20

How Not to Be Accused of Being Islamophobic!

Right you are Klavan on the Culture!  Principles are all well and good, until upholding them places us in physical danger.  Then the only reasonable reaction is to make endless excuses for those who view murder as a means of debate, and to exercise canine like eagerness to capitulate to their demands.  Comdey Central, which finds much humor in spitting upon Christianity, capitulated quite quickly when the sensibilities of muslims was offended, right after they began receiving death threats from some adherents of the religion of peace. Continue Reading

21

Royalty and Ritual

Early tomorrow morning, the world will be watching the royal wedding of Prince William to Miss Catherine Middleton.  While there are bound to be a wide range of critiques that describe a misplaced prioritization of fanfare over marriage, I for one think there is something about the pomp and circumstance that surrounds royal customs from which modern man can take a lesson.  Some time ago, I wrote about how our culture has lost a sense of formality, and along with it an appreciation for ritual and solemnity:

 

At the heart of liturgy is the concept of ritual.  Instead of fitting the Liturgy into our lives, it is in the liturgy that we are taken up into something much bigger, the cosmic worship of God.  The liturgy is a great drama that is being played out on a cosmic scale, and simply by being there, we are taken up into this drama.  This is exactly why having specific rituals in the liturgy is so important.  When there are “lines” that need recited, “actions” or “stage directions” that need followed, the structure of the liturgy itself teaches that the liturgy is bigger than us; we are taught that it is not something that we can create, but something that must be received.  This is all a very complicated way of saying that the liturgy is an objective reality.

 

In contrast, when the liturgy becomes the result of the creative efforts of a “liturgy committee,” the congregation is given the impression that the main focus of the action is not on God but on the people, that we are the creators, not God.  How the liturgy is presented and the way in which it includes us affects how we come to think of the essence of the liturgy and of ourselves as human agents.  This is the basic principle of sacramentality in its most general form.  The principle states that “we are how we act.”  In other words, the way in which we act forms the views we hold and even the type of person we become.  If the Mass is presented as a ritual, people are given the correct impression that it is something bigger than themselves, a sacred action into which they are taken up.  They then come to realize that they are not the center of reality.  If it is presented as self-created, then people come to see themselves as self-creators.

 

I was struck by the objections people raised to the fact that Miss Middleton will be arriving to the wedding by car instead of by carriage.  Whether it was done on purpose, I cannot say, but it strikes me that Miss Middleton, before the wedding, is not in fact royalty, but rather a commoner.  Particularly noteworthy is the fact that the newly married couple will depart from the church by carriage (the same one used by Princess Diana at her wedding), for at that time Miss Middleton will be Princess Kate.  I would hate to concentrate solely on the carriage example, for it is but one of what will undoubtedly be a series of rituals that make the wedding not just any wedding, but a royal wedding.  And I certainly don’t wish to get into the debate over the suitableness of this particular action, but rather to point out the implicit ritual and significance it carries.  It is a nice reminder that actions, in particular rituals, do in fact matter.  And it is ritual that gives an event solemnity.  And solemnity is not necessarily somber, but in fact can be joyful.  In the words of C.S. Lewis:

 

This quality will be understood by anyone who really understands the Middle English word solempne. This means something different, but not quite different, from modern English solemn. Like solemn it implies the opposite of what is familiar, free and easy, or ordinary. But unlike solemn it does not suggest gloom, oppression or austerity. The ball in the first act of Romeo and Juliet was a ‘solemnity.’  The feast at the beginning of Gawain and the Green Knight is very much a solemnity.  A great mass by Mozart or Beethoven is as much a solemnity in its hilarious gloria as in its poignant crucifixes est.  Feasts are, in this sense, more solemn than fasts. Easter is solempne, Good Friday is not. The Solempne is the festal which is also the stately and the ceremonial, the proper occasion for pomp — and the very fact that pompous is now used only in a bad sense measures the degree to which we have lost the old idea of ‘solemnity.’ To recover it you must think of a court ball, or a coronation, or a victory march, as these things appear to people who enjoy them; in an age when every one puts on his oldest clothes to be happy in, you must re-awake the simpler state of mind in which people put on gold and scarlet to be happy in.   Above all, you must be rid of the hideous idea, fruit of a widespread inferiority complex, that pomp, on the proper occasions, has any connexion with vanity or self-conceit. A celebrant approaching the altar, a princess led out by a king to dance a minuet, a major-domo preceding the boar’s head at a Christmas feast — all these wear unusual clothes and move with calculated dignity. This does not mean they are vain, but that they are obedient; they are obeying the hoc age which presides over every solemnity. The modern habit of doing ceremonial things unceremoniously is no proof of humility; rather it proves the offender’s inability to forget himself in the rite, and his readiness to spoil for everyone else the proper pleasure of ritual (A Preface to Paradise Lost, emphasis added).

 

15

Superman: No Longer For The American Way

DC, in its never ending battle to get people to pay $3.00 for 20 pages of printed material, has Superman renouncing his citizenship in Action Comics 900.  Superman joins non-violent protesters in Iran and is chided for this by the national security adviser to the US President who fears this has created a major diplomatic incident.  Superman renounces his US citizenship on the spot because he is tired of his actions being construed as part of US foreign policy.  Go here to see the panels of the comic book. Continue Reading

4

Will Success Spoil Jeff Davis?

I was four years old when the Civil War centennial began and eight years old when I ended, but even I recall what a big hoopla it all was. In the midst of it all, Thomas Lawrence Connolley, who would become the foremost historian of the Confederate Army of Tennessee, brought out a book in 1963 entitled Will Success Spoil Jeff Davis?, a satirical look at the often over the top aspects of the centennial observations. The book is a howlingly funny look at Civil War mania and still is relevant today. Here is a tiny sample:

The easiest way to publish something on the War is to submit an article to a historical journal. Better still, start your own journal. There are some two thousand in print and, judging by the tone of the articles, many of them are in need of material. Journal writing has its advantages. If he cannot write good prose, the writer can bury himself in footnotes. The footnote is a clever device, designed to confuse the general reader and absolve the author of any lawsuits. For example, consider a typical footnote to the statement “General Crumbley was a bastard.” 34

34. Ibid, see also, Cornstalk, Bastards in Gray, loc. sic.* op. sit., loc. site, sob. Many maintain that General Crumbley was not a bastard. See Thirty Years View by Mrs. Crumbley, op. sit., sic. hoc. Major Kumpley maintained that the General may have been a bastard but that he was indeed a “magnificent old bastard at that/* See diary of Isaac Bumpley, Moose University Archives, XXCI, pt, 2, Sept. 21, 1863. In addition to being a bastard, the General was also a Mason. See diary of Cornelius Kraut, 1st Wisconsin Infantry, SWMVHR (XXI, Je. 45).

Continue Reading

24

Father Michael Pfleger Removed and Suspended

Cardinal George is to the left and Father Pfleger is to the right.

Updates at the bottom. . .

The Chicago Tribune and WBEZ are reporting that Cardinal George of Chicago has removed from his parish of Saint Sabina and suspended Father Michael Pfleger sacramental priestly faculties ultimately due to his disobedience.

In a public radio show Father Pfleger threatened to leave the Catholic Church if he were to be reassigned to a Catholic High School by Cardinal George, his archdiocesan archbishop.

Cardinal George was disappointed in this particular response, “If that is truly your attitude, you have already left the Catholic Church and are therefore not able to pastor a Catholic parish(.)”

A Catholic priest’s inner life is governed by his promises, motivated by faith and love, to live chastely as a celibate man and to obey his bishop. . .Breaking either promise destroys his vocation and wounds the Church. . .With this letter, your ministry as pastor of Saint Sabina Parish and your sacramental faculties as a priest of the Archdiocese are suspended.

An “associate” minister of Saint Sabina’s Church, Kimberly Lymore, promised to have an “official” response from the Saint Sabina “leadership” to Cardinal George’s actions.

Well I have to say is Father Pfleger had certainly pushed the boundaries of patience on this one.  To say that this was a “shock” or unexpected would be disingenuous of Father Pfleger.

Cardinal George is well within his authority as an apostle of the Church to govern his flock as stated in his role as Archbishop.

Obedience is certainly expected of all archdiocesan priests, but to have Father Pfleger not only disobey the wishes of his archbishop, but publicly threaten to leave the Church if he were to be reassigned to another post went beyond disobedience.

Pray for Father Pfleger, Cardinal George, and the parish of Saint Sabina’s.

_._

ThePulp.it has a roundup of the coverage on the suspension of Father Michael Pfleger from the Catholic blogosphere and the secular media here.

_._

Hat tip to Chris Johnson of the Midwest Conservative Journal.

_._

Update I: Here is the letter Cardinal George handed to Father Pfleger personally simultaneously telling him he doesn’t want to ‘hear it’ about his options.  For the letter click here.

40

Obama Releases Birth Certificate. Why Now?

Today President Obama released his long form birth certificate.  Go here to view the video.  This should convince all but the deeply conspiratorial among us, although since I include most of the Birther movement in that category, I doubt if the release of the birth certicate will slow them down one iota.  I have long thought that Obama did not release his long form birth certificate because he secretly loved the Birthers, who allowed his allies to tar all Obama critics as being delusional nutcases.  What I find interesting is why did he decide to release his birth certificate now?

Continue Reading

ThePulp.it EXTRA: WEDNESDAY

ThePulp.it EXTRA is the title of a new series of posts that I will be contributing for The American Catholic .  It’s an idea first thought of by fellow blogger John Henry a few years back.  I’ll be posting some of the best that the Catholic Blogosphere has to offer every so often to highlight some great posts around Saint Blog’s.

I hope you enjoy it!

