Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Well, I guess you could say that Ignatius*puts on sunglasses* was canonized


A sign of things to come?

I've held off on making public my thoughts about this story because I was hoping against hope that Magister got it wrong. That the Holy See would issue clarifications of clarifications, say this doesn't really mean what our lying eyes are telling us and so on. In short, the Vatican has forbidden the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate from celebrating the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (the Traditional Latin Mass) without the permission of superiors. This appears to flatly contradict the provisions of Pope Benedict XVI's motu proprio Summorum Pontificum which gave priests blanket permission to celebrate the TLM wherever and whenever they wanted without the permission of their Ordinaries or Superiors.

The "rest of the story" as Paul Harvey would say is that this is a narrow ruling that applies to only one religious community and that we shouldn't interpret it as turning back the clock to the days when the TLM was de facto outlawed if not de jure. Even if we grant that - and doesn't Magister's original article even say as much? - this is worrying. On paper, priests are free to celebrate the TLM wherever and whenever they want. But everyone knows the bishops still exert a lot of control over it. "So Father, I hear you're thinking about celebrating the old Latin Mass every Sunday. That reminds me, the mental ward downtown needs a full time chaplain... oh, I'm just saying."

This ruling will undoubtedly make bishops and religious superiors bolder in making encroachments upon SP. Gentlemen, if you're so worried about the "division" this may cause, I have a modest proposal: make it so that every parish and every religious house under your command offers a weekly TLM. Then us terrible, terrible Trads won't have to complain so much or drive 100 mile round trips to get to one every Sunday. Simple, yes?

h/t: Rorate

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil

'I'd rather go to hell than worship a homophobic God': Desmond Tutu speaks out as he compares gay rights to the struggle against apartheid in South Africa:
The South African Nobel peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu says he will never worship a 'homophobic God' and would rather go to hell than find himself in a 'homophobic heaven'. 
The retired archbishop said the fight against homophobia in South Africa was similar to the campaign waged against racial apartheid in South Africa. 
Archbishop Tutu, 81, was speaking at the launch of the UN's first global campaign to promote gay rights.
If Tutu lives long enough I expect that he'll go the way of Bert Thelen. It's already quite clear that he doesn't believe in hell. No one who did could possibly say what he did, and our Blessed Lord did say that our words reflect what's in our hearts.

A phobia is an irrational fear that is completely disproportionate to the actual danger. It's rational to be afraid of heights, for example, because falling from a great height can injure you or kill you. Someone with a phobia of heights will never travel by plane, even though he's much more statistically likely to die in a car crash than a plane crash. I'm sure there's a real homophobe somewhere in the world, that is someone who is so terrified of homosexuals that he is reduced to whimpering in the fetal position and unable to leave the house or watch TV.

Of course that's not what liberals actually mean when they use the word homophobe. They use it as an insult, and as a way to imply that people who find homosexual acts disgusting or who believe in traditional sexual morality are evil, insane, or self-hating homosexuals. I'm not a big fan of internet psychoanalysis, but this strikes me as being a little projection on the part of people who themselves have a lot of issues, one of which being an inability to reconcile themselves to the plain commandments of nature and nature's God.

I pray you repent sir. There are two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says "Thy will be done."

