99

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.

Continue Reading

21

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.

Continue Reading

61

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. Continue Reading

10

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.
4

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. Continue Reading

23

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. Continue Reading

8

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. Continue Reading

55

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

House District 02 Continue Reading

38

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

Continue Reading

2

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. Continue Reading

3

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. Continue Reading

2

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. Continue Reading

12

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. Continue Reading

3

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. Continue Reading

4

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. Continue Reading

14

Unsurprising Story

 

Hattip to Matt Archbold at Creative Minority Report.  A nun is allegedly involved in vote fraud in Ohio:

 

A nun has been implicated by prosecutors in a troubling case of election fraud, according to local news reports.
It’s been alleged by Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters that Sister Marge Kloos of the Sisters of Charity mailed in an absentee ballot of Sister Rose Marie Hewitt who had reportedly passed away on October 4th of last year.
Deters sent a letter to the Board of Elections that said:

Re: Deceased Voter Rose Marie Hewitt.
Please be advised that sufficient information has been developed with respect to the above mentioned matter to determine that there is probable cause to believe that criminal activity has occurred.

Hewitt had reportedly lived with Sister Marge Kloos, the dean of arts at the College of Mount Saint Joseph. Prosecutor Joe Deters told WCPO that Kloos is being investigated as the person who sent in Hewitt’s ballot.
Sisters of Charity president Sister Joan Cook told reporters that they are cooperating with police.
Sister Marge Kloos has shown strong position on politics in the past. In fact in 2011, Sister Marge Kloos signed a letter reprimanding House Speaker John Boehner for siding with the “reckless” Tea Party. The letter read:

This is a stark choice between responsible leadership that serves the common good and narrow ideology that makes tax cuts for the wealthy our most sacred national priority. As Ohio Catholics, we urge you to reject the reckless path urged by many Tea Party leaders in Congress. Now is the time to seek a compromise that reflects the Catholic values of solidarity with the most vulnerable and prudential judgment. Continue Reading

102

So Who Exactly Is Pushing A Social Agenda?

The typical complaint one hears about conservatives, particularly from libertarians, is that social conservatives want to use the government to advance their agenda and force their beliefs down everyone’s throats. Normally the first issue that is brought up to defend this proposition is abortion. I find that odd because if wanting to prohibit abortion is akin to being a proponent of big government, then anyone who advocates for laws against murder is clearly also an advocate for big government. The next most commonly cited issue is gay marriage. Again, I find this odd because it is the proponents of gay marriage who want government to make a complete change to the institution of marriage in order to advance their agenda.

At any rate, libertarians and other social liberals usually run out of steam after those two big issues, though the more creative will invent issues that social conservatives supposedly support in order to defend this thesis.

What frustrates me about this is that left-wing attempts to use the government to indoctrinate society are ignored or downplayed, yet examples of left-wing attempts to influence the culture through the government are far more plentiful than conservative ones. One need only look at Mayor Nanny Bloomberg in New York – hardly a raging social conservative – to recognize that.

Want more proof? First, here’s a bill sponsored by Senate Democrats to fund comprehensive sex education.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said Thursday that they’d introduced sex-education legislation limiting funding for “ineffective” abstinent-only programs.

The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act would expand comprehensive sex education programs in schools, while ensuring that federal funds are spent on “effective, age-appropriate and medically accurate” programs.

. . . The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act aims to reduce unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and expand sex education programs at colleges and universities. The bill would also prevent federal funds from being spent on “ineffective, medically inaccurate” sex-educ

ation programs.

To translate, we’re going to spend tax money teaching kids about birth control but we’d be verbotten to teach them “medically inaccurate” information like keeping it in your pants will prevent pregnancy and the spread of STDs. We wouldn’t want kids being told off-the-wall ideas about not having sex before the age of 18 or – even nuttier – before marriage. No, no, no – we gotta get to these kids and make sure they know how to put a condom on a banana.

And do we really need to spend federal tax dollars on expanding sex education at colleges? Are college-aged kids that really in the dark about sex that this justifies federal intervention?

Want to know the kicker? One of the co-sponsors of this bill is Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ). In that case there will probably be an amendment setting aside funds teaching underage Dominican prostitutes to keep their mouths shut.

And that wasn’t the saddest news of the day. Here’s a story via Creative Minority Report:

Parents across Massachusetts are upset over new rules that would not only allow transgender students to use their restrooms of their choice – but would also punish students who refuse to affirm or support their transgender classmates.

Last week the Massachusetts Department of Education issued directives for handling transgender students – including allowing them to use the bathrooms of their choice or to play on sports teams that correspond to the gender with which they identify.

The 11-page directive also urged schools to eliminate gender-based clothing and gender-based activities – like having boys and girls line up separately to leave the classroom.

Schools will now be required to accept a student’s gender identity on face value.

“A student who says she is a girl and wishes to be regarded that way throughout the school day and throughout every, or almost every, other area of her life, should be respected and treated like a girl,” the guidelines stipulate.

As long as little Johnnie feels he’s a little Joannie, no one can tell him/her otherwise.

Hey, but these rules only help liberate young transgendered people from being discriminated against. It’s not like this would impinge anyone else’s freedom, right?

Another part of the directive that troubles parents deals with students who might feel comfortable having someone of the opposite sex in their locker room or bathroom.

The state takes those students to task – noting their discomfort “is not a reason to deny access to the transgender student.”

And any student who refuses to refer to a transgendered student by the name or sex they identify with could face punishment.

For example – a fifth grade girl might feel uncomfortable using the restroom if there is an eighth grade transgendered boy in the next stall.

Under the state guidelines, the girl would have no recourse, Beckwith said.

“And if the girl continued to complain she could be subjected to discipline for not affirming that student’s gender identity choice,” he told Fox News.

“It should not be tolerated and can be grounds for student discipline,” the directive states.

But that’s okay, says a spokesman for the transgendered.

Gunner Scott, of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, praised the directive – and said punishing students who refuse to acknowledge a student’s gender identity is appropriate because it amounts to bullying.

That’s right. Feeling uncomfortable sharing a bathroom with someone of the opposite sex who doesn’t think he or she is a member of the opposite sex is bullying, dont’cha know? And the only way to deal with bullies is to, well, bully them. That sounds reasonable, said Dan Savage.

And yet we’ll continue to hear countless fairly tales about how young modern hipsters would vote Republican if only they’d drop their obsession with silly social issues.

Well, as long as you’ve got useful idiots like Rod Dreherwriting for ostensibly conservative publications, we’ll just keep losing the culture wars.

24

Resignation Rumors

Well this was inevitable.  When something that hasn’t happened for almost six centuries happens, there are going to be rumors about why it is happening:

VATICAN CITY – With just days to go before Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, the Vatican is battling rumours that his decision was triggered by an explosive report on intrigue in its hallowed corridors of power.

The secret report compiled by a committee of three cardinals for the pope’s eyes only was the result of a broad inquiry into leaks of secret Vatican papers last year — a scandal known as “Vatileaks”.

The cardinals questioned dozens of Vatican officials and presented the pope with their final report in December 2012, just before Benedict pardoned his former butler Paolo Gabriele who had been jailed for leaking the papal memos.

The Panorama news weekly and the Repubblica daily said on Thursday that the cardinals’ report contained allegations of corruption and of blackmail attempts against gay Vatican clergymen, as well as favouritism based on gay relationships.

The Vatican has declined to comment on these two reports, with spokesman Federico Lombardi saying they were “conjectures, fictions and opinions.”

