6

Fred Steiner, Requiescat in Pace

Fred Steiner died today.  Not a household name, but you have probably heard his music, as he composed the music for many hit TV shows, perhaps most notably for Perry Mason.  A very young Don McClarey loved the Perry Mason show.  It had no influence on my decision to become an attorney, that option didn’t occur to me until my Senior year in college when I decided that I would rather not work for a living, but it was enjoyable and memorable entertainment.  Continue Reading

6

Fiat voluntas tua sicut in caelo et in terra, Secunda pars

The following is the second part to this post. It is recommended that you read the first part before reading the second part.  There has been some request for the original address given by Cardinal George.  I have been unable to locate it on the web and have not gotten around to scanning it in.  As soon as I get a chance, I will try to get to up and available, barring any unforeseen copyright issues.  For now, my humble comments and summary will have to suffice.

*******

While the time from Augustine to Aquinas embodied a realization of Cardinal George’s incarnation metaphysics, things began to take a turn for the worse with Duns Scotus, a contemporary of Thomas. Scotus radically separated God from the world, and in so doing separated grace from nature. Instead of a metaphysics of participation, Scotus promulgated that, “God is no longer that generous power in which all things exist but rather that supreme being next to whom or apart from whom all other beings exist” (George, 15). Scotus begins what Descartes (through philosophy) and Luther (through theology) would complete. “In both its Lutheran and Cartesian manifestations, modernity assumes a fundamental split between the divine and the non-divine and hence implicitly denies the participation/communio metaphysics that had shaped the Christian world thought the ancient and medieval periods” (George, 16).

Continue Reading

15

Houston National Cemetery: God Not Welcome

Yet another demonstration of the fundamental hostility to Christianity that lurks barely beneath the surface in the Obama administration:

Local veterans and volunteer groups accuse Department of Veterans Affairs officials of censoring religious speech — including the word “God” – at Houston National Cemetery.

In one example cited in documents filed this week in federal court, cemetery director Arleen Ocasio reportedly told volunteers with the National Memorial Ladies that they had to stop telling families “God bless you” at funerals and that they had to remove the words “God bless” from condolence cards.

“It’s just unfair that somebody would ask us to take God out of our vocabulary,” said Cheryl Whitfield, founder of Houston National Memorial Ladies.

“I could’ve kept my mouth shut and let things happen, but when it comes to standing up for your belief in God and giving comfort to the families, I don’t want to regret not saying anything,” Whitfield said. “We all had to stand up for what we believe in.”

The new allegations of “religious hostility” by VA and cemetery officials follow on the heels of a controversy over Pastor Scott Rainey’s prayer in Jesus’ name at a Memorial Day service in the cemetery.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes ruled May 26 that the government couldn’t stop Rainey from using the words “Jesus Christ” in his invocation. Hughes issued a temporary restraining order to prevent VA from censoring Rainey’s prayer. Continue Reading

Lincoln and the Declaration of Independence

In a speech given on August 17, 1858 in Lewistown, Illinois, in the midst of the Stephen-Douglas debates, Abraham Lincoln celebrated the Declaration as a beacon of freedom:

The Declaration of Independence was formed by the representatives of American liberty from thirteen States of the confederacy—twelve of which were slaveholding communities. We need not discuss the way or the reason of their becoming slaveholding communities. It is sufficient for our purpose that all of them greatly deplored the evil and that they placed a provision in the Constitution which they supposed would gradually remove the disease by cutting off its source. This was the abolition of the slave trade. So general was conviction—the public determination—to abolish the African slave trade, that the provision which I have referred to as being placed in the Constitution, declared that it should not be abolished prior to the year 1808. A constitutional provision was necessary to prevent the people, through Congress, from putting a stop to the traffic immediately at the close of the war.

Now, if slavery had been a good thing, would the Fathers of the Republic have taken a step calculated to diminish its beneficent influences among themselves, and snatch the boon wholly from their posterity? These communities, by their representatives in old Independence Hall, said to the whole world of men: “We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This was their majestic interpretation of the economy of the Universe. This was their lofty, and wise, and noble understanding of the justice of the Creator to His creatures. Yes, gentlemen, to all His creatures, to the whole great family of man. Continue Reading

34

Eliminating Marriage

By now, everyone knows that gay marriage is coming to the Empire State. Obviously, there’s very little good to be drawn from this. To me, there is very little hope of reclaiming the tide. The ideology that accepts gay marriage is so tied into acceptance of divorce and contraception that it would take a much more radical shift to turn the tide. While this could happen (and I have faith in the new priests coming that they can effect this at least within the Church), rebuilding culture takes time and seems likely that the pendulum will have to swing all the way before it will swing back.

So other than rebuilding our culture from the ground up, what political strategies are there to pursue? Trying to fight state by state is one option, but this presumes that states under DOMA can be allowed to not recognize gay marriages from other states. This means we have to put our faith in the court system, and that seems dubious to me. The population size of New York, as well as its mobility, means the issue of full faith and credit will come to a head sooner rather than later. There’s the federal option, but I see no desire from the GOP to fight this fight, particularly from the libertarian wing of the party.

The only other option I see is eliminating the secular institution of marriage altogether. This makes a lot of sense. What exactly is the government’s interest in marriage anymore? Currently, government and society is exerting a lot of resources on this institution: the number of laws and divorce courts, not to mention divorce lawyers is tremendous. But what is government getting back? Love & commitment might be nice values, but you can have a ceremony and make your commitment without a government seal of approval for the commitment (& the break-up). When it was only hetereosexuals allowed to marry, the argument could be made for children (ie we want to provide a good environment for the creation & raising of children), but with gay marriage that’s no longer viable. Perhaps you could still argue family (as gay couples can do IVF & surrogacy) but what effect marriage has in this is dubious, particularly with the liberalization of divorce laws. Another argument for marriage was to protect women from being left penniless in a divorce, but as stay at home moms dwindle and as economic opportunities for women continue to grow, this justification is weaker, especially with the popularity of pre-nups that create separate property regimes anyway. So why is government still in this business? What goods are secured through marriage that cannot be secured without secular marriage?

The main goal for pushing this from a Catholic perspective is simple: protecting our priests from persecution. Although the New York Republicans supported gay marriage because they felt the protections for religious were strong enough, it’s only a matter of time before a priest is sued, have their license to perform marriages, or even arrested for denying marriage to a gay couple. There’s no room in the ideology of the gay rights movement for religions to continue to grant marriage only according to their “hetereosexist” traditions. If government gets out of the business, then priests and other religious will be protected.

There’s also the added benefit of giving marriage back over to religion. If government continues to stay in the marriage business government will continue to be a vehicle for forcing social changes, changes that are often for the worse. Government will no longer be able to impose new visions on the country. Instead, people can have whatever ceremonies and whatever commitments they want (this probably would include bigamy, but you have to figure government will permit this next anyway). In this scenario, the Church will be better able to discuss its version of marriage if it doesn’t have to fight against a government-imposed narrative.

Still, it seems a sad day when government’s marriage is so diluted that we have to give it up entirely, so I’d like to see what people here think. Are there still reasons for government to provide the institution of marriage in a world of gay marriage? Or would it be better for the government to get out of it entirely?

10

Top Ten Civil War Movies For The Fourth of July

Any understanding of this nation has to be based, and I mean really based, on an understanding of the Civil War. I believe that firmly. It defined us. The Revolution did what it did. Our involvement in European wars, beginning with the First World War, did what it did. But the Civil War defined us as what we are and it opened us to being what we became, good and bad things. And it is very necessary, if you are going to understand the American character in the twentieth century, to learn about this enormous catastrophe of the mid-nineteenth century. It was the crossroads of our being, and it was a hell of a crossroads.

 

Shelby Foote

 

Two years ago I compiled a list of the top ten movies for the Fourth of July which focused on films about the Revolutionary War.  Go here to view that post.  Last year I compiled a list of top ten patriotic movies for the Fourth, and that post may be viewed here.  This year we will focus on the top ten Civil War films for the Fourth of July.  I agree with historian Shelby Foote that it is impossible to understand the United States without understanding the Civil War, and it is “therefore fitting and proper” that over the Fourth Civil War movies come to mind.

 

10.   Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)-We begin with a non-Civil War movie with the video clip at the beginning of this post.  In 1908 English Bulter Charles Ruggles, well played by actor Charles Laughton, comes to work in the American West.  It is a hilarious fish out of water comedy, as Ruggles, with his culture and British reserve comes face to face with the Wild West.  While living in America, Ruggles becomes interested in American history, and becomes a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln.  When he recites the Gettysburg Address, the impact on his listeners is obvious, and reminds us that for Americans the Civil War will never be a matter simply relegated to books or memory, but is something that still has a vast impact on us to this day.

 

 

9.    Friendly Persuasion (1956)-Starring Gary Cooper as Jess Birdwell, the head of a Quaker family in southern Indiana during the Civil War, the film is a superb mix of drama and comedy as the Quakers have to determine whether to continue to embrace their pacifist beliefs or to take up arms against General John Hunt Morgan’s Confederate cavalry during his Great Raid of the North in June-July of 1863.  When the oldest son of the Birdwell family, portrayed by Anthony Perkins in his pre-Psycho days, takes up arms, his mother, played by Dorothy McGuire is aghast, but Cooper, as Jess Birdwell, defends him.  Although he remains true to his pacifist convictions, Birdwell understands that his son is acting in obedience to his conscience, and, as he tells his wife, ” A man’s life ain’t worth a hill of beans except he lives up to his own conscience.”

