Monthly Archives: November 2012
Alright, let’s face it. Is this the time of year, just after Thanksgiving, when you start dreading the impending “Holiday (Don’t call it Christmas) Season?” You know, the season of nightly news stories about how schools won’t allow the display of Christian symbols, the already beginning onslaught of commercialism and advertising, the atheist sloganeering that degrades an event so sacred, and all the politically correct puffery about how to speak of the Holy Celebration of The Birthday – Christ’s Mass – without actually saying it.
It’s almost intolerable and almost ruinous, like the odor of the hydro-treated petroleum distillates of Goo Gone® invading a warm and apple-cinnamony glowing kitchen. Pee-yew!
How to rise above it all? Well, there’s a unique, if not peculiar, saint who would probably react the way I’d like to react in the middle of holiday nonsense, St. Christina of Liége, also more appropriately named, St. Christina the Astonishing. She frequently tried to escape, well, worldly stinkiness. Continue reading
We must never cease to proclaim in fearless tones the great principles of freedom and the rights of man which are the joint inheritance of the English-speaking world and which through Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Habeas Corpus, trial by jury, and the English common law find their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence.
Sir Winston Churchill
America has had fewer firmer friends among foreign leaders than the Great Commoner, Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister who heroically led Great Britain to victory in World War II. Half American courtesy of his mother, Churchill was often regarded as having a brash American style according to more staid English politicians. The first person to be granted honorary American citizenship by an Act of Congress, Churchill had a life long fondness for his maternal native land. During World War II he was ever grateful for America as an ally which saved Great Britain. Here is what he wrote about his reaction to the news of Pearl Harbor: Continue reading
From Of Plymouth Plantation, by Governor William Bradford:
All this while no supply was heard of, neither knew they when they might expect any. So they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery. At length, after much debate of things, the Governor (with the advice of the chiefest amongst them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves; in all other things to go on in the general way as before. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number, for that end, only for present use (but made no division for inheritance) and ranged all boys and youth under some family. This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression. Continue reading
When we review the calamities which afflict so many other nations, the present condition of the United States affords much matter of consolation and satisfaction. Our exemption hitherto from foreign war, an increasing prospect of the continuance of that exception, the great degree of internal tranquillity we have enjoyed, the recent confirmation of that tranquillity by the suppression of an insurrection which so wantonly threatened it, the happy course of our public affairs in general, the unexampled prosperity of all classes of our citizens, are circumstances which peculiarly mark our situation with indications of the Divine beneficence toward us. In such a state of things it is in an especial manner our duty as a people, with devout reverence and affectionate gratitude, to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God and to implore Him to continue and confirm the blessings we experience. Continue reading
If a nation ever needed Divine assistance it was our own America during the Civil War. Riven in two, the nation must have seemed on a path to destruction by many of those who lived through that terrible trial. Abraham Lincoln, as he led the United States through that struggle, increasingly found his mind turning to God. This Proclamation was written by Secretary of State Seward, but the sentiments are no doubt ones in which Lincoln fully joined.
By the President of the United States of America.
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union. Continue reading
This is the third and final in a series taken from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s essay, “Theology and Church Politics” published in a 1987 book Church Ecumenism and Politics: New Endeavors in Ecclesiology. In it he explains what theology is, what the relation of theology is to the Church, and what the relation of the Church is to education and politics.
The first article dealt with the fundamental claim to reason itself, why the atheistic view does not work and the Christian view must. The second article dealt with the ordered relationship of the Church and the University, how the Church must guide the search for truth. These are important concepts in our times. Some have asked whether the Church is partisan and what role she should play in the politics of civil society. Cardinal Ratzinger answered. Knowing how to explain this is a powerful tool for evangelization.
First, Church and Theology
Politics, rightly understood, is the practice of government or administration, so there is a political relationship between the Church and theology. The Church governs theology, but it is not a relationship concerned with Ecclesial powers which would be an “outright contradiction of the Church’s true nature.” The Church is not the “party headquarters where party ideology is reviewed in terms of a strategy for gaining power.”
The Church is the environment where reason seeks meaning. The Magisterium’s governing action is to warn theology against paths that lead to abstraction even as she respects the individual’s responsibility to inquire within the environment of faith. There is a duality, a productive functional relationship, a legitimate freedom.
Can this Freedom Fail?
France elected hard line socialists to power on May 15 of this year. What has happened since? Something that will come as no surprise to anyone with even a cursory knowledge of history:
In what will be a severe blow to Socialist president François Hollande, the agency said it was reducing the country’s rating from AAA to AA1, claiming France’s ability for economic growth was being hampered by “structural challenges” including its lack of competitiveness, high unemployment, public debt and market rigidity.
It said it was not confident Hollande’s government could – or would – introduce the necessary structural reforms and spending cuts to improved its rating in the medium term and expressed concern over France’s exposure to risks from other ailing eurozone countries.