h/t: Vox and Zippy

Put not thy trust in Princes

Rod Dreher and R.R. Reno both have good reflections on the apostasy of Jesuit Father Bert Thelen. Reno writes of the 68ers, men ordained after the Second Vatican Council who felt that the Church betrayed her own promises of reform and renewal. And then he writes of the next generation. I wasn't born Catholic but they are my contemporaries and I share their thoughts:
Recently another Jesuit and former colleague diagnosed my “conservatism” as a sign that I don’t understand what it means to be Catholic, by which he meant, I think, that I don’t trust the Church’s power to be all things to all people.
...But there’s an element of truth worth pondering in the diagnosis. To a certain degree I don’t trust the Church.
When I think back to my students at Creighton, I can see that their experience of the Church—and to a great extent mine—also involves worries about betrayal, though of a different kind. A profoundly hostile secular culture wars against our efforts to achieve even a modest loyalty to the apostolic tradition, and, sadly, in the war we see the Church as a sometimes-unreliable ally. 
For example, although Creighton touted its Catholic mission, my pious students could not trust their theology professors—many thought attacking “Catholic fundamentalism” their calling. They couldn’t trust daily Mass on campus, because some Jesuits took great liberties. Campus ministry was only too likely to attack their beliefs as retrograde, intolerant, and ignorant. Ten years ago students had to fight for one evening a week devoted to Eucharistic adoration. The powers-that-be thought it encouraged the “wrong” sort of piety. 
Bert’s integrity eventually overcame those concerns, and the students got their once-a-week evening of adoration. But his general stance made it difficult to minister to most Creighton students, especially those most loyal to the Church. It contributed to their feelings of betrayal and added to their worries that the Church would not reliably help them resist the blandishments of the world and the glamour of evil. The same can be said for liberal Catholicism as a whole. It cannot both minister to the world on the world’s terms—and minister to those of us who don’t want our lives defined on the world’s terms. 
 Rod says:
The new Catholic just doesn’t know who to trust on moral and theological matters. From the outside, theological conservatives weary of confusion and fighting within Mainline Protestant churches see Rome as a bulwark of stability. It is, but it also isn’t. Once you come in, you’ll find the same fighting over the same issues, but it’s harder to identify who’s who, and what’s what. Just because Rome has a Magisterium does not mean that it is recognized at the local level.
 Just so. Bad Catholics have always been with us. Jesus said the tares would grow alongside the wheat until the harvest time. But what's new in the life of the Church is that the tares furiously resent having their orthodoxy impeached, even as they sneer at orthodoxy and work to undermine it from within the Church. Fr. Belen was wrong to apostatize from the Faith, but at least he had the integrity to leave instead of staying in place to form souls in his "Cosmic Christ" gobbledygook. In the past, bad Catholics either left the Church or at least had enough respect for the Church to not present themselves in public as Catholics in good standing. These days Catholic politicians and judges brazenly vote in favor of abortion and same-sex "marriage." Either the bishops do nothing at all, or they try to talk sense into them and do nothing when they persist.

If I may presume to speak on behalf of converts, it's not the existence of sin among Church leadership that scandalizes us. Wasn't our Blessed Lord betrayed by one of his own handpicked Apostles? What's wearying is that sense Reno described, of lacking confidence that the Church is going to stand by you in the good fight. I trust "the Church," if by that we mean the Deposit of Faith. I am as certain of the dogmas of Catholicism as I am certain of paying taxes and eventually dying. If by "the Church," we mean individual priests and bishops... well, I don't trust them until they give me a good reason to. I experienced the same things Rod did. I've heard priests say from the pulpit that the real miracle of the loaves and fishes is that Jesus inspired everyone to share their picnic lunches. I've heard priests say in the confessional that there's no such thing as mortal sin so long as your "fundamental option" is to remain oriented toward God. Such things ought not be. I ought not be so cynical and lacking in trust, but the crisis in the Church is what it is. What used to be considered plain old Catholicism is now, I am told, primarily practiced by a tiny proportion of Catholics who are usually tarred as dour, Pharisaical, anti-Semitic troglodytes.

I've noticed that cradle Catholics always ask of their new priests, "Is he solid?" Fortunately, more and more priests are solid. I may never fully trust any priest again after my experiences in the seminary, more specifically the reason why I left. But at least I no longer feel like I have to double check the catechism for everything Father says. As Martin Luther said, "DTA son! Don't trust anybody!" Or was that Stone Cold Steve Austin? I always get their sayings mixed up.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Everybody dance now, plus styling and profiling

The Catholic blogosphere and other religious commenters are all talking about the bishops participating in a flash mob style dance at World Youth Day this weekend. It drove home how I'm not very good with the kids. If the choreographer urged me to participate in something like that, I'd have taken a deep drag on my cigarette, blown smoke in his face and said, "Go pound sand." And that's all I got to say about that.

