Well, this is interesting:
Pope Francis has signalled his blessing to the breakaway traditionalist American church at the centre of the split which has divided the 80 million strong worldwide Anglican Communion over the issue of sexuality.
He sent a message offering his “prayers and support” to Archbishop Foley Beach, the new leader of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), the conservative movement which broke away from The Episcopal Church after the ordination of the first openly gay bishop.
ACNA sees itself as the true Anglican church in the US, Canada and Mexico and believes that The Episcopal Church has abandoned the teaching of the Bible by embracing liberal stances on issues such as homosexuality.
The first and fatal charm of national repentance is, therefore, the encouragement it gives us to turn from the bitter task of repenting our own sins to the more congenital one of bewailing–but first, of denouncing–the conduct of others. If it were clear to the young that this is what he is doing, no doubt he would remember the law of charity. Unfortunately, the very terms in which national repentance is recommended to him conceal its true nature. By a dangerous figure of speech, he calls the Government not ‘they’ but ‘we’. And since, as penitents, we are not encouraged to be charitable to our own sins, nor to give ourselves the benefit of any doubt, a Government which is called ‘we’ is ipso facto placed beyond the sphere of charity or even of justice. You can say anything you please about it. You can indulge in the popular vice of detraction without restraint, and yet feel all the time that you are practicing contrition. A group of such young penitents will say, ‘Let us repent our national sins'; what they mean is, ‘Let us attribute to our neighbour (even our Christian neighbour) in the Cabinet, whenever we disagree with him, every abominable motive that Satan can suggest to our fancy.’
CS Lewis, The Dangers of National Repentance
“This, indeed, is probably one of the Enemy’s motives for creating a dangerous world—a world in which moral issues really come to the point. He sees as well as you do that courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty, or mercy, which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky. “
C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
This is one of those years in which the government decreed Columbus Day, the second Monday in October, does not fall on October 12, the date, under the Julian calendar, when Columbus discovered the New World. Columbus Day is observed also in Spain as Dia de la Hispanidad and Fiesta Nacional and as the charmingly unpc Dia de la Raza in most Latin American nations.
In this country Columbus Day used to be an uncomplicated celebration, especially for Italian Americans. Now it has become controversial with Columbus blamed in some quarters for genocide against Indians and being the founder of the American slave trade. As Dinesh D’Souza pointed out in this article in 1995 in First Things, the condemnation of Columbus today tells us far more about current political battles than it does about the historical record of Columbus. From a modern standpoint there is indeed much to criticize Columbus for since, in most ways, he was a typical man of his time, as we are, in most ways, typical children of ours. Among other views inimical to our time, he saw nothing wrong about establishing colonies and bringing native peoples under the rule of European powers. He had little respect for the religions of native people and wanted them to be Catholic, as, indeed, he wanted all the world to be Catholic. (I see nothing wrong in this myself, but rest assured most of our contemporaries in this country would.)
Prior to ascending the pulpit to launch a jeremiad against someone of a prior time however, it might be useful to consider the criticisms that Columbus might have of our time. The embrace of nihilistic atheism by so many in the West in our time would have appalled him. The easy availability of the most degrading types of pornography would have sickened him. Our weapons of mass destruction he would have seen as a sign of the reign of the Anti-Christ. Ecumenicalism he would have viewed as a turning away from the True Faith. The celebration of abortion as a right would have seemed to him as the ultimate covenant with death. The Sixties of the last century popularized the term generation gap, describing the difficulty that parents and their teenage offspring had in understanding each other. Between our time and that of Columbus there is a generations’ chasm and the use of Columbus as a whipping boy in current political disputes only increases our problem of understanding him and his time. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Death came for Chief Justice Roger B. Taney of the United States Supreme Court 150 years ago. Nominated as Chief Justice by his friend President Andrew Jackson and had sat on the court for 28 years. Although he had authored many important decisions, he is remembered today only for one: Dred Scott. 87 years old at the time of his death, Taney, a slave owner, had mirrored the tragic trajectory of the views of the South in regard to slavery in his own life. As a young man he regarded slavery as a blot on our national character, as he said in his opening argument in defense of a Methodist minister accused in 1819 of inciting slave insurrections. He emancipated his own slaves. However, by the time he authored the Dred Scott decision in 1857 he would write:
It is difficult at this day to realize the state of public opinion in regard to that unfortunate race which prevailed in the civilized and enlightened portions of the world at the time of the Declaration of Independence, and when the Constitution of the United States was framed and adopted; but the public history of every European nation displays it in a manner too plain to be mistaken. They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far unfit that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.
