Monday, June 29, 2015

Anniversarium Octum

Today, June 29th, 2015, Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, is the eighth anniversary of this humble little blog - which has grown to be quite a sprawling endeavor. The sister site, Facebook page, Cruachan Hill Press...there are all sorts of little spin-offs that begun with this site! I want to thank my co-founder and absentee blogger Anselm, our contributors Noah Moerbeek and Maximus, as well as new contributor Wes Hunt; also John Goodall (who edits all my rambling website articles for typos), Blake from Popin' Ain't Easy who does movie reviews, and AR Danziger Art & Design who have done most of the art for this site and its endeavors over the years. I also want to mention Alleluia Audio Books and Athanasius Contra Mundum, two sites with whom USC has a particularly close relationship - as well as all those blogs, Facebook pages, and folks who have helped promote USC over the years.

I find it ironic that my first post on June 29th, 2007 was on the question of morality and legislation and how issues of morality are intimately bound up with human law. This has been the view throughout all of Christendom; a far cry from the philosophy of Chief Justice John Roberts, who  -though he ultimately dissented on the same-sex "marriage" judgment - stated in his dissent that "Whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us." This is why this experiment in secular republicanism that we call the United States is failing. The sooner Catholics divest themselves from putting any hopes in this governmental system, the better. "Back to the Constitution" will not save you.

But we are supposed to be celebrating USC's completion of its eighth year, not getting bogged down in the miseries of the day!

I am sorry I have not posted as frequently as I would like; my wife and I are in the process of selling our house and I have a lot less free time at the moment. I am also still in the process of reading Laudato Si, which I will post on sometime in the next month, hopefully. I know I will be way behind the ball on that, but I am not one of those bloggers who feels that they have to be the first to offer commentary on every current event as soon as it happens. Blogging is not journalism, and while I sometimes offer commentary on current events, I don't feel bound to that format. I like to take my time with something...mull it over carefully, and publish whenever I feel like I have a cogent thought - or at least that's the ideal! Can't always say my thought is cogent...

But in the meantime, there is a ton of stuff we have published on the sister site over the past six months. If you really have a lot of time on your hands, check out some of our other material:

Mandatum: Liturgical History
Poltergeist (2015)
American Sniper (2014)

Other items of interest...

Make sure you check out my podcast with Ryan Grant of Athanasius Contra Mundum.

Also, speaking of podcasts, in case you didn't know, the USC website features a podcast section. It is updated only infrequently and restricts itself to matters of history. The only thing up currently is a series on Christianity in ancient North Africa, but I am planning one expanding this in the future.

Thank you all for patronizing this blog, which as of today has been viewed over 1.1 million times - something I never would have imagined when I posted my first rant on legislation and morality eight years ago. Pax.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

My One Post on the Supreme Court Decision

A message to my friends in social media.

Up to now I have remained silent on the recent Supreme Court ruling because, well, let’s face it - if you know me then you know my thoughts on the matter. I’m not surprised at the ruling by any means; rather, it simply demonstrates that it is no longer truth, but rather, sentimentality detached from reason that has become the basis of determination in implementing our nation’s founding documents. The Court has demonstrated a great amount hubris to change the fundamental nature of an institution which predates all of the foundations of Western society, and which we have received from those who came before us. Since a law that is against the natural law is no law at all, I refuse to acknowledge the validity of such a determination and wish to express that the Court has lost my respect as a result of the manner in which they so negligently discharged the functions of their office.

Regarding our discourse in the public forum of the Internet, I have observed on the social media too many posts with the hashtag “#lovewins” - but what does this even mean in the light of the Court decision? The effect of the decision by the Courts is that there is no longer any real foundation for what married love “means” in the public sphere. The only thing that has been demonstrated is that “love,” meaning “married love,” can just as easily change definitions in another few years’ time, and so it would seem that no-one has won: we have all lost something good in our society.

Perhaps what is most shocking to me is the number of my Catholic friends who, in defiance of Church teaching, have formally supported the efforts to get to where we are today. They are not merely people in the pews, but include priests, youth group leaders and religious education coordinators, young people actively engaged in social outreach on behalf of the Church. This is scandalous. Those Catholics, insofar as they believe and show support for such a fundamental issue that is contrary to Church teaching, should discern whether or not they, in fact, are Catholic any longer. If you are one of those Catholics, I follow the guidelines of our Bishops in urging you to refrain from receiving Holy Communion until you have been reconciled to the Church for such gravely sinful matter. I will pray for you, that you might come to accept the truth, goodness, and beauty of the words of Christ and the authentic teaching of his Church on this matter.

For you who are faithful children of the Church, I call upon us all to pray and do penance in reparation for our brethren, for the conversion of sinners, and for the liberty and exaltation of our Holy Mother, the Church.

May God have mercy on our nation, and upon all of those people who have participated in this gravely sinful act, or who will be encouraged to participate in other sinful acts as a result of the events of this week.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Medjugorje: The End is the Beginning

The day has come. It has been announced that the CDF's long-awaited judgment on Medjugorje is negative (source). Of course, Pope Francis has yet to sign off on the judgment, but it is presumed he will.

The judgment on Medjugorje has now come down from the highest authority; no more waffling by Medjugorje adherents; no more ignoring the repeated condemnations of the local ordinaries while maintaining glibly that "the Vatican has not made any ruling." The Vatican has now made a ruling. And it does not bode well for Medjugorje. Medjugorje has been weighed in the balance and found wanting. "The Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes" (Ps. 118:23).

It will be extraordinarily interesting to see how this plays out. We can only hope for the following:

1) That the Holy Father Pope Francis will sign off on the judgment of the CDF.

2) That Medjugorje devotees will accept the decision with docility and invest their time and efforts into other Marian Messages such as Fatima and Lourdes.

3) That anti-Medjugorje Catholics (such as ourselves) will not gloat...well, maybe a little gloating.

That is the best case scenario. May the Holy Spirit make it so! Yet, there has always been worry that, were Medjogorje ever condemned, the Medjugorje supporters would not adhere to the Church's judgment but rather would continue promoting the alleged apparitions in a state of blatant disobedience or possible schism. The apparition has already been characterized by disobedience to the local ordinary. Anyone who has really studied the history behind Medjugorje cannot fail to see that disobedience and division are the only real "fruits" of this apparition (cf."Understanding the Herzegovina Question", USC).

How likely is an outright schism? I do not see this as extremely likely. Yes, Medjugorje people can be a little eccentric, but the vast majority of them are decent Catholics who would never break with Rome over something like this.

