27

States of Discontent

Longtime readers of TAC are familiar with many of the problems confronting the State of Illinois, mainly due to the diligent postings of fellow Sucker State resident Don McClarey. However, I have to admit I was taken aback by the results of a recent Gallup Poll finding that, when it comes to discontent among its residents, Illinois is literally in a class by itself:

The phrase “if you don’t like it, then you can leave” might be a dangerous thing to say in Illinois.

According to a recent Gallup poll, the state would lose a quarter of its population if every resident who didn’t like it decided to leave it. The poll asked survey-takers to rate their state as a place to live, and Illinois had the highest percentage of people who said it is the worst place to live, at 25 percent.

Illinois was followed by Connecticut and Rhode Island, 17 percent of whose residents rated their states as the worst place to live.

The states with the highest rates in the “best possible state to live in” category were Texas (28 percent), Alaska (27 percent), Hawaii (25 percent) and Montana (24 percent). Only 3 percent of Illinoisans put their state in the same category.

A follow-up story on the poll published today reveals even worse news for the powers that be in Illinois: half of Illinois residents polled say they would leave the state if they could, and nearly one in five Illinois respondents (19%) said they intended to move out within the following 12 months. Connecticut and Maryland placed second and third (49% and 47%, respectively) in the percentages of residents expressing a desire to leave, while only Nevada edged out Illinois in the percentage of residents stating that they planned to move in the coming year (20%). States with the most contented residents included Montana, Hawaii and Maine, where only 23% of each state’s residents expressed any desire to leave.

Links to the full stories and poll results can be found here and here. The poll was conducted between July and December of 2013 with at least 600 residents being polled in each state.

Continue Reading

49

Stephanie Neiman

Stephanie Neiman

The power of life and death is permitted to certain civil magistrates because theirs is the responsibility under law to punish the guilty and protect the innocent. Far from being guilty of breaking this commandment [Thou shall not kill], such an execution of justice is precisely an act of obedience to it. For the purpose of the law is to protect and foster human life. This purpose is fulfilled when the legitimate authority of the State is exercised by taking the guilty lives of those who have taken innocent lives.

Catechism of the Council of Trent

 

 

Stephanie Neiman was murdered just shy of 15 years ago.  She had just graduated from high school.  She was an only child, beloved of her parents.  By all accounts she was hard working and fearless.  She was a Vacation Bible School volunteer so I assume she was religious.  This is how she died:

 

 

Stephanie Neiman was proud of her shiny new Chevy truck with the Tasmanian Devil sticker on it and a matching “Tazz” license plate.

Her parents had taught the teenager to stand up for “what was her right and for what she believed in.”

Neiman was dropping off a friend at a Perry residence on June 3, 1999, the same evening Clayton Lockett and two accomplices decided to pull a home invasion robbery there. Neiman fought Lockett when he tried to take the keys to her truck.

The men beat her and used duct tape to bind her hands and cover her mouth. Even after being kidnapped and driven to a dusty country road, Neiman didn’t back down when Lockett asked if she planned to contact police.

The men had also beaten and kidnapped Neiman’s friend along with Bobby Bornt, who lived in the residence, and Bornt’s 9-month-old baby.

“Right is right and wrong is wrong. Maybe that’s what Clayton was so scared of, because Stephanie did stand up for her rights,” her parents later wrote to jurors in an impact statement. “She did not blink an eye at him. We raised her to work hard for what she got.”

Steve and Susie Neiman asked jurors to give Lockett the death penalty for taking the life of their only child, who had graduated from Perry High School two weeks before her death.

Lockett later told police “he decided to kill Stephanie because she would not agree to keep quiet,” court records state.

Neiman was forced to watch as Lockett’s accomplice, Shawn Mathis, spent 20 minutes digging a shallow grave in a ditch beside the road. Her friends saw Neiman standing in the ditch and heard a single shot.

Lockett returned to the truck because the gun had jammed. He later said he could hear Neiman pleading, “Oh God, please, please” as he fixed the shotgun.

The men could be heard “laughing about how tough Stephanie was” before Lockett shot Neiman a second time.

“He ordered Mathis to bury her, despite the fact that Mathis informed him Stephanie was still alive.” Continue Reading

8

Benghazi Betrayal

 

 

Sharryl Attkisson, who left CBS News because of their unwillingness to report on news harmful to the Obama administration, reports on the attempt by the Obama administration to intentionally lie to the American people about the Benghazi attack:

 

Newly-released documents reveal direct White House involvement in steering the public narrative about the September 11, 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, toward that of a spontaneous protest that never happened.

One of the operative documents, which the government had withheld from
​Congress and reporters for a year and a half, is an internal September 14,
​2012 email to White House press officials from Ben Rhodes, President Obama’s
​Assistant and Deputy National Security Advisor. (Disclosure:Ben Rhodes
​is the brother of David Rhodes, the President of CBS News, where I
was employed until March.)

In the email, Ben Rhodes lists as a “goal” the White House desire “To
​underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a
broader failure or policy.”

The email is entitled, “RE: PREP CALL with Susan, Saturday at 4:00 pm ET”
and refers to White House involvement in preparing then-U.S.Ambassador
to the U.N. Susan Rice for her upcoming appearance on Sunday television
​ network political talk shows.

The Rhodes email states that another “goal” is “To reinforce the President and Administration’s strength and steadiness in dealing with difficult challenges.”

A court compelled the release of the documents, which were heavily-redacted, to the conservative watchdog group JudicialWatch, which has sued the government over its failed Freedom of Information responses. I have also requested Benghazi-related documents under Freedom of Information law, but the government has only produced a few pages to date.

Today, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called the Rhodes email the “smoking gun” showing the “political manipulation by the White House” after the attacks. Continue Reading

2

Bingo!

I rarely read Hot Air much these days, though it is fortunate that I decided to take a look this afternoon or else I would have missed this insightful post from Ed Morrissey, as he absolutely nails it on two distinct issues.

First off, Morrissey calls out the Democrats for their attempt to amend the first amendment. Senator Tom Udall from New Mexico has introduced an amendment inspired by recent Supreme Court decisions that curtailed certain campaign finance restrictions. Morrissey notes that not only does this amendment not have a prayer of getting anywhere near the two-thirds vote required, it’s simply not something that very many Americans are clamoring for.

If Democrats think this will allow them to ride a wave of Occupy Wall Street populism, they’d better look again at the polling this week. Despite spending weeks on the Senate Floor ranting about the Koch Brothers, Harry Reid’s McCarthyite campaign of Kochsteria has resulted in … almost nothing. In the NBC/WSJ poll linked earlier, only 31% had an opinion about the Koch Brothers at all, and only 21% thought of them negatively in a poll where 43% of the respondents admit to voting for Obama in 2012. Michael Bloomberg, one of the left’s multibillionaire activists, got a 26% negative score, and the Democratic Party got a 37% negative score. (The GOP got 44%.) Nearly twice as many respondents think of Barack Obama negatively than they do the Koch Brothers, despite weeks of hard-sell demonization from top Democratic Party leaders.

Well, the Democrats are trying just about everything to prevent the electoral thumping that they will undoubtedly receive this Fall, and this is just one more act of desperation that will have absolutely no impact whatsoever. But at least it lets us know the truth about what they think of the first amendment.

But I’m even more impressed with Morrissey’s final paragraph, as he brings up a Supreme Court case that I’ve long contended was the impetus for all of the craziness that the federal government has spewed forth over the past seven decades.

If Democrats (and Republicans) want to act seriously to take billionaires out of the political game, they’re aiming at the wrong Supreme Court decision. They should pass an amendment repealing Wickard v Filburn‘s impact on the interstate commerce clause. That decision shifted massive political power from the states to Washington DC by defining practically everything as interstate commerce — including non-commerce. Killing Wickard would shift most regulatory power back to the states, and take the corruption out of Washington DC as the stakes would become too small for billionaire investment. Don’t expect Senate Democrats to do anything meaningful on crony capitalism, though … or anything meaningful at all, if this stunt is all they have.

Other than Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood, Wickard stands out as the absolute worst decision in the history of the Court. As Ed points out, it essentially allowed the federal government to intervene in every nook and cranny of our lives under the justification of “interstate commerce,” even where the action under consideration was neither interstate or commerce.

Ed’s also correct in noting that this expansion of the federal government is the prime reason that so much money is being pumped into federal elections, lobbying, and other activities. Last week I heard Russell Simmons spouting about how all of the evils of our world are due to the corrupting influence of money, and that’s why he supported Occupy Wall Street. Yet Simmons and his ilk are the very ones seeking to augment the powers of the federal government. They don’t see the inherent contradiction in this approach. As the federal government grows and grows and grows, it only increases the avenues for monied interests to wield their influence. It is the massive expansion of the federal government that has inspired this massive spending by outside groups. Of course interested stakeholders are going to want to influence the federal government in areas that affect them. The solution to diminishing their influence is not in curtailing the first amendment, but in restoring the balance of power between the states and the federal government. The Koch brothers (and George Soros for that matter) will immediately lose interest in spreading their wealth around to hammer away at the federal government if the federal government would simply get out of everyone’s business.

Like that will ever happen.

3

Keeping Kids Faithless

 

Hilarious.  Apparently Atheist parents have difficulty in having their kids follow their no god views as adults.

Do kids raised without religion actively seek it out and convert all that often? As it turns out, yes. The most recent data on this that I’ve come across comes from Pew’s 2008 Religious Landscape Survey, which finds that only 46 percent of people who are raised religiously unaffiliated (which includes atheists, agnostics, and those who say they’re “nothing in particular”) remain unaffiliated as adults. By contrast, 68 percent of Catholics and 52 percent of Protestant stay with their childhood religion, and only 14 percent and 13 percent (respectively) stop subscribing to any religion at all: Continue Reading

21

Be of Good Cheer!

Laughing Padre Pio

 

 

Pat Archbold, who I have infinite respect for, at Creative Minority Report has a very gloomy post surveying the state of the Church under Pope Francis:

 

 

 

Today is not 1970, but I sometimes imagine I feel as some must have felt back then.  I know some people and I am acquainted with more people who are really struggling in this time.  I know that so many ‘Catholic’ pundits and wannabe pundits would mock them for their worries even as they celebrate every novelty and heresy that infects the Church as, you guessed it, a breath of fresh air.

I can see it.  I can see it so clearly.  The only question that remains is whether this time, the Lord will act.

I have often pondered this question. Will I live long enough to see the Church fully transmogrified into syncretistic modernized mess it seems hellbent on becoming or will the Church be rescued by the Lord.

As I said, I have often wondered what it must have felt like. I don’t wonder that anymore, I know now. The only thing I wonder now is when God will choose to act and rescue us, His Church, from us, His Church.