Taney thought that the decision in Dred Scott would settle the slavery issue in regard to the territories and remove it from politics. Instead the decision inflamed public opinion North and South and manifestly helped bring on the Civil War. Taney lived to see his nation riven by Civil War and an administration in power dedicated to restoring the Union and abolishing slavery, and more than willing to ignore the paper edicts of Taney’s court when necessary. Old and sick, Taney remained on the bench, unwilling to have Lincoln name his successor, a living relic of a bygone era. The best epitaph for Taney I have ever read was that given by Justice Antonin Scalia in his magnificent dissent in Planned Parenthood v. Casey: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
I sincerely suspect that contemporary liberalism is descending into madness. Either that or people are playing very elaborate practical jokes:
A Nebraska school district has instructed its teachers to stop referring to students by “gendered expressions” such as “boys and girls,” and use “gender inclusive” ones such as “purple penguins” instead.
“Don’t use phrases such as ‘boys and girls,’ ‘you guys,’ ‘ladies and gentlemen,’ and similarly gendered expressions to get kids’ attention,” instructs a training document given to middle-school teachers at the Lincoln Public Schools.
Jonah Goldberg at National Review Online has a great piece explaining why every political issue is a cultural issue:
Anyway, here’s the point I intended to get to much earlier. I’m coming to the position that every issue is a cultural issue. According to the Thomas Frank view, there are two kinds of issues: real issues and cultural (or social) issues. And, if he had his way, all elections would hinge on “real issues.” He writes in What’s the Matter with Kansas: “People getting their fundamental interests wrong is what American political life is all about. This species of derangement is the bedrock of our civic order; it is the foundation on which all else rests.”
This is of course, warmed-over Marxist twaddle. Frank thinks his view of economic interests is the only defensible view and everything else is boob bait for bubbas (Pat Moynihan’s orthodox liberal ad hominem for Clinton’s push for welfare reform) or what the Marxists call “false consciousness.” Much like Lena Dunham’s sex scenes, the list of things that are wrong with this is very long. People vote on the kind of community or country they want to live in, period. That means that taxes are a legitimate issue, but it also means that guns and abortion and free speech are just as legitimate. Liberals implicitly understand this, even if they lie about it routinely in their rhetoric. They are the first to invoke the language of values and right-and-wrong on the issues they care about, whether it is gay marriage or immigration or civil rights. And they are entirely right to do so. Where they are wrong is when they employ the language of “real issues” to dismiss any value-laden arguments that help conservatives win elections. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
From the only reliable source of Catholic news on the net, Eye of the Tiber:
Hollywood, CA–At a press conference today outside his estate in Beverly Hills, acclaimed director Peter Jackson announced his plans to make a 72-film adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion. “It was the next logical step after doing Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit,” Jackson said. “In Lord of the Rings, we took over a thousand pages of novel and adapted it to the big screen in three extremely long films. Then in The Hobbit, we took a children’s book a fraction the length of Lord of the Rings, and also made it into three extremely long films.”
Jackson then unfolded his plan for Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, which begins with a mythological account of the creation of Middle Earth and culminates in the great battles of the Elves during the First Age. “The first film in the series is set to come out in Summer 2016. Then, every two years from 2018 to 2160, the following installment will be released.”
Returning to the original cinematic backgrounds of the Lord of the Rings movies, Jackson made an executive decision to save costs for shooting the outdoor scenes, and had his studio purchase the entire island of New Zealand. “In the long run it will cost us a lot less. Plus, now the citizens of New Zealand are the property of our studio, so we get free labor to build sets.”
Movie buffs and Tolkien nerds alike are ecstatic over the news, and Jackson, as usual, is enjoying the attention, teasing them about the contents of some of the 72 movies they can look forward to. “16 of the movies will be almost exclusively footage of the elven-folk doing various dances, and I don’t want to say much, but The Silmarillion: Part 49 is subtitled Gandalf Smokes his Pipe.” →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Your Highnesses have an Other World here, by which our holy faith can be so greatly advanced and from which such great wealth can be drawn.