I do not see an out and out schism as likely. But I do not see the confusion abating. In fact, the likelihood of the confusion continuing is exacerbated by a very troubling statement allegedly found in the CDF statement. Catholic Culture reports that the CDF document will:
"...urge recognition of Medjugorje as a special “place of prayer,” in light of the numerous reports of intense spiritual experiences enjoyed by visitors there. Pilgrimages to Medjugorje will not be forbidden, provided that they do not center on the alleged apparitions."
If the CDF has authoritatively decided that there is nothing supernatural going on a Medjugorje, by what rationale ought it to be designated a special "place of prayer", or why anyone would want to make a pilgrimage there if it did not center on the alleged apparitions? The CDF reportedly says the rationale is that it recognizes Medjugorje as a "special place of prayer" not based on on the credibility of any apparitions, but "in light of the numerous reports of intense spiritual experiences enjoyed by visitors there."

We do not know if this is the language the document will use, but if so, it is gravely troubling. To suggest any location can be designated as a "special place of prayer" and even pilgrimage based not on any objective reality but only on the "intense spiritual experiences" of people is nothing other than to pivot the whole issue towards the subjective. If a place can be designated as a special place of prayer just by virtue of what someone thinks they experience there, what is the point of attempting to objectively validate the experience at all?

My suspicion is this is a compromise arrangement. The Vatican realizes that the apparitions and messages of Medjugorje are prima facie absurd and indefensible. There's no way they can be approved without the Church looking completely idiotic. And yet, because so many millions of people go to Medjugorje - and because of the ostensible pious experiences of those people who go - the Vatican is hesitant to crush the smoldering wick or break the bruised reed. It fears the reaction of the Medjugorje lobby.

Therefore, lest these millions of Medjugorje fanatics adherents go into schism, fall away from the Church, or become even more distanced from the faith, the Vatican wanted to find a way to formally express its disapproval of the apparitions while allowing the pilgrimages and activity at Medjugorje to go on unabated. The ground has merely been shifted. "Look, go to Medjugorje all you want. Pilgrimage there. Stare at the sun there. Talk about the mystical experiences you have with our Lady. Just don't mention the apparitions; go there because of the way it makes you feel."

Of course, it could be argued that the Vatican cannot exactly prohibit Catholics from praying anywhere they want, so long as they are not promoting the apparitions. In fact, Scripture commands Catholics to pray not only always but everywhere (1 Tim. 2:8). The Vatican cannot say, "And henceforth nobody is to ever go to Medjugorje and pray."

Granted. But the Vatican could just say nothing. They could just say, "There is nothing supernatural going on at Medjugorje and it is prohibited to promote the apparitions." Period. There is no reason why the negative judgment needs to include a clause which urges recognition as a special place of prayer, let alone based on people's intense personal experiences. The only reason people had intense experiences is because they thought they were visiting an apparition site. Thus, the potential CDF wording does not distance the pilgrims from the apparitions; it merely distances the Church's judgment from the objective to the subjective, from the verifiable to the experiential.

The safety of defaulting to experience is that nobody can ever argue with an experience. We may be able to now authoritatively state that the apparitions are not supernatural in the objective sense, but who can argue against somebody's experience? Thus, while having the appearance of a condemnation, the Church may have in fact just abdicated its role here entirely by shuffling the whole ordeal off on to the shoulders of individual Catholics who now can decide in their own conscience whether it is worth it to go to Medjugorje based on an evaluation of their own "intense spiritual experiences."

But meanwhile, it remains "officially" condemned. Just like the Extraordinary Form is "officially" allowed everywhere and equal to the Ordinary Form. Just like the Church's teaching on marriage will "officially" remain intact under the Kasper proposal. Just like "officially" the normative manner for reception of Holy Communion is on the tongue.

Yes, it's official!

Now, I pray it does not go down that way. I pray the Medjugorje adherents are docile and that somewhere down in their sensus catholicus they say to themselves, "Why the hell would I spend thousands of dollars to fly over to Medjugorje to celebrate my own experiences?" Hopefully the whole thing withers and dies.

But the pessimist in me doubts it. The pessimist realist in me worries that the CDF will leave an out for those who want to continue patronizing Medjugorje. That part of me worries that while Medjugorje remains officially condemned, in practice it will go on unabated, now no longer in disobedience but in an official space created for it by the wording of the CDF judgment. It will allow the Church to affirm one thing while doing another.

The pessimist in me sees it as nothing other than the Kasper doctrine under another guise.

Contact: uscatholicam@gmail.com

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Just Some Thoughts on Charter Schools


So...is anyone out there in the Catholic world still under the illusion that public schools are a suitable choice for their children's education?

Anyone who has been paying attention knows that the State schools are increasingly centers for indoctrination with very substandard academics as well - yes, I know there are good teachers, yes, I know there are exceptions, but overall we should all be in agreement that things are bad.

This is not news.

What is surprising to me, as someone who has been in education for over a decade now, is the way in which conservative opponents of the public schools put blind confidence in charter schools, independent schools or private schools as a solution to the public schools, as if "more charter schools" will make things better.

For those who do not know, a charter school is a tax-payer funded entity (thus still technically a "public school") that operates under its own individualized charter and is typically administrated by a third party private company. This allows it to deviate from the norm on teacher wages, curriculum, and administration. This allows charter schools to follow a much more independent course; more variety.

I understand that charter schools give us an opportunity to do something better, and variety can be good. But variety for the sake of variety is not guaranteed to improve anything. Realistically it depends on the nature of the school. There are many charter schools where I live; some of them are essentially Christian schools with classical curricula; but some of them are basically Islamic schools with student bodies and faculty 95% Muslim.

The point is its really hit or miss. Just absent-mindedly advocating for more rights for charter schools is not, on its own, any sort of solution. Yes, it allows the formation of charter schools that are able to move in the right direction, but it's really a crap shoot. It's almost as if people have become so sick of the public schools that they have begun to assume that anything is preferable to the public schools and have begun to think that more alternatives, regardless of what they are, will better things.

Private, independent, or charter schools can be worse than public schools. For example, check out this little gem in Minneapolis. Make sure to browse around a bit, especially at the teacher biography pages. This is same school that recently came under heat for taking their students to a sex shop as part of their sexual education curriculum - without the permission of parents - something the Headmaster of the school is still unapologetic for.

We should know that the value of a charter school or private school is only as good as its particular charter or mission - and administration. The only Catholic private school I ever taught at had piss poor academics and terrible discipline.

Am I a charter school advocate? In one sense, no, because I don't just support "charter schools." I support particular charter schools, but it depends upon their particular charter. I suppose you could say I support charter schools insofar as more liberal allowances for the establishment of charter schools allows particular charters with classical curricula to flourish; but those same laws also allow Muslim charter schools and anything else under the sun.

