20 Responses to Easter Message From President Reagan

  • A wonderful address … made all the more painful when you consider the prospect of 4 more years of Obama.

  • $5.00 gas, three wars, and the continuation of the Great Recession may shorten that timespan considerably! (I hope! :))

  • It was a wonderful address 🙂

    @Donald
    “$5.00 gas, three wars, and the continuation of the Great Recession may shorten that timespan considerably! (I hope! 🙂 )”
    I hated this kind of comments when President Bush (e.g. wished for the economy got worse so a democrat got in , guess what it did and we have a democrat in office. who won? not the American people ) was in so you would want America to fail to push your political agenda right or left? I feel comments like this does not move us forward as a country, but its this mindset that is part of the problem for the last 30 years.

    I will instead pray for our country to maybe one day remove all the corruption on both left and right. And maybe have completely new parties in the future.

  • “I feel comments like this does not move us forward as a country, but its this mindset that is part of the problem for the last 30 years. ”

    Hilarious. No, the main problem for this country at the present time is that we are saddled with a President who is completely clueless. He represents a wing of the Democrat party that sincerely believes that the government can legislate prosperity, and that chanting “bring the troops home” will solve our foreign policy problems. His nostrums on the economy have made a bad situation worse, and his foreign policy illustrates the same ham handedness. Criticizing Obama is not the probem, keeping mum about the fact that he is the worst President since James Buchanan is.

  • Alex,

    Please pray strenuously. If Obama gets re-elected, this country (if in November 2012 anything survives) will need a MIRACLE. Hope and change: the end of the World as we knew it.

    Obama is purely and simply a demagogue. Everything he says and does is either a lie or an act meant to tear down certain citizens and wreck the (he believes) evil, unjust American way of life. Either that or he and his hundreds of “geniuses” are complete idiots. And, want to you compare our communications of the evil he is doing to us to eight years of dishonest, vicious attacks on a decent man.

    Reagan was invited to Princess Di’s (she improved that inbred gene pool 10,000%) wedding. Obama no. Class shows.

  • Juxtaposed to Lincoln, of course, Buchanan comes off badly, but, given time, Obama will prove to be the worst ever. At least Buchanan had a much better resume than Obama going into the White House and actually believed in restraint of government. Don’t laugh, but I think Pat Buchanan would have made a good president because isolationism sounds awfully good right now.

  • Might I remind people that President Reagan’s foreign policy supported murderous regimes in Central and South America, leading to the deaths and/or torture of thousands of Catholics, including backing the government in El Salvador responsible for the martyrdom of Archbishop Romero, along with other Catholic clergy and layworkers. He supported bloody insurgent groups, like the Contras in Nicaragua and UNITA in Angola. He provided support to the apartheid regime of South Africa.

    And yet, he is held in high esteem here.

  • He was probably napping at the time. : )

  • Actually David you need reminding that Reagan was fighting against movements that planned to create carbon copies of Cuba throughout Central America. Many Catholics on the left in this country supported these movements, ignoring their human rights abuses and the miserable treatment of the Catholic Church by all Communist regimes. Under Reagan the Communist insurgeny in El Salavador was ultimately stimied, with the insurgents laying down their arms and agreeing to participate in elections. In Nicaragua the Sandinistas were forced by the pressure of the Contras to agree to a fair election which they lost in 1990. Of course John Paul II was a dedicated foe of the Sandinista regime as he made clear in his visit in 1983 and rejoiced in their electoral defeat.

    In regard to Unita, the MPLA were kept in power by Cuban military intervention. US support for Unita allowed for an eventual negotiated settlement leading to the withdrawal of the Cuban troops and the Angolan government moving away from its Communist roots. Unita is now a political party in Angola and recognized the 2008 elections as fair.

    Reagan did not support the South African regime. He called for constructive engagement with it, which actually was quite similar to the policy he followed with the Soviet Union under Gorbachev.

  • Donald, you need to catch up on your history. The El Salvador conflict started when there was a coup, which we supported. A leftist insurgency was put together in response, but the right-wing authoritarian government set up paramilitary groups and death squads–sometimes associated with the School of the Americas–which murdered civilians, most of whom were Catholic. The truth commissions that have been established since have found that about 85% of the killings were done by government forces.

    Similar situations took place in Guatemala and Honduras.

    Reagan’s support of Savimbi, who led a right wing insurgency in a civil war costing 500,000 lives, is well documented. For the record, UNITA won all of 16 seats out of 220 in the past election.

  • Obama sound bite at pre-Easter prayer breakfast: “…there’s something about the Resurrection …”

    Can’t quite put his finger on it, can he?

  • David, you need to catch up on your history.

    Every US president from Truman through Bush the elder, pursued the consistent foreign policy known as “Containment.” The Reds (Cuba and the USSR), aided and abetted by nuns and priests preaching “LIBERATION THEOLOGY”, armed and organized the peasants, who waged desultory terrorism against anyone with property.

    Of course, useful idiots (parroting the comintern script) called US foreign policy “imperialism.”

  • David,

    WWII started when the objectively pernicious leaders of Germany and the Soviet Union invaded Poland and divvied it up. Hitler turned on Stalin and they became enemies. FDR and the US gave massive amounts of aid to Stalin and the Soviet Union even to the point of becoming allies. Do you suppose FDR was generally fond of Stalin and his policies of mass extermination and imprisonment of Russians and wanted to assist him for those reasons? Or do you suppose FDR simply made the calculation that helping Stalin maintain power and his war effort against the common enemy that was more of an immediate risk to the US and her primary allies was in the US and world’s best interest?

    For the most part I think the latter and I think that is how the American people largely viewed it. Though I confess to being disappointed with FDR in that I think he was somewhat indifferent to the nature of Stalin and his regime and enabled him far too much.

    I don’t see much of a difference w.r.t. Reagan. Reagan was a champion of justice and freedom and it’s not like he could just jump in and rule these various countries. What he could do however, is help prevent a worse regime, especially those that would be under the influence of Moscow, from establishing itself. We can only help influence bad regimes for the better if they fall under our sphere of influence.

  • Although Obama and Reagan may seem light years apart, consider the following:
    1. Under Reagan, the national debt tripled from $1 trillion to $3 trillion. Under Obama, went up from $11 trillion to $14 trillion.
    2. Reagan bombed Tripoli, Obama bombed Tripoli. Reagan bombs killed Khaddafi’s adopted daughter; so far Khaddafi’s family not hit (as far as we know).
    3. Reagan once fell asleep during an audience with the Pope. Obama reportedly stayed awake but might as well been asleep.
    4. Reagan ordered military actions to suppress social and political changes in Afghanistan. Ditto Obama.
    5. Reagan was known as “The Great Communicator.” Obama has become “The Great Prevaricator.”
    6. Reagan read from a cue card while hosting GE’s TV Theater; Obama reads every speech from a TelePrompTer.

  • RL…the problem is that every president since FDR has intervened either directly or indirectly in unjust ways, often justifying these actions in the name of the Cold War or the so called War on Terror.

    Often times, these actions led to the deaths of thousands, if not millions. Vietnam is the epitome of such actions. However, it is not alone. In Central and South America, the US has an atrocious record. This is one of the reasons why many Catholics protest at the School of the Americas every year.

  • David,

    I’d agree about all the presidents intervening in unjust ways with qualifications. I’d include FDR and many presidents prior to him as well. I’d also probably have some serious disagreements with you about which interventions were just and which weren’t – as well as the how.

    I know there are a number of people, Catholics included, who think the Korean and Vietnam wars were unjust, but I disagree. In both those wars the injustice was on part of the North and the Soviet Union. I do not believe it is unjust for one nation to come to the defense of another who is fighting a just war or resisting injustice. It matters not to me if they are poor or look different, they are innocent people with dignity. How anyone can look at North Korea today and contrast that with South Korea and not see the justice in defending the South is baffling to me. The real shame is that for generations, millions of innocent people are oppressed and suffering, the bright side is that millions more aren’t suffering that plight – in large part due to the US. Also consider the horror in Vietnam. Why do you suppose all those people risked the lives of their families on makeshift rafts? FTR, it’s not that I think our government executed those wars correctly and didn’t do injustices during them, but I believe they were just causes.

    I have no doubt that people who went through the SOA participated in great evils and killed innocents. However, it seems to me that that must have been a very small minority and I would seriously doubt that the SOA’s mission is to teach people how to slaughter innocents. I couldn’t care less about the SOA really, but that there are a small number of Catholics who protest it doesn’t carry much weight in regard to the justice/injustice of the US with Latin America. Frankly, I would say the greatest commonality of the the SOA protesters is leftism.

  • The Reds (Cuba and the USSR), aided and abetted by nuns and priests preaching “LIBERATION THEOLOGY”, armed and organized the peasants, who waged desultory terrorism against anyone with property.

    Hawkish Cold War Democrat that I am, I’ve never been ashamed to support “exporting democracy.” And while that has at times led me to common cause with anti-communists on the Right, I guess I do need the occassional reminder that some on the Right do see these situations as the peasants vs. the property owners, and are ideologically and without question with the later.

  • @Donald
    Hilarious. No, the main problem for this country at the present time is that we are saddled with a President who is completely clueless. He represents a wing of the Democrat party that sincerely believes that the government can legislate prosperity, and that chanting “bring the troops home” will solve our foreign policy problems. His nostrums on the economy have made a bad situation worse, and his foreign policy illustrates the same ham handedness. Criticizing Obama is not the probem, keeping mum about the fact that he is the worst President since James Buchanan is.

    I didn’t indicate I was for or against the current administration, but rather we have an issue in both parties. After seeing this response I now know that this blog is not about viewing the world from a catholic perspective but instead a tool for the Republican Parity. Much like those pundit sites for the democrats. Please stop just taking peoples comments out of context like it or not both parties are just tools to destroy America and this has been happening for the last 30+ years. It will not change until we have some kind of unity on some issues to get this Anti-Americans from both parties out of office. We need “change” from both sides and by continuing with this binary thought process is what the powers that be want to continue to divide everyone instead of coming to a middle ground. The true middle ground is what all politicians are fearful. People like you play into this grand game of Shepard and sheep. Thanks for continuing to be sheep because that is what the right likes.

    @Shaw

    Obama a Demagogue? What told you that? For that matter you can say the same with Bush Jr.,Clinton,Bush,… etc. The last good president was probably Dwight D. Eisenhower. If you see after Dwight D. Eisenhower the great society started to fall apart. I think like @Donald you are a nicer tool, but a tool ,none the less, for the party system. We need to throw this evil/good, good/bad mentality and see that we are all as Americans getting screwed.

    I will be praying that people will wake up. Don’t you think it is interesting that the republican party does not have any ‘real’ contenders to win the white house? Why because Mr. Obama like Mr. Bush are just Manchurian candidates and you are the tools the find no fault in Bush, but every fault with Obama. So please stop.

    @ David
    You are just a tool for the democrats if you look at all your arguments you are really no different then the Republican tools of this blog.

  • “After seeing this response I now know that this blog is not about viewing the world from a catholic perspective but instead a tool for the Republican Parity.”

    I have never made any secret of the fact Alex that I am a conservative Republican, as all faithful readers of this blog know. Catholicism doesn’t give us a political road map, being rightly concerned with higher things. The Church speaks forcefully on a few issues, like abortion, but usually, and wisely, leaves her sons and daughters free to forge their own political paths for themselves.

    I disagree with your “pox on both their houses position.” I believe you indicated in another thread that you voted for Obama. I sincerely hope you are now feeling a severe case of buyer’s remorse, as his truly incompetent administration makes a complete hash of their attempt to lead this country. I believe that Obama is the worst President since James Buchanan, and by the time he is done he may be giving “Old Buck” a run for the top spot. These views do not make me a “Republican tool”, but rather someone with political views that differ markedly from yours.

  • Donald, your second paragraph was well said, but then you throw it away in your third.

    By arguing that President Obama is the worst president ever merely incites. I will admit to having argued George W. Bush was the worst ever in different forums. Both are probably closer to the middle of the spectrum, given that each faced serious difficulties that many presidents manage to avoid. We could both spend time arguing about accomplishments or failures, but the end is polarization.

    If you truly wish to have a dialog which emphasizes Catholic teachings, then you will have to drop the partisan rhetoric. I promise to try to do so as well (though I’ve been trying to be polite since joining these discussions).

    After all, we’re trying to discuss religion AND politics at the same time!

Christus Victor

Sunday, April 24, AD 2011

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

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9 Responses to Christus Victor

He is Risen! ~ Happy Easter!

Sunday, April 24, AD 2011

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.

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4 Responses to He is Risen! ~ Happy Easter!

Mysterium Paschale – Holy Saturday

Saturday, April 23, AD 2011

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.

 

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18 Responses to Mysterium Paschale – Holy Saturday

  • How can He be in hell on Saturday when the day before he told the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Or did a comment make all the difference as in: “I promise you today, you shall be with me…”
    Can someone clear this up for me?

  • …correction…or did a “comma” make all the difference…

  • Joe,

    I don’t have a great answer for you. Anything I would offer would be speculation. Perhaps some other readers have references from the Church or Church Fathers. Of course, we know from the deposit of faith (including Scripture) that Christ did descend to the dead (“Hell”, “Hades”, whatever we wish to call it), so the question at hand is how to reconcile this with the verse in question. How we interpret the descent (Balthasarian or not Balthasarian) is a separate question.

    I will say that the issue of the comma does not resolve the question. In every English translation, the comma is placed “I promise you, today you shall be with me …” In fact, in the Latin Vulgate, it is a colon, and thus provides more of a separation. (“Amen dico tibi: Hodie mecum eris in paradiso.”) I don’t know Greek very well, but my understanding is that punctuation is missing altogether.

  • The trinity Joe. “I and the Father are one.” Saint Dismas would have stood before God immediately after his death for his Particular Judgment and would immediately have been admitted into Heaven. May we all have such a happy outcome!

  • Jake, perhaps this must remain a mystery until we see through the glass clearly. I’m still grappling with understanding the trinity, among other things, stumped by Jesus’ saying: “The Father is greater than I,” which appears to undercut the tenet of “co-substantiality.”

  • Jake,

    Won’t argue about it here as I don’t understand Balthasar’s point ultimately. Like many of the 20th Century, he pushed the understanding of God. Did he go to far with this? I don’t know.

    Much like de Lubac and the question of nature and grace (one which I do believe de Lubac got wrong) Balthasar suffered for his position. Perhaps rightly so. But hopefully he, like de Lubac and us also one day, knows the truth of it all now.

  • Joe,

    “I’m still grappling with understanding the trinity.” No truer words have ever been spoken, and here the personal pronoun “I” represents all of us this side of heaven! This speaks also to Phillip’s point, and here I echo his concerns of modern theologians. While some of their material is compelling and potentially fruitful, for my own part, I tend to find more of a home in Aquinas, Augustine, and the like. “But hopefully he, like de Lubac and us also one day, knows the truth of it all now.” Amen, Phillip, amen. And blessed be God that we have a Church to sort much (not all, perhaps) out for us. As with Joe’s wrestling with procession (“the Father is greater than I”) and consubstantiality … the Church has given a clarification of these principles. Do I fully understand them? No. But the more we live, the more we pray, and the more we submit to the Truth of the Gospel, the more we can recognize error when we see it, especially in our own thought. Humility, here, becomes essential, and I speak mostly of myself.

    Blessings.

  • Saint Thomas Aquinas: “The words of The Lord (This day….in paradise) must therefore be understood not of an earthly or corporeal paradise, but of that spiritual paradise in which all may be, said to be, who are in the enjoyment of the divine glory. Hence to place, the thief went down with Christ to hell, that he might be with Christ, as it was said to him: “Thou shalt be with Me in Paradise”; but as to reward, he was in Paradise, for he there tasted and enjoyed the divinity of Christ, together with the other saints.”

  • Joe,

    Thank you for that reference.

    Blessings,

    Jake

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  • Have to admit, that this had never occurred to me – and I thank you for providing the education. Once you think about it, it makes all kinds of sense..but until I read this piece, I had never understood the full scope of Christ’s suffering for us.

  • I can not begin to fathom what Our Lord experienced on Holy Saturday. For that matter, I can not begin to fathom what Our Lord experienced period – because I can not comprehend what it means or feels like to be true man and true God. In the ’70’s, we teens used to speak of “getting inside someone’s head.” That is utterly impossible in the case of Jesus. We know he lived, slept, ate, and got thirsty and tired like us, we know what he said and how he wants us to live – but the only one who knows what he went through on that silent Saturday is Jesus. I am content to have it remain a mystery. Perhaps some day it will cease to be one.

  • Oh, may all AC contributors and readers have a happy and blessed Easter!

    I just got home from seeing “Of Gods and Men,” a wonderful wonderful film about the French monks who were martyred in Algeria in the ’90’s. I can’t think of a more appropriate time to have seen it. Despite the ending, I came away inspired by the faith and bravery of those good men. The film does a wonderful job of capturing the contemplative life, as we watch the monks pray (lots of sublime Georgian chant), minister to the Muslim villagers, make honey, and tend to their work. Imagine – the Grand Prize winner at Cannes was a film which depicts the lives of Catholic religious with respect and dignity. And apparently “Of Gods and Men” is a hit film in secular France. Maybe there is hope for the French after all.

    Of course, Christ has risen so there is hope for us all!

    The trailer of “Of Gods and Men”:

    http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/of_gods_and_men/trailers/

  • Of course I mean Gregorian, not Georgian, since I am not referring to certain British kings.

  • I myself find Ratzinger’s reflections on Holy Saturday in his Introduction to Christianity to be quite satisfying.

    Am I right in thinking the wallpaper on your other sight includes this book, Jake?

    Have you thought about it alongside Balthasar?

  • Brett,

    Very observant. I myself had to go back and check to see if it was the case. The wallpaper is nothing more than a photograph of my bookshelf (or a portion of it anyway). I spend quite a bit of time trying to eliminate the glare, but to no avail. Perhaps a higher quality camera that doesn’t need a flash. At any rate, thanks for noticing.

    Pax,

    Jake

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  • I believe that the separation from God occurred when he was on the cross, when Christ took on the sins of man it created the separation from God that he had never known prior to that. While the word from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” was seemingly in reference to the Psalm, he was also fulfilling scripture. The separation from God had to be almost physical in dimension.

    The decent into Hell isn’t specified, but on Resurrection Sunday, he states, “do not touch me, for I haven’t ascended to the Father”. That seems to make it such that he had been in Hell not paradise.

    The promise made to the thief that today you will be with me in paradise, could mean quite a number of different things. One could be a phrasing, one could be that Christ ascended first, which might make some sense for him to receive judgment, it could be just a promise made immediate for one who was suffering alongside Him, and Christ being part of the Trinity could have used the “royal” type of “me” in that word from the cross.

    It is an interesting thought about where Christ was on the Saturday. Being that Satan had confronted Christ prior, you wonder if this was a further confrontation between them.

Tantum Ergo

Saturday, April 23, AD 2011

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.

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  • We could say the Crucifixion is the greatest of all Love Stories.
    ********************************************************************************No man has ever been lonelier than Jesus was on His way to Calvary. No burden was so heavy nor injustice as great as His complete and total acceptance of the “cross of love” for all mankind which our heavenly father placed upon His shoulders for our salvation.
    Can we see the awesome intensity of the Fathers love for us here? That He would “allow” a scene such as this in order that His children might be saved. This was His incarnate body being ripped to shreds; His precious blood poured upon the ground; His blessed virgin mother witnessing the ugly brutality against the child they shared together. And at a distance the disciple’s pity, though heart felt, was overcome by their fear of religious and political authorities. Yes, Jesus our brother was a “loner” within His suffering but universal in His love and eternal passion for our salvation.
    Jesus has shown us how it is to suffer for the sake of our Father and His people. As Christians we are by choice now a family of suffering souls who can rise above pain, rejection, abuse, or ridicule and not wonder why or seek answers for its presence in our lives. We know because our brother, the crucified, has set the tone of our transformation by and through His glorious cross. All Christians, through original sin, are justly tied to the cross with Jesus and should welcome a personal measure of suffering that we might share in His resurrection. To deny or avoid that cross or that measure would be to deny Christ. Cherish your Holy Cross for it is truly God’s gift of eternal life for us; our shared symbol of love for Him.
    Lord Jesus, though we have chosen to follow in your footsteps to the cross of our salvation, our human weaknesses often tempt us to recoil at the sight or thought of pain and suffering.
    We pray your infinite mercy will help us to remember always the celestial love of the Father and His willingness to suffer through and with you on the cross for us knowing that we are truly fortunate for any opportunity to share our portion with you that we may one day share eternity with Him. Amen

Report to the Emperor-First Draft

Friday, April 22, AD 2011

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!

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7 Responses to Report to the Emperor-First Draft

  • Yes, from all that we know about Pilate, he had the same lack of squeamishness when it came to executions as most Romans, so his reluctance to condemn Jesus is haunting.

    As part of my Good Friday meditations, I intend to read selected passages from Fr. Richard John Neuhaus’s fine book “Death on a Friday Afternoon,” which had a great impact on me when I returned to the Church in 2005.

    One observation Fr. Neuhaus made that always haunts me is that the very tall cross common in Christian art is an invention of the Middle Ages. The real Cross was probably around 7 feet tall (that makes sense when you think about it. Wood is a more precious commodity in the rocky, sandy Mediterranean countries than it was in lushly forested Northern Europe. From the Roman POV: why waste such a resource dangling criminals high overhead when it was just as effective to raise them a foot or so above the ground?) That meant that when Mary and John stood she was actually face to face with her Son. As Fr. Nuehaus put it “The sweat, the blood, the tearing tendons, the twitching, the wrenching, the bulging eyes – she would have seen it all quite clearly, as clearly as she saw him so long ago when she held him safely to her breast.”

  • Saint Remigius, the Apostle to the Franks, was instructing King Clovis of the Franks prior to his baptism about the Faith. He had just described the crucifixion. Clovis was greatly affected by this. Clutching his battle ax, he said, “If only my Franks and I could have been there! We would have avenged the wrongs done to our God!” That has always struck me as a very Catholic reaction when we recall the agony of Christ on the cross and the agony of the Blessed Virgin in having to watch this agonizing death of her beloved Son.

  • “We adore You, Christ, and we bless You. Because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.” A prayer said before each of the Stations of the Cross.

    The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery, The Crucifixion, pray for the grace of final perseverence. Meditate on the love (for us unworthy sinners) which filled Our Lord’s Sacred Heart during His three hours’ agony on His Holy Cross. And, pray that Jesus be with you at the hour of death.

    Contemplate the sword which pierces Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart when she met jesus on His way to Calvary; and as she stood by Him as he was crucified for our sins and salvation, and as the Body of Jesus was laid in the tomb.

    “We adore You, Christ, and we bless You. Because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.”

  • Clutching his battle ax, he said, “If only my Franks and I could have been there!”

    Ah, Clovis. Now there’s a character. Got to love the guy.

    Back when I was a teen, my Dad did both Gregory of Tours’ History of the Frank and Njal’s Saga as family read alouds. Man, you don’t get converts like those anymore…

  • Thanks for this Don.
    The links you give provide a quite fascinating insight into not only corroborative accounts of the events of our Easter celebration, but also of the personalities, their histories and their associates, and the various historical intrigues that influenced and guided their actions.

    For example, I had heard and unconfirmed story many years ago that it was possible that Pilate had later become a convert to Christianity at the insistence of his wife; that would appear to be a bit of pious bunkum.