In an interview with El Pais, one of the investigating cardinals, Julian Herranz, said the scandal was “a bubble” that had been “inflated”.

“There will be black sheep, I am not saying there are not, like in all families,” he said, adding that the investigators had “spoken to people, seen what works and what does not, lights and shadows”.

Speaking to Italy’s Radio 24, Herranz said the idea that “Vatileaks” might have influenced the pope’s decision was one “hypothesis” among many others.

“These are decisions that are taken personally in the deep of one’s conscience and they must be profoundly respected,” the 82-year-old said.

At his final public mass last week, Benedict himself condemned “religious hypocrisy” and urged an end to “individualism and rivalry”.

“The face of the Church… is at times disfigured. I am thinking in particular of the sins against the unity of the Church,” he said, without elaborating.

Continue Reading

2

Kalinka

Something for the weekend.  Kalinka, perhaps the best known Russian song.  It was written in 1860 by Iran Larionov.  It quickly achieved a popularity of epic proportions and has been sung with endless variant lyrics among Russians from that day to this.  Here are the original lyrics:

Little snowberry, snowberry, snowberry of mine!

 Little raspberry in the garden, my little raspberry!

  Ah, under the pine, the green one,

 Lay me down to sleep,

 Rock-a-bye, baby, rock-a-bye, baby,

 Lay me down to sleep.

 

Little snowberry, snowberry, snowberry of mine!

 Little raspberry in the garden, my little raspberry!

  Ah, little pine, little green one,

 Don’t rustle above me,

 Rock-a-bye, baby, rock-a-bye, baby,

 Don’t rustle above me.

  Little snowberry, snowberry, snowberry of mine!

 Little raspberry in the garden, my little raspberry!

  Ah, you beauty, pretty maiden,

 Take a fancy to me,

 Rock-a-bye, baby, rock-a-bye, baby,

 Take a fancy to me.   Little snowberry, snowberry, snowberry of mine!

 Little raspberry in the garden, my little raspberry!

Here is a variant from the movie Taras Bulba (1962) where cossacks in the seventeenth century are anachronistically singing Kalinka as a drinking song: Continue Reading

1

Happy 281st Birthday General!

The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed, and themselves consigned to a state of wretchedness from which no human efforts will deliver them. The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of brave resistance, or the most abject submission. We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or die.

George Washington

This is the one hundred and tenth anniversary of the birth-day of Washington. We are met to celebrate this day. Washington is the mightiest name of earth — long since mightiest in the cause of civil liberty; still mightiest in moral reformation. On that name, an eulogy is expected. It cannot be. To add brightness to the sun, or glory to the name of Washington, is alike impossible. Let none attempt it. In solemn awe pronounce the name, and in its naked deathless splendor, leave it shining on.

Abraham Lincoln

1

An Irony in the Conclave

In 2005 the media did a fabulous job of putting forward liberal candidates to replace Pope John Paul II.  In fairness, they had a mixed slate of candidates that spanned the theological and political spectrum’s.  In doing so, they gave an exaggerated picture of a mixed college of cardinals.  On the far left was a cardinal from Belgium named Cardinal Godfried Danneels.  Cardinal Danneels was appointed a cardinal in 1983 by Pope John Paul II.  In the course of his career, the cardinal has urged a decentralized church that relies more on consultation with the world’s bishops.  He has promoted a more flexible approach to pastoral and doctrinal problems, suggesting a rethinking of issues ranging from the shortage of priests to the status of divorced and remarried Catholics, as well as the Church’s way of evangelizing, ecumenism, collegiality, the possibility of ordaining married men, world peace, ecological responsibility, and the relationship between rich and poor countries.  He once said that the Church must take its proper place in society “with its witness, its message and its commitment to the poor.  Everything else is decorative.”

He did, however, have an ironic prediction which turned out to be accurate in its content though inaccurate in its subject. Cardinal Danneels was among the first to say that he believed Pope John Paul II would resign for the good of the church if he were unable to bear the burdens of the papacy.  As we know, no such resignation occurred, at least for Pope John Paul II.

Continue Reading

2

King Kirby, Captain America and American History

A guest post by commenter Fabio Paolo Barbieri on one of the legendary comic book artists, Jack “King” Kirby, his greatest comic book creation, Captain America, and Kirby’s trip through American history with the Captain:

With Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles we at last reach a masterpiece within the meaning of the act.  The Marvel Treasury Edition format in which it was published, though suffering from the same bad production values as the regular titles, tried for a more upmarket and collectable air: instead of slim pamphlets with floppy covers, padded out with cheapo ads, they had 80 large pages, no ads, and more durable hard(ish) covers. On the whole, it was an unhappy compromise without future, but Kirby, who had seen formats and production values decline throughout his career, grasped the opportunity of more elaborate work than the regular format allowed.  (Artists of Kirby’s generation are often heard commenting on the quality of paper and colouring available to today’s cartoonists, even when they don’t read the stories; bad printing had been such a fundamental reality to their period that improved paper stock and technology are the one thing that stands out when they see a new comic.)
Captain-America-Bicen-01fc
That is not to say that it is flawless everywhere; few details of title, packaging and secondary material could be worse.  That anyone could come up with such a title as Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles would be incredible had it not happened; its clanging, flat verbosity belongs more to the kitsch of 1876 than of 1976 – “Doctor Helzheimer’s Anti-Gas Pills”.  The pin-ups that pad out the awkwardly-sized story (77 pages), with Captain America in various pseudo-historical costumes, are positively infantile, the front cover is dull and the back one ridiculous.  Nothing shows more absurdly the dichotomy between Kirby’s mature, thoughtful, even philosophical genius and the bad habits of a lifetime at the lowest end of commercial publishing coming on top of a lower-end education; the nemesis, you might say, of uneducated self-made genius.  The Kirby who did this sort of thing was the Kirby who filled otherwise good covers with verbose and boastful blurbs, who defaced the English language with “you matted masterpiece of murderous malignancy!” and the like, who cared nothing for precision and good taste – in short, the man whose lack of education lingered in his system all his life. Kirby went into his work with less inherited “baggage” than any other cartoonist, and was correspondingly radical and revolutionary, but he also had little share in common taste and standards.

Continue Reading

10

The Mask Drops

.

All we have of freedom, all we use or know—

This our fathers bought for us long and long ago.

Ancient Right unnoticed as the breath we draw—

Leave to live by no man’s leave, underneath the Law.

Lance and torch and tumult, steel and grey-goose wing

Wrenched it, inch and ell and all, slowly from the King.

Till our fathers ‘stablished, after bloody years,

How our King is one with us, first among his peers.

So they bought us freedom—not at little cost

Wherefore must we watch the King, lest our gain be lost,

Rudyard Kipling, The Old Issue

 

 

Give an A to Sarah Conly for boldly proclaiming what many of our liberal elites believe but are too wise to state openly:

Since Mill’s seminal work On Liberty, philosophers and political theorists have accepted that we should respect the decisions of individual agents when those decisions affect no one other than themselves. Indeed, to respect autonomy is often understood to be the chief way to bear witness to the intrinsic value of persons. In this book, Sarah Conly rejects the idea of autonomy as inviolable. Drawing on sources from behavioural economics and social psychology, she argues that we are so often irrational in making our decisions that our autonomous choices often undercut the achievement of our own goals. Thus in many cases it would advance our goals more effectively if government were to prevent us from acting in accordance with our decisions. Her argument challenges widely held views of moral agency, democratic values and the public/private distinction, and will interest readers in ethics, political philosophy, political theory and philosophy of law
I would review her book Against Autonomy, but I think I will call on three others to do the heavy lifting for me:
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for
our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
18

Papal Picks

Several people have been asking who I would like to see elected once Pope Benedict steps down.  This is always a delicate question, for numerous reasons.  First, it is quite clear that I do not, nor should I, get a vote.  Whatever opinions I hold are simply that: my  opinions and hopes.  Second, should someone “off my list” be elected, I would not want people to think that I “disapprove.”  Just like everyone else, I have various qualities that I would like to see in the new pope, but I also will pledge my undying fidelity and unceasing prayers to whoever occupies the Chair of St. Peter.  Third, if the last several elections have taught us anything it is that old adage rings true: “He who walks into a conclave a pope comes out a cardinal.”  In other words, these things are notoriously difficult to predict.

