Monthly Archives: March 2011
Lent is a time for confronting evil, especially the evil within us. Today is Ash Wednesday. The origins of the use of ashes on Ash Wednesday is lost in the mists of Church history. The first pope to mention Ash Wednesday, although the custom was very old by his time, was Pope Urban II. At the Council of Clermont in 1095, the same Council at which the Pope issued his world altering call for the First Crusade, the Council handed down this decree (among others): 10-11. No layman shall eat meat after the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday until Easter. No cleric shall eat meat from Quinquagesima Sunday until Easter.
That the first pope to mention Ash Wednesday was the same pope who launched the First Crusade is very appropriate. Although even many Catholics may not realize this today, from first to last the Crusades were a penitential rite for the remission of sins. One of the foremost modern historian of the Crusades, Thomas Madden, notes this:
During the past two decades, computer-assisted charter studies have demolished that contrivance. Scholars have discovered that crusading knights were generally wealthy men with plenty of their own land in Europe. Nevertheless, they willingly gave up everything to undertake the holy mission. Crusading was not cheap. Even wealthy lords could easily impoverish themselves and their families by joining a Crusade. They did so not because they expected material wealth (which many of them had already) but because they hoped to store up treasure where rust and moth could not corrupt. They were keenly aware of their sinfulness and eager to undertake the hardships of the Crusade as a penitential act of charity and love. Europe is littered with thousands of medieval charters attesting to these sentiments, charters in which these men still speak to us today if we will listen. Of course, they were not opposed to capturing booty if it could be had. But the truth is that the Crusades were notoriously bad for plunder. A few people got rich, but the vast majority returned with nothing.
Pope Urban II was clear on this point in calling for the first Crusades when he reminded the chivalry of Europe of their manifold sins and called them to repentance through the Crusade: Continue reading
The five minute window between approximately 5:16 and 5:21 p.m. is my least favorite time of the day. Not only am I usually waiting for a bus that has about a 25% chance of showing up, that’s when both the sports radio talk show that I listen to and the Michael Medved show hit commercial breaks. This leaves me a few options: turn off the darned radio for a few minutes, see if one of the FM stations is playing a good song, or flip to Sean Hannity. Perhaps out of some yearning to perform an daily act of penance I often choose option three. (To understand why this is a quasi-penitential act for me, you can read my post about Hannity here.) At least he usually has on a guest during this time slot who is both more informative and entertaining than he is – a low bar to be sure.
Today he had two guests, both Muslim. One was a woman that I’ve heard on his show before. I am not sure if she is currently a practicing Muslim, but she clearly thinks that it is in the thrall of radicals, and she makes this clear by practically shouting each word that she speaks. The other gentleman was a “moderate” Muslim. The few minutes of the exchange that I listened to largely consisted of the former insisting that the latter’s abhorrence of sharia law and radicalism was a minority viewpoint within Islam, and the latter insisting that he represented the majority viewpoint. Neither really advanced any supporting evidence for either viewpoint save to just insist more fervently in their respective positions. Thrilling radio.
Before tuning out to return to the vitally important discussion of the NCAA tournament (perhaps an even stricter form of penance), the man said something that struck me as rather bizarre. He stated that he did not think that any religion was any better than any other, and that to believe that one’s own religion was superior to other religions was a sign of arrogance.
Come again? Continue reading
Before jumping into the topic, I want to say “thank you” to Tito and the entire staff for the invitation to contribute to TAC. I’m humbled and honored – and I hope to meet the fine standards already established here. It’s gonna mean more reliance on a dictionary and thesaurus, and the use of something I’ve seen referred to as “rational thinking”, but that’s a challenge I’m willing to undertake. Readers of my blog Acts of the Apostasy are familiar with my style; as my masthead says, “Orthodox commentary on heterodox hooligans – serious; satirical; humorous; faithful.” I can’t guarantee the most erudite (I had to look that up) commentary, but hopefully it will spark some worthwhile thoughts and conversations. So let’s begin…
Lent starts tomorrow. Ash Wednesday. A time to tighten our belts, wash our faces, deep-fry some haddock…
…and exorcise our homes of those eeeeevvilllll incandescent light bulbs.