  • “Man, you don’t get converts like those anymore…”

    Another favorite vignette from the conversion of Clovis:

    “Remigius addressed the king by a name on which the noblest among the Franks prided themselves,—”Sicambrian, gently bow thy neck, worship that which thou hast burnt, and burn that which thou hast worshipped.”

  • Thank you Don. The legends that grew up about Pilate and his wife are endless with people eager to fill in what history simply left blank.

New Urbanism and Virtue

Thursday, April 21, AD 2011

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.

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30 Responses to New Urbanism and Virtue

  • It sounds very nice and logical and all, but it doesn’t work.

    I’ve lived in places where I could walk to the store, the mall, my doctor’s, etc, and there were tons of folks in the same complex. The only time I had a friendly conversation with someone was when I complemented her cat…after some drunk kids set a man’s pickup on fire, because isn’t it funny to burn a vehicle with a fire fighter’s uniform in it?
    I tried to be helpful and friendly, and it was most assuredly rebuffed.

    Compare to where we live now– not walkable at all, unless you count the bread distributor’s next door, but if I offer someone a hand because they’ve got a ton of groceries and a little kid they say thank you and accept, or do the no thanks I got it response. I know the gal who shares a wall with me, and we chat if she’s out smoking and I happen to walk out. If I knock on folks’ doors to ask if the lovely orange cat trying to come in my back window is theirs, they answer with a smile and we both worry about whose it could be. (still no idea, but the conclusion is that he’s sneaking out of folks’ houses, and the desk ladies all know he comes to “visit” my cat so they can tell whoever looks for him)

    The main difference? Sense of safe community– there’s a daycare on site, so everyone has to pass a basic security check, there’s a gate that you need a code to drive through, there’s green open space on either side and the population is mostly military or associated.
    The other “complex” we shared a rec house, but the place was wide open– people could and did walk there, cause trouble (that was NOT the only vehicle that was torched), the YMCA was plopped down nearby (which I think bussed in “troubled youth” regularly), and if someone knocked on your door it was probably to run that blanking magazine scam for the fiftieth time.

    The guy wants community— that means you’ve got to have a shared culture. Being able to walk to places has nothing to do with it, having shared values that are enforced in some manner does.

    Think about it– why are we reading a site called “The American Catholic”? Because the really important values are shared here. We know we’re not going to open the page one day and see something along the lines of that attack on poor little Trig, because everyone here agrees that all toddlers are people, and attacking a child because of who they’re related to is wrong.

    Frankly, I don’t want to adopt the culture of those around me– I’m Catholic, and the culture is frankly incompatible with that, as evidenced when I went to my St. Francis network OBGYN and on the first appointment they wanted to know if I wanted to get my tubes tied, since this was the second child.
    When I politely said it was against my religion (and, when asked, said I’m Catholic) they were shocked and said they’d never had someone turn it down on religious grounds before. Every one of their clients that they know are Catholic ignores “that stuff.”

  • I’ve lived in small towns in Central Illinois virtually my entire life. Almost everyone drives here, either to a job, or to go shopping or to get to the county seat to take care of some matter with the county government. The sense of community is normally pretty strong, although new comers can sometimes take a while to fit in. Additionally squabbles can ensue when neighbors get too close, so I have always followed a policy of waving to neighbors when I see them, and leaving it at that. People do tend to watch out for each other, and it is normally fairly easy to know who is trustworthy and who is not. Some people can find it all stifling, but it has suited me and my family fairly well.

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  • I think that the concerns with community in the referenced work are overanalyzed. Communities develop first through families that inculcate the virtues. Then those virtues are fostered through the life of the cult (religion). In the end this community can exist even when there are great distances.

    Having lived in the West, where farmers and ranches often lived miles apart, one is impressed with the community that existed in local churches or other organizations such as the Grange.

    The I’ve lived in cities where the population of the block was higher than the local town five miles aways. No sense of community at all.

    I think in part Aquinas’ noting that virtue is lived in community in part takes in Aristotle’s view that a virtuous life is lived in friendship. Though it probably gets much more complex than that, I think that is the place where analysis should begin. The lack of true friendship, in spite of geographic barriers at times, that is a reality in our post-cultic society.

  • I like the way St.Thomas puts us in the action track with mandates to work in context with our fellows. This morning while busing to work, I was imagining St.John of the Cross walking from place to place in Segovia in 1589. From a tourist’s viewpoint one could admire the path he took from the cathedral to hospitals to convents and home to his monastery. I got of the bus and it occurred to me that my path is no less special, if I am thinking like St.Thomas had advised.

    We do create virtue from habit. But it is hard work.

  • Philip- I think you’re on to something, and a question came to mind: could the way we’re taught in school be helping to kill off friendship?

    As a lot of wags have commented, they haven’t been forced to socialize with a group entirely their own age and mostly the same background since leaving school….

  • Philip: “I’ve lived in cities where the population of the block was higher than the local town five miles away. No sense of community at all.”

    Foxfier: “The main difference? Sense of safe community…”

    Yeah… points which perennially come to my mind whenever I read these types of suburb critiques. The assertions totally go against my experience and that of many others, explaining why these ideas have trouble catching on. Even Rod Dreher has admitted that even though suburbs are–in theory–depraved dens of iniquity and non-community, they are much friendlier, safer and convivial than cities are in reality. That’s where I live. Reality.

    As for the critique of internal combustion engines, the crowd of people passing each other on many urban sidewalks may as well have cars built around them for the lack of notice they pay one another. Automobiles only reinforce a sort of individualism that is already there. People who drive the most, commonly called “truckers”, have more sense of community belonging than, say, people in Starbucks listening to iPods with headphones thinking grandiose thoughts about an imaginary world without fossil fuels. BTW, you can still get a CB for less than many iPod models.

  • *little lightbulb*
    Japan’s high population means that they HAVE to interact, and HAVE to live in walking distance of most everything, etc.
    They respond by building mental and cultural walls.

    Maybe stress has a lot to do with it? I know the #1 stress in my life is people, and that the best way to keep people from hurting you is not to be vulnerable to them. Friendly is vulnerable. (Ask any high school outcast.)

  • I might add, that while the suburbs traditionally have been cut off from urban areas in terms of communities, that the internet has the potential to transcend those barriers. We live in an era where humans have the capability to communicate in more ways than ever before imagined. Can we use them to form greater communities of well-being and break down the social barriers of “The Lonely Crowd”?

    For a good (and challenging) book on some of the philosophy behind the concern over barriers and mixing, see Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Times.

  • It seems like the original article is assuming that overlapping connections automatically create community. I disagree. The strongest bonds in my life come from church and family, neither of which overlap with my work or social life.

    The article forgets about the sense of duty. Integration can encourage duty to the extent that, for example, it’s embarrassing to go to the grocery store and see the deacon of the church you haven’t been attending. But integration doesn’t necessarily produce a sense of duty. Duty inspires you to do something you don’t want to do, and without that, it’s impossible to live a moral life.

    It’s worth noting that both Japanese culture and midwest farming culture involve a sense of duty. Trucking does as well, at least partially due to the large investment of money or time. Internet sites don’t promote duty. Anyone can show up or drop out at any time. I don’t think they encourage virtue, unless the person does feel an obligation to them.

  • New Urbanism often doesn’t have much place for churches. I do believe encouraging more people to live within walking distance of their church would have very positive effects. This kind of encouragement is easier than ever in the Facebook age – just let your church friends know that so-and-so is moving, and his house is just down the block from St. Mary’s.

    The Public Discourse essayist risks confusing *building* patterns with *residency* patterns. It’s the people who matter, clearly.

    The safety issue is also an important political question. Why should someone feel unsafe in a functioning modern city? “Lack of safety” is sometimes just another phrase for “lack of effective police protection.” (And often police incapacity results from political or judicial intervention.)

  • Why should someone feel unsafe in a functioning modern city?

    Because the majority of modern folks aren’t fighters and aren’t armed. The defense an unarmed noncom has is numbers, and if you don’t have a strong community you can’t be sure you’ll have sufficient numbers to counter an armed gang.

  • It seems to me that Mr. Tawney’s article is trying to hit at a reality of modern life that we all face: increasing individualism and increasing social dis-integration, with a consequent individualistic ethos. That, in my opinion, is a reality none can ignore and very much worth thinking about. I would like to hear some of the commentators at this blog offer some thoughts about the roots of this problem.

    On the other hand, I am fairly disappointed with the way the argument was constructed. It seems like a cake thrown together which hasn’t had enough time to bake. On the one hand, one must admit that Thoreau and co.’s arguments concerning the telegraph have some validity to them. The fact of being able to communicate is not yet a judgment of the value of the communications that are now possible. In other words, I think Mr. Tawney correctly identified the pith of the problem: a substitution for real, inter-personal communication is taken as the norm. None of the commentators so far, on this Catholic blog, have taken seriously enough his points about theological anthropology and the incarnational aspect of man as made for communion. The fact that communities are now designed to isolate is something worth noting and considering. To ignore this argument and to say that design has nothing to do with it is to deny the effect/influence of man’s surroundings. In other words, it is to deny that he is really an incarnate spirit and to give into the Cartesian “ghost-in-the-machine” (or thinking thing/extended thing dualism, as he termed it).

    On the other hand, a few commentator’s got it right when they said (basically) that these arguments have culpably overlooked the family as the real basic building block of virtue and when they said that friendship is the first context about which Thomas was writing (of course, he also had other communities in mind, for example, religious communities). As long as these things are not looked to first, the further arguments will lack a suitable foundation.

    Finally, I must say that Mr. Tawney’s explanation of the nature of God needs a bit of tightening. That is, it is inaccurate in comparison to the Catholic faith, and on two points. First, Mr. Tawney writes, “…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.” As to the first part, it is true that God is the act of love (but more accurate to say that the three divine Persons are constituted by their mutual and perichoretic act of love). As to the second, it does not follow that God is immanent. God is a Creator, but it does not follow that He is “immanent” as Person in creation. This is not a logical necessity, otherwise, God would be constrained by something other than His nature. The reason for this has to do with the fact that God is love in and of Himself, that is, within the eternal communion of Persons. He has no need of creation to love and therefore it is not a logical necessity. The fact that He is present to His creation (in His Incarnation), is a further sign of the infinitude of His love.

    As to the second point, Mr. Tawney writes, “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.” It is simply false to say that God is “integrated.” The word integrated applies to complex/composed beings. God’s being is utterly simple; it is simplicity. God is not integrated because, quite simply, there are no parts which require integration. His one act of being is also His essence. Perhaps Mr. Tawney was trying to point to the aspect of divine simplicity (we will give the benefit of the doubt), but it bears saying that God cannot be said to be “integrated.”

    Mr. Tawney, thank you for your thought provoking article.

    Pax,
    Ben

  • Due to Triduum happenings, I have not yet had a chance to get to many of the comments, and needless to say, it is a bit overwhelming. I think the most surprising thing is not necessarily the number of comments, but rather their length. If I (or the original article) have cause people to think deeply about simple things, then I suppose this is in someway a success.

    I think their is a temptation in many of the comments to present anecdotal evidence as contrary to the original thesis, which, as I read it, is that life in suburbia is not conducive to the development of virtue, but rather seems more conducive to fragmentation and a Cartesian sort of subjectivism. While anecdotal evidence can be helpful, it always remains just that. For instance, if I live in an urban setting that still maintains a since of social isolation, this does not necessarily mean that the thesis is incorrect. Likewise, a very tight knit community within suburbia does not contradict the thesis. The question still remains: what type of social setting is more conducive to building virtue? There will always be those that can live virtuously even in environments that don’t promote it, and there will always be those that live viscously despite an environment that promotes virtue. But the question remains: does a walkable community better allow for the type of community needed to build virtue. I think this is Mr. Hain’s point.

    I think there has been too much emphasis on “walkability.” While this is certainly part of the thesis, it remains just that: only part. The idea was to produce a comparison of a small, walkable community in which most everything one needs is within a relatively short distance. In such a community, an individual knows the grocer, knows the mayor, knows the bank officer, etc. Everything is personal because everything is small. Suburbia is very different, for the only thing in the immediate community is the house and other similarly built houses. The church can be quite a bit a away, the workplace is often deliberately a lengthy drive, and the list goes on. Suburbia is set up to foster fragmentation – or perhaps fragmentation led to the desire for suburbia. “Walkability” is only a side aspect – the main thing here, from my perspective, is smallness and simplicity.

    I appreciate Phillip’s comment about farm communities, and this may be worthy of its own post. While there is not space here to develop this idea fully, it seems to me that the rural communities can somehow maintain a sense of smallness, simplicity, and non-fragmentation in their lives. In this way, they seem closer to the small town community of which I am speaking than they do to suburbia.

    That being said, “walkability” is not totally separate from all of this. There is something about walking (perhaps it is the slower pace, the physical movements, who knows?) over driving that better allows one to take in the surroundings. I tried to hint at some of this in the description of the social isolation that occurs int he act of driving, but perhaps I didn’t do a very good job. Of course, this is not meant to be a blanket statement, for I readily concede the point about people walking with iPods, cell phones, and various other objects that remove them from the world. But neither does this negate the point: that walking is more conducive to communicating with those who are also walking than does driving.

    That brings me to Ben’s comment, one that was very much appreciated. It seems to get at the main crux of the article. Perhaps my argument was a bit scattered. These are conversations I have been having with various individuals for some time, and often things make more sense in my head than they come across on paper. “The fact that communities are now designed to isolate is something worth noting and considering.” Indeed. Postman’s main argument was that the form of communication is not separable from the content being communicated. In other words, at the same time that one is receiving information, one is also receiving information on how information is to be received. Likewise with social organization. Design has everything to do with it. One cannot separate the manner in which a community is designed from the objective values that are inherent to that design, and some designs by their nature (if not their intent) promote isolation and fragmentation. While one is taking in information and habits about living a virtuous life, one is doing os in a particular social setting, and that will inevitably impact the manner in which these habit are formed.

    If I ignored the importance of the family, it was not because of a lack of importance I actually attribute to it. It is clear to both me and the readers of this article that the family is the basic building block of society, which is precisely why a family can live virtuously even in an organization that promotes otherwise. However, it still begs the original question: what type of community design/organization is more conducive to family values and virtue building? In other words, are small walkable towns or suburbia more helpful in allowing a family to function as a family?

    Finally, I appreciate Ben’s last two critiques. I disagree with nothing he writes, and anything to the contrary in the original article is merely a lack of clarity on my own part, and I humbly accept his correction. I agree that God-as-love does no logically necessitate immanence. Rather, what I intended was that God’s immanence happens through the fact that he is the act of love. Being “present to another” (which as I take it is a pretty good, albeit simple, definition of immanence) happens by being “gift” to the other, and the act of being gift is one in the same as the act of love. Never did I meant to suggest that God’s act of creation was necessary. It was not, as is clear from Catholic teaching on the nature of God. “The fact that He is present to His creation (in His Incarnation), is a further sign of the infinitude of His love.” This is a perfect way of describing what I indented to say. Perhaps change my original “As such” to “In such” would have been clearer. But I am afraid that the clearest way would have been to allow Ben to speak for me!

    On the second point, I regret the use of the word “integrated.” Ben is correct is assuming that I meant “simple.” Actually, “unity” is what I was really after .. the idea that God, while three Persons, is in fact one God. Even in his plurality, he is unity. We are the analogy, and the manner in which we are called to integrate those aspects of our lives and beings into our singular person is a shadow of the Trinitarian reality. Perhaps putting it that way is more or less clear .. I cannot say … but I think I will quit now before I stumble into more heresy, something very easy to do when trying to contemplate the nature of the Blessed Trinity.

    Blessings to all this Good Friday. A thunderstorm is brewing at the moment in Delaware, Ohio, so apparently even the weather knows that the Lord is in the tomb.

  • I welcome Mr. Hain’s analysis. As a social conservative who has been a land use and transportation planner in a very liberal community I have been involved in working with developers to design and construct new urbanist communities. The appeal of the new urbanist concept is based on my personal experience. I spent the first 9 years of my life living in a Chicago neighborhood, sitting with my parents on our front porch in the summer, talking to the neighbors who walked past. As a child I walked to Catholic school, to the park and rode my bike throughout that part of the city. In the summer my family walked to church on Sundays. When I was 10 we moved to what was at that time the distant northwestern suburbs. Everthing changed…you could not walk to anything other than other houses and every riding a bike was more dangerous than in the city. There were certain advantages to be sure but unlike my younger siblings I had could compare the advantages and disadvantages of both.

    When I was in graduate school I argued in a planning class that urban neighborhoods and small rural towns were much more alike than suburban subdivisions. . .the point the Mr. McClarey makes about his experience. My continued interest in new urbanism is not driven by the environmental benefits of less driving but by my intuitive sense that there is a huge benefit to living in a community where you know your neighbor due to your proximity and take ownership of your neighborhood because you know your neighbors. I’m surprised no one has mentioned Ave Maria outside of Naples Florida. I think the the concept that Monahan has tried to instill in his vision for Ave Maria is based on this same concept. As far as the comment that churches don’t seem to be part of these new communities, we do require developers to set aside land for “civic” uses, including schools and churches. In the first project we worked on I encouraged the local Catholic church to consider relocating to the village center but unfortunately they had a more “suburban” vision. A Methodist church ended up in the space and they have received much publicity for the church’s design and the vitality of their congregation, many of whom live within walking distance of the church. Another missed opporunity.

    The challenge I face is that some economic conservatives and libertarians tend to want to throw the new urbanist concept, along with those things that support it like public transportation, out as part of liberal social engineering. I have argued with many of them that there is nothing inherently incompatible between conservative social beliefs and recognizing the value of community in promoting those beliefs.

  • Mr. Bonk,

    Thank you for your addition to this conversation, especially in light of your professional background. You have once again illustrated my observation that people’s comment on this topic are quite lengthy! I think that is probably a good thing – at the very least it is a refreshing change from the sound-byte conversations that often surround the blogosphere.

    I a curious on one point, though no in disagreement. Quite the opposite, I sense you are correct, but I am not sure why. You mentioned that many social conservatives and libertarians are opposed to this sort of idea. As a social conservative with a mild libertarian streak, I find myself wondering why this is true. The whole idea of small communities seems to support the idea of subsidiarity and self governance. Why do you think others in the same political camp tend to veer away from a new urbanization?

    Pax,

    Jake

  • “I think their is a temptation in many of the comments to present anecdotal evidence as contrary to the original thesis, which, as I read it, is that life in suburbia is not conducive to the development of virtue, but rather seems more conducive to fragmentation and a Cartesian sort of subjectivism. While anecdotal evidence can be helpful, it always remains just that.”

    That is true that the arguments are anecdotal. But a philosophical argument is also not empirical. Thus your argument, nor the original one linked, nor the link to the book, show any empirical evidence. That of course would take sociological methods regarding measuring community, studies including surveys, statistical analysis etc. Until that time, your arguments are as non-empirical as others. This lack of empirical evidence is shown in this statement;

    “Suburbia is set up to foster fragmentation – or perhaps fragmentation led to the desire for suburbia.”

    Where is your evidence that planners, or people moving to suburbs, desired fragmentation or were designed to foster fragmentation?

    There may be such a body of literature. I am unaware of any however. The best that I can think quickly of is “The Negro Family: A Case for National Action.” This seems to more adequately, and from an empirical basis, address the issues related to the breakdown of the African-American family (the basic unit of society.) Most notably the issues were single parent families, usually headed by women. There also seems to be evidence for the breakdown of communities when planners designed “the projects” which were to foster better living but ultimately shattered previous relations. This even though people were living in closer proximitiy to each other.

    More anecdotes however. I am old enough now to have heard of the fragmenting of community in a number of different decades. Most pre-date the internet. As noted, the analysis linked fails not solely from a lakc of, as noted, empirical evidence. But also from a proper anthropology. Humans are designed for community. They in fact make community in a number of ways even when separated. This most simply, through the family. Then the Church and other institutions. This because an authentic antrhopology also considers God and grace. Both of which are supplied in abundance to overcome natural barriers. Barriers which have been, as noted, overcome in the past and which will, considering that God so wills, be overcome in the future.

  • Twice in my lifetime, including right now, I have lived within walking distance of my parish church. I find that most of the time, walking to and from Mass actually helps me be better disposed than driving; it almost feels like a pilgrimage of sorts.

    The same with walking to and from work (which I do occasionally now) — although more physically demanding, in my case that’s a good thing because I could use the exercise. Plus driving is fraught with all kinds of anxieties which one really doesn’t notice unless one stops to think about them — will the car start? Should I stop and get gas? What was that funny noise I just heard? Why is my seatbelt stuck again? How do I get into the proper turn lane without getting hit by those cars coming up behind me? Will this light ever change? WHO TOOK MY PARKING SPACE?

  • To my mind, the anecdotes are very important in this discussion. It is apparent to me from these discussion that some people have had horrible experiences in the suburbs with unfriendliness and others have had the exact same experiences in the super-urbs, i.e., the city. The problem I’ve always had with the new urban supremacists is their superiority complex about the city. I believe this goes back to the Tower of Babel, which was not built in the suburbs. Those people needed a dose of humility and so do the new urban supremacists.

    I just keep getting hung up on what our Lord saying about the rich have a hard time getting to heaven. You’ve got to be detached from your worldly goods no matter where you live.

  • “Plus driving is fraught with all kinds of anxieties which one really doesn’t notice unless one stops to think about them — will the car start? Should I stop and get gas? What was that funny noise I just heard? Why is my seatbelt stuck again? How do I get into the proper turn lane without getting hit by those cars coming up behind me? Will this light ever change? WHO TOOK MY PARKING SPACE?”

    All of which pale Elaine in comparison to the greatest fear involved in driving; teaching a teenager how to drive! I am going through this process with my daughter right now who actually isn’t a bad driver. She does complain sometimes that my obvious occasional fear makes her somewhat nervous. I mollify her by allowing her to play the random caucophonous sounds which she calls “music” and I call “animal killing music”.

  • It isn’t that anecdotes are not important – they are, for they are reflective of the human experience. It is just that any one particular anecdote neither supports nor contradicts a thesis. While I readily concede the point that I offered no sociological evidence that is in any way better than anecdotal evidence, I would challenge the point that philosophical arguments are no better. In fact, philosophical arguments are not only stronger than anecdotes, but are stronger than empirical evidence, because philosophy attempts to get at the root of the issue. Note that this in no way devalues either anecdotes or statistics, but it simply presents a hierarchy of evidence.

    The argument, as I stated ism “Suburbia is set up to foster fragmentation.” Philip asks for evidence of this, to which I concede I have not, though with him I would find such studies fascinating. My argument is much more fundamental than sociological data. It is in the very nature, the very design, or suburbia to foster fragmentation. Suburbs are set up quite literally to have houses in isolation from the rest of society. In many ways it is what defines a suburb. They are deliberately designed to have shopping centers outside of a certain radius, while still remaining within driving distance of course. Further, suburbs are designed to be away from the place of work. The very nature of the set up fosters a “home life”, a “work life”, and a “commerce life”, all separate from one another. “Church life” is a bit harder to diagnose, because the geographic parish is a persistent support for local community. While I am not fully prepared to make a cohesive argument, I sense that in many cases, community that might be established among Catholics living in such a disintegrated world is due to the local parish.

    It is important to note here that the large urban environment is not what I am upholding as a “better” solution to this problem. From what I can tell, it suffers many of the same problems as the suburbs, but the manifestation is often different. Rather, I am upholding the small walkable town and the rural communities as much more conducive to an integrated life.

