Monthly Archives: April 2012
Ever since Congressman Paul Ryan announced his budget plan, claiming that it was inspired by his understanding of Catholic social teaching (CST) in general and subsidiarity in particular, old debates about the meaning of CST have flared up once again. Michael Sean Winters of NCR blasted Ryan’s conception of “subsidiarity”; then Stephen White of Catholic Vote critiqued some of Winter’s own oversimplifications. Since everyone and their aunt in the Catholic blogosphere will weigh in on this at some point, I’ll get it over with and throw in my two-cents now.
First: I do believe that some of Ryan’s statements are oversimplifications. For instance, he claimed that subsidiarity and federalism were more or less synonyms for one another. They are not. Stephen White pointed out that these concepts are complimentary, however, and they are.
Secondly: Winters, and he is not alone in this, repeats Vatican statements about “access” to health care as if they were an exact equivalent with Obamacare or other types of government-run healthcare schemes. As White pointed out, Winters presents his leftist policy preferences as non-negotiable points of CST.
Third: I think the entire framework of this discussion needs a serious overhaul.
I am happy to be blogging at The American Catholic, which I have always known to be one of the most significant blogs covering the intersection of politics and the Faith. To have a public space in which Catholics are not expected to apologize for being Americans or espousing American values is more important today than perhaps it has ever been. And it is my belief that the values that have defined America are not incompatible with the truths of the Catholic faith, but are in many respects extensions of them.
So let me tell you about myself and what you can expect from me.
By education and profession, I am a political theorist. I greatly enjoy exploring Catholic Social Teaching, particularly the encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII. I don’t have much to say about theological or liturgical disputes, though I will let it be known that I frequent the Latin Mass.
I espouse political views that can be classifed as “paleo”, whether they are paleo-conservative or paleo-libertarian (depending on the issue). My political influences are John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, Pope Leo XIII, the Austrian school of economics, Pat Buchanan, Judge Andrew Napolitano, Thomas Woods Jr., and of course, Ron Paul, the man who converted me to the paleo-political diet in the first place.
I am not the least bit ashamed of Catholic history. I do not apologize for the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, or any of the other “black legends” that were spread by the lying enemies of the Church. I do not believe that the history of the Church has been one of terrible crimes against humanity for which she must atone. On the contrary, I am an unahsamed cultural elitist. I believe Western Christian culture is the best thing to ever happen to humanity, providing us with the most magnificent technology, art, architecture, and moral values known on the planet, and that none of it would have been possible without the guidance of the Catholic Church.
I don’t bow to political correctness, and that includes the right-wing version alongside the more familiar left-wing version. Chances are I will offend you at some point if I haven’t already. At the same time, there is no position I take that I am not willing to defend with arguments, and there are many issues I would be willing to change my mind on.
Again, its a pleasure to be here!
It’s Easter, so naturally it’s time for idiocy like Newsweek’s cover story written by Andrew Sullivan. It looks like Sullivan has added theologian to his list of other professions, which include pundit and gynecologist. It’s about what you’d expect from the combination of Newsweek and Sullivan. Christianity is dying and it’s because of all those stuffed-shirts who have distorted Jesus’s message.
Fr. Barron is on the case, and he completely dismantles Sullivan. A few highlights:
The solution Sullivan proposes is a repristinizing of Christianity, a return to its roots and essential teachings. And here he invokes, as a sort of patron saint, Thomas Jefferson, who as a young man literally took a straight razor to the pages of the New Testament and cut out any passages dealing with the miraculous, the supernatural, or the resurrection and divinity of Jesus.
The result of this Jeffersonian surgery is Jesus the enlightened sage, the teacher of timeless moral truths concerning love, forgiveness and non-violence. Both Jefferson and Sullivan urge that this Christ, freed from churchly distortions, can still speak in a liberating way to an intelligent and non-superstitious audience.
As the reference to Jefferson should make clear, there is nothing particularly new in Sullivan’s proposal. The liberation of Jesus the wisdom figure from the shackles of supernatural doctrine has been a preoccupation of much of the liberal theology of the last 200 years.