 

 

8.    Major Dundee (1965)-Sam Pekinpah’s flawed, unfinished masterpiece, the film tells the fictional account of a mixed force of Union soldiers and Confederate prisoners who join forces to hunt and ultimately defeat an Apache raider, Sierra Charriba, in 1864-65.  Charlton Heston gives an outstanding performance as Major Amos Dundee, a man battling his own personal demons of a failed military career, as he commands this Union-Confederate force through northern Mexico on the trail of the Apache, with fighting often threatening to break out between the Union and Confederate soldiers.  Use of Confederate prisoners as Union soldiers in the West was not uncommon.  Six Union infantry regiments of Confederate prisoners, called “Galvanized Yankees”, served in the West.   The final section of the film involving a battle between Major Dundee’s force and French Lancers, the French occupying Mexico at the time, has always struck me as one of the best filmed combat sequences in any movie.

 

 

7.    The Horse Soldiers (1959)-In 1959 John Ford and John Wayne, in the last of their “cavalry collaborations”, made The Horse Soldiers, a film based on Harold Sinclair’s novel of the same name published in 1956, which is a wonderful fictionalized account of Grierson’s Raid. Perhaps the most daring and successful Union cavaly raid of the war, Colonel Benjamin Grierson, a former music teacher and band leader from Jacksonville, Illinois, who, after being bitten by a horse at a young age, hated horses, led from April 17-May 2, 1863 1700 Illinois and Iowa troopers through 600 miles of Confederate territory from southern Tennessee to the Union held Baton Rouge in Louisiana.  Grierson and his men ripped up railroads, burned Confederate supplies and tied down many times their number of Confederate troops and succeeded in giving Grant a valuable diversion as he began his movement against Vicksburg. John Wayne gives a fine, if surly, performance as Colonel Marlowe, the leader of the Union cavalry brigade.  William Holden as a Union surgeon serves as a foil for Wayne.  Constance Towers, as a captured Southern belle, supplies the obligatory Hollywood love interest. Overall the film isn’t a bad treatment of the raid, and the period.  I especially appreciated two scenes.  John Wayne refers to his pre-war activities as “Before this present insanity” and Constance Towers gives the following impassioned speech: Well, you Yankees and your holy principle about savin’ the Union. You’re plunderin’ pirates that’s what. Well, you think there’s no Confederate army where you’re goin’. You think our boys are asleep down here. Well, they’ll catch up to you and they’ll cut you to pieces you, you nameless, fatherless scum. I wish I could be there to see it. Continue Reading

17

Preserving the Declaration

A fascinating little video on preserving the Declaration of Independence. 

It is of course very important that the physical document be preserved.  However, it is much more important that the spirit of the document be preserved.  On the Fourth of July we do not merely engage in ancestor worship.  The principles of the American Revolution, immortally set forth in the Declaration, are just as important today as they were then, and almost as controversial. 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

1.  God given rights.

2.  Government deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed.

3.  A right of revolution when Government becomes destructive of God given unalienable rights. Continue Reading

28

Blagojevich Guilty Today on 17 Counts

Well, it wasn’t quite as exciting as the above courtroom scene from The Untouchables, but today Rod Blagojevich, twice elected governor of the Land of Lincoln, was found guilty on 17 counts in the Federal criminal prosecution brought against him:

  • Count 1-Wire fraud related to Children’s Memorial Hospital-GUILTY
  • Count 2-Wire fraud related to the Senate Seat-GUILTY
  • Count 3-Wire fraud related to the Senate Seat-GUILTY
  • Count 4-Wire fraud related to the Senate Seat-GUILTY
  • Count 5-Wire fraud related to the Senate Seat-GUILTY
  • Count 6-Wire fraud related to the Senate Seat-GUILTY
  • Count 7-Wire fraud related to the Senate Seat-GUILTY
  • Count 8-Wire fraud related to the Senate Seat-GUILTY
  • Count 9-Wire fraud related to the Racing Bill-GUILTY
  • Count 10-Wire fraud related to the Senate Seat-GUILTY
  • Count 11-Attempted extortion related to School Shakedown-NO VERDICT
  • Count 12-Attempted extortion related to Children’s Memorial Hospital-GUILTY
  • Count 13-Bribery related to Children’s Memorial Hospital-GUILTY
  • Count 14-Extortion conspiracy related to Racing Bill-GUILTY
  • Count 15-Bribery conspiracy related to Racing Bill-GUILTY
  • Count 16-Attempted Extortion related to Tollway Shakedown-NO VERDICT
  • Count 17-Bibery related to Tollway Shakedown-NOT GUILTY
  • Count 18-Extortion conspiracy related to the Senate Seat-GUILTY
  • Count 19-Attempted extortion related to the Senate Seat-GUILTY
3

Captain America

A trailer for the Captain America movie coming out in July.  Two superheroes have managed to become symbols of the nation:  Superman and Captain America.  One of the first of the comic book heroes, Superman first appeared in 1938  and helped establish the whole concept of a superhero.  “A strange visitor from another planet with powers and abilities far beyond those of a mortal man”, Superman was a hit from his first publication and rapidly achieved fame around the globe, as World War 2 GIs carried Superman comics with them throughout World War II.

Captain America was another favorite comic of American GIs.  He first appeared in Captain America Comics #1 dated March 1941, which was actually on sale in December 1940.  It told the story of Steve Rogers, a classic 98 pound weakling, but with the heart of a lion.  A student of fine arts, he desperately wanted to fight for America in the war he saw coming against Nazi Germany, but was rejected by the Army due to his physical weakness.  He was offered an opportunity to serve his country by volunteering to be a  human guinea pig in an experiment by Dr. Josef Reinstein.  Reinstein injected him with a formula that transformed him into a perfect human specimen:  muscular, quick and agile.  He was to be the first of many volunteers who would be injected with this “super-soldier” formula, but a Nazi agent who had infiltrated the project shot Reinstein to death, before being subdued by Rogers, and therefore he would be the one and only “super-soldier”.  The first issue sold an astounding one million copies, an indication of just how popular Captain America would be with the American public.  However, not all of the public.  Writer Joe Simon and artist Jack Kirby also received hate mail and death threats from isolationists and Nazi sympathizers in the country.  I guess Captain America punching out Hitler on the cover of  issue # 1 was a clear indication of where Simon and Kirby stood as to the Third Reich. Continue Reading

Corpus Christi

There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands. And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen. This word Amen answers in the Hebrew language to so be it. And when the president has given thanks, and all the people have expressed their assent, those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion. Continue Reading

37

Of Saint Sabina’s, Guns and Palin Derangement Syndrome

For those of you fortunate enough not to live in the Land of Lincoln, or, as it is commonly known today, The State Everyone Laughs At, you may have not been familiar enough with the State and therefore thought that Cardinal George’s most recent attempt to remove Father Pfleger, or as many of us refer to him as Father “Flakey”, would have caused him to mend his ways.  Those of us who have followed Father Pfleger for decades, realized that this was merely the latest useless huffing and puffing of Cardinal George, and that Saint Sabina’s would soon return to normal, which is as a bastion of Left Wing political orthodoxy, with an exteme emphasis on race,  where Catholicism is very much an afterthought.

This was graphically demonstrated by Father Pfleger having Gary McCarthy, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s new top cop, preach a “sermon” during Mass earlier this month.  Chicago has an atrocious murder rate.  It also has the strictest gun control laws in the nation.  Here are Gary McCarthy’s deep thoughts on this contradiction:

“Let’s see if we can make a connection here. Slavery. Segregation. Black codes. Jim Crow. What, what did they all have in common? Anybody getting scared? Government sponsored racism.”

“Now I want you to connect one more dot on that chain of the African American history in this country, and tell me if I’m crazy: Federal gun laws that facilitate the flow of illegal firearms, into our urban centers across this country, that are killing our black and brown children,” he said.

McCarthy blasted the NRA, telling parishioners that their communities have paid the price while the gun manufacturers are getting “rich and living in gated communities.”

And he told an anecdote of just one night with the New York Police Department. After returning home from investigating a pair of shootings, he said he flipped on the television to relax, only to find “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” being broadcast.

“She was caribou hunting, and talking about the right to bear arms,” he said. “Why wasn’t she at the crime scene with me?” Continue Reading

1

Stars and Stripes Forever

Something for the weekend.  We are one week out from the Fourth of July weekend so Stars and Stripes Forever seems called for.  Beyond a doubt the best known composition of John Philip Sousa, it is the National March of the United States.  Sousa wrote it on Christmas Day 1896 and it proved massively popular, especially when it was played during the Spanish-American War.

Let martial note in triumph float
And liberty extend its mighty hand
A flag appears ‘mid thunderous cheers,
The banner of the Western land.
The emblem of the brave and true
Its folds protect no tyrant crew;
The red and white and starry blue
Is freedom’s shield and hope.

Other nations may deem their flags the best
And cheer them with fervid elation
But the flag of the North and South and West
Is the flag of flags, the flag of Freedom’s nation.

Hurrah for the flag of the free!
May it wave as our standard forever,
The gem of the land and the sea,
The banner of the right.
Let despots remember the day
When our fathers with mighty endeavor
Proclaimed as they marched to the fray
That by their might and by their right
It waves forever.

Let eagle shriek from lofty peak
The never-ending watchword of our land;
Let summer breeze waft through the trees
The echo of the chorus grand.
Sing out for liberty and light,
Sing out for freedom and the right.
Sing out for Union and its might,
O patriotic sons.

Other nations may deem their flags the best
And cheer them with fervid elation,
But the flag of the North and South and West
Is the flag of flags, the flag of Freedom’s nation.

Hurrah for the flag of the free.
May it wave as our standard forever
The gem of the land and the sea,
The banner of the right.
Let despots remember the day
When our fathers with mighty endeavor
Proclaimed as they marched to the fray,
That by their might and by their right
It waves forever.