    Finally, at the risk of beating a dead horse into the ground, I recognize that (1) no matter what the set up, this side of heaven man will have to struggle with re-integrating what original sin has dis-integrated, and no social set up is a panacea for this problem, and (2) even in the most non-conducive environments, there will be those who thrive virtuously and achieve some semblance of integration in their lives. Neither of these two points, however, dismisses the original question, that forms of organization are either more or less conducive to battling the problem of fragmentation that plagues our society.

  • Pauli,

    I agree one-hundred-percent, and perhaps from the beginning I should have done more to separate myself from the “new urban supremacists” who have a “superiority complex about the city.” I in no way uphold the modern urban environment as a haven of virtue – in many cases it is quite the opposite. I have no desire, for example, to raise my kids in Las Vegas simply because it is a city. The model I am defending is the small town. However, I also think that the rural community in its own way shares many of the same advantages.

    Thank you for allowing this clarification. I appreciate your comments.

  • If you want to really start at the root, you need to define terms. Otherwise you are beating down strawmen. I have never heard anyone define the difference between a city and a suburb—philosophically, that is. My contention is that suburbia does not exist in the real world, so condemning it as a soulless wasteland doesn’t condemn any actual suburb in which one might actually live.

  • “It is in the very nature, the very design, or suburbia to foster fragmentation. ”

    That is a premise which I don’t think you have proven.

    That goes to the crux of the discussion. Philosophical arguments are able to settle questions of the meaning of what is human and the role of community etc. But other disciplines have their own methods which are valid in proving their varied domains of knowledge. Mathematical, physical and sociological methods are valid to their given discipline and, in regard to the specific questions they answer, superior to philosophical methods. Otherwise we would have Aristotelean physics trumping modern cosmology. But it doesn’t. Nor can it.

    Now what philosophy can do, is take sociological data and give a deeper meaning to it. Thus if there was empirical sociological data which “proved” your premise above, then one can apply philosophical methods to mine the deeper interpretation.

    This in part becomes the problem of disciplines like philosophy or theology where modern problems become interpreted without regard to underlying issues. Issues to which modern sciences (limited in the certitude to be sure but nonetheless valid in the degree that they can know) can provide the guide to the nature of the problem. This is part of the problem of social justice crowds that interpret all issues in light of theological positions but without regard to the historical, economic, sociological, etc. issues. That is not to say that you are doing that. Its just that I don’t believe you have the scientific basis to make the argument you are.

    “The very nature of the set up fosters a “home life”, a “work life”, and a “commerce life”, all separate from one another.”

    But that ultimately is a spiritual question. One of integrating all of one’s life – home, work and community – into a coherent whole. This is done regardless of place and time – limits that will always be with us to some degree. It is done through recognizing the total dimension of what is human in all areas that one is called to be and wherever one is. To sanctify those dimensions by bringing them all to God.

  • Phillip,

    “‘The very nature of the set up fosters a “home life”, a “work life”, and a “commerce life”, all separate from one another.’ But that ultimately is a spiritual question.”

    I agree. It is ultimately a spiritual question. However, it doesn’t mean that the “set up” is irrelevant. Take for example the methods of communication of which I spoke in the main body of the post. Authentic communication is ultimately on the level of the Person, and there are those who can foster authentic communication in a variety of media. This does not, however, contradict the thesis that various forms of communication make authentic communication more or less challenging. Twitter and text messaging, for example, makes real communication rather difficult if for the sole reason that they limit the amount of characters one can send. It is possible, of course, but it requires a sound grounding in Christian anthropology and virtue. Without that grounding, the medium itself (Twitter) makes it rather difficult to develop, and overtime runs the risk of actually forming one’s sense of the human person, communication, and relationship. While it is ultimately spiritual, it is dangerous to think that the medium is irrelevant. We are spiritual beings, yes, but we are also incarnate beings living in a material world.

    Why can the same not be said for structures of living? While it is ultimately spiritual, while we are called to form community regardless of structures, and while those who are solidly grounded in virtuous principles can find ways of doing so, it doesn’t follow that such structures are irrelevant. “Limits will always be with us …” True, but again it doesn’t make the question irrelevant – such risks ignoring the material aspect of our being, yes?

    “To sanctify those dimensions by bringing them all to God.” Yes. Yes. and Yes. This is precisely correct – I don’t, however, see how it is incompatible with anything I have said.

    Finally, please know that I appreciate your comments, as well as Pauli’s and others. One of the challenges inherent to the “blog” medium is the lack of face to face communication, implied intonation, and other issues that go along with it. I myself am often guilty of not properly indicating a tone of voice, and I know from experience that I can come off as trite, argumentative, and stubborn. I assure you that such is a deficiency in my ability to communicate, not in my attitude towards fellow commentators. Thank you for your thoughts, and I read them with the utmost respect and genuinely consider them in forming my own thought.

  • Jake, I appreciate the tone of this discussion. I think it is probably one of the more balanced and thoughtful discussions in which I’ve participated on this topic. I get the feeling that people are listening to the different sides and responding rather than “talking past one another” as I’ve experienced on other forums.

  • Jake: “Twitter and text messaging, for example, makes real communication rather difficult if for the sole reason that they limit the amount of characters one can send.”

    These forms of communication have to be used in accord with their nature. If my wife texts me to buy milk, flour and diapers while I’m out, she has more time to cook dinner and help the kids with homework. But it would be silly to have a discussion about tight finances or discipline problems via text messages. Not that there aren’t people doing things that crazy with technology. But I knew a guy who lost two fingers because he and his dad were using a lawn mower as a hedge trimmer, circa 1986. Stupidity predates the internet.

  • Pauli,

    Not to be too off topic here, but your comment reminds me of a comment I heard once. (I want to say it was Peter Kreeft, but don’t quote me on that.) It was said that the key to Christian unity is simple. If everyone were to simply abandon all preconceptions and give themselves over to the will of God. We simply need to ask God what he wants and follow him unreservedly. (Easier said than done, perhaps?). At any rate, I try to follow the same mantra in these everyday sorts of conversations.

    At the very least, our common ground seems to be that these things are worth talking about.

    *****

    “Stupidity predates the internet.” Somehow I think this should go on a quote wall of fame somewhere.

    Yes, forms of communication must be used in accord with their nature, and your examples are perfect illustrations. Here is the question, though. For someone who is well grounded in Christian personalism, is it often fairly easy to discern both the nature and its proper use. What concerns me is that those who are not can easily begin to substitute non-authentic communication for the real thing. Neil Postman, whom I referenced, made the case that the telegraph, photograph, and finally the television forever changed the nature of public discourse, changing the culture from a typographic one to a culture of entertainment. I think there is no doubt that this transition has occurred, and I thing it is clear that the television played a prominent role in the transition. Was it inevitable? I don’t know. But I do know that it is inherent to the television medium.

    The same sorts of things can be said about text messaging, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc. I worry very little about people who are well grounded in Christina personalism. After all, here I am communicating with others via a blog. It would be hypocritical of me to offer a wholesale dismissal of internet communication. On the other hand, I see the impact that text messaging and the like is having on my high school students. They are coming to related to one another via a screen, and I have a feeling that decades from now psychologists are going to have a field day with this generation that has learned to communicate through these devices. Of course, perhaps this generation will not seek a psychologist but rather advice on the Psychologist Facebook Fan Page.

    A final thought. Perhaps what separates the hedge-trimmer example from technological communication is the subtleness of the dangers in the later. The dangers of succumbing to the formation inherent in the device are only dangers in so far as we are unaware enough to use the irresponsibly. The percentage of people trimmer hedges with a lawnmower is surely less than the percentage of people using Facebook to have “real” relationships.

  • “subtleness of the dangers in the later.” Sure, I can agree with that. But someone unschooled with regard to Christian personalism may use common sense and a sort of natural prudence to come to the conclusion which I did about forms of communication.

    I think that Facebook is the most deceptive of the social sites because it uses the term “Friend” for basically the sharing of information. I’ve said on my blog before that there are people whom I’m happy to call friends and meet for coffee but I don’t want them perusing my information. This is why I prefer LinkedIn and Twitter to Facebook. You simply don’t share as much and there is less pretension of “realness”.

  • Jake,

    Thank-you also for the respectful discussion. Will read your reply post more thoroughly after the Easter Vigil.

41 Responses to Redistributing Grades

  • Ladies and Gentlemen… I present the future of America. * shudder *

  • Hmmm, they are not too willing to share yet they fail to see the comparison. Troubling…

  • Grades are like money in that you have to work hard to get them. Other than that, the analogy breaks down. People who have poor grades aren’t prevented from eating. The need for money as opposed to the need for grades is dramatically different.

    Moreover, at some point money actually becomes excessive, particularly for those trying to live a life of gospel poverty. It’s hard to think of a reason that grades are excessive.

    So the students are right; this is a very poor analogy.

  • How hard does Paris Hilton work for her money again?

  • Other than that, the analogy breaks down.

    The analogy is good because these kids don’t have any money yet, so they are all for redistributing it. What they do have is good grades, so “keep your greedy mitts off it” is their attitude.

  • Though good grades frequently move you along to better schools thus to better long-term earnings. Giving up part of your grade to another (who is often only slightly less adept academically than the one getting a 4.0) can help even the financial field in the long-term. Thus acting in part like redistribution but from a non-financial basis.

    It also reflects in part the affirmative action programs of the 70’s and 80’s where students of lower abilities were admitted to better schools in this interest. (Though it was often justified on the basis of “diversity.”)

    Don’t see why the analogy completely fails though, as noted and as is true for all analogies, it is not perfect.

  • “The analogy is good because these kids don’t have any money yet, so they are all for redistributing it. What they do have is good grades, so “keep your greedy mitts off it” is their attitude.”

    Bingo.

    “People who have poor grades aren’t prevented from eating.”

    Neither are people without money. See food stamps.

    Having gotten rather good grades throughout my academic career, I would note that I have had to work far harder for the money that I have earned since I graduated from law school, than I ever did for the grades I earned in the past.

    A good follow up would be to ask A students in favor of wealth redistribution, after they have graduated, if they would be willing to have positions they qualify for due to their grades given to students with poorer marks. (Congrats on landing that prestigious clerkship with Justice Blank. How about, in the name of equity, changing positions with that newly hired Public Defender who snoozed through Constitutional Law?)

  • “It also reflects in part the affirmative action programs of the 70?s and 80?s where students of lower abilities were admitted to better schools in this interest. (Though it was often justified on the basis of “diversity.”)”

    Phillip, just so you know, this is still going on. Certainly it’s a big part of the law school admissions process. If I were an underrepresented minority (URM), then I’d be in at Harvard Law or at the very least Columbia with my LSAT/GPA. Thousands of students this year will be displaced from their schools of choice by people who worked/studied less in the interest of “diversity.” Luckily, I worked hard enough to be admitted to the school of my choice with enough cushion so my Euro heritage didn’t hold me back.

    My curmudgeonly/Aristotelian talking point on the matter is this: supposing diversity is a good thing in a law school setting. Well, what sort of diversity? A law school is an intellectual setting. Therefore, intellectual diversity is the sort of diversity that is a conceivable good in a law school. Ergo, affirmative action for conservatives. 🙂

  • “Well, what sort of diversity?”

    If an institution is looking for diversity it does little good to forcus only on sex and skin pigmentation while the vast majority of the people admitted hold approximately the same political-cultural-religious views.

  • Yes, that’s precisely my point.

  • I recall Francis that when I was in law school, 79-82, some of my colleagues telling me that I was the first conservative they had ever known. Some said that in a friendly manner and some in a less than friendly manner!

    (Of course my class also voted me most likely to sentence someone to death for illegal parking!)

  • The students can claim that a lot of wealth is unearned (e.g., inherited). Of course, IQ is inherited too but you still need to work to make use of it. So this got me thinking… what if instead of an estate tax, estates are automatically placed in a trust and paid out as a dollar-for-dollar match to the heir’s own earnings? That more closely resembles the effect of genetic intelligence.

  • Why don’t we just have a national sales tax and get rid of income taxes. Then the government won’t keep records on what everyone earns and use it to divide everyone up by classes to pit against each other. It is really no one’s business how much anyone else makes or how they distribute that money to their heirs. We all have different talents and opportunities that lead to higher incomes. Is this fair? Of course not. It’s not fair that some people are attractive, good dancers, or charming while others are ugly clumsy clods. But that’s the way the world is. As Christians we should encourage everyone to give to the less fortunate among us willingly and not try to forcibly create equality where it doesn’t exist.

  • America’s gravest problem is moral not pecuniary.

    The chaste, the honest, the hard-working, the sober wage-earner or “A” student is not the bad guy.

    Tearing down the virtuous does not build up the vicious.

    Once upon a time, the family was the base of society. Now, its base hordes of envious, hateful dependents viciously clawing at each other when they aren’t assailing the virtuous.

    End the Class War!

  • “It’s not fair that some people are attractive, good dancers, or charming while others are ugly clumsy clods.”

    And its not easy being so attractive and charming! 🙂

  • MZ,
    About as hard as my old college roommate who knocked out straight A’s without ever cracking a book.
    No analogy is perfect, and nor are most corrolations. But the analogy here is pretty good, precisely because the corrolations between between work and grades as well as work and income are pretty good.
    This is not to say that other factors are unimportant. Natural talent as well as demographic luck are extremely important. But if you want poorer outcomes generally, weaken the link between work and those outcomes.

  • A book published about 10 years ago, “The Millionaire Next Door,” examined wealth in the US and found the overwhelming majority of millionaires were and are self-made small businessmen and women who live quite modestly in terms of their financial worth. The book also made the point that the old saying “Shirt-sleeves to shirt-sleeves in 3 generations” is still operative. There’s a distinct pattern here: the founder of the family fortune might be content, and indeed might feel more comfortable, living in a run-of-the-mill house in a non-ritzy neighborhood and driving a used car – but normally, he wants his offspring to have all the advantages he didn’t have – fancy private schools, piano lessons, summer camp etc. However, the further one gets away from the source of wealth, the greater the temptation to take it for granted and fritter it away. By the third generation, it is frequently gone.

    Of course, the massive fortunes of people like the Rockefellers belong in their own category and last much longer than the fortunes of Joe Schomo who owns 4 or 5 successful auto body repair shops in Des Moines. Still the book points out that wealth in the US is far more complex than just “the rich get richer.” In reality, some rich get richer, some go from poor or middle class to rich and some sink from the ranks of the rich or middle class into poverty. It’s not a constant.

    I read an article in the WSJ a while back about young unemployed college grads, mostly with humanities degrees, using food stamps to buy gourmet food at Whole Foods – organic rabbit, imported cheese, etc. None of them had any sense of shame or embarrassment about using food stamps and none of them appeared to consider or care that working people who can’t afford WH imported cheese themselves were the ones paying for their meals. No, they were entitled to the best and heck it was Magic Money from Uncle Sugar anyway. I have the feeling that those kids are on the escalator headed down.

  • The reason the analogy is close to perfect is the response of the students, not because a GPA is exactly like money or wealth. In some ways their grades are more earned than wealth, and so bringing up an inheritor of wealth like Paris Hilton probably reinforces the point being made. Better still to bring up the late Sen. Ted Kennedy who had inherited his wealth and was all for redistributive measures which mostly affect income earners.

  • Donna V.,

    The Millionaire Next Door, excellent book.

    It’s amazing that just living simply and within your means reflects the Christian virtue of prudence.

    Then comes along a self-hating American who wants to destroy this by “redistributing” the wealth.

    This video is a perfect analogy of what’s wrong with most progressive/liberal thinking.

  • The Millionaire Next Door was interested in Prodigious Accumulators of Wealth. They found people making hundreds of thousands per year who became millionaires to not be particularly exceptional. PAWs were exceptional.

    As for grades and income, you are dealing with Zero Sum Game theory. If one rejects ZSG for both groups, then the analogy is more palatable. The lack of resonance occurs because people do not believe grades are a ZSG but believe income and wealth are. Perhaps they are wrong in that belief, but this analogy will hardly convince them of it. Like many things on the Internet, it is a backstroking gesture.

  • The Church teaches the principle of the Universal Destination of Goods, and that the right to private property is not absolute.

    Jesus teaches that the rich are in danger of worshiping mammon rather than the Father, and that the path to heaven for the rich is the path of renunciation and generosity.

  • Here’s an excellent piece on the universal destination of goods and private property rights.

  • I liked this quote from the article you posted Pauli, “A fair wage for the work done is therefore “the concrete path by which most men arrive at those goods destined for common use” (LE 19).” Couldn’t agree more. I’ve often thought that the Catholic doctrine of a ‘just-wage’ is the solution to much of our society’s problems.

    A little thought experiment on the minimum-wage: you raise it to say, $20/hr. Millions of jobs are lost. That, to me, is a very interesting fact. Millions of jobs exist which are . . . economically useless . . . in that they do not make enough money to support families. Perhaps the problem with a minimum-wage is not the wage itself, but the work itself. If work cannot produce enough profit to live a decent human life (the very definition of a just-wage), then there is something suspect with that kind of work.

    In other words, if McDonald’s could not survive paying its employees a just-wage, then there is something fundamentally wrong with McDonald’s. Yes, human beings are probably not meant to make change and fry potatoes all day long. Human beings are not machines.

    The ‘correction’ our economy needs may very well require the loss of tens of millions of jobs. Perhaps these tens of millions can be given work that means something: say, intensive non-industrial farming. Just sayin’ . . .

  • Minimum wage jobs are not economically useless. Many people holding them are high-school kids who live at home and do not need to support a family. They are transitional, or they are part-time jobs which old people like who have SS checks coming in. Raising minimum wage jobs hurts these groups most. People who are trying to raise families just need to get better jobs, that’s all. Many groups—public and private—exist to help these people obtain the proper training.

    Perhaps we should lower the working age rather than raise the minimum wage.

  • say, intensive non-industrial farming. Just sayin’ . . .

    Intensive non-industrial farming does not generally result in income greater than $20/hr. People who do make more than $40k/yr farming generally do so by using industrial methods, working far more than 40hrs per week, or employing a number of very low wage workers during work intensive parts of the year.

  • “People who do make more than $40k/yr farming generally do so by using industrial methods, working far more than 40hrs per week, or employing a number of very low wage workers during work intensive parts of the year.”

    You need a lot of land in Central Illinois to make farming pay: at least 600 to a 1000 acres depending upon the fertility of the land. Those farmers farming less than that usually have a regular job in town and farm on the side.

  • Well… what if you own the farm? Then you can make some real money. Wait—that’s business ownership and requires individual initiative and risk! Never mind….

  • If you own the farm, and you use farming methods which a lot of “sustainable agriculture” folks consider “industrial”, you can indeed do really well. If you use “sustainable” techniques, but are able to round out your labor force by taking on low wage workers part of the year, (or more commonly by taking on a bunch of free “interns” who are learning about sustainable agriculture techniques and feeling close to nature) you can sometimes make that work as well. Though even so you might end up putting in so many hours that it wouldn’t work out to more than $20/hr if you were really rigorous with your labor accounting.

    At root, I think the problem here is that many of these “back to the earth” ideas of how just wages and good work would look actually involve a proposal that everyone be much poorer than is now the case — but people don’t understand that when they don’t understand that wages value are, among other things, only worth their ability to buy the products of others’ labor. So, for instance, you can talk about raising the minimum wage to $20/hr, eliminating all the jobs that don’t “make sense” in that world, and then having those people go back to the land, but in reality it wouldn’t work out remotely that way.

  • I agree with everything you said, DarwinCatholic. It’s extremely obvious, and that’s why the main reason I engage people on this topic is for amusement value. Which reminds me, I am paid $0.00/hour to comment on this blog. How am I going to feed a family of 7 on that??

  • “those people go back to the land”

    Almost all “back to the land” movements have been brought about by urban ideologues who are completely clueless about rural life and farming as a means of making a living. The misery brought about by such idiocy is a wonder to behold.

  • Maybe part of the reason I feel so critical of this tendency is that I do share a certain romanticization of farming — but it’s a romanticization laced with a tragic sense, such as Victor Davis Hanson gets across in Fields Without Dreams. I think there is something worth admiring about it all, but it’s important to be clear that while farming may be more “real” in some senses, that’s mostly because that life harder, poorer and more capricious than “wage slavery”. At a civilizational level, you really have to see that fact that very few people are engaged in food growing as being a sign of progress, not loss of touch.

  • “Maybe part of the reason I feel so critical of this tendency is that I do share a certain romanticization of farming”

    Any inklings I had in that way were cured by my first day baling hay as a teenager. Much of farm work is still very arduous, and people who do it regularly often are on the lookout for an easier way to earn a living. Fields Without Dreams is a great study of the black comedy that trying to earn a living from farming often is.

  • Not being a farmer myself, I can’t say much beyond that I trust in the message of farmers Wendell Berry and Joel Salatin–that civilization must be and can be founded upon agriculture. This doesn’t mean everyone is a farmer, but it means many more farmers than we now have, farming in a way that is both profitable and sustainable. If you haven’t read either Berry or Salatin, I highly encourage you to check them out at the library.

    I’ve spent a lot of my work doing manual labor–some of it easy, some of it quite hard. I had a ranger buddy of mine who would always complain before putting on our 100-pound rucksacks, getting ready for a night-jump, followed by a hard march, followed by an assault. I always reminded him, “Yeah, but dude, we’ll feel awesome when it’s over.” And that’s always how it is with hard work that engages both body and mind. Too often, what passes for ‘work’ in our society engages neither!

  • Berry is vaguely on the to-read list for one of these days, but I’ve read a fair amount about what Salatin does on Polyface Farms.

    As far as developing sustainable techniques, I think he’s been pretty brilliant — but I think one has to be very clear when reading about what he’s doing that it’s not a model for how all agriculture could work unless one was willing to settle for a much poorer society. His food costs 2-4x what comparable “industrial” food would cost, and that’s despite the fact that he has a lot of work done by interns/apprentices who work for nothing but room, board and $100/month.

    Not to mention that not many people combine his abilities as farmer, inventor, and marketer which make an operation like his possible — and are willing to forgo the significantly higher wages they could make if they took those skills elsewhere.

    There’s a lot to admire in Salatin’s philosophy on interacting with nature, but his lifestyle is not a route to “just wages” for the many, as if most things were made through that kind of farming (and the analogous craftsman approaches to making various goods) even the “just wages” proposed would go much less far than now. If a $4 hamburger which is premised on $9/hr labor seems unjust — we don’t necessarily find ourselves better off when the hamburger costs $15 and wages are $20/hr.

  • Nine dollars an hour is not an unjust wage for a high-school kid. If you have to support a family, you have no business flipping burgers.

  • Darwin, I think you’re right to point out that an agrarian lifestyle would be “poorer” in terms of material goods. We would not have so many computers or automobiles or even books. But there would be a lot more work for people to do, and lot more food for those workers to eat. What do we really need beyond room and board and friendship and community?

    Wendell Berry is published in Communio quite often (a very good and orthodox Catholic journal!). A recent essay of his is “Inverting the Economic Order”, where he writes “From an economic point of view, a society in which every school child “needs” a computer, and every sixteen-year-old “needs” an automobile, and every eighteen-year-old “needs” to go to college is already delusional and is well on its way to being broke.”

  • “This doesn’t mean everyone is a farmer, but it means many more farmers than we now have”

    Actually we have too many farmers as indicated by the fact that many of them cannot make a primary living farming. The only way for more people to make a living farming would be for food prices to skyrocket, something which is bad for society in a whole host of ways. Farming of course has not been the bedrock of this country’s economy or society for well over a century. In regard to society that might be a bad thing, but in regard to the economy I think that has been a very good thing if one of the purposes of an economy is to lift the general prosperity.