We have partied on the train tracks for so long, we delude ourselves into thinking them abandoned.  But the train is coming, I can see the light in the distance and I know with certainty it will arrive.  I cannot tell how far out is the light of the train and I can’t say how fast it is moving.  But it is coming, of this I have no doubt. Continue Reading

13

PopeWatch: Tradition

VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE

 

Sandro Magister at his blog Chiesa notes that Pope Francis is leaving no doubt as to who is in charge:

With Francis the papacy has ended up in a pool of shadow. The light is all for him, the pope. Not the institution, but the person.

He feels himself free from the canonical norms. In just one year he has already suspended six times the ironclad rule that demands a new miracle before a blessed may be proclaimed a saint. John XXIII is the last of the six. Francis wanted at all costs that John Paul II should be canonized not on his own but balanced by another pope with a different profile, less combative, more merciful.

And so it will be on Sunday, April 27. The congregation for the causes of saints has bowed to his will and has offered the pretense of asking Francis for the dispensation, benevolently granted right away.

In addition Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, who still figures as president of the Italian episcopal conference, has asked Francis that it be he, the pope, who delivers the inaugural discourse to the plenary assembly of the bishops to be held in May, something no pontiff has ever done.

The cardinal’s request, the official statement reads, “met with the ready willingness of the Holy Father, who confided that he had the same intention in mind.” Indeed. It had been known for at least for a month that Francis had made this decision.

Since he has been pope the CEI has been virtually annihilated. Francis has asked the Italian bishops to tell him how they would like the appointment of their president and secretary to take place, whether by the pope as has always been done in Italy or by independent voting as is done in all the other countries. Taking the hint, the intention of almost all the bishops is to leave the appointment to the pope. And if he himself wants there to be a consultative vote beforehand, this will take place, but in secret and with no examination of the ballots. They will be delivered to the pope still closed, and he will do want he wants with them.

The CEI is the living refutation of the intentions of decentralizing and “democratizing” the Church attributed to Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Continue Reading

35

Of Sarah Palin, Waterboarding and Baptism

Sarah Palin and the torture debate?  Red Meat for bloggers for sure!  Sarah Palin at the NRA convention said about captured terrorists and interrogation:

“Oh, but you can’t offend them, can’t make them feel uncomfortable, not even a smidgen. Well, if I were in charge, they would know that waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists.”

The remark has received predictable criticism from the Left.  Mark Shea, who is not a Leftist whatever else he is,  chimes in with the usual quiet reason that has ever reflected his comments during the torture debate:

Well done also to Joe Carter for giving this vile filth no quarter.  There is nothing left to discuss or negotiate.  “Prolife” Christians who cheer for torture and, worse, cheer for sacrilegiously likening it to baptize have only one option: repent and seek forgiveness.  Those who make excuses for it or refuse to repent ought to be as radioactive as Catholics for a Free Choice.

Here is a link to the Joe Carter post mentioned by Mark.

Father Z believes that the remark requires an apology.

Ed Peters who Father Z quotes is very condemnatory:

Open contempt for faith and things of religion is broadly associated with the left in America. I well recall pro-aborts smirking under a placard that claimed “If men could become pregnant abortion would be a sacrament.” Now Palin has given sociology professors an incontestable example of contempt for religion on the American right.

May my readers join me in offering a short Pater in reparation for both.

In the face of all this, Sarah Palin is unrepentant:

Actions to stop terrorists who’d utterly annihilate America and delight in massacring our innocent children? Darn right I’d do whatever it takes to foil their murderous jihadist plots – including waterboarding. Whatever one thinks of my one…-liner at the NRA rally about treating evil terrorists the way they deserve to be treated to prevent the death of innocent people, it’s utterly absurd for MSNBC to suggest that I could put our beloved troops in harm’s way, but we’ve come to expect the absurd from that failing network. If you want to talk about what really harms our troops, let’s talk about politicians who gut our military’s budgets, or a president whose skewed budgetary priorities slash military benefits, or an administration that puts our vets on endless waiting lists for care that comes too late to help those who’ve paid the price for our freedom, or those who break bread with those who think it makes no difference how our military heroes died in Benghazi or anywhere else trying to protect America. Those actions are a heck of a lot more harmful than declaring an appropriate message our enemies should receive. If some overly sensitive wusses took offense, remember the First Amendment doesn’t give you a right not to be offended. Perhaps hypocritical folks who only want Freedom of Speech to apply to those who agree with their liberal agenda might want to consider that the evil terrorists who were the brunt of my one-liner would be the first to strip away ALL our rights if given the chance. That’s why we do whatever we can to prevent them from killing innocent people. And for that, we should NEVER apologize. Good Lord, critics… buck up or stay in the truck. And if you love freedom, thank our troops! Thank our vets! And thank those who have the brains to support them and the guts to defend what they have earned!
– Sarah Palin
My own thoughts? Continue Reading
3

Science Fiction and Tolerance

Nothing is so unworthy of a civilised nation as allowing itself to be governed without opposition by an irresponsible clique that has yielded to base instinct.

From a White Rose resistance pamphlet (1942)

 

 

I am happy that Dale Price is back to blogging on a fairly regular basis since it gives me a renewed opportunity to steal borrow blogging ideas from him.  He turns his attention at his blog Dyspeptic Mutterings to the insane purge going on within science fiction fandom of anyone who has political beliefs that do not coincide with the politically correct bromides du jour:

Orwellian group-think comes to real-world science fiction writing.

 
A little recondite, but instructive: the Hugo Awards and SFWA are the latest (if minor) institutions to have succumbed to the left’s jackbooted tolerance enforcers. The issues have risen to the attention of USA Today, so it’s newsworthy instead of merely nerdworthy.
Larry “Monster Hunter” Correia explains part of the problem (the Hugos) in a link within the USA Today column.
Finally, Sarah Hoyt (not exactly a charter member of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy herself) and John C. Wright both lower the boom. Continue Reading
2

Thanks, God, We’ll Take It From Here

Have you ever heard of some fellows who first came over to this country? You know what they found? They found a howling wilderness, with summers too hot and winters freezing, and they also found some unpleasant little characters who painted their faces. Do you think these pioneers filled out form number X6277 and sent in a report saying the Indians were a little unreasonable? Did they have insurance for their old age, for their crops, for their homes? They did not! They looked at the land, and the forest, and the rivers. They looked at their wives, their kids and their houses, and then they looked up at the sky and they said, “Thanks, God, we’ll take it from here.” Continue Reading

PopeWatch: Canonizations

VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE

 

The canonization sermon by Pope Francis in regard to Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII with commentary by Father Z:

At the heart of this Sunday, which concludes the Octave of Easter and which John Paul II wished to dedicate to Divine Mercy, are the glorious wounds of the risen Jesus.

He had already shown those wounds when he first appeared to the Apostles on the very evening of that day following the Sabbath, the day of the resurrection. But Thomas was not there that evening, and when the others told him that they had seen the Lord, he replied that unless he himself saw and touched those wounds, he would not believe. A week later, Jesus appeared once more to the disciples gathered in the Upper Room, and Thomas was present; Jesus turned to him and told him to touch his wounds. Whereupon that man, so straightforward and accustomed to testing everything personally, knelt before Jesus with the words: “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28).

The wounds of Jesus are a scandal, a stumbling block for faith, yet they are also the test of faith. [May I add also that there are hard teachings which we must accept if we are to remain Christians?  I have in mind, among others, the Lord’s teaching about marriage, to which the Church has] That is why on the body of the risen Christ the wounds never pass away: they remain, for those wounds are the enduring sign of God’s love for us. They are essential for believing in God. Not for believing that God exists, but for believing that God is love, mercy and faithfulness. Saint Peter, quoting Isaiah, writes to Christians: “by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Pet2:24, cf. Is 53:5). [It is a great mystery that, even through Christ conquered death definitively, once for all time, we still have to die.]

John XXIII and John Paul II were not afraid to look upon the wounds of Jesus, to touch his torn hands and his pierced side. [As Christ said and John Paul famously repeated, “Do not be afraid.”] They were not ashamed of the flesh of Christ, they were not scandalized by him, by his cross; they did not despise the flesh of their brother (cf. Is 58:7), because they saw Jesus in every person who suffers and struggles. These were two men of courage, filled with the parrhesia of the Holy Spirit, and they bore witness before the Church and the world to God’s goodness and mercy.

They were priests, bishops and popes of the twentieth century. [Let us not forget the indignities and sufferings they experienced as children, lay men!] They lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them. For them, God was more powerful; faith was more powerful – faith in Jesus Christ the Redeemer of man and the Lord of history; the mercy of God, shown by those five wounds, was more powerful; and more powerful too was the closeness of Mary our Mother.

In these two men, who looked upon the wounds of Christ and bore witness to his mercy, there dwelt a living hope and an indescribable and glorious joy (1 Pet 1:3,8). The hope and the joy which the risen Christ bestows on his disciples, the hope and the joy which nothing and no one can take from them. The hope and joy of Easter, forged in the crucible of self-denial, self-emptying, utter identification with sinners, even to the point of disgust at the bitterness of that chalice. Such were the hope and the joy which these two holy popes had received as a gift from the risen Lord and which they in turn bestowed in abundance upon the People of God, meriting our eternal gratitude.

This hope and this joy were palpable in the earliest community of believers, in Jerusalem, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. 2:42-47). It was a community which lived the heart of the Gospel, love and mercy, in simplicity and fraternity.

This is also the image of the Church which the Second Vatican Council set before us. John XXIII and John Paul II cooperated with the Holy Spirit in renewing and updating the Church in keeping with her pristine features, those features which the saints have given her throughout the centuries. Let us not forget that it is the saints who give direction and growth to the Church. In convening the Council, John XXIII showed an exquisite openness to the Holy Spirit. He let himself be led and he was for the Church a pastor, a servant-leader. This was his great service to the Church; he was the pope of openness to the Spirit. [Since last July I have been saying that this canonization of the two Popes is also the canonization of the Second Vatican Council.]

In his own service to the People of God, John Paul II was the pope of the family. He himself once said that he wanted to be remembered as the pope of the family. I am particularly happy to point this out as we are in the process of journeying with families towards the Synod on the family. It is surely a journey which, from his place in heaven, he guides and sustains. [All of you should note that reference to the Synod.  I know that the Cardinals and Bishops present heard that.]

May these two new saints and shepherds of God’s people intercede for the Church, so that during this two-year journey toward the Synod she may be open to the Holy Spirit in pastoral service to the family. May both of them teach us not to be scandalized by the wounds of Christ and to enter ever more deeply into the mystery of divine mercy, [NB!] which always hopes and always forgives, because it always loves. Continue Reading

7

United Socialist States of America

An exercise in alternate history.

The path to the creation of the United Socialist States of America began with the death of President Franklin Roosevelt on  April 12, 1944 and the accession to the Presidency by Vice-President Henry Wallace.  Personally favorable to the Soviet Union, the new President surrounded himself with fellow travelers and security risks.

In the Presidential election of 1944 Thomas E. Dewey, the Republican nominee, denounced Wallace as “soft on Communism”, a charge that Wallace vigorously denied. Wallace was elected in a close contest with Senator Glen Taylor (D.Id) as his Vice-President.