Nevertheless, because I am human and because I get all geeked out about these things, it should come as no surprise that I have “a list.”  Before we get to it, however, it is worth giving you (1) the criteria the media seems to be using for choosing contenders, (2) my sense of the criteria that the cardinals will actually use, and (3) the criteria I am using.

Continue Reading

16

America Meets Dale

 

 

As long time readers of this blog know I have long been an admirer of the work of Dale Price at his blog Dyspeptic Mutterings, and I frequently go there to steal borrow blog ideas.  Dale turned his attention recently to the editorial at America, the Jesuit heterodox rag, which called for the repeal of the Second Amendement:

That their grief may not be compounded.

At long last, the editors of America endorse a constitutional buttress to the culture of life.

 

Supporting the Human Life Amendment? Surely you jest. Politics is strictly about the art of the possible when it comes to abortion.

 

No, no–one must be realistic about such things.

 

Instead, we need to repeal the Second Amendment to the Constitution. The reason: something must be done so that urban, left-leaning Jesuits can feel better about themselves:

 

The disturbing feeling that we have failed to do everything in our power to remove the material cause of their deaths, however, will no longer compound our grief.

 

For some reason, there are exceptions:

 

This does not require an absolute ban on firearms. In the post-repeal world that we envision, some people will possess guns: hunters and sportsmen, law enforcement officers, the military, those who require firearms for morally reasonable purposes.

 

As an aside, please, please, I beg you: stop pretending you give a rat’s fanny about hunting. Deep down, we know you hate it, but somehow you feel compelled to offer insincere boilerplate respect. You can stop now. Besides, hunting firearms are more devastating than ones that make you queasy. Just flop your cards on the table and admit you don’t approve of any significant private ownership of firearms. Dialogue requires openness, don’t you know?

 

Anyway, there’s a yawning logical inconsistency here: why should an off-duty approved firearm owner be allowed to keep it when he is off the clock? At the end of the day, such individuals should turn them in to a secure area until they punch back in. Even soldiers aren’t toting weapons around all the time outside of combat zones. As the editors note, original sin (!) ensures bad things will happen, and cops are quite capable of misusing firearms, as we have been recently reminded. Thus, in Americaworld, there is no reason for anyone to own a firearm off duty.

 

Go after violent media? Nah. That’s Legion of Decency, Catholic-ghetto stuff. Shudder.

 

Revisit our oft-idiotic drug war? Piffle. Nope. What it boils down to is that nobody at America owns a firearm or likes anyone who owns one. In policymaking, this is known as the It’s Time We All Start Making Sacrifices, Starting With You, Of Course! maneuver.

 

Did it ever occur to them to, you know, actually talk to an actual gun owner before promulgating this un-papal bull? Apparently not. Dialogue’s only for people the Catholic left respect, I guess. Nope–it’s time to tear an Amendment out of the Constitution and unchain Caesar to kick doors in to remove unapproved firearms from our midst. If you like the drug war, you’ll plotz over the gun war. Continue Reading

6

Blackbeard

There was Teach, the bloody pirate, with his black beard curling on his breast.

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. This is the seventh in a series giving brief biographies of these men. Go here to read the biography of Simon Girty, here to read the “biography” of the Reverend John Smeet,  here to read the biography of Major Walter Butler, here to read the biography of Thomas Morton here to read the biography of King Philip, and here to read the biography of Governor Thomas Dale.  Our final member of the jury of the damned is Edward Teach, better known to history as Blackbeard.

It is odd that Blackbeard is almost the only pirate from the colorful Age of Piracy in the Sixteenth-Eighteenth centuries that most members of the general public could name, because he had a very short career, only two years, and was much less successful than many pirates, for example Henry Morgan, who achieved a knighthood and the office of Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica.

Teach was probably born in Bristol, England in 1680.  He may have served as a privateer in Queen Anne’s War.  In 1716 the pirate Benjamin Hornigold placed Teach in command of a sloop, and together the duo committed numerous acts of piracy.  In 1717 Teach captured a French merchant ship, renamed her Queen Anne’s Revenge and armed her with 40 guns, a formidable armament for a pirate ship.  His fame began to spread.  His nickname, Blackbeard, came from the long black beard he wore.  Teach adopted a fearsome personae in order to overawe the crews of the ships that he captured.  He lit fuses dangling from beneath his cap to enhance his image as a completely ruthless pirate. Continue Reading

19

Rape and Kung Fu

The hits just keep on coming regarding guns and rape courtesy of Democrats in the Colorado legislature.  Democrat Representative Paul Rosenthal opines in the above video that women do not need guns to protect themselves from rape;  citing mace, taser, the buddy system and judo as gun substitutes.  Rosenthal apparently is so afraid of pistol packing mamas that any other alternative is preferable.  Gun “control” has always had a touch of the irrational about it, as the focus is placed on an inanimate object instead of the people who wield it either for good or for ill.  To keep guns out of the hands of the general public, gun “control” advocates are quite willing to see people go without the single most effective response to a violent confrontation.  If this isn’t a restriction on the individual liberty that most Americans prize, no restriction on liberty, in principle, can be opposed.  This is government treating citizens like children who cannot be trusted to make their own decisions for their own good. Continue Reading

6

Klavan on Pope Benedict

Andrew Klavan, the mystery writer and humorist I have often quoted on this blog, is a big fan of the Pope:

Pope Benedict, as I’ve said before, is the Last European, by which I mean the last great man and mind who fully comprehends the beautiful but now dying culture that produced him.  It’s appalling to me–though not surprising–that the only thing the mainstream media ever covers about him is how often he apologizes for the abuses of some priests or how politically incorrect his view of gay people is or whatever.  I have now read a good selection of his writings and when the work of Foucault and Derridas and de Man and the rest of that benighted lot has toddled off to the obscurity it so dearly deserves, Benedict’s writings will stand.  They may be the final flares of genius to fly up from the continent he loves before darkness closes over it.

I’m not a Catholic.  My views on authority and sexual morality are too individualistic.  But when I see the level of thought coming out of Anglicanism  – especially the low and despicable crypto anti-semitism in the cowardly guise of anti-Zionism – and then read the grace-filled, spirit-inspired work of Big Ben, well, I’m embarrassed.

********************************************************************

B-16′s greatness doesn’t lie in his papacy. Or that is, if it does, I wouldn’t know. It’s his writing, his theology, his thought that elevate him in my mind. When I was but a youngish dude, pounding my way through the great works, it seemed to me that the wisdom of many of the great German thinkers of the 18th and 19th centuries had been thrown aside for no good reason. Kant and Hegel had philosophically rescued the essence of Christianity for the scientific age, and had been ultimately left behind by mainstream thinkers not because they were wrong, but because they were just sort of out of keeping with the atheistic spirit of the day.