A “unique”, yes that is what we will call it, muppet rendition of Stars and Stripes Forever, hosted by Sam the American Eagle, who is the answer to the question, “Don, if you were a muppet, which muppet would you be?” Continue Reading

6

Choice and Gendercide

Last weekend’s Wall Street Journal featured an interesting review of Mara Hvistendahl’s new book Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men. The topic is one that pro-lifers are all to familiar with — the use of sex selective abortion throughout the world which has resulted in the death of 163 million unborn girls being aborted over the last 40 years, specifically because their parents wanted a boy instead. (In other words, over and above all of the abortions going on for other reasons.) The sheer number of “missing girls” is staggering — imagine a number of women equal to the current total populations of France and the UK combined.

Mara Hvistendahl is worried about girls. Not in any political, moral or cultural sense but as an existential matter. She is right to be. In China, India and numerous other countries (both developing and developed), there are many more men than women, the result of systematic campaigns against baby girls. In “Unnatural Selection,” Ms. Hvistendahl reports on this gender imbalance: what it is, how it came to be and what it means for the future.

In nature, 105 boys are born for every 100 girls. This ratio is biologically ironclad. Between 104 and 106 is the normal range, and that’s as far as the natural window goes. Any other number is the result of unnatural events.

Yet today in India there are 112 boys born for every 100 girls. In China, the number is 121—though plenty of Chinese towns are over the 150 mark. China’s and India’s populations are mammoth enough that their outlying sex ratios have skewed the global average to a biologically impossible 107. But the imbalance is not only in Asia. Azerbaijan stands at 115, Georgia at 118 and Armenia at 120. Continue Reading

2

GOP Pro-life Win in New Hampshire

 

One of the consequences of the Republican sweep in 2010 is that the Republicans control many state legislatures by very wide margins.  A host of pro-life legislation is making its way through these GOP chambers.  One of the latest pro-life bills to be enacted into law is a parental notification law when minors seek to have an abortion in New Hampshire.  The text of the law may be read here.

On its way to becoming a law it was vetoed by Governor John Lynch.  Lynch is a Democrat, a Catholic and a pro-abort, a combination all too common in our nation.  The veto was overridden in the New Hampshire legislature on June 22 by votes of 266-102 in the House and in the Senate 17-7. Continue Reading

3

Reveille in Washington

It is easy to forget that Washington in Lincoln’s day bore little relationship to the Washington of our day. In many ways the Washington of Lincoln’s time was still a small town, ill-prepared for the avalanche of rapid growth forced on it by the War. The classic account of Washington during the Civil War is Margaret Leech’s Reveille in Washington, published, ironically, in 1941, just as Washington was about to undergo another rapid period of expansion during World War II. Continue Reading

44

The Leftist Mentality In A Nutshell

Cars is one of the few Pixar or Dreamworks movies that I have not seen (and with a two-year old, I’ve seen a lot).  Well it doesn’t look like I’ll be seeing the sequel either.

Debuting in theaters this Friday, the seemingly innocuous Disney-Pixar film ‘Cars 2’ has become a tool to wedge a fight against fossil fuels in favor of alternative forms of energy.

When John Lasseter moved from executive producer to executive director last year, he overhauled major portions of the plot into a good vs. evil story against big oil.

Here is the part of his interview that caught my attention. Continue Reading

17

Moral Sense and Unequal Exchange

Every week I make a point of finding the time to listen to the EconTalk podcast — a one hour interview on some economics related topic conducted by Prof. Russ Roberts of George Mason university. Roberts himself has economic and political views I’m often (though not always) in sympathy with, but he’s a very fair and thoughtful interviewer and has a wide range of guests. This week’s interview was with a semi-regular on the show, Prof Mike Munger of Duke University, and the topic was the concept of euvoluntary exchange which Munger has been attempting to create.

Munger’s project aims to identify why it is that some seemingly voluntary transactions are seen as morally repugnant by most people, and are either socially disapproved of or outright outlawed. So for example, say that Frank is very poor and desperately wants to provide for his family. Tom is very rich and is loosing eyesight in both his eyes. His doctor believes they can pull off a revolutionary new surgery and transplant a healthy eye into him, but they need the eye of a live, healthy person who matches Tom’s blood type and DNA well. Frank is a match and is willing to give up an eye in return for a million dollars.

Now, there are a few people who lean heavily in the rationalistic direction who would say this sounds like a great idea because it makes most people better off, but most people would react to this with revulsion, and it is in fact illegal to do this kind of thing in the US.

The interesting thing is that voluntarily donating an organ (so long as giving it up isn’t considered too big a detriment to you) is considered morally admirable, and is legal. So, for instance, there was a case a year or two ago in our parish where one young woman in the parish donated a kidney to another parishioner who needed a transplant.

Munger’s argument is that in the Frank and Tom example, the transaction may seem voluntary but it’s not really voluntary because of the disparity in means between Tom and Frank. Continue Reading

1

In anticipation of Corpus Christi

A stirring account from Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York:

Last week, we bishops met for our annual Spring Meeting, this year in Seattle. We had a lot of business: liturgical matters, revision of the Charter to Protect Youth, approval of a defense of fragile human life against physician-assisted suicide, a decision to issue a document to help our priests, deacons, and ourselves preach better . . . plus a lot more.

But the most productive session came on Friday morning. As usual, we began with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. But then we gathered as the Blessed Sacrament was placed in the monstrance on the altar. There we prayed: morning prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours; silence; an excellent conference by a brother bishop; silence; opportunity for confession; and closing Benediction.

It was, in my mind, the most productive part of our meeting. Nearly two hundred bishops, on their knees, in silent prayer, before Jesus, really and truly present in the Holy Eucharist.

As I tip-toed out of the room to stand in line for confession, I heard two of the young hotel workers chatting.

“It’s sure quiet in there,” whispered one of them. “What are they doing?”

“It’s weird,” replied the other. “They’re not doing nothing. They’re all just kneeling there quietly looking at this flat piece of bread in this fancy gold holder.”

He almost got it right . . . except that we believe, with all our heart and soul, that it’s not a “flat piece of bread,” but the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, Jesus Christ, really and truly present in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood.

6

Green Who?

From the only reliable source of news on the net, the Onion.  Actually I am a Green Lantern fan from way back.  When Abin Sur, Green Lantern of this sector of the galaxy, crash-landed on Earth, he willed his power ring to find a successor to take over his position as Green Lantern.  The ring chose test pilot Hal Jordan.  Green Lanterns are basically intergalactic cops established by the Guardians of the Galaxy who live on the planet OA.  Each Green Lantern has a power ring which has been decribed as the most powerful weapon in the Universe.  The rings can do almost anything, limited only by the will of the user.  Due to a necessary defect in the rings, and to make the Green Lantern comics much more interesting, the ring cannot affect anything yellow.  The rings must be recharged every 24 hours in front of, what else, a Green Lantern which each green lantern possesses.  The Green Lantern recites this oath as the ring is being recharged: Continue Reading

7

Fiat voluntas tua sicut in caelo et in terra, Prima pars

The following is the first part of a gloss on an article I recently received from a friend. The second part will appear in a few days. I apologize for not having the full reference for it, but it appears to be an address by Francis Cardinal George given to the Library of Congress on June 16, 1999, titled “Catholic Christianity and the Millennium: Frontiers of the Mind in the 21st Century.” In light of the missing reference, the citations below are paragraph numbers rather than page numbers. I apologize ahead of time for those who have read or plan to read the article. While I have tried to give the Cardinal credit where due, a reading of his paper will reveal my blatant plagiarism.

The Thomistic scholar Etienne Gilson describes in The Unity of the Philosophical Experience the inevitable demise of a philosophy that ignores the highest question of being, i.e. metaphysics. In “Catholic Christianity and the Millennium: Frontiers of the Mind in the 21st Century,” Cardinal George argues for a specifically Christian metaphysics, or an “incarnation metaphysics.” This metaphysics begins with the “provocative claim” that is at the heart of Christianity. “In Jesus Christ, God has become a creature, without ceasing to be God and without compromising the integrity of the creature he becomes” (George, 3). The radicality of this Christian claim is evidenced by the history of heresies, most of which denied either the divinity or humanity of Christ, or in some cases, both, by arguing for a quasi-divine and quasi-human nature in the incarnated Lord. At least two Ecumenical Councils (Chalcedon in 451 and Nicea in 325) upheld the hypostatic union, the fact that, “in Jesus, the divine and the human unite without competition or compromise” (George, 3).

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4

George Orwell the Obama Administration is On the Phone

Hattip to Christopher Johnson at the Midwest Conservative Journal. I would note at the outset that this is not one of The Onion parodies I like to play from time to time on this blog.  With the Obama administration however, the nation each day resembles more a Onion parody.  The United States Department of Agriculture, yes, you read that correctly, is pressing for mandatory gay rights training:

U.S. Department of Agriculture activists want to impose their intense brand of homosexual sensitivity training governmentwide, including a discussion that compares “heterosexism” – believing marriage can be between only one man and one woman – to racism.

If accepted by the Obama administration, that move could mean more sessions for military service members already undergoing gay-sensitivity indoctrination. Critics fear additional gay-oriented training would add an unnecessary burden for combat troops and encourage some to leave.

USDA officials have asked the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which oversees all federal employee policies, to impose its gay-awareness programs on all federal departments, according to an internal newsletter. The training includes a discussion of “heterosexism” and compares it to racism. It says people who view marriage as being between only one man and one woman are guilty of “heterosexism.”

The push for the training is coming from Agriculture Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack, former governor of Iowa. The Democrat has launched a departmentwide “cultural transformation” that includes a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) Special Emphasis Program.

The USDA’s senior training coordinator, Bill Scaggs, has developed a sensitivity program far more extensive than the Pentagon’s training for the anticipated lifting of the ban on open ho[JUMP]mosexuals in the ranks. His training program, which OPM calls “groundbreaking [and a] model for other agencies,” delves more into gay issues and terminology. It also justifies pro-homosexual political positions.