I personally do not believe the future of education is with charter schools and certainly not with private. It is with homeschooling and family-managed educational cooperatives. I have no optimism that "school choice", more charter schools, or anything within the framework of the system will make anything better in the long run.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Curiosity of the Modern Encyclical



No, I have no immediate commentary on Laudato Si. Why? Well, the darn thing is 187 pages long and I want to digest it patiently, so maybe come Fall I will have some commentary on it - if I'm lucky!

I have to be honest - I had a very hard time getting through Lumen Fidei and couldn't finish Evangelii Gaudium. But then again, I struggled through Caritas in Veritate and Deus Caritas Est as well, so its certainly not a Francis thing.

Modern encyclicals are a curious thing. The encyclical developed from the papal bull. The bull was a primarily juridical instrument used as a means of promulgating an authoritative judgment of the Holy See, either in matters of doctrine or governance. These could often be very short; we marvel today at reading something like Boniface VIII's Unam Sanctam (1302) - which famously declared that submission to the Roman pontiff was necessary for salvation - and is only a page long! Papal bulls in the old days knew what they wanted to say and they said it. 

The modern encyclical developed out of the Enlightenment period as the popes realized that broader literacy and intellectual challenges to Christian revelation necessitated using the papal bull as a means of educating the flock on Catholic teaching, and hence by the time of the French Revolution the bull had begun to transform into the encyclical, the teaching letters of the modern pontiffs.

The encyclicals of the 19th and early 20th century are lucid and clear. Their purpose is to expound Catholic doctrine and defend it against modern errors, which they do very admirably. A friend recently commented to me that in thinking back on great documents like Pascendi, Quas Primas, Casti Conubii and so forth, one can immediately recall the substance of of them and the force of their arguments. Pius XII taught that the encyclical was the normative means by which the Roman pontiff exercised his teaching office. The same cannot be said about modern encyclicals - who can easily summarize what Redemptor Hominis or Populorum Progressio are about except in the vaguest terms?

That's not to say pre-Vatican II encyclicals were always to the point; the pre-Conciliar popes certainly had their moments of rambling - but at least their rambling was clear and fun to read!

When we get to Vatican II, a noticeable change comes about. I personally attribute this to John XXIII's famous principle from the opening of the Second Vatican Council:

"Nowadays however, the Spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity. She consider that she meets the needs of the present day by demonstrating the validity of her teaching rather than by condemnations."

This principle has effected the manner in which the post-1965 ecclesia docens functions. Essentially, the post-Conciliar encyclical doesn't know what it wants to be when it grows up. The popes have still utilized them as a means of teaching, but rather than teaching what Catholic doctrine consists of, they have increasingly become occasions for popes to explain why Catholic doctrine is what it is. 

That's not entirely a bad thing; fides quaerens intellectum, right? 
But somewhere along the way the popes seemed to have dropped the declarative aspect of the encyclical in the overly optimistic hope that if we could just explain our teaching to the world - just walk them through our thinking step by step - then maybe the world would accept the Church's message. Maybe if we simply "proposed" our rationale for belief humbly instead of declaring that we "had" the truth, the world would reciprocate and enter into a "fruitful dialogue" with Christianity that would mutually enrich everybody?

Fruitful dialogue. Reciprocate. Mutually Enrich. Sorry, my post-Conciliar vocabulary started taking over for a moment.

Seriously though, the problem with this approach is fourfold:

(a) The world does not reject the Gospel because it has not been adequately explained. They reject it "because the light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light: for their works were evil" (John 3:19).

(b) Even when its has opted for explaining rather than declaring the Church's teaching, the Church has done a poor job of it because it has chosen to explain its teachings in terms of humanist phenomenology rather than having recourse to the Church's traditional pedagogy.

(c) By focusing so much on the explanation and presentation over the declaration, the Church has unwittingly given the false impression that the validity of its teachings are bound up with the force of her argumentation, a kind of false intellectualism. She feels shaky and inadequate simply saying, "Such is the voice of the Church; such is the teaching of our Faith"; she feels she must offer a humanistic centered explanation for everything - an explanation that will "suit" the needs of "contemporary man" - with the effect that her message has become completely man-centered. "He taught as one who had authority" (Matt. 7:29) said the people of old about Christ; but when the Church forgets the supernatural force that stands behind her teaching and opts instead for an anthropomorphized message, she no longer "speaks with authority", in the sense that her words lose their force. Hence people shrug at the latest papal document and move on.

(d) Finally, because the popes have sought for novel means to propose their teachings, encyclicals lose their strenght as teaching documents and become instead opportunities for the popes to foist their own theological or literary tastes on the Catholic people. The phenomenology of John Paul II, the Balthasarian-Hegelian-Teilhardism of Benedict XVI, and now the sort of "literary theology" of Francis. Each pontiff has opted not use traditional pedagogy, which means every pope has to "try something new" in how they choose to teach.

Thus, while retaining its authority in the juridical sense, from a strictly pedagogical viewpoint, the modern encyclical tends to become a rambling, sprawling mess that lacks the force to move minds and hearts. There have been exceptions; Humanae Vitae certainly did its job, as did Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. Fides et Ratio was profound. But by and large they have failed to really educate the Catholic flock on the substance of the Church's teaching and are too cumbersome to be accessible to the average pewsitter. There is reason why going on and on is called "pontificating."

At any rate, I look forward to digging into Laudato Si. Pray for our Holy Father Pope Francis. Pray for the Church of Christ. Pray that she stands firm in her identity as the Bride of Christ, teaching with the authority of Christ, and confident that the Light which cometh from her Lord is still sufficient of itself to change the hearts of men without having to pander to modern psychology, science, or theological novelties.

Mutans tenebras ad lucem
Email: uscatholicam@gmail.com

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Should we "support" or "oppose" law enforcement?

If you live in the United States, you have no doubt as of late been inundated with stories of police brutality from around the country. Whether there is a real increase in police brutality or whether these sorts of incidents are just getting more attention I could not say. But this discussion has spawned some really stupid knee-jerk reactions from both the Left and the Right. By way of reminding the mainly Catholic readership of this blog that Traditional Catholicism does not exist on the Left-Right spectrum - and that points of agreement with one side or the other tend to be merely incidental - I want to try to inject some sanity into a discussion that is rapidly degenerating into pure stupidity.

It has now been over a generation since the end of the Civil Rights movement, and the cadre of dying septuagenarian progressives on the Left are trying to stretch the momentum of the 60's to every possible corner of American society. This is what is behind trying to hand the mantle of the Civil Rights movement on to the perverts in the LGBT community (despite the protest of many African Americans).

This is also what is behind the liberal "opposition" to "police" as they attempt to make every engagement between a white office and a black person an issue of racism - which of course gets a bit muddled when the officers are black, as in the Freddie Gray case. It is a classic case of playing the race card, which consists essentially in viewing every social interaction solely through the lens of race and nothing else.