Christopher Columbus, letter to Ferdinand and Isabella, 1498
Something for the weekend. With Christopher Columbus day coming up, a trilogy of pieces on Christopher Columbus. From 1936 Fats Waller belting out Christopher Columbus. A jaunty tune whose cheerful historical illiteracy is set forth early in the song with the claim that Columbus did not have a compass:
Mister Christopher Columbus
Sailed the sea without a compass
When his men began a-rumpus,
Up spoke Christopher Columbus!
There’s land somewhere
‘Til we get there
We will not go wrong,
If we sail with a song.
Since the world is round-o
We’ll be safe and sound-o
‘Til our goal is found-o
We’ll just keep rhythm-bound-o
Since the crew was making merry,
Mary got up and went home.
There came a yell for Isabel
And they brought on the rum and Isabel.
No more mutiny, no.
What a time at sea!
Christopher made history.
Mister Christopher Columbus
He used rhythm as a compass.
Music ended all the rumpus,
wise old Christopher Columbus.
(Latch on Christy, yeah! Uh huh! Yes, yes, yes!)
(Well, looky there!
Christy’s grabbed the Santa Maria and he’s going back!
Yeah, ahhh looky-there!
In the year 1492,
Columbus sailed the ocean blue… what’d I say?)
From 1949 the musical score from the technicolor movie Christoher Columbus. The film is forgotten today, which is a pity. While containing a plenitude of the usual historical howlers that period films are ere too, Fredric March gives us a powerful, albeit irascible, portrayal of the Admiral of the Ocean Sea. Definitely worth watching. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Any understanding of this nation has to be based, and I mean really based, on an understanding of the Civil War. I believe that firmly. It defined us. The Revolution did what it did. Our involvement in European wars, beginning with the First World War, did what it did. But the Civil War defined us as what we are and it opened us to being what we became, good and bad things. And it is very necessary, if you are going to understand the American character in the twentieth century, to learn about this enormous catastrophe of the mid-nineteenth century. It was the crossroads of our being, and it was a hell of a crossroads.
An episode of an excellent series on YouTube, the Civil War in Four Minutes, the above video takes a look at the differing interpretations of the War by Americans. The Civil War is, of course, an immense event in American history, perhaps the immense event in American history. Most Americans I think do not understand how huge it is, simply because we think we are familiar with it, and because we are still too close to it in time for us to gain the historical perspective to judge. The many, many differing interepretations of it: a glorious war for human liberty, a valiant defense of States’ Rights, the war against the rebellion, the second American revolution, a needless conflict, etc, often say more about the times when the interpretations are made, than they do the Civil War itself. Almost my entire life I have been studying the conflict. However, the scholarly necromancy that we perform in historical texts can, at best, only put before our eyes pale shadows of what the War was like for the men and women on both sides who lived the triumphs and tragedies of a conflict so vast as to perhaps dwarf all our other historical experiences as a people. Sadly, perhaps this scene from the John Adams miniseries sums up the daunting, if not futile, task of presenting to succeeding generations the reality of an event as historically significant as the Civil War: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Robert Royal at The Catholic Thing tells us that questions about the current pontificate are not restricted to blogs:
I reported on some of the pope’s harshness towards upholders of tradition in yesterday’s Synod Report, an odd homily that might be taken to mean all those over the centuries who had upheld the indissolubility of marriage were somehow authoritarians and self-serving legalists. But the responses to the pope in private – again, beyond the usual conservative suspects and into more neutral, mainstream figures – has been equally tart: “a Latin dictator,” “a Peron,” someone who likes to be center stage in the limelight. And perhaps the most shocking comment of all from more than one person: “His health is bad, so at least this won’t last too long.”
The directives at the start of a meeting like this often betray not where the organizers believe things are going, but where they fear they will not. The pope’s talk about a spirit of openness Monday may fall into that category. There are knowledgeable figures in Rome who believe that if real openness occurs, heads will roll. Some already have.
Then there was Hungarian Cardinal Péter Erdő who, in an opening statement, proposed to take doctrinal questions off the table and deal solely with pastoral questions. That’s a consummation devoutly to be wished, but easier said than done. Many of us remember that Vatican II was a pastoral council, or so we were told. How did so many people get the impression it had also changed doctrine and, in fact, did do so in many Catholic institutions?
It’s important to see all this in perspective. Normally, a bunch of bishops gathering to discuss a handful of well-worked theological matters is of no interest to the world and little interest even to most Catholics. A Catholic journalist said to me just this weekend that he wasn’t much of a “court follower,” meaning he didn’t pay much attention to intrigues within the Vatican. A good attitude – when it comes to petty gossip about who’s in or out, up or down. But as we know from the history of Vatican II, given the modern media environment, what happens in Rome and how it gets reported can affect Catholic life around the globe in incalculable ways. Theologians and moralists may then waste decades that might have been better spent on other subjects just trying to correct simple errors.
