Donald R. McClarey
I have always been struck by the Lyceum speech made by Abraham Lincoln at age 28 in Springfield, Illinois on January 27, 1838. It was a complex meditation on a topic that is very relevent to our own day: how Americans are to retain what the Founding Fathers bequeathed them: a free nation. Lincoln understood that the essential threat to our free society was not external but internal:
How then shall we perform it?–At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it?– Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never!–All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.
At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.
Lincoln knew that the memory of what the Founding Fathers accomplished over time would fade. He would be saddened, but not surprised, that in the third century of the Republic our schools spend little time teaching our children about the Revolution, and instead spend a great deal of time in indoctrinating children in the fashionable, and often pernicious, political shibboleths of our day. A people cannot love what they have forgotten, and if I had to put my finger upon one factor that has most contributed to the current problems we face, it is a collective ignorance, almost an amnesia, about our past, among a majority of Americans. Lincoln’s closing passage served as a warning in his day, and it is even more relevant in our own: Continue reading
A nice spoof by Andrew Klavan of the demonization of white Christian men that seems to be an essential feature of the contemporary left in this country. What was started by the Founding Fathers, as pointed out by Lincoln in the stirring quote below, was to free us from looking at people as groups instead of as what we truly are: children of a loving God who endowed each of us with unalienable rights:
These communities, by their representatives in old Independence Hall, said to the whole world of men: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This was their majestic interpretation of the economy of the Universe. This was their lofty, and wise, and noble understanding of the justice of the Creator to His creatures. [Applause.] Yes, gentlemen, to all His creatures, to the whole great family of man. In their enlightened belief, nothing stamped with the Divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on, and degraded, and imbruted by its fellows. They grasped not only the whole race of man then living, but they reached forward and seized upon the farthest posterity. They erected a beacon to guide their children and their children’s children, and the countless myriads who should inhabit the earth in other ages. Wise statesmen as they were, they knew the tendency of prosperity to breed tyrants, and so they established these great self-evident truths, that when in the distant future some man, some faction, some interest, should set up the doctrine that none but rich men, or none but white men, were entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, their posterity might look up again to the Declaration of Independence and take courage to renew the battle which their fathers began — so that truth, and justice, and mercy, and all the humane and Christian virtues might not be extinguished from the land; so that no man would hereafter dare to limit and circumscribe the great principles on which the temple of liberty was being built.
Abraham Lincoln, August 17, 1858
Back when I was a boy, I watched entirely too much television. Of course, who could blame me? Tempted by a luxuriant three, count them, three channels, albeit one of them fuzzy in bad weather, to choose from! However, I do not regret watching the Early Show on Channel 3. Back in those bygone days, many stations would run old movies from the thirties, forties and fifties, between 3:00 PM-5:00 PM. Thus I first experienced some of the classics of cinema, and one of my favorites was Double Indemnity, 1944, the first of the film noire genre. Adultery and murder were perhaps too mature topics for me in my initial pre-teen viewings, but I was fascinated by it because it seemed to be a playing out on screen of what I was learning at the time from The Baltimore Catechism: that sin will lead inevitably to destruction unless contrition and amendment are made. The film was fortunate to have at its center three masters of the craft of acting.
Fred MacMurray, born in Kankakee, Illinois, 37 miles from my abode, in 1907, was a good guy in real life and usually in reel life. A firm Catholic and staunch Republican, he tried to join the military after Pearl Harbor but a punctured ear drum kept him out of service. He adopted a total of four kids with his two wives: his first wife dying from cancer in 1953, and his second wife remaining his wife until his death. (Such fidelity was as rare in Hollywood then as it is now.) On screen MacMurray played to type and was almost always a good guy, but not always, and it is ironic that the two best performances of his career came when he played bad guys: weak, lustful and doomed Walter Neff in Double Indemnity and the scheming, cowardly Lieutenant Thomas Keefer in The Caine Mutiny.