As Nietzsche understood, that God-is-dead zeitgeist would perforce lead to moral relativism. And so it has. But Ratzinger, shrugging off the zeitgeist like the cheap suit it is, humbly went on tilling the Kantian and Hegelian fields, making his way back not just to the essentials of Christianity but to the sacred person of Christ himself. Continue Reading

16

Return the Flags

‘But they’re wearing blue, grandpa. They are yankees.’

‘No son. They’re Americans.’

Rough Riders (1998)

The video above matter of factly displays the flag of the 28th Virginia captured by the 1st Minnesota on July 3, 1863 during the repulse of Picket’s Charge.    The 1st Minnesota of course had its moment of glory when it delayed a Confederate attack with a charge that left 82% of the regiment dead and wounded, buying time with their blood for Union reinforcements to hold the line against the advancing Confederates, and likely saved the Union Army from defeat at Gettysburg.

One can understand the significance of the captured flag for the people of Minnesota.  Of course the flag also has significance to the state of Virginia, and a conflict has been simmering for years over the refusal of Minnesota to return the flag to Virginia:

Minnesota returned fire Wednesday when a Senate committee voted to ignore a request from the state of Virginia and keep a controversial Civil War battle flag.

The flag, which features the stars and bars of the Confederate emblem, was captured by the Minnesota 1st Volunteer Regiment at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. The 28th Virginia Infantry regiment, a re-enactment group based in the Roanoke, Va., area, has tried for years to regain possession of the flag.

Members say Minnesota is obligated to return the flag under a 1905 congressional resolution that says flags captured in battles should be returned to their originating states.

In 1998, then-Minnesota Attorney General Hubert Humphrey III rebuffed a request from the 28th Virginia Infantry regiment, saying the law applied only to flags already in the War Department’s possession. He also ruled that the group had no legal standing to request the flag.

Minnesota refused to return the flag.

Last year, Virginia’s Legislature and governor signed off on a resolution urging the Minnesota Historical Society to ‘‘facilitate’’ the flag’s return to Virginia.

The Historical Society again refused. Continue Reading

12

Better to be Raped Than to be Armed

At least that is what Joe Salazar, a Democrat State Representative in Colorado, apparently believes:

 

“It’s why we have call boxes, it’s why we have safe zones, it’s why we have the whistles. Because you just don’t know who you’re gonna be shooting at. And you don’t know if you feel like you’re gonna be raped, or if you feel like someone’s been following you around or if you feel like you’re in trouble when you may actually not be, that you pop out that gun and you pop … pop around at somebody.” Continue Reading

6

Cutting the Papa-Bull

I’m off from work, so you get a whole two posts from me today. Aren’t you lucky?

Pat Archbold has written an excellent post at the National Catholic Register that counters some of the arguments we’ve heard in light of Pope Benedict’s resignation, abdication, retirement, ummm not being Pope anymore. Our own Jake Tawney touched upon some of these issues last week, but it’s worth re-emphasizing.

The Holy Spirit picks the Pope, so don’t worry. This is probably the most common bit of balderdash. I refer to this is ‘Holy Spirit as conclave Puppeteer fallacy.’

Let’s get this straight, the Holy-Spirit does not pick the Pope, 117 fallible men do. For certain, many or even most of these men will call on the Holy Spirit in fervent prayer to guide their judgement, but it is still their judgement, their fallible judgment.

To suggest that the Holy Spirit picks the Pope is an insult to the Holy Spirit born of ignorance. To put the blame for some of the horrible Popes that we have had on the Holy Spirit is to blame God for our own contrary wills. No, the Holy Spirit does not pick the Pope.

The Holy Spirit protects the Church from anything bad, so don’t worry. If you worry, you don’t trust the Holy Spirit. I call this the ‘Holy Spirit as fairy-godmother fallacy.’ If you have the temerity to express a bit of apprehension over the abdication of the Pope or for the future, the pious will pummel you as an unbeliever. While the Holy Spirit protects the Church from certain things (more on this later), the Holy Spirit does not protect the Church from calamity. To make such an argument is to be woefully ignorant of history. Ignorant of not only the whole 2,000 years of history, but ignorant of just the last 50 years of history.  Bad things happen, even to the Church.

Part B of this fallacy are those who trot out “The gates of Hell shall not prevail!!!” as their defense of this nonsense. Yes, the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church, but this is no guarantee that there will be not be tremendous loss of life and souls along the way. The Nazis did not prevail, but they sure did a lot of evil before they lost. This line of thinking is merely sticking your head in pious sand.

How dare you critique the Pope! He is guided by the Holy Spirit!! If you have the temerity to question the Pope’s (past, present, or even future) prudential judgment, then you are a cafeteria catholic and a moral relativist of the worst sort. I call this the ‘Pope as God or Jack Chick fallacy.’ I have seen many people comment that we have no right as Catholics to question the Pope’s prudential judgement on anything or even offer advice to a future Pope. The Holy Spirit guides the Pope, dont’cha know, so to question or advise the Pope is to question or advise the Holy Spirit. Heretic!!

In one bit of commentary I warned of the dangers of a ‘trend’ of papal abdications and advised a future pontiff to avoid it. I didn’t even critique the current Pontiff’s decision, just advised a future one. For this, I was branded a moral relativist and a heretic.

Of course, proper respect should be given to any Pope, even in prudential areas, but the Pope is not infallible in this. While I am certain that this Pope prayed and discerned over his decision to abdicate, this is no guarantee that this is the right thing to do or that it is the will of God. There are real consequences to this decision and there are real dangers too. That is not to say that the Pope is doing the wrong thing, but only that he is doing what he thinks is best. It may be, it may not be.

Pat’s previous post, referenced in his third point, was savaged some commenters because he had the brazen temerity to tell the Pope what to do, though that wasn’t exactly the message of his column.

One mistake that some Catholics make is treating every papal utterance and action as divinely inspired and thus immune from even the slightest bit of criticism or doubt. This tendency only fuels the suspicions of non-Catholics and heterodox Catholics that we treat the Pope as something like a deity. Neither Pat nor I are suggesting that we should make like Hans Kung and vigorously dissent in the most arrogant manner possible, however; we need to recognize that Popes are human beings, and though guided by the Holy Spirit, not free from error in everything they do. One reason it’s so important to remember that we have a Pope who is not personally infallible in all things is because he desperately needs our prayers, and we might be less inclined to offer up those prayers if we think he’s got this all covered. So keep those prayers coming for the Pope and for the Cardinals who will be selecting the next Pope.

16

The Collective Ho-Hum on Benghazi

It’s not every day that an American Embassy is attacked and four Americans, including an Ambassador, are murdered. So after the September 11 attacks on the embassy in Benghazi, one would have thought that there would have been widespread outrage. In fact there was a widespread furor in the aftermath of the attacks. First the outrage was aimed at presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his supposedly insensitive and political comments made hours after we learned of what occurred. After the storm died down, the public turned its attention to the individual whose film insulted the Prophet Mohammed and thus instigated the attacks.

In the weeks ahead we would come to learn more details. Even after it became obvious to all that the attacks were planned weeks in advance and had absolutely nothing to do with the film (which no one seemed to even know existed until the September 11 attacks), the narrative had been set. And with the campaign in full force, the media seemed content to let the issue die lest the administration be further embarrassed.

Even with the election in the rearviewmirror, reporting on Benghazi has been sparse. A pair of Congressional hearings have shone light on the issue, but an alliance between the far left and far right have managed to damper the conversation. The first event was now former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s appearance before the Senate, where in response to questioning from Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Clinton responded:

With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?