The Jefferson “Bible” is, if nothing else, an impressive work of art. Jefferson took passages from Scripture written in English, Latin, Greek, and French. He carefully pasted the passages side-by-side. It’s an awesome display of craftsmanship. Of course it completely distorts the life and mission of Christ and turns our Lord and Saviour into nothing more than a wise philosopher. It’s a good representation of Jefferson’s uber-rationalistic mindset, and part of an extended effort to de-fang the real Christ.
Fr. Barron has more.
The first problem with this type of theorizing is that it has little to do with the New Testament. As Jefferson’s Bible makes clear, the excision of references to the miraculous, to the resurrection, and to the divinity of Jesus delivers to us mere fragments of the Gospels.
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were massively interested in the miracles and exorcisms of Jesus and they were positively obsessed with his dying and rising. The Gospels have been accurately characterized as “passion narratives with long introductions.”
Further, the earliest Christian texts that we have are the epistles of St. Paul, and in those letters that St. Paul wrote to the communities he founded, there are but a tiny handful of references to the teaching of Jesus. What clearly preoccupied Paul was not the moral doctrine of Jesus, but the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
Indeed, by removing the miracles and resurrection from the account of Jesus’s life you’ve almost completely stripped his mission of any meaning.
And this leads to the second major problem with a proposal like Sullivan’s. It offers absolutely no challenge to the powers that be. It is precisely the bland and harmless version of Christianity with which the regnant culture is comfortable.
Go back to Peter’s sermon for a moment. “You killed him,” said the chief of Jesus’s disciples. The “you” here includes the power structures of the time, both Jewish and Roman, which depended for their endurance in power on their ability to frighten their subjects through threats of lethal punishment.
“But God raised him.” The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the clearest affirmation possible that God is more powerful than the corrupt and violent authorities that govern the world — which is precisely why the tyrants have always been terrified of it. When the first Christians held up the cross, the greatest expression of state-sponsored terrorism, they were purposely taunting the leaders of their time: “You think that frightens us?”
The opening line of the Gospel of Mark is a direct challenge to Rome: “beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mk 1:1). “Good news” (euangelion in Mark’s Greek) was a term used to describe an imperial victory. The first Christian evangelist is saying, not so subtly, that the real good news hasn’t a thing to do with Caesar.
Rather, it has to do with someone whom Caesar killed and whom God raised from the dead. And just to rub it in, he refers to this resurrected Lord as the “Son of God.” Ever since the time of Augustus, “Son of God” was a title claimed by the Roman emperor. Not so, says Mark. The authentic Son of God is the one who is more powerful than Caesar.
Again and again, Sullivan says that he wants a Jesus who is “apolitical.” Quite right — and that’s just why the cultural and political leaders of the contemporary West will be perfectly at home with his proposal. A defanged, privatized, spiritual teacher poses little threat to the status quo.
This is a great passage, and one of the reasons that Fr. Barron is truly a treasure. I love how he completely turns around Sullivan’s argument and makes him the champion of the status quo. It’s a really great insight, and one that completely sticks it to Dr. Sullivan. Well played.
(Thanks RL for the tip.)
Go here to take a quiz on religion from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. I found it very simple and scored 15 out of 15. Unfortunately that means that I scored better than 99% of the people who took the test. Take the test and report the results in the comboxes. After you have taken the quiz, go here for some grim reading on the results of the Pew US Religious Knowledge Survey.
John Derbyshire set off a firestorm this past weekend when he put up this article called The Talk: Nonblack Version. This was a response, of sorts, to a column published in the Orlando Sentinel in response to the killing of Trayvon Martin.
Derbyshire’s column was swiftly condemned by commentators on all sides of the political spectrum. By Saturday night National Review had severed its ties to Derbyshire even though his column had appeared on another site.
What did Derbyshire do this time to draw such harsh condemnation? Derbyshire’s column utilized the conceit of giving his child a talk about race relations and what to do when confronting unknown black people. Though commenters objected to nearly all of what Derbyshire wrote, this was the most damning section: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Well, Mr. Inevitable is indeed inevitable now.
Kudos to Rick Santorum on a race well run. It is amazing that he managed to accomplish what he did considering his financial resources and his standing at the outset of the race. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to overcome Mitt Romney’s considerable resources. Santorum would have had to run a perfect campaign to win the nomination, and he didn’t.
