Friday, August 28, 2015

The Vice of Effeminacy

The Church teaches that persons afflicted with homosexual tendencies who wish to live in accordance with God's will are called to observe chastity. Hence the talk about "chaste homosexuals." 

All Christians are called to chastity, whatever their state in life. But this stress on the chastity required of homosexual Catholics sometimes tends to orient our focus too much on sexual activity alone. For example, take the case of a homosexual Catholic who is chaste but effeminate in his manner. As long as that person is chaste, there is a tendency to shrug off the question of effeminacy. An effeminate man is laughed off as "just being eccentric." Some people seem to find effeminate men endearing; "My, how friendly he is!" others will say.

The implication in this sort of laissez-faire attitude towards effeminacy is that it is completely acceptable so long as it is not accompanied by homosexual actions - that the chaste homosexual can be as effeminate and flaming as can be but is praiseworthy so long as he is not engaging in sodomy.

Such a view is very reductive and fails to comprehend the entirety of the problem posed by homosexuality. Homosexual acts are certainly immoral, but so is the homosexual tendency and all its manifestations, including effeminacy.

Is effeminacy actually a sin? St. Thomas Aquinas takes it further and says effeminacy is a vice - that is, a habitually sinful disposition.

Effeminacy in the classical tradition is seen as a kind of "softeness." The Latin, mollities, means literally "softness", but in various contexts can also mean irresolution, tenderness, wantonness, voluptuousness, weakness, or pliability. It essentially occurs when the traits traditionally associated with the feminine are found in the man.

The sum of these traits in a man constitute the vice of effeminacy, which St. Thomas, following Aristotle, says is a opposed to the virtue of fortitude. The effeminate man is he who is incapable of "manning up" and enduring the challenges of life. St. Thomas notes how this is opposed to fortitude or perseverance:

"Perseverance is deserving of praise because thereby a man does not forsake a good on account of long endurance of difficulties and toils: and it is directly opposed to this, seemingly, for a man to be ready to forsake a good on account of difficulties which he cannot endure. This is what we understand by effeminacy, because a thing is said to be "soft" if it readily yields to the touch" (STh, II-II, Q. 138, Art. 1).

But it is not merely yielding to difficulties that make a man effeminate or soft; a soldier may be tortured for information and eventually yield, but that does not make him effeminate. Another thing is necessary. St. Thomas explains:

"Now a thing is not declared to be soft through yielding to a heavy blow, for walls yield to the battering-ram. Wherefore a man is not said to be effeminate if he yields to heavy blows. Hence the Philosopher says that "it is no wonder, if a person is overcome by strong and overwhelming pleasures or sorrows; but he is to be pardoned if he struggles against them." 
Now it is evident that fear of danger is more impelling than the desire of pleasure: wherefore Tully says under the heading "True magnanimity consists of two things: It is inconsistent for one who is not cast down by fear, to be defeated by lust, or who has proved himself unbeaten by toil, to yield to pleasure." Moreover, pleasure itself is a stronger motive of attraction than sorrow, for the lack of pleasure is a motive of withdrawal, since lack of pleasure is a pure privation. Wherefore, according to the Philosopher, properly speaking an effeminate man is one who withdraws from good on account of sorrow caused by lack of pleasure, yielding as it were to a weak motion" (ibid).

So it is not merely yielding to challenge, but more specifically, refusing the challenge of pursuing the good because one is attracted to pleasure. He is fundamentally a weakling, one who sees the face of virtue and shrinks back from the effort. St. Thomas and the classical tradition associate this with "womanliness." For example:

"Now the delicate are those who cannot endure toils, nor anything that diminishes pleasure. Hence it is written (Deuteronomy 28:56): "The tender and delicate woman, that could not go upon the ground, nor set down her foot for softness"...Thus delicacy is a kind of effeminacy" (ibid).

St. Thomas cites the biblical passage from Deuteronomy on the delicate and tender woman as an example of the behavior he is talking about. Thus the effeminate man is the delicate man, the womanly man. And this sort of behavior, insofar as it is voluntary, constitutes a vice. The effeminate man is the man who does not have a strong and deep sense of his masculinity; rather than man-up and accept the challenge of understanding and growing in his identity has a man, he prefers to shrink back and adopt the attitudes and mannerisms of "the tender and delicate woman." And this disposition is a vice.

Effeminacy is a vice contrary to the virtue of fortitude. Which leaves one question - in what sense can an effeminate but chaste homosexual be said to lacking in fortitude when he exercises enough fortitude to remain chaste? If he has the self-control to keep his disordered passions in check, how can he simultaneously lack self-control and fortitude through the vice of effeminacy? How can he simultaneously have fortitude while lacking it?

Virtue is a habit, a stable disposition from which one generally performs good acts. Good acts that are done by the virtuous man are called virtuous in a participated sense, not in the particular of each act. If a man lacks fortitude in many areas of his life, his exercise of fortitude in a particular act may not constitute the presence of the virtue of fortitude; a man who rises to the challenge of performing a difficult act when called upon but does not have a habit of doing so is not virtuous; he has merely performed a good deed. Similarly, a man who may have disciplined himself with regards to sexual activity but has effeminate habits in every other aspect of his life may not really have the virtue of fortitude.

It could also be argued that we are talking about different virtues. His sexual abstinence could entail the presence of the virtue of temperance, while his effeminacy reveals a lack of fortitude. Thus he may be truly virtuous in some respects but lack virtue in others. This is where a very clear understanding of the relationship of virtues to each other, and how particular types of activities align with particular virtues is important.

Back to the chaste homosexual. Not all chaste homosexuals are effeminate. And not all effeminate men are homosexual. But effeminacy and homosexuality are connected, and we need to recognize that even if there is no homosexual activity taking place, effeminacy itself is a vice that should not be encouraged, coddled, laughed off, or ignored. Homosexuals are called to chastity, and the effeminate are called to overcome their effeminacy and grow into their manhood - this may be a great challenge and require deliberate effort on the part of the man sincerely struggling with effeminacy. But that's what fortitude is - manning up and overcoming the challenges we encounter in this vale of tears.

There is one more question that must be addressed: Since what is proper to females and males can fluctuate in different cultures and times, how can effeminacy exist as an objective vice? For example, to wear powdered wigs and lace was manly in 1750. For a man to do so now would be bizarre. Since what sort of fashions are proper to men and women change over time, is it not futile to try to nail down what sort of behaviors constitute effeminacy?

Remember, a virtue (or a vice) is a fundamental interior disposition. We are not talking about clothing fashions or hair styles; we are talking about a person's character. Fashions change, and in general, a man has an obligation not to take up fashions and dress popularly identified as womanly in his particular culture so as not to scandalize others.

But effeminacy is something deeper than fashion; it is the deep-seated, habitual disposition towards delicacy and withdrawal of effort for fear of lack of pleasure. The mere fact that we cannot come up with a systematic list of what behaviors constitute effeminacy or deduce exactly when one has become effeminate does not mean the vice does not exist. This is the same with any vice: for example, when does a person become cowardly? When he has run away from something once? Twice? How often and in what situations does he have to shirk before he can be categorized as a coward? Furthermore, what is considered cowardly varies from culture to culture. In some cultures it is considered brave to strike an enemy suddenly and then run away; in others it would be considered cowardly to strike someone and then flee. It is very difficult to pin down, but everybody agrees that cowardice exists.