  • I think you’re right to point out that an agrarian lifestyle would be “poorer” in terms of material goods. We would not have so many computers or automobiles or even books. But there would be a lot more work for people to do, and lot more food for those workers to eat. What do we really need beyond room and board and friendship and community?

    It sounds like we’re in agreement that far, then. I guess what I’m less clear on, in that case, is: Why the necessity of raising wages to some arbitrary “just” level and eliminating a bunch of jobs based on that? If room and board and friendship and community is all that’s needed, people would works at McDonald’s and Barnes and Noble, be satisfied with the $8-9/hr wages, and live simply together in groups just like they could on sustainable farms. (Or they could ditch urban life for farms, if they prefer harder manual work and no air conditioning.)

    I guess I’m unclear how justice is served by having people be forced out of current employment patterns (obviously, if they want to all go work on sustainable farms, that would be fine too) if we’re okay with the idea of people being as poor or poorer than now.

  • Darwin, can I just pay you a compliment: it is nice to be able to disagree with you without worrying about it getting personal! Thanks!

    I’m not really proposing a huge minimum-wage increase, but was just fascinated by the thought experiment. I don’t really know what the solution is.

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Screen Pilates: Richard Boone

Thursday, April 21, AD 2011

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.   Go here to view 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.

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18 Responses to Screen Pilates: Richard Boone

  • “Have gun. Will travel.” Pretty much says it all: solve a ton of problems. Great line for a business card.

    I watched that on TV when I was a kid, too.

  • I liked Gunsmoke better. Marshall Dillon did his job for free. As for Boone, not bad as Pilate. Victor Mature was an underrated actor, too. Liked him in Samson and Delilah. Not to threadjack but this could make an interesting topic, Don: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42215497/ns/us_news-life/
    The U.S. bishops apparently back a new Bible translation that’s PC, which is another reason I have trouble being a Catholic. Whatever happened to tradition?

  • “Marshall Dillon did his job for free.”

    Nope. Dillon did it for his government salary. I always preferred deputy Festus on that show, one of the great comedic television creations.

  • Well, it wasn’t a grand, Don. Palladin was mercenary.

  • As for some bishops making fools of themelves Joe, a cursory look at Church history would demonstrate that has been a problem from the beginning, yet the Church has endured for 20 centuries.

  • “Palladin was mercenary.”

    No, he was a better negotiator than Dillon.

  • Actually Dillon would have received $90.00 a month, not a bad salary in 1870. (A Union private made $14.00 a month during the Civil War and Army privates in WW2 made $50.00 a month in combat pay.) Deputies like Festus made zip in salary. They got six cents a mile when they were out pursuing a fugitive and got $2.00 a head when they brought in a prisoner. (Festus was being ripped off.) Of course this does not include the “cuts” that law enforcement routinely got in the West from businesses to “supplement” their salaries. The Long Branch alone each month could have brought in several hundred dollars more to Dillon. That would explain the reason why he spent so much time in there, leaving aside the beer and the charms of Miss Kitty! 🙂

  • “…the Church has endured for 20 centuries.”

    Don, there are many religions that precede Christianity. Here are scores to pick and choose from:

    http://meta-religion.com/World_Religions/Ancient_religions/ancient_religions.htm

  • Very few religions have begun Joe with their founder being put to death as a criminal. Mani, the founder of Manichaeism, is the only one I can think of offhand, but his religion has been a casualty of Time, the fate of most religions. Christianity has been written off as dead time and again, and the movements that proclaimed it dead have usually suffered the same fate as Manichaeism. Christianity is unique in its long term success when it began with so many initial disadvantages: no religion of a peculiar nation, no control of a powerful nation, up against well-established religions, the subject of bitter persecution from its inception, its ranks drawn disproportionately from the poor and humble and the list could go on at considerable length.

  • Granted, Don, but claimed uniqueness, which is refutable, does not necessarily confer validity. There’s no gainsaying Christianity’s staying power. However, consider that the Virgin Birth was typically an Eastern idea that had been familiar from Egypt to Mesopotamia for at least 2,000 years, and nearly all the prophets and wonder-workers who swarmed in the vast and murky region had been “sons of the gods.”

    Equally, the idea of Atonement was also Eastern, as was that of Original Sin and the Resurrection of the Body. Christianity, then, was in large part a syncretism, an outgrowth of Judaism, which accepted, on the one hand, a concept of immorality that came from the East, and, on the other, a concept of God that gradually become almost more Greek than Jewish.

    Nor can one ignore the constant rewrites of Scripture (which continue to this day) as theologian after theologian looked for new interpretations of old texts. By the 4th Century, Jerome was saying that there were “as many readings as texts.”

    Augustine, Origen, Irenaeus, Cyprian. Justian differed widely on meanings and matters and we are to be content with Tertullian’s “I believe because it is incredible.” Clearly a sign he began life as a lawyer, as HL Mencken quipped. (with all due respect, my barrister friend).

    While 20 centuries old, it wasn’t under 325 a.d. that the Church picked up steam by establishing the divinity of Jesus, purging it of the Arian heresy, and getting the house in order. Three centuries prior there was free-for-all chaos. More than anyone perhaps, Christianity owes its durability to Constantine, who gave it status as an official faith.

    The 17 centuries that followed resist analysis in this short space, but suffice it to say that theological shifts were seismic, resulting in a Church today that bears little resemblance to what was merely another Jewish sect from the start.

    I leave for now with this quote from Eric Hoffer: “Though ours is a godless age, it is the very opposite of irreligious. The true believer is everywhere on the march, shaping the world in his own image. Whether we line up with him or against him, it is well we should know all we can concerning his nature and potentialities.”

  • Because you live in Illinois, Don, I have to share a parody song to the tune of the PALADIN theme that a U of I classmate made up in the 60’s:

    Champaign-Urbana is the name of a town,
    A place without honor on a prairie mound.
    The flicks they are lousy but the girls oh-boy,
    Sodom and Gomorrah of the State of Illinois.

    Illinois, Ilinois, Why are we here?
    To get PhD’s and drink more beer.

  • First rate Sandra! We sang similar parody songs at the U of I in the Seventies when I attended, although none of them to the tune of Paladin, and most of them with lyrics that should not be mentioned on a family friendly blog! 🙂

  • “Virgin Birth was typically an Eastern idea that had been familiar from Egypt to Mesopotamia for at least 2,000 years, and nearly all the prophets and wonder-workers who swarmed in the vast and murky region had been “sons of the gods.””

    Yep Joe and such concepts were anathema to Jews. Hence the ferocious attacks on the early Christians by some Jews who viewed them at best as heretics and at worst as pagans. Now ask yourself this question Joe, “Why would the Jews gathered around Jesus come up with such ideas about Jesus unless they were doing their best to explain a reality that their co-religionists would find shocking?” By doing this they subjected themselves to immense persecution and exile from their own people. Conversely, why would non-Jewish early Christian converts join with Jews to worship a dead Jew unless they were convinced by the testimony of the Apostles as to what they had seen? The fact that the pagans used similar concepts does nothing to explain the success of Christianity in its earliest stages.

    “Equally, the idea of Atonement was also Eastern, as was that of Original Sin and the Resurrection of the Body.”

    Atonement is a concept equally at home in Judaism Joe. As to the resurrection of the body, the Pharisees held to it generations before Christ and the pagans found it to be absurd. As to Original Sin, that is a purely Jewish concept. The Greeks had the idea of an original golden age, but that concept was not the same as Original Sin, as can be seen by the Greek cyclical view of history and a return to the Golden Age here on Earth. The poets of the time of Augustus thought that he was beginning a return to a Golden Age, and hence the “messianic” quality of some of that poetry which some of the early Church Fathers thought was an unconscious prelude to the birth of Christ.

    “Nor can one ignore the constant rewrites of Scripture (which continue to this day) as theologian after theologian looked for new interpretations of old texts. By the 4th Century, Jerome was saying that there were “as many readings as texts.””

    No Joe here we disagree. Most differences in the text are rather minor. Considering the number of books in the Bible, it is amazing how well the texts of these books, overall, have been transmitted, Bart Ehrman and other hysterics on the subject notwithstanding.

    A good article critiquing Ehrman is linked below.

    http://benwitherington.blogspot.com/2006/03/misanalyzing-text-criticism-bart.html

    “While 20 centuries old, it wasn’t under 325 a.d. that the Church picked up steam by establishing the divinity of Jesus”

    Completely untrue Joe. Christ was worshipped as God from the beginning. It was the Arians who were the innovators. Of course all we have to do is to look at the Gospels to see Christ referring to himself as “I AM”, which clearly idicates that Christ claimed to be God. The Council of Nicaea was merely reflecting the traditional belief of the Catholic Church.

    “but suffice it to say that theological shifts were seismic, resulting in a Church today that bears little resemblance to what was merely another Jewish sect from the start.”

    No Joe, in its essentials the Church is the same today as the Church that gathered around Christ at the first Mass that we commemorate on Holy Thursday.

    In regard to Eric Hoffer, I have a fondness for the late longshoreman philosopher, but he was mistaken about living in a Godless age. All times are God’s whether humans recognize it or not.

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  • Great Apologetics, Don.
    I’ll have you on my team anytime 🙂

  • Thank you Don. I am sure you have a very able team indeed.

  • Joe Green, with all due respect there is no religion that predated Christianity. True religion was the worship of the One God, and the Redeemer to come that began with Adam and Eve. God revealed more to Noah, Abraham, and Moses. But it was the same religion. The Hebrews of the Old Testament (and some non-idolatrous gentiles, like Job) believed in a Savior to come. We Catholic, true Christians, believe in a Savior who has come, and still abides with His Church, our Emanuel. The words “synagogue” and Church “ecclesia” mean the same thing in Greek and Hebrew. The Church was prefigured in the Old Testament in which all the rituals and sacrifices were a sign of what was to come in the one sacrifice that would actually atone for the sins of the world. Thus the Baptist identifies Christ as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

    I realize that you already know this and so much more, but you are confusing the aberrations of false religions, which were corruptions of the true, with the true religion revealed by God. Some Jewish leaders in the 12th century (Moses Maimonides among them), in their determination to undo Christianity, changed their own dictionaries to render the word “alma” to mean “young woman” instead of “virgin.” Thus, they rejected their own greatest scholars who translated the Hebrew scriptures in to Septuagint Greek in the 3rd century BC. These scholars translated Isaias 7:14 as “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and his name shall be called Emanuel.” And, too, why would the apostle Matthew, a Jew, use this text as proof of Jesus being the Messiah, if “alma” meant “young woman”? What scandal it is that the New American Bible mistranslates this passage based on a defective Hebrew dictionary, whose authors deleted the primary meaning of the word “alma.”

  • Brian, with all due respect, I suppose it depends on one’s definition of “religion.” which Webster’s firstly says is “the service and worship of God or the supernatural.”

    Before Christ it is incontrovertible that humans worshipped or otherwise acknowledged divinities, real or imagined. Whether they be “true” or “false” is another matter.

Diocese of Austin: Homeschoolers Need Not Apply

Wednesday, April 20, AD 2011

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.

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101 Responses to Diocese of Austin: Homeschoolers Need Not Apply

  • “Politeness is something which costs very little.’

    And in my experience slaps in the face tend to be very expensive. Did the Bishop really want to go to war with Catholic homeschoolers in his diocese, because I think that is what that petulant little note just did. Stupidity on stilts!

  • That this fellow Vanders was willing to slum it in teachers’ colleges for seven years or so in order to place the initials “Ed.D” after his name should have been a red flag to whomever hired him.

  • I think the homeschooling phenomenon is a complete travesty. What on earth is wrong with being part of your community, whether in a Catholic or public school? Bishop Vasquez is right – a “Catholic education” will not be gotten solely by parents and Catholic schools ARE at the heart of the mission of the Church.

    Homeschooling began originally in the South as a way for whites to avoid having their children associate with black children. Today, it’s a way for holier-than-thou Catholic to avoid having their children associate with lesser Catholics. Many “Catholic” bloggers act as though homeschooling is the only option if you’re a real Catholic. It’s a load of _____.

  • As an editor, I debated with myself whether to let the above comment by “PDQ” (full of prejudice and falsehood as it is) out of the moderation queue, especially as it was posted anonymously by an IP address which has in the past always posted on the site under different names and has always sought to spread heat rather than light.

    On consideration, I’ll allow it through, as I think our readers are capable of seeing falsehood for what it is. I will, however, note that having looked up the IP address of the commenter I find that it is 208.78.150.3 and comes from a user at the NATIONAL CATHOLIC EDUCATIONAL ASSOC (NCEA) in Washington DC. Make of that what you will.

  • Looks like Vanders needs a learning experience.

  • DarwinCatholic mentiones early on that his parents started homeschooling do to “non-standard” learning needs. That wasn’t the reason I started homeschooling, but that is the reason we continue. The Catholic Schools here do not have the curriculum available to meet my kids’ needs. This was also a complaint of one parent who eventually had to pull her child and put her in public school. Another parent of a Down’s child was rejected by the Dio. schools because they either could not or did not want to teach him.

    Homeschooling will allow one of my children to go to a special tutor this fall during regular school hours when the tutor has time to fit him in. (The after school hours are already taken up with public school kids who can’t get out during regular hours.)

    And then there is the expense issue…

    As for Catholic “schools” being a the heart of the Church’s mission…why didn’t Christ found any? The system as we have it was a response to to the compulsory education laws we have in this country at a time of strong Protestant dislike for Catholics.

    I find myself wondering if the Bishop ever really got the invitation or if his secretary just passed it on to the Super for follow-up, and the Bishop never actually read the Super’s letter himself to make sure it really conveyed what he (woud have) wanted to say.

  • PDQ,

    This is 2011. Catholic homeschoolers are not homeschooling because they have examined and rejected the Catholic schools. I live in the Diocese of Austin, and I assure you that you are completely wrong about the motivations of homeschoolers here, and about our attitudes toward and involvement with our parishes and the other Catholics therein.

    But I don’t hope to convince you of this. What I want to know is what you think was gained by the gratuitous slap by the bishop. Homeschoolers here under Bishop Aymond felt welcome and involved, and their attitude toward the new bishop was unreservedly enthusiastic and welcoming. We are all staggered by this unprovoked attack. Goodwill was overflowing; and now it’s been squandered. And why?

    There’s a saying in Texas: Kicking the dog won’t make him come lick your hand. Homeschoolers aren’t going to respond by signing up their children in the diocese’s schools. Other than a venting of spleen, what was gained?

  • Thanks, Don, for reinforcing Darwin’s point by letting PDQ’s comment get posted. The racist card–how…refreshing. To paraphrase Andy Warhol, in the future everyone will be racist for fifteen minutes. And note that he/she made that observation right before indicting his/her opponents for being “holier than thou.” Apparently, working for the NCEA erodes one’s sense of irony.

    My only response to PDQ–put your money where your mouth is. If the schools “ARE at the heart of the mission of the Church,” then make them tuition free to all baptized Catholics.

    Well?

  • Back to the post: David Carlin, in his “Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America,” pointed out that the episcopate is remarkable for one destructive trait: the ability to consistently alienate those who are their most naturally loyal constituency.

    I suspect that a couple weeks of bursting mailbags, jammed telephone lines and overloaded servers will teach Bishop Vasquez about the dangers of forwarding his correspondence to others to answer.

  • Grimmace. That letter is an unprovoked and gratuitous slap in the face to people who homeschool in Austin. And it seems to reflect obliviousness regarding the primacy of parent’s roles in their children’s education. See, e.g. the Catechism, which indicates 1. That parent’s have the primary responsibility for the education of their children; 2. That “the home is well suited for the education of the virtues…” and “the natural environment for initiating a human being into solidarity and communal responsibilities,” as well as catechesis; and 3. That parents have a fundamental right to choose the form of their education. Dr. Vanders view, which denigrates the education in the home as less important than the Catholic school system, seem to be in tension with the Church, which states (as any sensible person would agree) that what happens in the home is far more important.

    Additionally, I think the basic socioeconomic message (given the cost of sending kids to Catholic schools and that public school quality is closely linked to housing values) is basically that only the education of upper middle class children is “important” to the Diocese of Austin, which is pretty appalling.

    Given some recent experiences, I sympathize with administrators who deal with homeschooling parents – like most people, they can be demanding and difficult, and by definition they may have less appreciation for the work of Catholic schools. But Dr. Vanders serves his dioces very poorly with these types of communications.

  • especially as it was posted anonymously by an IP address which has in the past always posted on the site under different names and has always sought to spread heat rather than light.

    Oh, wait a minute. Are you saying this may have been an act of anarchic street theatre? Emphasis on “anarchic.”

    If so, I’m no longer irritated–I’m amused.

  • John Henry,

    I have to correct you on one point. Bishop Aymond, despite pressure to establish a diocesan high school for the Catholic middle class, made it his priority instead to establish St. Juan Diego High School, to serve primarily the needs of the poorer and more numerous kids from east Austin. It’s been a massive success. Google for it; you’ll be impressed. Bp. Aymond may have wished that we all had our kids in Catholic brick-and-mortar schools, but he knew that the important thing was Catholic education, and that the Catholics with their children in public school (and often enough, in private Protestant schools with high academic standards–we have quite a few of these) far outnumber the Catholic homeschoolers.

  • Dale,

    No, this is not our West Virginia friend 🙂 — unless he now works at the NCEA in DC. But when I ran the IP address a found a few scattered comments over the last three months which all basically amounted to, “People who disagree with me are bad. Nya, nya.”

    John Henry,

    I definitely agree with your last graph:

    Given some recent experiences, I sympathize with administrators who deal with homeschooling parents – like most people, they can be demanding and difficult, and by definition they may have less appreciation for the work of Catholic schools. But Dr. Vanders serves his dioces very poorly with these types of communications.

    Indeed, I think that, given the tensions within parish Catholicism where it is at this time and place it’s important that Catholic homeschoolers not allow themselves to fall into seeing the parish (or the diocese) as “the enemy” when it comes to raising their children in the faith. So I can certainly see why someone in a diocesan office that deals with homeschooling would hear the word “homeschoolers” and roll his eyes a bit.

    The problem is that this was allowed to turn into actively insulting a group of active Catholic parents for no very good reason — that’s the sort of thing which only serves to make things worse.

  • A hearty “Amen” to Dale’s point about the dangers of bishops handing off correspondence replies to others. Were I in Austin, I would make sure that Bishop Vásquez was informed of the nature of the response by Dr. Vanders.

  • Am I the only one amused that this man’s name is one letter removed from being Ned FLanders? Definitely not as nice, though perhaps he does share a mean passive aggressive streak.

  • The actions of the Chancery official in Austin and PDQ’s mean-spirited comment that you traced to a similar body in D. C. both serve to illustrate a serious problem at the core of the U. S. Church: a legion of modernist spies in the employ of the Church (whether or not as volunteers). These are lay people who, since V II, have taken over too many functions of Priests and Religious. Most of them know only a protestantized, community-oriented, immanentist kind of Catholicism. Even the most orthodox of Bishops and Priests are encumbered with them. I don’t think there’s any solution until we reach the point of a smaller, openly persecuted Church.

  • Given some recent experiences, I sympathize with administrators who deal with homeschooling parents – like most people, they can be demanding and difficult, and by definition they may have less appreciation for the work of Catholic schools.

    Yes, homeschoolers run the gamut from soup to nuts (metaphor chosen deliberately). Even I find them irritating at times, and we homeschool. There is a skeptical, sometimes antagonistic mindset toward the local diocese–but there’s also appreciation. Back when Archbishop Daniel Flores was an auxillary bishop in Detroit, he gladly celebrated Mass for the Michigan Catholic Homeschoolers’ Conference in Lansing. I can’t tell you what a great impression that made on all present. And Bishop Mengeling sent a supportive note which was incorporated into the program.

    Which makes wholly gratuitous slaps like this extremely destructive. I’m sure it was cathartic for Dr. Vanders, being bishop for a day, but this one is going to take some doing to repair.

    I have to think the Bishop is going to do something to make amends on this one.

  • I have to correct you on one point. Bishop Aymond, despite pressure to establish a diocesan high school for the Catholic middle class, made it his priority instead to establish St. Juan Diego High School, to serve primarily the needs of the poorer and more numerous kids from east Austin. It’s been a massive success.

    I think that’s great. And I wasn’t criticizing Bishop Aymond. But I think the broader point still stands; only a small minority of all Catholic children attend Catholic schools, and an even smaller percentage of less wealthy children are able to attend (despite the laudible efforts of schools like St. Juan Diego HS). The upshot of Dr. Vanders’ statement still suggests that the real important Catholic education will be primarily (with a few exceptions) available to the upper middle class.

  • “I will, however, note that having looked up the IP address of the commenter I find that it is 208.78.150.3 and comes from a user at the NATIONAL CATHOLIC EDUCATIONAL ASSOC (NCEA) in Washington DC. Make of that what you will.”

    My wife having taught for years in Catholic schools notes that there are more than a few Catholic school administrators that are little different from their public school counterparts. Also some that are very good. Looks like Vanders and the NCEA fall in the former category.

  • Homeschooling is a joy sometimes, but also a sacrifice; it is undergone as an act of conviction by parents.

    It also is not ideal for every child.

    But for those children for whom it is ideal, it produces superior results even to good private schooling (albeit not by particularly large margins) and vastly superior results to typical government-run schooling (though only slightly superior to the best government schools).

    I said that it produces superior results, “for those children for whom it is ideal.” I suppose that’s a truism: If another option were able to produce better results, it wouldn’t be the ideal, now would it? But I phrased it that way to indicate that children differ from one another, and also parents differ: There is no one-size-fits-all education.

    Still, I suspect that homeschooling is the ideal — that is, the option which is best for the child and even for that child’s family as a whole — for a far larger number children than the number who are actually homeschooled.

    I wouldn’t be surprised at all if, given some opportunity for making a valid comparisons, we found that a society in which the majority of children were homeschooled for the majority of their childhood was healthier and happier and more productive than an otherwise-identical society in which our current mix of mostly-government, occasionally-private, and rarely-parental schooling was used.

    Anyway, prejudice against (or ignorance about) the practice remains common. And when one knows no homeschoolers personally — when one has not seen the thing being successfully done — it takes a great deal of courage and entrepreneurial verve to get going.

    It is therefore a good thing — a corrective to the existing prejudices and ignorance — when prominent Catholics (both clergy and laity, in apostolates and diocesan administrative roles and elsewhere) encourage homeschooling. And it is counterproductive when homeschoolers get the cold shoulder and are treated as the proverbial “red-headed stepchild.”

    Allow me to add that I have only one child old enough to be in school, and she is not quite home-schooled, nor is she quite private-schooled. For this child, we use University Model Schooling. She is at school two days a week, where she turns in assignments and receives new ones; she is at home the remaining three days, working on the assignments under the supervision of my wife. The result is much like really excellent private schooling (but for only about $1500 a semester), mixed with homeschooling (but in which my wife gets a break two days a week) and we like it quite a lot.

  • Seems much ado. Since I’m avoiding real work at the moment, I’ll go to the trouble of a fisk.

    Bishop Vásquez received your invitation to celebrate a Eucharistic liturgy for the fall homeschooling blessing Mass. Notes purpose behind letter.

    Bishop Vásquez believes Catholic education, and in particular Catholic school education, is an essential part of the life of the Diocese of Austin. States bishop’s opinion. It should be noted that this statement needn’t be taken as a criticism of homeschooling or any schooling. As you know, Catholic schools are at the heart of the mission of the church. Notes purpose of schools. I’m not seeing anything facially for anyone to disagree.