There is also a tendency on the Left to fail to sympathize with the difficult situations police officers are in. In the now infamous pool party arrest, the officer was surrounded by a hostile crowd. It is understandable why he drew his gun. Officers are asked to do a very tough job, and that job will inevitably at times involve them "getting tough." There are certainly some bad apples; but the Left's crusade against police brutality too often becomes a broadly ignorant "opposition" to any police action whatsoever and results in police who are afraid to do their jobs because they don't know if they will get in trouble for using force, drawing a weapon, etc.

As we will see with the Right, the Left can be schizophrenic on this issue. The same people who hate America, hate the police, etc. have no qualms about calling 911 or running to an Embassy when they get in trouble in a foreign country. Of course, not everybody who protests against police brutality "hates cops"; but if the Left would have us grant this, let the Left grant that not every police officer is a secret racist. This is way more complex than "Who are you with? Police or black people?"

Okay, so the Left is stupid. No big surprise there. But the Right has some equally stupid positions on this question; in fact, I think the Right's approach is equally schizophrenic.

One thing I have never been able to comprehend is how the conservative Right promotes a cult of law enforcement by its excessive honor of police officers and military personnel whilst simultaneously nurturing fears of a police state. One would think a constituency that demonstrates such anxiety over the establishment of a police state would be a little more reserved in the lauds they heap upon law enforcement? After all, you cannot have a police state without the police. Yet, the opposite is the case; they worry about the establishment of the dreaded American police state whilst simultaneously claiming that no honor is too high for our law enforcement and military.

The Right professes to abhor and fear the establishment of a police state but never misses and opportunity to engage in a public love fest with law enforcement. This is inconsistent and weird - just like conservative fear of "big government" goes hand in hand with reflexive support for a bigger and greater military, the very thing which ultimately makes "big government" possible. I know conservative fear of a police state is directed more towards liberal politicians and  not law enforcement as such, but any police state, liberal or otherwise, would require the cooperation of the police. I don't see how one can profess to fear a police state while simultaneously empowering the police consistently.

This is the major case of double-think regarding law enforcement in the conservative right, and the reflexive cult of law enforcement it engenders leads to another canard, which is the "I support police" campaign going around social media.

You know what I'm talking about. All sorts of images of police officers with their families or officers helping people with tags like "support our police" or "I stand with the police" and so forth.

It is the goofiest thing in the world to take a position as broad as "I support police." Not because I have anything against police qua police, but because its not rational to simply "support" an entire profession as if it were a political position.

For example, what if I were to sport a bumper sticker that said, "I support realtors." What? That would not make any sense. Or, "Stand with our accountants." "Support plumbers." Who talks like that about any other profession? I don't have anything against plumbers, but I certainly don't support plumbers qua plumbers, I support an individual plumber when he does a good job, and I do not support an individual plumber when he shows up late or screws me over.

I support an accountant who is competent. I oppose an accountant who is incompetent. Ditto with every other profession. People who do certain professions are judged according to their skill in that profession, so we are ultimately talking about the competence of individuals. I cannot simply "support realtors"; I support intelligent, hard working realtors and I oppose dumb, lazy realtors.

But with police - and I would argue military and teachers as well - we are supposed to either "support" them or be "against" them. I do not "support the police." Like anything else in this world, I support a police officer when he does good and oppose him when he does evil. To the degree that that evil is systemic, I oppose that institutional evil. To the degree that quality public service and self-service are systemic, I support that. And I understand that the two contrary qualities may be present in one department or even in a single officer, because even the best of us still do evil. So insofar as a particular officer does good, I support him, and insofar as he does wickedly, I oppose him.

Now, some will respond, "But the reason people speak of 'supporting' police, teachers, etc. is because these very professions have in fact become politicized and taken on the character of a political position which can be supported or opposed," to which I respond, if one or both sides in the stupid Left-Right dichotomy have politicized a profession, that is no argument that I need to. If one side has made a political platform out of "supporting" teachers, I will not allow myself to up the ante by adopting the knee-jerk political position of "opposing" teachers just because Party X supports them and I belong to Party Y. I support effective teachers and oppose ineffective teachers.

Similarly, if the Left is mobilizing against law enforcement (while simultaneously trying to establish a Leftist police state somehow?) in a move of crass politicization, I do not see how it helps anything by closing ranks "for" law enforcement in an act that is equally politicized. Those who are unable to get off the Left-Right paradigm will have a difficult time with this.

So no, conservatives, I do not "support" police. Nor do I "oppose" them, Mr. Liberal. I look for individuals to act in accord with their duty and the common good according to their office. If they can do that, I support them; if and when they fail (which clearly happens) I oppose them. I have known a lot of good, wonderful cops in my life; I've even had to make decisions regarding management of police officers. But I've also been totally shafted by cops and seen some really terrible things done by police officers, things that were so unjust that I couldn't think of them without trembling in rage. And I think if the Left suffers from an inability to recognize the difficult situation police can find themselves in, the Right suffers from a knee-jerk defense of law enforcement and often fails to recognize real abuses when they crop up.

Let us judge each instance - and each person - on their own merits and not get caught up in the stupidity of the Left-Right paradigm.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Safe Place for a Dove


Before we begin, let me just say that the following should be filed under "things that probably mean nothing", because I certainly don't take my spirituality or theology from such signs - but then again, I keep them in mind, as well.

Recently we posted an article here in which, among other things, we noted that doves being released by the pope from St. Peter's were frequently killed by crows or other birds almost as soon as they were released.

In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI attempted to release a dove as a prayer for world peace. The dove refused to fly away and instead returned to Benedict's window. The same thing occurred in 2011, as well as 2010.

On January 29, 2013, Pope Benedict XVI released two doves from St. Peter's as part of the "Caravan of Peace" celebration on Holocaust Remembrance Day. The doves were supposed to represent peace. Both were viciously attacked by seagulls and barely managed to escape.

Enter Pope Francis. Following the turmoil in the Ukraine, Pope Francis and two Ukrainian children released two doves symbolizing peace in January of 2014. The doves were immediately attacked by a seagull, but managed to escape. However, after escaping from the gull they were set upon by a crow! Again, both managed to escape, though severely disoriented and somewhat mauled.




Anyone who has been to Europe knows that in places like St. Peter's where there are lots of tourists there are an insane amount of pigeons and seagulls. There is a perfectly natural explanation for these events; there's just a lot of mean birds around.

However, one cannot but be struck by the irony of it all. A Church, increasingly caught up in the affairs of the world, sets loose doves as prayers for world peace - and those doves are brutally attacked by predatory birds - birds which in the parables of Jesus represent the devil and his demons. A Church that increasingly compromises with the world and in many places refuses to make a clear stand on her moral teaching, especially in the wake of homosexual militancy.