Following the conclusion of World War II, Wallace followed a policy of rapid demobilization which was quite popular, leaving only three divisions in Europe for occupation duties. General Eisenhower denounced this as being an inadequate force and resigned from the Army.  Wallace turned a blind eye to the Soviet imposition of Communist governments in Eastern Europe, with his inaction being denounced vociferously by the Republicans and by many Democrats, most notably Senator Harry Truman (D.Mo.).

Which member of the Wallace administration secretly provided the Soviets with the blue prints to build atomic bombs in 1945 remains unclear, but suspicion has usually focused on Secretary of State Alger Hiss.  Hiss was certainly instrumental in turning Werner von Braun and his associates over to the Soviets in 1945.  By 1948 Communist parties dominated all of Eastern Europe and Italy.

Wallace was defeated for re-election in 1948, running on the Progressive Party ticket after being denied the Democrat nomination which went to Harry Truman.  Thomas E. Dewey, the Republican standard bearer,  won in the fall with Truman a close second and Wallace a humiliating third with 2.4% of the votes.

The Wallace administration was history, but it left behind in the government bureaucracies many individuals who served as agents for the Soviet Union out of ideological conviction.  Steps to remove them were only partially successful, and throughout the ensuing Cold War they provided steady intelligence to the Soviet Union which allowed it to maintain a technological parity with the United States as the years passed.  Rising to senior positions in the various government bureaucracies they sheltered younger agents who joined them over the years.

With the defeat of US forces in Vietnam, the Henry Wallace wing of the Democrat party became dominant, with George McGovern narrowly defeating Ronald Reagan in 1976.  Embarking on a policy of a 37% reduction in military spending, which represented in practice a policy of unilateral disarmament, McGovern was not a knowing agent of the Soviet Union, although it is difficult to see what difference  it would have made in his policies if he had been.  He steadfastly ignored the toppling of governments of Central America by communist insurrections and the swarms of Soviet advisors that helped prop up the new regimes.  The beginning of a Communist insurrection in Mexico in 1978 alarmed many in the United States, but McGovern stuck to his policy of “Come Home America” and continued his policy of non-involvement in military struggles abroad. Continue Reading

12

Blessed John Paul II: First Pope of the Catholic Resurgence

(Today Pope John Paul II is being canonized, so I am rerunning this assessment of his papacy from 2011.)

Sometimes a great historical figure is not as recognized as such during his lifetime.  Other historical figures are recognized as monumentally important even while they live.  John Paul II, who was beatified yesterday, was definitely in the latter category.  He was the most important Pope of the last century, and the first pope I think of what will be viewed by future historians as a great Catholic resurgence.  It will take centuries for historians to fully assess his almost 27 year long papacy, but here are some of the factors that I think they will note.

1.  He largely stopped the post Vatican II chaos-After Vatican II the impulse to transform the Church into an institution fully reflecting the current views of cultural elites in the West wreaked much havoc.  Paul VI, a good and holy man, drew a line in the sand with Humanae Vitae, but he lacked the stomach and the will to fight it out with those who would have transformed the Catholic Church into what the Anglican Church is now:  a dying institution, adrift from any allegiance to traditional Christianity, and fully in accord with the mores and beliefs of the secular elite of the West.  Many were rubbing their hands with glee after the death of Pope Paul, in confident assurance that a new liberal pope would complete the transformation of the Church into something akin to Unitarianism with fancy dress.  Instead they got John Paul II, a Polish fighter who had stood toe to toe with the atheist rulers of Poland and was not the least frightened or impressed by the forces that sought to neuter Christ’s Church.  The chaos and low morale of the Church could not be completely reversed in one papacy, but John Paul II began the process and made a huge amount of progress.

2.  Presiding at the Funeral of Communism-During World War II, both the Nazis and the Communists slaughtered a huge number of Polish priests, viewing them as deadly enemies.  How very right they were!  The Polish Church, in the midst of one of the worst persecutions sustained by the Catholic Church in the last century, never lost faith that the Church and Poland would both ultimately outlast the totalitarian regimes and emerge triumphant.  John Paul II was the embodiment of this robust confidence that Communism, like Nazism, was merely a brief historical abberation that could and would be defeated.  The rise of Solidarity was completely predictable to him, and his embrace of it made a crackdown by the Polish Communist regime, and its Kremlin puppet masters, impossible.  John Paul II and Ronald Reagan in the Eighties brought about the largely peaceful collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe and laid the groundwork for its collapse in the former Soviet Union.  The heirs of Joseph Stalin learned to their sorrow that the type of power wielded by a skillful and determined pope cannot be counted in divisions but rather in human hearts.

3.  Culture of Life-In the teeth of an overwhelming movement among Western elites to jettison the belief that human life is sacred, John Paul II rededicated the Church to that proposition and waged a long uphill struggle throughout his papacy against abortion and euthanasia.  Like Moses, John Paul II did not live to see the victory in this fight, but ultimately we will win, and his brave stand at a crucial moment in history will be one of the reasons why. Continue Reading

9

Pope John XXIII: The Traditionalist of Change

 

 

The Conclave of 1958 lasted four days and 11 ballots before the election of Angelo Roncalli,  Patriarch of Venice, was elected as a compromise candidate.  No one was more surprised than the 77 year old Roncalli at his election.  He had purchased a round trip ticket and hoped that the Conclave would be a short one so that he could get home quickly.  He decided to reign as Pope John XXIII.

Roncalli was born in 1881 to a family of peasants,  the fourth child and first son, in a family that would grow to 13 kids.  He was ordained a priest in 1904.  In 1905 he became secretary to the Bishop of Bergamo, working in that capacity until 1915 while lecturing at the local seminary.  He served in the Italian Army during World War I as a sergeant, assigned as a stretcher bearer and a chaplain.    Of his experiences during the War he wrote:    “I thank God that I served as a sergeant and army  chaplain in the First World War. How much I learned about the human  heart during this time, how much experience I gained, what grace I  received.”

After the War he was appointed spiritual director of the seminary in Bergamo.  In 1921 Pope Benedict named him the director of the Italian society for the propagation of the faith.  In 1925 Pope Pius XI made him Apostolic Visitor for Bulgaria where he served for a decade.  His perpetual sunny demeanor behind which a very shrewd mind lurked made him a natural diplomat.  In 1935 he was made Apostolic Delegate to Greece and Turkey.  During the war he saved thousands of lives of those, especially Jews, under threat from the Nazis.  One of his tactics was to issue “baptismal certificates of convenience” to priests to fill out to falsely assert that Jews were actually baptized Catholics.  When he was praised for his activity after the War he said that all praise should be directed towards Pope Pius XII who made it clear that the lives of innocents suffering persecution were to be saved.  For his activities alone during the War I think the canonization of Roncalli today is fully justified.

In 1953 the Pope made him cardinal and Patriarch of Venice.  No doubt at his age Cardinal Roncalli assumed that he had reached the pinnacle of his career and only retirement awaited. Continue Reading

8

The Cross at our Crossroads

 

23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;

24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

1 Corinthians: 1:23,24

 

 

On Tuesday and Wednesday of last week my bride and I went down with our son to SIU Carbondale where he will be attending law school in the fall.  (He graduated in 3.5 years from the University of Illinois with a degree in History, and he has been following me around since January to learn what not to do as an attorney.)  We were taking him down for an awards ceremony where he received a full tuition scholarship.  (Fortunately he gets his brains from my bride rather than from me.)

Carbondale is a 268 mile jaunt from Dwight, most of it on I-57.  As we came to the intersection of I-57 and I-70 at Effingham we saw The Cross at the Crossroads.  198 feet tall, it is the largest free standing cross in the world.  Seeing the Cross brightened what was a lengthy drive and reminded us that while we all go about our lives the Cross of Christ is irrevocably at the center of our existence. Continue Reading

April 27, 1864: Jacob Thompson

Jacob_Thompson_-_Brady-Handy

Jacob Thompson of North Carolina was Secretary of the Interior under James Buchanan.  Resigning his cabinet post to follow the Confederacy, he joined the Confederate Army and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, fighting in several battles in the West.

On April 27, 1864 he met with Jefferson Davis who appointed him to lead a delegation of “special commissioners” to Canada.  In effect, he was the head of the Confederate Secret Service in Canada.  During 1864 he would concoct plots to free Confederate prisoners in Union POW camps with the help of copperheads.  He met with disaffected Northern politicians to plot the formation of a Northern Confederacy.  He was behind a plot to burn New York City in revenge of the burning of Atlanta.  He was accused of meeting with John Wilkes Booth, although this has not been proven, and after the War Thompson vigorously denied any involvement with the assassination of Lincoln. Continue Reading

16

Impotence as Foreign Policy

Foreign Policy as Bad Joke

Since 2008 I have often suspected that the Obama administration is one huge, unfunny, practical joke.  That is certainly the only rational explanation for the reaction of the Obama administration to the ongoing slicing and dicing of Ukraine by Mother Russia under the leadership of Vladimir “Fearless Leader” Putin.  James Taranto at The Wall Street Journal gives us the details:

 

Here’s a case in point. On March 13, a week or so after that interview was published, Samantha Power, America’s ambassador to the United Nations, tweeted about Moscow’s intervention in Crimea: “I missed the day at law school where self-determination was defined as #Russia-determination. Russia must halt its military action.” Two days later, she added: “Russia can veto a Security Council resolution, but it can’t veto the truth.”

It would appear the State Department is seeking to maintain the balance of power through a strategy of mutually assured derision.

One problem with using sarcasm as a weapon is that its proliferation is uncontrollable and widespread. Even the Canadians have it. In a column for the Toronto Sun, Ezra Levant mocked “the ironically named Ambassador Power.”

Another problem, as Levant suggested, is that the Russians appear to be better at mockery than their American counterparts. After a phone conversation between Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin, Levant wrote, “the Kremlin release[d] this note: ‘Mr. Obama congratulated Mr. Putin on the success of the Paralympic Games and asked Mr. Putin to pass on his greetings to the athletes.’ . . . At least Samantha Power stomped her feet and wrote a mean Twitter tweet. But Obama personally congratulated Putin, during a phone call about a war?”

Wait, it gets worse. Some of Foggy Bottom’s tweeters are deadly earnest, making them totally defenseless against post-Soviet sarcasm. On March 26 Jen Psaki, State’s top spokesman, tweeted this: “To echo @BarackObama today-proud to stand #UnitedForUkraine World should stand together with one voice.” In an accompanying photo, a smiling Psaki gave a left-handed thumbs-up while holding up in her right hand a sign with the #UnitedForUkraine hashtag and her Twitter handle, @statedeptspox.

Yesterday, National Review Online’s Patrick Brennan reports, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s official Twitter account started including the hashtag in its tweets on the subject. Example: “[Foreign Minister Sergey] #Lavrov: Our US counterparts must compel the acting officials in Kiev to bear responsibility for the current situation #UnitedForUkraine.”