Pat McNamara is Catholic Because of History – Frank Weathers, YIMC

Making Sense of the Resurrection Discrepancies? – Msgr. Charles Pope

Women’s Head Coverings at Mass: I Told You So – Jimmy Akin

Use of Force to Defend a Church from Vandalism – Fr. Z

Easter in a Time of Scandal – Mark P. Shea, InsideCatholic

Fatima in Seven Easy Points – Taylor Marshall, Canterbury Tales

A Case for Hell – Ross Douthat, The New York Times

Ordinariate Comes to Life in Holy Week – Anna Arco & Simon Caldwell

Easter Sunday: Satanic Desecration at Georgia Church -S. Brinkmann

“He Descended to the Dead,” Easter Surprise – Sandro Magister, Chiesa

Anti-Christian Vandalism at PA Univ. during Holy Week – Lisa Graas

If you like this feature and want a regular update twice a day, head on over to ThePulp.it to get the best round-up of posts twice a day in Catholic blogging!

For ThePulp.it click here.

7

Looking Back at Lent: Why Do Penance?

Thinking back over Lent, one of the things that hits me, as it has before, is that I am much better at not doing things for Lent than doing things. Even moderately big changes in my daily routine such as “fasting” by having only one meal a day on Wednesdays and Fridays, or abstaining from alcohol entirely, are fairly doable. However, my resolutions to start each day be reading Morning Prayer, or reading the Pope’s second volume of Jesus of Nazareth, or blogging my way through all of Augustine’s Confessions — not so much.

That’s the point at which I find myself wondering: Is putting so much focus into not doing something a mistake? There is, after all, nothing wrong with eating, or with having my nightly beer or glass of wine. Why should God have any interest in my not doing these perfectly acceptable things? It’s not as if God gets satisfaction out of thinking, “Ah, it’s Lent. I do so look forward to all those little human creatures going in for a little bit of voluntary discomfort. I thrive on discomfort.”

So why give up a few pleasures for Lent — especially while at the same time failing in doing some positive things which would arguably be better things to do?

Well, obviously, the reason for penance is not that God wants us to be miserable. Continue Reading

Abe Lincoln in Illinois: Lincoln-Douglas Debate

The film Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940) has perhaps the best recreation of the Lincoln-Douglas debates ever put on film.  The debate portrayed has remarks culled from all the debates,  is an excellent recreation of the main arguments made by each of the men, and is evocative of their speaking styles.

Ironically neither of the actors portraying Lincoln and Douglas were Americans.  The actor portraying Douglas was Gene Lockhart, a Canadian.  If his voice sounds vaguely familiar to you, it is probably because you recall him as the judge in Miracle on 34th Street.  His daughter June Lockhart, of Lassie and Lost in Space fame, carried on the thespian tradition of the family.

Lincoln was portrayed by Raymond Massey, also a Canadian.  Massey was one of the great actors of his day and bore a strong physical resemblance to Lincoln.  Massey served in the Canadian Army in both World War I, where he saw combat on the Western Front as an artillery officer, and World War II, becoming a naturalized American citizen after World War II.  Like Lincoln he was a Republican and made a TV ad for Goldwater in the 1964 campaign.

  Here is a transcript from the film script of the debate: Continue Reading

9

Resurrection: The Rock Video

Robert Holmes “Rob” Bell Jr. is an American “megachurch” pastor and author of such trendy books as Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith, and Sex God: Exploring the Endless Connections between Sexuality and Spirituality. His latest book, Love Wins, which from what I can tell is an exploration of Christian universalism, has caused quite a stir of late.

I don’t know a great deal about Rob Bell, save for my stumbling on this video this morning of Rob Bell preaching on the Resurrection.

Now — ordinarily, you might think the the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead would be sufficient enough to provoke some stirring of human wonder in the listener.

Not so.

Rather, the resurrection (or Rob Bell’s speculations on the meaning of such) has to be accompanied by a hip modern rock soundtrack and a streaming psychedelic light show such as I might have enjoyed — oh, perhaps two decades ago, at a Grateful Dead concert, “under the influence.” To such an extent that, at least from my perspective, the content of his message is repressed, obscured by the barrage of the senses.

What is it with these modern, megachurch televangelists?

What does this say about the attention span of the intended audience?

Has the gospel become so boring that we really have to be entertained by it?

20

The Future of Catholic Schools

With the discussion relating to Catholic homeschooling last week, I was strongly reminded of this (very good) article on the future of Catholic schools in the spring issue of National Affairs which a good friend pointed me towards a while back. As the article points out, the issues facing Catholic schools are many, though perhaps the biggest are:

  • Public schools are no longer the explicitly Protestant institutions they were back in the 1900-1960 era
  • The teaching orders whose virtually free labor made Catholic schools relatively affordable in their golden age virtually ceased to exist in the decades following Vatican II
  • Changing demographics have moved Catholic populations away from many of the schools already built, and in this day and age building new ones is vastly more expensive

    This has left many dioceses struggling with whether to shutter schools, and many of the continuing urban Catholic schools serving students who are mostly not Catholic.

    The Archdiocese of New York, for example, reported in 2008 that, among its inner-city schools, nearly two-thirds of students lived below the poverty line and more than 90% were racial minorities. In Washington, D.C., as of 2007, more than 70% of students attending the lowest-income Catholic schools were non-Catholic. In Memphis’s inner-city “Jubilee” Catholic schools, as of 2008, 96% of students lived below the poverty line and 81% were non-Catholic. In fact, over the past 40 years, the portion of minority students in Catholic schools overall increased by 250%, and the share of non-Catholic students increased by 500%.
    Continue Reading

    14

    Christ Died For Your Sins? Don’t Be Silly!

    Who was delivered up for our sins, and rose again for our justification.

    Saint Paul, Romans 4:25

    Jamie Manson of the National Catholic Fishwrap Reporter doesn’t think much of the dogma of the Catholic Church that Christ died for our sins, viewing that as a silly pre-Vatican II guilt trip.  Unfortunately for her, two of the finest masters of the art of fisking decided to take notice of her scribblings.

    First up, Christopher Johnson at Midwest Conservative Journal who I have designated Defender of the Faith because of the number of times, he, a non-Catholic, has taken up the blogging cudgels in defense of the Faith:

    Here’s another.  At the National Catholic Reporter, Jamie Manson doesn’t want to know what happened on Good Friday as much as she wants to know why it happened:

    I’ve had more than one Catholic who grew up either before or on the cusp of Vatican II tell me horror stories of how they were taught that Jesus died because of their sins.

    “Horror stories of how they were taught that Jesus died because of their sins.”  I think you already know where Ms. Manson is going with this.

    This was a particularly heavy-handed way for priests and nuns to lay an even thicker coat of guilt on impressionable Catholic school children. Because they were sinners, Jesus had to suffer and die to redeem them. It was one rendering of the traditional theological interpretations of the crucifixion — that Jesus had to die to fulfill the Scriptures and that his death atoned for the sins of the world.

    Get ready for the customary condescending pat on the head.

    I know that countless people throughout the centuries have found profound, life-changing and even comforting meaning in this understanding of the Cross.

    Since Ms. Manson has much more important fish to fry(see what I did there?), she’ll let the rest of you have your little legend.

    But I’ve often felt that if we immerse ourselves in the accounts of Jesus’ arrest, passion, and death as told by the four Gospels, these texts can broaden and deepen our understanding of the crucifixion.

    I don’t know how much deeper one needs to go than getting one’s sins taken care of so that one can go home to the Father.

    It can help us make meaning of so much of the anguish that we witness in our world and in our church.

    I stand corrected.  Jesus died the most horribly agonizing death that it is possible to imagine in order to “help us make meaning of so much of the anguish that we witness in our world and in our church.”  Got it.

    Me, I’ve never ever been able to “make meaning” of diseases, wars, genocides, famines, earthquakes, tsunamis and other tragedies with their attendant human suffering.  I guess I’m not trying hard enough.

    When I read the passion narratives of the Gospels, I don’t hear simply that Jesus suffered and died for our sins. Rather, I hear the four evangelists very clearly say that Jesus’ suffering and death was the will of those who conspired against him — those whose political systems he had undermined, those whose religious convictions he had offended.

    Glad we’ve finally cleared that up.  Neither Romans nor Jews killed Christ.  It was the Republican Party and the religious Right.

    Continue Reading

    6

    Do The Wealthy Pay Their Share?

    Having linked last week to some discussion on whether the US is really becoming “Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%”, I was struck by this chart, which I saw a link to this morning, over at Carpe Diem, showing top marginal income tax rates versus percentage of income tax paid by the top 1% of earners since 1980.

    However, I thought it would be a lot more interesting if the chart showed the percentage of total income earned by the top 1%, and also showed the total federal tax liability (including Social Security and Medicare) rather than the just the income tax. Luckily, all this information is available easily on line. (Percent of taxes paid. Percent of total income. Historical tax tables.)

    Here’s the chart I produced with that data:

    Continue Reading

    5

    Anzac Day

     

    Today is Anzac Day.  It is remembered by me each year as a salute to the courage and self sacrifice it honors.  It commemorates the landing of the New Zealand and Australian troops at Gallipoli in World War I.  Although the effort to take the Dardanelles was ultimately unsuccessful, the Anzac troops demonstrated great courage and tenacity, and the ordeal the troops underwent in this campaign has a vast meaning to the peoples of New Zealand and Australia.

    At the beginning of the war the New Zealand and Australian citizen armies, illustrating the robust humor of both nations,  engaged in self-mockery best illustrated by this poem:

    We are the ANZAC Army

    The A.N.Z.A.C.

    We cannot shoot, we don’t salute

    What bloody good are we ?

    And when we get to Ber – Lin

    The Kaiser, he will say

    Hoch, Hoch, Mein Gott !

    What a bloody odd lot

    to get six bob a day.