It is unbelievable to me that Mitt Romney is going to be the Republican nominee. After the remarkable victories in the 2010 mid-terms and the rise of the tea party movement, this is the best the Republicans can do.
Ed Morrissey at Hot Air for years has done yeoman work in examing polls minutely and he does this well today in examing an ABC Washington Post poll with purports to show Obama leading Romney 51-44.
I love the Washington Post/ABC poll. It’s a great object lesson in how to manufacture news. Need a story that the incumbent President’s fortunes are looking up? Well, just adjust the sample a bit and voila, he takes a seven point lead over his presumed rival in the fall election! Besides, it gives me fodder for snarky material every few weeks.
Let’s get down to cases, shall we?
With the general-election campaign beginning to take shape, President Obama holds clear advantages over Mitt Romney on personal attributes and a number of key issues, but remains vulnerable to discontent with the pace of the economic recovery, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Obama has double-digit leads over the likely Republican presidential nominee on who would do a better job of protecting the middle class, addressing women’s issues, handling international affairs and dealing with health care.
You know where else Obama got a double-digit lead? In the polling sample. In 2008, when Democrats surged to the polls after eight years of George W. Bush, CNN’s exit polls showed a seven-point advantage for Democrats, 39/32, which mirrored Obama’s seven-point victory in the popular vote. In 2010?s midterms, CNN exit polls showed a 35/35/30 split. By contrast, the previous WaPo/ABC poll in March had a D/R/I of 31/27/36, which undersampled both parties relative to independents but left Democrats with a 4-point advantage — perhaps an arguable model for 2012 turnout. Today’s has a D/R/I of 34/23/34, adding seven points to that Democratic advantage and presenting a completely unrepresentative, absurd model for the 2012 turnout. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
It is small wonder, considering the unbelievable amount of debt Obama has amassed in such a short time, that more and more voices on the Left are taking up the cry that the debt really isn’ t a major problem. I agree. The term major is far too understated a term for the rapid pace we are on to national bankruptcy. Credit rating agency Egan-Jones downgraded the US credit rating to AA on April 5, over concerns of the sustainability of US public debt. Future generations will curse most of us as blind fools as they pay for our folly in attempting to rebuild the economy our current policies wrecked.
Another depressing video look at the debt situation: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Obama’s Justice Department Agrees to Pay $120,000.00 To Pro-Life Protestor Over Frivolous Prosecution
Hattip to Tina Korbe at Hot Air. The complete contempt that the Obama administration has for the civil liberties of Americans was exemplified in its prosecution of pro-life protestor Mary Pine.
The Justice Department has dropped an appeal in Holder v. Pine against pro-life sidewalk counselor Mary “Susan” Pine, who is represented by the civil rights firm Liberty Counsel. The DOJ has agreed to pay $120,000 for this frivolous lawsuit which, as the evidence indicated, was intended to intimidate Ms. Pine and send a shot over the bow of pro-lifers around the country.
Mr. Holder unsuccessfully sought thousands of dollars in fines against Ms. Pine, as well as a permanent injunction banning her from counseling women on the public sidewalk outside the Presidential Women’s Center (PWC) abortion mill (or any other “reproductive services” clinic).
After 18 months of litigation, the DOJ’s case was thrown out of federal court, and the department was chastised in a scathing ruling by U.S. District Judge Kenneth Ryskamp for filing a case with no evidence.
Judge Ryskamp wrote that Holder’s complete failure to present any evidence of wrongdoing, coupled with the DOJ’s cozy relationship with PWC and their apparent joint decision to destroy video surveillance footage of the alleged “obstruction,” caused the court to suspect a conspiracy at the highest levels of the Obama administration. “The Court is at a loss as to why the Government chose to prosecute this particular case in the first place,” wrote Judge Ryskamp. “The Court can only wonder whether this action was the product of a concerted effort between the Government and PWC, which began well before the date of the incident at issue, to quell Ms. Pine’s activities rather than to vindicate the rights of those allegedly aggrieved by Ms. Pine’s conduct.” →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
In a Time magazine interview Ozzie Guillen, major league baseball manager of the Miami Marlins and home to the largest number of Cuban expatriates, said that “I love Fidel Castro–I respect Fidel Castro.”
