Pope Leo XIII
3. This world-wide and solemn testimony of allegiance and piety is especially appropriate to Jesus Christ, who is the Head and Supreme Lord of the race. His empire extends not only over Catholic nations and those who, having been duly washed in the waters of holy baptism, belong of right to the Church, although erroneous opinions keep them astray, or dissent from her teaching cuts them off from her care; it comprises also all those who are deprived of the Christian faith, so that the whole human race is most truly under the power of Jesus Christ. For He who is the Only-begotten Son of God the Father, having the same substance with Him and being the brightness of His glory and the figure of His substance (Hebrews i., 3) necessarily has everything in common with the Father, and therefore sovereign power over all things. This is why the Son of God thus speaks of Himself through the Prophet: “But I am appointed king by him over Sion, his holy mountain. . . The Lord said to me, Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me and I will give thee the Gentiles for thy inheritance and the utmost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Psalm, ii.). By these words He declares that He has power from God over the whole Church, which is signified by Mount Sion, and also over the rest of the world to its uttermost ends. On what foundation this sovereign power rests is made sufficiently plain by the words, “Thou art My Son.” For by the very fact that He is the Son of the King of all, He is also the heir of all His Father’s power: hence the words-”I will give thee the Gentiles for thy inheritance,” which are similar to those used by Paul the Apostle, “whom he bath appointed heir of all things” (Hebrews i., 2). Continue reading
This Labor Day I recall an episode in both the history of labor in the United States and in the history of the Catholic Church in America. The last half of the nineteenth century was a time of labor strife, as businesses grew larger, the fruit of the ongoing Industrial Revolution, and workers fought for improvement of working conditions that by any standard were frequently abysmal. Prior to the Civil War apologists for slavery often argued that the average slave in the South was better fed, better housed and better clothed than the average industrial worker in the North. This of course overlooked the entire question of liberty, but there were enough terrible examples of wretched working conditions in the North to give the argument facile support.
Unions sprang up to represent workers. One of the largest in its day was the Knights of Labor founded in 1868. Successful in several large strikes, by 1886 the membership totaled 700,000, perhaps a majority of whom were Catholic. In 1886 the Archbishop of Quebec condemned the Knights in Canada based upon the secrecy that attended the meetings of the organization and forbade Catholics to join it.
The American hierarchy voted 10 to 2 against condemning the Knights. Archbishop James Gibbons was going to Rome in 1887 to receive his red hat as Pope Leo XIII had made him a Cardinal. While there he took the opportunity to submit a lengthy letter in support of the Knights. Although the letter bears the name of Gibbons, it was probably written by his friend Bishop John Ireland of Saint Paul, who had long been active in support of the rights of workers. The letter did the trick and the Vatican announced that the Knights were not to be condemned. The arguments made in the letter had an impact on Pope Leo XIII and helped lay the groundwork for his historic encyclical Rerum Novarum (1891) in which he defended the rights of workers to organize to seek better working conditions. Ironically the subject matter of the letter, the Knights of Labor, was in decline, too many of its strikes having involved violence which the leadership of the Knights condemned, but which tarnished the Knights in the eyes of the public. The Knights would cease to operate as a labor union in 1900, newer unions taking the place of this pioneering organization.
The letter of Cardinal Gibbons stressed that Catholic workers in America who belonged to labor organizations were not hostile to the Church as often occurred in Europe where Unions were organized by Leftist and Anarchist groups. In America most Americans supported the workers in their struggle to improve their lot, with both major political parties vying to pass legislation aiding workers. In short, the letter explained American labor and political conditions to the Vatican and how these differed substantially from those existing in Europe. The letter and the decision of the Vatican were good examples of effective communication between American ecclesiastics and Rome. Here is the text of the letter: Continue reading
The words “Ryan” and “poverty” are almost never more than a few words apart these days. Here at TAC, and elsewhere in the politosphere, Paul Ryan’s views on government spending and poverty are just about all anyone can talk about. The main anti-Ryan talking point is that he is a heartless Objectivist who is fundamentally opposed to the interests of “the poor.” If the definition of “racist” these days is “anyone who is winning an argument with a liberal”, the definition of “Objectivist” these days might be “anyone who is winning an argument with a Catholic liberal.”