Barbara Stanwyck had a Dickensian childhood from which she was lucky to emerge alive, her mother dying of a miscarriage and her father going off to work on the Panama Canal and never being heard from again. A series of foster homes followed, which Ruby Catherine Stevens, as Stanwyck was then named, constantly ran away from. Dropping out of school at 14 to begin working, she never looked back. Breaking into show business by becoming a dancer in the Ziegfield Follies at age 16, she was a star on broadway in the play Burlesque before she turned 20. Changing her name to Barbara Stanwyck, she broke into films immediately thereafter, displaying a flair for both drama and comedy, specializing in strong independent women. Her personal, as opposed to her professional, life was a mess. Married in 1928 to her Burlesque co-star Frank Fay, they adopted a son, Stanwyck having been rendered sterile by an abortion at 15. The marriage ended in divorce in 1935, Fay during the marriage often slapping Stanwyck around when he was drunk. Stanwyck got custody of their son. Stanwyck was a hovering and authoritarian mother, leading to a life long alienation from her son after he became an adult. Stanwyck married actor Robert Taylor in 1939, and, after numerous acts of infidelity on both sides, divorced in 1950. Ironically Stanwyck and Taylor did stay friends after their divorce, Stanwyck, who never remarried, referring to him as the true love of her life. In her politics Stanwyck was a staunch conservative Republican who supported the investigations of Congress into Communist infiltration into Hollywood. Remaining in demand as an actress almost until her death in 1990, she filled her last years with charitable work. Stanwyck was well equipped by her own tumultuous life to give depth to her portrayal of the murderous, scheming Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity.
Although remembered today chiefly for his gangster roles and his portrayal of the rat-like Dathan in The Ten Commandments, Edward G. Robinson was actually an actor with a very broad range of work: comedies, dramas, historical epics, you name it. By 1944 he was age 51 and realized that his days as a leading man were coming to a close. His half comedic role as the insurance claims adjuster Barton Keyes in Double Indemnity he viewed as a step in his transition to being a character actor. Always a liberal, Robinson was blacklisted in Hollywood due to his affiliation with Communist front groups. Robinson admitted as much by an article he wrote for the American Legion Magazine entitled “How the Reds Made a Sucker Out of Me”. His comeback came when anti-Communist director Cecil B. DeMille, who thought that Robinson had been treated unfairly, cast him in the scene-stealing role of Dathan in The Ten Commandments.
Spoiler alerts in regard to the following: Continue reading
We have set the seal of Solomon on all things under sun,
Of knowledge and of sorrow and endurance of things done.
But a noise is in the mountains, in the mountains, and I know
The voice that shook our palaces—four hundred years ago:
It is he that saith not ‘Kismet’; it is he that knows not Fate;
It is Richard, it is Raymond, it is Godfrey at the gate!
It is he whose loss is laughter when he counts the wager worth,
Put down your feet upon him, that our peace be on the earth.
GK Chesterton, Lepanto
The good news is that the spirit of Urban II is not quite dead in all Catholics. The surprisingly good news is that it is apparently alive and well in the soul of a 77 year old nun in London:
That nun was Sister Christine Frost, a Roman Catholic 77-year-old who has lived in and served the deprived local community for 44 years, as a member of the order of Faithful Companions of Jesus. Continue reading
At the mountain of God, Horeb,
Elijah came to a cave where he took shelter.
Then the LORD said to him,
“Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD;
the LORD will be passing by.”
A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains
and crushing rocks before the LORD—
but the LORD was not in the wind.
After the wind there was an earthquake—
but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake there was fire—
but the LORD was not in the fire.
After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.
When he heard this,
Elijah hid his face in his cloak
and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.