Fidel Castro, along with Che Guevara, have committed countless murders of innocent civilians, incarcerated many more, and the rest exiled to America. Needless to say Castro is a monster that will take his place on the ash heap of history quite soon.
He apologized but the damage is done. He denounced Castro, but it’s almost meaningless. Of course I take him in his sincerity and accept the apology, but that doesn’t mean you are allowed to escape punishment.
There are some pundits and reporters say that this is America and we do have a right of free speech, so the Miami Marlins shouldn’t fire Guillen. That’s where these pundits and reporters get it wrong, yes, Guillen has a right to free speech, but so do the Miami Marlins have a right to fire him in expressing their free speech as well.
The concept of free speech is that the U.S. allows it and they shouldn’t be persecuted for it by the U.S. government, but a private enterprise can do what they want.
Fire the guy. He’s known to be a loud mouth and he had time to articulate his thoughts in a sit-down interview with Time magazine. Plus the fact that he is from Venezuela where Hugo Chavez rules with impunity and is the Fidel’s BFF. So I can see where his “love” for Castro is emanating from.
Sometimes I feel like I am shooting the proverbial ducks in the proverbial barrel.
Everyone knows what Barack Obama’s campaign slogan was in 2008. No one seems to know what it will be for 2012. The White House has been cycling through catchphrases since announcing his reelection bid a year ago: Winning the Future, We Can’t Wait, An America Built to Last, An Economy Built to Last, A Fair Shot.
They seem to be looking for one to resonate — and the constant unveiling of new ones suggests that so far, none of them have. To communications experts, the kaleidoscope of slogans is the latest reflection of the difficulties finding and marketing a message that Obama has faced almost since his inauguration — another challenge that came with the shift from insurgent outsider to sitting president. “He’s all over the place,” said Bruce I. Newman, the Bill Clinton brand-messaging adviser whose “Bridge to the 21st Century” helped define Clinton’s 1996 reelection campaign. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
In 2007, a Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life study reported that one-third of Americans were raised Catholic but slightly less than one-third of those (~11% of all Catholics) stopped practicing their faith in the sense of “stopped attending Mass.”
That raises the question, “Why are those people not attending Mass?”
A USA Today article discussed a recent study of 298 people—67% of whom were women—who stopped attending Mass in the Diocese of Trenton (NJ). The study indicates they did so for three reasons:
- personal reasons: “the pastor who crowned himself king and looks down on all,” “the Church’s handling of the clergy sex abuse scandal,” “divorced and remarried Catholics are unwelcome at Mass”;
- political reasons: “eliminate the extreme conservative haranguing”; and,
- doctrinal reasons: “don’t spend so much time on issues like homosexuality and birth control.”
Nearly 50% of the respondents offered negative comments about their parish priests, whom they described as “arrogant,” “distant” and “insensitive.” Some also called for better homilies, better music, and greater accountability on the part of parish staff. And, despite the fact they no longer attend Mass, nearly 25% of the respondents still consider themselves Catholic which, in fact, they are. They’re just “lapsed” Catholics.
One of the study’s co-authors, Villanova University professor Charles Zech, believes the responses aren’t local but have broader implications that “affect the whole Church.” Zech divided the responses into two categories: “the things that can’t change but that we can do a better job explaining” and the “things that aren’t difficult to fix.”
The Motley Monk would note that the phenomenon of lapsed Catholics isn’t anything new in Church history, especially during times of persecution. Given that history, whether the fact that ~11% of Catholics in the Diocese of Trenton didn’t attend Mass in 2011 is high or low, The Motley Monk doesn’t know, and whether or not that statistic should raise “red flags” is open to debate. It would seem there will always be a certain percentage of “lapsed” members for any religious tradition.
If lapsed Catholics can’t accept the Church teaching and it’s political or personal implications, what The Motley Monk doesn’t “get” is why they don’t find a religious denomination that will provide them exactly what they want? After all, although the Church should never give up explaining those “things that can’t change but that we can do a better job explaining,” The Motley Monk doesn’t think many lapsed Catholics are really that much interested in having those things explained all over to them yet another time. They’ve made up their minds and have decided they don’t agree with Church teaching. That’s why they’ve lapsed.