Similarly, everybody acknowledges that effeminacy exists. Aristotle wrote about it in the Greek world. Cicero, centuries later and in a different cultural milieu, also condemned it. It was preached against and condemned by medieval moralists. Aquinas understands it and considers it a vice. It would be absurd to suggest that moral authors from Aristotle to Aquinas and beyond were only writing about a subjective, relative concept when they condemned effeminacy. Just like we all have a general consensus of what cowardice is, the Catholic tradition has a consistent picture of effeminacy. Aristotle, Aquinas and the rest had a clear idea of what they were writing about, just like most people today have a clear idea of what is meant by an "effeminate man" or a "girly man." You know it when you see it, even if it is difficult to systematically define.

Finally, it is important to note that one is never going to be perfectly actualizing fortitude, even though he has a stable disposition and could be called virtuous in that respect, until he reaches beatitude and has perfection of all virtues. Since we are judging particulars it is hard to treat of it scientifically, as if we were dealing with only principles. The point is not to dwell obsessively on whether a particular person has fortitude or not; God knows that. The point is to understand why this trait is considered vicious and how it relates to the other virtue which is its contrary.

Most of you are probably aware of this already, but Fr. James Mason wrote an excellent article on this vice for Homiletic and Pastoral Review, discussing how effeminacy ruins seminary candidates; I highly recommend his article ("Forgotten Vice in Seminary Formation"). I highly recommend it.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Guest Post: Dunfermline Pilgrimage

The following is a guest post from a long-time contributor to this blog, although this is the first time he has written anything for us. John Goodall is a Traditional Catholic who lives in the Glasgow region of Scotland. For several years now he has worked behind the scenes lovingly editing all the articles on the Unam Sanctam Catholicam website (because my punctuation and grammar was so bad I required another person to help clean them up). His job is very humble and thankless - and for that reason I am all the more thankful for him.

John has a special love for the saints of Scotland. This June he attended a historic pilgrimage in honor of St. Margaret in Dunfermline, Dunfermline is the biggest city in Fife and retains a special connection to St. Margaret, who wed King Malcolm III here in 1070 and subsequently established an important abbey here. The Dunfermline procession was held annually for centuries until it was discontinued in 1974. This year's procession marks a happy restoration of an ancient practice, although as John will explain, it was not without some unfortunate occurrences. Still, it is a pleasant event in a diocese that is plagued with problems.

Pictures from the pilgrimage can be found below.

* * * *

On a sunny afternoon on Sunday 28th June, my brother and I went to Dunfermline to a pilgrimage procession organised by the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh. Starting at 3pm, the procession was to pass through the centre of Dunfermline to end at St Margaret Memorial Church,
which has a shrine to the saintly queen.

The procession and pilgrimage was the first held in Dunfermline in 41 years. It had taken place in honour of Saint Margaret not long after her relics had been translated to a new shrine after her canonisation and then continued until the Reformation. It was then revived in 1899 and continued until 1974.

When we arrived at the park where the procession was to start, we were both pleasantly surprised at the large number of people there. When I spoke to a few of my friends and fellow parishioners in the line, they said that they too were surprised at the large turnout and we all reckoned there was about 1000 people in it. The clement weather, always an important factor in Scotland, must have helped a great deal. Others in the procession also showed me the literature that had been handed out. A booklet outlined various places in Dunfermline associated with Saint Margaret, such as Dunfermline Abbey, the Tower and Saint Margaret’s Cave.

The procession included banners from parishes under the patronage of Saint Margaret as well as a Glasgow parish under the patronage of Saint John Ogilvie, whose 400th anniversary of martyrdom was celebrated in March this year. There was also a gathering of the Knights of Saint Columba and an Edinburgh Scout troop singing hymns.

There seems to be a lack of hymnody to Saint Margaret as the procession was fairly silent apart from the small group of scouts and the bagpipes playing at the front (obligatory for all processions in Scotland, it seems). Hopefully in future there will be a little more singing.

The Mass itself was fairly standard. The Memorial Church which holds the relics of Saint Margaret was absolutely packed, with pilgrims gathering in the hall underneath the church to watch the Mass on television screens. The one thing that disappointed me greatly was the decision to have a woman minister from the local protestant church read the second reading, which I found quite scandalous. On the other hand, the absolute highlight of the whole pilgrimage was the opportunity to venerate the relic of Saint Margaret.

Happily, they plan to carry out the pilgrimage again next year and it is hoped that it will become a regular annual event. It was a beautiful occasion to give thanks to God for Saint Margaret’s intercession and example, and to display good Catholic sentiment and practice in public. May there be more such things throughout Scotland!

Saint Margaret, patroness of Scotland, pray for us!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Christian Marriage Video Project

Unam Sanctam Catholicam is proud to present an original series of videos on issues relating to homosexual so-called "marriage" and Catholicism. Unfortunately, many Christians, even those who support traditional marriage, have never been educated to explain the Christian opposition to homosexual acts beyond a vague conception that it is "wrong", "sinful", "against nature", or whatever.

These are all certainly true, but how many Christians can actually explain why it is against nature? Why is homosexual "marriage" not a civil right? How are laws seeking to ban same-sex marriage different from the old laws banning interracial marriage? If homosexual sex (as well as contraceptive sex) is wrong because it is closed to life, why is it not wrong when an elderly couple has sex or a married, infertile couple?

In my experience, most Catholics are totally unprepared to offer an answer to these sorts of questions. And - unfortunately - many in the Church's hierarchy are very hesitant to speak too boldly on this subject. This is truly a shame; the Catholic faithful are in desperate need of a logical and easy to understand exposition of the Church's rationale for its position, something grounded in the Scriptures and Sacred Tradition. Instead, they have been fed nonsense about "religious liberty" and First Amendment rights, trying to make this a Constitutional issue instead of a theological issue - and when the Supreme Court tossed out those Constitutional arguments on June 26th, those Catholics who had never been educated in any other argument against same sex marriage were left in the lurch.

Here are out first two videos in the series: the first on homosexuality and the Bible, the second on the ends of marriage. It is important to note that these videos do not attempt to merely present talking points, nor force the question into an artificial paradigm of "religious liberty" and the First Amendment, as some American Catholics have tried to do. Rather, they approach the subject from the point of view of Catholic Tradition, theology and natural law. These videos are not meant to convince opponents but rather help Christians better understand their own tradition.

These videos were totally funded by donations. We currently have three more videos like these in various phases of production, on homosexual marriage and civil rights, material cooperation in sinful activities, and the duties of the Christian state. If you would like to help donate to this project, you can do so by clicking below:

Please share these videos and contribute if you believe this project is timely and necessary. Deo gratias.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Of California Missions and St. Joseph

Grace and peace to you friends! I will be out of commission for awhile; my wife and I are taking a long overdue vacation to sunny California. We will be visiting many of the historic Spanish missions, starting in San Diego and heading up the coast to end at Sacramento. I am particularly excited about getting a chance to venerate Bl. Junipero Serra only a month ahead of his canonization by Pope Francis in September. We will be stopping in San Diego, Laguna Beach, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Sacramento and everywhere in between. If you are in the area and have any recommendations for masses or attractions, please let me know in the combox or email at

When we return home, my family and I will be making another major transition - we have sold our house of nine years and are moving to another part of Michigan. We will thus be very busy in September and I do not anticipate I will get a chance to post much. There may be some guest posts and my co-bloggers Noah and Maximus may post, but I doubt I will be around much. Please pray for us during this transition.