    The Azac troops referred to themselves as “six bob a day tourists”.  By the end of World War I no one was laughing at the Anzacs.  At the end of the war a quarter of the military age male population of New Zealand had been killed or wounded and Australia paid a similarly high price.  Widely regarded as among the elite shock troops of the Allies, they had fought with distinction throughout the war, and added to their reputation during World War II.  Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the German Desert Fox, rated the New Zealanders as the finest troops he ever saw.   American veterans I have spoken to who have fought beside Australian and New Zealand units have uniformly told me that they could choose no better troops to have on their flank in a battle. Continue Reading

    7

    April 25, 1861: Stephen A. Douglas: “Protect the Flag”

    Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, the great antagonist of Abraham Lincoln, gave many eloquent speeches in his career, but the finest one he delivered was at the end of that career on April 25, 1861 to a joint session of the General Assembly of the State of Illinois.  In broken health, his coming death on June 3, 1861 already foreshadowed, he summoned the energy to help save his country.  Always first and foremost a patriot, Douglas was intent on rallying members of his party to the cause of the Union.  After one of the most vitriolic presidential contents in the history of the nation, it was an open question as to whether most members of the Party of Jackson would stand in support of the efforts of the Lincoln Administration to fight to preserve the Union.  Douglas, putting country above party, helped ensure that they would.

    Immediately after the election of Lincoln he made it clear that he would make every effort in his power to fight against secession.  At the inaugural speech of Lincoln, he held the new President’s hat, giving a strong symbol of his support.  Illinois was a key state for the Union in the upcoming conflict.  Pro-Southern sentiment was strong among Illinois Democrats in the southern portion of the State, with even some talk that “Little Egypt”, as the extreme southern tip of Illinois is called, should secede from the rest of the state and join the Confederacy.  To rally his supporters for the Union, and at the request of President Lincoln, Douglas returned to Illinois and on April 25, 1861 had his finest hour. 

    The speech he delivered that day has gone down in Illinois history as the “Protect the Flag” speech.  It was received by both Republicans and Democrats with thunderous applause and cheers throughout.  Although there would be much dissension in Illinois during the War, Douglas helped ensure that Illinois would be in the forefront of the war effort, with its quarter of a million troops, among whom was Ulysses S. Grant, who would ultimately fight under the Stars and Stripes being absolutely crucial to Union victory.

    Here is the speech, interspersed with comments by me: Continue Reading

    9

    Christus Victor

    Thou art holy, Lord God, who alone workest wonders. Thou art strong. Thou art great. Thou art most high. Thou art the Almighty King, Thou, holy Father, King of heaven and earth. Thou art the Lord God Triune and One; all good. Thou art good, all good, highest good, Lord God living and true. Thou art charity, love. Thou art wisdom. Thou art humility. Thou art patience. Thou art security. Thou art quietude. Thou art joy and gladness. Thou art justice and temperance. Thou art all riches to sufficiency. Thou art beauty. Thou art meekness. Thou art protector. Thou art guardian and defender. Thou art strength. Thou art refreshment. Thou art our hope. Thou art our faith. Thou art our great sweetness. Thou art our eternal life, great and admirable Lord, God Almighty, merciful Saviour.

                                                                  Saint Francis of Assisi

    4

    He is Risen! ~ Happy Easter!

    Yes, we believe in God, the Creator of heaven and earth. And we celebrate the God who was made man, who suffered, died, was buried and rose again.

    We celebrate the definitive victory of the Creator and of his creation.

    We celebrate this day as the origin and the goal of our existence.

    We celebrate it because now, thanks to the risen Lord, it is definitively established that reason is stronger than unreason, truth stronger than lies, love stronger than death.

    We celebrate the first day because we know that the black line drawn across creation does not last for ever.

    We celebrate it because we know that those words from the end of the creation account have now been definitively fulfilled: “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen 1:31). Amen.

    Easter Vigil: Homily of His Holiness Benedict XVI
    St. Peter’s Basilica. 23 April 2011.

    18

    Mysterium Paschale – Holy Saturday

    NB:  After the disagreement (though not quite unanimous) that my last post generated, I hesitated briefly on this next one.  Every time I bring up von Balthasar’s Holy Saturday thesis, it generates quite a bit of conversation.  Nevertheless, I find it very useful on this third, and perhaps most mysterious day of the Sacred Triduum.  Please know that I am not unaware of the theological controversy surrounding this thesis.

    In my mind, this is an example of a deep theological question that warrants some discussion.   The publication First Things did a very nice job of presenting both sides of this argument: Alyssa Pitstick representing the traditional position, and Fr. Edward Oakes defending Balthasar (or rather defending the position that Balthasar was not heretical in his claims).  For my own part, I think Balthasar’s thoughts are worth pondering, and I think Fr. Oakes is correct at least in his assessment that Balthasar is not wading in heresy in his claims.

    While I do not have time, space, or expertise to present this entire debate, I would reference the readers to the series of article by Pitstick and Oakes in First Things.  Without further adieu …

     

    The twentieth-century theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote a work entitled Mysterium Paschale in which he attempts to come to grips with the experience of Christ on Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday.  The thesis of the book is that Christ, in order to redeem man from the punishment of sin, must take on sin and all of its consequences and must rise from those consequences on Easter in his return to the Father.

    The most striking chapter of the book, and certainly the one that has received the most attention, is his description of Holy Saturday.  For Balthasar the experience of Holy Saturday is preeminently about the credal phrase descendit ad inferna (Christ’s descent into Hell).  While belief in the statement is a matter of dogmatic obedience, the Church has not been clear on exactly what Christ’s going to Hell entailed.  Balthasar’s thesis hinges on two given facts.  First, in order to redeem man Christ must take on the penalty of death merited by man’s sin.  Second, the penalty for sin is not just death of the body, but also death of the soul.

    The experience of Hell is that of abandonment by God.  More precisely, the soul has chosen to separate itself from God in the very act of sin.  God is both our efficient and final cause, so eternity spent in the absence of this God is greater than any suffering of which we can conceive, and certainly greater than any physical suffering.

    Because Christ in his saving act must go through the entire experience of death, with the eventual result of its conquering, he must not only suffer and die a bodily death, but also must suffer a spiritual death, a death that is the complete abandonment by God.  The whole idea becomes more profound when we consider that Jesus is God.  As such, his “closeness” to the Father is perfect, and certainly much more intense than our own relationship with the Father.  While two separate Trinitarian Persons, they are in fact one God.  In this sense, Christ has a much greater loss when he is abandoned by the Father in Hell than any non-divine man could experience.  (Note that only in a Trinitarian theology can we even begin to grapple with the idea of God being abandoned by God.)

    Another way of looking at this is that Jesus, as true man, must experience the full depth and breadth of the human condition, and as perfect man will experience this depth and breadth in a manner more perfect than the rest of us.  The human condition in its positive aspect is an original union with God, of which Jesus experiences in a far more perfect manner than we.  In its negative aspect, the human condition is the abandonment of God in death caused by both original and personal sin, a death that only begins with the destruction of the body, but continues in the destruction of the soul in every way except its annihilation.  Jesus, as perfect man, experiences the depths of Hell in a manner more perfectly terrible than even the souls of the damned.

    As Christians, we have become accustomed to thinking about the sufferings of Christ on Good Friday.  On Holy Saturday, we at times become a bit more human-centered, perhaps reflecting on the emptiness and confusion the disciples would have felt as people who did not yet fully understand the significance of the prior day’s events.  Perhaps, however, we should keep our gaze on Christ, knowing that the sufferings he is experiencing today are infinitely greater than those of Good Friday.  The height of his Good Friday sufferings occurs in his shout from the Cross, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me!”  This is the beginning of His Hell, and today is a long and arduous experience of this abandonment – and all of this He did for us.

     

    Note:  The traditional view on the matter comes from 1 Peter 3:19 and describes Christ preaching to the souls in prison.  Balthasar notes that the tense in this and other passages is mysteriously passive, as if the preaching occurred simply by the event of the descent.  Of course, the second person of the Trinity is the Word, so any action is simultaneously a “speaking” of sorts.  A similar “preaching” occurred to the souls of the living in his very act on the Cross.  The point is that Balthasar’s thesis in no way contradicts the traditional view.

     

    2

    Tantum Ergo

    Something for the weekend.  Tantum Ergo.  It says something vastly significant about the Church that perhaps the greatest intellect of all time, Saint Thomas Aquinas, was not only a Doctor of the Church, but also capable of writing this magnificent hymn.  On December 6, 1273, a few months before his death, Saint Thomas had a mystical experience while saying mass.  He stopped writing at this point, saying that all that he had written was mere straw in comparison to what had been revealed to him.  In Easter we celebrate that the God who made the Universe, died for each and every one of us and rose from the dead to deliver us from sin and death.  Our intellects, through revelation, teach us much about that God.  However, the love He has for us teaches us so much more.  Easter is an everlasting reminder of that love and for those who embrace God’s love and grace, each day truly is Easter.

    7

    Report to the Emperor-First Draft

    ecce-homo

     (I post this each year on Good Friday.)

    I thank you Marcus for taking on the onerous task of acting as my secretary, in addition to your regular duties as my aide, in regard to this portion of the report.  The Greek, Aristides, is competent, and like most Greek secretaries his Latin is quite graceful, but also like most Greek secretaries he does not know when to keep his mouth shut.  I want him kept away from this work, and I want you to observe the strictest security.  Caiaphas was playing a nefarious game, and I do not think we are out of the woods yet.  I do not want his spies finding out what I am telling the Imperator and Caiaphas altering the tales his agents are now, no doubt, spreading in Rome.  Let us take the Jew by surprise for once!