Of all the figures of the Old Testament, Elijah has always stood out for me. The most powerful of the prophets sent by God, he lived at a time of mass apostacy in the Kingdom of Israel. Under King Ahab and his Queen Jezebel, a daughter of the King of Sidon and a priestess of Baal, a great spirit of what many today would call ecumenicalism went forth, as Israel turned away from the stern God Yahweh, to the pleasure seeking ways of Baal. Elijah, his name means “Yahweh is my God”, would have none of it, and led the Traditionalists among the Yahweh worshippers who opposed the new spirit abroad in the land. The deeds of Elijah are well known, from the battle of the gods on Mount Carmel, to his being taken up to Heaven by a chariot of fire, but the most striking passage in his career is the incident of the still, small voice, set forth in today’s reading at Mass. Continue reading
Something for the weekend. Leaning on the Everlasting Arms sung by Iris DeMent. Anthony Showalter wrote the hymn in 1887. He had tragically received two letters from former pupils who told him that their wives had died. In his letters of consolation he referenced Deuteronomy 33:27: The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms, which became the theme of his hymn. Showalter wrote the refrain and Elisha Hoffman, at the request of Showalter, wrote the remaining lyrics.
I am on vacation beginning today with my family until August 18. My internet connection in the coming week will range from intermittent to non-existent. I will have posts for each day I am away on the blog, but if something momentous occurs, for example: Elvis is discovered working at a Big Boy’s in Tulsa, the Pope issues a Bull against blogging as a complete waste of time, or Obama reveals that Area 51 does contain aliens and Joe Biden has accidentally started an intergalactic war with them, I trust that this post will explain why I am not discussing it.
We will begin up in Kenosha, Wisconsin with a visit to my bride’s mother. We have been doing this since the birth of the twins and it has always been a fun family gathering.
We will then be moving my son into his apartment in Carbondale. For those of you who have never traveled through Little Egypt, Southern Illinois, it is a remarkably beautiful part of the country. My son is beginning law school next week at Southern Illinois University. When I attended law school more than a third of a century ago, I received no scholarships. However, fortunately, my son inherited his brains from my bride and has received a full tuition scholarship. I found the first year of law school to be a challenging experience, but if I could get by my son should have few difficulties.
One of the more distressing aspects of the contemporary world is just how frequently people are asked to swallow the most total malarkey. Case in point, current Catholic policy in regard to Islam. This policy, to dignify ahistoric fervent wishful hoping, is best exemplified by Pope Francis in this passage from Evangelii Gaudium:
253. In order to sustain dialogue with Islam, suitable training is essential for all involved, not only so that they can be solidly and joyfully grounded in their own identity, but so that they can also acknowledge the values of others, appreciate the concerns underlying their demands and shed light on shared beliefs. We Christians should embrace with affection and respect Muslim immigrants to our countries in the same way that we hope and ask to be received and respected in countries of Islamic tradition. I ask and I humbly entreat those countries to grant Christians freedom to worship and to practice their faith, in light of the freedom which followers of Islam enjoy in Western countries! Faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalisations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.
Andrew Bieszad, at One Peter 5, has a brilliant piece in which he explains how this policy is directly the reverse of the position of the Church until the day before yesterday in historical terms:
Harry S Truman, 1952, in explaining his refusal to force the return of North Korean and Chinese POWs who wished to stay in the West.
An uncle of PopeWatch fought in the Korean War. A Protestant, he was given a rosary by a Catholic family out in California just before he shipped out for Korea, the father of the family, a World War I vet, saying he carried it with him in France. He carried it through bloody hill battles in Korea and it was with him every day after he got back to the States. He used to tell PopeWatch that the best thing he had ever done in his life, outside of his family, was to fight to make certain that South Korea did not fall under Communism.
Following the Battle of Atlanta, the Union effort to put Atlanta under siege began. Of course, so long as the Confederates controlled the rail lines out of Atlanta leading to the Atlantic & West railroad and the Macon & Western railroad, the city was not really under siege. Sherman now manuevered to take these rail lines. At the battle of Ezra Church on July 27, 1864, a movement by Howard’s Union Army of the Tennessee against the Confederate rail lines was stopped by two corps of the Confederate Army of Tennessee under Stewart and S.D. Lee. Howard, who had the presence of mind to entrench one of his divisions prior to the Confederate attack, inflicted some 3,000 casualties on the Confederates in exchange for 642 of his own. However, his movement against the Confederate rail lines was thwarted. A simultaneous Union cavalry raid on the rail lines came to grief with both Union divisions being smashed by the Confederate cavalry under Major General Joseph Wheeler.