As a side note, I never had too much confidence in the practice of burying the statue of St. Joseph upside down to sell a house. It just sounded...well, really weird. We were confident our house would sell quickly; its a cute house, very well maintained, and with lake access - and homes are moving quick right now in Michigan. But we were very disheartened when a month and then two went by without even so much as a single offer on the home. Even lowering our price did nothing. Then we started into our third month with no activity. We began to think we'd be here all fall.

Then my wife suggested I buy the St. Joseph Home Seller Kit (I still don't like that name); we prayed the prayers, buried the statue, started saying the novena. Three days after the statue was buried, the house sold. And we found and purchased our dream house the next day.

Deo gratias!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Guest Post: The Changing Face of Apologetics

Today we again present a guest post by my friend, Kevin Tierney. Kevin most recently posted here on prejudices relating to the Traditional Latin Mass; I have also featured his Catholic Lane articles on the Propers of the Latin Mass on our Facebook page. Today, Kevin writes about the current state of things in mainstream American Catholic apologetics and in what sense the landscape desperately needs to change.

By the way, for some additional background on this post, see this article from the latest addition to the Patheos crowd.

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I have frequently said that the way apologetics is conducted in contemporary Catholicism needs to change. In light of recent events, I'll try to offer a explanation here.

Before I get too far, I don't hate apologetics, and I don't hate apologists. Nor do I "attack" apologetics as a discipline within the Church. Rather, I attack a certain subculture of apologetics that is prevelant today within American Catholicism.

One of the big problems with that mainstream subculture is that it tends to define apologetics mostly in terms of debate. Every article is "against so-and-so", the issues having long since subsided from relevance, giving way to a focus on personality. This isn't new. For a good decade or so from the 90's to the aughts, Catholic apologetics was centered around who was fighting James R. White, Eric Svendsen, William Webster, etc. These men certainly needed correction, but Catholic apologists took it far too personally and made the issue the people involved, not the false beliefs they had. (For example, see the Patti Bonds saga, the sister of James White, whose conversion to Catholicism was used as a club to personally embarrass White). We need a stronger emphasis on the issues, and less on the personalities involved.

This also requires a fresh look at the issues. Just because we have the fullness of truth does not mean there's nothing additional we can do. A lot of what passes for apologetics today is essentially stuck in a time-warp of the mid 1990's and earlier. Most Protestants are typecast as James White or Jack Chick. "30,000 denominations" is still a popular argument, no matter how many times it's been debunked. It is presupposed that those outside the Church still speak a common Christian langauge we can comprehend, or that the "institutional collapse" of American Catholicism hasn't happened. All of these realities should influence the way we cover apologetics.

For example, in Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis wants a presentation of the papacy that takes into account a decentralized exercising of authority, and to "demystify" the papacy, as he has also said elsewhere. From an apologetical standpoint, this might be a good idea. A lot of our popular apologetics still presents the Bishop of Rome as an irresistible monarch, free to do as he pleases, and is the single most important part of Catholicism for the average Catholic. On issues like justification, very little is spent talking about mercy or how the soul is transformed by God's grace and mercy, instead simply talking about the role of works in justification and endless parsing over James 2. James 2 is important, but we need to present a whole picture, one that is actually answering the concerns of people, not just checking off a list of Biblical arguments.

A final way in which a lot (but not all!) of apologetics is out of touch is they adopt mentalities and approaches the Holy See has long abandoned. In their polemics, they still act as if a war is being waged with the SSPX for example. The SSPX are "outside the Church", "schismatic or a schismatic mentality", etc. The Church has instead lifted the excommunications and under Pope Francis has accelerated their integration back into full communion at a pretty astonishing pace. Gone is the hostile language of separation. The war is over; it's now time for the terms of the peace to be offered. How many of the big apologists operate according to this mentality? How many hyphenated names are some of them still using to describe brothers the Pope wishes to reconcile? Under their guise of "defending the Church" and defending the Pope, they are acting contrary to his wishes. Apologists should instead be seeking to remove barriers from our wayward brothers, not erecting more.

There's a lot else that needs changing. Some of it apologists have picked up on and are changing, and there's still a long way to go. But change is coming, be certain of that.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Nothing New: Work and Pray

Ever since the fall of Adam we have been under the divine decrees of labor and death, and we have never been dispensed from prayer since the very beginning. If we were to describe what carrying one’s cross is, that would be its definition: to manfully pray, work, suffer and die in purity of heart willingly for God’s sake. 

The Cross cannot be defeated, it can only be rejected. The Cross cannot be broken or destroyed, but it can be neglected. I have been pondering on the state of western civilization and the Church after the recent developments of the last few weeks. Many people would have you believe that the legalization of gay “marriage” is a game changer, that we have now passed into the era of persecution and that the days of living a comfortable life in the public square is over.

As the imitation of Christ says “JESUS has always many who love His heavenly kingdom, but few who bear His cross” (Book 2, Chapter 11). If we were living as holily and as uprightly as we ought to be, is now the moment when we shall first be persecuted? If we have been living as we ought to have been living, we should be at least somewhat practiced at enduring some persecution, even if only from bad Catholics and Christians when they object to the discipline of a good Christian life. Abstinence from bad movies, books, friends, and media do not win many friends, especially when these things are popular.

It is horrifying to witness how people have twisted and warped even the most basic Christian tenets to be accepting of perverse behavior, vilifying those who rightly condemn it. But if we believe what is contained in the Creeds of the Church, how can we be surprised that those who embrace heresy (whether of a protestant variety or a pseudo Catholic one) would not wholeheartedly embrace a new one, especially when it is so popular?. We must not forget that a person who even doubts a core teaching of the Church, sins against Faith, and sins against the faith lead to the loss of it, without which hope and charity cannot be present. 

What of the vigilant, have they not for years already been fighting: defending the words of prophets and God the Father, upholding the veracity of the holy Scriptures, fighting protestant errors, condemning syncretism and resisting the fundamental option theory (the belief that if a person is basically good they will go to heaven)?

The cross was there a year ago, five years ago, and 60 years ago, its burden and weight on each one of us, measured out according to the wisdom of God. Its burden was not sweet yesterday and bitter today, nor was its yoke light yesterday and heavy today; rather, it was and is given out with the grace to manfully carry it.

The immensity of the task before us as Christians (to make all men know, love and serve God) combined with the realization of both our leadership and somewhat meager resources, can lead us to feeling overwhelmed and helpless. Has anyone else felt that pull or seen with their eyes the cooling of charity that seems to be running through various apostolates? Those who trust in their own wits, nuances, intellectual devices or techniques will be confounded no matter how Catholic they believe themselves to be, no matter how many books they have read or clerics they know. 

Does anyone else long to see the dead raised in the name of Jesus Christ? I don’t mean in some figurative way, but a corpse coming back to life? I do. Does anyone else wish to witness sight being restored to the blind, or the dying healed of their infirmities? I do. I am convinced that the occurrence of such things, with prayers, would do a better job at turning around this society than all the slogans, strategies and other clever devices that we can come up with as men. Should we feel overwhelmed if God is on our side, and if he is on our side should we hesitate to ask for His manifest works? If you do not believe He is, have you already lost your faith? 