    Continue Reading

    30

    New Urbanism and Virtue

    There is an outstanding article on the blog Public Discourse about how “walkable communities” are more conducive to building virtue.  (Hat tip to A Dei in the Life for this reference.)  Many have argued for some time now about the merits of living in a community that does not require driving on a day-to-day basis, but Raymond Hain (the author) finds the popular arguments inadequate: controversial environmental issues, tacky architecture, and vague descriptions about the value of “community.”  Instead, utilizing the work of Philip Bess, Mr. Hain seeks to establish an argument for walkable communities that is grounded in solid Thomistic virtue.  His arguments are three:

     

    1.  We need others to help us to identify what is good for us.

    2.  True virtuous action demands that we treat others justly, charitably and with kindness, but such action is always with regards to a particular situation, not abstract generalities.

    3.  When our lives are fragmented in the way suburbia makes possible, it is much easier for us to act badly, and it is much harder to learn from the bad actions we do perform (and so to become someone who eventually acts well).

     

    Regarding the first point, Thomas insists that training in virtue must be done in community (he says “in conference among several”).  The demands of the moral life are not always simple, and prudence is required to sort through all the various aspects of a dilemma, but these various aspects are often disclosed to us in consultation with those in our lives.

    Regarding the second point, virtue is a habit, and as such it needs practiced in order to develop.  Practice means encountering real, concrete situations, not merely working our solutions in abstract.  We need frequent interaction with others in order to prudently judge the merits of various moral solutions.

    Finally, with respect to the third point, personal encounters provide the impetus for virtuous behavior.  In the words of the author, “It becomes much easier for us to treat someone poorly, to violate the demands of true virtue, when that person shares only a small fragment of our lives.”

    Mr. Hain is onto something here.  Our lives are rapidly becoming both private and segmented.  Both of these tendencies tend away from seeing man as made in the image and likeness of a Trinitarian God.  First, God consists of three Persons, which means that God is inherently relationship.  When John claims that God is love, he does not say God loves or God has love, but rather discloses that God, in his essence, is the act of love.  As such, God is immanent (which is not to discount his transcendence), and as beings mades in his image and likeness, we are called to be in relationship with one another.  The increasingly mobile society, together with the Cartesian turn towards the subject, promotes quite the opposite.  However, God is not merely plurality, but is also unity: there is but one God.  In other words, even in his multiplicity God is perfectly integrated.  As an image of God, while we have different aspects to our beings and our lives, we are called to integrate them into our person.  This goes first and foremost for our body and soul – our body needs trained in the ways of the soul, for a strict dualism is impossible.  But it also goes for the various arenas in which we live out our vocation.  Our jobs, our family, our friends, our faith … all must be oriented ad Dominum, and in doing so we come to understand a life whose singular purpose is holiness.

    I would add two marginal observations to Mr. Hain’s argument.  The first involves the use of communication technology.  As communication became possible without physical proximity, man began to rethink the meaning of knowledge, discourse, and relationship.  In the 1980’s, Neil Postman observed that this began with the invention of the telegraph: for the first time in human history, communication was not limited by geography.  (Letter writing was always a possibility, but inherent to letter writing is the lack of instantaneousness, something absent from telegraphic communication.)  Once the telegraph became utilized by the news agencies, it introduced three problems into rational discourse: irrelevance, impotence, and incoherence.  It accomplished this by decontextualizing information and presented it as a series of disconnected (and disappearing) facts.

    But the telegraph was only the beginning, for later came the telephone and the television, and the whole thing has seen a great culmination with the advent of the internet.  (Postman sees the culmination, but his work was published before the internet became widespread.  In this sense, he was an man ahead of his time.)  Personal communication is being replaced with rapid transmission of zeros and ones, and relationships are being replaced with Facebook “friendship.”  Whether this is a cause or result of the suburban sprawl is a bit of a chicken-egg phenomenon, but the correlation is obvious.

    My second marginal observation is the strange juxtaposition of proximity and isolation found in the act of driving on the highway.  When a driver is on the road, he is surrounded by hundreds of other individuals who are in relative close proximity, yet he is isolated in his own world.  This all seems contrary to the way in which human relationships were intended to work.  By this I mean that man is an embodied soul, and as such he can best relate to his fellow man when the person is physically present.  (Such is the very principle of sacramentality.)  True, some methods of communication can provide a substitute for the lack of proximity (such as the telephone), but they will always be substitutes.  (This, indeed, is the very heart of the problem – people are coming the see the substitute as the real thing, as can be seen when today’s youth would rather send a text message than actually dial the phone or meet the person face to face.)  Human relationships are intended to involve the body and physical proximity.  This is why Confession must be done in the presence of a priest, and more importantly explains the reason and power of the Incarnation.

    The problem with extended time in a car is that is separates relationship from proximity.  It is actually the flip side of the telegraph-telephone-internet problem.  Communication technology attempts to preserve the personal encounter without a corresponding physical encounter.  Driving in a car presents us with a situation where we have a physical encounter but one the is completely void of anything personal.  In falsely separating these two things, it is no surprise that people are less prone to virtue in their communications.  On the internet, when the face-to-face encounter has been eliminated, people are more likely to behave in vicious ways because they perceive those actions as lacking consequence.  Likewise, in a vehicle there is an absence of personal relationship (due to the physical isolation and confinement) and therefore people are more likely to exhibit rage and other vicious emotions.  Again, a perceived lack of consequences plays a role here.  The whole thing seems to separate what God has joined: relationship and physical proximity.

    While marginal, these two observations are intimately bound up with the problem of suburban sprawl.  Of course the second example of the car is a direct consequence of suburbia.

    I would add as a final observation that both communication and transportation technology provide the one necessary ingredient for destroying virtue and human relationship: anonymity.  When one is able to dissociate his personal identity from his actions, virtue becomes virtually impossible.  It is telling the Scripture presents a life of virtue as tied to personal identity, or rather it presents the lack of identity as a key characteristic of evil, which is why the demons Christ encounters often refer to themselves in the plural (“We” or “legion”).

    Mr. Hain ends his article with the following:

    [S]uburbia represents a turning away from public life towards private life. Front porches have become back decks, and public squares have disappeared. Suppose we were to rebuild those public squares, and all of us spent our evenings on our front porches. We might discover, to our dismay, that we had almost nothing to talk about.

    The last bit reminds me of a quotation from Henry David Thorough, written on the eve of  the development of a transcontinental telegraph line:

    We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Main to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate. … We are eager to tunnel under the Atlantic and bring the old world some weeks nearer to the new; but perchance the first news that will leak through into the broad flapping American ear will be that Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough.

    But as usual, Postman synthesizes all of this best:

    A man in Main and a man in Texas could converse, but not about anything either of them knew or cared very much about.  The telegraph may have made the country into ‘one neighborhood,’ but it was a peculiar one, populated by strangers who knew nothing but the most superficial facts about each other.

    18

    Screen Pilates: Richard Boone

    Richard Boone

     

    The second of our series on screen portrayals of Pontius Pilate is Richard Boone in the film The Robe (1953).  ( The portrayal of Pilate by Rod Steiger in Jesus of Nazareth (1977), the first in our series, is reviewed here.)  Descended from a younger brother of Daniel Boone, Boone, a Navy veteran of the Pacific during World War ii, studied acting on the GI bill.  Boone assayed the role of Pilate only three years into his career, but he already had the three traits that made him stand out as an actor:  a commanding presence, a deep gravelly voice and an ability to suggest that a character he is portraying is not as simple as we think at first glance.  Boone went on to be a western television star in the hit show Have Gun Will Travel (1957-1963) in which he played Paladin, a West Point graduate who fought for truth and justice in the old West, as long as his $1,000.00 fee was paid.  Boone portrayed Paladin as a well-educated man who would often draw upon his knowledge of history to win the day.  It was the favorite show of a very small Donald McClarey and no doubt helped inspire a love of history in me.  Here is the Paladin theme song which could be sung by almost all schoolboys in the early Sixties:

    Alright, that is quite enough Memory Lane!  Back to the task at hand.   Below is  the video clip of Boone as Pilate.

     

    We see Pilate washing his hands.  Tribune Gallio, portrayed by Richard Burton, has been ordered to report to Pilate.  Gallio is being summoned back to Rome.  However, Pilate has one task for him to perform before he leaves.  A routine assignment, the execution of three criminals.  One of them is a fanatic, who has a following and Gallio is told by Pilate to bring enough men to deal with trouble.  Pilate gives these orders in a clipped military style, wasting not a syllable.

    Then, the unexpected happens.  Pilate confesses, almost talking to himself, that he had a miserable night, bedeviled by factions and no one agreeing with anyone, with even his wife having an opinion. (“Have nothing to do with that innocent man, because in a dream last night, I suffered much on account of him.”). Pilate then shakes off his reverie, and wishes Gallio good luck.  He then asks a slave to bring water to wash his hands, and is reminded that he has just washed his hands. Continue Reading

    101

    Diocese of Austin: Homeschoolers Need Not Apply

    Twenty years ago, when my parents began homeschooling first my younger brother (who had some non-standard learning needs) and later all of us, homeschooling was still very much a fringe phenomenon. It was not unusual for people to predict, on hearing that children were homeschooled, that they would not be able to get into college, or for neighbors to harass homeschoolers by repeatedly calling the truancy officers on them. The extent to which homeschooling has become mainstream since that time has been quite extraordinary, and due in no small part to the academic and personal successes that homeschooled students have shown themselves capable of. Many states’ public education systems are now actively friendly towards homeschoolers, and make state curricula available free of charge to homeschoolers who wish to use them at home.

    Sadly, one area where this increasing social acceptance of homeschooling has often been lagging is in Catholic circles at the parish and diocesan level. Homeschoolers are sometimes seen as a threat by parochial school systems — this despite the Church’s teaching that parents bear the primary responsibility as first educators of their children.