But meanwhile, we have an embattled archbishop in San Francisco who, whatever his previous faults, is courageously standing up for the Church's moral teaching and taking tremendous flak for it. He has been offered zero public support from the Vatican. And, yet, at a picnic of support for Archbishop Cordileone held on May 16th, 2015, we see the following:



This probably means nothing. It's just an amusing coincidence. Right?

Right?

Well, at any rate, it has been said that the real Gospel is being found lived "at the peripheries". This may prove to be true, although not in the way many expected.

H/T to James Larson for making me aware of this story.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Summer Class: "Christian Architecture Through the Ages"


Are you looking for some historical enrichment for your high schoolers over the summer?

I am teaching a four day online course via Homeschool Connections called "Christian Architecture Through the Ages." This course will acquaint students with the basic components of Christian ecclesiastical architecture, beginning with the basilicas of the late patristic era and moving through the Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Neo-Classical and Neo-Gothic. While we will touch on some essential Byzantine motifs early on, most of the course will be focused on Western architecture.

Course Outline:

Day 1: Late patristic basilicas
Day 2: Romanesque and Gothic
Day 3: Renaissance and Baroque elements
Day 4: Revivalism and the Modern Descent

Dates: Monday, July 13-Thursday, July 16th

Time: 4:00-4:55 PM, EST

Cost: $65

Suggested Grade Level: 7th-12th

To Register: Please click this link to go right to the Homeschool Connections registration page for the course.

To learn more about Homeschool Connections, visit their website here. I have taught history for Homeschool Connections for six years and they are by far the best online Catholic homeschooling option out there. I have over 15 different history courses for Middle School and High School available and strongly encourage you to consider HSC for your homeschooling needs.

Pax,
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Email: uscatholicam@gmail.com

Friday, May 29, 2015

Shepherds for the Whole World


"And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness" (1 John 5:19).

"Adulterers, know you not that the friendship of this world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of this world, makes himself an enemy of God" (Jas. 4:4).

"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world" (Jas. 1:27).

"If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you" (John 15:18-19).

"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Eph. 6:12).

"We have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God" (1 Cor. 2:12).

"Woe unto the world because of offences! For it is necessary that offences come, but woe to that man by whom the offence comes!" (Matt. 18:7)

"Do you not know that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world shall be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?" (1 Cor. 6:2)

"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives do I give you" (John 14:27).

"Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the pagans seek...But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you" (Matt. 6:31-33).

"Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees him not, neither does it know him" (John 14:17).

"For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world" (2 Tim. 4:10).

"I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me" (John 17:9).

"The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God" (1 Cor. 3:19).

"For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world" (1 John 2:16).

"Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you" (1 John 3:13).

"But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world" (1 Cor. 11:32).

"But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Gal. 6:14).

"For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome , the latter end is worse with them than the beginning" (2 Pet. 2:20).

"They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world hears them" (1 John 4:5).

"Be not conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Rom. 12:12).

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, That you shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and you shall be sorrowful , but your sorrow shall be turned into joy" (John 16:20).

"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15).

"For what does it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matt. 16:26)


  *  *  *  *  * 

The list of Bible verses above is just a sampling of those that deal with the Christian's relationship with that entity known as "the world". The world is a very interesting term in the New Testament. It appears throughout the New Testament, but especially in the writings of St. John, where it is used a total of 105 times in 78 verses. 

The word can mean various things. Sometimes it simply means the sum total of things here and now; i.e., the universe, as in Revelation 13:8, "And all that dwell upon the earth adored him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb, which was slain from the beginning of the world." Sometimes it means the world as the physical location of humanity, or simply in contrast with heaven, such as in John 3:17, "For God sent not his Son into the world, to judge the world, but that the world may be saved by him." Sometimes "the world" is synonymous with humanity, as in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world." 

But the majority of uses of "the world" in the New Testament refer to the world as the system of human existence under its various aspects: as a place of earthly joys and passions, and especially as a system that is hostile to God. In this sense, the world is something that is in opposition to God and His kingdom, as in John 8:23, "You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world." Over 50% of all uses to the word "world" (κόσμος, "kosmos") in the writings of John use this adversarial language; this percentage increases when we take into account similar uses of κόσμος, by St. Paul ("Hath God not made foolish the wisdom of this world? For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world, by wisdom, knew not God" ~1 Cor. 1:20-21).

Thus, although there is certainly some nuance in the word, we are safe in suggesting that the primary usage of the phrase "the world" in the New Testament is in reference to the entire earthly system of opposition to God under all its aspects, the "City of Man" of St. Augustine, whose head is ultimately the devil (cf. Luke 4:5-6. 1 John 5:19). Because the head of this system is the devil - and because there is no concord between the Kingdom of Christ and the Kingdom of the Devil (2 Cor. 6:15) - it is clear that the New Testament posits a relationship of fundamental and irreconcilable hostility between the Church and the world. Hence St. James can say, "do you not know that the friendship of this world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of this world, makes himself an enemy of God" (Jas. 4:4).

  *  *  *  *  * 

Of course there is a popular saying, long hallowed in Christian tradition, that believers are to be "in the world but not of the world." This formula, "in but not of", is seen as a way to resolve the tension between the Christian's call to love the people of the world whilst simultaneously refusing to become "part" of the world. It is often invoked as an admonishment to those Christians who no longer wish to engage the corrupt culture but merely withdraw from it. "The Bible says we are to be in the world but not of it. Disengagement is not an option."

You may surprised to learn that this phrase "in the world but not of the world" never appears in the New Testament. It seems to be based loosely on John 17:14-15, where Jesus prays,"I have given them thy word, and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world; as I also am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from evil." Here Jesus specifically teaches that we are "not of the world", and that though we must remain physically present in it, He prays that God would keep us from its evil. In other words, Jesus never says by way of command that we are to be engaged in the world; He merely says that since we must be physically present in the world by necessity, God should keep us from the world's evil, which is quite a different shade of meaning than that conveyed by "in but not of."

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The goal of the Christian life if holiness. Yet what is holiness? What does it meant to be holy? We understand that we are called to be loving, forgiving, etc. But what does it mean to be "holy"? Is holiness a mere sum of all other natural and supernatural virtues? And what about God? God is love, power, forgiveness, justice and so on. But what does it mean when the angels cry that God is "holy, holy, holy?"