The response was hailed by those desperate to bury the issue as a stroke of genius. Hillary Clinton had all but sewn up the 2016 presidential election with her Churchillian wit. Forget that the response was at best callous, and demonstrated a tremendous lack of curiosity from the person in charge of our State Department, not to mention that it sure as hell matters why these attacks were perpetrated. No, it was the line that ended the debate once and for all.

Well, not quite, because the issue came up again in the confirmation hearings from Obama’s choice to replace Leon Panetta at the Department of Defense. Chuck Hagel’s disastrous performance has stalled his nomination. Though anyone watching Hagel’s performance that day should have realized he isn’t qualified to run a frozen banana stand let alone the Defense Department, the “true conservatives” at the American (Paleo)Conservative ran to Hagel’s defense. Over there ideology trumps competence, and they have mounted an all out blitz on those Israel-loving neocons who oppose Hagel, I guess because those Jewish mind rays have distorted our judgment or something.

The most hysterical (in more ways than one) response came from Rod Dreher (h/t Pauli), who seems to think that the Republicans are destroying their credibility by opposing Hagel. According to Dreher and his buddy Daniel Larison, the GOP’s actions over the past couple of months ensure that all of the independents and realists are going to run in horror away from the GOP. As usual there’s no support given to support the thesis that the Republicans are alienating anyone by not behaving exactly as the folks at the American Conservative wish they would, but it makes for some entertaining reading as Rod Dreher of all people chastises Republicans for being shrill. There’s a Yiddish word for that, but I don’t want to further alienate Dreher by using it. Anyway, after referencing another article chock full of genius insights such as “Be more pro-science” as ways that Republicans can lure “independents,” Dreher shrieks:

On the Hagel matter, the Senate GOP seems nothing but obstructionist. Who gives a rat’s ass about Benghazi? Seriously, who?

Yes, that’s right, the true conservative (TM) position on a terrorist attack on an American embassy that leaves four dead is “who gives a rat’s ass?”

So after dismissing any concern over Benghazi, what’s is Rod Dreher’s next piece of trenchant analysis: a post titled “Happy Kale-Day to Me.” So Dreher can’t be bothered about a terrorist attack, but he is sure to make sure everyone knows he had a terrific birthday in which he got to eat plenty of delicious kale. That’s a true conservative ™ for you.

Well at least the true conservatives ™ can sleep well with the knowledge that they are joined by the far left in dismissing Benghazi as a subject worth worrying our little heads over. Oliver Willis, a “fellow” at Media Matters for America, spent his day writing a series of unfunny tweets mocking conservatives for trying to investigate the issue. Aside from demonstrating his complete witlessness – subject matter aside, Willis’s attempts at satire are just cringeworthy – Willis elaborated the left’s position on Benghazi. You see, only crazy conservatives could possibly have any interest in this boooooooorrrrring issue, so let’s mock them. And Dreher and the useful idiots at the American Conservative are too happy to oblige in the mockery. And then they wonder why conservatives can’t make advances in the culture or in the political sphere.

For years I’ve heard countless complaints about how conservatives aren’t serious, and how we really need to start acting like adults in the room. If burying our heads in the sand about an attack on our embassies that killed fellow Americans is “acting like an adult,” then I truly tremble in fear at where our country is headed.

5

Mister, We Could Use a Man Like Calvin Coolidge Again

A wholesome regard for the memory of great men of long ago is the best assurance to a people of a continuation of great men to come, who shall still be able to instruct, to lead, and to inspire. A people who worship at the shrine of true greatness will themselves be truly great.

Calvin Coolidge

Time for my usual Presidents’ Day rant.  Although still officially Washington’s Birthday this day has become commonly known as President’s Day.  I see no reason to honor the various incompetents, low lifes, grifters and public thieves who have too often sat in the Oval Office on the same day that should be reserved for truly great Presidents like Washington, Lincoln and Coolidge.  Coolidge?  Yep, Silent Cal was a truly magnificent President and in this post we will examine why he deserves to be ranked among the very best of our Chief Executives.

Born on the fourth of July in 1872, in Plymouth Notch in the Green Mountains of Vermont, John Calvin Coolidge, (he was always called Calvin by his family so his first name fell by the wayside) was a rock-ribbed Vermont Yankee descended from a line of Yankees that had first set foot in New England in 1630.  Thrift was not a virtue in the Coolidge family, but a way of life.  His mother died when he was twelve.  He would carry a locket with her portrait until the day he died.   “The greatest grief that can come to a boy came to me.  Life was never to seem the same again.”  His beloved sister died only five years later, not the last loss of a loved one that would come to Calvin Coolidge.  Graduating from Amherst College, he took the advice of his father and skipped law school, too expensive, and became an attorney through the traditional route of “reading law” under an experienced attorney.

In 1898 he opened a law office in Northampton, Massachusetts and gradually attracted business as a transactional attorney rather than an attorney who did litigation in court.  He met his wife Grace, a teacher at a local school for the deaf, when she spied him one day in 1903 through an open window at the boarding house where he was staying.  Coolidge was shaving, and was wearing his long johns and his hat.  (He later explained to her that he used the hat to keep his unruly hair out of his eyes while he was shaving.)  In this case opposites did attract, and for life.  Grace was talkative and lively, Coolidge quiet and withdrawn.  They had a very happy marriage that was blessed by two sons.  Shortly after their marriage Grace was presented by Calvin with a sack with fifty-two pairs of hole filled socks in them.  She asked him if he had married her so she would darn his socks.  He replied no, but that he found it mighty handy that she could darn his socks!  (And she did not kill him!) Continue Reading

29

America Hates the Second Amendment

 

No, not that America.  America the heterodox Jesuit rag.

Repealing the Second Amendment will not create a culture of life in one stroke. Stricter gun laws will not create a world free of violence, in which gun tragedies never occur. We cannot repeal original sin. Though we cannot create an absolutely safe world, we can create a safer world. This does not require an absolute ban on firearms. In the post-repeal world that we envision, some people will possess guns: hunters and sportsmen, law enforcement officers, the military, those who require firearms for morally reasonable purposes. Make no mistake, however: The world we envision is a world with far fewer guns, a world in which no one has a right to own one. Some people, though far fewer, will still die from gun violence. The disturbing feeling that we have failed to do everything in our power to remove the material cause of their deaths, however, will no longer compound our grief.

The Supreme Court has ruled that whatever the human costs involved, the Second Amendment “necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table.” The justices are right. But the human cost is intolerable. Repeal the Second Amendment.

Go here to read the predictable rest.  It is good to see the Jesuits at America suddenly in favor of a “culture of life”.  Considering their editorials in support of the most pro-abortion president in our nation’s history, I will take their “conversion” with a boulder of salt. Continue Reading

126

Dorothy Day: Anarcho-Capitalist, Perhaps

A Facebook friend brought my attention to the tug of war taking place over the legacy of Dorothy Day in recent months between pro and anti-capitalists. The Catholic Worker has criticized both the NY Times and Fr. Robert Sirico of the Acton Institute on Day-related matters. Liberals can’t claim her, so it is said, because she was anti-abortion and loyal to Church teaching, obviously never having gone the way of radical disobedient feminism. But conservatives and libertarians can’t claim her either because she rejected capitalism.

Or did she? As best I can tell, she neither practiced it or preached it as a way of life. And yet she did say the following:

We believe that social security legislation, now balled as a great victory for the poor and for the worker, is a great defeat for Christianity. It is an acceptance of the Idea of force and compulsion…

Of course, Pope Pius XI said that, when such a crisis came about, in unemployment, fire, flood, earthquake, etc., the state had to enter in and help.