Personally, I don’t think Ryan is “against the poor.” But not for the reasons you might think. Many people are defending his budget on the grounds that it does not harm “the poor.” While I agree that his budget does not harm the interests of low-income Americans, this is not the primary reason I would defend Ryan’s ideology. I have a different reason.
I do not believe poverty exists as a meaningful category in the United States, with some exceptions that I will make clear as I proceed. Very few people in the United States are truly poor, and most of those who are live an environment of such wealth and opportunity that simply defining them as “poor” does not tell us much about their objective status. Lest I suffer the fate of Todd Akin for appearing cruel and insensitive to those who struggle with problems associated with poverty, let me clarify.
We are approaching the most important U.S. Presidential election for us – by “us” I mean theologically orthodox, politically conservative Catholics – possibly since 1960, when the election of the first Catholic president seemed so possible and actually occurred. I’m grateful to be a contributing member of The American Catholic during this election season, which is one of the most widely-read Catholic blogs in the country. This certainly won’t be the last thing I have to say about the presidential race, but rather the first.
When the GOP primary was getting underway, I was a firm Ron Paul supporter. I knew he would not and could not win, but I supported him anyway because I agree with him on most issues, particularly on the role of our government both domestically and abroad. To support Ron Paul was to support the drastic reduction of the federal government, to reject the arrogant assumptions of technocratic management of economic and social issues from the top-down, and to place a vote of confidence in individuals, families, and local governments to solve social and moral problems. I also believe that this is the fundamental political truth of our time: a state governed by militant secularists cannot possibly effect the common good as it is understood by Christians, people of other faiths, or even those secularists who recognize the value of the natural law tradition that has informed the politics of Western civilization since the time of Plato and Aristotle. And yet if we are destined to have secularists in power, we can at least work to limit their power by limiting government as much as possible.
The corollary of the political truth stated above is that one cannot simply discuss “the role of government” in the abstract, without considering who will actually run the state and what values and assumptions they take with them as they create and execute policies with coercive force. Who exactly will be deciding issues that affect your life and mine? Who will have coercive power over you and yours?
More important than what happens to me or my family, though, is how the Church will be affected by those who rule. Even in her most humiliated and rejected state, which the sex scandals have arguably wrought, the Church is still the light of civilization. If her light is extinguished, driven underground, or forced to hide in the shadows, then it is not simply we Catholics who will suffer (though there is certainly nothing wrong with suffering for the faith), but all of society. The Church can and has survived hideous persecution, but it is not clear that society can survive what it will inevitably become without the Church, as well as all of the other religious organizations that will be affected by federal policies, actively involved in public life. Finally, whether society recognizes its debt to the Church or not is irrelevant.
It may be that God has ordained this as a time of cleansing, a time during which the Church must be forced underground and reduced to a smaller size so that she can be tempered and purified. But we cannot know such things with any certainty. What we can know with at least a little more clarity, on the other hand, is what our duties are as Catholic citizens. It is my view that our first priority is to protect the right of the Church to publicly exist. Usually this doesn’t come up because usually the U.S. government does not enact policies that threaten this public existence. But the status quo has changed, and we now face the prospect of an open, vicious anti-Catholic regime in a lame duck Obama presidency. For this reason, I feel obliged as a Catholic to work for the defeat of Obama-Biden in 2012. In practical terms, this means supporting Romeny-Ryan for the Presidency.
Beginning for two weeks, up to Independence Day, the Bishops are having a Fortnight For Freedom:
On April 12, the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a document, “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty,” outlining the bishops’ concerns over threats to religious freedom, both at home and abroad. The bishops called for a “Fortnight for Freedom,” a 14-day period of prayer, education and action in support of religious freedom, from June 21-July 4.