The fundamental definition of holiness is separation. The Latin word for holiness is sanctitas, from whence sanctity. Holiness denotes separation or consecration unto God. When the angels cry "holy, holy, holy" it is because God is so far separate and distinct from all created things that awe is the only appropriate response in his presence. "Between creator and creature there can be noted no similarity so great that a greater dissimilarity cannot be seen between them", the Fourth Lateran Council taught (cap. 3, "On Heretics"). St. Thomas defines holiness as a firm separation of created things which are translated from profane use to use in the service of God (STh II-II Q. 81 art. 8). This is why Holy Water, Holy Cards, Holy Candles, Holy Oil, etc. have the adjective "holy" - once they are consecrated, they are "set apart" for divine worship exclusively. To use Holy Oil for cooking for Holy Water for common washing would be sacrilegious. Their consecration is what makes them "holy", and hence set apart for divine use exclusively.

Of course, a person is holy in a different sense than an object, but the fundamental reality that holiness means separation remains. 
A man with Holy Orders is set apart for the service of God. A holy person is one whose life is separated from worldly concerns and activities and who already lives, even in the flesh, in contemplation of heavenly things. Holiness is separation; separation from worldly uses and a setting apart unto God, "who is above all, through all, and in all" (Eph. 4:6).

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With the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church adopted a posture of "openness" to the world. Pope John XXIII harbored great hopes for a kind of reconciliation between the Church and the world that would lead to the mutual building up of both; what he called a "new order of human relations", while also condemning those "prophets of gloom" who only saw the modern world in a negative light. This led to a massive paradigm shift in the post-Conciliar Church, a pivot towards the world. It matters not whether the Council documents ever called for this pivot; the essential weakness of the conservative response to the Council has been a narrow focus on the Council documents' language and a failure to comprehend the Council as an event (see, USC, "Book Review: Second Vatican Council: An Unwritten Story", Aug. 2013). The pivot happened and it must be acknowledged as a fact.

The result of this pivot was a blurring of distinction between the Church and world, between merely natural goods and supernatural goods. Worldly concerns seemed to be become the Church's concerns. It started innocently enough with "world peace," but then moved on to all sorts of other issues, occupying bigger and bigger parts of the Church's canvas until the Church appeared as little more than an NGO concerned with worldly problems like climate change and youth unemployment. Not that the Church has no concern with temporal evils that offend God; but as the Church shifted its focus more and more towards merely natural goods, it began to address them with increasingly little reference to man's supernatural ends.

The results were a spiritually deadening and embarrassingly banal Church that gives us such gems as "Driver's Ten Commandments", documents about immigration reform, and of course, encyclicals on global warming.

  *  *  *  *  * 

This is all very shady territory, of course, because there can always be an argument made that these are all issues of profound concern to Christians. There is often an ambiguity in these sorts of pronouncements; what one gets out of them largely depends on what one reads into them. We are talking about mood and emphasis, not doctrine. I remember a Protestant friend of mine, upon hearing of some new papal gesture for world peace, said, "It's weird...it's like he's trying to be the pope of the world or something." And that was under the pontificate of Benedict! Needless to say he is not very impressed with Pope Francis; there is no discernible "Francis Effect" on him, at least not in the positive sense.

Perhaps this all expresses the tension in modern Catholicism - once one has opened up to the world, what is the overlap between one's duties to the Church and to the world? What happens when they are in contradiction? Can they be in contradiction? In traditional Catholicism the answer was clear: the Church and the world were in a fundamental state of opposition. But once we have pivoted towards the world, what now?

Case in point: Consider Pope Benedict XVI's recent letter in which the Pope Emeritus states that the Church's pastors should be "shepherds for the whole world." Benedict wrote:

"The service of a shepherd cannot be only limited only to the Church [even though] in the first place, we are entrusted with the care of the faithful and of those who are directly seeking faith. [The Church] is part of the world, and therefore it can properly play its service only if it takes care of the world in its entirety.”

What is a Catholic to make of these words? It is certainly true, in one sense, that since the mission of Christ was to redeem the whole human race, the Church can never concern herself solely with matters entirely internal. She must always be considering her mission ad gentes; God wills all men to be saved, and so we must labor for all men to be so.

This is nothing new. But is that the sense in which Benedict means it? He goes on to say that the Church "must be involved in the efforts that humanity and society put into action" to address "the questions of our times."

The fundamental question is this: Is he envisioning the Church reaching out to make the world think about heavenly things, or the Church focusing more of its attention on worldly things? Does he want the Church to call the world to remember man's supernatural ends, or is he proposing the Church help to world attain its merely natural ends? Is this a call of the world to the Church or a capitulation of the Church to the world? The problem is both philosophies can be read into Benedict's words, depending on one's predisposition.

  *  *  *  *  * 

The Church has come a long way in its relation with the world. From a New Testament relation of essential opposition, to the modern zeitgeist of positivity and openness to the developments of the world. The tendency in the modern age is for the things going on in the world to be accepted by the Church. This certainly didn't begin with Vatican II; I personally think it began back when the Church began acclimating itself to the credit economy by mitigating its condemnations of usury (see USC, "Usury and Love of Money").

The Church must always engage the world with an aim of bringing men from the City of Man to the City of God; but this translation of one city to the other happens on the Church's terms, not the world's. We "become all things to all men that by all means we might save some" (1 Cor. 9:22); we go out into the highways and byways to all. But we go out into the highways so that we might bring the lost into the feast; we do not go into the highways that we might join the lost wandering around outside. This is what so many Christians are missing, because like a kid who wants to be 'cool' and is embarrassed by his parents, Christians are ashamed to bring the lost to their Father's house.

In other words, finding it increasingly too difficult to break with the world to become truly Christian, the Christian people have simply decided to become one with the world and call it Christian. Rather than seek holiness by separating from worldly thoughts and behaviors, they have chosen to wallow in their worldliness and call it the 'universal call to holiness.' And as long as this is the reality, protestations against creeping worldliness will go unheeded, the worldiness of anthropocentric ecclesiastical policies will not even be recognized let alone corrected, and those who seek to pursue a true separation from the world in the classical Christian sense will ironically be accused of escapism and failure of Christian charity.

"When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" ~Luke 18:8

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Faithful Island Has Become a Harlot


"As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes" (Luke 19:41-42).

Our Lord spoke these words about the city of Jerusalem, but they could easily be applied to Ireland in the wake of its shameful referendum yesterday legitimizing homosexual marriage. 

The faithful isle has become a whore; the land of saints and sages has become drunk with the abominations of the nations and is reeling in its inebriation. Éire has betrayed St. Patrick. Éire has betrayed the Irish martyrs. Éire has betrayed its own constitution, which begins with the words, "In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred, We, the people of Éire, Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial..."

Yes, a disappointment to all Catholics, especially those who love the Catholic heritage of Ireland. Yet it is hard to tell what is more disappointing, the referendum results, or the lame excuses offered by the Irish Church's prelates. Rorate Caeli has documented how the bishops of Dublin and Derry offered the most mediocre, ambiguous, limp-wristed resistance to the vote, basically telling Irish Catholics that it was better to vote 'Yes' than to vote 'No' for the "wrong reasons."