    Such a situation has recently reared its head back in our old home diocese of Austin, Texas. A local Catholic homeschooling group, Holy Family Homeschoolers, sent an invitation to their annual Homeschoolers Blessing Mass to newly appointed Bishop Vásquez. In past years, an invitation had always been sent to the bishop. Bishop Aymond had officiated at the Blessing Mass when he first came to the diocese and had allowed a certain degree of openness in dealing with Catholic homeschoolers at the parish and diocesan levels.

    Given the many demands on Bishop Vásquez’s time, it is hardly surprising that he was unable to attend this year. What is, however, both surprising and distressing is that the response to the invitation sent to Bishop Vásquez’s office came not from the Chancery but from the Catholic Schools Office, and in a tone which was decidedly dismissive:

    > Bishop Vásquez received your invitation to celebrate a Eucharistic liturgy for the fall homeschooling blessing Mass.
    >
    > Bishop Vásquez believes Catholic education, and in particular Catholic school education, is an essential part of the life of the Diocese of Austin. As you know, Catholic schools are at the heart of the mission of the church.
    >
    > Bishop’s presence at the homeschooling Mass would convey a contradictory message equating the importance of Catholic school education with Catholic homeschooling; therefore, Bishop Vásquez must respectfully decline the invitation.
    >
    > Sincerely in Christ,
    >
    > Ned F. Vanders, Ed.D.

    Ned Vanders is the diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Schools, and I think that the above email pretty clearly backs up the complaint I have heard that he is “openly hostile to homeschooling”.

    Again, let me be clear: I think it is quite reasonable and understandable that Bishop Vásquez is unable to attend. A note from his office to that effect would in no sense be offensive. However, I think that the response that was received by the Holy Family Homeschoolers is worrisome in two senses.
    Continue Reading

    8

    Screen Pilates: Rod Steiger

     

    The figure of Pontius Pilate has always intrigued me.  The fifth Prefect of Judaea, Pilate looms large in the Gospels.  His name Pilate  indicates that his family was of Samnite orgin.  Pilate is mentioned by the Roman historian Tacitus as having condemned Jesus.  In 1961 a block of limestone was discoved at the site of Caesarea Maritima, the Roman capitol of Judaea, bearing an inscription of Pilate dedicating a Roman theater there.  That is almost all we know about Pilate outside of the Gospels, Josephus and Philo.  Pilate today would be forgotten, instead of being the best known Roman who ever lived, but for his role in sentencing Jesus.

    This is the start of a series examining how Pilate has been presented in films.  First up  is Rod Steiger, the method actor to end all method actors, and a character actor who achieved stardom with intense, some would say frequently over the top, performances.  Steiger gives an interesting portrayal of Pilate in the superb Jesus of Nazareth  (1977).  Overworked and tired, with a bad temper on edge, he is forced to judge Jesus, and clearly finds the dispute between Him and the Sanhedrin to be completely incomprehensible.  His queries to Jesus, “Who are you?  What are you?”,  sum up how mysterious this  business is to him, and echoes the query of Jesus to his Apostles:  “Who do you say that I am?”

    Ultimately Pilate condemns Jesus and this sequence may be viewed here.  To forestall a riot, Pilate sentences Jesus to be crucified.  Pilate still obviously finds Jesus to be utterly mysterious.  His wondering who is the real threat to Rome, Barabbas or Jesus, before he passes sentence on Jesus as the mob howls for him to free Barabbas, indicates that he understands at some level that this is all very important, but he simply cannot fathom why.  Steiger portrays Pilate as world weary and baffled by his encounter with this strange Galilean. Continue Reading

    15

    Don’t Water It Down

    A couple of good pieces on why watering down the truth is such a bad idea.  First Christopher Blosser, linking to the comments over at Fr. Z’s blog, and the woeful instructions imparted to the faithful.  Here are the sampling of comments that Chris highlighted:

    “When I was in RCIA, back in the early 1980?s we were told that it is almost impossible to commit a mortal sin so not to worry.”

    “When I asked one of the RCIA instructors to tell us how to make a proper confession she blew me off.”

    “I was under the impression that Reconciliation was a one-time thing until the priests starting coming to school to offer it a few times.”

    “I thought in order to commit a mortal sin you had to do something really bad such as kill someone, have an abortion, or commit adultry.”

    “I actually heard a priest say in a homily that he never committed a mortal sin and that none of us probably hadn’t either.”

    “I have had people who prepare young people for confirmation say that theydon’t remember ever going to confession.”

    To which Chris asks the question, “In a parish where the idea of sin and absolution are passé, why be Catholic? what does it even matter?”

    And  over at POWIP, Enoch Root discusses his time as a Catechism Instructor for 7th and 8th graders:

    The first year went well, as I mentioned some paragraphs above. So I was asked to sign up for another year of instructing. Again, no one wanted the 7th and 8th grade class. So, I thought about it. I agreed to teach the class once more. Sadly, my no-holds-barred approach to passing on the faith rubbed some parent(s) the wrong way. I am given to understand that my comment to the class that it would be very unlikely for everyone in the class to ultimately find ourselves among the Elect stunned and, yes, frightened a student. Further, I am given to understand that my suggestion that not every one of our beloved relations was likely to be among the Elect also was cause for concern. The fallout was immediate. And it did bring on a small crisis of faith for me. I was not very interested in defending my approach to teaching what we believe. I was not interested in heaping scandal on top of the deep hurt I felt. I was not interested in chastising the Powers That Be about the very real dangers of withholding the Truth from these kids… some of which were quite worldly to begin with. I was not interested in defending the Faith to ministers of the Faith… or taking them to task… or forcing them into a debate about whether or not I was teaching other-than-Dogma (which I was decidedly not doing). In short, I resigned to save all parties from what would have been a bloody affair… and potentially embarrassing I might add.

    I was deeply offended. As I have said. And only now, several years later, am I able to clear my head enough to receive the Eucharist with a mended-heart. I will not lie: the sting of that wound remains. But my animus toward the players involved does not. God works in mysterious ways. And it was a truly humbling experience. Truth be told, I had been praying for God to help me become smaller. And He answered my prayers.

    As I related in the comments, I’ve seen faith watered down.  I’ve heard instructors tell potential Catechumens that they don’t need to go to Confession, among other whoppers. And as someone who attended a Jesuit high school, well, let’s say there were things about Catholicism that I didn’t learn until later on.

    I understand the desire to make faith seem less hard.  You’ve got some young skulls full of mush, or perhaps adults just dipping their toes in the waters of Catholicism, and you don’t want to scare them away.  But all you are doing is depriving them of the truth, and in doing so you are actually putting their souls at risk.  Either tell the truth, and the whole truth, or so help you God.

    3

    Responding to Stiglitz on Inequality

    There’s a Vanity Fair piece on income inequality by Nobel Price-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, “Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%”, which has been cited again and again in the commentariat lately, and it’s a frustrating piece because of the extent to which is makes logical leaps or simply distorts reality. Scott Winship of The Empiricist Strikes Back does a good job of going through the piece and addressing it point by point, including taking on a few of the talking points which are increasingly becoming things “everybody knows” in the wonk community but which don’t actually mean what they seem to.

    One of the problems with our modern society’s fixation on “data” is that people, even very educated people who should know better, often fixate on a given metric (for example, the claim that “While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall. For men with only high-school degrees, the decline has been precipitous—12 percent in the last quarter-century alone.“) without taking the time to dig into what we can discover of the realities that underlie that measure. Sometimes those realities do not fit with the ideological picture which makes the original metric so appealing. (Winship’s responses to the just quoted claim, both in the main article linked above and in this older one, are fascinating.)

    Definitely worth a read.

    1

    Abraham Lincoln and the Rabbi

     

    During the Civil War thousands of American Jews enlisted in the armed forces of both the Union and the Confederacy.  In July of 1861 the United States Congress passed a bill which provided for the appointment of chaplains from any recognized Christian denominations.  In a Pennsylvania regiment called the  Cameron Dragoons, Rabbi Arnold Fischel was appointed chaplain.  Ironically it was Simon Cameron, as Secretary of War, and for whom the regiment was named, who denied the appointment of Fischel as contrary to law.

    However, Fischel didn’t give up and moved to Washington, ministered to wounded Jewish soldiers and lobbied the Lincoln administration to allow the appointment of Jewish chaplains.  On December 11, 1861, the Rabbi met with the President .  He described the meeting in this letter: Continue Reading

    15

    Richard Rich Quits as Ambassador to Malta

    Hattip to Creative Minority Report.  Richard Rich,  Douglas Kmiec, in the wake of a state department report declaring that he was pretty much a disaster as Ambassador to Malta, has resigned.  The LA Times has the details:

    Kmiec wrote that the inspector general had a “flawed and narrow vision of our diplomatic mission” and said his writings had a “highly positive effect on our diplomatic relations.”

    He complained that, as a result of the inspector general’s recommendation that he end that work, “my voice has been prevented from speaking; my pen has been enjoined from writing; and my actions have been confined to the ministerial.”

    Kmiec, a devout Roman Catholic and a onetime frequent contributor to The Times opinion pages, held important legal posts under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He has been a prominent figure in the antiabortion movement and in efforts to give greater latitude for religion in public life.

    He was also impressed by President Obama’s religious faith and interest in improving relations between religions, and he supported him during the 2008 presidential election campaign.

    After Obama was elected, Kmiec was appointed ambassador to Malta, a conservative Catholic island, and White House officials said that one of his roles would be to advance Obama’s views on interfaith dialogue.

    But the inspector general’s report, issued in February, says he had an “unconventional approach to his role” and devoted much time to writing on the “interfaith initiative.” It said his official schedule was “uncharacteristically light,” and that he had had “friction with principal officials in Washington, especially over his reluctance to accept their guidance and instructions.” Continue Reading

    38

    Palin: “Fight Like a Girl!”