The strange, sad career of former WWE champion Ric Flair:
Earlier this month on WWE NXT Ric Flair was in the ring at Full Sail University, and the crowd was eating his act up. That should come as no surprise—Flair has been one of professional wrestling's most popular and enduring acts, hitting his peak in the late 1980s and never looking back.
For once he's not selling himself, though those days aren't gone either. Instead his daughter Ashley, wrestling as "Charlotte" for the WWE's developmental system, is making her television debut. Although the high definition television isn't kind to his 64-year old face, complete with phony tan, 40 years of scars and dyed, thinning hair, you'd never guess watching that Flair's life, once again, is embroiled in turmoil.
Maybe if you've spent the last two decades fending off one crisis or another, you become bulletproof? Maybe Flair, after all that has happened, is invulnerable to the slings and arrows of life?
In the ring he talks about the business he loves. And while wrestling has been kind to him in many ways, it's also cost him everything he's ever had.
Families. A child. Money. Pride.
If Ric Flair hit his peak in the late 1980s then that means I've only been watching wrassling long enough to witness the beginning of his decline. The character of Ric Flair was awesome:

By all accounts, Ric Flair the man identified too strongly with his character. You can't live the Nature Boy's lifestyle forever. It's a hard business that's taken its toll on a lot of men. Many of them died before their time such as Owen Hart and Eddie Guerrero. We may never know what drove Chris Benoit to murder his wife and son, and then hang himself. The outcomes of the matches are predetermined but wrestlers are still tremendous athletes. UFC fighters have four or five fights in a year, but pro wrestlers are taking bumps almost every day. Monday Night Raw and Friday Night Smackdown are only a fraction of the matches these men and women do. The Benoit muder-suicide was what made WWE switch to PG programming. Attitude era marks like me are known for being complainers, but I for one think it's a good thing that WWE is taking greater precautions with the mental and physical health of its talent. The PG era isn't bad because it's PG; that's lazy thinking. Wrestling was PG throughout the 1970s and 1980s, but those guys cut some intense promos:

The PG era is bad because the booking is horrendous. Or I should say it was. The product has been steadily improving since the start of this year. Wrestlers are on the road for most of the year. It's a very hard life. Is it surprising that many of them turn to alcohol or drugs? Ric Flair made a lot of bad decisions in his life. He loves the business, nobody disputes that. And like Trips said in the article, it's hard to hang it up after a career in the spotlight. But in Flair's case, he needs the money. He should have stopped wrestling in the 1990s at the latest. It was sad to see him going well into his fifties and sixties. I have my disagreements with Jim Cornette, but one thing on which he and I are in accord is the nature of TNA programming: a bunch of balding old guys yelling at each other over things that happened fifteen years ago. I shudder with disgust when I think of Ric Flair's time in TNA and like to pretend that it never happened. I will be astonished if TNA lasts until 2014. Dixie's parents won't be content to give their daughter a wrestling allowance forever. They're losing money hand over fist now that they've left the Impact Zone at the behest of Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff. Hogan, Bischoff, a wrestling company in terminal decline... I'm seeing a pattern here.

I was a child during the Rock n' Wrestling era and a teenager during the New Generation and Attitude eras. That was back when the business worked hard to maintain kayfabe, i.e. making sure the guys were always in character in public. The internet makes that old way of doing business impossible now. That WWE Divas show that premiered last night? They never, ever would have done that thirty or twenty years ago. Now the backstage drama is a reality show. Of course I watched it. I love the Bellas. They're, ah... great in the ring. Yeah, that's the ticket.

But the end of kayfabe also makes it possible for the fans to know when their favorite superstars are hurting. Jake the Snake Roberts and Scott Hall are cleaning up their lives with the love and support of the fans. I pray Ric Flair can bounce back from his latest troubles.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Poetry Sunday

Ask and ye shall receive my answer

Pope, in candid speech, speaks of 'exodus' from the Church:

(Reuters) - Pope Francis, in a stunningly candid assessment of the state of the Catholic Church, said on Saturday it should look in the mirror and ask why so many people are leaving the faith of their fathers.
On the penultimate day of his trip to Brazil, Francis delivered a long address to the country's bishops in which he suggested elements of what could become a blueprint for stopping what he called an "exodus."