After the vote, Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin placed the blame squarely on the Church, conveniently omitting any mention of the degenerate morals of his flock.

“I think really that the church needs to do a reality check, a reality check right across the board, to look at the things it’s doing well, to look at the areas where we really have to start and say, ‘Look, have we drifted away completely from young people?’ ” 

This reveals immediately the error in his thinking. If a reality check is needed, it is not because the Church has "drifted away" from young people - indeed, the Church doesn't drift away from people, people drift away from the Church - rather, the reality check needed is that this wishy-washy affirming dialogue centered nonsense that passes for Catholicism in most of the West is incapable of attracting young people. They're bored to tears with it. It means nothing to them. It's a fundamental failure of "modern" Catholicism.

But does the Archbishop recognize this? Nooooo. Of course not. The problem isn't that the Church has reformed; it's that she hasn't reformed far enough! More dialogue! More new language! More reaching out!

"It’s very clear that if this referendum is an affirmation of the views of young people, then the church has a huge task in front of it to find the language to be able to talk to and to get its message across to young people, not just on this issue, but in general.”

Somebody tell the Archbishop that the "language" needed to address this issue does not need to be "found." It has always been here in the Church's traditional moral theology, which has always taught that homosexual acts are acts of grave depravity and that even the homosexual tendency is intrinsically disordered.

Yet, for Archbishop Martin, the problem is not the immorality of homosexual acts but rather hand-wringing concerns that the Catholic Church is becoming a "safe space for the like-minded." He dislikes the clear moral teaching proposed by the Catholic Tradition. Instead he prefers to lounge about in Satan's favorite area, the grayscale:

“We need to find...a new language which is fundamentally ours, that speaks to, is understood and becomes appreciated by others. We tend to think in black and white but most of us live in the area of grey, and if the church has a harsh teaching, it seems to be condemning those who are not in line with it. But all of us live in the grey area. All of us fail. All of us are intolerant. All of us make mistakes. All of us sin and all of us pick ourselves up again with the help of that institution which should be there to do that."

Gray area indeed. This sounds like the realm of the lukewarm, and we know what Christ said about that. Is it not obvious that this is the voice of Satan speaking through this man?

He wraps up his interview with this gem:

“The church’s teaching, if it isn’t expressed in terms of love - then it’s got it wrong."

Of course, truth must always be spoken in love. The problem with these days however is that the truth isn't spoken at all. The Archbishop made the most equivocating, minimal resistance to the homosexual marriage referendum; and then, when it unsurprisingly passed, blamed the Church for "getting it wrong" and "drifting away" from the young and now calls for "a new language" to rectify the problem he helped create.

The solution for the problems created by the revolution is always more revolution, isn't it Archbishop Martin?

So, where are the angry counter protests? Where are heroic calls by the country's Catholic politicians and clergy for repeal? Where are the spirited vows that same sex so-called marriage will never be recognized by Catholic Ireland, regardless of the law of the land? Not a peep. Martin could care less. I personally believe the man is relieved that this issue is "settled", as he now has the luxury of throwing up his hands and saying, "It's the law of the land. What can I do?"

Indeed.

In the beginning of this post, I cited our Lord's lament over Jerusalem and suggested it could be applied to Ireland. In fact, it could probably be applied to western civilization in its entirety, which continues to decay because it does not know what will bring it peace. But if this passage does apply to western civilization, let us also remember how the passage ends:

"The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (Luke 19:43-44)

"See how the faithful city has become a harlot, She who was full of justice! Righteousness used to dwell in her- but now murderers!"(Isaiah 1:21)

Friday, May 15, 2015

Guest Post: Latin Mass Prejudices


The following is a guest post by a friend and fellow blogger Kevin Tierney. Kevin posts regularly at Catholic Lane. Unam Sanctam Catholicam's has regularly promoted his excellent series of articles introducing Novus Ordo attendees to the Propers of the Extraordinary Form. We are grateful for this lovely post on the question of the Traditional Latin Mass and why calls for a "better tone" among online defenders of the TLM are meaningless.

*  *  *  *  *

"I love the Latin Mass - but at the same time, how much preservation does it really need? It isn't as though it's going to disappear from the face of the earth."

This is an query sometimes posed by Catholics who are perhaps sympathetic to the Traditional Latin Mass but don't get what all the hubbub is about. It is a serious question and it deserves an explanation.

I don't think traditionalists are calling for the Latin Mass to be "preserved." In the worst case of trad fantasy booking, Francis could re-institute the 1984 Indult, and it would last only as long as he is breathing. The culture has changed. There was a time where it was an open question if the Latin Mass would go away. That time is long passed. The Latin Mass will definitely be "preserved."

But is the Latin Mass at least equal to the Novus Ordo? I think that's where the interesting question is. According to Vatican II, Ecclesia Dei and Summorum Pontificum (amongst many others) the answer is an unqualified yes. It is an approved form of worship within the Church, and like all of the liturgical life of the Church, it is worth cherishing and celebrating.

Does that sound like the way the Latin Mass is treated? The answer is an unqualified no. According to Robert Cardinal Sarah, Summorum Pontificum is not a reality within the dioceses of the world because a spirit of exclusion exists within Catholics who celebrate both forms. They weaponize the liturgy with hate and malice. Those are interesting words, but they don't convey the reality of why those words in Summorum Pontificum are often pious aspirations.

In several dioceses here in America, there is a de facto ban on advertising the availability of Latin Masses on websites, parish bulletins, etc. Other times there are countless hurdles being placed for celebrating the Latin Mass, including the bishop determining for himself whether or not someone is "competent" to celebrate it, something Ecclesia Dei has made clear is wrong. Saying the priest should tell the bishop to go screw while he appeals to Rome is nice in theory, but is probably going to make life quite difficult for the priest, and his congregation. In any such case, when priests have their visas revoked for saying that both the faithful trads and bishops need to be more accommodating towards each other, that is not faithful to the spirit of the Magesterium.

There is also the fact that individual traditionalists have to live up to a pretty ridiculous standard. They are not just ambassadors for themselves in all they do, but for the Latin Mass and all of Tradition as well. Any negative behavior can and will be attributed to the Latin Mass by popular bloggers, thinkers, and quite a few priests and bishops. When a random conservative Catholic blogger (both politically and religiously) is a jerk, nobody says that's because of the Novus Ordo. But with the Traditional Latin Mass it is another story. It is automatically assumed that the Latin Mass is the source of the divisive views, and that the Latin Mass contributes to a spiritually rotten subculture. That any one individual trad says "I don't do this!" doesn't make any difference. To say "such is life, deal with it", is true, but those outside the Latin Mass have the luxury of knowing that it will never be so with them. 