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5

Maureen Dowd Does Theology

 

One of the House Catholics at the New York Times, Maureen Dowd, recently wrote a column in which she attacked the stand of Archbishop Timothy Dolan against gay marriage.  In the column she made the mistake of mentioning Canon Lawyer Ed Peters, who writes an incisive blog In The Light of the Law that I visit religiously.  Ed Peters responded to Dowd:

Fine, you ask, what does any of this have to do with me? I might have thought, nothing, except that Dowd decided to link my recent criticisms of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s reception of Communion at a Mass celebrated by Albany Bishop Howard Hubbard (despite Cuomo’s open cohabitation with a woman not his wife), with Abp. Dolan’s criticism of efforts in the New York legislature to legalize “gay marriage”, the ‘link’ being that Cuomo is a strong proponent of “gay marriage” and would sign such a bill if it reaches his desk.

Okay, yes, I think that Cuomo’s signature on such a bill would add to his Communion-eligibility problems under Canon 915, but Abp. Dolan is not making that argument: he is arguing natural law on marriage and common sense, not sacramental discipline. (I know, I know, one would have to have read and understood Dolan’s arguments to see that point, but even if Dowd didn’t or doesn’t, some of her readers would have and do). So why does Dowd not discuss Dolan’s arguments on marriage in her article about Dolan on marriage, and later, if she wishes, tackle my arguments on holy Communion in an article about me and holy Communion (assuming I was worth her time in the first place)? Why smush these two strains together?

Because Dowd apparently thinks she has discovered some “ah-ha” contradiction in the Church’s logic. She writes: “Therein lies the casuistry. On one hand, as Peters told The Times about Cuomo and Lee, ‘men and women are not supposed to live together without benefit of matrimony.’ But then the church denies the benefit of marriage to same-sex couples living together.”

What?

That’s not right. That doesn’t even rise to level of being wrong. Instead, that’s what comes from someone who is not even pretending to be interested in what the other side actually holds. Continue Reading

63

SOLT Statement Regarding Fr. John Corapi

Official Statement of SOLT (Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity) regarding Fr. John Corapi:

As the Regional Priest Servant of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT), I issue the following statement on behalf of the Society.

On 16 March 2011, the Bishop of Corpus Christi, Texas, and the SOLT received a complaint against Fr. John Corapi, SOLT. As is normal procedure and due to the gravity of the accusation alleging conduct not in concert with the priestly state or his promises as a member of a society of apostolic life of diocesan right, Fr. Corapi was suspended from active ministry (put on administrative leave) until such a time that the complaint could be fully investigated and due process given to Fr. Corapi. In the midst of the investigation, the SOLT received a letter from Fr. Corapi, dated June 3, 2011, indicating that, because of the physical, emotional and spiritual distress he has endured over the past few years, he could no longer continue to function as a priest or a member of the SOLT. Although the investigation was in progress, the SOLT had not arrived at any conclusion as to the credibility of the allegations under investigation.

At the onset, the Bishop of Corpus Christi advised the SOLT to not only proceed with the policies outlined in their own constitutions, but also with the proper canonical procedures to determine the credibility of the allegations against Fr. Corapi. We reiterate that Fr. Corapi had not been determined guilty of any canonical or civil crimes. If the allegations had been found to be credible, the proper canonical due process would have been offered to Fr. Corapi, including his right to defense, to know his accuser and the complaint lodged, and a fair canonical trial with the right of recourse to the Holy See. On June 17, 2011, Fr. John Corapi issued a public statement indicating that he has chosen to cease functioning as a priest and a member of the SOLT.

The SOLT is deeply saddened that Fr. Corapi is suffering distress. The SOLT is further saddened by Fr. Corapi’s response to these allegations. The SOLT will do all within its power to assist Fr. Corapi if he desires to seek a dispensation from his rights and obligations as a priest and as a professed member of the SOLT. We request your prayers and the intercession of the Blessed Mother for the healing of Fr. Corapi and for any who have been negatively affected by Fr. Corapi’s decision to end his ministry as a priest and a member of the SOLT.

Fr Gerrard Sheehan, SOLT
Regional Priest Servant

Related

1

A Father to Everyone

The conjunction of Trinity Sunday and Father’s Day had me thinking yesterday about the fact that we are urged by Christ to call God our Father. Every so often you hear someone claim that we only call the first person of the trinity “God the Father” because it has been men doing the talking through most of Christian history. Had it been women in charge of things, so the claim goes, we might be talking about “God the Mother” instead.

It strikes me that the basic problem with this point of view, from a human perspective, is that it assumes that the relation of men to their fathers is more like the relationship between women and their mothers than it is like that between women and their fathers. This suggests that sex is the primary determining factor of the relationship we have with our parents — one sort of relationship with the parent of the same sex, a different sort of relationship with the parent of the opposite sex.

Like all mistakes, there is, I think, some element of truth to this. The parent of one’s own sex serves as an example (even if in sad circumstances a negative one) of how the child will be a parent. Sons know that some day they may be fathers. Daughters know that some day they may be mothers. And yet, this sense cannot be the sense in which we see God as father. We will not grow up to be God like Him, we will not become creators of our own universes. We will not become all knowing, all powerful and eternal. So the sense in which we (or according to that theory, men) see God as a father is not the “I could be like him someday” sense.

At the more basic level, it seems to me that “father” and “mother” are archetypes which are different — and although sons and daughters may relate to their father differently, the ways in which both sons and daughters relate to and understand their father are more similar to each other than the way daughters relate to their mother is to the way sons relate to their father.

When Jesus told us to call God our Father, He didn’t mean in the most literal and physical sense, one which would have come naturally to many pagans at that time. God the Father does not come down, like Zeus to some pretty girl, and father each one of us. And yet, we understand God as our Father because as human persons our understanding of “father” is an imperfect understanding of what our relationship with God the Father is.

As such, it seems to me that all of us, men and women, can equally relate to God as being our Father. If anything, the difference in this for men and women would not be that men see God as a father while women see Him as a mother, but rather that men relate to Him as sons while women relate to Him as daughters.

49

A One State Solution for Peace in the Middle East

No, no Klavan on the culture!  Everyone knows that if the Jews would simply disappear the Arab world would become an oasis of peace and tolerance!  At least that is what I have been told over the years by numerous combox adversaries and correspondents.  Prior to becoming a blogger, I would comment on other Catholic blogs, and one of my favorits sites was Amy Welborn’s Open Book.  After commenting there one day I received a lengthy e-mail from a correspondent who I responded to in a fisk format.  This correspondence occurred on April 17, 2007, and I thought that some of our readers might find it diverting:  Continue Reading

2

Saint Augustine on the Blessed Trinity

 

 We have sufficiently spoken of the Father and of the Son, so far as was possible for us to see through this glass and in this enigma. We must now treat of the Holy Spirit, so far as by God’s gift it is permitted to see Him. And the Holy Spirit, according to the Holy Scriptures, is neither of the Father alone, nor of the Son alone, but of both; and so intimates to us a mutual love, wherewith the Father and the Son reciprocally love one another. But the language of the Word of God, in order to exercise us, has caused those things to be sought into with the greater zeal, which do not lie on the surface, but are to be scrutinized in hidden depths, and to be drawn out from thence. The Scriptures, accordingly, have not said, The Holy Spirit is Love. If they had said so, they would have done away with no small part of this inquiry. But they have said, God is love; so that it is uncertain and remains to be inquired whether God the Father is love, or God the Son, or God the Holy Ghost, or the Trinity itself which is God. For we are not going to say that God is called Love because love itself is a substance worthy of the name of God, but because it is a gift of God, as it is said to God, You are my patience. For this is not said because our patience is God’s substance, but in that He Himself gives it to us; as it is elsewhere read, Since from Him is my patience. For the usage of words itself in Scripture sufficiently refutes this interpretation; for You are my patience is of the same kind as You, Lord, art my hope, and The Lord my God is my mercy, and many like texts. And it is not said, O Lord my love, or, You are my love, or, God my love; but it is said thus, God is love, as it is said, God is a Spirit. And he who does not discern this, must ask understanding from the Lord, not an explanation from us; for we cannot say anything more clearly. Continue Reading

4

Matt Talbot: Denying All to Gain All

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matt Talbot was a drunk.  He came to this state partly as a result of nature and nurture, as his father was an alcoholic, as were most of Matt’s brothers.  Born into a poverty stricken home on May 2, 1856 in Dublin he became an unskilled laborer who blew most of his wages on feeding his addiction to drink.  The worst thing he did to buy alcohol was to steal a fiddle from a street performer and sell it for booze.  Penniless in 1884, he took the pledge not to drink and kept it for the remainder of his life.

However, turning away from alcohol was only a small part of his transformation.  In order to truly change one’s life it is never enough to turn away from something.  We must also turn to something.  Talbot turned to God.  He began to attend daily Mass  and read books and pamphlets on the Faith.  He repaid his debts and, after a fruitless search for the fiddler whose fiddle he stole, donated the money he wanted to pay the fiddler for his stolen fiddle to the Church for Masses to be said for the fiddler. Continue Reading

14

Unilateral War Making by the Executive (Updated)

The Congress shall have Power . . . To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water; – Article I, Section 8

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment. – Article II, Section 2

It’s not a good feeling agreeing with Dennis Kucinich.  Finding myself on the same side of an issue as Kucinich makes me seriously reconsider my opinion.   But as they say, even a bind, deaf, paralyzed, rabies-afflicted squirrel finds a nut every now and again.