Just a short while ago, in the 1800’s, many pious laymen and laywomen made regular use of the St. Benedict’s medal, and their simple faith in the Holy Cross and the intercession of St. Benedict made itself known in numerous great works (which you can hear about on Alleluia Audiobooks). Do we have such a faith? Do we work with the conviction that we have received our duties through the direct ordering of God? Do we suffer with patience, trusting that God is choosing and ordering our suffering for our own good? 

It almost feels too simple: pray with belief, work with zeal, suffer with patience, die with a clean conscience and what we ask for with faith we will receive. This is what we must do, this is what we have always had to do. We don't need new slogans and options, we need to pick up our cross and carry it. 

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Not Abandoning the Boy Scouts of America... Yet

I am an Eagle Scout. I am a Vigil Honor Member of Scouting's National Honor Society, the Order of the Arrow. Scouting in many ways took care of me as a boy, and formed me into a man. As I grew, I eventually worked on summer camp staff at the local council's camp for 5 summers (the pay wasn't great), and also served on staff at the National Scout Jamboree (the pay was non-existent). While there were not a few occasions of getting into mischief along the way, nevertheless, I was formed in my conscience in a manner that reinforced Catholic beliefs, and also made relationships with my peers and elders that have lasted me a lifetime.

Since I have been working for the Church for the better part of a decade, my active involvement in Scouting has diminished, but I still keep in touch with old friends - if any of them needed me for any reason, I would not hesitate to drop what I was doing for them, and I know they would do the same for me. I would go so far as to say that the moral lessons, leadership skills, and the bonds of fraternity which I obtained through Scouting had a direct influence on my decision to serve the Church through pursuing an academic career in theology. Further, I know many Catholic Scouter priests who would say the same about their own experience as a boy, growing up in an environment which encouraged adventure and contemplation in the confines of the safe environment of the Scouting unit, and eventually led to their discernment of their call to the priesthood.

As a result of the decisions made by the National Scouting Office over the past two years, I have closely followed the developments in the Scouting policy towards the participation of those persons with homosexual tendencies, and reached out to friends who work within the professional structures that support Scouting in order to hear a bit more of the story.

Two years ago, the Scouting policy was changed in order that youths with homosexual inclinations might not be discriminated against, while at the same time reiterating the constant position of Scouting that sexual acts should only take place within the context of married relationships. At the time, there was a large outcry and a reaction from conservative Catholics which led to the establishment of various organizations that sought to duplicate Scouting in an explicitly Catholic context.

More recently, with the change in policy toward leaders, there has been not a little bit of a reaction from Catholics - most notably, the decision of the Bishop of the Diocese of Bismarck to discontinue the relationship of the diocese with all of the scout troops and packs which it sponsored. With all due respect to His Excellency, I would like to emphasize the word "reaction" in the decision to abandon the diocese's relationship with the Scouting movement.

The reason I think that these reactions are - at this present time - unwarranted is because I think they are founded upon a fundamental misunderstanding of how Scouting is organized. While it is true that there is a national organization that sets policies and guidelines for how the local organizations are to operate, Scouting is fundamentally based upon the principle of subsidiarity. Put more plainly, Scouting does not exist without chartered organizations to charter local units.

Chartered organizations in the BSA have, and have always had, the responsibility of selecting and approving the leaders who would be working with the youth in a manner which is consistent with the values of the chartering organization. This makes sense, because whether the chartered organization is a parish or community organization, most of the members of the local scout troop come from within the chartering organization. The District, Council, Regional, and National Scouting organizations fundamentally work to serve what is happening in the local scout troop, through which 99% of a scout's exposure to Scouting occurs, as is delineated in the Annual Charter Agreement.

The safeguard of the Chartered Organization for the Boy Scouts of America is and will remain a bulwark against unwelcome outside influence, whether that is ethical or political, in the devious battle that is happening in America. Naturally, the progressive movement has a heavily vested interest in gaining influence through the youth movements. While the Girl Scouts have been in bed with the likes of Planned Parenthood for decades, the Boy Scouts have tended toward being more conservative.

This brings us to the difficult political situation in our climate today. Though I can't agree with the decisions of the Scouting organization regarding adults with homosexual inclinations, I do have sympathy for their position regarding troubled youth - what better place to help them develop a healthy respect for themselves and grow into men who are able to function well in spite of their deviant inclinations? Is this not the opportunity to provide a young boy with the love that is so evidently lacking in his home environment?

Nevertheless, Scouting is not a religious organization, and is not protected in the same way (however little) that the Catholic Church might be protected in the public discourse. I think that the decision by the National organization was ultimately a political one, an attempt to find a middle way. At the same time, they have reiterated the autonomy of the Chartered Organization as possessing the real power to carry out the policy in accordance with their own beliefs and to choose the best leaders to create a safe environment for the youths in their care.

And so we come to the question of political prudence of how we as the Catholic Church should best interact in a pluralistic environment. Some have decided isolation is the best course, and have opted to set up alternatives to Scouting. I think this is imprudent, first of all, because of my experience with small and poor, but well-meaning Catholic initiatives, which lack real professional leadership and ultimately abuse their volunteers by stretching them too thin or asking too much of them to the point where the bad outweighs the good that is trying to be accomplished. Second, because the Tribes of St. Edward, or whatever, do not have the tradition and the respect in the public sphere which the Boy Scouts of America hold. As a small example, when an Eagle Scout enlists into military service, they are given a bump in rate to an E-3 from day one, which gives a great start to a future military career. Surely, the Tribes of St. Edward don't have the ability to influence the life of a lay man in his career living in the world in the manner that the Boy Scouts do.

More importantly, I think that members of the Church are being naive in taking a stand with the actions of the Boy Scouts. We aren't forming alternative little league organizations, or telling our Catholic state representatives to resign, or insisting that our public school teachers fall on their swords - why should we abandon the most influential youth movement in the world, and leave it to the mechanations of this world?

This is not to say that remaining with the Scouts is for the faint of heart. We need men who are prudent, just, temperate, and above all, men with fortitude to continue working with Catholic Scout Troops in order to weather the storm that is to come. Practically speaking, we should not be abandoning the local scout troops, but reinforcing them with greater support and oversight, both at the Diocesan and Bishop's Conference level. At this defining moment in American history, we don't need people to abandon our youth, but rather, we need lay men, priests, and bishops to double-down in their efforts. This will be hard work, but if in the process the opportunity can be provided to adequately form boys into men of virtue and fear of the Lord, then surely it is worth it.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Book Review: "The Five Beasts of St. Hildegard"

I was recently contacted by Mr. Reid Turner, author of the book The Five Beasts of St. Hildegard, who graciously send me an advance copy of this excellent little work to review. Like Heralds of the Second Coming by Stephen Walford, Mr. Turner attempts to break fee of the standard eschatological tropes common in Catholic apocalyptic literature by restricting himself to a much narrower field of study. Rather than seeking to present the Church's whole teaching on the end times or exegete the Book of Revelation, he focuses in on a very specific study of the eschatological visions of St. Hildegard of Bingen.

St. Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), blessed with visionary experiences since childhood, was encouraged by Pope Eugenius III to record them. After ten years she produced Scivias, Latin for "Know the Ways", which includes her famous vision of five beasts. The five beasts are symbolic animals that represent five historical periods of time that Hildegard said would precede the Antichrist. Each era experiences a unique spiritual crisis intended to inflict damage on the Church in preparation for the coming of the son of perdition. 

Mr. Turner argues convincingly that the symbolism described in the vision reflects today’s world, with the first of the five eras having begun in the 1870s. He identifies the loss of the Papal States in 1870 as the eschatological key that begins the clock that ticks down to the end. Mr. Turner presents each of Hildegard's beasts and correlates them with the spiritual crises and mores of particular historical epochs, coming to the conclusion that we are currently in the middle of the fourth of five beasts. Hildegard's description of the fifth beast thus serves as a guide for what to expect in the decades ahead.

The book is very cautious; when it makes connections and inferences, it does so in a very qualified manner, respecting the limits posed by the nature of eschatological speculation. That being said, the inferences it does make are very strong and convincing. I have never investigated the beasts of Hildegard before reading Mr. Turner's book, but I found his historical interpretation of the beasts to be both historically and exegetically sound - in some cases, it was quite extraordinary how the visions of Hildegard lined up with Mr. Turner's proposed chronology.

Any student of Catholic eschatology, especially that branch which studies the private revelations of the saints, will want to check our Mr. Turner's book. It is brief - 91 pages. I read it in a single weekend. Reid Turner is no amateur, either; he has a BA in Biblical Studies from Bethel University in St. Paul and pursued graudate studies in the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute, where he converted to Catholicism and was received into the Church in 1987.

I highly recommend this little book to your collection of eschatological works. And the price is right, too; at only $11.05, who can complain? You can obtain the book from Amazon

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Great Moments in Interreligious Dialogue: St. Fernando III

July 25th is the feast of Santiago Matamoros, "St. James the Moor-Slayer", the patron saint of Spain. In honor of St. James - and calling to mind a former day and time when men of God had not yet started down the desolate path of "dialogue" with Islam - we bring you this marvelous little passage from the life of St. Fernando III.

Fernando III (r. 1217-1252), King of Castile and later of Leon and Galicia, won back more territory from the Moors than any other Spanish monarch of the Reconquista. In the passage quoted below, St. Fernando is speaking to his mother, Queen Berenguera, about his desire to make war on the Moors. This decision, which St. Fernando formulated around Pentecost, 1224, Fernando said was "revealed by almighty God." This inspiration would lead to the campaign that would almost entirely conquer Andalusia from the Moors. St. Fernando told his mother:

"Most beloved mother and sweet lady: Of what benefit to me is the kingdom of Castile, which, though due to you by right, your generosity abdicated and granted to me; of what benefit to me is the most noble consort [Princess Beatrice of Swabia] brought from distant lands through your solicitude and labor and joined to me in marriage with indescribable honor; of what benefit to me is it that you anticipate my desires with maternal sweetness, and before I have fully conceived them, you bring them to most brilliant effect: if I am dulled by laziness, if the flower of my youth is fading away without fruit, if the light of royal glory, which already had begun to shine like certain rays, is being extinguished and annihilated? Behold, the time is revealed by almighty God, in which, unless I want to pretend otherwise like a weak and deficient man, I am able to serve the Lord Jesus Christ, by whom kings reign, against the enemies of the Christian faith, to the honor and glory of His name. The door is open indeed and the way is clear. Peace has been restored to us in our kingdom; discord and deadly enmities exist among the Moors; factions and quarrels have broken out anew. Christ, God and Man, is on our side; on that of the Moors , the infidel and damned apostate Muhammad. What more is there to say? Most kind mother, from whom, after God, I hold whatever I have, I beg that it may please you that I wage war against the Moors" [1].

A great moment in interreligious dialogue indeed! St. Fernando was under no illusion of how to deal with the threat of Islam. And he had greater success against the Moors than any modern democratic nation-builder. Were another great leader to arise who, like St. Fernando, was zealous for the glory of God and the kingdom of Christ, who knows what future victories God might grant?

For more on St. Fernando III, we recommend St. Fernando III: A Kingdom for Christ by James Fitzhenry, available for purchase here.

Also related: Our very non-PC Santiago Matamoros T-Shirt, available in the Cruachan Hill webstore.

Santiago Matamoros, ora pro nobis!
Sancte Fernando, ora pro nobis!

[1] Joseph F. O'Callaghan, The Latin Chronicle of the Kings of Castile (Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies: Tempe, AZ, 2002), pg. 88

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Adam Pontaby, Patron Saint of Catholic Traditionalism

Remember the classic film Seven Brides for Seven Brothers? I think the oldest of the Pontaby brothers, Adam, ought to be the patron saint of Catholic Traditionalism today.

This classic barn raising scene from the movie reminds me a lot of our current situation. Adam (in the green shirt) represents the spirit of Catholic Tradition. His brothers, in the other colored shirts, represent the contemporary Church hierarchy who are just trying their darndest to get along. The black and white gang represent the atheists, progressives, and secularists of the world. The barn that the brothers and the other gang are raising represent the edifice of the modern secular humanist establishment.

The Church, represented by the brothers, has at first bought into the lie that they must "dialogue" and "get along" with the world because they "don't want no trouble," but Adam calls them to their senses and the brothers wake up and respond appropriately. The key dialogue to watch for is at the 2:00 mark. Remember, Adam is Catholic Tradition.

"They're out to murder you! And what do you do? Apologize for livin'!"

Friday, July 17, 2015

"Not to abolish, but to fulfill"

There are few Scripture passages that elicit as much confusion as our Lord's words in the fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew concerning the Law and its fulfillment by Christ. Let us review our Lord's teaching, as found in the Douay-Rheims version of the New Testament:

"Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For amen I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot, or one tittle shall not pass of the law, till all be fulfilled" (Matt. 5:17-18).

Other translations will use the word "abolish" in place of destroy, but the meaning remains the same. Thus our Lord Jesus seemingly teaches that He has not overturned the Law of Moses. In fact, He seems to say that the Law shall remain in force "until heaven and earth pass away." At face value, this would suggest that the Law of Moses was permanently binding in all its rigor. Our Lord makes it explicitly clear that "not one jot or one tittle" shall pass away from the Law, "till all be fulfilled."

Confusion arises because our Lord's words seem to conflict with the constant teaching of the New Testament, which is emphatic that Christians are not under the Law of Moses and that the Law of Moses has in fact been superseded by the Gospel. For example:

" are not under the law, but under grace" (Rom. 6:14).
"You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace" (Gal. 5:4).
"Now before faith came, we were confined under the law, kept under restraint until faith should be revealed. So that the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian" (Gal. 3:23-25).
"In speaking of a new covenant, he has made the first one obsolete. And what is obsolete and growing old will soon disappear" (Heb. 8:13).

These teachings of St. Paul are fairly straightforward; the text of Hebrews 8:13, which says that the Old Covenant is "obsolete" and will "soon disappear" should be especially bookmarked by those who errantly assert that there is a permanent validity to the Old Covenant. Of course, this passage is not cited at all in the 2002 USCCB document "Reflections on Covenant and Mission."

