatory America. After all, why would we allow the concrete contractor to “keep” 70% of his income only to blow it on worthless things like jet skis or a Hummer in his garage or a fountain in his yard — when a far wiser, more ethical someone like Van Jones could far more logically put that now wasted capital to use for the betterment of the far more needy?
→']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
One of the more oft-heard responses to the recent outbreak of coverage on the abuse scandals in the Church is the following: ‘when is the Church going to respond to this and protect children?’ This question is entirely sensible. We have heard about these scandals in the past, and yet fresh stories of abuse are appearing on a weekly basis. Moreover, the responses of many in the Vatican, as in several other incidents in the pontificate of Benedict XVI, has been disheartening. At the same time, I think it is important to point out for those concerned about the abuse of children (as opposed to the competency of the Vatican press office), that the crisis phase of the abuse scandal has been over for the better part of twenty years in the U.S. (and notice the recent reporting has focused on incidents at least that old). The following graph summarizes the annual reports of abuse by priests in the United States over the last fifty-five years (for those who are curious about post-2004, there were six reported incidents in 2009):
Like many intellectual men in Revolutionary America and Western Europe, Alexander Hamilton bought into the Deist ideas of a Creator, but certainly not a Creator who needed a Son to rise from the dead or perform miracles, and certainly not the continuous miracle of the Eucharist. Most leaders of the American Revolution were baptized Anglicans who later in life rarely attended Sunday services, the exception being George Washington. The first President was the rare exception of a Founding Father who often attended Anglican-Episcopal Services, though he occasionally did leave before Holy Communion, which many intellectuals in the colonies (and most of England) decried as “popery.”
Hamilton was a unique man, who unlike many of the Revolution was not born in the colonies, but in the Caribbean and was born into poverty at that. He was practically an orphan as his father left his mother and she subsequently died from an epidemic. At a young age Hamilton showed so much promise that the residents of Christiansted, St Croix (now the American Virgin Islands) took up a collection to send him to school in New England. As a child, Hamilton excelled at informal learning picking up on what he could from passersby and those who took the time to help him. In August of 1772, a great hurricane hit the Caribbean. Hamilton wrote about it in such vivid detail that it wound up being published in New York.
It was at this point that the residents of Christiansted answered the local Anglican pastor’s request and enough money was raised to send Hamilton to school in the colonies. While in school, Hamilton would excel and wound up in the Revolutionary Army as a young officer. By the time of Yorktown, General Washington thought enough of the 24 year old to have him lead a charge on one of the redoubts of Yorktown. It was here that the “Young Americans” and their French counterparts on land and sea, overwhelmed the British and the world turned upside down.
The final installment in my series on the Seven Notes, I would call them tests, which Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman developed for determining whether some aspect of Church teaching is a development of doctrine or a corruption of doctrine. We began with Note Six-Conservative Action Upon Its Past, and I would highly recommend that any one who has not read the first post in the series read it here before reading this post. We then proceeded with an examination of the First Note-Preservation of Type here, the Second Note-Continuity of Principles here , the Third Note-Power of Assimilation here , the Fourth Note-Logical Sequence here and the Fifth Note-Anticipation of Its Future here. This post will deal with the Seventh and final note-Chronic Vigor.
Newman notes that a sign of a corruption of an idea is that it is relatively brief:
While ideas live in men’s minds, they are ever enlarging into fuller development: they will not be stationary in their corruption any more than before it; and dissolution is that further state to which corruption tends. Corruption cannot, therefore, be of long standing; and thus duration is another test of a faithful development.
Newman contends that heresies, the classic corruption of an idea, are always short:
The course of heresies is always short; it is an intermediate state between life and death, or what is like death; or, if it does not result in death, it is resolved into some new, perhaps opposite, course of error, which lays no claim to be connected with it. And in this way indeed, but in this way only, an heretical principle will continue in life many years, first running one way, then another.
Corruption of an idea is therefore distinguished from the development of an idea by its transitory character.
Newman on the Seventh Note: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
You know, I always had the odd feeling that Dawkins reminded me of someone. Oh well, if the real Hitler couldn’t stop the Catholic Church, what chance did an internet Hitler\Dawkins have?
Though I did argue that Catholic Romanticism isn’t tied to the Romantic era of the 19th century, that era IS still quite amazing. Here are some of my favorite pieces from the era:
Mendelsshon: Hebrides Overture
Schumann: Piano Concerto
Berlioz: Les Nuits d’ete (Summer Nights)
Michael Liccione has written an outstanding piece over at What’s Wrong With the World about the recent escalation in attacks on Pope Benedict in relation to the scandals, with Dawkins and Hitchens demanding that the pope be arrested and tried in an international court:
With whatever degree of justice, the scandal has now reached Pope Benedict XVI himself.
The complaint is not that he abused anyone himself during his long career, but that he was criminally negligent in failing to take due action, as an archbishop and then as the Curia’s most powerful official, against many of the priestly perps who came to his attention. Some of the better-known enemies of the Church, such as Richard Dawkins, now propose to arrest the Pope for that and put him in the dock, presumably at the International Court of Justice. The interest of such a ludicrous proposal does not lie in its legal plausibility, which I am unqualified to judge and is probably academic in any case. Its interest lies in the challenge it poses to explaining the irrationality behind it.