Bishops in their own dioceses are encouraged to arrange special events to highlight the importance of defending religious freedom. Catholic institutions are encouraged to do the same, especially in cooperation with other Christians, Jews, people of other faiths and all who wish to defend our most cherished freedom.
The fourteen days from June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day, are dedicated to this “fortnight for freedom”—a great hymn of prayer for our country. Our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power—St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome. Culminating on Independence Day, this special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action would emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty. Dioceses and parishes around the country could choose a date in that period for special events that would constitute a great national campaign of teaching and witness for religious liberty.
We here at The American Catholic are participating in the Fortnight For Freedom with special blog posts on each day. This is the eighth of these blog posts.
America has been blessed by God in many ways but I suspect no blessing has been greater than His granting us George Washington to lead us in our struggle for independence and to be our first President. Catholics have perhaps more reason than other Americans to keep the memory of Washington alive in our hearts. In a time of strong prejudice against Catholics in many parts of the colonies he was free from religious bigotry as he demonstrated on November 5, 1775 when he banned the anti-Catholic Guy Fawkes celebrations.
“As the Commander in Chief has been apprized of a design form’d for the observance of that ridiculous and childish custom of burning the Effigy of the pope – He cannot help expressing his surprise that there should be Officers and Soldiers in this army so void of common sense, as not to see the impropriety of such a step at this Juncture; at a Time when we are solliciting, and have really obtain’d, the friendship and alliance of the people of Canada, whom we ought to consider as Brethren embarked in the same Cause. The defence of the general Liberty of America: At such a juncture, and in such Circumstances, to be insulting their Religion, is so monstrous, as not to be suffered or excused; indeed instead of offering the most remote insult, it is our duty to address public thanks to these our Brethren, as to them we are so much indebted for every late happy Success over the common Enemy in Canada.”
Order in Quarters, November 5, 1775
– George Washington
This stand against anti-Catholicism was not unusual for Washington. Throughout his life Washington had Catholic friends, including John Carroll, the first Catholic bishop in the US. He would sometimes attend Mass, as he did during the Constitutional Convention when he led a delegation of the Convention to attend Mass in Philadelphia as he had attended Protestant churches in that town during the Convention. This sent a powerful signal that under the Constitution Catholics would be just as good Americans as Protestant Americans.
Washington underlined this point in response to a letter from prominent Catholics, including Charles and John Carroll, congratulating him on being elected President: Continue reading
Time to refresh my creds as Chief Geek of the blog. Season 2 of the series Sherlock is debuting in America on Mystery tonight on most PBS channels at 8:00 PM Central Time. The series is a grand bringing of Sherlock Holmes into the present century. It is wittily written, part send up of the original Holmes created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and part homage. The improbably named Benedict Cumberbatch is superb in the title role, playing Holmes as a genius as a detective and a moron in dealing with all of humanity, but for Dr. Watson. Dr. Watson, Martin Freeman, is a British medical officer, fresh from traumatic injuries due to his service in Afghanistan (yes, the more things change, often the more they stay the same), who blogs about Holmes’ exploits as part of his therapy. I highly endorse the series for anyone who likes to either think or laugh.
Sherlock Holmes is a prime example of a literary creation that completely escapes from his creator. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle grew tired of Holmes and attempted to kill him off, only relenting to bringing him back after his “death” at the Reichenbach Falls due to unceasing demands from Holmes’ devoted, if not crazed, fans. Doyle tended to look down his nose at Holmes: “If I had never touched Holmes, who has tended to obscure my higher work, my position in literature would at the present moment be a more commanding one,” he once wrote, which is a hoot since his other writings were the most forgettable drek imaginable. Doyle wrote the last of his Sherlock Holmes stories in 1926 and died in 1930. Since that time not a year has gone by without authors trying their hands at new Holmes stories, and placing Holmes in every setting imaginable including the distant future, outer space, fantasy realms, etc.