Let us remind our readers of what exactly the Law of Moses consists of. Obviously, the Law refers to the series of commands and prohibitions given by God in the Old Testament that was to guide the life of the ancient Israelites, specifically those dictates found in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Some of these laws are ceremonial, like proscriptions for certain Feast days. Some are dietary; some concern various liturgical rituals, others concern purity. Still others dictate norms for civil society and have the character of civil law. All of these aspects of the Law center around core which is moral - the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments. The moral law gives meaning to the rest of the ceremonial laws. Some of the Law was merely provisional (the dietary law, rules for purity, etc) but the moral core of the Law abides forever because it reflects the natural law. This is a source of confusion for people; it means certain aspects of the Law of Moses are superseded by the New Testament but others are not.

This comes into play when comparing our Lord's statement that He did not come to abolish the Law to St. Paul's teaching that the Law is not obligatory. How can these passages be reconciled?

The most common approach to this is for people to simply play one passage off the others. For example, so-called "Messianic Christians" and "Messianic Jews" will tend to emphasize our Lord's words in Matthew while shrugging off St. Paul's teaching, thus asserting that the Law (or certain provisions of it) is still binding on Christians and offering various explanations to wiggle out of St. Paul's teachings. On the other hand, many Catholics will stand firm on St. Paul's teaching while scratching their head's as Jesus' words.

The answer is fairly simple, and hinges upon what it means to "fulfill" something.

Jesus notes that He did not come to earth to abolish the Law. Rather, the Law will be kept to its last jot and tittle "till all be fulfilled." This clause is critical.

Jesus says He has not come to "destroy" the Law; nothing will pass from the Law until it is "fulfilled." The implication, then, is that the "fulfillment" of the Law will bring about its "passing away." 

What we are looking at is a situation in which a single end can be brought about in two different ways. The end result is the "passing away" of the Law, there are two ways this can be brought about - "destroying" it, and "fulfilling" it. This is important to understand; our Lord does not teach that the Law will not pass away, only that it will not pass away by being destroyed. Those who misinterpret this passage typically miss this point.

Let us put forward an example to help exemplify this. The Law of Moses consists in a series of obligations binding upon its adherents. It is like a debt. To use this metaphor, suppose we incur a debt from the bank. The debt has certainly obligations, payment schedules, etc.

Now, how can I make my debt payments go away? There are two ways to get out of paying. First, I can simply repudiate the debt. I can just stop paying and default. Maybe I declare bankruptcy and have the court discharge the debt in some settlement. This would be sloppy, yes, and have other consequences, but I would make my monthly payments go away. This could be called getting out of the payments by destroying the relationship with the bank, the terms of the loan, etc.

Of course, there is another way to get out of my debt payments. I can make every debt payment down to the last penny and fulfill all the obligations of my loan to the letter. When the terms of the loan are fulfilled, the debt payments will go away. This could be seen as getting out of the payments by fulfilling the obligations of the loan down to the last jot and tittle.

Hopefully you can see the distinction and the solution to this problem. The Law of Moses had certain obligations: sacrifices, rituals, dietary code, festivals, etc. It also contained within it, because of its divine origin, various prophecies and fore-shadowing (such as Deut. 18:15, "The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; him you shall obey").

When Jesus came, the Pharisees saw many of His actions and words as in contradiction to that Law. They accused Him of trying to overthrow the Law of Moses. Of course, they did not understand the provisional nature of the Law; that it was, as St. Paul says, meant as a "custodian" until the age of grace. Our Lord emphasizes that He has not come to overthrow or destroy the Law. His actions are actually in continuity with the Law, insofar as the Law itself was meant to be fulfilled by the Messiah. Hence, when He reaches out and touches the leper to heal Him, in a certain sense, He seems to break the Law by touching an unclean man (cf. Matt. 8:3, Lev. 13:45-46). One who touches a leper contracts his uncleanliness. But in another sense, since Jesus is divine, He cannot become "unclean." The situation the Law was meant to prohibit (contracting uncleanliness) does not apply to Jesus because in His divinity He is the giver of the Law. He does not become unclean. Rather, He transmits His cleanliness to the leper, thus healing Him. Similarly, He cannot break the Law of the Sabbath because He is the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:23-28).Jesus does not "break" the Law; He is the incarnation of the Law. He fulfills it, exemplifies it, perfects it.

Jesus did not come to destroy the Law. He came to fulfill its precepts, obligations and prophecies to the last letter. He fulfills the function of all the sacrifices, He lives a perfect life and keeps the essence of its commandments flawlessly, and brings to fulfillment all its prophecies - the greatest being His atoning death on the cross, which ushers in the New Covenant prophesied by Jeremiah 31 and brings the Old Law to its natural conclusion.

Yes, the Old Law is obsolete and has passed away. No, our Lord did not "destroy" it or "abolish" it; rather, like so much else of the Old Testament, He took it up, transfigured it, ennobled it, and fulfilled it.

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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Homosexualtiy and Tactical Accommodation

Since the infamous gay marriage ruling of June 26th, 2015, I have noticed a very troubling trend in the Catholic world. I'm not sure what to call it exactly, but I think I will say it is a sort of "tactical accommodation." What is this tactical accommodation? It is a degree of measured accommodation to homosexuality that, while stopping short of actually affirming it, allows a certain amount of legitimacy of some of the points of the homo-fascist crowd, thus giving the appearance of compromise to one side while maintaining fidelity to Catholic teaching on the other. I believe the purpose of this accommodation is to save some face with the other side.

In practice, this looks something like, "I believe in traditional marriage, but I also believe that conservative Catholics have generally failed at loving homosexual adequately." 

Or perhaps, "I know we should not encourage people to define themselves by their sins, but Christians should not be so dismissive of the concept of homosexual identity."

Or another favorite, "The Church's teaching has not changed; but at the same time, I think the Church needs to more fully utilize the unique gifts and that homosexuals can bring."

And so on.

It's as if the Supreme Court ruling is being used as an occasion for self-reflection; not a reflection on the corrupt morals of the world or the need for a stronger defense of Church teaching, mind you, but an occasion to reflect on how we can be more accommodating to homosexuality.  

Even so, the message is clear: The Church is the problem. It is Catholics who have been intolerant. Homosexuals are the victims who have not been sufficiently appreciated. It is the faithful who need to change their approach to homosexuality, not homosexuals who need to conform their lives to the truth.

My friends, while this might make some of us feel good and believe we look more respectable in the "dialogue" with the world, it all mere nonsense. 

This sort of waffling about the evils of the age is how the Church shifted massively to the left after Vatican II: Catholics ceded ground to the progressives, such that what was once merely Catholicism was redefined as "integralism." This horrid lie has Catholics believing that our perennial Tradition is "radical Traditionalism" while what goes on at your typical Catholic parish is "Catholicism."

Similarly, the Church's traditional, uncompromising approach to homosexuality will increasingly be seen as "rigid" and "unmerciful" as Catholics, pressured by society, cede ground to the homo-fascists by making the sorts of wrist-wringing, self-condemnatory statements mentioned above. Traditional Catholic disgust at such acts - which are sins crying to heaven for vengeance - will be seen as an "extreme" position, which will be contrasted to the other "extreme" of homosexual acceptance. The new middle, the new orthodoxy, will be a kind of Kasperian dichotomy that still affirms the inadmissibility of homosexual relations while steadfastly refusing to say anything even remotely "negative" about them. And this new center will be put forward as "the Church's teaching."