I believe myself qualified to discuss that, not only as a lifelong Catholic who has spent much of his professional life serving the Church, but also as a victim of molestation myself, in my early teens, at the hands of a priest-teacher of mine. My abuser died years ago; I have not seen fit to sue the Church; indeed my experience was one of the factors that led me to reject progressive Catholicism and ascribe to what is generally understood as orthodox Catholicism. I understand, of course, why many victims have rejected the Church, even religious belief generally, and have lived very troubled lives. How could anybody not understand that? But the generalized furor, among people who are neither victims nor loved ones of victims, strikes me as positively irrational. My way of explaining that can only issue in a statement of faith. But I believe that’s just what’s called for, if only at the end.
What’s irrational about the furor? [continue reading]
Something for the weekend. A favorite from my mispent youth, Scarborough Fair by Simon and Garfunkel. One of my early experiences of enjoying the art someone produces while viewing their politics as puerile.
Celtic Woman has a nice rendition below sans the Canticle counterpoint of the Simon and Garfunkel version:
Hattip to Rich Leonardi at Ten Reasons. I have long thought that the way we will win the battle against abortion is by simple persistence. Pro-lifers will never give up until we prevail and abortion is banned. Tommy Behan is an example to us all:
T. ANDREW DEANERY — The White House staffers who open President Barrack Obama’s mail are likely well aware of Tommy Behan’s pro-life stance.
Behan, a member of St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish and a sophomore at Lakota East High School, has written the president every day since Obama’s inauguration asking him to change his position on abortion. The 16-year-old has handwritten and mailed more than 430 letters.
“His stance is the most radical pro-choice one for a president who has ever held office,” said Behan. “In the first letter I made a vow to never stop writing until he changed it or he’s out of office.”
The teen usually writes in the evenings. He avoids email, preferring to show his passion with the extra effort a handwritten letter requires. His parents supply the pens, paper and stamps. If Behan gets pressed for time and misses a day, he’ll write additional letters until he is caught up. The letters are sometimes mailed in batches.
Behan begins each letter by telling Obama how many times he has written before. Then the teen argues the constitutionality of abortion, talks about justice for the unborn and tells of the lives that have been lost. His stance is straightforward: Life begins at conception and comes before liberty, he said.
“I keep building on my argument,” Behan said. “It really upsets me how some people choose to have an abortion when others really want to have children.”
One of six children, Behan has seen his sister and her husband suffer miscarriages. That experience has made him more passionate and given him more resolve to try to get Obama to publicly change his position.
After about three months of writing Behan received a form letter from the White House. There have been about 17 more since. The generic replies thank him for writing and sometimes acknowledge the topic.
The teen also debated the issue in an editorial in Spark, a well-known student magazine at Lakota East.
“He’s always had a deep respect for life,” said Behan’s mother, Jude Behan. “We’re very proud of him. This was not initiated by us.”
She said her son is dedicated to the letter-writing campaign and is self-motivated. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Today, Pope Benedict XVI, four days removed from the anniversary of his election, turns 83. Happy Birthday Pope Benedict XVI!
Pray for our Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ.
From a Catholic point of view, retiring Supreme Court Justice Stevens’ extreme commitment to supporting unlimited abortion in our country is clearly one of his worst legacies as a justice, and one most likely to be mirrored by whoever is chosen to replace him by President Obama.
There are other reasons to look back with a critical eye on Stevens’ tenure on the court, however, and blogger Lexington at The Economist highlights what he regards as the worst opinion that Stevens’ authored: the majority opinion in Kelo v New London, in which Stevens and the liberal majority of the court held that the constitutional powers of “eminent domain” can be used by local government not only to secure land for true “public use” such as building roads or public buildings, but to secure land for private development. In simply terms: Kelo means your city can force you to sell your home to make room for a new shopping center.
Kelo is certainly one of the worst decisions of recent years (giving far more real room for abuse of power by large corporations than the Citizens United decision, which Obama demagogued in his state of the union address) and underscores in an important way how the “progressives protect the little guy while conservative protect big business” narrative fundamentally misses the real and more complicated dynamics at play in our polity.
My second post using clips from the Birth of Freedom video produced by the Acton Institute. As historian Susan Wise Bauer, justly popular in home schooling circles for her superb The History of the Ancient World and The History of the Medieval World, indicates in the video above, defenses of slavery based upon the Bible often confused descriptive passages of the Bible, written in ages where slavery was as common as complex machines are in ours, with prescriptive commands that slavery was right and just. Additionally, defenders of slavery using the Bible did not work out fully the logical implications of their position. For example, if Saint Paul’s comments regarding slavery meant that slavery was just, would absolute monarchies also be just based upon Paul’s statements to obey the authority of the Roman Empire? If slavery was good based upon Saint Paul’s statements, did that mean that enslavement of whites was good since the vast majority of slaves Saint Paul would have had contact with would have been white? Using the Bible to defend slavery leads to endless questions of this type as the abolitionists at the time pointed out.