That’s right – according to the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change, your Lent will be meaningless if you don’t focus on creating a more sustainable and just world. It’s all about forgoing plastic shopping bags and installing CFL’s. Forget about growing in holiness. It’s all about glowing in fluorescence-ness.
Ever since people finished identifying “the American Dream” — the idea that in the US in particular and the New World in general somehow allowed people to escape the hidebound social structures of the Old World and better themselves via their own efforts — people have been worried that it is on the point of dying. Americans continue to show an an unusual degree of belief in the ability those who work hard to better themselves by their own efforts. For instance, in the 1999 International Social Survey, 61% of Americans agreed that “people get rewarded for their effort”, whereas only 41% of Japanese agreed, 33% of British and 23% of French. This belief has actually increased in recent decades. In 2005 the New York Times reported that while in 1983 only about 60% Americans agreed that “It is possible to start out poor, work hard and become rich” by 2005 nearly 80% of Americans agreed with that statement.
And yet, those who study inter-generational income mobility have been increasingly worried in recent decades that despite American’s belief that people can work hard and get ahead, that it is becoming increasingly difficult for people to actually achieve this in the US. In a lengthy report by the liberal think thank Center for American Progress, Tom Hertz of American university brings together a number of the recent studies on intergenerational income mobility in the US as compared to other countries, showing how people who are born into the lower income quartiles in the United States are less likely to reach the top levels of income than in other countries such as Germany, Sweden or Denmark. Continue reading
Reading a rather cursory opinion piece this morning (calling for federal spending to be decreased) it occurred to me that there’s an interesting symmetry to what the more aggressive advocates of tax increases and spending cuts suggest:
The most passionate tax increase advocates frame their calls for tax increases in terms of some prior level of taxation: “We should roll back all the Bush tax cuts and return to the tax rates people payed under Clinton. We all remember the ’90’s; the world didn’t end when the top marginal tax rate was 39.6%” or “By golly, we should go back to the tax tables that were in force under that ‘socialist’ Eisenhower. 91% top marginal rate. That’ll teach those corporate fat cats to vote themselves bonuses.”
Similarly, when passionate spending cutters explain their plans, they tend to phrase it in terms of rolling back to a previous level of spending: “These ‘draconian’ cuts in fact only represent a return to 2006 spending levels. Did we starve in the streets then? Did the world end?” Continue reading
Hattip to Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. The above video features the latest sting operation of James O’Keefe. The President of the NPR foundation meets with alleged members of an Islamic group dedictated to spreading Sharia, and the merriment begins!
The Daily Caller’s report focuses on the liberal hysteria aspect of the meeting:
In a new video released Tuesday morning by conservative filmmaker James O’Keefe, Schiller and Betsy Liley, NPR’s director of institutional giving, are seen meeting with two men who, unbeknownst to the NPR executives, are posing as members of a Muslim Brotherhood front group. The men, who identified themselves as Ibrahim Kasaam and Amir Malik from the fictitious Muslim Education Action Center (MEAC) Trust, met with Schiller and Liley at Café Milano, a well-known Georgetown restaurant, and explained their desire to give to $5 million to NPR because, “the Zionist coverage is quite substantial elsewhere.”
On the tapes, Schiller wastes little time before attacking conservatives. The Republican Party, Schiller says, has been “hijacked by this group.” The man posing as Malik finishes the sentence by adding, “the radical, racist, Islamaphobic, Tea Party people.” Schiller agrees and intensifies the criticism, saying that the Tea Party people aren’t “just Islamaphobic, but really xenophobic, I mean basically they are, they believe in sort of white, middle-America gun-toting. I mean, it’s scary. They’re seriously racist, racist people.”