It’s less distressing to disagree with Charles Krauthammer.  He’s usually spot on, but he tends to go off the rails when it comes to foreign policy.  Not always, mind you, but in Krauthammer you can see the legitimate difference between neoconservatism and traditional conservatism.  Last night he had this to say about the War Powers Act and President Obama’s war hostilities kinetic military action in Libya:

KRAUTHAMMER: I understand why Congress wants to retain prerogatives, as does the president. I’m not surprised that Durbin would act this way. I am surprised that so many Republicans are jumping on the war powers resolution. They will regret it. If you have a Republican in office, you have isolationists Democrats trying to restrain his exercise of his powers under constitution and the Republicans aren’t going to like it.
I would not truck in war powers resolution. I have also think the administration’s defense of what it is doing is extremely week and misguided. Obama’s answer essentially is well, the resolution is out there. But it’s not relevant because it isn’t really a war, which is absurd.

BAIER: We’re not in hostilities.

KRAUTHAMMER: Right. What he should say I, like my other predecessor, I do not recognize the legality of this act and its authority over the presidency. That’s where he should make his stand.

BAIER: When he was Senator Obama he spoke the opposite.

KRAUTHAMMER: And as a president he is implicitly supporting the resolution saying it doesn’t apply here. It implies if it were a real war, as he pretends it’s not. I have to comply. No president ought to do that.

I agree with him with regards to Obama’s duplicity.  I also share his skepticism about the War Powers Act.  But he’s wrong about the rest. Continue Reading

1

The Beatitudes from the Gospel According to Luke, Tertia Pars

This is the third and final part of a three-part piece. The first part is found here, and the second part is found here.

4. Commentary on the Kingdom and Poverty

There are two goals for this final section. The first is to investigate what is meant by Christ’s phrase, “the Kingdom of heaven,” and the second is a reflection on why the here-and-now-ness of the kingdom has particular relevance for the blessing of poverty in Luke’s Beatitudes.

As stated in the previous part, Christ’s promise, “yours is the kingdom of heaven” immediately harkens back to His own proclamation, “The Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). We have already seen the interpretation given by Origen/Pope Benedict, but let me diverge for a moment and examine one other interpretation. During the later half of the 20th century, a particularly secular view (held mostly in Catholic theological circles) of the Kingdom of God gained considerable ground (Benedict, 53). This position is motivated by the desire to apply Christ’s supposed message to the widest possible audience. It is a slow process of moving from any kind of specificity with regards to God’s people to a meaningless generality. Beginning with the rejection of Judaism in general (for in Judaism the focus is on a specific people), Christ, it is claimed, came not for a chosen subset of people, but for the individual; he came to establish a Church that is inclusive of all people. This desire for an all-inclusiveness is seen as violated by the Church in her so-called “pre-Vatican II nature,” a nature that was guilty of “ecclesiocentrism.” Thus, to continue this search for all-inclusivity there was a move towards “Christocentrism” (and away from the Church herself) which strived for a less “divisive” message. However, the next two steps were quick to follow. Since Christ belongs exclusively to Christians, perhaps we should be concerned only with the general idea of God, hence a “theocentrism.” The final step was a surrender of the very idea of God, since even God can be a cause of division among people and the various religions of the world. In the end, we are left only with man, and in this stripped down theology, the “Kingdom” is simply a name given for a world governed by “peace, justice, and the conservation of creation” (Benedict, 53). The task of religion, it is held, is to work in harmony to bring forth this kingdom on earth.

On one hand, this seems laudable; it finally allows all people to enjoy Christ’s message in harmony, to appropriate it in their own belief systems and world views. On the other hand, there is not much left of the message itself; it has been stripped down to what amounts essentially to secular humanism.

To rescue Christ’s message from such deprivation, we must first recognize that the Lord never preaches simply a “Kingdom” but instead preaches the “Kingdom of God” or the “Kingdom of Heaven.” “When Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of God, he is quite simply proclaiming God, and proclaiming him to be the living God, who is able to act concretely in the world and in history, and is even now so acting…. The new and totally specific thing about his message is that he is telling us: God is acting now – this is the hour in which God is showing himself in history as its Lord, as the living God, in a way that goes beyond anything seen before. ‘Kingdom of God’ is therefore an inadequate translation. It would be better to speak of God’s being-Lord, of his lordship” (Benedict, 55-56). This is consonant with the prior observation that the Hebrew word malkut and the Greek word baseleia are action words. It is also consonant with the use of the present tense in Luke 6:20.

To further our understanding of Christ as the Kingdom of God incarnate, let us examine Saint Thomas Aquinas’ observation that man’s final cause is identical with his efficient cause, i.e. from God we have come and to God we must return. Our fulfillment, our telos, is in nothing other than God himself. In order to be fully man, we must give our entire existence back to the very source of our existence. Man is unique in the world in that he alone can actively strive away from his proper telos. That is, man can, by the gift of free will, choose not to give himself back to God. To do so is to be in-human, to remain unfulfilled. Given that man’s proper end is God himself, we can understand why Vatican II says, “Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to himself and makes his supreme calling clear” (Gaudium et Spes 22). Finally, if what it means to be human is to give of ourselves to God and to possess God deep within our souls, and if the Kingdom that Christ promises is none other than His very self, we can conclude that the promise, “Blessed are ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven” can be understood as, “Blessed are ye poor, for yours is Christ,” or rather, “Blessed are ye poor, for you have already within you what it means to be fully human.” When understood this way, if it is true that the poor already possess within their being their own fulfillment, then is is abundantly clear why they are “blessed.” *

It remains now to try to come to grips with why poverty brings with it such blessing. What is it about poverty that is so authentically human? We must first make a critical distinction between poverty and destitution. All human beings are entitled to have their basic needs met. The fact that millions are living in our world in the state of destitution, where hunger and disease ravage entire cultures, is a great sin against humanity, and it cannot be ignored that Christ was relentless in his call for a preferential option for the destitute. Every time we withhold our cloak from the naked or our food from the hungry, we perform sin not only against the human person, but also against Jesus himself. Poverty, on the other hand, is not identical with destitution. The Latin word used in the Nova Vulgate is pauperes. It is true that this is best translated as “poverty,” but what is perhaps more noticeable is that the Gospel does not use the word egenus or the word inops, both of which could be translated as destitute (though inops is more often rendered as “helpless”). Nor did the author use a form of the verb destituo (forsaken). Poverty (pauperes), as opposed to destitution, is the state of having only what one needs. It is this state of simplicity that Christ calls “blessed” and to which he attaches the promise of the kingdom of heaven.

As the Fathers of the Church unanimously observed, to advance in the life of virtue, poverty must come first. This is due to the ontological difference between God and the world. It is the unique Christian distinction that God is absolutely other to the world. God is not part of the world, nor is the world as a whole equivalent to God. Because of this distinction and because of our call to return to God, this world becomes God’s gift to us to be used as a means for this return. Simply put: God is the end; things are means to this end. On one hand, when one is deprived of the basic needs of life, this physical state of destitution necessarily brings with the challenge of spiritual destitution (for the human person is a body-soul unity). This is precisely why we must work to eliminate destitution in the world, not primarily because of the physical sufferings, but first and foremost to allow God’s people the freedom to worship Him in health of body, mind, and soul **. On the other hand, the possession of goods beyond that of basic necessity brings with it the risk of using goods as ends in themselves. It is interesting that, while Christ cured the sick, made the blind see, made the deaf hear, to my recollection, he never once made a poor man rich.

Christ, in this first beatitude, does not say, “To those who are impoverished, I say to you, do not think that this most unfortunate state is permanent, for the day will come when I will relieve you of this poverty and make you rich.” Instead, he says, “Blessed are you poor.” Poverty itself bring with it blessing, or rather sanctity. If the possession of goods beyond that of basic needs bring with it the risk of treating this excess as an end in itself, then it follows that the more we possess, the further we find ourselves from pursuing our proper end: God. The further we are from our proper end, the less human we find ourselves. We are now in the position to reason our main thesis.

In proclaiming, “Blessed are ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven,” Christ is making an ontological observation. Poverty brings with it the simplicity to give oneself to God, which is the final cause of all of humanity. In other words, poverty provides a more authentic human experience. In this, there is blessing.

Of course, all of this is more pressing given the large percentage of humanity that are living in the state of destitution, a state that potentially hinders their ability to know, love, and serve God. It becomes all the more crucial for us to divest ourselves of our excesses to satisfy the basic needs of others. However, we must be careful to avoid misrepresenting the Gospel as a kind of call for a distributive justice. Virtue is always performed in the heart of the individual. We cannot expect political agendas and government policies to force virtue upon the hearts of its citizens. To do so ignores the authentic freedom that is at the core of the dignity of the human person. The ends of such policies can only be atheistic ends, as history has demonstrated. This does not mean that charity and generosity cannot be cultivated among groups of people, but the Church has consistently and wisely taught the principle of subsidiarity, that things are best handled by the smallest competent authority.

In summary, I would be remiss if I did not clarify one last thing. The state of poverty is not purely material; material poverty alone does not bring salvation. Recall Basil’s comment from the second part, “For many are poor in their possessions, yet most covetous in their disposition; these poverty does not save, but their affections condemn.” On the other hand, neither is poverty is purely spiritual. There are those who want to reduce Christ’s call to poverty to the mere detachment from goods. This too is a distortion of the Gospel message. Recall also from the first part the two critical Greek manuscripts (Papyrus 75 and Codex Vaticanus) deliberately avoid the phrase “poor in spirit” and instead opt for simply “poor.”

Finally, there are many other aspects of the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount that could enrich this discussion, such as the connection the Beatitudes share with the presentation of the Ten Commandments. Many writers far more learned than myself (Pope Benedict, Servais Pinkares, and Thomas Dubay to name only but a few) have already done so; thus, I humbly leave the reader to take up the various texts on this topic for further spiritual reading.

 

* As a side note, the present possession of our eschatological fulfillment is at the heart of the Christian virtue of hope. See Pope Benedict’s second encyclical letter Spe Salvi for a more lengthy discussion of this.