However, with nearly 13% of respondents in the Trenton study indicating they would welcome a call from a Church official—they even provided their names and contact information for that purpose—and with many more respondents indicating they were pleased to be asked for their input, it would be important for them, their parish, and the diocese if the bishop, the pastor, or a priest did contact them in an effort to see if those “things that aren’t difficult to fix” can be fixed.
But that’s where Zech’s analysis sends up a red flag for The Motley Monk. He notes:
The fact that they took the time to respond gives us a chance. If some things change, or we do a better job of representing the church’s position, we might woo some of them back.
It’s the “If some things change…” clause.
When it comes to Church doctrine—for example, the sanctity of marriage, the male priesthood, the sanctity of life, artificial birth control—The Motley Monk would guess none of that’s going to change any time soon, if ever. Reiterating that fact to lapsed Catholics, The Motley Monk thinks, there’d quite likely be very little chance to “woo” those respondents back.
What’s The Motley Monk to tell them, “Come on back. [wink] All of that stuff is the creation of man and doesn’t have anything to do with God”?
To read the USA Today article, click on the following link:
To read The Motley Monk daily blog, click on the following link:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Easter is the feast of the new creation. Jesus is risen and dies no more. He has opened the door to a new life, one that no longer knows illness and death. He has taken mankind up into God himself. “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God”, as Saint Paul says in the First Letter to the Corinthians (15:50). On the subject of Christ’s resurrection and our resurrection, the Church writer Tertullian in the third century was bold enough to write: “Rest assured, flesh and blood, through Christ you have gained your place in heaven and in the Kingdom of God” (CCL II, 994). →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
O Christ, You Saviour of the world, merciful Creator and Redeemer, the only offspring from the Godhead of the Father, flowing in an indescribable manner from the heart of Your Parent, You self-existing Word, and powerful from the mouth of Your Father, equal to Him, of one mind with Him, His fellow, coeval with the Father, from whom at first the world derived its origin!
You suspend the firmament, You heap together the soil, You pour forth the seas, by whose government all things which are fixed in their places flourish. Who seeing that the human race was plunged in the depth of misery, that You might rescue man, Yourself also became man: nor were You willing only to be born with a body, but You became flesh, which endured to be born and to die. You undergo funeral obsequies, Yourself the author of life and framer of the world, You enter the path of death, in giving the aid of salvation. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
When the creation of man was first mooted and when, even at that stage, the Enemy freely confessed that he foresaw a certain episode about a cross, Our Father very naturally sought an interview and asked for an explanation. The Enemy gave no reply except to produce the cock-and-bull story about disinterested love which He has been circulating ever since. This Our Father naturally could not accept. He implored the Enemy to lay His cards on the table, and gave Him every opportunity. He admitted that he felt a real anxiety to know the secret; the Enemy replied “I wish with all my heart that you did”.
Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis
Christ died for me. The death of Christ on Calvary has immense theological significance: the salvation of all mankind, the redemption from sin and the opening of the gates of Heaven. I understand all of that on an intellectual level. However, on Good Friday the fact that the Creator of All died for me, one of His creations, always hits me like an emotional freight train. All of my life I have been fascinated by courage, especially sacrificial courage where men die to protect others. We are such a flawed species, but capable of the heights of nobility when love and courage combine. Then we put aside the great fear of death, and truly understand why we are here: to love. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
(I post this each year on Good Friday.)
I thank you Marcus for taking on the onerous task of acting as my secretary, in addition to your regular duties as my aide, in regard to this portion of the report. The Greek, Aristides, is competent, and like most Greek secretaries his Latin is quite graceful, but also like most Greek secretaries he does not know when to keep his mouth shut. I want him kept away from this work, and I want you to observe the strictest security. Caiaphas was playing a nefarious game, and I do not think we are out of the woods yet. I do not want his spies finding out what I am telling the Imperator and Caiaphas altering the tales his agents are now, no doubt, spreading in Rome. Let us take the Jew by surprise for once! →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading