Monthly Archives: February 2013

Richard Dawkins: Bigot and Coward

Atheism

Atheist blowhard Richard Dawkins never has the least hesitation in bashing Christians and Jews, but when the subject of Islam comes up, at least when he is being interviewed by Al-Jazeerah that will blast his comments throughout the Islamic world, well that is another matter:

While you may not agree with the views of the new breed of aggressive atheists who have emerged in recent years you have to admire their courage for bravely standing up and speaking truth to power against the various religious institutions whose integrity they seek to undermine. No matter what consequences they might face, they aren’t afraid to lay out their case against religion in terms that are often harsh and sure to offend.

Here is an example from an article called Facing uncomfortable truths:

In a recent Al-Jazeerah interview, Richard Dawkins was asked his views on God. He argued that the god of “the Old Testament” is “hideous” and “a monster”, and reiterated his claim from The God Delusion that the God of the Torah is the most unpleasant character “in fiction”.

As you can see, Dawkins has no trouble attacking the Hebrew God in a most direct and uncompromising manner. No atheist wallflower he.

Asked if he thought the same of the God of the Koran, Dawkins ducked the question, saying: “Well, um, the God of the Koran I don’t know so much about.”

How can it be that the world’s most fearless atheist, celebrated for his strident opinions on the Christian and Jewish Gods, could profess to know so little about the God of the Koran? Has he not had the time? Or is Professor Dawkins simply demonstrating that most crucial trait of his species: survival instinct.

Whoops. It’s funny how these confident, cocksure prophets of atheism-who barely have time to take a breath between slamming the tenets of Christianity and Judaism-often get curiously tongue-tied and shy when the subject of Islam comes up. The idea that Dawkins doesn’t “know so much about” the God of the Koran is absurd. Of course he knows about Islam. And the same disdain and disregard that he has for Judaism and Christianity should surely apply to Islam as well.

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Book Review: Return To Order

Return to Order

Title: Return To Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society

Author: John Horvat II

Publisher: York Press

Publication Date: January 2013

For my first TAC book review, I will be looking at a book that is being seriously promoted by the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP), Return To Order (RTO) by John Horvat II. I was somewhat familiar with the perspective of TFP prior to reading the book, having attended one of their conferences and read some of their basic literature. Horvat acknowledges his indebtedness to Dr. Plínio Corrêa de Oliveira, TFPs founder and primary theoretician who developed a historical narrative of the rise and fall of Christendom in the grand style I have always enjoyed and appreciated. Whereas Oliveira’s work, or at least what I have read of it, was broadly focused, Horvat’s analysis is specifically focused on the United States.

The premise of  Part I of RTO is that the cultural and economic crisis of the United States is rooted in a spiritual disorder that the author identifies as “frenetic intemperance”, a willful and energetic disregard for limitation and restraint in virtually all areas of life. Unlike many cultural and economic critics, Horvat does not blame “capitalism” for the development and proliferation of this spiritual disorder. Indeed, Part II of the book asserts that the technological progress and prosperity that capitalism has bestowed upon civilization could have been – and should have been – pursued within the cultural context of Christendom. There is no necessary connection between material progress and spiritual decay.

Horvat is firm in his rejection of socialism as a solution to cultural and economic disorder. Though he puts forward an idealistic view of the (capital S) State that I don’t think will ever be recovered, he does distinguish this ideal from the really-existing state, which is managed and staffed by people who loathe the remnants of Christendom and work ceaselessly to purge them from the society they are building.

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Pro-Life Democrats?

Matt Archbold at Creative Minority Report explains to us why the concept of “pro-life” Democrats is almost entirely a sick joke:

Here’s what it seems happened. When the bill limiting abortions to the first 20 weeks hit the Arkansas legislature last week, pro-life Republicans and pro-life Democrats joined together to vote for it. Nice, right? But it seems now that the only reason the pro-life Dems voted for it was because they knew that the “pro-life” Democratic Governor Mike Beebe was going to veto it.

Because what happened now was that moments after the veto was announced the pro-life Republicans sought to mount a vote to override the veto. You might remember that last week the bill got 80 votes. But yesterday when the vote hit the House floor, all but two of the “pro-life” Dems walked out so they didn’t have to cast a vote. That’s right. They left empty chairs in their place. These legislators are profiles in cowardice.

Their empty chairs are the perfect symbol of pro-life Democrats. When push comes to shove, the overwhelming majority of pro-life Dems are Dems first and foremost.

Two Democrats showed an enormous amount of courage by voting for the override – John Catlett and Jody Dickinson. They deserve our praise and admiration for standing up to their government and the party for the unborn.

Now, the bill moves on to the Senate where I’m certain pro-life Dems will be fleeing out the windows of the legislature to avoid a vote. Pray that some stand up for the unborn. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Can (Should) the Pope Influence the Election?

 

This is a topic that I have been pondering ever since Pope Benedict announced his resignation.  The media, being ever so wise, has insisted that the Holy Father refrain from doing anything that could remotely be considered as giving a particular candidate the papal nod.  It strike me, though, that this deserves a great deal more consideration.  It is not entirely obvious to me that it would be “wrong” for the current Holy Father to attempt to influence the election.  In order to understand this, though, it is helpful to make several distinctions.

First, Church law is quite clear that the Pope has the power to determine how his successor is elected.  Virtually every pontiff in recent memory has modified the process to greater or lesser degrees.  Universi Dominici gregis (John Paul II) reinforces the age old teaching in no uncertain terms: “It is in fact an indisputable principle that the Roman Pontiff has the right to define and adapt to changing times the manner of designating the person called to assume the Petrine succession in the Roman See. This regards, first of all, the body entrusted with providing for the election of the Roman Pontiff.”  In other words, the Pope can set rules even to the extent of who gets to cast a vote.  That being said, the role currently belongs (and has belonged for quite some time) to the College of Cardinals: “Confirming therefore the norm of the current Code of Canon Law (cf. Canon 349), which reflects the millennial practice of the Church, I once more affirm that the College of electors of the Supreme Pontiff is composed solely of the Cardinals of Holy Roman Church” (UDG).  Yet this doesn’t change the fact that it is always subject to change.  Regarding the conclave itself, John Paul II reiterated that it not of itself necessary: “[T]heologians and canonists of all times agree that this institution is not of its nature necessary for the valid election of the Roman Pontiff” (UDG).  He then confirms his desire to see it continue: “I confirm by this Constitution that the Conclave is to continue in its essential structure.”  So once more we see that the conclave is something that could be changed or even eliminated if any sitting pontiff so desired.

The fact is simple: the Pope can lawfully determine who is to vote for his successor and he can lawfully determine the manner in which such an election is to take place.  While I am no canon lawyer, it seems within the bounds of the Petrine Office (with appropriate modifications of canon and special law) that the Holy Father could even do something absurd, perhaps saying: “I hereby declare that the election of the Holy Father in the case of a vacant See be entrusted to Cardinal Burke and Cardinal Canizares.  They alone, by majority vote, will determine the successor of St. Peter.”  Of course, such a specific naming would be imprudent, for if the individuals named were to pass away before the vacancy and the special law were not modified, the Church would find herself in a real pickle.  But it does demonstrate the the Holy Father is given a great amount of latitude in influencing who will succeed him.

It is not even clear whether an election proper is necessary for valid succession.  It seems that the Pope in theory could simply name his successor (again with the proper changes in canon and special law, all within his powers as a reigning pontiff).

Of course, I am not suggesting that these sorts of thing would be prudent by any means.  Numerous problems could arise from such specifics, both practical and political.  But it does make the point that the Holy Father most certainly has the right to influence an election.

Next, we should note that even under current law, the Holy Father does influence the election.  For instance, John Paul II changed the “80 years old” cutoff date from the time of the conclave to the time of vacancy.  This means that there is at least one cardinal (Cardinal Kasper) who will participate in the conclave and yet would not have under the rules of Paul VI.  When the make up of the body of electors is changed, the election has been influenced.  Pope Benedict reinstated the long tradition of a necessary two-thirds vote to decide a runoff election in the case of serious deadlock, whereas under John Paul II’s rule a simple majority would have been sufficient.  This most certainly can influence the election, and if it indeed progresses to the point of a runoff, it likely will influence the election.

Let us also not forget the obvious point that the voters are appointed by the Pope himself.  Benedict has already appointed over half of the cardinal electors, and every cardinal elector has been appointed by either Benedict XVI or John Paul II.  In the appointing of the college, the Pope clearly influences the election.

Finally, though perhaps more subtlety, there is the fact that Pope Benedict has resigned office, and in doing so he has necessarily placed the election of the next pontiff during a time when the former pontiff is still alive.  It is naive to think that this will not enter the minds of the cardinals.  Pope Benedict will influence this election and will do so without having to speak a word to anyone.

So the answer to “does the Pope influence the next papal election” is emphatically “yes.”

Of course the media, and others who are terrified of a new pope who is in continuity with the current Holy Father, recognizes these influences.  Some have even accused the pope of deliberately trying the extend his pontificate in the act of resigning.  Outside of the obvious influences, the claim is, “Once the rules are set and the players are named, the Pope should simply stay out of it.”  People would throw an absolute fit if the Pope were to say, “I really think y’all [can you say y’all with a German accent?] should look at that Burke guy, or maybe the cardinal from Sri Lanka.”  I can hear it now, “How could he!  This is so irresponsible.  The decision should be left with the cardinals, and the pope-emeritus should not try to meddle with it.”  And yet I don’t think it is that simple.

First, in the secular world this happens all the time.  Sitting presidents and former presidents often endorse replacement candidates, both in primaries and general elections.  (How I wish President Obama would have endorsed a replacement candidate.)  It is such a normal part of politics that one never hears cries of “tampering” or “meddling,” even from within the political parties during the primaries.  In fact, the media waits with baited breath to hear who a particular political figure will endorse.

Why is it different for the Pope?  Why would it be so tragic if Benedict were to endorse a particular cardinal?  It certainly wouldn’t invalidate the election.  While he is pope, he certainly has the right to direct the future of the Church, and as we have seen he has the explicit right to decide how the next pope is named.  The media’s notion that the pope has no right to influence the next pontificate is both a double standard that they don’t apply to any other election and, quite frankly, is an absurd misunderstanding of the role of the sitting pontiff.  Of course the pope has the “right” to do so.  In fact, it is an explicit right granted to him by Church law.  (By the way, I have a feeling that if the Pope were to endorse a Cardinal Mahony or a Cardinal Danneels, the American media would miraculously lose their objection to meddling and applaud the pope for his courage.  The media objects to the pope’s influence only because they know what that influence means.)

But shouldn’t the election of the Pope be the result of listening to the Holy Spirit?  The answer is emphatically “yes,” but it also requires an understanding of how the Holy Spirit works.  More often than not, the Spirit works through the thoughts and actions of men.  This is why it is no contradiction to say that the Holy Spirit works through the conclave process even though it involves fallible men casting votes.  (Let us not forget, however, that the Spirit can only work if the cardinals themselves are open.  This is precisely why we pray for the cardinals.  There is a guarantee that the Holy Spirit will speak, but there is no guarantee that the Cardinals will listen.)  Who is to say that the Spirit, who is quite capable of working through a body of electors, is not also capable of working through a current pontiff?  Perhaps the Spirit wants to work through a current pope specifically endorsing a candidate, or dare I say it, even naming a candidate and getting rid of the entire conclave process.  As absurd as it sounds, this is exactly why “it is in fact an indisputable principle that the Roman Pontiff has the right to define and adapt to changing times the manner of designating the person called to assume the Petrine succession in the Roman See.”

Thus far this has been a theoretical question.  In theory the pope can influence, even directly, the election of his successor, and it is unjust to claim that it would be “wrong” for him to do so.  It is an entirely different question as to whether or not it would be prudent for this pope, Benedict XVI, at this particular point in history, to explicitly tap the next pontiff.  I fully recognize that a papal election is something altogether different that a national political election.  The irony, though, is that the media seems to not grasp this difference, except when it is convenient.  That being said, if only because of the massive media fall out the would follow, it is probably not a good idea to make such an explicit endorsement.  We would be dealing with claims of election fraud (erroneous claims, but claims nonetheless) for the entire next pontificate.  Further, I am one that believes in organic growth in all things Catholic, and a sudden change from conclave to something resembling specific influence would be a rupture in the history of papal elections.  We are already dealing with the historical anomaly of a papal resignation.  Keeping all else in continuity in the past is most certainly the prudent course of action.  If the Holy Spirit is to guide the Church is making such radical changes to the papal election process, it will be slowly and deliberately.
Can the pope influence the election?  Yes: he is specifically granted this power in church law.  Does he influence the next election?  Yes: he names the cardinal electors and sets the rules by which the next pope is elected.  Will this specific pope influence the election once he is no longer pope?  No.  Should he influence the election explicitly?  Probably not, but this is an answer that deserves the above enormous qualification.

Resignation Questions

 

Pope Benedict will  resign his office today.  I wish him all the best.  I can only imagine the burden he lays down now.  Actually I can’t.  Being the Vicar of Christ and having the responsibility of shepherding His Church?  Only the men who have have filled the shoes of the Fisherman can have any comprehension of what must be the crushing weight of that office.  I hope he enjoys his well earned rest.  What are the practical long term consequences of his decision?

1.  What does the old Pope think? The new Pope will have to deal with something none of his predecessors had to deal with:  an aggressive world wide media incessantly trying to ask Benedict how his successor is doing.  I am confident that Benedict will remain mum, but that will not stop rumors from constantly arising as to whether he is pleased or displeased with the actions of his successor.  If this resignation starts a trend in popes resigning, then this may be something new for future popes to have to wrestle with.

2.  Will Benedict write his memoirs?  I doubt it, but it is a possibility.  Popes commenting on their own papacy in retrospect is something new under the sun.

3.  New ammo for the sedevacantists?  Opposition to the new Pope, and opposition there will doubtless be, on the fringes may argue that he is not really Pope because the resignation was invalid.  Since popes have resigned before I do not find this argument logical, but I am certain this will be made.

4.  Push for a papal mandatory retirement age?  There is already a mandatory retirement age of 70 for priests and 75 for bishops and archbishops.  I always have thought this was an unwise act on the part of Paul VI and I fear that there may be a push for such a mandatory retirement age for popes.

5.  Psst, did you hear the Pope is going to resign?  The Vatican has always been a rumor mill and now we will have a new one.  Whenever a Pope sneezes the rumors are going to fly. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Sally Quinn, Short Skirts and the Church of Rome

Sally Quinn at the Washington Post has a column in which she calls for those darn Catholics to cease to be Catholic basically, and begins it all when she recalls the humiliation she felt during her salad days, presumably sometime after dinosaurs ruled the earth, when she was turned away from the Vatican because her skirt was too short.  Unfortunately for her, her column attracted the attention of Christopher Johnson at Midwest Conservative Journal, a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels so frequently in defense of the Church that I have designated him Defender of the Faith:

Yeah, here’s the thing.  We Protestants obviously don’t have a dog in this hunt, as they say, but lots of us would really appreciate it if you mackeral snappers would pick the damned pace up and elect a new pope yesterday.  Then we wouldn’t have to have read about how Sally Quinn visited the Vatican right around the time that William Howard Taft, AKA ”Fatso,” was US President:

The first time I visited the Vatican as an adult I was in my 20s.  I was so excited. My boyfriend and I dressed up as if it were Easter Sunday. He wore a coat and tie. I wore a long sleeved black dress with pearls and little ballet flats. We were turned away. It seems my skirt was a half inch too short. I was crushed. I felt ashamed and humiliated. I certainly had not set out to offend anyone, much less God.

Two things, Sal.  They’re called “travel guides” and just about everybody publishes them.  So ignorance of the law and all that.  And if I’m wearing a Motörhead T-shirt and I haven’t shaved or bathed in three days, give or take, I don’t have anything to complain about if Vatican border guards tell me, “Not so much, no.”  Quinnsie, on the other hand, went back to the Vatican some time during the Coolidge Administration.

The last time I visited was five years ago, after the child sexual abuse scandal. Not long before, I had spent a weekend at Williamsburg, and I remember thinking that perhaps one day the Vatican would be like that same historic village. There would be actors dressed as priests and nuns and one actor playing the pope in flowing robes waving from the balcony, remembering an institution as it once existed.

And anybody with a brain would be Episcopalian by now.  A few days later, Sally’s little “On Faith” thing ran some advice to the Roman Catholic Church from a Jewish atheist.

[A whole lot of stupid-ass liberal bumper stickers omitted.]

So, Rome?  We’re going to need you to hurry things along, all right?  Really. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

CS Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debating Christ

I look forward to seeing this play Freud’s Last Session when I have an opportunity:

Toward the end of the play Freud’s Last Session, a fictional conversation about the meaning of human life between Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis concludes,“How mad, to think we could untangle the world’s greatest mystery in one hour.”Freud responds, “The only thing more mad is to not think of it at all.” The combined sense of the limits to human knowledge and the unavoidability of the big questions is one of the many impressive features of this dramatic production, the remote origins of which are in a popular class of Dr. Armand Nicholi, professor of psychiatry in the Harvard Medical School. Nicholi penned a book, The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life, which the playwright Mark St. Germain turned into an off-Broadway play, now in its second year in New York and just beginning a run in Chicago. 

I had a chance recently to see the successful New York production, directed by Tyler Marchant and starring George Morfogen as Freud and Jim Stanek as Lewis. The play is not perfect; some of the dialogue is wooden, the result of the attempt to squeeze elements from the major works of the two authors into their conversation. Nicholi does a better job of this in his book, largely because he is free from the dialogue form. But the theatrical revival of the dialogue is what stands out in this production. In this case, the theater is an arena for the contest of ideas. There is a healthy reminder that philosophy itself has taken on various dramatic and literary forms; indeed, philosophy as a theater of debate hearkens back to the very founding of philosophy in the Platonic dialogue. Something of that original sense of philosophy as a live debate between interlocutors whose views and lives are at stake is operative in Freud’s Last Session. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Tell Us What You Really Think Hans

Hans Hunt

 

Hattip to Matt Archbold at Creative Minority Report.  The Reverend Audette Fulbright, newly appointed Unitarian-Universalist ministress in Cheyenne Wyoming decided to write a letter to Hans Hunt, State Representative:

Dear Representative,

I hope you are taking care of yourself during this busy session. I know it is a challenging, compressed time.

I am writing to express my grave concern about House Bill 105. Ample evidence has shown that schools and guns do not mix, and in particular, guns in the hands of amateurs/non-professionals is extremely dangerous, especially in any highly-charged situation. to expose our children to greater risk in their schools by encouraging more guns on campuses is something that we cannot allow.

My husband and I moved to Wyoming not too long ago. We believed it was a good place to raise children. With the recent and reactive expansion of gun laws and the profoundly serious dangers of fracking, we find we are seriously reconsidering our decision, which is wrenching to all of us. However, the safety of our family must come first. We are waiting to see what the legislature does this session. I know of other new-to-Wyoming families in similar contemplation. Your choices matter. It would be sad to see an exodus of educated, childrearing age adults from Wyoming as a result of poor lawmaking.

sincerely,

Rev. Audette Fulbright

Hunt’s response minced no words:

Rev. Fulbright,

I’ll be blunt. If you don’t like the political atmosphere of Wyoming, then by all means, leave. We, who have been here a very long time (I am proudly 4th generation) are quite proud of our independent heritage. I don’t expect a “mass exodus” from our state just because we’re standing up for our rights. As to your comments on fracking, I would point out that you’re basing your statement on “dangers” that have not been scientifically founded or proved as of yet.

It offends me to no end when liberal out-of-staters such as yourself move into Wyoming, trying to get away from where they came from, and then pompously demand that Wyoming conform to their way of thinking. We are, and will continue to be, a state which stands a head above the rest in terms of economic security. Our ability to do that is, in large part, to our “live and let live” mentality when it comes to allowing economic development, and limiting government oversight. So, to conclude, if you’re so worried about what our legislature is working on, then go back home.

Sincerely,

Hans Hunt

Representative Hans Hunt

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Rembert Weakland and the Lavender Mafia

Rembert Weakland

There are much musings in Catholic circles currently about the existence of a “Lavender Mafia” and that perhaps the resignation of the Pope is tied in with a report to the Pope by three cardinals of blackmail and corruption of homosexual clergy high in Vatican circles.  Who can tell if this is true, since the Vatican has issued non-denial denials denouncing the story while carefully not dealing with the substance of it.

However, that there is a Lavender Mafia within the Church, homosexual clerics who promote and protect each other, none should question.  Exhibit A for the Lavender Mafia is Rembert Weakland.

Former Archbishop of Milwaukee, he was heterodox and orthodox Catholics often wondered how he had risen so far in the hierarchy.  It came out after he had resigned that he used 450,000 of Church money to pay off his male lover who revealed the story to the press anyway years later.

http://www.seattlecatholic.com/article_20020607_Archbishop_Weaklands_Legacy.html

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Coolidge on the Declaration

We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren sceptre in our grasp. If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like-minded as the fathers who created it. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed. We must keep replenished, that they may glow with a more compelling flame, the altar fires before which they worshiped.

Calvin Coolidge

Calvin Coolidge was born on July 4, 1872, the only President to be born on the Fourth of July.  It is therefore fitting that he gave one of the more eloquent speeches ever given on the Declaration.  This was on the 150th anniverary of the Declaration on July 5, 1926.  Coolidge was one of the last presidents to write his own speeches, so this is pure Coolidge.  In reviewing this very thoughtful speech I can see why this nation became great and why we are going through a spirtual depression now to match our economic depression.  Time, past time, to end both.  Here is the text of Coolidge’s speech:

We meet to celebrate the birthday of America. The coming of a new life always excites our interest. Although we know in the case of the individual that it has been an infinite repetition reaching back beyond our vision, that only makes it the more wonderful. But how our interest and wonder increase when we behold the miracle of the birth of a new nation. It is to pay our tribute of reverence and respect to those who participated in such a mighty event that we annually observe the fourth day of July. Whatever may have been the impression created by the news which went out from this city on that summer day in 1776, there can be no doubt as to the estimate which is now placed upon it. At the end of 150 years the four corners of the earth unite in coming to Philadelphia as to a holy shrine in grateful acknowledgement of a service so great, which a few inspired men here rendered to humanity, that it is still the preeminent support of free government throughout the world. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

February 25, 1863: National Bank Act

Greenback

Originally called the National Legal Currency Act, the National Bank Act was signed into law on February 25, 1863.  The Act created National Banks that could issue notes printed by the United States Treasury that would serve as currency, the famous Greenbacks.  Precisely one year before the Congress had authorized the treasury to issue paper currency in an amount not to exceed 150 million dollars.  Although the move to a fiat currency not backed in gold was widely unpopular around the country, the nickname of the notes, Greenbacks, coming from people complaining that the notes were backed only by the green ink used to print the backs of the notes, when the economic house did not fall in from the issuance of the Greenbacks in 1862, Congress placed no limits on the issuance of the currency in February of 1863.

The Union financed its war effort 88% through taxation and war bonds, with the Greenbacks taking up the slack.  Five hundred million in Greenbacks were issued during the War and caused an unpleasant, though manageable, inflation of 180% during the War.  This contrasted with the Confederacy that could finance only 46% of its war effort with taxes and bonds.  The inflation caused by the issuance of Confederate currency, popularly known as Greybacks, was an astonishing 9000% during the War.  The experience of the Union and Confederacy indicates that a fiat currency is always dependent on the innate strength of the economy of the nation issuing it, along with the question mark that always existed as to whether the Confederacy would win its independence.  The experience of the Confederacy with its currency was strikingly similar to that of the United States with the Continental currency during the American Revolution, which became so worthless that it ceased to circulate as money in May 1781.  Ironically both Continental and Confederate currency are precious today as a result of collectors. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Justice Hathorne

He pointed his finger once more, and a tall man, soberly clad in Puritan garb, with the burning gaze of the fanatic, stalked into the room and took his judge’s place.

“Justice Hathorne is a jurist of experience,” said the stranger. “He presided at certain witch trials once held in Salem. There were others who repented of the business later, but not he.”

“Repent of such notable wonders and undertakings?” said the stern old justice. “Nay, hang them–hang them all!” And he muttered to himself in a way that struck ice into the soul of Jabez Stone.

Stephen Vincent Benet, The Devil and Daniel Webster

In his short story The Devil and Daniel Webster, Benet has Satan conjure up the damned souls of 12 villains from American history to serve as a jury in the case of Satan v. Jabez Stone. Only seven of these entities are named, and we have examined the lives of each of them including the “life” I made up for the fictional the Reverend John Smeet.

The judge who presided over the case was Justice John Hathorne.  Born in August of 1641, Hathorne was a merchant of Salem, Massachusetts.  Hathorne prospered as a merchant with trading ventures to England and the West Indies.  He owned land around Salem and in Maine.  With economic power he combined political power, being Justice of the Peace in Essex County, and a member of the legislative upper chamber which combined the roles of legislature and high court.  In 1692 Hathorne was one of the men who questioned the accusers and accused and was in favor of bringing the accused to trial.  He was appointed by the Governor of Massachusetts as one of the judges of the Special Court of Oyer and Terminer that heard the trials.  Hathorne always voted to convict.

Subsequent to the trials he saw service in the militia in King William’s War, taking part in 1696 in the siege of Fort Nashawaak in what became New Brunswick in Canada and rising to the rank of Colonel. He was eventually appointed to the Superior Court.  He died on May 10, 1717.

Following the Salem witch trials, there was a wave of revulsion at the verdicts.  Few doubted at that time that witches did exist, but many attacked the fairness of the trials, especially the concept of “spectral evidence” which allowed the accusers to testify as to what demons purportedly told them about the accused.  Many people found this admission of supernatural hearsay to be not only fundamentally unfair but preposterous and feared that the accusers had been simply settling old family feuds with the accused. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Armchair Pontiffs Come Out of the Woodwork

Perhaps because it happens in sports, entertainment and politics, we knew it was bound to happen with pontificates. However, judging the accomplishments of holy leaders is a little different than judging whether a coach should have used a 4-3 defense, a President has the right tax policy, or a film director allows too little or too much dialogue.

Our friends in the mainstream media, especially those of the unabashed liberal persuasion (they seem less bashful in using that term these days) have certainly not backed away from critiquing Pope Benedict XVBI’s pontificate. However, even our friends on the political and theological right have taken their shots at the Holy Father as well.

Watching Morning Joe on MSNBC can certainly cause an orthodox minded Catholic to contemplate pulling their hair out. A recent episode in which Mika Brzezinski and Mike Barnicle, two northeast liberal Catholics, critique the current Holy Father’s pontificate and implore the upcoming conclave to change the direction of the Church by listening to the criticism of militant secularists seemed more than a little ridiculous. The Reverend Al Sharpton chimed in to tell the audience that African cardinals certainly don’t represent his views on the world (Thank God.)

The whole episode should have been a Saturday Night Live skit, but sadly they meant every word of it. The Western Left shouts from the rooftops about diversity, but when it comes right at them via the Third World, well then it really isn’t diverse. The Left preaches change but would never change their views to reflect reality, i.e. the House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (among others) insisting Washington doesn’t have a spending problem. All too often they unwittingly enjoy relishing in the Dictatorship of Relativism (coined by Pope Benedict XVI.) By doing so they unknowingly echo the words of Pontius Pilate, who said, “What is truth?”

In my just released book; The Catholic Tide Continues to Turn, I note that the infamous American Bishop Shelby Spong dismissed his fellow African-Anglican clergy’s views on social teachings because they were in his words, “only one generation removed from Animism and their brand of Christianity was superstitious.” In rebuttal to Bishop Spong, the late Catholic priest, Father Richard John Neuhaus noted that there were a higher percentage of African-Catholic Cardinals with PhD’s than were those from Western Europe or North America.