Barack Obama’s political operation frequently sees its Twitter hashtags “hijacked” by conservative antagonists. Remember #WHYouth? But in domestic politics, mutually assured derision is just good clean fun. Partisan politics thrives on antagonism. If the purpose of the domestic hashtags is to motivate Democratic base voters, conservative mockery is a help rather than a hindrance.

At Foggy Bottom, however, they seem utterly clueless as to what the Russians are up to. Brennan notes that Macon Phillips, who runs the department’s Bureau of International Information Programs, tweeted in response: “Welcome to the #UnitedForUkraine hashtag @mfa_russia! 2 steps to join in: First watch an intro video [titled ‘Sanctions: How Did We Get Here?’], then RT!” Continue Reading

4

You Knew This Was Going to Happen Eventually, Didn’t You

VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE

From the only reliable source of Catholic news on the net, Eye of the Tiber:

VATICAN––The Vatican Press Office Director Father Federico Lombardi issued a statement to the media today concerning Pope Francis’ recent telephone call to a divorced and remarried Argentine woman, in which he supposedly gave her permission to receive Holy Communion. The woman at the center of the story, Jacqui Sabetta, and her ex-husband told reporters that His Holiness told them that “divorced people who take communion are not doing anything wrong.”

In response to the controversy, Lombardi has issued the following statement:

Statement from the Director of the Holy See Press Office

Several telephone calls have taken place in the context of Pope Francis’ personal pastoral relationships.

Since they do not in any way form part of the Pope’s public activities, no information or comments are to be expected from the Holy See Press Office.

Consequences relating to the teaching of the Church are not to be inferred from these occurrences.

Nevertheless…in light of how out of control these phone calls are becoming, and the distraction they are causing from the Church’s mission, we have decided to disconnect His Holiness’ phone service indefinitely. For the lack of a better term, His Holiness is hereby grounded, his phone has been taken away, as well as his access to social media. He has said nothing wrong, but he knew better than to give ammunition to you in the media.

Our telephone provider, Telefonica, has been notified of our wish that no one be allowed to call outside the Vatican until the end of His Holiness’ pontificate,  and they have assured us that phone service in the Vatican is to be disconnected sometime tonight, before His Holiness finds some spare time and decides to dial someone back home. We ask all of you in the media to please keep this news on the hush-hush until service is successfully shut off.

Thank you for your cooperation. Continue Reading

15

Want Not, Waste Not

The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.

Hannah Arendt

 

 

 

Now if only the Nazis, who were big into ecology by the way, had used this as a defense for Auschwitz:

 

 The British Columbia Health Ministry has admitted that the remains of babies destroyed by abortion in B.C. facilities are ending up in a waste-to-power facility in the United States, providing electricity for residents of Oregon.

The province’s Health Ministry said in an email to the B.C. Catholic that “biomedical waste” shipped to the U.S. to be incinerated includes “human tissue, such as surgically removed cancerous tissue, amputated limbs, and fetal tissue.”

“The ministry understands that some is transferred to Oregon. There it is incinerated in a waste-to-energy plant,” the email stated.

The ministry said that contractors handling the province’s “biomedical waste” follow “health and safety protocols, as well as federal, provincial, and local regulations.” Continue Reading

36

Yes, I am Really Getting Tired of It

Excuses

 

 

Steve Skojec at his blog takes aim at the endless excuses many Catholic commentators come up with to ignore the obvious:

 

Is anyone else getting really, really tired of this game?

Pope Francis consistently says things that cause serious concern among Catholics who know what the Church teaches. No sooner have the words left his mouth (and of course, been reported on far and wide) than the spin machine goes into high gear – powered in large part by Catholic bloggers who make a living promoting the status quo within the Church (no conflict of interest there!) — telling us why we should not worry about the obviously controversial thing because of one of the following reasons:

  1. It’s a translation issue
  2. It’s a contextual issue
  3. When he said “X” it’s clear that he probably meant “Y”
  4. The source is unreliable
  5. The information is not first-hand
  6. We must look at the issue through the Argentinian cultural lens
  7. The media is misrepresenting what he said
  8. He contradicted himself in another thing that he said during a homily last week
  9. Fr. Lombardi says it ain’t true

Take your pick. There are probably others. I imagine the Catholic apologists in the tank for this nonsense have a sort of flow chart they pass around every time they add a new option. “Did the Pope speak in Italian? –> IF YES, it’s not his native language. Lost in Translation. IF NO…”

It’s a spin-the-wheel sort of system. Maybe there’s a papal 8-ball out there (in white, of course) where you shake it up and it gives you a series of half-believable reasons why whatever he said wasn’t really heterodox. Across the spectrum of Catholic publications and social media, it’s become a giant excuse-making enterprise. Almost like the Pope Francis edition of whack-a-mole.

You’ll have to excuse my sarcasm. I’m starting to find this all incredibly offensive, and insulting to the collective intelligence of Catholics who see what is really going on. Continue Reading

5

Anzac Day 1944

powskwai

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,

  Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,

  To the innermost heart of their own land they are known 

As the stars are known to the Night;

    As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,

       Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;  

  As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,    

To the end, to the end, they remain.

Laurence Binyon, To the Fallen

Today is Anzac Day.  It commemorates the landing of the New Zealand and Australian troops at Gallipoli in World War I.  Although the effort to take the Dardanelles was ultimately unsuccessful, the Anzac troops demonstrated great courage and tenacity, and the ordeal the troops underwent in this campaign has a vast meaning to the peoples of New Zealand and Australia.

An unusual Anzac Day commemoration was held 70 years ago today.  During World War II the Japanese built a railroad between Bangkok, Thailand and Rangoon, Burma.  They used the slave labor of 180,000 Asian civilians and 60,000 Allied POWs to build it.  The men worked under appalling conditions, subject to starvation rations, and beatings and casual murder by their guards.  Some 90,000 of the civilians died, along with 12,399 POWs, mostly Brits, Australians and Dutch.

On April 25, 1944 some 400 Australian POWs of the Japanese gathered to remember Anzac Day.  Their padre good naturedly chided the men, saying they only tended to show up for church service on Anzac Day!  In the midst of starvation and death they still managed to summon up the fortitude to remember the courage and endurance of the Anzacs who fought in World War I.

To Don the Kiwi, Ez and our other readers and commenters from Australia and New Zealand, my hope that they had a good Anzac Day as they saluted the courage of their ancestors. Continue Reading

6

PopeWatch: Father Lombardi

VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE

 

PopeWatch has long admired the standup comedy performed by Vatican press flack Father Federico Lombardi.  In reaction to the cold call mess, go here to read about it, he has outdone himself with this hilarious statement:

Several telephone calls have taken place in the context of Pope Francis’ personal pastoral
relationships.
Since they do not in any way form part of the Pope’s public activities, no information or
comments are to be expected from the Holy See Press Office.
That which has been communicated in relation to this matter, outside the scope of personal
relationships, and the consequent media amplification, cannot be confirmed as reliable, and is
a source of misunderstanding and confusion.
Therefore, consequences relating to the teaching of the Church are not to be inferred from
these occurrences. Continue Reading

53

Pope Francis and “Father” Bergoglio

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Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels so frequently in defense of the Church that I have named him Defender of the Faith, over at his Midwest Conservative Journal  takes a look at the cold call imbroglio:

A new Roman Catholic Doctrinal FirestormTM has recently erupted:

Did Pope Francis tell a divorced and remarried woman that it was okay to take Communion even though her parish priest denied her the host?

That’s the latest kerfuffle created by the “cold-call” pope who on Monday, the day after Easter, called an Argentine woman who had written to him about whether she should receive communion at Mass even though she was divorced and remarried.

“There are priests who are more papist than the pope,” the pope himself reportedly told Jacquelina Lisbona.

Kudos to CNN, which UPDATES the story with reporting from three continents (literally): CNN has a Vatican spokesman confirming that the call did indeed take place, but the Rev. Thomas Rosica provided no details.

“It’s between the Pope and the woman,” said Rosica, a consultant for the Vatican press office.

“To draw any conclusions about this particular situation, that the Pope may be setting an agenda, is incorrect,” Rosica told the network. “The Pope is first and foremost an esteemed pastor, and dealing with a human situation is always complex.”

That’s good to keep in mind, though if the contents of the pope’s conversation with Lisbona are true, then this is a big deal, at least in terms of the example Francis is setting rather than the doctrine that he is not changing.

Here’s the woman’s account of the phone call.

“The phone rang and my husband answered. It was Fr. Bergoglio calling. The father asked to speak to me and my husband asked: ‘Who’s calling?’, to which the voice replied ‘Fr. Bergoglio.’ I asked him if it was really him, the pope, and he said it was and that he was calling in response to my letter dated September.

“Then he told me there are some priests who are more papist that the pope. He was completely normal with me on the phone and I tried to speak to him with the utmost respect. Now I am overwhelmed by the enormous effect this story has had and I feel moved by the fact that I spoke to Francis. I told him I would write to him again when I take Communion again.”

Was this call actually made?  It seems to have been.

Yes, the pope called Jacquelina Lisbona. The real question regards the content of the conversation. If indeed he said those things this would be a big deal because she is still in what the church would call an “irregular” marriage. Her husband is divorced, and they have not been married in the church.

In any case, Francis once again has set an example for the rest of the hierarchy even without changing church law, and it’s in keeping with the pope’s character — Francis has frequently shown little patience with priests who are “little monsters” (his words) who cite “small-minded” rules rather than ministering mercy to people.

Damian Thompson has posts on this story up here and here.  This site’s Catholic readership can hash this out in the comments (in fact, I hope you guys do) but I am, for the most part, going to adhere to MCJ policy about controversial Roman Catholic news stories, hold off for a few days and wait to see how this thing plays out.

But somebody is going to have to remind Francis of the difference between a parish priest and the leader of a great Christian church as well as the reigning sovereign of the world’s oldest, continuous monarchy.  Parish priests have a certain rhetorical latitude that popes do not, indeed cannot, have. Continue Reading

3

PopeWatch: Yoannis Lahzi Gaid

VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE

The appointment of Father Yoannis Lahzi Gaid as a personal secretary is an intriguing appointment by the Pope.  Sandro Magister at his blog Chiesa gives us the details:

Pope Francis has a new personal secretary. His name is Yoannis Lahzi Gaid. He is an Egyptian priest of the Coptic rite and a member of the Vatican diplomatic service. A figure with an unusual résumé. The author, in the past, of statements very critical in regard to Islam.

Gaid is taking the place of the Maltese Alfred Xuereb, whom the pontiff inherited a year ago from Benedict XVI and has now destined for the position of prelate secretary of the newly created secretariat for the economy. He is joining the pope’s other personal secretary, the Argentine Fabián Pedacchio Leániz, who is also staying in his role as an official of the congregation for bishops.