 

** In Pope Benedict’s first encyclical letter, Deus Caritas Est, he warns against separating the preaching of the Gospel from humanitarian efforts to alleviate people from their sufferings. Primarily, we are called to preach Christ crucified.

25

Don’s Book Haul

When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.

Erasmus

We at The American Catholic like to keep an eye, frequently jaundiced, on popular culture.  One recent development that I enthusiastically endorse are videos posted by individuals on Youtube discussing “book hauls”, books that they have recently purchased.  I find this heartening.  I have always regarded myself as a hopeless book addict, and now I learn that my addiction is socially acceptable, perhaps even cutting edge!  This post will therefore tell you about a book haul I made yesterday, but first a bit of background information.

When I was growing up in Paris, Illinois, my mother and father used to give me and my brother a dollar each as our allowance.  (Considering that between them my parents brought home about a $100.00 a week, I thought the allowance was rather generous. )  My parents expected us to clean the house each day before school, to do the dishes and to run to the grocery store to pick up items during the week.  It was emphasized to us that the allowances were not payment for our work.  We worked at our chores because we were members of the family, and our parents gave us our allowances because we were members of the family.

You could do a lot with a dollar when you were a kid in the sixties.  Comic books cost 12 cents, cokes were a dime, candy could be purchased for a nickel to a dime.  However, I spent a fair part of my money at the local Goodwill.  Paris did not have a bookstore, but the Goodwill had a bookcase with used paperbacks and hardbacks.  The paperbacks were a nickel and the hardbacks were a dime.  New used books came in fairly frequently.  Most Saturday mornings I would go into the Goodwill and search through the books.  It was there I first made the acquaintance of Plato, Aristotle and Aristophanes.  On one memorable day, the divine Dante came my way for the first time with a paperback copy of Purgatorio, and a “new life” began for me.  History books were plentiful, especially on the Civil War and World War II and I gobbled them up.  Thus I began my personal library, and I have some of those books to this day.  And so my shameful addiction devotion to purchasing mass quantities of books as cheaply as I can began. Continue Reading

1

Patrick Leigh Fermor

[The topic here is neither American nor Catholic, so I was originally going to relegate it strictly to my personal blog, but in the end I found it too interesting to avoid sharing.]

Some years ago, I wrote here about Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time of Gifts, a beautifully written travel book about the first stage of the author’s 1933 walk across Europe from from Holland to Constantinople.

The only customer, I unslung my rucksack in a little Gastof. Standing on chairs, the innkeeper’s pretty daughters, who were aged from five to fifteen, were helping their father decorate a Christmas tree; hanging witch-balls, looping tinsel, fixing candles to the branches, and crowning the tip with a wonderful star. They asked me to help and when it was almost done, their father, a tall, thoughtful-looking man, uncorked a slim bottle from the Rudesheim vineyard just over the river. We drank it together and had nearly finished a second by the time the last touches to the tree were complete. Then the family assembled round it and sang. The candles were the only light and the solemn and charming ceremony was made memorable by the candle-lit faces of the girls — and by their beautiful and clear voices. I was rather surprised that they didn’t sing Stille Nacht: it had been much in the air the last few days; but it is a Lutheran hymn and I think this bank of the Rhine is mostly Catholic. Two of the carols they sang have stuck in my memory: O Du Heilige and Es ist ein Reis entsprungen: both were entracing and especially the second, which, they told me, was very old. In the end I went to church with them and stayed the night. When all the inhabitants of Bingen were exchanging greetings with each other outside the church in the small hours, a few flakes began falling. Next morning the household embraced each other, shook hands again, and wished everyone a happy Christmas. The smallest of the daughters gave me a tangerine and a packet of cigarettes wrapped beautifully in tinsel and silver paper. I wished I’d had something to hand her, neatly done up in holly-patterned ribbon — I thought later of my aluminum pencil-case containing a new Venus or Royal Sovereign [pencil] wound in tissue paper, but too late. The time of gifts.

I’ve since read what was intended to be the second volume of a three part narrative of the trip, Between the Woods and the Water. It is similarly a joy to read. Continue Reading

12

Void ab Initio

 

As I am sure most of you know, the Wisconsin Supreme Court in a 4-3 decision vacated the order of Judge Maryann Sumi enjoining the bill passed by the Wisconsin legislature regarding public employee unions.  The court divided along partisan lines.  The bluntness of the majority opinion is something to behold.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that all orders and judgments of the Dane County Circuit Court in Case No. 2011CV1244 are vacated and declared to be void ab initio.  State ex rel. Nader v. Circuit Court for Dane Cnty., No. 2004AP2559-W, unpublished order (Wis. S. Ct. Sept. 30, 2004) (wherein this court vacated the prior orders of the circuit court in the same case). 

Declaring the orders of a trial court void ab initio is an unusual step for an appellate court.  It basically says that the trial court completely misconstrued the relevant law from the beginning, and is not to be trusted by the appellate court simply reversing the trial court and remanding the case back to the trial court.  Instead the Supreme Court ruled on all of  the issues in the case itself, with Judge Sumi now tossed out of the case by the action of the Supreme Court.  

This court has granted the petition for an original action because one of the courts that we are charged with supervising has usurped the legislative power which the Wisconsin Constitution grants exclusively to the legislature.  It is important for all courts to remember that Article IV, Section 1 of the Wisconsin Constitution provides:  “The legislative power shall be vested in a senate and assembly.”  Article IV, Section 17 of the Wisconsin Constitution provides in relevant part:  “(2) . . . No law shall be in force until published.  (3) The legislature shall provide by law for the speedy publication of all laws.”

You don’t get blunter than that in the law.  Judge Sumi is held by the Court to have usurped the power of the legislature!

The Court then notes that what Judge Sumi attempted to do, enjoin publication of a bill in order to prevent it from becoming law, was in direct defiance of a prior case decided by the Wisconsin Supreme Court: Continue Reading

19

Void For Stupidity

Hattip to Ann Althouse.  My hero, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, has been guilty of being brilliant again.  Writing in dissent in the case of Sykes v. United States, he took head on what is becoming a huge problem:  almost comically inept legislation passed by Congress:

We face a Congress that puts forth an ever-increasing volume of laws in general, and of criminal laws in particular. It should be no surprise that as the volume increases, so do the number of imprecise laws. And no surprise that our indulgence of imprecisions that violate the Constitution encourages imprecisions that violate the Constitution. Fuzzy, leave-the-details-to-be-sorted-out-by-the-courts legislation is attractive to the Congressman who wants credit for addressing a national problem but does not have the time (or perhaps the votes) to grapple with the nittygritty. In the field of criminal law, at least, it is time to call a halt. I do not think it would be a radical step—indeed, I think it would be highly responsible—to limit ACCA to the named violent crimes. Congress can quickly add what it wishes. Because the majority prefers to let vagueness reign, I respectfully dissent. Continue Reading

21

Dumbing Down the Federalist Papers

I remain fairly ambivalent about Glenn Beck (an ambivalence that got me involved in a heated debate on this very site, but that’s another matter).  His style, especially on television, just doesn’t appeal to me.  He also seems to believe that having the dial turned to 11 is the only way to get his point across.  That said, I am appreciative of his efforts to teach American history to his audience.  He’s had some excellent academic guests like Ronald Pestritto on his show, and he has an appreciation of some of the nuances of American political thought that go over a lot of other heads.

Then I saw this, and I’m ready to grab the pitchforks.  From the product description:

Adapting a selection of these essential essays—pseudonymously authored by the now well-documented triumvirate of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay—for a contemporary audience, Glenn Beck has had them reworked into “modern” English so as to be thoroughly accessible to anyone seeking a better understanding of the Founding Fathers’ intent and meaning when laying the groundwork of our government. Beck provides his own illuminating commentary and annotations and, for a number of the essays, has brought together the viewpoints of both liberal and conservative historians and scholars, making this a fair and insightful perspective on the historical works that remain the primary source for interpreting Constitutional law and the rights of American citizens.

So it’s the New American Bible for the Federalist Papers.  I wonder if Bishop Trautman consulted on this project.

Just as the average person can probably handle such mysterious words as “ineffable,”  I’m sure that most Americans can pretty much figure out what’s going on with the Federalist Papers without Glenn Beck re-translating it for us.  Yes, there are no doubt some tricky words in the 500+ pages and 85 essays, but that’s what footnotes are for.  Annotated versions of the Federalist Papers already exist, and those should suffice for Beck’s purposes.  Besides, part of the joy of the Federalist Papers is reading Madison and Hamilton’s beautiful prose.

Jeff Goldstein elaborates further on why this is problematic.

On the one hand, we’re supposed to believe that anyone can read and understand the Constitution — meaning, we don’t need a special priesthood to interpret the thing (and of course, this is true, assuming a base level of reading comprehension and intelligence, and assuming one can get past the fact that the document itself is like, over a hundred years old!); and yet at the same time, the Federalist Papers, we’re to understand today, are so arcane and abstruse and unintelligible that they aren’t even being taught anymore — a problem happily solved by Beck’s latest offering, a book that rewrites the Federalist Papers using modern language, which can be yours for only however many dollars (through the website, blah blah blah).

I agree with Jeff that this sends a very poorly thought out mixed message.  In fact Beck is playing into the hands of those who criticize the concept of originalism.  He’s conceding that the language of this era is difficult for people to comprehend, so the only way to make these writings more widely accessible is to completely re-write them.  It is a contradiction that I doubt Beck has thoughtfully considered.

Small Amounts Still Matter

One of the oddly persistent mistakes people seem to fall into in a whole host of areas of life is the idea that small amounts don’t matter.

Take, for instance, the illusion that I so often fall into: “This will only take me ten minutes a day. No matter how busy I am, I always spend at least ten minutes just wasting time. Clearly, I can add this one extra activity.”