Schiller goes on to describe liberals as more intelligent and informed than conservatives. “In my personal opinion, liberals today might be more educated, fair and balanced than conservatives,” he said. Continue reading
You are on target Klavan on the Culture! Knowledge of other cultures and their history is a great thing. Multiculturalism, however, has become merely a mantra for those who wish to excuse bad behavior, here and abroad, if the malefactors can claim favored victim status bestowed by the forces of the Left. Curiously, or pehaps not so curiously, it is usually embraced by political liberals, who are often notoriously intolerant towards domestic political opponents who have ideas that differ one iota from their own. Continue reading
Every now and then someone writes a blog post or column where my response is, “Man, I wish I’d written that.” Pat Archbold has written such a column on the National Catholic Register. Normally I’d highlight just the best parts, but then NCR might sue me for copying and pasting the whole thing. So go read it.
No special reason to post this, other than I have always loved this speech, and one video containing four perormances of the “band of brothers” speech from Henry V is too sweet not to share with our readers. Courage, memory and love are powerful motivators, and this speech is a reminder of just how powerful: Continue reading
Father Scott Hurd serves as the liaison with the USCCB for the implementation of the Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum Cœtibus here in America. He has been looking at the options available to all Anglican groups in establishing a U.S. Anglican Ordinariate.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops created an ad hoc committee led by Donald Cardinal Wuerl last September that was charged with assisting the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in implementing the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Cœtibus.
Today Father Hurd concelebrated Mass at Our Lady of Walsingham (OLW) Anglican Use Church as part of his visit to Houston. After Mass there was a tiny reception outside the church which was followed by a short talk with a question and answer period for the parishioners of Our Lady of Walsingham.
Some major points that were learned today concerning the process as to where we are in possibly establishing a U.S. Anglican Ordinariate. Please note that none of this official.:
Neither praise nor threats will distance me from God.
Blessed Clemens von Galen
The Nazis hated and feared Clemens August Graf von Galen in life and no doubt they still hate and fear him, at least those now enjoying the amenities of some of the less fashionable pits of Hell. Going into Lent, I am strongly encouraged by the story of Blessed von Galen. I guess one could come up with a worse situation than being a Roman Catholic bishop in Nazi Germany in 1941, and confronting a merciless anti-Christian dictatorship that was diametrically opposed to the Truth of Christ, but that would certainly do for enough of a challenge for one lifetime for anyone. (Hitler privately denounced Christianity as a Jewish superstition and looked forward after the War to “settling accounts”, as he put it, with Christianity in general and Roman Catholicism in particular.)
Priests who spoke out against the Third Reich were being rounded up and shipped off to concentration camps. What was a bishop to do in the face of such massive evil? Well, for the Bishop of Munster, Clemens von Galen, there could be only one answer.
A German Count, von Galen was from one of the oldest aristocratic families in Westphalia. Always a German patriot, the political views of von Galen would have made my own conservatism seem a pale shade of pink in comparison. Prior to becoming a bishop, he was sometimes criticized for a haughty attitude and being unbending. He was chosen Bishop of Munster in 1933 only after other candidates, no doubt recognizing what a dangerous position it would be with the Nazis now in power, had turned it down. I am certain it did not hurt that he was an old friend of Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII.
Von Galen immediately demonstrated that he had not agreed to become Bishop of Munster in order to avoid danger. He successfully led a fight against the Nazi attempt to take over Catholic schools, citing article 21 of the Concordat between the Vatican and Nazi Germany. He then began a campaign, often using humor and ridicule, against the Aryan racial doctrines proposed by Alfred Rosenberg, chief Nazi race theorist, and a man even some high level Nazis thought was little better than a crank. Von Galen argued that Christianity totally rejected racial differences as determining how groups should be treated, and that all men and women were children of God and brothers and sisters in Christ. The Bishop spoke out against Nazi attacks on the “Jewish Old Testament” stating that Holy Writ was Holy Writ and that the Bible could not be altered to suit current prejudices.
In early 1937 he was summoned by Pope Pius XI to confer with him on an encyclical in German, highly unusual for an encyclical not to be written in Latin as the primary language, that the Pope was in the process of drafting. The encyclical was the blistering Mit Brennender Sorge (With Burning Heart) that the Pope ordered be read out in every parish in Germany on Palm Sunday 1937. A head long assault on almost every aspect of National Socialism, it may be read here.