Sadly, even some of our friends on the theological and political right have taken the opportunity to pile on what they view as the mistake prone pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI. One of the more interesting critiques came from Joseph (Jody) Bottum, the former Editor of First Things. On a personal note, I owe a great deal of gratitude to Mr. Bottum who referenced a very early article of mine in one of his First Things article. Actually the positive reaction that stemmed from it helped convince me to right my first book. However, some of Mr. Bottum’s assertions in this Weekly Standard article on the pontificate of Benedict XVI should not go unanswered. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

POW Servant of God

kapaun

In the midst of a World War, Emil Kapaun was born in peaceful Pilsen, Kansas on August 20, 1916.  His parents were Czech immigrants and virtually everyone in the area spoke Czech.  From an early age Emil knew that he wanted to be a priest and would play mass with his younger brother.  Graduating from Conception Abbey seminary college in Conception Missouri in 1936,  Emil attended Kendrick Theological Seminary in Saint Louis, and was ordained a priest of the diocese of Wichita in June 1940.  Father Kapaun returned to his home parish Saint John Nepomucene in Pilsen as an assistant to Father Sklenar who, together with his Bishop, had paid the cost of his attendance at the seminary.  During these years Father Kapaun was also an auxiliary chaplain at Herington Air Base.  After the retirement of Father Sklenar in December 1943, Father Kapaun became pastor of his boyhood parish.  Receiving permission from his Bishop, Father Kapaun joined the army as a chaplain in July 1944.

Chaplain Kapaun’s intial assignment was as chaplain at Camp Wheeler in Georgia.  In April 1945 he was sent to the C-B-I (China-Burma-India) theater of operations.  While in the C-B-I he traveled over 2000 miles by jeep to say mass for the troops in the forward areas.  Arriving in India he served as a chaplain for the troops on the Ledo road from Ledo, India to Lashio, Burma.   Chaplain Kapaun became friends with the Catholic missionaries, priests and nuns from Italy, at Lashio.  Taking up a collection for the missions from American troops, who responded generously, Father Kapaun also prevailed upon American combat engineers to construct a building in Lashio to be used as a school and a church.  Here is a picture of Father Kapaun, viewer’s right, along with his trusty jeep, while he was in the C-B-I.

father-kapuan-c-b-i

Promoted to Captain, he remained in the C-B-I until May of 1946 and was mustered out of the Army in July 1946.  With the approval of his Bishop, Father Kapuan enrolled at Catholic University in Washington on the G.I. Bill, and obtained a Master’s degree in education in February 1948.  In April his Bishop appointed him pastor in Timken, Kansas in April 1948.  Believing that he was called to be a chaplain for the troops, and with the consent of his Bishop, Father Kapaun rejoined the army as a chaplain in September 1948.

Serving as a chaplain at Fort Bliss, Father Kapaun was ordered to Japan in 1950.  Upon the outbreak of the Korean War, he was assigned to a front line combat unit, the 3rd battalion, 8th cavalry regiment, 1rst Cavalry Division. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

POW Servant of God To Receive Medal of Honor

 

On April 11, 2012 Father Emil Kapaun, the POW Servant of God, will receive posthumously this nation’s highest decoration for heroism, the Medal of Honor:

The Pentagon is expected to invite several of Kapaun’s fellow former prisoners of war to attend the ceremony. They survived horrific conditions in the prison camp after they were captured in the first battles against the Chinese Army in late 1950, shortly after China entered the Korean War.

All of these soldiers, now in their mid- or upper 80s, have lobbied for more than 60 years to persuade the Army to award Kapaun the Medal of Honor.

They also have lobbied the Roman Catholic Church to elevate him to sainthood. The Vatican recently completed an extensive investigation and is considering the matter.

Soldiers like Mike Dowe, William Funchess, Robert Wood, Robert McGreevy and Herb Miller, most of them Protestants, have spent decades writing letters or giving interviews describing repeated acts of bravery by Kapaun. They said he repeatedly ran through machine gun fire, dragging wounded soldiers to safety during the first months of the war.

They said his most courageous acts followed in a prisoner of war camp, where Kapaun died in May 1951. They said he saved hundreds of soldiers’ lives using faith and the skills honed on his family’s farm near Pilsen. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

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