It came as France was reeling from a damning Economist article entitled “The time-bomb at the heart of Europe”. The special report warned that the parlous state of the French economy, its rising unemployment, lack of competitiveness, dwindling industry and high public spending, could overshadow the problems of Greece or Spain, and sparked angry reactions from French ministers. Continue reading
After the American Revolution, former American officers in that struggle created a fraternal organization called the Society of Cinncinatus, named after the Roman consul and dictator, a constitutional office of the Roman Republic in emergencies, who saved Rome through his efforts in the fifth century BC and then retired to his humble farm. The Society selected as its symbol a bald eagle. In a letter to his daughter Sally Bache on January 26, 1784, no doubt with his tongue placed firmly in his cheek, Dr. Franklin indicated that he thought another bird would have been a better choice.
Others object to the Bald Eagle, as looking too much like a Dindon, or Turkey. For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen as the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perch’d on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him. With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping and Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country, tho’ exactly fit for that Order of Knights which the French call Chevaliers d’Industrie. I am on this account not displeas’d that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For in Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America. Eagles have been found in all Countries, but the Turkey was peculiar to ours, the first of the Species seen in Europe being brought to France by the Jesuits from Canada, and serv’d up at the Wedding Table of Charles the ninth. He is besides, tho’ a little vain and silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on. Continue reading
As we prepare for Thanksgiving on Thursday, and as we recall our blessings and thank God for each and every one, let us also remember the humble turkey and the various disasters that result when that proud bird is not treated with the care that it deserves, dead or alive. Oldtimers like myself will recognize the above video as part of the famous “Turkey Drop” episode from WKRP, a sitcom from the Seventies.
Of course Turkey Disasters are not, unfortunately, restricted to the realm of fiction. Deep frying a turkey poses various risks.
Here we have a case of the flaming avian:
William Shatner warns of the dangers of deep frying turkeys:
This is the second in a series taken from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s essay, “Theology and Church Politics” published in a 1987 book Church Ecumenism and Politics: New Endeavors in Ecclesiology. In it he explains what theology is, what the relation of theology is to the Church, and what the relation of the Church is to education and politics. The first article dealt with the fundamental claim to reason itself, from an atheistic view and the Christian view.
The Christian position is not based on “In the beginning was irrationality…” but on the opposite. The Gospel of John says, “In the beginning was the Word: and the Word was with God: and the Word was God.” God, the Creator who made everything out of nothing, is Reason Itself, and since we are made in the likeness and image of God, our ability to reason came from Reason Itself, revealed to us by Christ, the Word or Logos. The foundation of rationality cannot be irrationality; reason cannot spring from the unreasonable. This article moves into the relationship, then, between the Church and the University.
“Communio” (def.) the organic life of the Church where the diversity of gifts—like the various parts of the body—work together in complementary ways to usher in God’s reign.
St. Paul described communio using these words:
As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:12)
Was this idyllic image not one of the primary images used by Second Vatican Council to describe the Church and its organic life?
- Neither “liberals” nor “conservatives.”
- Neither “ultra-liberals” nor “ultra-conservatives.”
- Neither “Tridentine” nor “post-Vatican II.”
Only the one People of God consisting of the Body of Christ and their gifts—diverse as they are—alive and at work with one another “transforming all things in Christ Jesus.”
After five decades, however, it appears that communio is out and hunkering down is in, at least according to the Reverend Richard McBrien who holds the Crowley-O’Brien Professor of Theology Chair and is now hunkering down at the University of Notre Dame. The nation’s Catholic universities and colleges, Fr. McBrien observes, are places “where the long arms of a bishop cannot reach.”
Not all bishops, mind you. Just those “ultra-conservatives”—the Blessed John Paul II and Benedict XVI appointees in the United States.
Unfortunately, it’s some ideological progressives who have made communio impossible. Following Vatican II, these progressives didn’t want, nor do they want, nor they never will want any conservative (forget the ultra-conservatives) intruding into their safe zone.
What these ideological progressives have always feared most is any conservative bishop—not just an ultra-conservative—having the audacity to challenge the their magisterium on what they have made their home turf.
That said, Fr. McBrien’s article in the National Catholic Reporter may provide an indication of a far more profound change: The pendulum is changing directions, potentially threatening the protections afforded Fr. McBrien and those ideological progressives for nearly five decades.
Yes, those new conservative prelates are emphasizing fidelity to Church teaching. That alone seems to be scaring the bejeezus out of Fr. McBrien and ideological progressives.
A formerly compliant national hierarchy—whose members generally allowed those progressives free reign to redefine Church teaching in their image and likeness—is becoming increasingly less compliant. Its members may even possess sufficient backbone at some point in the near future to extend their long arm into those institutions and hold the ideological progressives—like Fr. McBrien—accountable for their doctrinal errors…in exactly the same way the nuns are now being held accountable for their doctrinal errors.
Of course, Fr. McBrien’s hope is that Benedict XVI’s successor will adopt McBrien’s progressive vision for the Church and will undo the “terrible backlash” visited on the U.S. Church by those ultra-conservative appointees who “overemphasize the abortion issue” over “social justice.”
Short of that, what’s next? “Ideologically progressive professors at Catholic universities and colleges on the bus?”