    One of the hardest things for any orator to do is to give a successful stump speech before a hostile audience, and that is just what Sarah Palin did on Saturday, April 16, 2011, in Madison, Wisconsin at a tea party rally.  Union rent-a-mobs were out in force, drawn like flies to sugar by the presence of Palin, always a mesmerizing target for the denizens of the Left.  During her speech you can hear constantly in the background their continual attempts to shout her down.  Go here to Ann Althouse’s blog to see some of the charming signs carried by the Union mob and her comments on their attempts to drown out Palin.  (The height of courage was shown when the Union thugs attempted to drown out a 14 year old girl who was speaking.)  Palin did not back down an inch, giving a pugnacious, fighting speech, that not only took on Obama and the spend-us-into-bankruptcy-Union leadership, but also the clueless Gop establishment.  It was a bravura performance, and the best stump speech I have seen since Reagan rode off into the sunset.  Here is the text of her speech with my comments:

    Hello Madison, Wisconsin! You look good. I feel like I’m at home. This is beautiful. Madison, I am proud to get to be with you today. Madison, these are the frontlines in the battle for the future of our country. This is where the line has been drawn in the sand. And I am proud to stand with you today in solidarity.

    Note the use of the term solidarity, and it will not be the only time she uses it.  Palin wasn’t born with a silver spoon in her mouth, and her family members belong to unions.

    I am here today as a patriot, as a taxpayer, as a former union member, and as the wife of a union member. What I have to say today I say it to our good patriotic brothers and sisters who are in unions. I say this, too, proudly standing here as the daughter of a family full of school teachers. My parents, my grandparents, aunt, cousins, brother, sister – so many of these good folks are living on teachers’ pensions, having worked or are still working in education.

    Not us versus them, but just us.  Palin is talking to union members over the heads of their union bosses. Continue Reading

    2

    Triumph of the King

     

    zechariah

    (This is my regular post for Palm Sunday which I repost each year.  Have a happy and blessed Palm Sunday and Holy Week.)

    “9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion, shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem: BEHOLD THY KING will come to thee, the just and saviour: he is poor, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. 10 And I will destroy the chariot out of Ephraim, and the horse out of Jerusalem, and the bow for war shall be broken: and he shall speak peace to the Gentiles, and his power shall be from sea to sea, and from the rivers even to the end of the earth.” Continue Reading

    1

    What Wondrous Love is This?

     

    Something for the weekend.  What Wondrous Love is This? and the Pieta.  After Michelangelo completed it and had the Pieta moved to display it, the workmen who did it refused to accept a penny for their hard labor, saying they would get their reward in Heaven.  I pray that they did, and I pray we all meet a similar fate. Continue Reading

    14

    Abby Johnson and the Still Small Voice of God

    As faithful readers of this blog know, I am an attorney, for my sins no doubt.  It supplies me with bread and butter for my family and myself as well as an opportunity to observe the frailty, follies, crimes and, occasionally, the nobility, of the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve.  However, that is just my day job.  For over a decade now I have also been chairman of the board of directors of the Caring Pregnancy Center located in Pontiac, Illinois in Livingston County, the county in which I live.  There, dedicated pro-life volunteers, almost all of them evangelical women, labor ceaselessly to help women in crisis  pregnancies.  In the movie the Agony and the Ecstasy Pope Julius II is depicted as saying that when he comes before God he will throw into the balance the ceiling painting of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel against the weight of his sins and he hoped it would shorten his time in purgatory.  If such an opportunity exists for me, it will be due to my association with the Caring Pregnancy Center and their truly awe-inspiring and selfless female volunteers.

    On April 14th, we held our 25th anniversary banquet which was a grand affair, with our supporters and well-wishers turning out in en masse.  I opened with a few introductory remarks where I talked about the Center and its 25 years of service to the women of Livingston County and their babies.  I also asked why we did this.  First and foremost to protect innocent human life, and, second, because we remember with Thomas Jefferson, “Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.”  It will come as a vast shock, no doubt, to faithful readers of this blog that I somehow worked into my remarks the surrender of Fort Sumter 150 years before on April 14, 1861 and Mr. Lincoln’s remarks in his Second Inaugural Address that the terrible war the nation had been through was God’s punishment on both the North and the South for the sin of slavery.  I ended by stating that it was still possible for America to turn around and repent for the great sin of abortion and that the great words of the prophet Isaiah, as always, give us hope:  “Though your sins be as scarlet, they will be made white as snow.”

    Abby Johnson was our speaker, and she gave the most effective pro-life speech I have ever heard and I have heard many over the decades.

    She was funny and moving at the same time.  Her delivery was as natural as if she was talking to a next door neighbor, but every word she said was riveting. Continue Reading

    3

    Patrick Henry, Liberty and Slavery

    In his day Patrick Henry was considered the finest orator in America.  Contemporary accounts often state that the cold words of the text of his speeches can give no true assessment of the impact of the words on his listeners as he spoke them.  I have always regarded his speech of March 23, 1775, prophetic in its prediction of the start of the Revolutionary War, to the Virginia Convention to be his finest, both for its fiery style, and for the timeless truths it conveys:

    MR. PRESIDENT: No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do, opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely, and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The question before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfil the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offence, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the majesty of heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings. Continue Reading

    73

    The Birther Suplot: A Waste of Time

    At my own blog I’ve already shared my annoyance with the Birthers.  For those of you not up to speed, “birthers” are those that doubt, to one degree or another, that President Obama was actually born in Hawaii, and who suggest, therefore, that he is constitutionally ineligible for the presidency.  To me it’s a silly conspiracy theory that doesn’t crack even a “1” on the credibly believable scale (and I am referring to the conspiracy being believable, not Obama’s family history).

    Then there is what one might term the birther subplot.  There are those who don’t really doubt that Obama was born in Hawaii, but who nonetheless insist that he release his long-form birth certificate.  Donald Trump has harped on this issue quite a lot as he embarks on a futile attempt to draw more attention to himself on a bid for the Republican nomination for the presidency.  Long story short, Trump and others sense that Obama is hiding something.  The most common rumor is that the long-form certificate would (for some reason) indicate that he was a Muslim.  Commenter “The Man From K Street” offers a couple of other plausible theories on the blog “Est Quod Est”:

    First (and to my mind the likeliest) — it will reveal what most people already have figured out: Barack Obama Sr. and Stanley Ann Dunham were never actually married, let alone licitly (even a presumptive wedding would have been invalid as bigamous).

    Second — there has been some speculation that BO Sr. might not have been the actual father. One alternative candidate in particular has been discussed in various parts of the net, but even if we saw the long form, this will probably stay graffiti on the bathroom wall of history forever.

    Possibly.  And then there’s the conspiracy of the non-conspiracy, and Don alluded to it in the comments of my post.  Essentially Obama is dragging this thing out because he knows that the birth certificate contains nothing all that embarrassing, but by playing the story out it allows some of his opponents to look like complete loons.  Frankly, this would be my bet, and that gets to the heart of my annoyance with people like Trump.  Even if there is something on the birth certificate that is potentially slightly embarrassing, why should we care?  Nothing is going to have any bearing on his qualifications to be president.  The only theory that would be even partially troubling if true is that his religion is listed as “Muslim.”  Sure, it would create some tension because hard core Islamists view apostasy as punishable by death.  Well, yes, but my guess is those very same people who would seek to kill Obama because of his apostasy want him dead anyway.  And again, that really shouldn’t matter in the slightest when evaluating his worthiness to be re-elected.

    At the risk of going back on my New Year’s resolution not to discuss the 2012 presidential race until Labor Day, I am going to have to side with Mitt Romney on this (something I might not be saying too often after Labor Day):

    Mitt Romney forcefully said Tuesday night that he believes President Barack Obama was born in America and that “the citizenship test has been passed.”

    “I think the citizenship test has been passed. I believe the president was born in the United States. There are real reasons to get this guy out of office,” Romney told CNBC’s Larry Kudlow the day after he formally announced that he’s exploring a run for the White House. “The man needs to be taken out of office but his citizenship isn’t the reason why.”

    As Ed Morrissey adds:

    The 2012 election should hinge on real issues and deep questions about Barack Obama’s ability to handle the office.  The freak show is a distraction that damages the serious nature of Obama’s opposition — and don’t think the media isn’t eating it up, either.

    Indeed.

    Update: As if to bolster my point, I would think that Obama being a demagogic manchild incapable of serious governance is enough reason to oppose him that we don’t need to manufacture stuff.

    11

    Shocking

    Sit down, folks, because I’m going to share a piece of news that will completely flabbergast you.  Bart Stupak – the ever courageous pro-life Democrat who so valiantly fought against abortion funding in Obamacare until the administration offered him an easily breakable and meaningless compromise – yeah, that dude.  Well now he’s a lobbyist for a law firm.  And among the firm’s clients . . . Planned Parenthood of Maryland.

    I know, I know, this is a blow.  We all admired the brave soul who was a voice crying out in the wilderness, until the wilderness got a little creepy and he decided bigger, better paydays were more his speed.

    Have no fear.  I have been assured that none of the money that Planned Parenthood is billed by the firm goes to pay for Bart Stupak’s salary.

    13

    Governor Quinn of Illinois Appoints Anti-Catholic Bigot to Human Rights Commission

    The Governor of Illinois is Pat Quinn, a Roman Catholic and 100% pro-abort. He got elected last year by a razor thin margin  largely by under the radar last minute internet ads posted by Personal PAC, a pro-abort lobbying group, headed by a Terry Cosgrove. As payback Quinn appointed Cosgrove to a $46,000 a year job on the Human Rights Commission.  Lake County Right to Life has good coverage on this story which may be read here.  Regular Guy Paul has been on top of the story at his blog here.