    Bishop’s presence at the homeschooling Mass would convey a contradictory message equating the importance of Catholic school education with Catholic homeschooling; I’m not much in the message department, but all this is saying is that a Catholic school education and homeschooling are not coequal. While I wouldn’t go so far as to claim officiating a mass is encouragement of homeschooling, I think it is a legitimate claim to make. I think people are reading between the lines and seeing a claim that homeschooling is illegitimate rather than the more modest claim. therefore, Bishop Vásquez must respectfully decline the invitation. A polite end to the letter.

    As far as the claim of parents being the primary educators of children, I think a partisan interpretation is being offered as a normative one. I would hazard to say that there are few if any church officials that see church education programs as being in opposition to parents being primary educators of their children.

  • What a shame. I do hope an apology is issued, a sincere one, and not an “I’m sorry you misread this” as MZ seems to indicate. I am morally certain that this note did not originate from the Bishop, and it should be brought to his attention.

    I was educated in Catholic Schools my entire life, in a total of four different dioceses. My parents sacrificed dearly to pay for our tuition. I can tell you from experience that they are great at times, and at other times they are less-than-ideal. I now homeschool. That should give you an idea of my current opinion.

    We have a son with autism. Two years ago he could barely say full sentences. Now he’s reading C.S. Lewis and other childrens’ literature at the age of seven. One school official gave my wife the best insult/compliment ever, when he told her, “There is no way you brought him this far. You had help.” She wasn’t being flattering, she was being accusative.

    My children know the faith. They have high academic achievement, AND, they have MANY friends, who are all well-behaved and polite. I don’t have to worry about my children being picked upon. I don’t have to worry about them feeling left-out, or picking up nasty habits. As great as Catholic schools can be, a dedicated homeschooling curriculum will always be superior. A great teacher can never be a substitute for a loving parent.

  • “a Catholic school education and homeschooling are not coequal”

    What did you have in mind, MZ?

  • “As you know, Catholic schools are at the heart of the mission of the church.”

    Actually, I disagree. If it is at the heart of the mission of the Church, educating only 5000 students suggests it badly underserves the people of the Diocese in that vital mission.

    Perhaps the bishop is going to roll out a massive expansion, opening a lot more schools. If so, then I withdraw my objection.

  • As far as the claim of parents being the primary educators of children, I think a partisan interpretation is being offered as a normative one. I would hazard to say that there are few if any church officials that see church education programs as being in opposition to parents being primary educators of their children.

    Agreed, and I think it would be wrong to suggest that parochial schools are wrong or inferior to homeschooling for this reason. That said, it seems rather strained to suggest that parents are the primary educators of their children — and yet somehow parents educating their children is at odds with the church’s emphasis on Catholic education.

    As for the fisk — well, all I can say is that I think it takes straining beyond the bounds of credibility to suggest that the email was meant as anything other than a “we are doing the Church’s work and you are at odds with it” message.

  • I’ll go to the trouble of a fisk.

    Why? Your point is contrived.

  • I’m with Darwin about the fisk. We can analyze each word, what it says and what it doesn’t say. But at the end of the day, it is hard to see this as anything other than adversarial to Catholic homeschooling.

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  • Whew! The whole Catholic homeschooling phenomenon is a two-edged sword. Out here in California, land of fruit and nuts, we have been blessed with many energetic and devoted homeschooling parents–mostly moms– and with brick-and-mortar Catholic schools all up and down the State. However, our so-called Catholic schools are mostly populated by non-Catholic children and their parents. Very few schools can boast more than 51-percent Catholic populations. School administrators–lay or religious–have to cave to the demands of the majority of the parents. As a group, most of these parents favour a more secular orientation and do not vigorously stand up for ALL of Catholic teaching on social and moral issues. Like any parents, they want their kids to be well educated and leave these schools able to compete with the best. Yet, our kids are not leading the pack academically. They are barely aware of Church teaching on so many issues which impact our youth, and their liturgical understanding is stunted and ‘Protestant-ized’. Our brick-and-mortar schools are a joke that used to be private, but is now known to all: especially the kids.
    Homeschool parents are circling the wagons in the face of this decline. But, with that circling comes a retreat. Instead of staying on the barricades and demanding that Catholic schools be Catholic and strive for excellence, the departure of these families leaves a vacuum which is filled with the same stuff that fills a Hoover. Once their own, and banding together, homeschool families become a church unto themselves only reflecting the needs, desires, and hopes of their own circle. These parents come to see the parish as an annex of their homeschool and their domestic church. The family becomes an idol. That is not healthy, and it’s not Catholic.
    It is the unambiguous duty of the Bishop to correct this and bring back balance to our families and our schools. If he does not, he will answer to the top ‘Bishop’: Our Lord, the greatest and best teacher.

  • Magistra Bona,

    This point keeps coming up in various forms or another … that some homeschoolers see themselves as the church and the parish as an extension. Certainly if such an error exists, then it should be corrected by the Bishop. The question is to what extent is such an attitude prevalent. Further, if it is prevalent, then why is that the case? Before a message such as that from Mr. Vanders comes out, it seems to me that a case should be made the there is a need of correction.

    Further, the comment keeps coming up about whether or not a parent should see homeschooling as “better” than the parish school. I think that a blanket statement either way is patently false, but I also think it is false to think that the case can’t be made in specific, individual cases. The very reason one chooses the homeschool should in fact be that the education (academic and moral) is better. Whether or not this is true depends entirely on both the school and the parents.

  • Magistra,

    I think the question you bring up is important, but perhaps a bit more complex than you’re giving it credit for here. It is true that in many parts of the country (Austin is not one of them — there there is actually more demand for Catholic schools than there are seats in said schools or funds to build more) there are not enough Catholics interested or able to attend Catholic schools to fill all the seats, and so the identity of Catholic schools gets diluted as they become generic private schools subsidized by the Church.

    Such a situation becomes self perpetuating after a while, with the increasing secularization of the schools driving away more Catholic parents and thus feeding into the secularization.

    However, in such a situation, I think it’s at least as worthwhile to ask: Are there perhaps too many Catholic schools, or are they being administered according to the wrong principles if they do not seem desirable or affordable to the majority of Catholic parents?

    I think that you are right to point out the dangers of Catholic homeschoolers retreating into their own world and ceasing to see themselves as members of their parish and their diocese. However, if that is in fact not healthy, as you say, I would think that would make it all the more desirable for the diocese and the bishop to seek a close relationship with homeschooling organizations which draws those families into the diocese and the parish, not to intentionally push those people away, thus effectively forcing Catholic homeschooling families to “go it alone”.

    Also, forgive me, but I can’t see it as very realistic to imagine that Christ is going to ask bishops at their final judgment, “And did you make sure to give it to those homeschooling families in the jaw so that they’d understand the importance of enrolling in parish schools?” There are a lot of responsibilities bishops have towards their flocks, but it’s hard to see browbeating people for not enrolling in the diocesan schools as being one of the top responsibilities which Peter and the disciples were commissioned with.

  • Phillip,

    The NCEA, National Catholic Education Association, seems to have a problem with homeschooling.

    To be fair, someone within that organization has a personal animus towards practicing Catholic ‘practices’.

    If this person is the same one trolling around the Catholic Blogosphere, it may be safe to say that he is what Pope Benedict XVI calls a “professional” Catholic (in name only).

  • I would hazard to say that there are few if any church officials that see church education programs as being in opposition to parents being primary educators of their children.

    Let’s hope so! But what on earth was Dr. Vickers saying when he wrote the following:

    the Bishop’s presence at the homeschooling Mass would convey a contradictory message equating the importance of Catholic school education with Catholic homeschooling

    Your ‘fisk’ (deliberate scare quotes) doesn’t really help much here, which is too bad since this was the main point under discussion. Why should homeschooling be considered less important than Catholic schools? Catholic schools exist to help parents educate their children; they are a means to an end, and parents (rather than Dr. Vickers) are tasked with determining the best way to achieve that end.

  • I work for a Catholic school in the diocese of Austin and, now having attended countless meetings and workshops led by Dr. Vanders, I remain positively baffled as to a) why Archbishop Aymond hired him, b) why he was not fired within his first year of service, and c) why Bishop Vasquez has not fired him yet. The email he sent does not surprise me at all.

  • The young folk I’ve met and have taught who have been home-schooled are an impressive lot. They are, typically: virtuous, academically capable, creative, responsible and compassionate toward others. To put it succinctly, they are model Catholics.

    By contrast, too many kids I’ve tutored from Catholic schools are not much different than kids educated in the public school system. Typically, they exhibit a strong sense of entitlement, lack focus, excuse their irresponsibility and lack of motivation and routinely put themselves before and above others. They grow up to be Catholics in name only.

    If I had children, given what I see on a daily basis, I’d want my kids home-schooled.

  • Perhaps Bishop Vasquez was unable to attend due to a schedule conflict, asked Mr. Vanders to send his regrets, and Mr. Vanders embellished the response with his own opinions of Catholic homeschooling. Apparently Mr. Vanders’ feelings about homeschooling are well-known. Is the same true of Bishop Vasquez’s views on the subject?

  • Let me step in just briefly and say, as the author: I do not want this threat to become an attack on parish or diocesan schools. They have their place, and they do very important work. As someone who went to parish schools for six years and was homeschooled for the remaining six (and who now homeschools his children) I certainly do not think that homeschooling is the only good choice for parents or that “all good Catholic parents” homeschool.

    I think the major problem with Superintendent Vanders’ email is that it suggests that homeschooling and Catholic schools are in some sort of competition in which one must win out over the other. In reality, the important thing is that children be educated and formed in their faith. Institutional Catholic schools and Catholic homeschooling are both means to that end, and one may be more appropriate than the other in specific circumstances or for specific parents.

    So I want to make sure that the thread does not turn into a venue for bashing the good work that Catholic schools do.

  • DC,

    Your post is very prudent.

    I think Dr. Vanders is the one coming around as the one who has a problem with homeschooling.

    I normally (try) to wait a year or two before ascribing responsibility to a new bishop so as to give him an opportunity to correct problems within his new diocese.

    I think Bishop Vasquez has barely been there a year (For What It’s Worth).

  • To better exemplify, rather than a homeschooling group, take this to be an independent Catholic school. (It could be any private association for that matter.) If a diocesan official were to decline to participate for the reason that the independent school was not part of the diocese’s mission, I imagine there would be a lot of the same complaints and hurt feelings. Declining doesn’t make independent Catholic schools wrong or make them 2nd class schools. Regardless of how laudatory their efforts, they would still not be part of the diocesan goals.

  • So, are we all agreed that there’s a problem? Since your bishop in Austin hired the problem, let him fix it. You don’t need a homeschool or a parochial school education to figure this one out. Easy A.

  • I plead ignorant to the fact that Catholic schools are at the heart of the mission of the Church. My understanding is that the salvation of souls through the sacraments and preaching of the Gospel were at the heart of the mission. Not sure what that says about me or Mr. Vanders knowledge or worldview, but seeing as the Apostles set out preaching and bringing the sacraments to the faithful rather than setting up K-12 schools, I’m tempted to feel comfortable with my understanding.

  • Our Catholic school has a homeschooling association. (I have no idea what it does.) It would seem that both Catholic schools and homeschoolers could work together to fulfill the Church’s mission.

    A good family friend normally homeschooled but was unable to for a few years due to illness so her kids then attend Catholic school until she could again. I am sure there is more of this type of cross-over going on but I cannot cite anything to support my opinion.

    I think providing more options to parents is a good thing (as long as it adheres to Catholic teaching and orthodoxy).

  • I’m curious as to what specific objections the superintendent has to homeschooling. Is it that homeschoolers are not as well-catechized as Catholic school kids? Surely not. I would assert that the average Catholic homeschooler is much better catechized than a Catholic school student. Is it academic objections? Again, homeschoolers do very well academically as compared to brick-and-mortar students. They also rank higher on social maturity and being psychologically well-adjusted versus their peers. I would love to hear a concrete argument about how the average Catholic homeschooler would be better off in Catholic school than he or she is right now.

    So, what is Dr. Vanders’ objection? The only thing I can figure is that either 1) he feels threatened by the homeschoolers excelling over the parochial students in most every area, or 2) he resents the lost revenue. If it’s #1, that’s not very Christian of him, and I would certainly hope that Bishop Vasquez does not agree with, or condone, such an attitude. If it’s #2, I suggest he take a look at your average Catholic homeschooling family. A large majority would never be able to afford tuition for one or two kids, let alone the large families that many have. We’re talking single-income families, most of whom I know scrimp and save as it is. No cash cow here, I’m afraid.

    I won’t even get into the many issues of so many of our Catholic schools being Catholic in name only, or only on some issues. But I would suggest to Dr. Vanders not to trouble himself with the supposed specks in the homeschoolers’ eyes, and rather to turn his gaze to the mirror.

    As far as the homeschoolers removing themselves from their parish and diocesan community, from what I’ve observed, it tends to be the opposite–that they are highly involved members of the church. Not only the parents, as RE teachers/aides, committee members, etc., but also the children, as altar servers, volunteers, active participants in non-Mass activities, etc. I know that at our parish, our RE classes would be in unbelievably desperate straits, and our VBS would probably not even happen, were it not for the homeschooling moms and teens who volunteer. And at least one or two homeschoolers seem to be altar servers at every Mass, too.

    Just daydreaming here, but if Catholic schools would be willing to allow students to take classes on an a la carte basis, now *that* would be awesome.

  • Magistra Bona said:

    Instead of staying on the barricades and demanding that Catholic schools be Catholic and strive for excellence, the departure of these families leaves a vacuum which is filled with the same stuff that fills a Hoover.

    This is a rather haphazard assessment.

    Are you suggesting that parents continue to send their children to schools you claim to be inferior, so that by doing so they can make the schools better at the expense of their childrens’ education and Catholic upbringing? Would you also recommend that your child marry a non-Catholic spouse, vs. the Catholic spouse he or she loves, just so your child can make the non-Catholic a Catholic? The idea that we should enroll our children in schools to improve the schools, which are supposed to be about the business of improving our children is the stuff of nonsense.

    You then wrote:

    Once their own, and banding together, homeschool families become a church unto themselves only reflecting the needs, desires, and hopes of their own circle.

    Accusing Faithful Catholics of being a “church unto themselves” is rather ironic coming from a person I suppose is not the Pope. If you are the Pope, then I offer you my sincerest apologies. But if not, then by doing so you have committed the error you accuse homeschoolers of doing. You have made yourself the magisterial authority on who is and who is not a part of the real Church, vs. a church unto themselves.

  • Regarding Catholic schools being the heart of the mission of the Church… I suppose the argument can be made as this is one medium by which the Gospel can be transmitted to the faithful. However, the general rule seems to be that children pick up their parents’ religious practices (or lack thereof) despite the best efforts of the parochial school, youth ministry, or the RE/CCD program. There are exceptions to this generality, but the general trend stands.

    This is most likely why homeschoolers as a set, seem to out perform their peers in the public schools, and to a lesser degree, the private schools.

    That said, the hostility from Vanders and PDQ are unnecessary. Volumes could be written refuting their specious claims.

  • Doesn’t surprise me at all…they’re afraid that students taught outside their system might actually believe in God or something.

  • Dr. Vanders’ makes an error in his thining that is far too wide spread, that the term ‘Catholic schools’ does not include homeschools. I guarantee that my children attend a Catholic school, it just happens to be run in our home! I would also ask, in Dr. Vander’s opion, what makes a school a Catholic school? Do a few prayers before and after school (and maybe before meals), a religion class thrown in once a day and maybe a Mass once a week or so make a school a Catholic school? We choose to homeschool for many reasons, one being that both the curriculum and enviroment at most parochial schools is not very Catholic.

  • Watch what you say about the Bishop if you are Catholic. As Church Father St. Ignatius of Antioch teaches us, the Bishop is the link the faithful have to our Faith in whatever area we live in:

    “Wheresoever the bishop appears, there let the people be, even as wheresoever Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.”

    With that said, it is clear Austin homeschoolers have too distant a relationship wih the Bishop. You can blame the Bishop all you want (which will get you nowhere), but he is just one man. If you want to improve that relationship, homeschoolers need to be more positively visible to the Bishop. Participate in more diocesan functions that impress the Bishop. And yeah, it is a political game, and politics have always been the scourge of the Church. But it only has to be a scourge if you let it be. This isn’t a humongous campaign I’m talking about. It’s simply letting the Bishop know the homeschoolers in his diocese are a blessing to him. Sorry to put it all on you guys, but that’s just the way it is! By the way, I’m also an Austin homeschooling parent, so I’ve now committed myself to the same cause. 😀 But we can do it if we have a positive attitude and work together!

  • I don’t know, Magistra Bona, what you say doesn’t square with the homeschoolers I have known. I am not homeschooling. But I am considering it. I don’t know anything about Catholic schools in either Austin or in CA for that matter. I do know that where I am there is no support for homeschoolers from Catholic leadership. But Catholic homeschoolers do quite a lot in the parishes, including teaching religious ed and myriad other things. As well they are active in the wider community. It just isn’t the way it is, this “annex” as you say — I think that they see themselves cooperating with local parish.

    Since where I am the Catholic world does not recognize them at all, they do a lot also socially with Protestants. In some places Catholic homeschoolers get together with unschoolers of all faiths or no faiths. All of which, the contribution in the parish, the social interaction with other faith outlooks, well I would say it’s all VERY Catholic. That is what we are all about as Catholics, being in the world.

    And then you say that in your Catholic schools in CA that half of the kids are not Catholic, and the ones that are haven’t formation and the schools then refuse to emphasize a basic Catholic formation. That to me, strikes as you say, “not Catholic”.

    The Church itself deems the vocation of parents to educate their children in the faith as a domestic church, the Church uses that term, and since it does it certainly does not correlate that people who homeschool “make the family an idol”. Society as well as the Catholic world benefit in innumerable ways from these Catholic families and the fact they are what they are supposed to be, what they are called to be, a family. How one chooses to educate their children in the faith, it could be Catholic school, it could be homeschool, it could be religious education at parish, and it could be all of those depending on the child, the time and the circumstances. But all parents regardless of which option still have the responsibility to educate their children. It is a vocation. All Catholic families are domestic churches and the parishes and dioceses have to recognize and find better ways to support them right now.

    I suppose that overall it’s a small drawback that a local diocese treats homeschoolers like dirt. But it’s not everything, to get the nod of the local Bishop. That’s the thing about Catholic homeschooling, you can really do quite a lot, quite creatively, with very little to go on.

  • Dear Darwin, that letter was most regretable. I’ve many friends who homeschool their children – all of whom do quite well.

    I am intrigued that you were able to look up the ip address and determine that it came from the NCEA. I have my own blog http://restore-dc-catholicism.blogspot.com/ and the tools therein also allow me to record the ip addresses of commenters. However, there must be something additional that detects the owners of the ip addresses. What might that be? I’ve had some nasty comments in the past, even some borderline threats. If you’d point me in the right direction to obtaining that took, I’d be grateful. Thank you.

  • Janet, you may want to try sitemeter. Here’s a link to this site’s sitemeter so you can browse around.

    http://www.sitemeter.com/stats.asp?site=s32americancatholic

    Some people like to use the potential anonymity of the Internet as a free pass to remind us of how fallen we are as creatures. Tools like sitemeter at least lets you make it more challenging for them to beat you over the head with it.

  • Janet,

    If you have the IP address of a commenter, you can feed it into an IP lookup site such as:

    http://www.ip2location.com/free.asp

    This will provide you with the city and the domain in which the commenter originates. If the person is posting from home, it will often just say “Road Runner” or “Cox Communications” or some such, but if the person is posting from a school or place of business it will state what network the person is using.

    Now, in my opinion, it’s a bit aggressive to out someone’s place of work in response to the comment. The only reason I did it in this case was that the comment itself was somewhat offensive and the commenter was clearly abusing anonymity by both using fake email addresses and using multiple different online handles. That, combined with an accusation of racism, rubbed me the wrong way — especially given that someone working for an upstanding organization like the National Catholic Education Association should know better than to troll against Catholic homeschoolers.

  • The author is absolutely correct — I’m an Austin Catholic whose daughter has been added to a long waitlist at our local Catholic elementary school. I don’t see why Dr. Vanders has to criticize my next best alternative when Catholic school isn’t even available for me. Very poor leadership skills!

  • Steve,

    I certainly agree that Catholic homeschoolers, if they want any recognition, should be active in their parishes and in the diocese — though I think we (if I can still call myself that after having moved out of state six months ago) have done a pretty good job of that. After all, one of the priests ordained last year had been homeschooled, and came from a large homeschooling family. And I know a lot of other homeschoolers who, like me, were very actively involved in multiple activities around their parish.

    That said, I certainly don’t think that the bishop is in any way obligated to notice homeschooling or attend homeschooling events. It strikes me as totally understandable to decline the invitation to the Blessing Mass. My only beef is with the implication in the response sent out by the Superintendent that homeschoolers are acting in a way contrary to the “heart of the mission” of the diocese, and thus actively should not be noticed because it would be bad for the Church.

  • I can’t imagine that Bishop Vasquez’s mind on the matter is expressed in that letter.

    This Darth Vanders took some liberties with his response, thinking, I’m sure, that no one of import (to his mind) would ever hear or see it.

  • When we were starting with the education of our children we interviewed the nun that was the head of the schools in the diocese. Funny, no matter what “brand” of schools she was head of I would not allow her to be responsible for my childrens education. It sounds like this administrator is of the same ilk.
    The difference between many catholic home educators and their local catholic schools is that they are Catholic first and educators second compared to educators first and maybe catholic if they have to be.

  • “I don’t see why Dr. Vanders has to criticize my next best alternative when Catholic school isn’t even available for me.”

    Catholic school also isn’t available to many children with autism or other special needs. I have inquired about enrolling my daughter, who is autistic, in Catholic schools several times and have always been turned away. We homeschooled her for several years but had to give it up due to a change in our employment circumstances, so now we are stuck with public schools. Catholic school tuition would also be prohibitively expensive in any event.

    The problem with education bureaucrats of any stripe — public or parochial — is their tendency to forget that schools exist to assist the parents in fulfilling THEIR duty to be the primary educators of their children… not the other way around.

  • I’m in complete agreement with Elaine Krewer…

    A Catholic school education is simply not available for our daughter with Down Syndrome. Several years ago, my husband and I inquired about enrolling her in ANY of the Catholic schools in our large city. We were repeatedly told that our Diocesan schools offered “college preparatory” curriculums, and there was no place for a student with special needs.

    We ended up home-schooling her, and countless graces and blessings have flowed from this decision.

    However, I am extremely disappointed in the mixed message that the Catholic schools in our Diocese are sending. The Church teaches that all life is sacred — and this, of course, includes all children with special needs. But ironically, a parochial education for these same children is unavailable. The message is clear: “Parents of special children, you’re on your own.”

    How tragic.

  • As a Houstonian( Bishop Vasquze’s former Residence) and Home Schooler of 5 children, I would just like to say that the Bishop from time to time did say Mass for our Home Schooling Group at the beginning of the year as well as at our Home Schooling Conference. We had 3 bishops, so I would imagine he took his turn because of their schedules.

    Suz, you hit the nail on the head. At this point in our lives, my husband works 2 jobs so that I can stay at home and teach our children, (ironically, his second job is DRE for elementary education at our parish and I substitute for him because we can’t get enough volunteers). The only Catholic School near me is new and adding a grade every year at 5K/child and only 1 child eligible to attend at this point, it would be difficult to send my child there. My children are well educated in their academics as well as the faith. I have my oldest ,16yo son, considering the priesthood. My children are altar servers and volunteer with the various age levels that they can work with throughout our parish. As well as the annual Bazzaar and other events that we attened as a family at church and in our community. In short, we don’t live under a rock.