With sufficient determination, and a low enough starting level of commitments, one can pull this off. But in point of fact the day is made up of a finite number of ten minute increments, and one cannot add an unlimited number of them. Sometimes, adding even one ten minute commitment ends up having more ramifications than one would imagine. And time “wasted” is often curiously hard to stamp out.
Continue Reading

4

Philip Nolan and Flag Day

Today is Flag Day.  Edward Everett Hale, in his short story A Man Without A Country, reminds us that patriotism is a very powerful form of love.  Hale, a great nephew of Nathan Hale who died on a British scaffold and uttered the deathless  “I only regret, that I have but one life to lose for my country.”, wrote the story in the midst of the Civil War in 1863 to help inspire patriotism.

The story is a simple one.  Philip Nolan was a young artillery lieutenant in the United States Army.  He became involved in the  vague scheme of Aaron Burr to detach some territory from the  United States and form an independent nation.  All the big fish escape conviction, but Lieutenant Nolan does not.  At his courtmartial the following takes place:

One and another of the colonels and majors were tried, and, to fill out the list, little Nolan, against whom, Heaven knows, there was evidence enough,–that he was sick of the service, had been willing to be false to it, and would have obeyed any order to march any-whither with any one who would follow him had the order been signed, “By command of His Exc.A. Burr.” The courts dragged on. The big flies escaped,–rightly for all I know. Nolan was proved guilty enough, as I say; yet you and I would never have heard of him, reader, but that, when the president of the court asked him at the close whether he wished to say anything to show that he had always been faithful to the United States, he cried out, in a fit of frenzy,–

“Damn the United States! I wish I may never hear of the United States again!” Continue Reading

14

Andrew Sullivan is Certifiably Insane

I don’t like to write about Andrew Sullivan.  At this point he should be treated like a troll, meaning it is best to ignore him.  Every now and then it is good to be reminded that Andrew Sullivan has clearly lost his mind.

Most of you have probably read this email that Sarah Palin sent before she gave birth to Trig.  She actually published this in her book, but today it has garenerd wider attention.  It’s a rather touching expression of her faith, and is one of the most beautiful pro-life testimonies you’ll ever read.

One would also think that it’s further proof – not that any is really needed save for disturbed individuals like Sullivan – that Sarah Palin is in fact Trig’s mother.

Oh no.  This is just an opportunity for Sullivan to continue to cast doubts on the official story.

Earlier today there was a replay of the Michael Medved show where he interviewed Jonathan Kay, author of Among the Truthers: A Journey Through America’s Growing Conspiracist Underground.  Kay and Medved discussed the nature of the conspiracist mindset, and Kay emphasized that there is really not much point in trying to rebut these folks with facts, because they are impervious to all evidence.  Listening to Kay, and then reading Sullivan’s latest screed one is reminded of the futility of trying to deal with such people.

So can we please shun Andrew Sullivan and stop treating him like he’s even a remotely credible journalist of any kind?  No more linking – not even to rebut the man.  Yeah I know I just spent 250 words on the guy, but I guess I’m still in shock that there are people still willing to give this man a platform.  For as absolutely batty Sullivan is, the Daily Beast should be ashamed of employing him.

H/t: Midwest Conservative Journal.

(On a side note, the critics of Kay’s book as well as Sullivan ought really to read my previous post.)

Update: Andrew Sullivan actually responded to an email that I sent him.  Notice anything about the grammar?

show me some evidence. any evidence. then handle all the evidence i
have assembled.
i’m not insane. but palin sure is. when she produces the medical
records i asked for two and half years ago, i will stop asking
questions.
why not email her to ask her to clear this up? or do you suspect she cannot?

Yes, clearly we are dealing with a very lucid mind.

2

Borders are for Fascists

I don’t know Klavan on the culture.  If only fascists support the Arizona law, there seems to be a lot of fascism going around since eight states are currently copying the Arizona law, even which that law is still enjoined by a Federal district judge.  Illegal immigration is down about eight percent in recent years however, due mainly to the truly lousy economy.  Obamanomics, it is good for something after all!

17

2012 TAC GOP Presidential Poll

The American Catholic will be running a periodic poll of the GOP presidential field. We have included candidates that have declared their candidacy as well as other speculative* candidates. As the primaries arrive the field of candidates should narrow down a bit.

* For example even though Chris Christie has denied he is interested in running, he still will be in Iowa for an inexplicable reason. Until then, he will be showing in the poll until we don’t see his name on the actual roll.

18

How Not to Appear Crazy on the Internet

Frank Fleming is my new hero.  He has written a very useful guide on how to avoid appearing crazy on the Internet.

Caps Lock Is Your Enemy

Look at your keyboard. On the left should be a button labeled “Caps Lock.” Now, there should be a light somewhere indicating whether the Caps Lock key is on. You want that light to be off. If you can’t find the indicator light, try typing on screen. Do you see lower case letters? If not, hit the Caps Lock key and try typing again. When you get your keyboard to the state where it normally types lower case letters, NEVER EVER TOUCH THE CAPS LOCK KEY EVER AGAIN! I can use it because I’m a professional, but you crazy people just need to leave that key alone. This tip by itself will make a lot of you look 100% less crazy.

There are basically two kinds of people who type entire comments with Caps Lock on: stupid people and crazy people. And no one wants to read what either has to say. Now, a stupid person just doesn’t notice or care that his Caps Lock key is on, and someone like that is probably not advanced enough to use the internet. Crazy people, on the other hand, intentionally put the Caps Lock on because they think the reason people haven’t been agreeing with their crazy is that they didn’t say it loud enough. This is crazy person logic, and it is wrong.

And there is another type of Caps Lock user who doesn’t capitalize whole sentences but INSTEAD capitalizes a few SPECIFIC words for EMPHASIS. Now read a sentence like that aloud, shouting every time you come to a capitalized word, and tell me you do not sound like an absolute freakin’ lunatic. This method can turn even basic known facts into crazy-sounding gibberish (“The SQUARE of the HYPOTENUSE of a RIGHT triangle equals the SUM of the squares of the OTHER two sides”).

Similarly, be frugal with your exclamation points! Not every single sentence should end in one! And never use more than one per sentence!!!!11!!eleventy11!1 If you have something useful to say, it should make just as much sense when said in a normal voice.

Bravo!  I would just add that people who do the opposite – meaning people who never capitalize – are even nuttier.  You see that button on the left-hand side of the computer?  The one right below the caps lock?  Yeah, try pressing that while typing out the first word of a sentence, or of a proper pronoun, and always when typing “I.”  Yeah, that’s not so hard now is it?

There’s more.

i can haz proper grammar?

Here’s another pretty basic one: no lolcats speak. Write actual English sentences using real words and proper grammar. Capitalize the first word of each sentence. Use punctuation. there is no reason ur comment 2 a blog or column shud look lik ur a n00b at texting. You’re not writing these things from a old cellphone with just a number pad that lacks auto-complete; there is a big keyboard in front of you.

You save like 0.1 seconds writing “u” instead of “you” at the cost of making yourself look like an absolute idiot. Is there any reason you’re trying to shave off this time? Are there wild dogs bearing down on you as you write why we need another look at Obama’s birth certificate? If so, run from the wild dogs and write your comment later. Your whole sentence shouldn’t scream, “I’m a useless idiot with nothing important to say.” You should never write like that unless you actually are a cat expressing your desire for a cheeseburger.

This drives me up the wall.  I don’t know if it’s the curse of Twitter, texting, or both, but is it really so hard to write in complete sentences with actual words spelled out?  You don’t have character limits on most blogs, and if you do and are actually somehow bumping up against the limit, then you are running afoul of violating this tip:

No Long Screeds

On the other end of the spectrum from the lolcats speak is the guy who apparently has hours to spare writing pages of response as the 200th comment to some blog post. There are people who have long things to say, and they do it by writing columns or writing in their own blogs. But if you can’t get your column published and no one reads your blog, maybe you’re thinking you’ll get exposure by putting the long screed in the comments section of something people actually will read.

Don’t.

Sane people know that the only people who have hours to spend writing pages of text in a comments section are crazy people. And that’s why no will read what they write except other crazy people with way too much time on their hands. So keep it short. Pick one point, and write no more than a couple of sentences. Keeping it short also helps you police your crazy. I’ve seen comments where I’ve read the first paragraph and thought maybe the person was just a little over-enthusiastic, and then I started the second paragraph and realized, “Oh, this is a super crazy person.” So keep it pithy, and avoid the crazy.

The comments on Fleming’s post are a hoot.  Either it’s a collection of the cleverest people on the planet, or a bunch of dunces who would no doubt look blankly at you if you said the word “irony.”

At any rate, there is more at the link.  I think I will now ask Tito to have this permalinked on the right-hand side.

1

Saint Augustine on Pentecost

 

This is a solemn day for us, because of the Coming of the Holy Ghost on the fiftieth day from the Lord’s Resurrection.

What is the meaning of the Coming of the Holy Ghost?  What did it accomplish?  How did He tell us of His Presence; reveal It to us?  By the fact that all spoke in the tongues of every nation.  What then, did each one upon whom the Holy Spirit descended speak in one of the tongues of each of the nations: to this man one language, to this man another, dividing as it were among themselves the tongues of all the nations?  

No, it was not so: but each man, singly, spoke in the tongue of every nation. One and the same man spoke the tongue of every nation: the unity of the Church amid the tongues of all the nations.  See here how the unity of the Catholic Church spread throughout all nations is set before us.
Continue Reading

17

O’, I’m a Good Old Rebel

Something for the weekend.  O’, I’m a Good Old Rebel by Major James Randolph.  This rendition is sung by Bobby Horton, who has fought a one man crusade to bring Civil War music to modern audiences.  It is the most moving rendition I have heard of this song, with Horton conveying well the bitterness and despair felt by almost all Confederates after the conclusion of the War.  The author served on the staff of General J.E.B. Stuart.  The song has always been popular in the South and was a favorite of Queen Victoria’s son, the future Edward VII, who referred to it as “that fine American song with cuss words in it.” Continue Reading

5

In the World

Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.”