    Now I happen to know Cosgrove from the days back in the Seventies when we were both attending the U of I. He is a lapsed Catholic, now a militant atheist, homosexual activist and fanatical pro-abort. He was head of the local campus pro-aborts and I was one of the founders of L.I.F.E. (Life Is For Everyone), the campus pro-life group. One time I saw Cosgrove at Mass circa 1980 at the Newman Chapel, at Saint John’s. Puzzled why he was there, after Mass I found out why. At the pamphlet rack in the back I saw that he had stuffed pro-abort anti-Catholic pamphlets. I disposed of them. He also said in one memorable public forum that he carried a gun to defend himself against “militant anti-choicers”, as he phrased pro-lifers. That a bigot like Cosgrove now has a seat on the Human Rights Commission in Illinois has a nice Orwellian touch.  Challenged on the nomination, Quinn made the following truly hilarious statement:

    Quinn said politics had nothing to do with the appointment, adding that Cosgrove is “a passionate advocate for everyone’s rights, everyone’s civil rights, everyone’s human rights.”

    Continue Reading

    10

    Bumper Sticker Police

     

    Bravo Klavan on the culture!  I have never understood the burning desire of people to share their political philosophies with some driver behind them who might find their politics distasteful in the exteme, and has a gas pedal with which to express his disagreement.  As to your comments about the bumper sticker regarding war, here is a dissenting viewpoint: Continue Reading

    9

    Compare and Contrast

    Behind Door Number One we have Mark Shea firing up his catchphrase and strawman machine as he hyperventilates about the “Evil Stupid, Stupid Evil,  Evil is Stupid, Am I Evil?  Yes I Am, Stupid is as Stupid Does” Party.  Behind Door Number Two we have Bill McGurn’s account of what happened on Friday night as President Obama dug in his heels and refused to budge on the issue of Planned Parenthood.  Tough call, but let’s go with door number two, Monty.

    In the end, President Barack Obama was the one who refused to blink on Planned Parenthood. Another way of saying it is this: The president was willing to shut down the entire federal government rather than see Planned Parenthood’s federal funding cut.

    According to press accounts leaked by Democratic aides, House Speaker John Boehner argued for the funding cut late into the evening. The president answered, “Nope, zero.” He then said, “John, this is it.” Mr. Boehner accepted the budget deal without that cut.

    A Republican aide confirmed more or less the same account to me. He said it was “chilling” to see how inflexible Mr. Obama was. You might call it ideological.

    Certainly there’s a political logic here. To begin with, many of the women’s groups that supported him are still smarting over the executive order (banning federal dollars for abortions) he issued to secure passage of his health-care bill. That’s still a sore spot, even though—as his former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, recently told the Chicago Tribune editorial board—that language is not in the law. The presumption ­being, of course, that eventually the order will be overridden.

    The hard line on Planned Parenthood funding also makes sense if the president was calculating that Mr. Boehner would get the blame for a shutdown no matter what. That’s a reasonable assumption, judging from the way the press has swallowed the White House line on who the extremists here are. Never mind that this is the same president who, as an Illinois state senator, famously opposed limiting even partial-birth abortion.

    For his part, Mr. Boehner now finds himself criticized for accepting too little in spending cuts and giving up the ship on defunding Planned Parenthood to get a budget deal. Leaving aside his victory in restoring the previous status quo prohibiting taxpayer funding for abortions in the District of Columbia, Mr. Boehner came away with two strong accomplishments.

    First, in just three months as speaker, he has managed to change the national debate from “stimulus” and “investment” to “how much spending do we need to cut”—which is why Mr. Obama will be pressing the reset button in a planned speech on spending tomorrow. Second, on Planned Parenthood funding, he has secured something that those concerned about restoring these contentious issues to the people should appreciate: an agreement that the Senate will vote on a separate measure to defund Planned Parenthood.

    Surely it tells you something about who the real extremists are that an up or down vote is deemed a concession. In an appearance at a rally before the deal, Mr. Schumer vowed that any bill taking taxpayer dollars from Planned Parenthood would “never, never, never” pass the Senate. In the normal way of doing things, it wouldn’t even have come up for a vote.

    McGurn’s whole column is behind a pay wall, and I can violate fair use only so much (K-Lo did it first).  There is one other line in the column I do have to take issue with.  McGurn notes that Planned Parenthood performed 332,278 abortions in 2009, and adds, “Planned Parenthood counters that no federal dollars go to abortion, but Americans are not stupid.  They know money is fungible.”  Sadly, based on some of the Facebook and blog posts I read last week, I’d have to disagree with McGurn’s assessment about the public’s stupidity.

    I can partially understand the sentiment of those who think Boehner should have drawn a line in the sand as well.  The problem is we have an ideological extremist in the White House – and one would think by now people would finally get this – who is beholden to the abortion lobby.  Oh, he might change his mind when it comes to things like military commissions and waging war in the Middle East, but when it comes to abortion there ain’t no stopping him now.  There can be negotiating with the likes of Obama when it comes to abortion – only removal from office.

    26

    April 12, 1861: And The War Came

     Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.

                                                                                Abraham Lincoln

    One hundred and fifty years ago, at 4:30 AM on April 12, 1861, the Civil War began with the commencement of the bombardment of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.  This was the end of months of attempted negotiation regarding the removal of Federal troops from Fort Sumter.  The bombardment was fierce, but casualty free.  The 85 men under Major Robert Anderson defended the fort until April 13, 1861 at 1:00 PM when he agreed to surrender due to his men being hungry and exhausted, fires raging uncontrolled throughout the Fort and the military situation being completely hopeless.  The surrender ceremonies were held the next day, with two Union soldiers being killed when a pile of cartridges exploded during the 100 gun salute to the Stars and Stripes that Major Anderson had insisted upon.  Anderson and his men sailed to the North with Anderson carrying the Fort Sumter flag with him.  Four years later to the day, Major General Robert Anderson raised the same flag over Union controlled Fort Sumter.

    The firing on Fort Sumter sent both the North and the South into a war frenzy, leading to the secession of Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas and North Carolina.  The battle lines were now drawn  for the Civil War, a war which would kill some 620,000 Union and Confederate troops, and wound, often maimed for life, approximately an equal number.

    How had it come to this?  Why did the conflict over slavery end in war?

    1.  Talked out-For over forty years the North and the South had argued about slavery.  I think there was zero appetite on both sides to continue a discussion that was obviously going nowhere.

    2.  Failure of compromise-In 1820 and 1850 grand compromises had been reached to resolve the slavery issue.  They failed.  People on both sides had reached the conclusion by the election of 1860 that no satisfactory compromise on the question of slavery was possible. Continue Reading

    1

    The Two Trees of Eden

    As those who have read John Paul II’s Theology of the Body will attest, the Creation story of Genesis is the foundation of everything that follows in the Pope’s catechesis.  Following that model, Anderson and Granados devote a considerable amount of time to the first pages of Scripture in their book Called to Love.  In their discussion of the original sin, we find what is either a little-known detail of the account of the fall or, at the very least, an aspect of the story that often goes overlooked.

     

    Everyone knows of the tree from which the original couple was forbidden to eat.  What is often forgotten is the care that the Book of Genesis takes to highlight not one, but two trees in the garden.

     

    “And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed.  And out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:8-9)

     

    With two trees on the scene, let us see which of the two that the Lord places off limits to the original couple.

     

    “And the Lord God commanded the man saying, ‘You may freely eat of every tree in the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die” (Genesis, 2:16-17)

     

    The tree of the knowledge of good and evil stands for the proper order of things: God as the author of reality and man as the recipient of his love.  It a the sign of distinction between Creator and creation (sign here understood as more than a symbol, but as containing something of the reality of which it signifies).  Grasping the fruit from the tree is an attempt to invert reality; it is an attempt to make the creature the author of reality.  “It stands for a false independence based on the attempt to determine the meaning of existence without God, to be a self-sufficient spring with no need to draw the water of life from the original Source” (Called to Love, 105).

     

    The death that eating from this tree brings is not merely a punishment, but is also a metaphysical necessity.  If the tree is a sign of the proper order of Creator and creation, then it is also a sign of the meaning of existence for man.  Man can only exist in and through God’s Love and Law.  In violating the command of God, man actually cuts himself off from the Source of his existence.  Instead, he attempts to find (or define) the source of his life somewhere other than God, namely man attempts to find this source in himself.  In doing so, he brings about his own destruction.  The only thing that will eventually save man from himself is the redemption won by the Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection of the same God that gave man his existence “in the beginning.”

     

    The whole story of the fall obtains more clarity when we examine the serpent’s temptation of man.

     

    “[The serpent] said to the woman, ‘Did God say, “You shall not eat of any tree of the garden”?’  And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die” ’ ” (Genesis, 3:1-4).

     

    It is interesting that the serpent accuses God of forbidding Adam and Even to eat of any tree in the garden.  This is a deliberate attempt to set up God as a tyrant that seeks to cut the couple off from all of creation (including the tree of life), the same creation that God had given as a gift.  At first, the woman repudiates this lie, clarifying that God’s command “not to eat” was restricted to but one tree in the garden.  The serpent’s next move is the most cunning.

     

    “But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die.  For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis, 3:4-5).

     

    In his deception, the serpent tells the woman, “You will not die,” and implies that in eating of this tree the woman will find life and fulfillment.  After all, what is it to “be like God” if not complete fulfillment/beatitude?  “The serpent’s temptation, however, consists precisely in blurring the distinction in Adam’s and Eve’s minds between the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life” (Called to Love, 105).  The serpent’s lie is twofold: (1) he claims that true life is found not from the tree of life, but instead from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and (2) he claims that God, by withholding them from this tree is preventing them from attaining life.

     

    “The purpose of this maneuver, of course, is to make the first couple doubt God’s goodness.  After all, if the two trees really were identical, then the Creator’s commandment to avoid the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would be a blatant tactic designed to hold man back from attaining the fulness of life” (Called to Love, 105).