The selection of Gaid, as of personal secretaries in general, is not a formal appointment and so was not made public in an official manner. The news was broken by the website Vatican Insider last week.

Born in 1975, Gaid attended the pontifical ecclesiastical academy and in 2007 entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See. Initially destined for the nunciature of Brazzaville in Congo, he remained there for three years. In March of 2010 he was transferred to that of Iraq and Jordan. But his stay there was very brief. In July of 2011, in fact, he was destined for the pontifical nunciature of New Delhi, but before the transfer to India could take place he was kept back in the first section of the secretariat of state, in an office of slight importance, that of honorary awards, usually reserved for non-diplomatic personnel.

But Francis has been able to appreciate him both as his fellow neighbor at the residence of Santa Marta and as an interpreter during meetings with Arabic speakers. Gaid is also the prelate who gives the greetings in the language of the Quran during the Wednesday general audiences.

The admirers of the pope’s new secretary have included his fellow Egyptian Magdi Cristiano Allam, a Muslim journalist and writer who converted to Christianity and was baptized in Saint Peter’s by Benedict XVI on March 22, 2008. For some time has been very critical of a Church that in his view is too yielding toward Islam. Continue Reading

15

The Pope Is On The Line

Rottenecards_100827232_sy48y9zq2m

 

 

The controversy du jour regarding the Pope with Father Z’s comments:

 

Sometimes it is hard to tell whether the writer gets it wrong because he doesn’t know better or whether their mistakes are on purpose.

Perhaps you can chime in.

From The Telegraph:

Pope Francis tells divorced woman she should be allowed Communion [This is news?  No.  That was a trick question.  Is there more?]

In what would be a break from Catholic teaching, Pope said to have phoned remarried [That adds new information, doesn’t it?   You would think that something this important would in the headline, no?] Argentine woman Jacquelina Sabetta telling her ‘nothing wrong’ in her taking Holy Communion  [Next question: Who says?  Who claims that this is what the Pope said?]

Pope Francis has reportedly [!] told a divorced and remarried woman that she should be allowed to receive Holy Communion, in what would be a significant shift from current Catholic Church teaching. [And therefore we are all to be highly skeptical.  This is rumor.  The woman tells a reporter in Argentina, the wires pick it up, this article is written… how many times removed is this?  Did she, at the beginning, even grasp what the Pope might have actually said?  (I doubt it.)]

Jacquelina Sabetta, who is from the Pope’s home country of Argentina, wrote to him saying that she found it distressing that as a Catholic who had divorced and remarried, she was not allowed to take the Sacrament in church. [“Take the Sacrament” a turn of phrase redolent of… something.]

After divorcing her first husband, she had remarried in a civil ceremony.

In her letter she said she was worried that if she took Communion, she would be “violating Church rules”. [NO!  This is not just a “rule”! Rules are fairly easily changed.]

The Pope, who since being elected 13 months ago has established a reputation for calling ordinary Catholics out of the blue, then telephoned her at home on Easter Monday. [Maybe.]

He reportedly [!] told her: “A divorcee who takes communion is not doing anything wrong.” [That doesn’t pass the smell test.  I just don’t buy that the Pope would tell a woman who is in an improper marriage can receive Communion.  And I certainly don’t think he would have wanted this to be trumpeted around.]

The surprising exchange was recounted by Mrs Sabetta’s husband, Julio Sabetta, who wrote about it on his Facebook page.  [WOAH!  So, the source wasn’t the woman who allegedly received the phone call.  This is more information.  It was her “husband”.  And not just her husband, but his page on FACEBOOK!  This is a good source?]

“One of the most wonderful things in my life has just happened,” he wrote.  [And I suppose we are all supposed to be delighted for them. How you “feel” is all that matters these days.]

The phone call from the Pope reportedly [!] came six months after the woman wrote to him. Introducing himself as “Father Bergoglio” – a reference to his given name, Jorge Mario Bergoglio – the South American pontiff said he was sorry it had taken him so long to make the call. [“Father Bergoglio”… uh huh.  Sometimes priest friends have been known to make some pretty funny phone calls to me and mutual friends while imitating imitable priests or bishops.  Hilarity ensues.]

“It is an issue we are discussing in the Vatican, because a divorcee who takes communion is not doing anything wrong,” the Pope reportedly [!] said.  [HERE is the big problem at the core of this article.  It is true that a “divorcee” can receive Communion.  In the last quote, that is the main element to attend to.  The problem enters when you add “remarried” to “divorcee”.  Get it?  So… what’s going on?  IF the Pope called, and I am not ready to buy that without a moment of doubt, and IF the Pope tried to explain her situation, did she actually understand anything he said after saying that divorce, in itself, isn’t the main problem?  I can very imagine her tuning out everything after that.  Then she recounts it in a scrambled way to her “husband” who may or may not get it.  He puts it on Facebook.  Somehow the press sees it… how did that happen, I wonder.  Then it hits the wires… then… get it?]

The Catholic Church currently maintains that unless a first marriage is annulled, [NO! NO! NO!  The Church does NOT annul marriages!   The Church can declare that a marriage was null from the beginning.  The Church cannot put asunder what God hath joined.] Catholics who remarry cannot receive Communion because they are essentially living in sin and committing adultery.

Such annulments are often impossible to obtain, or can take years to process, a problem that has left many Catholics feeling rejected by the Church.

Since being elected in March last year, Pope Francis has on several occasions called for a more merciful approach to the problem, but had so far stuck to official Church doctrine.  [“Official” Church doctrine… is there any other kind?  Apparently there is the Church doctrine as reported by the MSM.]

In February he said divorced and separated couples should not be excluded from Church activities, in remarks which also raised speculation that he may one day lift the ban on divorcees receiving Communion.  [Again… sloppy and misleading.  AGAIN… the problem is not just divorce.  The problem is remarriage.]

He told a group of Polish bishops that priests should “ask themselves how to help (divorced couples), [HUH?  “Divorced couples”?] so that they don’t feel excluded from the mercy of God, the fraternal love of other Christians, and the Church’s concern for their salvation.”

When asked whether the remarks attributed to the Pope were correct, a Vatican spokesman told The Telegraph: “We would neither confirm nor deny that – this was a private telephone call made by the Holy Father and we would not divulge the details.” [The Press Office doesn’t have to divulge all the details, but… sheesh!… at least uphold Catholic teaching!]

But the reported remarks were in line with the position taken by Pope Francis in recent months – that the Church should treat divorcees and their partners with more compassion. [When you look at what Francis has said in public, he talks about sinners and compassion.  Compassion does NOT mean violating the teachings of the Church.] Continue Reading

22

In God We Trust Adopted as National Motto

Yesterday we had a post which noted the appearance of In God We Trust on US coinage after the passage of the Coinage Act of 1864.  The phrase became the national motto in 1956 pursuant to a Joint Resolution of Congress which should be celebrated for its brevity as well as for its substance:

 

 

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

That the national motto of the United States is hereby declared to be “In God we trust.´´

Approved July 30, 1956.

 

President Eisenhower summed up the sentiments that led to the adoption of “In God we trust” as the national motto in remarks he made on October 24, 1954 in observance of the 75th anniversary of the light bulb:

FAITH, faith and the American individual. Yes, it is on these two pillars that our future rests.

It was Thomas Edison who said: “Be courageous; be as brave as your fathers before you. Have faith. Go forward .”

Seventy-five years ago this very week, Tom Edison–a humble, typical sort of American–put this credo into action and gave a new light to the world.

It is faith that has made our Nation–has made it, and kept it free. Atheism substitutes men for the supreme creator and this leads inevitably to domination and dictatorship. But we believe–and it is because we believe that God intends all men to be free and equal that we demand free government. Our Government is servant, not master, our chosen representatives are our equals, not our czars or commissars.

We must jealously guard our foundation in faith. For on it rests the ability of the American individual to live and thrive in this blessed land-and to be able to help other less fortunate people to achieve freedom and individual opportunity. These we take for granted, but to others they are often only a wistful dream.

“In God we trust.” Often have we heard the words of this wonderful American motto. Let us make sure that familiarity has not made them meaningless for us.

We carry the torch of freedom as a sacred trust for all mankind. We do not believe that God intended the light that He created to be put out by men.

Soon we will be celebrating one of our holidays, one that typifies for me much of what we mean by the American freedom. That will be Halloween. On that evening I would particularly like to be, of course, with my grandchildren, for Halloween is one of those times when we Americans actually encourage the little individuals to be free to do things rather as they please. I hope you and your children have a gay evening and let’s all give a little prayer that their childish pranks will be the only kind of mischief with which we Americans must cope. But it can be a confident kind of a prayer too, for God has made us strong and faith has made and kept us free.

Good night. Continue Reading

1

PopeWatch: Priestly Joy

VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE

Sandro Magister at his blog Chiesa has a report on remarks by the Pope to priests last Holy Thursday:

For me, there are three significant features of our priestly joy. It is a joy which anoints us (not one which “greases” us, making us unctuous, sumptuous and presumptuous), it is a joy which is imperishable and it is a missionary joy which spreads and attracts, starting backwards – with those farthest away from us.

A joy which anoints us. In a word: it has penetrated deep within our hearts, it has shaped them and strengthened them sacramentally. The signs of the ordination liturgy speak to us of the Church’s maternal desire to pass on and share with others all that the Lord has given us: the laying on of hands, the anointing with sacred chrism, the clothing with sacred vestments, the first consecration which immediately follows… Grace fills us to the brim and overflows, fully, abundantly and entirely in each priest. We are anointed down to our very bones… and our joy, which wells up from deep within, is the echo of this anointing.

An imperishable joy. The fullness of the Gift, which no one can take away or increase, is an unfailing source of joy: an imperishable joy which the Lord has promised no one can take from us (Jn 16:22). It can lie dormant, or be clogged by sin or by life’s troubles, yet deep down it remains intact, like the embers of a burnt log beneath the ashes, and it can always be renewed. Paul’s exhortation to Timothy remains ever timely: I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands (cf. 2 Tim 1:6).

A missionary joy. I would like especially to share with you and to stress this third feature: priestly joy is deeply bound up with God’s holy and faithful people, for it is an eminently missionary joy. Our anointing is meant for anointing God’s holy and faithful people: for baptizing and confirming them, healing and sanctifying them, blessing, comforting and evangelizing them.

And since this joy is one which only springs up when the shepherd is in the midst of his flock (for even in the silence of his prayer, the shepherd who worships the Father is with his sheep), it is a “guarded joy”, watched over by the flock itself. Even in those gloomy moments when everything looks dark and a feeling of isolation takes hold of us, in those moments of listlessness and boredom which at times overcome us in our priestly life (and which I too have experienced), even in those moments God’s people are able to “guard” that joy; they are able to protect you, to embrace you and to help you open your heart to find renewed joy.

A “guarded joy”: one guarded by the flock but also guarded by three sisters who surround it, tend it and defend it: sister poverty, sister fidelity and sister obedience.