We know this line from John’s Gospel so well that the radicalism of its otherworldliness perhaps escapes us most of the time. We see Christ’s encounter with Pilate while knowing that Christ was about to fulfill the purpose of His incarnation by suffering and dying in reparation for our sins. When Christ says, “My kingdom is not of this world,” one can picture the glories of heaven and raise an eyebrow at Pilate’s belief that he truly stood in power as he “judged” his creator. We know that Christ only suffered at Pilate’s hands because He allowed himself to do so. Had He chosen to end it, in an instant He could have done so.

Yet as followers of Christ we are called to be like Him in being not of this world, but of His Kingdom, and if we think of Christ’s calmness and resignation in the fact of facing torture and death for a nonexistent crime in relation to ourselves, this idea of being of a kingdom not of this world becomes a whole lot scarier. It’s one thing to see Christ, secure in our belief in His divinity, responding to injustice and suffering with the statement that His kingdom is not of this world, but when we are faced with injustice and suffering our instinct is not to think of The Kingdom which is not of this world, but rather to fight back, to demand our rights, and if all else fails to complain and feel sorry for ourselves. Continue Reading

11

June 10, 1861: First Battle of the War: Big Bethel

The first battle of the Civil War, Big Bethel was a classic example of the hazards awaiting untrained troops attempting to take offensive action.  The first of many defeats of Union Major General Benjamin Butler in the War, Big Bethel started off the War in the East with a humiliating little defeat for the Union, an ominous portent of things to come over the next four years.

Placed in charge of Fortress Monroe on the southern tip of the Virginia peninsula on May 23, 1861, Butler began operations to extend Union control into areas near Monroe.  On the night of June 9-10, Butler ordered 3500 Union troops in two columns marching from Hampton and Newport News, to perform a night march,  and launch a surprise attack on Confederate positions at Little Bethel and Big Bethel.  Butler’s plan would have tasked the abilities of well-trained veteran troops, as a coordinated surprise attack by converging columns after a night march is the military equivalent of brain surgery.  Expecting the raw troops he commanded to carry this out was simply absurd and an invitation to disaster.

The disaster ensued.  A friendly fire incident between the two columns gave the Confederates ample warning of the attack.  The 1200 Confederates easily beat off the piecemeal Union attacks.  Union casualties were 18 killed and 51 wounded.  Confederate losses were 1 killed and 7 wounded.  The Confederate press made much of the victory, although it had little meaning other than as the first example of the gross military incompetence of Benjamin Butler that would hamper Union operations for almost the entire war.  Here is Butler’s self-serving report of this fiasco: Continue Reading

3

The Beatitudes from the Gospel According to Luke, Secunda Pars

What follows is the second part of a three-part piece. The first part can be found here.

 

 

3. Patristic Background from the Catena Aurea

Latin for “The Golden Chain,” St. Thomas Aquinas’ Catena Aurea is the Angelic Doctor’s compilation of commentaries by the early Church Fathers on each of the four Gospels. What follows is a gloss of the provided commentaries for Luke 6:20-23.

We begin with Ambrose. While I have not said much about the first part of verse 20 (“And he, lifting up his eyes on his disciples”), Ambrose asks, “What is lifting up the eyes, but to disclose a more hidden light?” Christ is calling his hearers to a deeper understanding of God and His plan for mankind. If I could, allow me to briefly return to the Greek for the word “Behold” (idou). An alternate translation of the imperative is “Look!” or even “See!” While Luke is using a common Greek word, this command to “See!” is reminiscent of Christ’s observation, “they have eyes but cannot see.” The Lord is not simply calling us to pay attention, but rather he is calling us to see with the eyes of faith. He is speaking directly to the heart of man. In a way, he is telling his listeners, “My friends, you have heard the Prophets, you have read the Scriptures, but you know not their fullness. I will, if you let me, show you the fullness of the heavenly mysteries. Everything you think you know is only the beginning. You have heard the ethic in the Ten Commandments, but I call you to the ethos of these Beatitudes.”

Ambrose next observes that Luke mentions only four blessings, while Matthew eight. Nonetheless, “those eight are contained in these four, and in these four those eight.” He ties each of the blessings in a specific way to a particular virtue. Poverty yields temperance because it “seeks not vain delights.” Hunger leads to righteousness in that he who is hungry suffers with the hungry, and this brings righteousness. In weeping, man learns to weep for those things eternal rather than those things of time, which requires the virtue of prudence to distinguish between the two realms. In “Blessed are you when men hate you,” one has fortitude, a fortitude which allows one to suffer persecution for faith. These virtues are then paired with Matthew’s Beatitudes in order to demonstrate continuity between the two Gospels: “temperance therefore brings with it a pure heart; righteousness, mercy; prudence, peace; fortitude, meekness. The virtues are so joined and linked to one another, that he who has one seems to have many.”

In both cases, each evangelist has placed the blessings of poverty first. For Ambrose, this is indicative that “it is the first in order, and the purest, as it were, of the virtues.” In other words, the subsequent blessings depend on the condition of being impoverished. If one is overcome by the desires of the world, he “has no power of escape from them.”

In a similar fashion, Eusebius observes, “But when the celestial kingdom is considered in the many gradations of its blessings, the first step in the scale belongs to those who by divine instinct embrace poverty. Such did He make those who first became His disciples; therefore He says in their person, ‘For yours is the kingdom of heaven.’”

Cyril agrees: “After having commanded them to embrace poverty, He then crowns with honor those things which follow from poverty.”

While Basil is consistent in placing the primacy of the blessings with that of poverty, he also warns that the blessing is not automatic but requires the correct disposition. “[N]ot everyone oppressed with poverty is blessed, but he who has preferred the commandment of Christ to worldly riches. For many are poor in their possessions, yet most covetous in their disposition; these poverty does not save, but their affections condemn. For nothing involuntary deserves a blessing, because all virtue is characterized by the freedom of the will. Blessed then is the poor man as being the disciple of Christ, Who endured poverty for us.” Perhaps this is why Cyril notes that in Matthew’s Gospel, the Lord says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”  I have noted above the textual variants in this regard, but it should be recognized that the Fathers in no way see “poverty of spirit” as mere detachment that can exist even in the absence of actual material poverty. Instead, they see material poverty as a pre-requisite for poverty of spirit, a disposition that must be had to convert the pre-existing material poverty into a blessing.

Each of the Fathers then shows how poverty leads to the other blessings in Christ’s sermon. Cyril says, “It is the lot of those who embrace poverty to be in want of the necessities of life, and scarcely to be able to get food.” Continuing, “[P]overty is followed not only by a want of those things which bring delight, but also by a dejected look, because of sorrow. Hence it follows, ‘Blessed are you that weep.’” Finally, Theophilus indicates, “He then who on account of the riches of the inheritance of Christ, for the bread of eternal life, for the hope of heavenly joys, desires to suffer weeping, hunger, and poverty, is blessed. But much more blessed is he who does not shrink to maintain these virtues in adversity. Hence it follows, ‘Blessed are you when men shall hate you.’ For although men hate, with their wicked hearts they cannot injure the heart that is beloved by Christ.”

This gloss of the Catena Aurea is sufficient for examining the portion of the Beatitudes dealing with poverty. It is evident that each of the represented Fathers sees poverty as having a place of primacy among the beatitudes. This is indicated by both Gospel writers in their placement of the virtue first in their respective lists, lists that are renderings of the very words of Christ. However, we must not ignore the second part of the beatitude: “for theirs is the kingdom of God.” For patristic background on this, we depart from the Catena Aurea and take up Origen.

Origen referred to Jesus as the autobasileia, that is, the Kingdom in person. In other words, for Origen, the kingdom is not a geographical location; Jesus himself is the Kingdom, or rather the Kingdom is Jesus. Pope Benedict XVI in Jesus of Nazareth insists (in light of his reading of Origen) that the phrase “Kingdom of God” is a “veiled Christology.” The Holy Father states, “By the way in which he speaks of the Kingdom of God, Jesus leads men to realize the overwhelming fact that in him God himself is present among them, that he is God’s presence” (Benedict, 49). Delving deeper into the linguistic nuances of the word “kingdom,” Pope Benedict (quoting Stuhlmacher) says, “The underlying Hebrew word malkut is a nomen actionis [an action word] and means – as does the Greek word basileia [kingdom] – the regal function, the active lordship of the king. What is meant is not an imminent or yet to be established ‘kingdom,’ but God’s actual sovereignty over the world, which is becoming an event in history in a new way” (Benedict, 55).

It should be noted that the Holy Father is not actually speaking of the Sermon on the Mount when he makes these linguistic observations. Instead, he is engaged in exegesis of Matthew 1:14-15, when Jesus says, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel.” Nonetheless, the Greek word basileia that is used in Matthew 1 is the same Greek word found in Luke’s first beatitude. Therefore, not only are the linguistic observations still relevant for the current project, but establishing the connection (both spiritually and linguistically) between Christ’s Proclamation of the Kingdom and the Sermon on the Mount will be of prime importance in the final part. I will have more to say about Pope Benedict’s thoughts in this matter, but this mention of Origen and his interpretation of the phrase “kingdom of God” as the person of Jesus is sufficient for this section on patristic background.

22

Of Special People and Common Idiots

Hattip to Christopher Johnson at Midwest Conservative Journal. With one of my sons being autistic, it is little surprise that one of my favorite charities is Special Olympics.  It allows people who too often spend much of life on the sidelines  to compete as athletes and to be admired for what they can accomplish in overcoming the handicaps that life has dealt them.  The whole Special Olympics program is magnificent for special people and their parents, relatives and friends.  One would think that such an organization would be respected by all.  I guess not. Continue Reading