Continuing his effort to extend his right to cut the Confederate rail lines, in early August Sherman moved the small Army of the Ohio, which consisted of the XXIII corps, under Major General James Schofield from his left, and through August 5-7, a division of Schofield’s army attempted to break through the Confederate lines south of Utoy creek without success. Total Union casualties were 850 to 35 Confederate, showing yet again the folly of attempting to attack prepared defenses at this stage of the War. Sherman was stymied again.
Here is Sherman’s report on these engagements:
Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels so frequently for the Church that I have named him Defender of the Faith, addresses at Midwest Conservative Journal the perennial question of what to do when a child decides to go astray:
From the dawn of time, parents everywhere have dreaded having to face that terrible moment when one of their children rejects the family religious tradition:
You know, Saint John Paul II had a very good reason for suspending Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann back in 1985 from the priesthood. This was while he was part of the Sandinista government in Nicaragua and participated in their persecution of the Catholic Church. This included Sandinista mobs who tried to shout down the Pope at an open air mass in Managua in 1983, go here to read about it. Now the powers that be in the Vatican have lifted his suspension. Why the suspension was lifted is a mystery, since, as Rorate Caeli indicates, Escoto certainly has not changed his tune:
PopeWatch will be on vacation hiatus beginning August 8 until August 18, so just assume in this post that Saturday PopeWatch came early this week, courtesy of LarryD at Acts of the Apostasy:
(AoftheAP) Catholic blogger Anselm Gregory Benedictus Ambrose Tiberius Athanasius, who writes at “Ex Ore Dei” under the pseudonym “Pepe”, admitted to his readers yesterday that writing negative posts about Pope Francis for forty consecutive days has turned him into “a miserable SOB”.
“What began as a crusade for Truth ended as a victory for self-discovery. And what I’ve discovered after forty consecutive days of complaining about how Pope Francis has been bad for Church, is that I’ve become an even more miserable SOB. Before embarking on this endeavor, I was merely incorrigible. Now I am a torte of rich arrogance, with alternating layers of curmudgeon and bitterness, covered with a thin gruel of pompous ganache.
“And you know what? It becomes me. Sure, I’m irritated every day, and I get short with my family and co-workers. I have fewer friends. I engage in long, protracted arguments in the combox with people I don’t know. Even my dog avoids me. But it’s made me a better Catholic.”
“Damn the torpedoes!”
Bold Farragut said,
“Damn the torpedoes!
Full speed ahead!”
And, lashed to his rigging
With never a squeal,
He led his fleet into
The Bay of Mobile.
The Southern forts thundered
With vigor and vim
But grapeshot and canister
Never touched him.
The waters were mined
With a death-dealing load,
But Farragut simply
Refused to explode.
And fought till the Southerners
Gave up the fray.
(He’d captured New Orleans
In much the same way.)
So remember, if ever
You face such a plight,
There’s a pretty good chance,
“Straight ahead!” will be right.
And while “damn,” as you know,
Is a word to eschew –
He knew when to say it –
So few people do.
Rosemary and Stephen Benet
Time magazine, yes, it is still being published, has an opinion piece by John Gehring. Gehring is the Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life and a former associate director for media relations at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He views Pope Francis as shifting the debate from issues such as abortion, euthanasia and gay marriage to issues much friendlier to the Democrat party:
The Religious Right has long dominated the values debate in the United States. Evangelical and conservative Catholic leaders built a formidable alliance in the 1970s and 1980s that became a major force in electoral politics. The Catholic activist Paul Weyrich teamed up with Rev. Jerry Falwell of the Moral Majority to fight liberalizing cultural trends and paved a path that helped Ronald Reagan win the White House in 1980. George W. Bush built on this model in 2000 and 2004 by operating what is often regarded as the most sophisticated religious outreach strategy in memory. His circle of Catholic advisors served as an informal kitchen cabinet during his presidency. While the old lions of the Religious Right have died or lost influence – and a new generation of progressive religious activists are finding our voice – Christian culture warriors like Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and some outspoken Catholic bishops still shape a faith in politics narrative usually focused on a narrow range of sexual issues that overshadow Christianity’s broad social justice claims.