So given those realities, should anyone be surprised that when I hear "the biggest barriers to expanding the Latin Mass are bitter internet commenters" I roll my eyes and view them completely out of touch? Yes, everyone needs to be nicer to each other, more understanding, and promote true reconciliation. But do you think that message of reconciliation is going to be very effective in parishes where a lot of this crap takes place? There's a cold reality: every trad could be a saint and a paragon of tolerance and acceptance, and the situation today would change only at the margins, if at all. Once basic obligations are being done, then maybe the call for better tone can be taken with a shred of credibility. Right now, it has zero credibility.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Logo for Year of Mercy

In case you have not yet seen it, the above image is the official logo for the upcoming Year of Mercy. The art is the work of Slovenian Jesuit artist Fr. Marko Rupnik (click on the image for a bigger view if it is too small to see).

Notice that between Christ and the other figure, there are only three eyes, signifying apparently that "Christ sees through the eye of Adam and Adam sees through the eye of Christ." The motto of the Year of Mercy is "Merciful Like the Father", despite the fact that Pope Francis says the purpose of the year is to the demonstrate "the church's maternal solicitude."

Lest you have any doubt that this Year of Mercy will be used as a propaganda tool to push for greater acceptance of deviant lifestyles, Archbishop Reno Fisichella, spokesman for the Year of Mercy, stated that "The motto, 'Merciful Like the Father,' serves as an invitation to follow the merciful example of the Father who asks us not to judge or condemn but to forgive and to give love and forgiveness without measure.”

I offer no new commentary here, but refer you to our article "Children's Crusade and the Age of Mercy" from March 21st, 2015.

All quotes and information from this Catholic Register article.
H/T to Blog for Dallas Area Catholics

Sunday, May 03, 2015

It's a Salvation Issue

In 1 Corinthians 10, the Apostle Saint Paul exhorts us to all agree with one another and let there be no divisions among us. Disunity, however, is a reality that we have to deal with. Our Lord says that weeds will grow alongside the wheat, and in the fifth chapter of Galatians, contentions, dissensions and sects are listed amongst the works of the flesh. The difficulty in unity is that even if a person where perfect in charity, it would only take his companions being imperfect to cause disunity and quarreling.

It can be very frustrating to be on the sidelines of a fight between Christian brethren who are acting in passions of anger. There does appear to be occasional break periods where a journal here, a blog there, a bishop over there, and so on, will scream the need to stop fighting and unite to (insert noble cause here).

Have you read the exhortations to stop arguing over issues like canonical jurisdiction to make a united Trad Catholic Voice. Like this call for Unity that Rorate Caeli Posted in January of last year.

Calls to unity can also be found from the Russian Orthodox, asking for an end to confrontation between Catholics and Orthodox and a relationship of solidarity so that we might fight relativism and secularism. (Like Archbishop Hilarion said during an address to the Sant’Egidio community on September 17 or extreme examples like Saint John Paul II inviting the leaders of the worlds religion to pray for and work towards the promoting of peace.) Some Eastern Catholics on the internet express upset (the self identified "Orthodox in Communion with Rome") that the West cannot just jettison 1000 years of theology in the name of unity and nuance the meaning out of Papal Supremacy so we can be united with the Orthodox again (thus betraying Christ, and the noble Eastern Catholic Martyrs and Confessors) . Father Laurent Cleenewreck, an Eastern Orthodox Priest, wants Christians to return to a pre-Nicene confession of the faith, so that all us Christians can stop fighting.

We have been exhorted to dwell in unity; so why do some Christians insist on fighting over dogma or practice?

Because these can be salvation issues.

When people unite at the expense of truth, they construct a new tower of Babel destined to not only fail, but to cause even greater disunity. Our faith is weak, or possibly dead, if we think our numbers will make a difference. God cares not for numbers, but faithfulness, even if the numbers are reduced to a remnant of "the remnant".

Should people remain silent if they believe (Insert dis-unifying belief here) will actually result in someone going to Hell? Admonishing the sinner has guidelines, we must not throw our pearls before swine, and Our Lord admonishes us to correct someone only so many times before (in effect) shunning them.

If a person is wrong about a belief being a salvation issue, it may be a salvation issue to them for if they violate their conscience and they would actually commit a soul-destroying mortal sin. “Then let us no more pass judgment on one another, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. (Rom 14:13–15)”

How must we deal with salvation issues, whether we our or neighbor believes that X is a salvation issue? By supplying evidence with patience and charity.

The Rule of the Poor Knights provides an excellent outline for how we should speak, and not speak, in these inevitable disagreements in our fallen world.

Do not give free play to wrath, do not bear anyone a grudge, do not nurse deceit in your heart, do not give a false greeting of peace, do not abandon charity…. Speak the truth with your heart and your lips, do not render evil for evil, do not wrong anyone, love your enemies, do not return insults or slander, but rather respond with benevolence towards our offendersChapter 4, The Instruments of Good Deeds.

Are we in the position to lay down the sword of truth if our friend wants to join the the Eastern Schism so we can avoid contention? Will we stay silent if a dogma of our Faith is questioned by a protestant standing next to us at a Pro-Life demonstration, because he is "basically a good person"? Are we going to let our friends go to Sedevacantist church with our blessing because they have been scandalized and are "traditional"? Should we stay silent if our family wishes to attend the illegal ordination of a priest who, upon ordination, would be suspended?

I hope to God that I be found not wanting for words then. "Love thy neighbor as thyself." If you believe something is necessary to do, or to avoid for your salvation, do not be silent because your words might stir up contention. “Do not think that I came to send peace upon earth: I came not to send peace, but the sword. For I came to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And as a man's enemies shall be they of his own household.” Matthew 10:34-36

It only takes one mortal sin for a person to lose the grace of God. What if God's providence chose you to be the person  to warn somebody about their impending spiritual suicide? So what if we have a united "Trad Front" if a quarter of those trads go to hell? So what if we have a united Christianity if a large segment of that rejects Dogma necessary for belief in order to be saved? And you won't avoid one day of warfare by different religious leaders pledging peace when God decides if we will have war or peace, lest we forget that the Angel of War is sent to punish those who reject the Gospel. I would hope that if I was in danger of losing my soul a friend would take the time to patiently and charitably correct me.

We can make our arguments firm, we can use strong evidence and even be forceful if need be, but we must always strive to do it in charity. If we cannot start with charity it is be better to stay silent, but not for unity’s sake, for God’s sake. "A judicious silence is always better than truth spoken without charity." ~St. Francis De Sales

We must always keep charity, and that is also a salvation issue.