The joy of priests is a joy which is sister to poverty. The priest is poor in terms of purely human joy. He has given up so much! And because he is poor, he, who gives so much to others, has to seek his joy from the Lord and from God’s faithful people. He doesn’t need to try to create it for himself. We know that our people are very generous in thanking priests for their slightest blessing and especially for the sacraments. Many people, in speaking of the crisis of priestly identity, fail to realize that identity presupposes belonging. There is no identity – and consequently joy of life – without an active and unwavering sense of belonging to God’s faithful people (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 268). The priest who tries to find his priestly identity by soul-searching and introspection may well encounter nothing more than “exit” signs, signs that say: exit from yourself, exit to seek God in adoration, go out and give your people what was entrusted to you, for your people will make you feel and taste who you are, what your name is, what your identity is, and they will make you rejoice in that hundredfold which the Lord has promised to those who serve him. Unless you “exit” from yourself, the oil grows rancid and the anointing cannot be fruitful. Going out from ourselves presupposes self-denial; it means poverty.

Priestly joy is a joy which is sister to fidelity. Not primarily in the sense that we are all “immaculate” (would that by God’s grace we were!), for we are sinners, but in the sense of an ever renewed fidelity to the one Bride, to the Church. Here fruitfulness is key. The spiritual children which the Lord gives each priest, the children he has baptized, the families he has blessed and helped on their way, the sick he has comforted, the young people he catechizes and helps to grow, the poor he assists… all these are the “Bride” whom he rejoices to treat as his supreme and only love and to whom he is constantly faithful. It is the living Church, with a first name and a last name, which the priest shepherds in his parish or in the mission entrusted to him. That mission brings him joy whenever he is faithful to it, whenever he does all that he has to do and lets go of everything that he has to let go of, as long as he stands firm amid the flock which the Lord has entrusted to him: Feed my sheep (cf. Jn 21:16,17).

Priestly joy is a joy which is sister to obedience. An obedience to the Church in the hierarchy which gives us, as it were, not simply the external framework for our obedience: the parish to which I am sent, my ministerial assignments, my particular work … but also union with God the Father, the source of all fatherhood. It is likewise an obedience to the Church in service: in availability and readiness to serve everyone, always and as best I can, following the example of “Our Lady of Promptness” (cf. Lk 1:39, meta spoudes), who hastens to serve Elizabeth her kinswoman and is concerned for the kitchen of Cana when the wine runs out. The availability of her priests makes the Church a house with open doors, a refuge for sinners, a home for people living on the streets, a place of loving care for the sick, a camp for the young, a classroom for catechizing children about to make their First Communion… Wherever God’s people have desires or needs, there is the priest, who knows how to listen (ob-audire) and feels a loving mandate from Christ who sends him to relieve that need with mercy or to encourage those good desires with resourceful charity.

All who are called should know that genuine and complete joy does exist in this world: it is the joy of being taken from the people we love and then being sent back to them as dispensers of the gifts and counsels of Jesus, the one Good Shepherd who, with deep compassion for all the little ones and the outcasts of this earth, wearied and oppressed like sheep without a shepherd, wants to associate many others to his ministry, so as himself to remain with us and to work, in the person of his priests, for the good of his people. Continue Reading

20

PopeWatch: Turnaround CEO

VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE

The Economist has an article that concisely paints Pope Francis as a turn around CEO of a troubled corporation:

When Pope Francis celebrated his first Easter as CEO, just after being appointed, the world’s oldest multinational was in crisis. Pentecostal competitors were stealing market share in the emerging world, including in Latin America, where Francis ran the Argentine office. In its traditional markets, scandals were scaring off customers and demoralising the salesforce. Recruitment was difficult, despite the offer of lifetime employment in a tough economy. The firm’s finances were also a mess. Leaked documents revealed the Vatican bank as a vortex of corruption and incompetence. The board was divided and weak. Francis’s predecessor, Benedict XVI, was the first pope to resign for 600 years, amid dark rumours that the founder and chairman, a rarely seen elderly bearded figure whose portrait adorns the Sistine boardroom, had intervened.

Operating prophet

In just a year, the business has recovered a lot of its self-confidence. The CEO is popular: 85% of American Catholics—a tough audience—approve of him. Footfall in RC Global’s retail outlets is rising again. The salesforce now talks about a “Francis effect”. How has a septuagenarian Argentine succeeded in galvanising one of the world’s stodgiest outfits? Essentially by grasping three management principles.

The first is a classic lesson in core competences. Francis has refocused his organisation on one mission: helping the poor. One of his first decisions was to forsake the papal apartments in favour of a boarding house which he shares with 50 other priests and sundry visitors. He took the name of a saint who is famous for looking after the poor and animals. He washed and kissed the feet of 12 inmates of a juvenile-detention centre. He got rid of the fur-trimmed velvet capes that popes have worn since the Renaissance, swapped Benedict’s red shoes for plain black ones and ignored his fully loaded Mercedes in favour of a battered Ford.

This new focus has allowed the company to spend fewer resources on ancillary businesses, such as engaging in doctrinal disputes or staging elaborate ceremonies. The “poor-first strategy” is also aimed squarely at emerging markets, where the potential for growth is greatest but competition fiercest. Continue Reading

5

April 22, 1864: Coinage Act of 1864 and In God We Trust

In God We Trust

 

The Coinage Act of 1864 was passed one hundred and fifty years ago today.  Among other provisions it granted to the Secretary of the Treasury a two cent coin.  On this coin first appeared the motto In God We Trust.  Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury had been looking for an opportunity to place such a motto on coins since he received the following letter dated November 13, 1861 from the  Rev. M. R. Watkinson:

Dear Sir: You are about to submit your annual report to the Congress respecting the affairs of the national finances.

One fact touching our currency has hitherto been seriously overlooked. I mean the recognition of the Almighty God in some form on our coins.

You are probably a Christian. What if our Republic were not shattered beyond reconstruction? Would not the antiquaries of succeeding centuries rightly reason from our past that we were a heathen nation? What I propose is that instead of the goddess of liberty we shall have next inside the 13 stars a ring inscribed with the words PERPETUAL UNION; within the ring the allseeing eye, crowned with a halo; beneath this eye the American flag, bearing in its field stars equal to the number of the States united; in the folds of the bars the words GOD, LIBERTY, LAW.

This would make a beautiful coin, to which no possible citizen could object. This would relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism. This would place us openly under the Divine protection we have personally claimed. From my hearth I have felt our national shame in disowning God as not the least of our present national disasters.

To you first I address a subject that must be agitated.

Chase wrote on November 20, 1861 to the Director of the Mint:

Dear Sir: No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins.

You will cause a device to be prepared without unnecessary delay with a motto expressing in the fewest and tersest words possible this national recognition. Continue Reading

37

The Inhumanity of Hate Crime Legislation

Frazier Glenn Cross is the former grand dragon of a chapter of the KKK who murdered three people in Kansas City last week. While one would think that murdering three people would be sufficient grounds for, at a minimum, putting Cross away for the rest of his life, the true hammer has fallen: he will also face hate crime charges.

There is something rather off-putting about using hate crime laws as a means of punishing Cross. To most rational souls, murder is the worst crime that any human could be guilty of, yet it is as though simply committing murder is not really sufficient. Oh no, old run of the mill murder may be bad, but when the person is motivated by hate, well, then the federal government is really going to come after you with both guns blazing, so to speak.

It’s an unusual mentality for a number of reasons. When one commits an act of murder, that indicates to me that there is already some level of hate involved. Normally people do not shoot other people in fits of love. Thus charging a murder with a hate crime seems rather redundant.

More importantly, there’s this rather strange psycho-analysis implicitly involved here, as though murder itself is not truly the worst possible crime. Are we suggesting that a person who kills another person for that person’s wallet is somehow less evil, less criminal, and deserving of lesser punishment than the guy who shoots another person because said person is another religion, race, or creed? Is the humanity of the individual murdered in a robbery less than the humanity of the person murdered because of the color of their skin, or in this case because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? This situation is even more bizarre because the actual victims were not in fact Jewish. I suppose we should be relieved that mistaken identity does not mitigate the level of charge being leveled against Cross. One shudders to ponder the potential legal labyrinth we would have to travel down were we to insist that the victims actually be in the assigned category being hated. I’m sure Mr. Cross’s attorneys will attempt to argue that since he does not hate the ethnic and religious groups of his actual victims, the hate crime charge is therefore illegitimate. In which case I suppose Mr. Cross could be charged with some lower level crime, like, I don’t know, first degree murder.

There are those who might argue that the more you can throw at a monster like Cross in order to send him away, the better. While I am somewhat sympathetic to this point of view, I’m still left bothered by the subtle message that these laws send. Yes, we do have to make certain judgments about a person’s reasoning for killing another – that is why we distinguish between first and second degree murder. That is also why a person who is defending their own life is not charged with the same level of crime, if any, as the person who kills in cold blood. But cold blooded murder is cold blooded murder, and to assign a greater penalty to one who kills out of racial or religious animus strikes me as a sign of placing some sort of greater value on the life of one murdered in a so-called hate crime. If we deem all life to be sacred, then there should be no worse crime than to kill in cold blood, regardless of motive. These laws do not deter anyone and do little more than to serve as some sort of token outrage against a perceived thought-crime. It’s almost as though the real outrage isn’t that Cross (in this case) killed anyone, but that he was a bigot. That shows some terribly skewed priorities.

4

Thomas S. Vander Woude: A Name That Deserves to Be Remembered

 

Thomas S. Vander Woude who died in 2008 is part of my personal pantheon of heroes:

 

Thomas S. Vander Woude, 66, died last week while helping his son Joseph, who has Down syndrome, after he fell into a septic tank while working in the yard, police said. The tank was eight to 10 feet deep, Steve Vander Woude said.

His father climbed into the 2-by-2-foot opening, managed to get under Joseph and was pushing him upward to keep his head above the sewage. Initially, Vander Woude was able to keep his own head above the muck, telling a workman who was helping from above, “You pull, I’ll push,” Steve Vander Woude said. But he eventually sank and was later pulled out by rescue workers, who were unable to revive him, Prince William County police said.

Joseph, 20, was hospitalized last week with pneumonia but was released Saturday and attended the Mass for his father in a wheelchair, connected to an oxygen tank. His family said doctors expect a full recovery. A few days after his father’s death, Joseph’s family sat with him in the hospital and explained to him that his father had died.

Upon hearing the news, Joseph “sat back . . . he closed his eyes, his chin quivered, and he started crying,” Steve Vander Woude said. “I think he understands as much as he can right now.”

Another of Thomas S. Vander Woude’s sons, Tom Vander Woude, pastor at Queen of Apostles Catholic Church in Alexandria, gave the homily. In it, he likened his father to Saint Joseph, a man who patiently and quietly supported his family, did odd jobs for those in need and was content to worship God and not seek the limelight, Tom Vander Woude said. Continue Reading

9

Sagebrush Rebellion II

federally-owned-land

A perennial issue in the West is the amount of land owned by the federal government and the Clive Bundy confrontation, go here to read all about it, has brought it to the fore:

 

There’s a modern tea party political element to it, but it goes much farther back to when many western territories achieved statehood in the 19th century, working out deals with Washington (as Mormon Utah did over what adherents at the time called “plural marriages”).