    We don’t hide from our parish we embrace it, we don’t hide from the world either and we are not the exception to that rule, it’s the ones who do hide that are the exceptions.

    Home Schooling is NOT so stigmatized as it once was in the 80’s and we no longer have to worry about the truant officer at our door, especially in the state of Texas.

  • “This Darth Vanders took some liberties with his response, thinking, I’m sure, that no one of import (to his mind) would ever hear or see it.”

    That may be. I know in my diocese, the diocesen paper routinely does not publish letters that are critical of the one-sided presentation of social issues. (These written by myself and others.) Only occasionally is a letter published which is usually poorly worded or doesn’t well present CST and its openness to a variety of solutions. Immediately following will be a rebuttal with cherry-picked lines from CST. The most notable recent example was the Wisconsin Teacher’s Union. They presented Bishop Listecki’s letter but conveniently omitted Bishop Morlino. Of course then began to declare that Catholics must support the Wisc. Union.

  • In response to Vander’s statement of the bishops belief that “Catholic schools are at the heart of the mission of the church,” Dale Price said

    “Actually, I disagree. If it is at the heart of the mission of the Church, educating only 5000 students suggests it badly under-serves the people of the Diocese in that vital mission. “

    Dale is exactly right. Educating Catholics children should be one of the items at the heart of a Diocese (along with educating adult Catholics and evangelizing non-Catholics, and spreading the Gospel in general). But that just isn’t the case. I send my kids to Catholic school, and am on my Parish’s school board. I am seriously considering homeschooling – not because I don’t like Catholic schools, but because I can’t afford them. If these were a priority – then there the Diocese’s in this country would find a way to make them affordable to Catholics.

    But the truth is that in most places, people are afraid to even say that sending your child to public school is dangerous to their spiritual development – but it is. We may homeschool one or more of our kids, but it will be because we cannot afford a truly Catholic school (as opposed to CINO schools), and we do not wish to send our children into the lion’s den of public education. I wish the Bishops really did see Catholic education as central to the Church. But their actions speak far louder than words written by flunkies attacking the faithful.

  • The villains in this drama are Catholics who beggar their co-religionists by sending children to government schools. They are the greatest enemies of Catholic schools, I’ve found in my 61 years. And the greatest enemies of homneschoolers. As long as the majority of Catholics send their children to be schooled in government schools, no finger pointing between Catholic school and home school families will bear much fruit.

  • I find this letter very disturbing.

    We sent our first two children to a Catholic School for the first 2 or 3 years of elementary school. We had some issues with inappropriate discipline from a teacher and decided to homeschool after our oldest completed 2nd grade.

    We discovered at the time that the same social issues we wished to avoid by not sending our children to public school were appearing at the Catholic School. With a very active Catholic Homeschooling Association in Austin, we felt fortunate to be able to Homeschool and remain within a Community of Catholics.

    Now, with a large family, sending the children to Catholic schools would not be financially possible anyway.

    I find Mr. Vander’s apparent attitude toward homeschooling disturbing and oddly self-serving.

    I truly hope this does not reflect our Bishop’s attitude towards homeschooling.

  • “The villains in this drama are Catholics who beggar their co-religionists by sending children to government schools.”

    Give me a break. With what many Catholic schools charge many Catholic parents simply cannot afford to send their kids to Catholic schools. In many areas of the country there are simply no Catholic schools to go to in any case within a reasonable driving distance. Additionally, considering the religious instruction that I am aware of in some Catholic schools, I can completely support parents who decide that they can do a better job of passing on the Faith themselves.

  • Although this is a difficult and somewhat unfair situation for the homeschoolers, the way to think of it is as an opportunity, not just as a defeat. I mean that one ought to keep in mind that a deeper pastoral understanding of this homeschooling movement eludes many bishops, simply because they are often unfamiliar with it. The history of homeschooling is rife though with stories of excellent pastors who at first were hostile to the idea of homeschooling only to change their thinking when seeing the example and witness of holy Catholic families and their parents’ perspectives and experiences. The lay people simply put have way too much control and de facto authority in diocesan schools in general. Many of these bishops too, if they’re very young, are not completely familiar with the educational distortions present in their own parochial school systems, trusting too much as they often do the parochial and diocesan educational beurocrats with insufficient critical oversight. With 97% of Catholic mainstream parents contracepting, and teachers largely drawn from this larger group, most dioceses unfortunately still don’t require their teachers to take any oath of fidelity or anything remotely like it (an exception might be Bishop Vasa in Oregon), so there will inevitably be problems and parents naturally learn about it first. But patient and persevering witness can overcome these roadblocks, and the perceived hurt to families in this case likely will open doors with this bishop — an opportunity!

    I’d suggest reaching out patiently and persistently to the bishop and asking for a dialogue or series of informal meetings, where info can be exchanged not only about homeschooling but also about the growing and ever-more-successful private Catholic school movements where fine and experienced catholic educators have begun independent schools, represented by movements such as NAPCIS (nat. association of private catholic independent schools). Don’t let the response of a diocesan beurocrat shut down the correspondence on such a key issue touching also on local Catholic unity.

    Praise God for the vocation of holy Catholic marriage and parenting, and even for the difficulties it brings!

    Dominic M. Pedulla MD
    Catholic homeschooling father of 9
    Catechist, cardiologist, family planning specialist

  • Homeschooling attracts people for many reasons — some educational excellence, some family closeness, and some have no other affordable option. I have found that there are a number of families where I live that must homeschool because Catholic education is not affordable to them. Dr. Vanders should be ashamed for humiliating the poor in this way.

  • The villains in this drama are government school patrons. Refund to Catholic school parents their taxes to the school district and to the state and state sales taxes used to support government schools. The cash in Catholic parents’ pockets rises dramatically. Their ability to patronize or even to create Catholic schools rises accordingly. And the ability of government school Catholics to beggar their co-religionists effectively evaporates.

    The Wichita Diocese provides tuition-free Catholic education for K-12. They ask for a tithe of 5% of net income. It’s a much better bargain than ever rising taxes to fund morally bankrupt government schools.

    The strongest enemies of Catholic schools I’ve found in 25 years as a parent of Catholic school and university students, the most energetic enemies are government school Catholics who resent the example of Catholic schools. Fights to support Catholic schools often pit Catholic school parents against those who partonize, and not rarely are employed by, government schools. I take it as a simple fact of life. Both Catholic schools and home schools are far preferable to government schools. No child’s faith will be enhanced by attending government schools. We will never evangelize this society by sending our children to government schools. The villains of this drama are those who beggar their fellow Catholics and patronize government schools.

  • Patience, folks. Homeschooled Catholics (my wife and I have three – wish we had more) are as a group very young. Where do you think our future bishops are going to come from, homeschoolers or parochial schools?

    Also, no one has yet commented on the schooling our Lord received. Isn’t the school of Nazareth the original Catholic homeschool?

  • “Refund to Catholic school parents their taxes to the school district and to the state and state sales taxes used to support government schools.”

    I have long supported school vouchers but that is simply not the case today in almost the entire nation. Without such assistance the elementary tuition of 3,383 per year and secondary tuition per year of 8,787, these are averages from the National Catholic Education Association, is simply out of reach of most Catholic parents.

  • Wow! Ouch! What a gratuitous slap. I pray that this gentleman will familiarize himself with the concept of subsidiarity. It’s a doctrine of the church, and JPII commented on it quite a bit.

    I think that he might also be (pleasantly) surprised to meet the many families I know who homeschool and also have some of their kids in Catholic or public school. People homeschool for all sorts of reasons, and those reasons change over time. Many large families begin homeschooling because Catholic school is financially out of reach. Some homeschool for academic excellence, or because their kids have special needs or special talents. Most, if not all, have chosen to homeschool after prayerful discernment. The high number of vocations coming out of homeschooling families also speaks for itself.

    I also found the post-er who accused homeschoolers of racism to be uninformed to the point of being comical. That individual would be surprised to meet my family, and many of the other families with whom we homeschool. Let’s just say we don’t fit the picture.

    One final thought: would he be as hostile to a similar request from public school families, I wonder….

  • I am a Catholic (by God’s Amazing Grace).
    I am a homeschool parent (who sees the truth in the pros and cons that exist in all teaching environments).
    AND I am seeing the HIDDEN GIFT in the rejection received:

    Does Christ not invite us/you to suffer with Him?
    Does He not ask us to turn the other cheek?
    Does He not show us how to wear a crown of thorns?

    It is Lent…Holy Week…the letter a gift…an invitation to you, to us, the homeschool community to take up the cross and to walk with Christ. Accept it graciously and unite “the sting of this bite” with God’s suffering…so many of our children are in need…Columbine comes to mind…the children who do not live with the love and grace of God can use our prayers.

    Peace be with all…

  • P.S.
    The Divine Mercy Novena begins tomorrow…Good Friday.
    My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, let us forgive us our trespasses and pray for one another in a spirit of love and mercy. JESUS, I TRUST IN YOU!

  • Kiernan what a great point!

  • One of the unspoken facts of government schools is that the gentry patronize them. Open your yellow pages and look at the rosters of doctors, lawyers, real estate developers, stock brokers, bank presidents, corporate presidents, and so on. In each city where we’ve lived, a clear majority of these folks patronize the government school system. A clear minority of these gentry partonize Catholic schools. Warren Buffet is a strong patron of government schools in Omaha; his kids went on the public subsidy to OPS. Every supervisor I’ve ever had sent their children to government schools, and they all earned more than I did.

    As high as Catholic school tuition is, and my wife and I find it barely affordable, how much more a burden it is to us when we have to cough up how many thousands yearly to subsidize government schools. That or be evicted from our homes. Catholic school tuition is too high, but the additional freight of supporting government school families is insult upon injury. Catholic school tuition is high but worth it; government school taxes are high and not worth it. Per student cost in government schools here where we live is north of $10,000 per child per year. Talk about expensive, and talk about holding my head under water to subsidize someone else’s choices.

    When a government school parent complains that they can’t afford Catholic school tuition, they saddle me with additional burdens to subsidize their choices. And I have never so much as heard a thankyou from any of the government school Catholics who burn through our tax dollars.

    More students in Catholic schools, all else being equal, brings down the cost per child. More parents with tax dollars returned to them are able to afford and to found more Catholic schools and lower the costs.

    The villains in this drama are government school Catholics. Give me either a home schooled child or a Catholic school child, but spare me the government school child and the thankless burdens they bring. And spare me any stories about what wretches those Catholic school kids are.

    Vatican II produced a document titled, if I recall correctly, Instruction on Christian Education. It forbids states from discriminating among the choices parents make in educating their children. Our government clearly does discriminate, and I am among those who find government monopoly schools morraly unjustified.

  • I am very impressed by many of the new comments, which I’ve been reading since I posted a few minutes ago. I especially appreciate the woman who asked that we all pray for each other and keep Holy Week in mind.
    The poster who said that she is on the wait-list for a Catholic school jogged my memory about something I’d like to share. It might help those who think that we (homeschoolers) are freaks. I used to think that too. As it turns out, most of us aren’t — the freak-to-nonfreak proportions in the HS community seem to be surprisingly similar to the general and Catholic-school population, IMHO.
    My husband and I assumed that we’d send out kids to Catholic schools. The first time that homeschooling EVER crossed my mind was when I was expecting my second child. I was standing at the office of our parish school with my one-year-old, trying to put her on the waiting list. The woman laughed and pointed at my belly and said, “I hope you mean THAT one, because you are waaay too late for THIS one (pointing to my daughter in the stroller).” I still figured that we’d find a way, but my husband and I decided that we should at least get to know some homeschoolers as a backup.
    Suffice it to say that the amazing parents and kids that we met won us over. That was seven years ago, we we pray, discuss, and think very diligently over our educational decisions for each kid and for each year. If some or all of my kids spend some time in Catholic schools at some point, I hope that they will have good experiences and be a blessing there.

  • Replying to this part of MZ’s fisk:

    <>

    I don’t think the fisk holds. Substitute out any two other groups of catholics, and you see the clear meaning of the message. Can’t say mass for Legion of Mary because it would somehow take away from pivotal role of the Franciscan sisters? Can’t say mass for Knights of Columbus, because the Seminarians are the future of the church? Can’t say mass for the knitting club, because doing so somehow undermines the makers of religious vestments?

    That would be nonsense. Saying mass for one (legitimate) group within the church in no way undermines the standing of some other group.

    I think Darwin inferred correctly, as to the plain meaning of the letter.

  • Adding: apparently I punctuated my reply in a way that made my quote of MZ disappear. If anyone is unclear which part I am referring to, I’ll re-post.

  • To Janine McDonald:

    I believe your sentiments, expressed at 12:36 this afternoon, while sincere, are seriously and perhaps fatally misguided. There are indeed times when one may “turn the other cheek” – when that person is the only one being harmed by the injury proffered. When others, such as our children, our Church and our culture at large are being harmed, we may NOT “accept it graciously” if that means assuming a passive and silent stance. If that sort of stance is what you mean by your series of questions about Christ is asking of us, the answer is a resounding NO! I might go a step further and say that such silence, when others beside us are being harmed, is sinful (and sanctimonious) cowardice. Sometimes we really do have to take a strong stand as did Deborah, as did Joan of Arc, as did the Crusaders, the soldiers who actually fought at Loretto, etc did. We are the Church Militant, not the “Church Meek and Mild”.

    While I do see that others are not responding, I need to rebut these errors lest others be unduly influenced by them. Have a TRULY blessed Easter.

  • Perhaps ask Cardinal DiNardo or someone from his office (have heard he has a few fans of homeschoolers in his inner circles) to work these issues out between either Ned & Bishop Vasquez and homeschoolers in his diocese or find a way to let it go. The law in Texas is on your side and you couldn’t ask for a more lax state than Texas for homeschooling. If Ned Vander has a prejudice, he answers first to God for his lack of charity, his lack of professionalism and his intolerance/lack of temperance (I’m somewhat referencing things he wrote on the diocesean website that would be good for someone who did decide to have a pow-wow with him and an omsbudsman—perhaps an unbiased priest). But I did bring this to Our Lord tonight in the Blessed Sacrament. Don’t be too troubled when you find yourself falling into various trials, right? “count it all a joy for the testing of your faith produces patience. Patience produces perserverance and perserverance produces character and character produces hope.”—paraphrasing James a good bit, but the gist of it. “My hope is in the Lord.” when it is in anything else, I find myself getting more discouraged and disappointed than I ought. He’ll help you and give you the people to help.
    I kind of like the gutsy nature of this article though. Grabs one’s attention, that’s for sure! Now just if it will give reconcilliation, right? God bless and best wishes to the Austin Catholic homeschoolers. Maybe even ask St. Catherine Drexel’s help. She founded a lot of Catholic schools in these parts of the country;)

  • In response to Janet’s perspective…

    I sincerely understand where you are coming from. You have moved me to look deeper for I do not want to lead anyone astray. If I may share more reflections of what my heart has pondered and seen since this afternoon:

    Jesus washes their feet…
    1 Corinthians 13
    St. Genevieve calling upon her community to have faith, fast and pray…
    Matthew 8:26

    Martin Luther King –
    The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
    Somehow we must be able to stand up before our most bitter opponents and say: “We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you…But be assured that we’ll wear you down by our capacity to suffer, and one day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves; we will so appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.” (For me, these words – and MLK’s meek and mild actions in the fight for justice- are a great example of the CHURCH MILITANT!)

    Then there are the lessons taught by Mother Teresa –
    Humility is truth.
    Only humility will lead us to unity, and unity to peace.
    Be kind to each other – I prefer you to make mistakes in kindness, than that you work miracles in unkindness.
    We know that if we really want to love we must learn to forgive.
    Intense love does not measure – it just gives.
    The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for, and deserted by everybody. The greatest evil is the lack of love and charity, the terrible indiffernce toward one’s neighbor…

    I believe the plight of Austin’s Catholic Homeschool Community can understand the disease which Mother speaks of intimately. I see pain and angst because people are feeling unwanted, uncared for and deserted…denied the Greatest of Gifts by their Bishop and Brother…
    My eyes turn to the clock…it is 11:38 pm…my heart turns to THE AGONY IN THE GARDEN…so much blood flowing, His heart broken – THE PAIN OF REJECTION. But one bite does not deserve another. We must look to Christ on the Cross and continue to love in the spirit of charity – we must unite our pain with His and PRAY! Father, Forgive them…we must give in this way so we may receive true grace. We must have hope and believe and thank God for this opportunity to be Soldiers worthy of His Name. As DarwinCatholic points out, “this is a regrettably provocative opening in the relationship between homeschooling families and the Austin Diocese.” But this open wound was allowed by God; HE HAS NOT ABANDONED YOU! Stay focused on HIM, vigilant in virtue, faithful in prayer and Our Father in Heaven will resurrect and heal all members of the Church in the BODY OF CHRIST.

    And then there is Our Blessed Mother…what more do we need?

    A glorious EASTER blessing for you, too.
    Peace and Love

  • I agree that one must offer this up. But the Catholic in the world must also seek truth and justice. So the pursuit of truth and justice in this situation also calls for a correction of the wrong (which I believe is truly present) as well as an offering.

    To do otherwise is to abandon one’s vocation in the world.

    “And then there is Our Blessed Mother…what more do we need?”

    Nothing more. We offer up the wrong and with our Mother’s help work to correct it.

  • How about everyone here write the Bishop directly and make your feelings respectfully known?

  • I coached Little League for a very long time. I comment now that the only problem with kids in Little League is that they come with parents. I served on a Catholic school Board of Education for 10 years…same problem. It seems to me that the Bishop gave the invitation a truthful answer…people just don’t like the answer. The Bishop is right, “To teach the children of Jesus Christ and His Church” should be at the heart of the ministry of the Catholic Church. The best medium to do this is the Catholic schools. Unfortunately, not many Bishops stand for this commitment and the closings of an incredible history of development over 150 years is in dramatic jeapordy.

    The government school catholics, with their rousing commitment of an hour or so on Wenesday nights to train their children in the faith are part of the problem. Parents decide that curriculum is better elsewhere; or they want their children to have more diversity; or they are not going to subject their children to what they went through in a Catholic school; or; you name it…I have heard many more excuses de jour on why their darling children are better served at the government school. The real reason is generally found in their purses and billfolds. They do not want to make the sacrifices financially to send their children to the Catholic schools. Are you kidding me? Do these parents really believe their children will absorb the lessons of character development and integrity of person that happen each day in the Catholic school?

    Homeschool catholic parents, much of the same. Let me see, take 100 home schooled Catholic children and lets let the teaching interpretations of the Magisterium of the Roman Church filter through 100 parent groups that have decided that they can do it better than a faith based curriculum in their Catholic school? Right! And if you think that religioun curriculum is faulty, get out of your lazy-boy and get to your school board meetings and improve it. And if you think the social development of your home based child will be as well rounded sitting at the kitchen counter at your home every day than interacting with their Catholic schools student-body over 9 months per year-every day, not going to happen. Selfish decisions by parents to homeschool Catholic kids, with miniscule exceptions.

    And like the government school catholic (small c) parents, homeschoolers join in slapping the face of those that came before you to provide your children this Catholic school. Both parent group show lack of support by refusing participation in their local Catholic school when they make these alternative choices.

    You might review the social conduct going on in the government schools today. Should all the Catholic schools be gone someday, and the goverment is the only teacher of children…we will have a different world.

    Daniel M. Malone

  • Daniel is probably right that homeschoolers represent a diverse group and that not all of them homeschool for faith motivation. But it is true beyond any doubt that the main reason for the birth of the Catholic homeschool movement and for its flourishing over the years, however annoying for some to watch, was the existence — ongoing even today unfortunately in many cases — of corrupt sex ed programs and distortions/watering down the Catholic faith education which to a great extent still plague Catholic parochial schools. All one has to do to prove this is read the introduction to the vatican document The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality written, as the vatican says, in response to numerous pleas from all over the western world regarding deviant sex ed indoctrination in, among others and not excluding, Catholic schools. Or read what american bishop Donald Wuerl has recently written regarding the deficient state of Catholic catechesis over the last 40 years. Now Austin may be very different from OKC but I doubt it is different in the most fundamental essentials.

    And even though admittedly the financial and economic perspectives offer at best a partial or limited viewpoint, even here one should be respectful of the fact that homeschooling is certainly no economic windfall. Homeschoolers lose any benefit from tax dollars, and in most states have no right to any participation in extracurricular activities so must pay for these which have to be externally created (not sure about Texas but I believe it’s the same since the homeschool basketball programs I am familiar with in Houston, Dallas, and Austin and elsewhere in Texas all had to “go it alone” 100%). Hardly a boon when analyzed even solely from the materialist perspective. I have done both — sending my kids to parochial secondary schools as well as home-educating, and I can’t tell you for sure that the parochial institutions — despite steep tuitions — are any more expensive all in all. And one at the end of the day still has to ask if one got what was paid for — a true catholic education! And what about socialization? Jeez, is this still being brought up? I mean really? My main experience in OKC was that OKC homeschooling provided too many, not too few, opportunities for socialization. And I’m sure others will report the same.

    But more important than this is that the Church considers first of all the souls of the children and their formation/edification. This is the more important reason to choose homeschooling or any other method of schooling, because the first role of parents is to protect against ideologies — still rampant within Catholic institutions unfortunately — that would rob them of the faith and of their eternal salvation. For this none of us will escape the millstones discussed in Matthew 18, if we fail to protect our children’s souls. And it is often unfortunately too the negative socialization in the Catholic schools — this must be said however sadly — that provide a de facto distortion in Catholic attitudes which then must be corrected in the home. Sorry but it’s the truth.The parochial schools we still have to guard, protect, and convert. After all they are “ours” according to a certain concept of canon law. However they (the schools) have succeeded in many cases in distancing themselves from the oversight of watchful faithful Catholic parents, because a de facto schism exists in many dioceses and Catholic communities. Some will doubtless say this is too strong. But ask yourself how much success you’ve had lately in addressing liturgical abuses, for example, or teaching (the lack thereof mainly) about contraception, for another. I remember when in the 1990s we and numerous other parents complained about the secular hedonist sex ed programs in our oldest daughter’s schooling only to have all of us parents told “you are the only parents complaining bout this”. All of us were the only ones?

    So to return to address the main issue…homeschooling Catholics in this group in Austin who love the Church, love their bishop, love the Church’s institutions, should foster a dialogue with the bishop that will succeed in a mutually beneficial exchange and mutual deepening of understanding, without being unduly discouraged by beurocrats or any others interposed between Catholics and their bishop. This will benefit all.

  • Some of the later commenters are missing the point as to why Austin Catholic homeschoolers were surprised and offended by the e-mail.

    We don’t insist that we’re better than the diocesan and parish schools. We don’t mind if the bishop seems his first duty as to support the church schools–actually we expect it. We don’t demand that we be acknowledged and stroked and cooed over and told what a good job we’re doing.

    But we did expect that, GIVEN a decade of good relations between this diocese and its homeschoolers, without the antagonism characterizing so many dioceses; and GIVEN the high levels of parish involvement and orthodoxy on the part of homeschoolers that characterize this diocese; and GIVEN the friendliness, enthusiasm, and open support with which Austin homeschoolers greeted Bp. Vasquez … given all that, we expected that AT LEAST we would not be slapped in the face with an unprovoked rebuke when we invited, as every year, the bishop to our annual Mass.