But we in our generation have more and more come to consider the state as bountiful Uncle Sam.

If you don’t believe in “force and compulsion”, you believe – by logical necessity – that capitalism is at least permissible. At least capitalism as Fr. Sirico, Ron Paul and Murray Rothbard would define it, which is nothing more than private property + free exchange of goods and services. No capitalist along these lines, moreover, could or likely would raise any objection to voluntary collectivist projects such as workers cooperatives or agricultural communes. Voluntary Distributism, which Day supported in her writings, is capitalism.

Continue Reading

2

John Cardinal McCloskey

John_Cardinal_McCloskey_-_Brady-Handy

With the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI last week, attention is turning to the conclave in March.  I thought this would be a good time to recall the first American eligible to participate in a conclave:  John Cardinal McCloskey, the first American cardinal.

Born on March 10, 1810 to Irish immigrants in Brooklyn, New York when he was seventeen he had a life altering accident.  Driving a team of oxen pulling a wagon full of heavy logs, the wagon overturned and buried John beneath the logs for several hours.  For the next few days he drifted in and out of consciousness and was blind.  He recovered his sight, but his health was permanently damaged by the accident.  Out of his travail he decided to become a priest.  He was ordained a priest of the diocese of New York in 1834.  He wanted to minister to the victims of a cholera epidemic, but his bishop, recognizing rare ability in the young priest, ordered him to Rome where he studied at the Pontifical Gregorian University and the University of the Sapienza.  Upon his return to America he was appointed pastor of Saint Joseph’s in Greenwich Village where he served from 1837-1844.  Homeless children were a special concern of his while he served as pastor.  He also served as the first president of Saint John’s College at Fordham from 1841-42.  In 1843 at the age of 33 he was appointed coadjutor Bishop of New York.  During this time period he was instrumental in the conversion of Isaac Hecker who eventually became a priest and founded the Paulist Fathers.

He was appointed first bishop of the newly created diocese of Albany in 1847.  During his tenure he founded three academies for boys and one for girls, four orphanages, fifteen parochial schools and a seminary.  He was instrumental in bringing many religious orders into the diocese.  With the death of Archbishop John “Dagger John” Hughes, he was, over his protests of unworthiness and unfitness, appointed the second Archbishop of New York.    The type of man he was may be measured by his delivering  the opening sermon of the Second Plenary Council of Baltimore, in spite of being informed just moments before that Saint Patrick’s had been gutted by fire.  He rebuilt Saint Patrick’s and in 1870 participated in the First Vatican Council.  Pio Nono must have taken note of him, because in 1875 he made him the first American cardinal.  The new cardinal attributed his red hat to no merit of his: “Not to my poor merits but to those of the young and already vigorous and most flourishing Catholic Church of America has this honor been given by the Supreme Pontiff. Nor am I unaware that, when the Holy Father determined to confer me this honor he had regard to the dignity of the See of New York, to the merits and devotion of the venerable clergy and numerous laity, and that he had in mind even the eminent rank of this great city and the glorious American nation.” Continue Reading

19

If Only the Church Were More Episcopalian!

 

Annie Selak, Jesuit trained lay ministress, wishes that the Church were more like that La Brea Tar Pits of a church, the Episcopalian Church.  Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels so frequently in defense of the Faith that I have designated him Defender of the Faith, gives her a fisking to remember:

Any period between popes is always an exciting one for liberals, particularly liberal Catholics.  Leftist manifestoes concerning what the new pope and the Church MUST DO NOW are more numerous than snowflakes in a thundersnow, all of which, as David Fischler correctly points out, can be summed up as advancing the project to turn the Roman Catholic Church into the Episcopal Organization.  Annie Selak weighs in on behalf of Young Catholics.  What kind of Roman Catholic Church do Catholic kids want anyway?

A church that takes our experience seriously: If you dig through church teaching, you can see that experience is a valid and necessary aspect of forming conscience. However, it does not feel like that is the case. Whether it is the sexual abuse crisis or new translation of the Roman Missal, the church seems distant from what is actually going on in the world. We want the church to ask the questions we are asking, rather than ones that seem trivial at best and irrelevant at worst. Catholicism can recover from mistakes, but one thing the church cannot recover from is being irrelevant.

Three things, Annie.  Why should the Church ask the questions Young Catholics are asking?  Seems kind of redundant.  What makes the “experience” of Young Catholics so vital anyway insofar as Young Catholics haven’t had all that much of it?

What kinds of questions is the church asking that you believe are “trivial at best and irrelevant at worst?”  That stuff about sin and redemption?  And in case you think that whole “turning the Catholic Church Episcopalian” idea is hyperbole, Annie’s very next paragraph could have been written by Katharine Jefferts Schori.

A church that emphasizes the inclusive ministry of Jesus: Jesus was incredible, right? Why is it that we so rarely hear about that? Jesus consistently reached out to those marginalized from the community, yet the church does not follow suit. Who are the marginalized today? Most young Catholics are quick to point to two groups: women and people who do not identify as heterosexual. Regardless of political leanings, there is an overwhelming consensus that the church needs to do better in these areas. The Vatican has repeatedly shut down any dialogue surrounding the ordination of women and church teaching on homosexuality. At the very least, these issues need to be opened up to a thoughtful, informed dialogue that includes historical analysis, social sciences, tradition and Scripture (notably, all areas the church affirms in the formation of conscience). There is an urgency to these issues, as these are not nameless people on the margins, these are our friends, family members, mentors,and leaders. One of the things that draws young people to the Gospel is the inclusivity of Jesus; how is it that the exclusivity of the church turns people away?

Yes, by all means, the Roman Catholic Church should have a “thoughtful, informed dialogue” about these matters since it has never, ever considered these issues before.  What Annie means, of course, is that the Church came to the wrong conclusions and needs to come to different ones.  Therefore we need continuing, relentless, brain-dead “thoughtful, informed dialogue” until the Church gets its head out of its narthex.

A church that embraces that God is everywhere: The younger generation of the church resonates with the universal notion of Catholicism. We see diversity and unity as two concepts that go together, rather than being opposites. Moreover, we recognize the importance of other religions. Some of Pope Benedict XVI’s biggest missteps related to his interactions with other religions. But young Catholics have grown up alongside people from different religions who are some of the holiest people we know. Nostra Aetate , Vatican II’s “Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions” affirms that God is present in other religions, yet you would be hard-pressed to find anyone in the pews on a Sunday morning who knows this. We need to affirm and emphasize that God is present in other religions and sincerely work on improving our relationships with them.

Face?  Keyboard?  You know the drill.  Mrs. Schori’s “small box” line?  Front and center.  I’ll let the Catholic readership determine exactly how badly Annie mangled Nostra Aetate.  I’ll just say once again that given the choice between performing meaningless rituals in Annie’s ideal, high-church universalist Catholic Church and sleeping late on Sunday mornings, I expect to hit the snooze button a lot. Continue Reading

18

Theme From Lawrence of Arabia

Something for the weekend.  In the middle of winter it is no accident, as the Marxists used to say, that I have chosen for our musical selection the theme song from Lawrence of Arabia (1962).  One of the last great historical epics, the film tells the tale of Colonel T.E. Lawrence’s involvement in the Arab uprising.  It is largely historically inaccurate, although a magnificent story.  One reason for the historical inaccuracy, other than the usual transmogrification of history in the hands of filmmakers, is that it relied too heavily on Lawrence’s war memoir Seven Pillars of Wisdom.  Lawrence was a brilliant writer and a talented leader of guerrilla forces, but he never let a little thing like truth stand in the way of a good yarn.  Continue Reading

9

The Last of the Light Brigade

C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre!  (It is magnificent but it is not war!)