     

    This is the exact opposite of God’s reality and purpose for man.  Instead of withholding life, he explicitly gave them life (and continues to hold them in existence), of which the tree of life is a sign.  The specific mention of the tree of life in the Book of Genesis indicates that God’s intention is for man to eat and drink of the gift of life.  God is not a tyrant, but a gift-giver, a giver of life.  He is prepared to give to man everything that man needs in order to be fully human, even his very own Son.  What he is not prepared to give to man is what he cannot in fact give, not because of a lack of desire or a lack of power, but out of metaphysical necessity.  God cannot give to man the ability to be something he is not.  Just as he cannot give man the ability to be a horse, God also cannot give man divinity properly speaking (though in the Paschal Mystery, man is divinized in a certain sense), simply because the creature can never be the Creator.  This does not contradict God’s omnipotence or omnibenevolence; on the contrary the Paschal Mystery only serves to exhibit the perfect power and goodness of God.

     

    In the end, “the truth, of course, is that the two trees are not at all identical, and that the Creator has planned all along to let man eat from the tree of life.  God is not envious but generous, and he wishes man to live forever in the joy that comes from the acceptance of the divine gift” (Called to Love, 105).

     

    God’s gift for us is the same as his gift to all of creation, to ability to perfect itself.  His gift to us is the ability to be fully human, and this gift begins with the act of creation.  One way of defining sin is the rejection of this gift, or the attempt to be something other than what we are.  In some cases, the sin of man is the attempt to be less than what he is, to be merely an animal (for instance, sins of sexual excess), whereas in other cases, man’s sin is the attempt to be more than what he is (for instance, the sin of cloning wherein man attempts to be the author of life).  Holiness, seen here as the opposite of sin, is the humble acceptance of God’s grace so man can be fully human and enjoy the vision of God face to face.  Comprehending this is parallel to comprehending the difference between the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

     

    2

    Motherhood Was The Road Out

    There’s a smug view out there that anti-abortion opinions are the purview of the safely bourgeois, and have little to do with the lives of real people with real problems. Calah of “Barefoot and Pregnant” refutes this handily with a powerful post about her experience of being a “woman in crisis”:

    Amidst the debates swirling around about defunding Planned Parenthood, some oft-repeated catch phrases are being tossed around like word grenades. One of these are “women in crisis.” I’m sick and tired of hearing about “women in crisis” and how they need access to emergency contraception and abortions. That is a huge, steaming pile of lies, propagated by people who like to murder babies. Women in crisis do not need access to abortions. What they need is love, support, a safe place to live, and people (even strangers!) who will tell them the truth: that they are more than capable of being a mother. That they can do this. That their crisis, no matter how terrible, will be healed in the long, sometimes painful, always joyful process of becoming a mother.

    Think this makes me heartless, speaking from my comfortable suburban home, having never known trials in my cushy little life?

    Think again.

    When I got that positive pregnancy test, the one that changed my life, I was addicted to crystal meth.

    And do you know what the people around me did? They didn’t take the secular line and say, “this baby’s life would be horrible. You’re unfit to be a mother. Better for it to not be born at all.”

    But neither did they take the typical pro-life line in that situation and say, “you are clearly unfit to be a mother, but all you have to do is carry the baby to term and give a stable couple a wonderful gift.”

    The Ogre said, “you’re a mother now, and I’m a father, and together we’ll raise our child.”

    My parents said, “marry that man, and raise that baby. You’ve made the choices, you have to live with them.”

    My friends said, “you screwed up, big time. But we love you. We’ll throw you a baby shower, buy you maternity clothes, and babysit while you finish your semester.”

    Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy, being a newly-pregnant drug addict. But it gave me something to live for. Someone to live for….

    Read the rest.

    11

    The Budget Deal, or Why Elections Have Consequences

    Unsurprisingly the last minute budget deal was the talk of much of the blogosphere over the weekend.  Some think it’s a big Republican victory.  Others are less inclined to see this as something to celebrate, to say the least.  Ed Morrissey strikes a more middle-ground approach, but says something that I think we should all keep in mind.

    We’ll see who won in September, but Republicans have achieved one major accomplishment.  Not only did they force the first actual reductions in government spending in ages, but they have changed the political paradigm from whether to cut to how much and where to cut.  That’s a pretty impressive victory for a party that only controls one chamber of Congress.

    To me we’re in round two of a twelve round heavyweight fight.  The real battles will be over the FY 2012 budget and the 2012 elections.  This was but a skirmish.

    As for me, I agree with Gabriel Malor at Ace (linked above) that this is a good first step.  I completely understand the frustration some have expressed, especially over the inability to de-fund Murder Inc, aka Planned Parenthood.  But the fact remains that the Republicans control only one of the three democratic elements of the budget battle.*

    * Slight tangential note, but I do think the talking point that Republicans only control one-half of one chamber to be a bit overdone.  First of all it’s more than half, and if we’re going to be consistent then we should say the Republicans have almost half of another chamberthe Senate.  After all, Republicans have a greater share of votes in the House than Democrats do in the Senate.  Moreover, because it lacks a filibuster rule, majority control in the House – even a small majority – is more significant than majority control in the Senate.  The minority is all but powerless in the House, less so in the Senate, especially if it has at least 41 votes.

    The Republicans won big in the 2010 elections, but the Democrats won just as big as 2006 and 2008.  Therefore we are at a stalemate.  It was unreasonable to think that with control of just the House that Republicans could have completely reversed the tide of the previous two years.  At best it seemed that the Republicans could at least put a halt to further advances for Obama’s agenda, and so the relatively puny amount of real spending cuts is not an insignificant victory.

    The Planned Parenthood de-funding is another matter.  Could Republican leadership have done more than merely secure an up-or-down vote on it?  Perhaps, but I just don’t see it.  It would have satisfied our sense of outrage if they had huffed and puffed and threatened to go the mattresses on it, but they would likely have been as successful in achieving their ultimate aim as we are in blowing hot air on a blog.

    And again, elections have consequences.  Rick Santorum was defeated in his re-election bid in 2006, and many pro-lifers seemed to be gleeful at his defeat.  Santorum had the temerity to endorse Arlen Specter in the 2004 Republican primary in Pennsylvania, and so many suggested that one act over-rode anything else he may have done as a Senator.  He was replaced by Bob Casey, Jr., a “pro-life” Democrat who has proven that the apple falls very far from the tree.  While his dad was the defendant in the Supreme Court case Planned Parenthood v. Casey (my selection for the worst Supreme Court decision of all-time) and was a true defender of the unborn, the son has been a bit of a weasel where life issues are concerned, and has not indicated one way or the other whether he would vote to de-fund Planned Parenthood.  I predict he won’t, and yet the purists who celebrated Santorum’s defeat will bemoan the Republican Party’s unwillingness to do anything with regards to this matter.

    We have a very long way to go, and it was unlikely that anything of consequence would be settled in the recent budget battle.  I just can’t wait for September.

    2

    Augustine’s Confessions: At a Distance from God

    In Book 3 we saw Augustine’s fall away from the Church, in Book 5 we will see the beginning of his return. Book 4, however, is focused primarily on his years as a Manichean.

    This is where we get the fairly brief description which is nearly all we have on Augustine’s longest romantic relationship:

    In those days I lived with a woman, not my lawful wedded wife but a mistress whom I had chosen for no special reason but that my restless passions had alighted on her. But she was the only one and I was faithful to her. Living with her I found out by my own experience the difference between the restraint of the marriage alliance, contracted for the purpose of having children, and a bargain struck for lust, in which the birth of children is begrudged, though, if they come, we cannot help but love them.

    We also hear a bit about Augustine’s life as a hot shot young rhetorician. In addition to his Manichean beliefs, he falls into consulting astrologers frequently, in part to learn the auspices when he’s entering major academic competitions. At one point, a magician of some sort offers to assure that he will win a competition, but although Augustine finds the idea that that stars and planets can influence worldly events appealing (and has no qualms about consulting astrologers and books of astrology) he recoils at the idea of the magician sacrificing animals to dark powers in an attempt to secure a victory for him.
    Continue Reading

    1

    Saint Peter Canisius and Us


     

     

     

     

    Those churchmen err who imagine that it is by brilliant preaching, rather than by holiness and all-embracing love, they fulfil their office.
                                              Saint Peter Canisius
    Each year during Lent, I attempt to do some special Lenten reading.  This year I am reading a scholarly, lively and well written biography of Saint Peter Canisius, one of the first members of the Jesuit order and acclaimed as the Second Apostle of Germany, a tribute to his decades of hard labor in Germany and Austria  in the Sixteenth Century, fighting an uphill battle to reverse the tide of the Reformation.  The book was written by Father James Brodrick, SJ, and published in 1935.  Father Brodrick lived from 1891-1973 and during his lifetime wrote numerous histories, most of them concerning the Jesuits.  His works shine with wit, intelligence and a very deep faith. Continue Reading

    16

    Lilliburlero

    Something for the weekend.   The lilting strains of Lilliburlero from the classic movie Barry Lyndon (1975). 

    The song originated during the Not So Glorious Revolution of 1688, after the usurper William of Holland, with the help of English traitors, chased James II, the rightful King of England, from his throne due to James’ Catholicism.  Like most of the Stuart monarchs, the bad points of James tended to outweigh his good points, but the obloquy heaped upon his reign in most of the histories of this period is largely a function of partisan distortion and outright religious bigotry.  On the other hand, Jacobite views of this period of British history, which goes to 1746 and the smashing of the army of Bonnie Prince Charlie, the grandson of James II at Culloden, tend greatly to exaggerate the virtues of the “Kings across the waters” who, Old Pretender (James II), Young Pretender (James III) and Bonnie Prince Charlie, were basically selfish blockheads who probably would have been disasters as monarchs if they had succeeded in regaining the throne.  History, alas, often gives us unpalatable alternatives. Continue Reading