    For Pete’s sake. Even my unsocialized homeschooled children know that, if you don’t want to accept someone’s invitation, you don’t go tell them that it’s because you don’t like them, you don’t approve of what they do, and there’s somewhere else you’d much rather be. You just RSVP with “Thanks, but I can’t make it that day.”

  • Mr. Malone, the Magisterium has always recognized that the education of children is primarily the responsibility and perogative of the parents. Not even the Holy Father may usurp natural law here – much less a parochial school. And no, I do NOT trust blindly any “faith-based curriculum” in parish schools more than parents.

    I’m a bit “long in tooth”. When I went to parish schools, the report cards always had this nice note to the parents, that said “parents are the primary educators of the children, schools are there to assist”. Sadly, that has waned; the fault lies as much with parental abdication as well as school arrogation.

    I salute those parents who take on homeschooling in obedience to their God-given duties and with the graces embued by the Sacrament of Matrimony.

  • “The family therefore holds directly from the Creator the mission and hence the right to educate the offspring, a right inalienable because inseparably joined to a strict obligation, a right anterior to any right whatever of civil society and of the state, and therefore inviolable on the part of any power on earth.”

    This is from Pope Pius X! encyclical “On Christian Education of Youth,” 1929.

    Nuf Said.

  • As the Second Vatican Council recalled, “Since parents have conferred life on their children, they have a most solemn obligation to educate their offspring. Hence, parents must be acknowledged as the first and foremost educators of their children. Their role as educators is so decisive that scarcely anything can compensate for their failure in it.”

    –Pope John Paul II, “The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World”

  • Suz, thank you. The two quotes we have copied here show at LEAST 30 years of prevailing thought of the Magisterium of the Church telling of the parent’s primary obligation. No where does it state that it is to be in a Diocesan Parish School.

    Epic Fail Dr. Ned. Have you read Papal Encyclicals?

  • There’s no merit to “Doctor” Vander’s implied criticisms of home education. Our homeschooled (grades 1-12) kids have been accepted at the most prestigious colleges and universities, including those in the Ivy League. And they are devout Catholics.

    Like his counterparts in the government schools, “Doctor” Vander wants a monolopoly on the power and money (to the extent that it exists) in keeping all Catholic students under his control.

    And that’s exactly why so many parents choose home education. We don’t trust bureaucrats with our kids’ educations!

  • Your new Bishop would not have seen the invitation, I suspect. If your diocesan offices are the same as mine, a clerk would have opened the invitation and, taking note that it was to do with ‘schooling’. sent it to the local Catholic Education Office. The surest way to get a letter to the Bishop is to send it certified post, or hand deliver it to him personally.
    Where I live, the absence of truly Catholic religious education in Catholic schools, and the presence of materials that are damaging to a student’s Faith and general well-being, are the reasons that most homeschooling parents give for their heroic decision.

  • I would love to, and could afford to, send my five children to a Catholic school, if only I could find one that was truly Catholic. It is a growing trend, but has not spread far enough yet. As a military family who moves every few years, I can tell you that it only takes about ten minutes on a Catholic school website to tell if it is truly Catholic or not. If you haven’t figured it out in five minutes, just look at their reading lists. If none are on a saint or any other Catholic topic, don’t give it a second thought.
    When our local Catholic school system was in trouble, I attended a meeting to review a survey about the vitality of the school system. In a breakout session, I asked our pastor, who had graduated from that school system, when was the last time it produced a priest, brother, nun or sister. He could not recall the last time. I asked him if he was the only one produced from his time in school, and he could recall several others. Interestingly enough, that was nowhere in the survey about the vitality of the local Catholic schools. A few months later, my family attended the Mass at the regional Catholic homeschool conference. the Bishop said in his homily that he knew home schoolers were where his diocese’s vocations would come from. If the diocesan schools reform soon enough, great. We will be happy to contribute more of our charity, and our children to them. If not, we will continue to protect our children’s faith, and our home school produced religious will ensure future home school families are better treated. This is already happening in places around the country with strong parish-based home school groups, including onsite co-ops. Dr. Ned is simply behind the times and just doesn’t know it. I wonder how many religious his school system has produced under his care?

  • Bishop Aymond when he was in Austin also established St. Dominic Savio high school in the north west side of town for middle class Catholics. So Austin has the wealthy St. Michael’s Catholic Academy in the rich part of town, St. Juan Diego in the poorer part of town, and St. Dominic Savio.

    In any case, Catholic schools in Austin are expensive, even for tithing parishioners. When Catholic elementary school costs thousands to tens of thousands of dollars every year, some people cannot afford it.

    I cringe at the statement he made–probably thought no one but the small homeschooling group would ever see it–but he’s learned now that news can spread like wildfire through social media.

  • Offtopic (mostly):

    Hi all, my wife and I will possibly be moving to the Austin greater area within a couple years and have some flexibility as far as what area.

    One thing I would like to do is find a good solid parish and move close to that. Could anyone recommend a solid traditional and orthodox Catholic parish in the outskirts of Austin? I don’t want to be in the city; we want to have some space for our kids.

    Can anybody recommend a solid traditional Catholic Parish in a nice area of the outskirts of Austin for families?

  • Howdy “some guy”,

    I have heard good things about St. William in Round Rock. Round Rock is a satellite of Austin, about 30 minutes north of downtown. Plenty of families live up there and commute down.

    Here’s St. William’s website: http://www.saintwilliams.org/

  • some guy,

    St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish in Pflugerville (about 15 miles north of downtown Austin) is the parish we were members of, and we were certainly very happy there. It was also a parish where there were a number of large, orthodox Catholic families who were very active in the parish.

  • My wife and I will gladly put our 7 kids in the “Catholic” schools as soon as they (1) embrace a truly Catholic identity and curriculum; and (2) make tuition affordable for us Catholics who have more than 2.1 kids because, unlike the vast majority of the families in these schools, we actually follow Church teaching against artificial contraception.

  • My wife and I will be homeschooling our children here in Austin as well. We only very recently got married, so I don’t know the full state of the homeschool community or anything like that. When reading this letter, I highly doubted that Bishop Vasquez had anything to do with the rudeness or even stating that as his reason he could not go. Additionally, perhaps Vanders just simply chose his words foolishly, and didn’t realize how that statement would sound to the recipient. Nonetheless, it was certainly out of line. If you haven’t already, I would recommend some clarification from the Diocese about it, because I think it would be inappropriate for somebody to speak for the Bishop in such a way.

    @some guy
    Depending on which side of Austin you plan on living, I know both St Elizabeth in Pflugerville (first suburb north of Austin) and St William in Round Rock (2nd suburb north) are both wonderful parishes. I have been to a number of churches throughout Austin, and I can very certainly say that as a diocese we are extremely blessed to have a plethora of very holy, wise, and passionate priests serving in a variety of parishes. My wife works as St William where we both attend, it is a very large and beautiful church with wonderfully loving and wise priests. It is also a very very active parish.

  • I wrote a letter to the Bishop shortly after this article appeared asking if he would clarify his position and haven’t heard anything back yet. We’re in College Station and the community here would be interested in knowing. If anyone has had his position on Catholic Home Schooling clarified, would you please post?

  • Let me ask, as an outsider, something about Austin parishes. Are the priests regularly preaching on the immorality of contraception and sterilization? Has the bishop done so? Is it a noticeable pastoral priority in the diocese?

Screen Pilates: Rod Steiger

Wednesday, April 20, AD 2011

 

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.

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8 Responses to Screen Pilates: Rod Steiger

  • For all his talents, I think Steiger was miscast here. From scripture and other portrayals, Pilate seems frustrated and perplexed, but he never quite loses it. Rather he dumps it all in the laps of the mob giving them a choice. In his mind, he washed his hands and felt no responsibility for condemning Jesus. See Frank Thring’s cool performance in Ben-Hur for a stark contrast to Steiger’s ranting.

  • I think the only movie I liked Steiger in was as Napolean in “Waterloo.” Even that was a bit of a stretch.

    I did like Hristo Shopov as Pilate in “The Passion of the Christ.”

  • I may be historically incorrect. Here goes. During Passover, Jeruslaem was filled with Jews from all over the world. Pilate was under pressure from his superiors not to suffer a riot during the festival. The Jews were filled with religious fervor and even more volatile during passover: imagine ritually commemorating whipping the Egyptian Empire while suffering under the yolk of Imperial Rome and its “victorious gods.” Pilate was stuck between a rock and a hard place.

    Old Sicilian proverb: “Once you draw the sword, throw away the sheath.”

    RE: Josephus’ account of the “sit-in in Caesarea.” Don’t know if any other similar event occurred anywhere else in Roman history. If so, one wonders how the empire survived until the Fifth Century A.D. Imagine how the zealots were encouraged after calling Pilate’s bluff.

  • “See Frank Thring’s cool performance in Ben-Hur for a stark contrast to Steiger’s ranting.”

    All the screen Pilates will have their turn Joe, although it is probably something I will reserve for Holy Week each year. Tomorrow we look at Richard Boone’s interpretation of Pilate.

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  • Not to mention Telly Savalas in “The Greatest Story Ever Told”… the role for which the future Det. Theo Kojak shaved his head — and kept that look for the rest of his life.

  • Another marvelous performance Elaine! Playing Pilate has seemed to inspire many actors to give their very best effort.

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Don’t Water It Down

Tuesday, April 19, AD 2011

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.

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15 Responses to Don’t Water It Down

  • I’m a convert from Protestantism and am getting ready to be confirmed on Divine Mercy Sunday. So, I just made my first confession last week. I have to say that the RCIA instructors have not avoided talking about sin and gave us quite a bit of information about how to determine if a sin is mortal, etc. But when it came down to the confession, I had a pamphlet on examining my conscience slapped into my hands and was told to make an appointment. That was it. I spent quite a while thinking over what I needed to confess, but when I got there- aside from being extremely nervous and blanking out for a moment- I really had no idea what the form for confession was and while the priest was patient with me, I could tell he was a bit miffed that I hadn’t gotten that particular instruction.

    I will say that I think there is just so much that has to be covered in RCIA classes that there are things that will be missed. But I do wish that they’d gone into a bit more detail on exactly HOW to do it. We got a lot of the why it’s necessary but none of the how.

  • Real Catholicism (See the Council of Trent for a good overview of Real Catholicism) is a Faith to live and die for. The type of Catholicism Lite that has been peddled in too many catechism and RCIA classes since Vatican II is a faith to snore for.

    This George Weigel column has a good overview of Catholicism Lite:

    http://www.archden.org/index.cfm/ID/4093

    On Real Catholicism go here for the Council of Trent:

    http://history.hanover.edu/texts/trent.html

    Considering how miserably in general the Faith has been taught over the past 45 years, it is miracle to me that we have as many believing Catholics as we have.

  • The Faith is like beer… when watered down, it becomes unpalatable. I’ve seen a number of different parishes with a number of different pastors. Of the most vibrant parishes and effective pastors, the Faith is not watered down. The faithful are challenged. And the community flourishes.

  • Molly,

    First of all welcome and congratulations. Instruction at each parish is a little hit or miss. Some parishes have very vibrant programs that are chock full of great information – others, less so. I wish you had been given a little bit more instruction before your first Confession, as I imagine as an adult it must have been a little scary. Most Priests are very willing to walk you through the sacrament and will lead you along on how to do it. It will become more natural as time goes on.

  • “I really had no idea what the form for confession was and while the priest was patient with me, I could tell he was a bit miffed that I hadn’t gotten that particular instruction.”

    “Bless me Father for I have sinned. It has been —-(name the time period since your last confession.), and these are my sins.” Recite the sins that you can recall. Broad categories are usually sufficient unless the priest indicates otherwise. I always end my sins with the following: “These are all the sins I can recall Father, but I am truly sorry for any sins I have been unable to recall.”

    Although some people like to have some spiritual guidance from the priest during the confession, I have always followed the rule of the three B’s: Be blunt, be brief, be gone!

    I should go to confession more often than I do. I have never left the confessional without physically feeling a great burden being lifted off my shoulders.

  • Thanks for the welcome and the information! I’m going to memorize that so I don’t end up in that awkward position again!

    And yes, confession was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done in my life. I fretted about it, and then having to explain why I was so antsy to my Protestant family and then go into the why behind confession didn’t help. But, by the grace of God, I made it through it. And I really did feel such great relief afterwards. I can’t wait to receive the Eucharist.

  • Let me second the welcome aboard!

    “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.”

    That sounds familiar– I grew up in satellite parishes, where reconciliation is “by appointment only.” (and other than one that actually involved himself in youth group, Father shows up ten minutes before Mass and is gone before the coffee pots down stairs are cold) It took the better part of a decade before I understood I’d ever gone to confession, and that was in the choir loft at my grandparents’ parish, out in the open, with half the town standing in line behind us….. (IIRC, their Father takes care of several satellite parishes, too.) {keep this in mind next time someone tells you that it won’t hurt anything to ship troublesome priests off to the countryside}

    I’ve never had two confessions be alike; flatly weren’t available when I was a kid, the ones in the Navy I spent most of the time telling the priest no, I’m not suicidal in various ways, and the parish I’m at now is the first I’ve EVER seen that has regularly scheduled, walk-in confessions. (And BEFORE SAT. MASS! All the other ones you could get scheduled… for after Mass. This is also the first one that’s said the word “abortion” or mentioned the old, ill and unborn who are threatened.)

  • http://www.fisheaters.com/penance.html

    Priests lavish us with the Sacraments – DO NOT count on them to teach the Faith. In this modern age we have no excuse to not know. We have the Catechism, the Internet, EWTN, the radio and all manner of communications to find the authentic, orthodox Catholic Faith.

    It requires work, discernment and the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the threeness, through confession of the oneness. Would that it were not that way, but as posted above we LIVE the Catholic faith, we die for the faith.

    Welcome and congratulations – don’t ever allow the catholics who know nothing to distract you from the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Pray for your poor brethren and be patient, many who are ‘in’ the Church will not react well to the new found zeal for the Faith and the Truth of Holy Mother’s Prodigal children.

    Although it is ‘permitted’ I would strongly suggest that you receive on the tongue, preferably kneeling. I’m so happy for you, Mandy.

  • In this modern age we have no excuse to not know.

    Sadly, not true.

    All the resources require that one have the basic foundation to find accurate information, and that the priests one trusts are not misleading the flock in one way or another.

    As the initial quotes indicate, there are many priests who aren’t even fulfilling your assumption of providing the sacraments.

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  • Mandy P.
    Congratulations on your choice to join the Catholic Church. People such as you are an inspiration to us who are Cradle Catholics. The decisions you make, despite objection and obfuscation from those who don’t see things your way, is truly a sign of the Holy Spirit working in your life, and we who are involved with those coming through RCIA are really uplifted by your witness and your faith. We Cradle Catholics, because we have been born into the Faith, somehow lack the true appreciation of what we have been gifted.
    I have been involved with RCIA in our parish for around 18years. We do give our aspirants and catechumens the full measure of our Faith, including a proper instruction on Reconciliation, and arrange for a preist to be available to them for Rite 1 Confession for their first confession, as this is a very trying and emotional time,particularly for Protestants who have not had this form of confession as part of their tradition.

    God bless you Mandy – welcome home.

  • Supposing that the CCD teacher had a class of 20, he was in essnce saying that he would not be surprised if 5% of eventually confirmed Catholics wouls “utimately” be “among the Elect”.

    On what basis did he stand in making this specific judgment about the potential (in)efficacy of God’s salvific will and the transformative power of Christ’s kenotic love?

  • Correction:

    “he was in essence saying that we would not be surrised if at least 5% of eventually confirmed Catholics would NOT “ultimately” be “among the Elect”.

  • Somebody who definitely doesn’t water down the faith: The Pope:

    Today there is “a certain callousness of the soul towards the power of evil, an insensitivity to all the evil in the world: we do not want to be disturbed by these things, we want to forget, perhaps, we think, it is not important. It is not only insensitivity to evil, but also insensitivity to God”, said Pope Benedict XVI Wednesday as he dedicated his last catechesis before Easter to the Holy Week Triduum.

    He said “Dear Brothers and Sisters, Tomorrow marks the beginning of the Easter Triduum, the three days in which the Church commemorates the mystery of the Lord’s passion, death and resurrection. The liturgies of these days invite us to ponder the loving obedience of Christ who, having become like us in all things but sin, resisted temptation and freely surrendered himself to the Father’s will. Tomorrow, at the Chrism Mass, priests renew their ordination promises, the sacred oils are blessed, and we celebrate the grace of the crucified and risen Lord which comes to us through the Church’s sacramental life. On the evening of Holy Thursday, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper begins the actual Triduum and recalls the institution of the sacraments of the Eucharist and Holy Orders”.

    Reflecting more specifically on the episode of Christ’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, in comments in Italian the Pope noted that – not unlike the apostles who failed to hold vigil with Christ and were overcome by a “sleepiness” – “It ‘s our very sleepiness to the presence of God that renders us insensitive to evil: we don’t hear God because we don’t want to be disturbed, and so we remain indifferent to evil”

    Pope Benedict said that “Jesus experienced great anguish, such suffering as to sweat blood, aware of his imminent death on the cross”, but chooses to keep watch. This is “a matter of great importance for the Church” said Pope Benedict: “Jesus says to his disciples ‘stay here and keep vigil’, and this appeal to be vigilant concerns precisely this moment of anguish, of threat, but it also covers the entire history of the Church, it is a permanent message for all time because the disciples’ sleepiness is not a problem of that one moment, rather of the whole of history, “the sleepiness” is ours, of those of us who do not want to see the full force of evil and do not want to enter into his Passion”.

    He concluded “The Liturgy of Good Friday invites us to share in Christ’s sufferings through penance and fasting, and to receive the gift of God’s love flowing from the Lord’s pierced Heart. The Easter Vigil joyfully proclaims Christ’s resurrection from the dead and the new life received in Baptism. By your prayers and our sharing in these liturgies, let us resolve to imitate Christ’s loving obedience to the Father’s saving plan, which is the source of authentic freedom and the path of eternal life”.

  • I earnestly suggest that ‘Real’ Catholicism is to be found in the Dogmatic Constitution of the Catholic Church:

    http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html

Responding to Stiglitz on Inequality

Tuesday, April 19, AD 2011

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.

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3 Responses to Responding to Stiglitz on Inequality

  • Wait, the map isn’t the place?

    Amused to see that they did use one of the tricks I expected– bet they use some of the other ones, like counting gross income instead of net with small businesses (by that measure, ag makes BIG bucks, and so do jewelry shops) and not accounting for the effect of single parent families, worker choice, folks being restricted from working (disability, retirement, too young– being paid for not making over X is rolled in here to keep it short) and utterly ignoring the under-the-counter economy. (Illegal aliens, folks barred from working doing cash jobs, etc)

  • (to be clear, haven’t got time to read it as it deserves; wanted to get a comment in so I’ll get comments in my email to remind me)

  • I think it is called “data mining.” Employing data mining one can fabricate “facts” which bear no semblence to the truth, not even the iota found in a lie.

Abraham Lincoln and the Rabbi

Tuesday, April 19, AD 2011

 

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:

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In Honor of Tax Day

Monday, April 18, AD 2011

 

The Tax Man cometh today.  Reason TV explains why we have to pay our taxes in the above video.

The above video was made in 1943 by Disney in order to convince people to save up to pay their taxes.  1943 was also the year when withholding came in as a “temporary wartime measure” because not enough people were saving up to pay their taxes.

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One Response to In Honor of Tax Day

  • It is not too late!

    There is still time!

    All you patriots that think Obama needs more tax money, quick get out YOUR checkbooks and write checks for whatever you think Obama needs so thyat women and children don’t get killed by GOP tax cuts for the rich.

    Make the checks out to United States Treasury.

    If Obama was half as smart as President Reagan he wouldn’t need to end evil, GOP tax cuts for the rich. Reagan achieved economic growth of 7% and 5% higher employment than we do now. And each of us would be richer by $3,000 (per capita GDP) each year if Reagan were now for president. Reagan raised the economy out of a recession with 10.8% unemployment.

    Reagan is in Heaven. But, Thank God, in 2012 we will elect a conservative, like Reagan, to instituute growth policies and return the American people to prosperity.

Richard Rich Quits as Ambassador to Malta

Monday, April 18, AD 2011

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.”

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15 Responses to Richard Rich Quits as Ambassador to Malta

  • Just in time for him to devote himself full time to getting Obama reelected…

  • The Devil loves useful idiots.

  • I’m sympathetic to Kmiec to this extent: while I would love to visit Malta some day, how much is there for even the American ambassador to do? The Maltese were happy, and so were most of his staff. What else was he supposed to do?

  • Just in time for him to devote himself full time to getting Obama reelected…

    Prof. Kmiec’s account of himself never made much sense. One tends to wonder if he is merely getting goofy with old age, rather like Albert Gore or Jeffrey Hart.

  • I hear that a lot of American forces being used in Libya are staged out of Malta. Right now there might be a lot for him to do. Maybe the embassy work was beginning to take away from his Obama apologetics.

  • The post was supposed to be his reward for being a high profile Catholic for Obama. Needless to say, the Obama administration is not the first to reward supporters who know nothing about diplomacy with an ambassadorial spot. This is a long and dishonorable tradition in American diplomacy. The inexperienced ambassadors often come a cropper and that is what has happened to Kmiec. What is unusual in the Kmiec situation is that he ran into trouble in what should have been the most placid of postings.

  • Phillip raises a good point. The Libya situation probably does magnify the importance of the Malta ambassadorship. It will be interesting to see if the Obama administration goes with a professional diplomat now.

  • If this is any example of the diplomatic back and forth, Kmiec is probably being overwhelmed by the position.

    http://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/tonio-borg-told-nato-member-states-knock-on-other-doors

  • I agree with you Phillip. My guess is that Kmiec is probably way out of his depth now in regard to what was supposed to be almost a ceremonial role in a diplomatic backwater, and this resignation could be a face-saving device.

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  • Clueless professor meets real world. Real world wins.

  • Malta like Italy or Greece or for that matter any country caught between Islam and the West, knows that her interests will not be protected under the current Western dispensation. The days when the West was led by men of the calibre of Churchill or Nixon, who for all their numerous flaws tried their best to do what is right and in some fashion identified with the interests of Christians are long gone.

  • This news is shocking! I still cant believe it! Kmiec is a Catholic no matter how many times I read it I still have trouble believing it.

  • Devout Roman Catholics – DO NOT – support Pro-Abortionist ! He is a prime example of the anti-dogma, supposedly educated types that have been allowed to infiltrate & take over our once good Catholic Colleges. He publicly disgraced himself in 2008 & automatically excommunicated himself by lying to other Catholics about the godless senator from Ill. The Koran thumper in the oval office duped him & numerous other supposedly highly educated clergy & Catholic theologians !

Palin: “Fight Like a Girl!”

Monday, April 18, AD 2011

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.

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38 Responses to Palin: “Fight Like a Girl!”

  • I was not able to make it to Madison on Saturday. I watched Palin’s speech livestreamed and I was extremely impressed.

    As for the leftist idiots who attempted to drown out her speech, they have proved that they care not a whit for free speech, unless it’s speech they agree with. How on earth can you have an exchange of ideas with someone who is screaming in your face and wants only to shut you up?

    The Madison protesters were ladies and gents compared to some other anti-TP protesters across the country – like the mob in Portland. One man screamed that he uses the American flag as toliet paper. When I watched and heard the hatred in that clip my thought was that they were in need of an exorcist.