The map accompanying this article shows the difference between the West and the rest of the country. Here’s a list showing percentages of federal land by state, according to the Congressional Research Service. It includes the US Bureau of Land Management, the US Forest Service, National Parks, and military bases: Nevada 81, Alaska 62, Utah 67, Oregon 53, Idaho 62, Arizona 42, California 48, Wyoming 48, New Mexico 35, Colorado 36.

State lawmakers say they’re better prepared to manage such lands, both for the environment and for regional economies.

“There is a distinct difference in the way federal agencies are managing the federal lands today,” Sen. Fielder said. “They used to do a good job, but they are hamstrung now with conflicting policies, politicized science, and an extreme financial crisis at the national level. It makes it impossible for these federal agencies to manage the lands responsibly anymore.”

Utah has led a legislative charge to demand relinquishment of title to certain lands that exclude national parks and wilderness study areas, reports the Deseret News in Salt Lake City.

The “Transfer of Public Lands Act,” signed into law by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert in 2012, set the stage for a formal showdown with the government by demanding action under threat of lawsuit, the newspaper reports. Other states are exploring similar options.

Often, the political fight centers on some hapless species of plant or animal threatened with extinction and protected under federal law – like the northern spotted owl in Oregon or the desert tortoise in California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah. Sometimes federal agencies are caught in the middle, trying to apply the “multiple use” doctrine to lands in dispute. Continue Reading

3

PopeWatch: Easter Message

VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE

The Easter Message of Pope Francis:

 

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters, a Happy and Holy Easter!

The Church throughout the world echoes the angel’s  message to the women: “Do not be afraid!  I know that you are looking  for Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here; for he has been raised…  Come, see the place where he lay” ( Mt 28:5-6).

This is the culmination of the Gospel, it is the Good  News par excellence: Jesus, who was crucified, is risen!  This event is  the basis of our faith and our hope.  If Christ were not raised,  Christianity would lose its very meaning; the whole mission of the  Church would lose its impulse, for this is the point from which it first set out and continues to set out ever anew.  The message which  Christians bring to the world is this: Jesus, Love incarnate, died on  the cross for our sins, but God the Father raised him and made him the  Lord of life and death.  In Jesus, love has triumphed over hatred, mercy over sinfulness, goodness over evil, truth over falsehood, life over  death. Continue Reading

8

He is Risen!

 

Christ is Risen

Science Fiction writer Theodore Beale (Vox Day), at his blog Vox Popoli, gets to the heart of the matter today when it comes to Easter:

Those who are Aristotelian devotees of reality stand by the Lesser Truth that A is A, and that A is never Not-A. But the Lesser Truth descends from, and depends upon, the Greater Truth, which is this:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Yesterday the light shone in the darkness. Today the light shines in the darkness. Tomorrow the light will shine in the darkness. And the darkness will never, ever, overcome it.

It is not a story, it is The Story, it is the oldest story, it is the true story from which all other stories flow. Light versus dark. And despite the darkness that surrounds us, that pervades us, that haunts us, the light of all mankind is winning.

That is why, all around the world this morning, there are millions of men and women who will greet each other with three simple words of hope and truth and triumph.

Christ is risen! Continue Reading

2

Saint Augustine on the Resurrection

Continuing on with our Lenten series in which Saint Augustine is our guide, go here  , here  ,here  , here, here , here  , here and here to read the first eight posts in the series, we come to the conclusion with the eternal glory of Easter.

In this Vale of Tears we lead lives afflicted by sin and always in the shadow of death.  Christ came to free us from the chains of sin and to prove to us that death is not an end, but merely our beginning in infinity.  My mother died thirty years ago on Easter Sunday 1984.  Because of Easter I know that I will see her again, along with my son who died last year on Pentecost.  Without either hope or love we are but poor creatures indeed.  Easter gives us hope and tells us that we are children of a loving God.  Saint Augustine reminds us of these great truths: Continue Reading

2

April 2, 1983: Reagan on Passover and Easter

My fellow Americans:

This week as American families draw together in worship, we join with millions upon millions of others around the world also celebrating the traditions of their faiths. During these days, at least, regardless of nationality, religion, or race, we are united by faith in God, and the barriers between us seem less significant.

Observing the rites of Passover and Easter, we’re linked in time to the ancient origins of our values and to the unborn generations who will still celebrate them long after we’re gone. As Paul explained in his Epistle to the Ephesians, “He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. So then you were no longer strangers and aliens, but you were fellow citizens of God’s household.”

This is a time of hope and peace, when our spirits are filled and lifted. It’s a time when we give thanks for our blessings-chief among them, freedom, peace, and the promise of eternal life.

This week Jewish families and friends have been celebrating Passover, a tradition rich in symbolism and meaning. Its observance reminds all of us that the struggle for freedom and the battle against oppression waged by Jews since ancient times is one shared by people everywhere. And Christians have been commemorating the last momentous days leading to the crucifixion of Jesus 1,950 years ago. Tomorrow, as morning spreads around the planet, we’ll celebrate the triumph of life over death, the Resurrection of Jesus. Both observances tell of sacrifice and pain but also of hope and triumph.

As we look around us today, we still find human pain and suffering, but we also see it answered with individual courage and spirit, strengthened by faith. For example, the brave Polish people, despite the oppression of a godless tyranny, still cling to their faith and their belief in freedom. Shortly after Palm Sunday Mass this week, Lech Walesa faced a cheering crowd of workers outside a Gdansk church. He held his hand up in a sign of victory and predicted, “The time will come when we will win.”

Recently, an East German professor, his wife, and two daughters climbed into a 7-foot rowboat and crossed the freezing, wind-whipped Baltic to escape from tyranny. Arriving in West Germany after a harrowing 7-hour, 31-mile journey past East German border patrols, the man said he and his family had risked everything so that the children would have the chance to grow up in freedom.

In Central America Communist-inspired revolution still spreads terror and instability, but it’s no match for the much greater force of faith that runs so deep among the people. We saw this during Pope John Paul II’s recent visit there. As he conducted a Mass in Nicaragua, state police jeered and led organized heckling by Sandinista supporters. But the Pope lifted a crucifix above his head and waved it at the crowd before him, then turned and symbolically held it up before the massive painting of Sandinista soldiers that loomed behind. The symbol of good prevailed. In contrast, everywhere else the Holy Father went in the region, spreading a message that only love can build, he was met by throngs of enthusiastic believers, eager for Papal guidance and blessing. Continue Reading

2

April 19, 1775: The Shot Heard Round the World

“By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

 

 

“Sheriff Taylor” reminds us in the above video clip that it is not an iron rule of nature that History must be taught in such a fashion to ensure the destruction of whatever love of it may exist in students. Continue Reading

5

Report to the Emperor-First Draft

(I post this each year on Good Friday at The American Catholic.  Have a blessed Good Friday and Easter.)

I thank you Marcus for taking on the onerous task of acting as my secretary, in addition to your regular duties as my aide, in regard to this portion of the report.  The Greek, Aristides, is competent, and like most Greek secretaries his Latin is quite graceful, but also like most Greek secretaries he does not know when to keep his mouth shut.  I want him kept away from this work, and I want you to observe the strictest security.  Caiaphas was playing a nefarious game, and I do not think we are out of the woods yet.  I do not want his spies finding out what I am telling the Imperator and Caiaphas altering the tales his agents are now, no doubt, spreading in Rome.  Let us take the Jew by surprise for once!

 

Your first effort on this matter is rather good, but I think we can improve upon it.  Incidentally, tell the Greek in his portion of the report to work in a subtle reference to one of Tiberius’ victories with the legions.  Tiberius claims to despise flattery.  The old fraud, he loves flattery if it isn’t obvious, and I want him in a good mood when he is reading this report, probably the most important report of my career. Continue Reading

4

Didn’t You Always Suspect This?

 

Bad News

From the only reliable source of news on the net, The Onion:

 

WASHINGTON—Putting the nation on alert against what it has described as a “highly credible terrorist threat,” the FBI announced today that it has uncovered a plot by members of al-Qaeda to sit back and enjoy themselves while the United States collapses of its own accord.

Multiple intelligence agencies confirmed that the militant Islamist organization and its numerous affiliates intend to carry out a massive, coordinated plan to stand aside and watch America’s increasingly rapid decline, with terrorist operatives across the globe reportedly mobilizing to take it easy, relax, and savor the spectacle as it unfolds.

“We have intercepted electronic communication indicating that al-Qaeda members are actively plotting to stay out of the way while America as we know it gradually crumbles under the weight of its own self-inflicted debt and disrepair,” FBI Deputy Director Mark F. Giuliano told the assembled press corps. “If this plan succeeds, it will leave behind a nation with a completely dysfunctional economy, collapsing infrastructure, and a catastrophic health crisis afflicting millions across the nation. We want to emphasize that this danger is very real.”

“And unfortunately, based on information we have from intelligence assets on the ground, this plot is already well under way,” he added.

A recently declassified CIA report confirmed that all known al-Qaeda-affiliated organizations—from Pakistan to Yemen, and from Somalia to Algeria—have been instructed to kick back and enjoy the show as the United States’ federal government, energy grid, and industrial sector are rendered impotent by internal dissent, decay, and mismanagement. According to statements made by top-level informants and corroborated by leading Western terrorism experts, if seen through to its conclusion, al-Qaeda’s current plot could wreak far more damage than the events of 9/11.

In the past year, money transfers to al-Qaeda cells around the world have reportedly been accompanied by instructions to use the funds to outfit safe houses with the proper equipment to receive American cable news broadcasts and view top U.S. news websites, allowing terrorists to fully relish each detail of the impending demise of the last global superpower Continue Reading

98

Clive Bundy and the Rule of Law

 

 

The stand off between the Bureau of Land Management and rancher Clive Bundy raises some very intriguing questions about the rule of law in the land of the free and the home of the brave in this year of grace 2014.  Bundy and his family have grazed cattle on federal land for generations.   In 1993 the Bureau of Land Management changed the rules of the game, limiting the number of cattle to 150 that Bundy could graze, ostensibly to protect an endangered desert tortoise that, it turns out, are so endangered that in recent years the Bureau of Land Management has had to cull them because they have grown so numerous.  It also turns out that the tortoise and cattle co-exist fine in any case.

After 1993 Bundy stopped paying Federal grazing fees and grazed his cattle anyway, arguing that the land actually belongs to the State of Nevada rather than the Feds.  That argument has been a loser in court for Bundy.  He also has powerful enemies in Senator Harry Reid (D.Nv) and his son Rory Reid who often seem to assume that Nevada is, or should be, their personal fiefdom.  Go here  and here to read about their shady involvement in all this.  This all led to an attempted massive show of force by the Bureau of Land Management last week to round up Bundy’s cattle which was called off when videos of confrontations between the Feds and volunteers seeking to protect the Bundy cattle began filling the net.  Harry Reid has vowed this isn’t over.