Black is white. White is black.

But what of the objections themselves? Have conservative Catholics been "unloving"? Do we need to make room for a homosexual "identity"? Do homosexual Catholics, by virtue of their homosexuality, have some special gifts or insights for the Church? Well, I of course deny all three, but I am not arguing these points here, merely noting that this sort of waffling compromise is being floated and seems especially prevalent among the "new evangelization" crowd.

To see how far we have fallen in our kiddie-gloves approach to this topic, look at the language of St. John Chrysostom, the great preacher and Bishop of Constantinople:

“All passions are dishonorable, for the soul is even more prejudiced and degraded by sin than is the body by disease; but the worst of all passions is lust between men…. The sins against nature are more difficult and less rewarding, since true pleasure is only the one according to nature. But when God abandons a man, everything is turned upside down! Therefore, not only are their passions [of the homosexuals] satanic, but their lives are diabolic…So I say to you that these are even worse than murderers, and that it would be better to die than to live in such dishonor. A murderer only separates the soul from the body, whereas these destroy the soul inside the body….. There is nothing, absolutely nothing more mad or damaging than this perversity.” (St. John Chrysostom, In Epistulam ad Romanos IV)

Was St. John Chrysostom insufficiently loving of homosexuals? Did he not adequately grasp the gifts they had to offer?

This is how Catholicism has always approached homosexuality. The leaders of today's Church need to take their cue from saints like Chrysostom and others who were unflinching in their attitude towards this evil. Bishops, priests, man up! Sound off like you've got a pair! We need clarity and power in the Holy Spirit, not tactical accommodation.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Some Vacation Reflections and Ranting

Well, it feels good to be back! For the past five days I have been away on vacation to my favorite destination - Michigan's Upper Peninsula, which is one of this country's hidden gems. My family and I were staying in a gorgeous little cabin on Lake Huron on one of the Upper Peninsula's many little islands. This place was so far out that standing on the ledge of the island's rocky escarpment on the east side we could see the Canadian mainland directly.

While I was away, I had time to reflect on several things.

1. Michigan's Upper Peninsula is sparsely populated, only 19 persons per square mile. This is even more so if one looks at the various islands in the Great Lakes, such as the one we were staying on. Because of this - and because of its character as a seasonal tourist destination with a migratory population - it seems that the parishes of the Upper Peninsula are not well attended to by the Ordinary. This is reflected in the bizarre priests I have encountered in the Upper Peninsula over the years. You get a lot of retired priests, a fair share of wacko priests, and priests with a lot of weird eccentricities. I guess it has a kind of internal logic. In a tourist town, there is not likely to be a very stable parish congregation. Probably not a lot of baptisms, weddings, or confessions. It makes sense that a bishop would stick these sorts of areas with priests that are - ahem - on the less well rounded side? This has always been my experience in "touristy" areas. I'd be interesting to see if anyone has any insight on this from other touristy areas around the country, especially those more remote places that do not have much of a population other than seasonal waves of tourists. It seems like these "touristy" seasonal areas are the bishops' dumping grounds for odd-ball priests.

This situation is exacerbated, of course, by declining vocations and parish clusters. Going to Mass on Sunday was a huge debacle. We were fortunate in that the island we were on actually had a Catholic mission parish on it. I went by and picked up a bulletin before Sunday so I could check out the Mass times. Masses at 8:30 and 11:00 on Sunday. Wow! Impressive for an island on the Upper Peninsula.

But alas, I was naive. This parish mission was actually part of a huge cluster of four parishes (er, a "faith community" as they called it) that stretched across almost fifty miles of remote forest and tiny villages and islands. The Mass times on the bulletin were for the cluster collectively; this Mass at one parish, that Mass at another, etc. Because I did not know this and could not decode the little abbreviations ("8:30 AM Mass Sunday OLS", where OLS stands for "Our Lady of the Snows", for example), I misunderstood where and when the Masses were. I showed up at the parish mission at 8:30 AM with my family all spiffed up for Mass to find the Church dark and parking lot empty.

Well, we panic, look over the bulletin again, and after a few minutes figure out the cluster, use the tiny key at the bottom of the page to decode the abbreviations. Not user friendly. Seriously, look at this bulletin. Note the Mass times at the upper right and then the tiny, dinky, insignificant little key at the bottom to help you decode the abbreviations (click on the image to see it bigger):

Well, after decoding the bulletin, we find that the 8:30 Mass was for another parish and the only other Mass in the region is at 11:00 AM over forty miles away. Not a big deal; that's over two hours. But remember, we are on an island! We have to use a ferry to get off. We drive like mad to the ferry, but when we get there, there is an insane line of cars stretching from the ferry down the road then around the bend and a quarter mile down another road! You see, this Sunday was the day after the 4th of July, and all the tourists were flocking to get off the island and get back home.As the ferry leaves only once per hour, failing to get on the first ferry means a delay of an hour at least. And we estimated there were two or three ferry's worth of cars in front of us. 

Some quick math and we figured we'd never get on the ferry on time - heck, even after waiting for an hour and a half to two hours to get on the fairy, it still takes the ferry 25 minutes to cross the straits, and then we still needed to drive for 30 miles to reach the parish. Not possible in time.

Well, long and short of it is for the first time in 15 years, I missed Sunday Mass. Dejected, we drove back to the empty parish, which surprisingly was unlocked. We went in and sat before the tabernacle and prayed the Rosary, read the readings, and did a little holy half hour. As I sat there moping and prayerful in the dark, empty church, I thought to myself, "This is what it will be like in many more places in the future; people wanting to get to Mass but unable to, praying alone in empty churches."

3. Later that day, the sun was shining and it was fairly warm, so we packed up and drove down an old two-track road through several miles of woods to reach an isolated cove. It was gorgeous. A rock strewn shore, pines, juniper, and birch crowding up to the shoreline shielding it from view from the land - and the crystal clear water of northern Lake Huron, with visibility of fifteen or twenty feet down. Pristine, fresh, vivifying...soft, sandy bottom perfect for swimming. Ah, so gorgeous. Here is a picture, which still fails to capture the beauty of the spot.

But as we walked up to the cove, I noticed little pieces of shimmering gold scattered across the floor of the lake near the shore. As I moved in closer, I saw they were the foil and rubbish left behind by detonated fireworks. It being the day after the 4th of July, some folks had apparently been out at the cove the night before blasting fireworks and letting the rubbish fall into the lake. I was so disappointed. My daughter was sad and confused; "Why would anyone do this?" she asked. I had no answer except to say that the idiots who did it had a severe case of rectal-cranial inversion. My son and I spent twenty minutes carefully picking them all out of the crystal waters of the lake and properly disposing of them.

You know, I'm not convinced the science behind "climate change" is entirely sound. I am not a climate change alarmist by any stretch. That's not to say I have a difficulty or problem accepting the concept of climate change as a scientific hypothesis; I'm just not sure the science backs up climate change, much less warrants broad government controls on emissions, etc. But that being said, Pope Francis is correct when he says in Laudato Si that a profound change in the way we approach the environment is necessary. I am shocked that in this day, with so much sensitivity to environmental issues, with knowledge that our synthetic plastics can take 10,000 years to break down, with all the knowledge we have about the way what we do can affect our ecosystem - well, I am shocked that there are still people out there who could somehow litter this pristine cove with firework rubbish and apparently think nothing of it.