Perhaps one of the more elaborate defenses of slavery using religion was that of Richard Furman in a letter to the Governor of South Carolina, John Lyde Wilson, in 1822. A Baptist pastor, Furman was born in Esopus, New York in 1755. A preacher of unusual power, he was appointed as the Baptist pastor of the High Hills of Santee Baptist Church in South Carolina at the age of 19. An ardent patriot during the Revolution, he became pastor of the First Baptist Church in Charleston in 1787.
A strong believer in education, he founded literary societies, academies, literacy campaigns and local Bible and tract societies. With his leadership, Baptists in South Carolina founded Columbian College in 1821, now known as George Washington University.
Furman began his career viewing slavery as an undoubted evil. By the end of his career he owned slaves and had enlisted the Bible in defense of the “peculiar institution”.
It would be easy to simply view Furman as a hypocrite and a monster. However, such is not the case. He was a highly educated man and a convinced Christian, and his life contained many charitable works, some of which were for blacks, slave and free alike. The truly depressing fact while reading the very well written defense of slavery below, is the recognition that Furman in many ways was a very good man working very hard to defend the indefensible. The attempted slave insurrection of Denmark Versey prompted Furman to write the letter. Furman’s letter to the Governor of South Carolina: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
The presentation of a mediocre image of Jesus is especially dangerous today because the world as a whole has become much more mediocre than it was, say, 150 years ago. The sense for greatness and depth has completely receded, even on a purely natural level. In the industrialized world which is viewed by Tellihard de Chardin as “progress”, in which the machine has replaced the tool and the computer ideal has captivated many people, in which education increases its breadth and loses its depth; in such an age, the presentation of a mediocre image of the personality of Christ is harder to recognize for what it is because it fits in so well with our mediocre world. The more our age becomes one in which not only the air is poisoned by chemical elements, but the spiritual and intellectual atmosphere is poisoned by the mass media, the more one brings mediocrity into religion for pastoral reasons – Dietrich von Hildebrand, The Devastated Vineyard (1973)
I am opening this essay with a lengthy quote from Dietrich von Hildebrand, whom Pius XII called a 20th century Doctor of the Church, in order to make an important point at the very outset; that I am a Catholic romanticist, as I believe Hildebrand was.
To bring these two concepts together may be controversial in some ways, and in others, it may make perfect sense. I could say that I am a “Catholic traditionalist”, or that I am a “Catholic reactionary”, or even a “Catholic conservative”, but none of these words – traditionalist, reactionary, or conservative – fully and accurately portrays what I feel or what I think. I warn you in advance: prepare to be offended or delighted, and to either way be roused from complacency.
Romanticism is a word that has fallen into disrepute among most intellectual types that I know and read. Part of this disrepute comes from the assumption that romanticism is irrationalism. The word “romanticism” has come to describe, moreover, views of historical episodes or even entire epochs that elevate certain desirable qualities and events while disregarding or downplaying episodes that are no longer considered politically correct. Finally, romanticism is often confused with genuine reaction, a desire to somehow forcefully turn back the clock to earlier conditions.
I will address each of these claims in this essay, though the journey I propose to take you on will cover much more ground than these nagging objections.
I will do so because a healthy romanticism is of infinitely greater value to society and to the Catholic Church than any degree of mediocrity – the greatest enemy of romanticism in every field, be it morality, liturgy, aesthetics, politics, and many others. I believe Papal wisdom, which is often balanced and measured, has been misconstrued by mediocrities and re-cast in their own image, whereas in reality the Papacy has always maintained a healthy romanticism: that is, a view of the past that elevates and glorifies what was good and just, a view of the present that finds room for those good and just things, and a view of the future in which the past has not been exterminated in the name of “progress”, which often turns out to be nothing more than the soul-crushing mediocrity denounced by Hildebrand.
Let me be clear on what my definition of Catholic Romanticism is: it is an appeal, a passion you might even say, for the greatest aesthetic trends in the history of the Catholic Church, and a rejection, for the most part, of the modern aesthetic of the typical Novus Ordo church house. It is not limited to, or even mostly found in, the era typically considered “Romantic”, though there were amazing and beautiful spiritual works produced during that time (Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, Schubert’s Ave Maria, etc). My use of the word “romantic” may well be idiosyncratic and that may rub certain people the wrong way. Fair enough. I distinguish Catholic Romanticism from Catholic traditionalism only by the degree of passion for the aesthetic spiritual experience, and in no doctrinal or philosophical or theological or moral sense.
Because I am a passionate romanticist, I am a passionate Catholic as well. And I believe I have become more “conservative” over the years precisely because of romanticism, though no one should take that to mean I am some kind of rigid political conservative. This was the essence of my earlier essay on my conversion (re-entry, if one wishes to be technical) to Catholicism through music. This was, if I may say so now, an aesthetic romantic conversion. That isn’t to say that facts and logic (reason) played no role. There are truths, however, conveyed through aesthetics that are barely comprehensible to the human intellect, but which are a useful, even necessary compliment to that intellect.