Andrew McCarthy at National Review Online points out why so many people around the country sympathize with Bundy whose family has grazed cattle on public land for 140 years.

The underlying assumption of our belief in the rule of law is that we are talking about law in the American tradition: provisions that obligate everyone equally and that are enforced dispassionately by a chief executive who takes seriously the constitutional duty to execute the laws faithfully. The rule of law is not the whim of a man who himself serially violates the laws he finds inconvenient and who, under a distortion of the “prosecutorial discretion” doctrine, gives a pass to his favored constituencies while punishing his opposition. The rule of law is the orderly foundation of our free society; when it devolves into a vexatious process by which ideologues wielding power undertake to tame those whose activities they disfavor, it is not the rule of law anymore.

The legitimacy of law and our commitment to uphold it hinge on our sense that the law and its execution are just. As John Hinderaker points out, concerns about the desert tortoise—the predicate for taking lawful action against Nevada ranchers under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)—turn out to be pretextual. The ideologues who run the government only want to enforce the ESA against a disfavored class, the ranchers. If you’re a well-connected Democrat who needs similar land for a solar project, the Obama administration will not only refrain from enforcing the ESA against you; it will transport the tortoises to the ranchers’ location in order to manufacture a better pretext for using the law to harass the ranchers.

When law becomes a politicized weapon rather than a reflection of society’s shared principles, one can no longer expect it to be revered in a manner befitting “political religion.” And when the officials trusted to execute law faithfully violate laws regularly, they lose their presumption of legitimacy. Much of the public is not going to see the Feds versus Bundy as the Law versus the Outlaw; we are more apt to see it as the Bully versus the Small Fry. Continue Reading

2

Saint Augustine: The Body and The Blood

BouveretLastSupper

Christ bore Himself in His hands, when He offered His body saying: “this is my body.”

Saint Augustine

 Continuing on with our Lenten series in which Saint Augustine is our guide, go here  , here  ,here  , here, here , here  and here to read the first seven posts in the series, we come to Holy Thursday and the First Mass.  As Catholics, we join in the great mystery of God sacrificing Himself for us at every Mass we witness, just as if we were sitting at the Last Supper watching Christ transforming the bread into His Body and the wine into His Blood.  Saint Augustine explained to new Catholics why bread and wine are placed on Catholic altars: Continue Reading

19

Terri Schiavo Was Unavailable For Comment

Jesus Wept:

People with severe brain injuries sometimes emerge from a coma awake but unresponsive, leaving families with painful questions. Are they aware? Can they think and feel? Do they have any chance of recovery?

A new study has found that PET scans may help answer these wrenching questions. It found that a significant number of people labeled vegetative had received an incorrect diagnosis and actually had some degree of consciousness and the potential to improve. Previous studies using electroencephalogram machines and M.R.I. scanners have also found signs of consciousness in supposedly vegetative patients.

“I think these patients are kind of neglected by both medicine and society,” said Dr. Steven Laureys, an author of the new study and the director of the Coma Science Group at the University of Liège in Belgium. “Many of them don’t even see a medical doctor or a specialist for years. So I think it’s very important to ask the question, are they unconscious?”

In the United States, 100,000 to 300,000 people are thought to be minimally conscious, and an additional 25,000 are vegetative. In Belgium, the combined incidence of the two conditions is about 150 new cases per year, Dr. Laureys said.

An article about the new research was published on Tuesday in The Lancet.

Dr. Laureys and his colleagues studied 122 patients with brain injuries, including 41 who had been declared vegetative — awake but with no behavioral signs of awareness. People who are vegetative for a year are thought to have little or no chance of recovering, and the condition can become grounds for withdrawing medical treatment. Terri Schiavo, in a vegetative state for 15 years, died in 2005 in Florida after courts allowed the removal of her feeding tube. Continue Reading

18

Father Barron v. Bart Ehrman: No Contest

 

 

 

In the category of mismatched adversaries, Father Barron gives us a striking example today:

In this most recent tome, Ehrman lays out what is actually a very old thesis, going back at least to the 18th century and repeated ad nauseam in skeptical circles ever since, namely, that Jesus was a simple itinerant preacher who never claimed to be divine and whose “resurrection” was in fact an invention of his disciples who experienced hallucinations of their master after his death.  Of course Ehrman, like so many of his skeptical colleagues across the centuries, breathlessly presents this thesis as though he has made a brilliant discovery.

But basically, it’s the same old story.  When I was a teenager, I read British Biblical scholar Hugh Schonfield’s Passover Plot, which lays out the same narrative, and just a few months ago, I read Reza Aslan’s Zealot, which pursues a very similar line, and I’m sure next Christmas or Easter I will read still another iteration of the theory.

And so, once more into the breach.  Ehrman’s major argument for the thesis that Jesus did not consider himself divine is that explicit statements of Jesus’s divine identity can be found only in the later fourth Gospel of John, whereas the three Synoptic Gospels, earlier and thus presumably more historically reliable, do not feature such statements from Jesus himself or the Gospel writers.  This is so much nonsense.  It is indeed the case that the most direct affirmations of divinity are found in John — “I and the Father are one;” “before Abraham was I am;” “He who sees me sees the Father,” etc.

But equally clear statements of divinity are on clear display in the Synoptics, provided we know how to decipher a different semiotic system.

For example, in Mark’s Gospel, we hear that as the apostolic band is making its way toward Jerusalem with Jesus, “they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid” (Mk. 10:32).  Awe and terror are the typical reactions to the presence of Yahweh in the Old Testament.  Similarly, when Matthew reports that Jesus, at the beginning of the last week of his earthly life, approached Jerusalem from the east, by way of Bethpage and Bethany and the Mount of Olives, he is implicitly affirming Ezekiel’s prophecy that the glory of the Lord, which had departed from his temple, would return from the east, by way of the Mount of Olives.  In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus addresses the crippled man who had been lowered through the roof of Peter’s house, saying, “My son, your sins are forgiven,” to which the bystanders respond, “Who does this man think he is?  Only God can forgive sins.”  What is implied there is a Christology as high as anything in John’s Gospel.

And affirmations of divinity on the lips of Jesus himself positively abound in the Synoptics.  When he says, in Matthew’s Gospel, “He who does not love me more than his mother or father is not worthy of me,” he is implying that he himself is the greatest possible good.  When in Luke’s Gospel, he says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away,” he is identifying himself with the very Word of God.  When he says in Matthew’s Gospel, in reference to himself, “But I tell you, something greater than the Temple is here,” he is affirming unambiguously that he is divine, since for first century Jews, only Yahweh himself would be greater than the Jerusalem Temple.  Perhaps most remarkably, when he says, almost as a tossed-off aside at the commencement of the Sermon on the Mount, “You have heard it said, but I say…” he is claiming superiority to the Torah, which was the highest possible authority for first century Jews.  But the only one superior to the Torah would be the author of the Torah, namely God himself.

Obviously examples such as these from the Synoptic authors could be multiplied indefinitely.  The point is that the sharp demarcation between the supposedly “high” Christology of John and the “low” Christology of the Synoptics, upon which the Ehrman thesis depends, is simply wrong-headed. Continue Reading

Screen Pilates: Vincent Varconi

Continuing our series on screen portrayals of Pilate that I began in 2011 during Holy Week.    The posts on portrayals of Pilate by Rod Steiger, Richard Boone, Barry Dennen, Hristov Shopov, Telly Savalas, Frank Thring, Stephen Russell, Greg Hicks and Cyril Ritchard may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here, here, here and here.

One of the earliest screen portrayals of Pilate was by Hungarian actor Vincent Varconi in Cecil B. DeMille’s silent screen epic King of Kings (1927).  We first see Pilate enthroned as the embodiment of Roman power before a huge imperial eagle.  Initially bored by the attempt by Caiaphas to have him execute Jesus, he refuses to look at a document that Caiaphas has prepared laying out the charges against Jesus, after he talks to Jesus he feels the power of the words and presence of Christ, and seeks to satisfy Caiaphas and his mob by having Jesus beaten. Continue Reading

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Happy Tax Day!

Happy Tax Day!

The late great Jeff MacNelly reminds us above of just how much joy it is making our way through a maze of arcane tax regulations to determine just how much of our money BigGov will generously allow us to retain.  We can all console ourselves that in just six more days we will observe Tax Freedom Day, which comes three days later than last year.  The average member of the middle class in this country shells out one out of three dollars for taxes of all types.  Oliver Wendell Holmes once said that taxes are the price of civilization.  He should have added a coda:  over taxation is often a sign of civilizations in decline. Continue Reading

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Screen Pilates: Cyril Ritchard

Cyril Richard as Pilate

 

Continuing our series on screen portrayals of Pilate that I began in 2011 during Holy Week.    The posts on portrayals of Pilate by Rod Steiger, Richard Boone, Barry Dennen, Hristov Shopov, Telly Savalas, Frank Thring, Stephen Russell and Greg Hicks may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here, here and here.

 

Cyril Ritchard had quite a career as an actor.  He was also a devout Catholic, his funeral mass in 1977 being said by Archbishop Fulton Sheen.  It is therefore interesting that his portrayal of Pilate in the Studio One television play  Pontius Pilate (1952) is one of the more cynical and overtly political.  He and Caiaphas discuss the fate of Jesus privately as two seasoned pols who might as well be arguing over the division of spoils.  After the execution of Christ he is shaken by the death of Jesus under the influence of his wife, but remains convinced that he has made the right decision.  Procula leaves him and years later he finds her among a group of Christians that he must judge.  He condemns her and the other Christians, but later orders them to be released, he being unable to have the wife he still loves condemned to crucifixion.  The play ends with Pilate unsheathing his sword and telling himself that the sword is the answer to Christ’s query of “What is Truth” with the implication that Pilate will use the sword to commit suicide, having betrayed his belief in Rome out of love for his wife. Continue Reading

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A Clown Mass Would Be An Improvement on This

 Pal Jesus

Father Z gives us the grisly details about this exercise in sacrilege-by-puppet at the horribly misnamed St. Joan of Arc parish community:

 

 

From the Minneapolis Star Sickle comes this big puppet liturgical horror for Palm Sunday at the über-weird St. Joan of Arc parish, in the running for the weirdest parish in these USA.

Actors and musicians presented Palm Sunday Family Mass with In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre [apt mane] at Saint Joan of Arc Catholic Community in Minneapolis. Christians around the world celebrated Palm Sunday with the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, when the crowds waved palm branches.

“Celebrant”? in costume? Who knows.  It could be anyone.

Yep, at least the tabernacle is in the center of the … wildlife sanctuary!

It’s the raccoon that does it.  No? Continue Reading