Comment of French Mashal Pierre Bosquet on the charge of the light brigade

The nineteenth in my ongoing series examining the poetry of Rudyard Kipling. The other posts in the series may be read here, here , here , here, here , here, here, here, here, here, here, here , here, here, here , here, here and here.   Kipling throughout his career always had a soft spot in his heart for the common British soldier.  Soldiers in Kipling’s youth were regarded at worst as common criminals and at best a necessary evil:  to be cheered as heroes in time of peril and left to rot in penury in peace time when they were too old to serve.  By his poems pointing out the rank ingratitude of this treatment meted out to men who fought for Queen and country, Kipling played a large role in changing civilian attitudes toward the military and improving the lives of the “Tommys”.

One of his most searing poems on this subject was The Last of the Light Brigade.

The British have produced some of the great captains of History, Marlborough and Wellington quickly come to mind.  However, a more common theme in British military history is the courage of common soldiers redeeming with their blood the mistakes of their generals.  Few conflicts better exemplify this than the Crimean War.  Fought between 1853-1856, the war consisted of France, Great Britain, the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Sardinia (prior to it growing to encompass all Italy) against Russia.  The causes of the war boiled down to the fact that the Ottoman Empire was in a state of rapid decay and France and Russia were squabbling about which power would have predominance as “protecting power” of the Holy Places in the Holy Land, with the traditional antipathy of Catholics and Orthodox lending fuel to the fire.  This fairly meaningless squabble eventually led to war between the Ottoman Empire and Russia with Great Britain and France rallying to The Sick Man of Europe as the Turks were called. Continue Reading

10

Terri Schiavo Is Still Unavailable for Comment

 

Terry Wallis showed only fleeting hints of consciousness for 19 years after he suffered a brain injury in a road accident. But then, in 2003, at age 39, he began to speak. It started with “Mom,” and then “Pepsi,” but soon he was slowly stringing sentences together and holding down his end of a conversation.

Far too often, patients like Wallis are given up for gone, left to languish in nursing homes where no one bothers with physical therapy or even to check for glimmers of regained consciousness, says Joseph Fins, a medical ethicist at Weill Cornell Medical College.

That’s at odds with a growing body of research showing that many patients with no outward signs of awareness retain some degree of consciousness. “We began to see patients who looked like they were vegetative, but they weren’t,” said Fins. “They were beginning to show responsiveness, they were sort of breaking the rules.”

34

New Republic as State Organ

 

 

 

Martin Peretz had the dubious privilege of owning the money losing New Republic for 35 years.  Last year he sold it to Chris Hughes, Facebook Tycoon and Obama insider.  He is none too happy with the mag now.

 

Like many readers of the New Republic, I didn’t at first recognize the most recent issue of the magazine. The stark white cover was unlike anything the New Republic ran during my 35 years as the owner. Having read the cover story, I still don’t recognize the magazine that I sold in 2012 to the Facebook zillionaire Chris Hughes.

 

“Original Sin,” by Sam Tanenhaus, purported to explain “Why the GOP is and will continue to be the party of white people.” The provocative theme would not have been unthinkable in the magazine’s 99-year history, but the essay’s reliance on insinuations of GOP racism (“the inimical ‘they’ were being targeted by a spurious campaign to pass voter-identification laws, a throwback to Jim Crow”) and gross oversimplifications hardly reflected the intellectual traditions of a journal of ideas. What made the “Original Sin” issue unrecognizable to this former owner is that it established as fact what had only been suggested by the magazine in the early days of its new administration: The New Republic has abandoned its liberal but heterodox tradition and embraced a leftist outlook as predictable as that of Mother Jones or the Nation. Continue Reading

32

Competing Religions

Liberalism

Christopher Johnson, the non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels so frequently for Mother Church that I have named him Defender of the Faith, points to an editorial of The Washington Post that hopes the next Pope will not be so Catholic:

Roman Catholics?  You have my deepest sympathies.  You guys are going to have a LOT of crap to put up with over the next month and a half:

The hallmark of Pope Benedict’s tenure, for better or for worse, was fierce resistance to those changes. He rejected calls by Catholic progressives for reconsideration of doctrines such as celibacy and the ban on women in the priesthood; at a time when acceptance of the rights of gays and lesbians is rapidly spreading across the world, he was outspoken in condemning homosexuality as “unnatural” and unacceptable. With sectarian tension growing in Europe as well as the Middle East, he eschewed dialogue with Muslims and infuriated many by quoting a condemnation of Islamic theology as “evil and inhuman.”

Some of Pope Benedict’s most important achievements came in response to the backlash triggered by his reactionary acts. Pilloried for having suggested before a tour of AIDS-stricken Africa that the use of condoms “increases the problem,” he later suggested that the use of a condom by an HIV-infected person to avoid infecting a partner could be a positive step. After angering Jews by rehabilitating a bishop known as a Holocaust denier, the pope prayed at Auschwitz and published a book exonerating the Jewish people for the death of Jesus.

Pope Benedict will leave behind a church facing the same debilitating problems that loomed after the death of Pope John Paul II — above all, how to remain relevant to an increasingly secular world and to its own changing membership. This pope’s response was to insist that only uncompromising adherence to past doctrine could preserve the faith. Catholics who seek a different answer will have to hope that a college of cardinals dominated by the pope’s appointees will choose a more progressive successor.

Continue Reading

4

Governor Dale

and cruel Governor Dale, who broke men on the wheel

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. This is the sixth in a series giving brief biographies of these men. Go here to read the biography of Simon Girty, here to read the “biography” of the Reverend John Smeet,  here to read the biography of Major Walter Butler, here to read the biography of Thomas Morton and here to read the biography of King Philip.  Today we look at Governor Thomas Dale.

The Virginia colony was close to collapse.  Too many useless “gentlemen” of leisure who had come to the New World thinking they could pick gold off the ground and quickly return to England rich.  They had not bargained for a hard pioneer life and many seemed to prefer starvation rather than forsaking their lazy habits.  Into this fiasco in the making came Thomas Dale in 1611.  A Surrey man, Dale had served both as a soldier in the Netherlands and in the Navy.  He was a military man to his marrow and something of a martinet.  The Virginia Company, realizing that strong leadership was needed if the new colony was not to dissolve into anarchy appointed Dale as Deputy Governor and as “Marshall of Virginia”.

When he got to Jamestown Dale was alarmed at the dilapidated condition of the buildings and immediately convened a meeting of the council to appoint crews to begin rebuilding Jamestown.  Dale would serve as acting Governor for the colony for three and a half months in 1611 and in 1614-1616.  In the interim Dale served as “Marshall”.  Whatever his title, while he was in the colony it was clear to all that he was in charge.

He introduced the first code of laws to the colony, popularly known as Dale’s code, which is quite severe.  However, coming into a literally lawless community I can see why Dale would have erred on the side of sternness. Continue Reading

16

Ben Carson’s National Prayer Breakfast Speech

Ben Carson’s rousing speech at last week’s National Prayer Breakfast has garnered a lot of widespread attention. Depending on your point of view, this is either a heroic address that is proof that this man needs to be our next president, or it’s an insulting attempt to humiliate Barack Obama. You’ll never guess which side I’m on.

First, the speech for those of you who have not seen it:

Things get really interesting at around the 17 minute mark as he directly confronts Obamacare and economics more generally.