The “signs of the times” indicate that something more may be transpiring than just the pendulum shifting direction: Communio with the Bishop of Rome is in.
The week after the NCR published Fr. McBrien’s article, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Carlo Maria Viganò, extended his long arm into the matter.
According to the Catholic News Agency, Archbishop Viganò told an audience at the University of Notre Dame that it is a “grave and major problem” when self-professed Catholic faculty at Catholic institutions are the sources of teachings that conflict with Church teaching on important policy issues rather than defend it. Professors at these institutions who do so, the Archbishop noted, are “allying with those forces that are pitted against the Church. These institutions hold themselves out to be “Catholic.” But, he observed:
This, my brothers and sisters, is a grave and major problem that challenges the first freedom of religious liberty and the higher purpose of the human person.
Maybe the signs of the times are signaling that time is running out for the ideological progressives and their project to deconstruct Catholic higher education. And Fr. McBrien is worried about it.
To read the NCR article, click on the following link:
To read the CNA article, click on the following link:
Secession has been in the news lately. Well, not the mainstream news, for the most part, but local, Internet and alternative news outlets have been reporting a growing number of signatures added to secession petitions submitted to Washington (one has it at over 750,000 signatures). This began almost immediately after President Obama’s reelection, and while no one really expects this particular movement to go anywhere, people on both sides of our political divide take it somewhat seriously as a sign of how polarized and unstable our situation has become.
I’m going to tell you what I think about secession, and my hope is that readers will find it somewhat reasonable. In short, I reject the absolutely hysterical and frothing narrative that comes from some leftist quarters about the evil of secession. I don’t much appreciate the haughty dismissal and contempt that comes from some on both the left and the right, as if only a mental patient would want to secede from what America has become. Lastly, I don’t agree with the secessionists, but it has nothing to do with any sort of moral or philosophical objection to the principle of secession (I don’t think it is racist or crazy, in other words). Now to the meat and bones.
One of the many dreadful results of the American people deciding to give the Southside Messiah another four years to see how much of the country he can gut, is that the struggle over the HHS mandate will not be resolved by Congress simply reversing the initiative of the Obama administration.
Lawsuits against the HHS Mandate have been meeting with some success, go here to read about injunctive relief being given to a private employer, and doubtless all of this will eventually end up before the Supreme Court. It has been heartening to see how many non-Catholics have been standing with Catholics in this area. For example, Tyndale House Publishers have gone to court and gotten injunctive relief. Go here to read about it. Continue reading
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Part three of a series on militia in the American Revolution. Go here and here to read the previous posts in the series. On the eve of the Revolution the 13 colonies had no Army but they were not defenseless. Their militias constituted a military force of uncertain power but they had a history as old as their colonies and they allowed the colonists to assume that as a last resort they would not be helpless against the British Army. General Thomas Gage, the commander of the British garrison in Boston and the military governor of Massachusetts, viewed the militia as a constant threat to his forces, and it was his sending of a detachment of 700 troops to seize the militia arsenal at Concord that precipitated the American Revolution.
The battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775 demonstrated both the strengths and the weaknesses of the American militia system. The initial clash at Lexington involved a standard militia unit of 77 men, not a picked minute man company. The militia was under the command of Captain John Parker, a veteran of the French and Indian War. Parker was in ill-health, suffering from tuberculosis, and some accounts indicate he was difficult to hear. 77 men of course stood no chance against 700 British regulars, and Parker seemed to regard his militia as making a political statement rather than actually attempting to stop the British. Shots were exchange, who fired first is unknown. The British swiftly brushed aside the fleeing militia and continued their march on Concord. So far, so ineffective, as far as the American militia was concerned.
But the British did not simply have to deal with one company of militia at Lexington. The entire country around Boston was up in arms, the word of the British foray spread by Paul Revere, William Dawes and other messengers, and the militia companies were assembling and marching to fight, convinced after the news of Lexington filtered out that the long-expected war had begun. Continue reading
Well, on Saturday I went with my family to see Lincoln. Considering that the screenplay was written by Tony Kushner and the film directed by Steven Spielberg, I wasn’t expecting much. I wouldn’t have been totally surprised to see something along the lines of “Gay Illinois Lincoln and the Confederacy of Doom!’. Instead I was pleasantly surprised by the film. It is a great film and perhaps a minor masterpiece. It is definitely one of the finest screen representations I have ever seen of Lincoln, and it is a worthy tribute to the Great Emancipator. Read below for the rest of my review, and the usual caveat regarding spoilers is in full force. Continue reading
Well cows and politicians do have a lot a lot in common in that they are fond of bull, produce some noxious by products and tend to complain a lot when their sacred calves are taken away. The usual open thread rules apply: be concise, be charitable and, above all, be amusing.
Something for the weekend. Whenever I need cheering up, or simply an energy boost, Franz Waxman’s Ride to Dubno always does the trick. It was written for the movie Taras Bulba (1962) and the video clip at the beginning of the post is the amazing sequence where the song is played as the Cossack army gathers on its way to Dubno. Continue reading