“Xavier Rynne” (i.e., Fr. Francis X. Murphy) famously produced a series of polarizing Letters from Rome in The New Yorker during the Council, which virtually created in America what Benedict XVI called the “Council of the Media” as opposed to the real Council, which the young Ratzinger attended, applauded, and help shape. A Church concerned to carry out its proper teaching function today cannot fail to recognize the importance of assuring that its work is perceived as clearly as possible – in an age when every word of a pope, president, prime minister, even sports figures gets merciless scrutiny. Further, social media is everywhere – even the pope takes selfies now, and they get sent around.
All that may be regrettable, but whatever the intention of the primary actors, people inside and outside the Church now believe, given media spin, that questions that were settled and largely known to be such during the past two papacies are now regarded as “open” again. And the unholy conspiracy between the heterodox and media outlets who smell a big story will make sure it’s hard for the Vatican to keep the message focused.
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There’s a bit of an irony in the fact that I’ve not been able to get to Jonathan Last’s What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Disaster sooner in part due to having several small children to tend to. Alas, as Last dutifully emphasizes, my family is an outlier in modern America (even if in our own Catholic community we sometimes feel like we are woefully far behind).
Last’s book is a very important, if somewhat depressing read. America’s birthrate has been hovering at barely above replacement for the past several decades, and is starting to dip below the magic 2.0 line. Though we are doing better than almost all of the rest of the western world, we have reached a point where more and more Americans are choosing either not to have kids, or are having only one or two if they do, in large part thanks to starting so late. The only thing keeping our birthrate even near replacement are immigrant families, but even the trend here is steadily declining as immigrants are assimilating in at least one way: not having as many children as they used to.
Last identifies several key factors. Long story short, middle class Americans are getting married later and later (if at all), as they spend their most fertile years paying off their college debts. There’s much more to it than that, but most Americans in their 20s would prefer to spend whatever money they have left over after loans on more consumer goodies. Last identifies several other anti-family pressures. He even alludes to increasingly harsh child safety seat measures. As I can testify, I am pretty sure my oldest child won’t get to ride in the front seat until she’s in drivers ed.
One key takeaway is that this demographic disaster is a largely cultural phenomenon that cannot be reversed by legislation. To be sure Last offers several minor policy suggestions, but he concedes that these would barely make a dent. Last notes that several countries that have tried extreme measures to reverse their demographic decline have failed miserably, and the evidence is in that mere policy fiat will not stem the tide.
One of the most striking aspects of the book was Last’s discussion of how he felt compelled to leave Old Town (a suburb outside of Washington, DC) and flee to the suburbs once he and his wife began having children. The kind of life they were living in this very trendy and hip location was no longer supportable with children in tow. What’s more, the cultural milieu of places like Old Town are almost hostile to children. As someone who has spent time in these areas, I can acknowledge the truth of this. It is difficult, though not quite impossible, to raise a large family in certain parts of DC, in part because it’s so expensive, but also because, well, it’s not the most kid friendly environment.
The key observation is that there are many subtle cultural forces at work against the family. As noted above, Last mentions child safety seats. The mandates to keep kids in some form of safety seat until they are practically adults necessitates purchasing larger vehicles. You might want to take note of how many Honda Odysseys, Siennas, Town and Countries, and similar minivans there are in the parking lot next time you go to Church. These are not cheap vehicles. That’s not to say that these laws are necessarily wrong, or are a primary driver (no pun intended) of smaller families, but they are just one of many things working against the family.
There’s also just the general hostility towards large families. As this Matt Archbold post from July reminds us, some people just can’t fathom the idea of handling more than one or two children. Or as the mom in Matt’s post put it, “Who has five children? I’d kill myself if I had that many kids.”
So with all that in mind, what can we do? For starters, we need an entity or organization that fearlessly and tirelessly celebrates the family. Such an entity would speak of the value of children and of the wonders of procreation. This entity would speak against all of the forces that work against the family. It would even unabashedly critique the contraceptive and consumerist mentalities that persuade people to put off having children. Such an entity, if one such entity exists, would first work to convince its own membership on these matters, and would risk alienating a few of them so long as it managed to sway the rest. It would have to preach from the pulpit, if you will, ceaselessly imparting knowledge and guidance.