The continuing popularity of Holmes is something of a mystery, which is appropriate. It is hard to attribute it to simply love of mystery stories, since most mystery sleuths are dead as soon as their creators shuffle off this vale of tears. Perhaps it is because Holmes, through his powers of observation, can so simply and swiftly glean the truth. What an all important ability to possess! Alas the same could not be said for his creator, Sir Arthur. He deserted Catholicism for spiritualism (seances and that sort of rubbish) which is akin to feasting on a rich mud pie and then developing a fondness for eating actual mud. GK. Chesterton, who drew illustrations for an unpublished, during his lifetime, edition of the Holmes story, upon learning of Doyles’ conversion had this memorable quip: It has long seemed to me that Sir Arthur’s mentality is much more that of Watson than it is of Holmes. Continue reading
We knew it would come to this, but we weren’t sure until when until the Obama administration announced the contraception mandate; even then, we weren’t sure when exactly it would be explicitly spelled out by the leadership of the Church. I am referring to the U.S. bishop’s recent statement declaring, among other things, the following:
It is a sobering thing to contemplate our government enacting an unjust law. An unjust law cannot be obeyed. In the face of an unjust law, an accommodation is not to be sought, especially by resorting to equivocal words and deceptive practices. If we face today the prospect of unjust laws, then Catholics in America, in solidarity with our fellow citizens, must have the courage not to obey them. No American desires this. No Catholic welcomes it. But if it should fall upon us, we must discharge it as a duty of citizenship and an obligation of faith.
It is essential to understand the distinction between conscientious objection and an unjust law. Conscientious objection permits some relief to those who object to a just law for reasons of conscience—conscription being the most well-known example. An unjust law is “no law at all.” It cannot be obeyed, and therefore one does not seek relief from it, but rather its repeal. (Emphasis added)
In making this statement, the bishops have echoed Pope Leo XIII’s statement in his encyclical Libertas: “But where the power to command is wanting, or where a law is enacted contrary to reason, or to the eternal law, or to some ordinance of God, obedience is unlawful, lest, while obeying man, we become disobedient to God.”
Charles Sykes, of the Wisconsin Policy Institute, has a superb article on the Entitlement Mentality which is sinking the country:
The cultural shift has become so pronounced today that even some progressives are showing signs of unease. Were it not for her impeccable ideological pedigree, Alexandra Pelosi, daughter of Nancy Pelosi, former Speaker of the House, might have irreparably damaged her standing with her mother’s friends when she produced a brief video for HBO about her recent encounters outside a New York welfare office. In the Pelosi video, a man waiting in line is drinking beer and smoking cigarettes as he admits that he’s fathered five children by four different mothers. “I’m here to get a check … whatever they’ve got to offer,” he explains. “It’s not like they’ve got a checklist … I’m just here to get what I can get.”
Of course he was.
In the video, Alexandra Pelosi quizzes one man: “Why should I help you? Why should my tax dollars be going to you?” He replies, “Because my ancestors came here to help build this place – my ancestors, the slaves.” The last time the man worked, he says, was “half a decade” ago. Continue reading
Michael Moriarty as SS Sturmbannfuhrer (Major) Erik Dorf, in the riveting miniseries Holocaust (1978), attempts at 5:26 in the video above to convince the incredulous SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler that rather than concealing the crimes of the Holocaust the SS should stand behind them and and convince the world that the genocide of the Jews and others deemed “undesirable” by the “master race” was right and just. He anounces to the astounded SS officers, Dorff being an attorney in civilian life, that “A case can be made for Auschwitz!” He is speaking to mass murderers and monsters, but even they are repulsed by what he says. They understand deep down that they have been involved in an unspeakable crime for which no excuse, no argument can possibly be made.
Would that most pro-aborts would have some such shred of moral sensibility remaining. Alas, I am afraid that this statement of Jessica Delbalzo is much more common among pro-aborts, even if they rarely are this forthright:
I love abortion. I don’t accept it. I don’t view it as a necessary evil. I embrace it. I donate to abortion funds. I write about how important it is to make sure that every woman has access to safe, legal abortion services. I have bumper stickers and buttons and t-shirts proclaiming my support for reproductive freedom. I love abortion. Continue reading