The language in the encyclical was blunt, direct and no doubt benefited from von Galen’s input and his experience from the battles he was waging with the Nazis. Continue reading
Among the cuts to the budget:
* Milk purchases (-$60 m)
* DELAP (dairy) (-$290 m)
* Agricultural Research (-$71 m)
* USDA Single Family Housing Guarantees (-$173 m)
* USDA Farm Loans (-$26 m)
* Watershed Programs (-$50 m)
* Public Telecommunications and Facilities Program (-$20 m)
* EPA Homeland Security Activities (-$36 m)
* Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (-$125 m)
* Wildland Fire Suppression Program (-$250 m)
* HUD University Community Fund (-$25 m)
* EPA State Revolving Funds (-$950 m)
* EPA State and Tribal Grants – Watershed, Airshed, and Climate Change (-$187 m)
* Biomass Crop Assistance Program (-$100 m)
* National Park Service, excluding LWCF (-$105 m)
* Career Pathways (-$125 m)
* SCSEP (-275 m)
* FEMA State and Local Grants (-$425 m)
* FBI Construction (-$133 m)
* Rural Development S&E (-$20 m)
* HUD Energy Innovation Fund (-$50 m)
* Treasury Asset Forfeiture Funds (-$333)
* Animal and Plant Health Programs (APHIS) (-$27 m)
* HHS Community Economic Development (-$16 m)
* HHS Mentoring Children of Prisoners (-$24 m)
* Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (-$276 m)
Think about the jobs lost ! The tragedy ! How can the president be so ruthless and cruel! Does he not care about the well being of American citizens – those left in the shadows by wall-street neocon capitalists? Where is the outrage?!
A spot of blood and grease on the pages of English history.
Something for the Weekend. The song Henry VIII by the endlessly talented folks at history for music lovers to the tune of the song Money by Abba.
When he ascended to the throne of England Henry VIII was popularly known as the Golden Hope of England. His father Henry VII had never been loved by the people of England: a miser and a distinctly unheroic figure no matter what Shakespeare would write in Richard III. He had brought the end of the War of the Roses and peace to England, but that was about as much credit as his subjects would give the grasping, unlovable Henry Tudor. His son by contrast looked like an Adonis when young, strong and athletic. He had a sharp mind and had been well-educated, intended, ironically, for a career in the Church before the death of his elder brother Arthur. He was reputed, correctly, to be pious. He had considerable charism in his youth and knew how to make himself loved with a well timed laugh or smile, and loved he was, by the nobles, commons, his wife Katherine, and the Church. Few reigns started more auspiciously than that of Henry, eighth of that name.
By the end of his reign he was widely despised by most his subjects. Called a crowned monster behind his back, his reign had brought religious turmoil to England and domestic strife. The best known symbols of his reign were the headman’s axe, the stake and the boiling pot in which he had some of the luckless individuals who roused his fury boiled to death.
It of course is small wonder for a Catholic to have little love for Henry VIII and his reign, but the distaste for Henry extends well beyond members of the Church. Winston Churchill, the great English statesman and historian, in his magisterial History of the English Speaking Peoples has this to say about the executions of Saint Thomas More and Saint John Fisher: Continue reading
Michael Potemera muses on the survival of two very different cultural institutions – Playboy and National Review:
I just caught the last couple of minutes of a cable-TV documentary about Playboy magazine, which featured a clip of Hugh Hefner opining about the huge cultural impact the magazine has had in its 50-plus years of existence. And it struck me as an illustration that, even in the realm of culture and ideas, it’s the supply side that makes the greatest difference. Two young men in the mid-1950s had vastly different ideas of what the American audience really wanted and needed, and ventured forth to create magazines that reflected these views. Hugh Hefner, convinced that America was too sexually conservative and really needed to let its hair down, founded Playboy in 1953. Bill Buckley, convinced that America was too politically liberal and needed to restore its older, small-r republican virtues that had been eroded in the Progressive and New Deal eras, founded National Review in 1955.