Actually, upon initial viewing, I did wonder if this was the appropriate venue for Dr. Carson’s remarks. After all, shouldn’t the National Prayer Breakfast be a time where we put aside partisan debate and concentrate on what draws us together? This is what Cal Thomas – no fan of President Obama – thinks:

His remarks were inappropriate for the occasion. It would have been just as inappropriate had he praised the president’s policies. The president had a right to expect a different message about another Kingdom. I’m wondering if the president felt drawn closer to God, or bludgeoned by the Republican Party and the applauding conservatives in the audience (there were many liberals there, too, as well as people from what organizers said were more than 100 nations and all 50 states).

If Carson wanted to voice his opinion about the president’s policies, he could have done so backstage. Even better, he might have asked for a private meeting with the man. As a fellow African American who faced personal challenges and overcame them, the president might have welcomed Dr. Carson to the White House. Instead, Carson ambushed him.

Carson should publicly apologize and stop going on TV doing “victory laps” and proclaiming that reaction to his speech was overwhelmingly positive. That’s not the point. While many might agree with his positions (and many others don’t as shown by the November election results), voicing them at the National Prayer Breakfast in front of the president was the wrong venue.

Leftists were much more vehement in their criticisms of Dr. Carson. Suddenly the very same people who think the entire concept of a National Prayer Breakfast is an affront to the sanctity of  the separation of Church and State were howling at Dr. Carson’s impropriety on such a solemn occasion.

There are several reasons why this criticism is unwarranted, and why Dr. Carson should proceed with his “victory laps.” Continue Reading

10

The New York Times as State Organ

In the old Soviet Union the two dominant newspapers were Izvestia (News) and Pravda (Truth).  People luckless enough to be born in the Soviet Union had a cynical joke about them:  “There is no News in Izvestia and there is no Truth in Pravda!”  James Tarantino in The Wall Street Journal notes that The New York Times, in its sycophantic coverage of the President and in its hostile coverage of the Church, resembles these two old propaganda organs of the Soviet State.

Despite being based in Rome, the reporters don’t seem to have a deep familiarity with the Catholic Church. They even quote a fellow journalist, from the Kansas City-based National Catholic Reporter, as an expert. What’s really striking about the Times story, though, is its ideological perspective–one that views the Catholic Church through the distorting lens of contemporary American liberalism as that weird religion that discriminates against women and has some sort of hang-up about condoms. Again, it reminds us of the way totalitarian propaganda outfits “report” on enemy states.

If you think “enemy states” is overwrought, check out the Times op-ed page. In a piece titled “Farewell to an Uninspiring Pope,” playwright John Patrick Shanley rants against the church:

Priests cannot marry. Why? I will tell you why. Priests cannot marry because they would have to marry women. Women cannot be priests.

Why? Women cannot become priests because of a bunch of old men. These old men justify their beliefs with a brace of ridiculous arguments that Jesus would have overturned in a minute. . . . I have little reason to hope that the Church of Rome will suddenly realize that without women, the Catholic Church is doomed, and should be doomed.

Wait, hasn’t he heard of nuns? Why yes he has. He continues: “I think of those good nuns who educated me, of their lifelong devotion and sacrifice. They have been treated like cattle by a crowd of domineering fools.” Continue Reading

14

Lent in a Sinless Age

I have never much enjoyed Lent, of course the purpose of Lent is not enjoyment.  Repentance, mortification, fasting casts for me a gray pallor over this time of year.  Like many things in life I do not like, foul tasting medicine, judges who insist on strict adherence to the law, honest traffic cops, I benefit from Lent.  It reminds me of my sins and the necessity to amend my life.  This is especially good for me because we live in a sinless age.

Prior to say 1965, people enjoyed sinning just as much as we do, but most did not delude themselves about what they were doing.  Promiscuous sex was just as fun then as now, but few were able to convince themselves that what they were doing was not, deep down, wrong.  A trip to an abortionist might “solve” a small “problem”, but the destruction of human life that went on in an abortion was acknowledged by almost all.  Standards of morality, as even a cursory study of human history reveals, have often been ignored by men, but the standards remained.

Now we live in a new and glorious day!  If something is physically pleasant then there can be no sin about it.  Good and evil have been banished from our lexicons, to be replaced, at most, with “appropriate” or “inappropriate” behavior.  If over a million innocents have to die for one of our pleasures each year it is a “small” price to pay, and in any case we aren’t the ones paying the price.  Some of our friends find gratification in sexual behaviors that were near universally condemned a few decades ago?  Not a problem!   We will rewrite the laws to make their behaviors “appropriate” and give a hard time to those retrogrades who do not adjust their concepts of “appropriate” and “inappropriate” to match ours.  We will celebrate those with great wealth and seek to emulate their lives, no matter how squalid, unless they hold political opinions that are “inappropriate”.  We will create wealth out of thin air to care for the poor through that magical device known as “government”, the same poor that we would never personally lift a finger to aid.  Lies will cease to be lies if we wish to believe them, and the term lie will soon be banished in any case.  Too “judgmental”, the closest thing we have remaining to sin.

Continue Reading

8

Why it is Worth Worrying: On the Brink of a New Pontificate

Along with one billion other Catholics, I have been consumed with reading about and thinking about the news of yesterday.  After getting over the initial shock and having some time to reflect on the weeks ahead, I have noticed a trend among many Catholic commentators.  It is best summed up with the recently re-popularized British World War II slogan, “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

Granted, the slogan is often accompanied by sound theology, typically phrased as, “The Holy Spirit will guide the Church through this,” or, “The Church will continue.  We have the promise of Christ that it will survive.”  All of this is true, of course.  We do believe that the Holy Spirit will work through the conclave, and we certainly believe the the Church will stand the test of time and endure until the end.  Nevertheless, I think it is slightly naive to think that there is nothing about which we should worry.  On the contrary, I think there is quite a bit of legitimate concern.  To understand this, however, we need to make a distinction between the supernatural virtue of hope in those things eternal and a natural hope in those things temporal.

Authentic Christian hope is the theological virtue by which we find solace, comfort, and confidence in the fact that the outcome of the spiritual war in which we are engaged is already known.  Christ has conquered evil and death, and has done so definitively.  We know where all of this is headed, and so there is no reason for despair.  If we accept our vocation and work for personal holiness and the holiness of those with whom we have been entrusted, then we will assuredly play our part and will be welcomed into the victory that is the beatific vision.

Continue Reading

10

We Must Not Forget

I’ve been seeing it all over Facebook and some of the websites I frequent: an abortionist has killed another woman. The abortionist: LeRoy Carhart, a typically careless, deceptive, and incompetent child-killer. The woman: Jennifer Morbelli, who was seeking an abortion at 33 weeks. That’s the ninth month of pregnancy. The child: existed. And had a name, evidently, which was Madison Leigh.

I would have to be a heartless, emotionless robot to fail to understand why so many people are identifying Ms. Morbelli as “the victim” of Carhart. It seems rather obviously so, doesn’t it? Except it isn’t. It simply isn’t.

There is a point at which one’s rhetorical approach can become self-defeating and absurd. I don’t know why exactly Morbelli was seeking an abortion, but chances are it wasn’t to save her life – not that it would become acceptable in this case, but it would at least become more understandable. Speculation I have seen is that she was seeking a late-term abortion for a typical reason such as defects or deformities in the child.

In case you aren’t familiar with the procedure, a late-term or partial-birth abortion typically involves delivering a baby almost entirely save for the head, jamming a pair of scissors into the back of its neck, and sucking its brains out through a hose. So there is no doubt in my mind who the real victim was here.

Continue Reading