So, I applaud much (I stress much, as in, not all) of what Francis wrote in Laudato Si. When I see crap like what I saw in that cove, I totally agree there is should be a change the way we think about the environment. But the problem with the approach taken by Laudato Si is that all environmental problems are kind of lumped together indiscriminately. Near where I live, every highway median, every grassy right of way, every roadside is littered with filth. Sometimes when I see it, I can't figure out how so many people can so carelessly toss their rubbish around. It's a real problem.. But that's a different problem than "climate change." Which is in turn a different problem than corrupt Third World tin-pot dictatorships embezzling funds meant for disaster relief, and so on. All of these problems have different causes and require different approaches. But Laudato Si merely lumps them all together and creates a false antithesis between those accept the environmentalist disaster narrative in totu and those who are "deniers."

I love nature. I was raised in the country. My heart broke when I came all the way to this secluded cove and saw so much rubbish in the water. I try to instill in my children a real attitude of stewardship and responsibility for the creation. If I could, the baser part of me would love to flog the people who stupidly (and probably drunkenly) littered this pristine water with their filth. But I wish we could get off the "environmentalist liberal" vs. "denier" paradigm. Like most either-or paradigms, it is not that simple.

Well, that's enough for now I suppose. Speaking of Laudato Si, I am still plodding away. I think I'm at paragraph 189. But I have not forgotten!

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Hagiography and a Populated Hell

Some time ago, we did a series on the reality of souls going to hell, not only in potentiality but actuality. We discussed this topic using not only the sources of Scripture and Tradition, but also pietistical, artistic, and literary sources to demonstrate that a populated hell has always been part of the Catholic sensus fidelium (see "Fr. Barron and Mark Shea and Balthasar Are Wrong", USC, Nov. 1, 2013, and subsequent articles in the series).

One aspect of this question we did not explore was the testimony of the saints. The lives of the saints throughout the centuries furnish us with innumerable examples - through private revelation and prophecy - of not only the possibility of a person going to hell, but the actual damnation of particular persons. St. Teresa of Avila famously noted that she saw souls - especially Lutherans - falling into hell like snowflakes. St. John Bosco had similar visions; Padre Pio had revelations of particular unrepentant individuals in hell. And so on and son on.

Those who support the empty hell theory of Balthasar must necessarily poo-poo such testimony. After all, they argue, such private revelations and accounts from hagiographical literature do not constitute the official teaching of the Church; no Catholic is bound to believe any particular miracle story. These tales are evidence of a particular piety, but they are not magisterial teaching. Therefore a Catholic is free to simply ignore them.

Of course, it is true that we need not believe any particular story. But when we weigh the sheer volume of references to individuals in hell we find in Catholic literature and hagiography, the amount of testimony the Balthasarians must cumulatively discard is astonishing.

For an example, take the Life of St. Columba, written by St. Adamnam (d. 704). In the Life of St. Columba alone, we have the following references to Columba's miraculous knowledge of the eternal damnation of particular individuals.

"He often saw, by the revelation of the Holy Ghost, the souls of some just men carried by angels to the highest heavens. And the reprobates too he very frequently beheld carried to hell by demons" (Vita St. Columba, Book I, Cap. 1).

"One day again, as the saint was sitting in his little hut, he said, in prophecy to the same Colca, then reading by his side, "Just now demons are dragging with them down to hell one of the chiefs of thy district who is a niggardly person." When Colca heard this, he marked the time accurately in a tablet, and, coming home within a few months, learned on inquiry from the inhabitants of the place, that Gallan, son of Fachtna, died at the very moment that the saint said to him the man was being carried off by demons" (Vita St. Columba, Book I, Cap. 29).

"At another time also, the holy man specially recommended a certain exile, of noble race among the Picts, named Tarain, to the care of one Feradach, a rich man, who lived in the Ilean island (Isla), that he might be received in his retinue for some months as one of his friends. After he had accepted the person thus highly recommended at the hand of the holy man, he in a few days acted treacherously, and cruelly ordered him to be put to death. When the news of this horrid crime was carried by travelers to the saint, he replied by the following prediction: "That unhappy wretch hath not lied unto me, but unto God, and his name shall be blotted out of the book of life. We are speaking these words now in the middle of summer, but in autumn, before he shall eat of swine's flesh that hath been fattened on the fruits of the trees, he shall be seized by a sudden death, and carried off to the infernal regions." When the miserable man was told this prophecy of the saint, he scorned and laughed at him; and when some days of the autumn months had passed, he ordered a sow that had been fattened on the kernels of nuts to be killed, none of his other swine having yet been slaughtered: he ordered also, that its entrails should be immediately taken out and a piece quickly roasted for him on the spit, so that by hurrying and eating of it thus early, he might falsify the prediction of the blessed man. As soon as it was roasted he asked for a very small morsel to taste it, but before the hand which he stretched out to take it had reached his mouth he expired, and fell down on his back a corpse. And all who saw or heard it were greatly astonished and terrified; and they honoured and glorified Christ in his holy prophet (Vita St. Columba, Book II, Cap. 24)

"When the holy man, while yet a youth in deacon's orders, was living in the region of Leinster, learning the divine wisdom, it happened one day that an unfeeling and pitiless oppressor of the innocent was pursuing a young girl who fled before him on a level plain. As she chanced to observe the aged Gemman, master of the foresaid young deacon, reading on the plain, she ran straight to him as fast as she could. Being alarmed at such an unexpected occurrence, he called on Columba, who was reading at some distance, that both together, to the best of their ability, might defend the girl from her pursuer; but he immediately came up, and without any regard to their presence, stabbed the girl with his lance under their very cloaks, and leaving her lying dead at their feet turned to go away back. Then the old man, in great affliction, turning to Columba, said: "How long, holy youth Columba, shall God, the just Judge, allow this horrid crime and this insult to us to go unpunished?" Then the saint at once pronounced this sentence on the perpetrator of the deed: "At the very instant the soul of this girl whom he hath murdered ascendeth into heaven, shall the soul of the murderer go down into hell." And scarcely had he spoken the words when the murderer of the innocent, like Ananias before Peter, fell down dead on the spot before the eyes of the holy youth. The news of this sudden and terrible vengeance was soon spread abroad throughout many districts of Scotia (Ireland), and with it the wonderful fame of the holy deacon" (Vita St. Columba, Book II, Cap. 26).

And these references come from a single work. The theme of the sinner being dragged to hell was a very common one in medieval Christian hagiography; so common it is featured in almost every piece of thaumaturgical literature that has come down to us.

The point is, if we are to reject these sorts of testimonies based on the fact that we need not believe any particular private revelation, we must indeed reject a vast bulk of the Christian hagiographical tradition, from St. Gregory the Great's Dialogues to Adamnan's Life of St. Columba to the visions of Hildegard and everything in between and right on up to the writings of Teresa of Avila and John Bosco. You cannot pick out "condemned sinner" narratives out of Christian hagiography without eviscerating Christian hagiography.

And if a theological school is willing to totally sacrifice our Christian hagiographical patrimony in the interests of furthering some novelty, some pet theory, then that school of theology is something the Church can do without.

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.