    Now off into the lovely April snow. Ugh 🙁

  • Watching Sarah in action giving her take on our problems and the way she believes government should resolve them for the sake of saving America for future generations makes you wish every pastor in every church would at least recognize her voice as a solid pro-life, defense of marriage, and faith based governance appeal to the voters in this country. But that won’t happen because far too many fear their right to free speech could be used against them by the PC police and that trumps their obligation to stand along side of a voice for biblical truth from a candidate. Yet there were parishes with doors wide open for Doug Kemeic’s high tributes for Obama during the 2008 campaign and bishops who silently endorsed the proceedings. Are the Church and the voice of truth going to forever be held captive by Political Correctness? Is it not enough that such fear already grips the black community as evidenced by the verbal and even physically brutal attacks on black Tea Party members?
    By the way if you will notice as Palin is leaving the stage at the end a black gentleman in an orange shirt politely kisses her hand.

  • It looks like the Democrat pseudo-Catholics have forgotten the lesson of Judith 14:11-19. It took a woman then to fight the good fight. And so today. I cannot wait till I hear the howl of consternation and see the renting of tunics as another anti-christ lies deposed and headless (speaking figuratively, of course – no physical violence is either encouraged or desired).

    11
    At daybreak they hung the head of Holofernes on the wall. Then all the Israelite men took up their arms and went to the slopes of the mountain.
    12
    When the Assyrians saw them, they notified their captains; these, in turn, went to the generals and division leaders and all their other commanders.
    13
    They came to the tent of Holofernes and said to the one in charge of all his things, “Waken our master, for the slaves have dared come down to give us battle, to their utter destruction.”
    14
    Bagoas went in, and knocked at the entry of the tent, presuming that he was sleeping with Judith.
    15
    As no one answered, he parted the curtains, entered the bedroom, and found him lying on the floor, a headless corpse.
    16
    He broke into a loud clamor of weeping, groaning, and howling, and rent his garments.
    17
    Then he entered the tent where Judith had her quarters; and, not finding her, he rushed out to the troops and cried:
    18
    “The slaves have duped us! A single Hebrew woman has brought disgrace on the house of King Nebuchadnezzar. Here is Holofernes headless on the ground!”
    19
    When the commanders of the Assyrian army heard these words, they rent their tunics and were seized with consternation. Loud screaming and howling arose in the camp.

  • Donna V.,

    Those are not idiots. They are fascist gangsters executing orders issued by the lawless tyrants in the WH.

  • The only thing I take issue with in Palin’s speech is this :

    “And Madison, you defended the 2010 electoral mandate. You are heroes, you are patriots, and when the history of this Tea Party Movement is written, what you accomplished here will not be forgotten.”

    Madison is getting far too much credit here. She should have said Wisconsin instead of Madison. Most present-day Madisonians would make the town’s namesake twirl in his grave. They voted overwhelmingly for Kloppenberg and their mayoral race was Lenin vs. Trotsky. Our ex-governor Tommy Thompson said it best when he described the place as 77 square miles surrounded by reality.

    When Obama wants to preach to a worshipful crowd, Madison is one of his top go-to spots. It’s highly doubtful whether he would venture into hostile territory (Waukesha county, for instance) the way Palin does.

    That’s one reason Prosser’s win (and Walker’s earlier victory) so delighted us conservative cheeseheads – it meant the state is not completely in thrall to the Dane-Milwaukee County Democratic machines.

  • I appreciate Sarah Palin’s honesty in revealing her connections with unions, but because of those connections I will not vote for her. As a public-school teacher who has never belonged to a union I have taken heat for speaking up against the I.B.E.W.’s takeover of our local power co-op, and by the other side have been accused of being a unionist because of my employment.

    What a mess!

    Sarah Palin seems to be standing elliptically on both sides of unions, and that won’t do.

  • Sorry that this is irreverent, PWP. The quote reminds me of a headline in the NY Daily News from many years ago. “Headless Body Found in Topless Bar.”

    More irreverence: The CSJ motto: “Don’t waste any time praying – organize!”

  • (Guest comment from Don’s wife Cathy): Mack, I think Mrs. Palin was trying to distinguish between rank & file union members and their union leadership, and encouraging them to vote according to their own beliefs, as opposed to what union bosses tell them to do. I dare say that many people who are currently union members would choose not to be if it was not required by their employment, and that many more would withhold that portion of their dues which their union leadership uses for political activism, if they were allowed to.
    Bravo to you for staying out of the teacher’s union! My mom (a retired teacher), I believe, had to pay union dues (at least I remember our getting NEA’s magazine in our mail when I was a kid), but refused to go out on strike when the local teacher’s union would call for one. (She was the sole breadwinner in our family sometimes, so we needed the money!)

  • Guilty as charged. I’m a union VP (I was asked to run. I didn’t know I was unopposed!) and am local treasurer – it’s what I do. Plus, annual union training is all-expenses-paid in Las Vegas!

    I have annoyingly commented ad nausem: Voting demokrat is a mortal sin. I donate the money I used to give the commie bishop to right-minded candidates.

    The one thing Obama has accomplished: re-awakening the “Reagan” Democratic voter.

    The GOP merely needs to contrast Reagan’s recovery to peace and prosperity to Obama’s growing evil, gangster nightmare.

  • I agree with T. Shaw: one cannot possibly be Christian and vote Democratic. However, many Christians say it’s wrong to judge Democrats as evil because one doesn’t know the state of their souls. That’s true. Nevertheless, as the old Biblical saying goes, by their fruits ye shall know them, and the fruit of liberal Democracy (i.e., two wolves and one sheep voting on what’s for dinner) is murdered babies and sanctification of homosexual filth. Now that being said, I utterly oppose physical violence against abortionist doctors and against gay couples. The solution is NOT violence. But sin is sin, and it is the very reason why our nation is today in such peril. This reminds me of 2nd Chronicles 7:14.

    Now while I really liked Sarah Palin’s speech, and while I agree with Donald’s commentary here at The American Catholic blogiste, I do not think we can look to a political solution for what ails our nation. As Jesus said to Pontius Pilate, “My Kingdom is not of this world…” That doesn’t mean we stop voting or writing our Senators and Congressmen, or being otherwise politically active as befits our station in life. But it does mean that while Sarah Palin and others like her seem to offer hope, our real hope must remain in the Lord. There will be no lasting peace, no real justice on Earth till He returns again in the clouds of glory. We can and should, however, work as laborers in the Lord’s vineyard, but His Kingdom won’t be (and isn’t) a political one – Republican or Democrat. Yes, one can and should vote against the Democratcs and this likely means voting for the Republicans as the lesser of evils. But while the Democratic Party is certainly the Party of Satan, its antagonist the Republican isn’t the party of God. We have to be Catholic Christians first and foremost.

  • That is enough on this thread about Christians not being able to vote for Democrats. My opinion of the current, since 1966, Democrat party, is on a par with my opinion of English cuisine and French stiff upper lip, but I will not contend that my views are the only views for Christians. In regard to politics and religion, I think they are generally separate spheres. Some great moral issues, such as slavery and abortion, cause an overlap, but generally it is best not to confuse politics with religion or religion with politics.

  • Donald’s admonishment is well taken. However, it is quite obvious that the Democratic party and its platform have produced the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Chris Dodd, Charles Rangel, and many other “distinguished” members of congress along with a host of “intellectual” clergy and prominent individuals who ALL gave their unbridled support (honorary degrees) to the most pro-abortion candidate ever to run for president. All of these we could assume would agree with your “separte spheres” but we must ask what does this say for the church in America? Especially when these same people often state and expound that their positions and values don’t conflict with or reduce their standing within the church as they boldly file in line at the communion table.

    Remember when Nancy Pelosi told a reporter that (her) church was not sure when life begins and that it was “debatable” only about 20 of the approximately 150 catholic members of congress willingly signed a letter of admonition to her.( None of the above mentioned). And to realize that these officials are continually reelected by large portions of catholic laity speaks volumes for the guidance the laity are receiving from their shepherds.

    I think Paul in his way is not so much condeming Democtats and their agenda but rather the fact that it seems to thrive in the face of moral reality as defined by the Church and continues with little opposition from Church authority. Paul is knowingly or not taking up the vocal cross which belongs to the bishops in their absence. Perhaps it is somewhat overheated at times but like a cry in the desert for the acknowledgment of neglect and capitulation to the forces of evil in our society by men who wear the garments of faith and good will.

  • Thanks, Bill Sr. The bottom line, I think, is this: it’s a pity that we as Catholics have to be reminded of what truth is by an Assemblies of God Pentecostal woman – Sarah Palin. As Matthew 3:7-12 states:

    When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
    Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones. Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

    If Catholics won’t respond, then God will (and does) use the Pentecostals.

  • Amazing woman. Word is she still had time after her speech to watch a hockey game, kill a moose, ride a snowmobile and buy some new designer specs.

  • Joe Green’s comment reminded me that the reason why modernists don’t like Sarah Palin is because she is a REAL woman, not one of these new age feminists who believe in abortion and lesbianism, and because she is Christian (albeit not Catholic) and Conservative, and most of all, exactly what they are not: beautiful. Now regardless of whatever sarcasm may or may not be in Joe’s Green’s little comment, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least that she might have had time to watch a hockey game, kill a moose, ride a snow mobile and buy new designer specs after her speech. I don’t, however, say that she is my hero. But I do say that she is my heroine. She can’t be a hero because heroes are always male. The female version (Deborah in the Book of Judges and Judith in the Book of Judith) are always heroines. That is a point forever lost on modernists as they continue to obscure, mix up and confuse gender in this false idea that equality in dignity is somehow equality in function – but that’s a discussion for a different day.

    Hooray, Sarah Palin! Never have modernists shown more intolerance of real women in politics than in its villification of Sarah Palin. (But the androgenous feminists – they’re A-OK).

  • Sarah Palin is a very formidable woman who clearly loves being a wife and mother. She reminds me of my wife and mother in that regard. It is good to see a politician who does not come across as plain weird.

  • Obviously I agree, Donald, but I fear that if Sarah runs, many people will buy into the news media’s hatred of her and vote for Obama if only to vote against her. I have talked with many people who aren’t influenced by the purple koolaid, as it were, yet they still would rather have Obama than Sarah. The media certainly has done a bang up job in getting people to see Sarah so negatively.

  • That is why we have campaigns Paul. Prior to Reagan smashing Carter by 10 points in 1980, the polls showed the race neck and neck. Obama and the mainstream media assume that Palin will be easy pickings in 2012. She is severely underestimated and that is not a bad place for a politician to be in what is sure to be a hard fought campaign. Many people currently have low expectations of Palin and have written her off as a low wattage bimbo. More fools they.

  • No meanspiritedness intended. Palin’s easy to parody. Then again, what politician isn’t? I’d wouldn’t want her higher than Sec of Interior. No one on right or left appeals to me. Let’s just put the country on autopilot and hope for the best.

  • Thanks for the note, Joe. Obama is pretty easy to parody, too, but whenever someone does that, he’s accused of being mean spirited, divisive, intolerant and “not nice.” Yet people do it willy-nilly to Sarah and it’s undeserving. If someone treated Geraldine Ferraro during the election of 84 (I think) the way MS NBC and the rest treat Sarah Palin on a daily basis, then the modernists would have been screaming bloody murder.

    For example, I think that those who mistreated Bush with their vile name calling are now getting it back and they don’t like receiving what they so freely gave. So their reaction is to vilify Sarah.

  • Don, Palin would use to Obama, as would Trump, Pawlenty (yawn), Romney (double yawn), Giuliani, Huckabee (imagine a President Huckabee), Bachmann, Gingrich (fill in any GOP candidate’s name here).

    Trump merely enjoying the attention his massive ego craves. He will not run, has too much fun making money and enjoying in celeb status. Chris Christie is a long shot. So who else is going to carry the flag? I thought McCain was weakest but the current crop is even weaker, and the GOP has no identity other than a growing reputation, undeserved perhaps, of being the party of obstructionism. Paul Ryan might make a good Veep choice but still need someone at the top of the ticket.

    Thoughts?

  • Palin would lose, etc.

  • ‘Thoughts?”

    That it is a long way to 2012 would be my main thought. Secondary thoughts are that the economy is in a mess and shows no signs of improving, that gold has gone up $500.00 an ounce in the last year and today stands at $1500.00, that inflation is beginning to take off, that Obama is now involved in three conflicts and shows no clue as to what to do, that the US credit rating is now in doubt, that we will soon be staring at $5.00 a gallon gasoline. If these conditions persist, I think Obama is rather beatable by anyone with an (R) after their name. Oh, and if the ludicrous polls are adjusted to show near parity between Democrats and Republicans instead of the 10 point spread that they continue to give the Democrats, Obama’s approval would now be under 40%.

    I think it is a given that Palin will be the nominee if she gets into the race. If the conditions I have enumerated persist into the summer of 2012, I would give the general election to Palin with at least 52% of the vote and an electoral college win of 290-300. If the economy worsens between now and election day, and unfortunately I think that is entirely possible, I could see Palin increasing her vote margin to 55% and an electoral college win of 338.

  • Don, I think you’re a bit too sanguine about Palin’s chances and underestimating Obama as a brilliant campaigner, albeit a lousy president.

    Consider: He has the big advantage of incumbency and money, as well as a solid base that includes Latinos (now 1/6th of the population), blacks, homosexuals, younger folks and white libs. That’s a sizable block.

    Plus he has the media on his side, which is a huge difference in a sound-bite world in which issues tend to be oversimplified in a dumbed-down country.

    Despite declining popularity in polls, which vary considerably and which are capricious and subject to sharp fluctuations, Obama is skilled at spin, propaganda and manipulation of the facts, in concert with his lapdog press, and has been able to keep the GOP on the defensive. Even though he and his party took a so-called “shellacking” last November and the Republicans made large mid-term gains, neither Boehner nor his troops have been able to capitalize and, given the parity in the Senate, Obama’s veto pen still holds sway and the Republican agenda (if there is one) is effectively blunted.

    Of course, five-dollar gas, rising food prices and high inflation remain troublesome for Obama, and the economy, as usual, figures to be the top issue come 2012. By then, however, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pull some rabbits out of the hat, selling himself as the Great Compromiser, as the GOP stumbles to look for leadership and someone with star power to take over the party reins and adopt a strong message that will resonate with vox populi.

    Even though Obama’s approval ratings have dipped, in all the other polls matching him against any of the Republicans, he’s ahead by comfortable margins. Trump, by the way, isn’t helping by stealing the GOP’s thunder right now with silly birther talk, and becoming the face of the party in ways that party would not prefer (see Karl Rove, George Will, et al, who have begun marginalizing him.)

    Rove is still a man with considerable political clout as a Fox regular and his frequently disparaging remarks about Palin no doubt would be featured in the Democratic ads should she be the nominee.

    To say that Obama is “beatable with anyone with an (R) after his/her name” may be wishing thinking, Don, and probably too soon to assert at this early stage. By fall, I think our crystal balls will clear up enough to make more certain predictions.

  • “underestimating Obama as a brilliant campaigner”

    I disagree that he is a brilliant campaigner. In 2008, with an economic meltdown to hang around the neck of the Republicans, and every advantage imaginable, he won with 52.9% of the vote. Considering the cicumstances, and also considering that McCain was an almost laughably bad candidate for the GOP, it should have been a blowout between 55-60%.

    “He has the big advantage of incumbency and money”

    Incumbency tends to be a bad thing for a President Joe if the economy is in the dumpster, which this economy is. As for money, I believe Palin would outraise him through massive donations over the internet.

    “blacks, homosexuals, younger folks and white libs.”

    Young folks are over the Obama fling. Not having a job tends to do that. Homosexuals routinely give at least a third of their votes to the GOP. Obama has given libs little, and I expect their enthusiasm level will not match the “He is the Messiah” hysteria we saw in 2008. Even black support for Obama is beginning to decrease.

    “Plus he has the media on his side, which is a huge difference in a sound-bite world in which issues tend to be oversimplified in a dumbed-down country.”

    He has the dying and dead media on his side Joe. New media, what people increasingly watch, is competitive for the GOP.

    “Obama is skilled at spin, propaganda and manipulation of the facts”

    I disagree Joe. I’m beginning to come to Jay Cost’s view that Obama, at least now, is bad at politics.

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/morning-jay-obama-dances-two-left-feet_557338.html?page=1

    ” took a so-called “shellacking”

    Nothing so-called about the massive beating the Dems took last Fall Joe, and I expect much more of the same if the economy is still in the tank next year.

    “I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pull some rabbits out of the hat”

    I would. He is doing nothing that will improve the economy, and he is doing much to make it worse. As for him being the “Great Compromise” , I doubt it. I think that Obama has already decided to run to the Left next year.

    “Even though Obama’s approval ratings have dipped, in all the other polls matching him against any of the Republicans, he’s ahead by comfortable margins.”

    Meaningless at this time Joe. Carter regularly trounced Reagan in such polls in 79.

    “Trump, by the way”

    Yeah, “by the way” which I think is where Trump will end up. I don’t see Trump as being another Perot. He will go nowhere in the Republican primaries and I think a third party bid would have nill impact. The man is a complete buffoon and has no issue to rally supporters around.

    “Rove is still a man with considerable political clout”

    Please. This is a man who almost lost two Presidential elections in 2000 and 2004. The most overrated man in politics. Rove is now a man of yesterday and is of no consequence except as a demon figure on the Left. He has now as much political significance as the toe licker, Dick Morris.

    “To say that Obama is “beatable with anyone with an (R) after his/her name” may be wishing thinking, Don”

    I rather think it is sound analysis Joe, based on the current situation. I do agree it is a long way to 2012 at this point.

  • Well, Don, I have your prognostications turn out to be better than mine. Can’t afford another 4 years of this bozo. One guy that gets little mention is Rick Santorum. For his pro-life stance alone, I’d vote for him. I was sorry to see him leave the Senate. Maybe a veep choice. Romney would be a disaster with all that Massachusetts baggage. Maybe Chris Christie will jump in.

  • Well, I hope, etc…. Don, need an edit function so posters can revise, fix their typos; maybe even a delete button for those comments we wish we never made.

  • solidarity. Her use of that term I think is deliberate and echoes Solidarity in Poland

    Bringin Palin in was the conservative’s strong card, yet they still lost the hand.

    The original Walker strategy was to expect Police & Firefighters as well as private sector blue collar workers to back him up. It failed. Wisconsin firefighters and police officers have been in the forefront of opposition to Walker. They didn’t fall for the carve out he put in his bill. And private sector union members have ben equally strong against Walker. The jury might still be out on Wisconsin non-union blue collar workers, though they certainly have not rallied to the Governor over public workers as expected by the GOP. In their favor, the Prosser race did give evidence of strong white collar support for the Governor. If Wisconsin ever had many limo liberals, they certainly didn’t come out in the election.

    The conservatives needed to try to win back non-college workers in Wisconsin and Palin was the best they had. However, ignore the debates about how many rally attendees were on which side. Count all 6,500 as Palin supporters and it still is nothing compared to the 100,000 in support of the unions. The ‘Solidarity’ reference made her look silly (other than the fact that Solidarity was a public sector union when it struck the government owned Gdannsk Shipyards). The Polish Union had just sent a letter to the Wisconsin unions supporting their efforts and publsihed in the newspaper.

    Nice try, no cigar. Keep to Waukesha County; that’s where your hope is.

  • All of you who choose to demonize her must admit whether you will or not that…..
    Millions of Americans along with me know that had Sarah Palin with her courage, experience, and ability to deliver her message had she been a DEMOCRAT instead, she would have been the darling of the media for her beauty, her “audacity”, her special needs child, and rouge hockey mom style. Don’t lie to yourself.

  • I am glad that Palin doesn’t “keep it to Waukesha County,” but brings her message to the entire country, for that is exactly where her hope is, and that is exactly why a certain political class are beside themselves in hurling invective after invective after her. The behavior of this elitist class and their little minions in Wisconsin show exactly what we have to look forward to as we progress from a Constitutional Republic into a national Demokracy (misspelled purposefully). I further am overjoyed that Palin likewise calls the country club Republicans on the carpet, too.

    BTW, the more liberals tell Palin to stay in Wauskesha, the more she won’t and the more money she makes off the clownish criticisms of her adversaries. I think it’s great – she gets money because clowns who are acting like little cry-babies make fun of her. Good for her! Make fun of her some more as she takes the money to the bank. That’s fuel for the election campaign!

  • I also agree with what Bill Sr. wrote. If the Republicans had criticized Geraldine Ferraro (a pro-abortion Catholic – what an oxymoron!) the way Democrats demonize Sarah Palin, there would be hell to pay. Yet a pro-life Pentecostal does what a Roman Catholic in politics opposed, and the Democrats are all over the pro-lifer like stink on manure while they eulogize a baby-murderer. That’s why I get so mad at the left. The hypocrisy is astounding and unbelievable. They would release a convicted serial killer or rapist from prison on humanitarian grounds, but would condemn Sarah Palin’s Down Syndrome baby to death in the womb.

  • I am glad that Palin doesn’t “keep it to Waukesha County,”

    Paul,

    I was unclear. I did not intend that comment to be directed to Gov. Palin but the WI GOP. The Walker initiative has been a political disaster to the GOP among blue collar Wisconsinites. However, I have to admit they may have made up much of the lost ground with an incredible mobilization in white collar and upper middle class parts of the state. I meant that the WI GOP should stick to Waukeha County if they are looking for success, not Gov. Palin.

    When you are tanking with blue collar families, I think bringing in Palin is probably the best you got if the GOP does not want to totally give up on that demographic. Unlike most Republicans who speak of union members as either dolts or Communists, she actually gives some respectful lip service and maybe has half a clue as to what our life is like. She talks about how unions are essential for health care and a decent retirement. In the end, I think she fails in an attempt to identify culturally with blue collar workers and union members while not standing with us on a policy basis, but I give her credit as a Republican that tries and fails over most of her party who do not even try.

    The “Solidarity” reference might have worked had it not come right after news stories that Soldarity has issued a statement praising the Wisconsin workers.

  • Thanks for the clarification, Kurt. I assumed incorrectly – my apologies. But compared to the best that the Dems have to offer (Obama), Palin is a breath of fresh air. That arrogant, snide-full, elitist, narcissic……well, anything else I say about him is unprintable.

  • Paul,

    While I have a somewhat more positive view of the President than you do, I freely admit the best thing he has going for him are not his virtues but the cast of clowns that make up his political opponets. (Though I was looking forward to Haley “Boss Hogg” Barbour on the GOP ticket!)

  • Kurt,

    I find it troubling that the President has surrounded himself with all manner of abortionists and homosexual activists, and you cite his “virtues”. One wonders what they may be outside of being able to follow an electronic teleprompter. It is equally troubling that he has spoken positively about every single Muslim holiday, yet issued no word of thanks to God on Easter (though much was made of his attending a Baptist church on Easter Sunday).

    Now I know nothing about Haley Barbour, so unless you can substantiate the calumny with which you described him, I will reserve opinion. Additionally, exactly what cast of clowns are the President’s opponents who are more evil than his open support of baby murdering as the right to choose?

    I will not speak on this matter again. I shall vote against that man in the Oval Office, even if it means voting for Barbour as President and Palin as Vice President. Furthermore, I do not dialogue with liberals.

  • Kurt and everybody that voted for the Fraud,

    Thanks for ruining our country.

    2012 – Anybody but Obama.

  • Furthermore, I do not dialogue with liberals.

    Lucky liberals.

  • I am not going to respond to the liberal or pollute Donald’s blog with more argument. But a friend of mine has forwarded me a little essay exposing the man in the Oval Office for what he is. That short writing is here::

    http://commentarius-ioannis.blogspot.com/2011/04/current-president-of-these-united.html

    How anyone can be so in love with him after all he has done to destroy this country is unfathomable.