Now, think about how these ventures must have appeared at the time. Playboy was an outrage to conventional pieties about sexuality. National Review was an outrage to conventional pieties about politics. How much money would you have bet, at the time, that either one would survive for very long? “A dirty magazine? Won’t people be embarrassed to buy it?” “A magazine that’s to the right of Eisenhower and Nixon? Are there that many real fringies out there?” But the supply side takes a chance. And, quite amazingly, both ventures succeeded beyond imagining. Playboy bore fruit in the Sexual Revolution, which may already have reached its high point but shows little sign of receding. And from National Review emerged Reaganism, and conservatism as the broadly dominant system of political thought in recent years.
An extraordinarily prescient person, writing in the mid-1950s, might have predicted one of these triumphs. But anyone who predicted that both of the magazines, simultaneously, would have a massive, culturally transformative impact on our country, would have been dismissed as, at best, an extremely confused thinker.
But the truth is, we are a confusing country. We contain, in Walt Whitman’s sense, multitudes. Even as we prize national unity, we resist homogeneity; even as we embrace populist fads, we remain suspicious of conformism. It makes me wonder: Which two implausible — and apparently mutually contradictory — cultural ventures of our time will end up shaping the American life of the next half century?
Certainly fodder for further thought. There is a superficial explanation to this seeming contradiction. In a country that at the time both publications were launched numbered 200 million citizens, and where now north of 300 million live, it’s not unreasonable for disparate publications to attract very large audiences. If you draw, say, 100,000 subscribers (and I have no idea if this is anywhere close to how many people subscribe to either publication, now or ever), that’s barely more than .o1% of the population. So it’s easy to see why the same country can pack arena-sized mega Churches on Sunday while also making pornographic sites the biggest profit makers on the Internet. To put it simply, there are a lot of people, and they’re going to like very different things.
But of course that really is Potomera’s main point. We are a culture deeply divided, and that division seems to be getting more intense. While the pron industry is doing quite well, conservative (traditional, Orthodox, whatever adjective you prefer) religious institutions are also faring quite well. Gay marriage is gaining some traction while at the same time larger and larger families are filling the pews every Sunday. Admittedly, there is some overlap as some of the commenters observe (not to mention that William F. Buckley wrote articles for Playboy at one time), but by and large we’re talking about – dare I say it? – two Americas.
In the comments section I wrote the following, and it’s hopefully worth repeating here. One of the things to consider is the standing of both magazines within the movements that they helped launch. Playboy is considered tame nowadays, what, with the explosion of raunchier magazines like Hustler, and even more so with the easy availability of hard core pornography on the Web.
As for National Review, while there has been an explosion of other conservative magazines, institutions, and other media, NR remains one of the most influential journals of conservative opinion. Sure some might think it has gone “soft” in its own right (including yours truly, at least on occasion), but it is still no doubt more influential within its own sphere than Playboy is nowadays.
What that says about our society, and where it is trending, is perhaps more troublesome.
I doubt if there has ever been a bleaker inaugural of a President than that which awaited Abraham Lincoln on March 4, 1861. Seven slave states of the deep South had already seceded from the Union, stretching from South Carolina to Texas. Secession movements were active in every other slave state except for Delaware. The nation was shattering in two, a process that James Buchanan had been impotent to stop. North and South, all Americans now were eagerly wondering how the new President would address this overwhelming crisis. Lincoln realized that this speech would be carefully read and he chose his words carefully as he set out the policy of his new administration:
Fellow-citizens of the United States:
In compliance with a custom as old as the government itself, I appear before you to address you briefly, and to take, in your presence, the oath prescribed by the Constitution of the United States, to be taken by the President “before he enters on the execution of this office.”
I do not consider it necessary at present for me to discuss those matters of administration about which there is no special anxiety or excitement.
Lincoln gets right to the point. The secession crisis was all anyone in the country was thinking about, and there was no use pretending otherwise. Continue reading
About three months ago a groundbreaking development with significant nationwide implications occurred in Wisconsin.
No, I’m not talking about the showdown between Gov. Scott Walker and public employee unions, nor even about the Green Bay Packers winning the Super Bowl.
I am referring to the Dec. 8, 2010, declaration by Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay that an apparition of the Virgin Mary to Belgian immigrant Adele Brise in 1859 was “worthy of belief” and of veneration by the faithful.