Oh for such an entity to exist.
On October 9, 1864 Sherman was still in pursuit of Hood but he recognized the futility of such operations to protect his railroad supply lines, as he made clear in a telegram to Grant on that date:
It will be a physical impossibility to protect the roads, now that Hood, Forrest, Wheeler, and the whole batch of devils, are turned loose without home or habitation. I think Hood’s movements indicate a diversion to the end of the Selma & Talladega road, at Blue Mountain, about sixty miles southwest of Rome, from which he will threaten Kingston, Bridgeport, and Decatur, Alabama. I propose that we break up the railroad from Ohattanooga forward, and that we strike out with our wagons for Milledgeville, Millen, and Savannah. Until we can repopulate Georgia, it is useless for us to occupy it; but the utter destruction of its roads, houses, and people, will cripple their military resources. By attempting to hold the roads, we will lose a thousand men each month, and will gain no result. I can make this march, and make Georgia howl! We have on hand over eight thousand head of cattle and three million rations of bread, but no corn. We can find plenty of forage in the interior of the State. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Apparently in the Synod some of the participants are concerned about language:
Speaking at this afternoon’s Vatican press briefing on the Synod on the Family English-language spokesman for the Synod, Fr. Thomas Rosica noted there has been much discussion about language in the Synod’s deliberations.
Fr. Rosica explained what he believed to be “one of the salient interventions” of the day, noting that according to the presenter, “language such as ‘living in sin’, ‘intrinsically disordered’, or ‘contraceptive mentality’ are not necessarily words that invite people to draw closer to Christ and the Church.”
“Marriage is already seen by many as being filtered in harsh language in the Church. How do we make that language appealing, and loving and inviting. We’re not speaking about rules or laws we’re speaking about a person who is Jesus who is the source of our faith, the leader of our Church, he is the one who invites us into a mystery.” →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Professor James Hitchcock has an interesting article over at The Catholic World Report on the breakdown of the authority of the Church:
The rejection of Humanae Vitae, and everything that followed, in a perverse way proved the success of the new religious education. In numerous ways—classroom instruction, sermons, retreats, publications—Catholics after Vatican II were told to follow their own inclinations on moral issues, that docility towards Church teaching was actually a betrayal of faith. In short, “reformers” discovered how easy it was to make water run down hill, to give the faithful permission to take the line of least resistance.
The reformist Catholic program now came simply to be equated with the secular liberal program. To Catholic liberals there remained two unresolved moral issues—war and poverty – but many Catholics remained “super-patriots” and bishops were condemned for not condemning the Vietnam War. Collectively the bishops supported the War on Poverty, but many lay Catholics started voting Republican.
Fidelity to Catholic social teaching required a synthesis of what came to be conflicting liberal and conservative positions—the welfare state on the on the hand and the pro-life and pro-family movements on the other. The Democratic Party, in which Catholics had for so long been a major force, was the natural agency for working out such a synthesis. Instead prominent Catholic Democrats, almost without exception, readily accepted the secular liberal agenda and pro-life, and pro-family Catholics gravitated towards the Republican Party, which had previously not attracted them.
Liberal Catholics emphasize the “lived experience” of the laity as a check on formal Catholic doctrine, a check that has, supposedly, demonstrated the rightness of contraception, homosexuality, and other things. Catholics today, it is claimed, are highly educated and can follow their own well-formed consciences.
But this is applied to sexual morality only. Businessmen who believe in the free market, for example, or soldiers who believe in the righteousness of the wars they fight, are accused of placing their own “lived experience” above the teachings of the Church. They are in effect guilty of heresy. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
(I am finally going to be completing this series of posts that I began in 2010. In preparation for that, I am reposting these articles in their order of appearance. They will appear once a week on Wednesdays.)
In this series of posts I intend to give rants against trends that have developed in society since the days of my youth, the halcyon days of the seventies, when leisure suits and disco were sure signs that society was ready to be engulfed in a tide of ignorance, bad taste and general buffoonery.
We will start off the series with a look at seven developments that I view as intensely annoying and proof that many people lack the sense that God granted a goose. I like to refer to these as The Seven Hamsters of the Apocalypse, minor evils that collectively illustrate a society that has entered a slough of extreme stupidity. Each of the Seven Hamsters will have a separate post. The first of the Hamsters is the Tattooed Vermin.