The declaration makes the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wis., the first — and to date only — site in the United States of an approved Marian apparition. The site is only the second in North America (besides Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City) to be so designated. More background on the apparitions and on the visionary herself can be found here at the shrine’s website.
As fellow TAC blogger Dave Hartline has noted, approved Marian apparitions tend to coincide to some extent with events that can be described as trials or upheavals in the immediate region, or on a national or worldwide scale. Notable examples include Fatima, which occurred just as the Communist Russian Revolution took place in 1917; the apparitions at Kibeho, Rwanda in 1981, which foretold the Rwandan genocide; and Our Lady of Zeitoun (Egypt) in 1968, occurring shortly after Egypt’s defeat in the Six Day War.
Did the pattern hold true in this case? It would appear so. First, the apparitions themselves occurred as the nation was sliding rapidly toward the Civil War. The apparition on Oct. 9, 1859, occurred only one week before abolitionist John Brown’s famous raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia — an event which convinced many Americans that civil war could no longer be avoided.
Second, and much closer to home, was the devastating forest fire that ravaged Peshtigo, Wis. and surrounding areas 12 years later — almost to the day — in 1871. The Peshtigo fire killed between 1,200 and 2,500 people — up to 10 times as many as the much more famous Great Chicago Fire which broke out the same night. The shrine which Adele and her family had built to Our Lady was in the path of the flames, but was spared after residents gathered there to pray.
With all that in mind, I can’t help but suspect an element of Divine Providence in the timing of the shrine’s approval. When Mary originally appeared, it was to a struggling frontier people, lacking proper formation in their faith, facing the upheavals of nature and of imminent civil war.
Now, just as another wrenching cultural battle breaks out in the Badger State itself, the Church grants Her blessing to this apparition, and makes her a patroness that can be claimed by all Americans. Perhaps her intercession could help us through the moral and social wilderness in which we find ourselves today?
For the last year I have studied Libertarianism. Here are just some of the things that I learned and that I am grateful for during this time of study and emersion into Libertarian thought.
1. It helped to motivate me to get my personal investments (for eventual retirement someday) in order.
2. It gave me a better understanding of economics and classical liberalism.
3. It awoke me to many of the problems with the Fed and the fractional reserve banking system.
4. I appreciate many aspects of revisionist history which it promotes. The history we learn in our youth is far too simplistic. History and life (past & present) in general is far more complex than what many folks have told us.
5. I appreciate its position against the warfare state and Neoconservatism.
6. Many in the Libertarian movement were very kind to me. I would like to publicly thank Tom Woods, Lew Rockwell Jr., Robert P. Murphy, and probably others whose names did not come immediately to mind.
As anyone who has read my posts this last year on The American Catholic knows, I have struggled to get my mind around about what is both good and bad about Libertarianism. (Refer to my archives.) I really appreciate the feedback that many have given in the comments of my posts. Thank you my friends! Like all of you I am struggling to engage more of reality. I desire to see the truth, beauty and good in the world & cosmos.
Now here’s the other critical side of my judgment. Here is what bothers me about Libertarianism.
1. It’s an ideology – political, economic, & social/cultural. It’s an ideology though never-the-less.
2. This ideology naturally leads to an embrace of anarchy.
3. There are many aspects of this ideology which conflicts with Catholic Social Ethics and Thought.
4. For example, the presupposition which drives this ideology is that the State is evil. To be sure it can be evil, but it’s not inherently so. In a fallen world the State is good and it should promote the common good.
5. Capitalism has big problems (as does Socialism). Liberalism, either in its classical or modern forms, also has major problems.
6. Too many Libertarians get the moral issues wrong. They fail to understand the true meaning of family and marriage and the disordered nature of homosexuality. They fail to recognize the evils of abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, and euthanasia. Often times they promote evil aspects of society, i.e. pornography, gambling, etc.
At the end of the day it’s a shoe size which is one size too small for me. Many aspects of these Libertarian shoes make them a beautiful pair of shoes which can be very attractive at different times and at different angles. I really tried to wear them, but in the end they caused me to have blisters.
Personally I feel much more at home following the below political/economic/cultural websites:
The below video perfectly shows how I feel about this entire matter…