"I would like all of us to ask ourselves today: are we still a Church capable of warming hearts?" he said in a speech remarkable for its frankness about the hemorrhaging of the Church in many countries.

The Argentine pope, who is in Rio for a Catholic international jamboree known as World Youth Day, referred to what he called "the mystery of those who leave the Church" because they think it "can no longer offer them anything meaningful or important."

The Church has been losing members throughout the world to secularism and to other religions, including in Latin America, where evangelical groups have won over many converts.

He acknowledged that many people see the Church as a "relic of the past," too caught up in itself, and a "prisoner of its own rigid formulas."

While he said the Church "must remain faithful" to its religious doctrine, it had to be closer to the people and their real problems.

"Today, we need a Church capable of walking at people's side, of doing more than simply listening to them," he said.

"At times we lose people because they don't understand what we are saying, because we have forgotten the language of simplicity and import an intellectualism foreign to our people," he said.
I don't know about that. My biggest criticism of the Church in the US is that we don't get nearly enough formulas or doctrine, either from the pulpit or in the classroom. Whenever someone starts going on about how the Church is too rich, too splendiferous, too ostentatious, to trimphalist, too arrogant I always answer "Hey buddy, some of us signed up because of that stuff." Give me the formulas of a St. Thomas Aquinas or a Reginald Garrigou-Langrange over the reflections of a Rahner or von Balthasar any day. Perhaps the Church in Latin America faces this problem, but I'd say that a rigid legalism or cold doctrinal intellectualism are the least of the North American Church's worries.

Christ himself told us that not everyone would be receptive to the Gospel; see the parable of the Sower or when he told his disciples to shake the dust from their feet if a town rejected them. But if people leave the Church because they think "it can no longer offer them anything meaningful or important" then I believe that some of the blame can be laid squarely at the feet of Church leadership. The Church offers us Jesus Christ himself, ever present in the Blessed Sacrament. Why would someone knowingly turn away from that? Some leave because their moral lives have become compromised. I suspect many more leave because they were never taught the truth of what the Church is and who is present in every tabernacle in every parish in the world. "Reversion" stories have become a cottage industry in the Church, and one thing the reverts all have in common is they received terrible or non-existent catechesis as children. When it comes to a parish's religious instruction the buck stops with the pastor.

I'd be perfectly happy with a dense dogmatic sermon every Sunday, but all four of my loyal readers will agree that I'm an odd duck among American Catholics. The best homily I ever heard  went the extra mile and gave instruction on how the doctrines about indulgences applied to our spiritual lives. Most homilies I hear boil down to "Jesus was a nice guy so let's all be nice to each other too." Okay Father, being nice is all well and good but why do I need to go to Church to be a nice guy? Why do I need to believe in God at all to be a nice guy? I know plenty of Evangelicals, Mormons, and atheists who are nice people. Volunteering at the soup kitchen or visiting elderly shut ins at the retirement home are laudatory things. Why is it that we do these things? I'm an ignorant layman and even I can think of several doctrinal homilies that could spring from that question: Loving your neighbor for the love of God, what we do unto the least of us we do unto Jesus, the corporal works of mercy. Heck, I even recall a few Sunday Gospel readings that segue into those topics.

If the Church's message is less compelling to modern man than it was to his grandfathers, I believe much of the problem is rooted in the Church's identity crisis. Is her mission to lead souls to heaven or is she just another charitable NGO among many? Is it a social club for old people, women, and children or the Mystical Body of Christ? Is she the manufacturer of truth or an infallible guide to the truth? True, modern culture and its emphasis on self-indulgence is antithetical to the Gospel. The world has always been hostile to us though. We can't change the world until we change ourselves. An important change we Catholics can make is to regain some of that old confidence we used to have. I personally don't have all the answers, but I'm certain the Church contains within herself everything I must know and do to have eternal life.

h/t: Rod Dreher

Friday, July 26, 2013

Strike a blow against Churchianity today

Reality is what it is regardless of how we feel about it. Your feelings do not determine the objective nature of your relationship with God. With the exception of envy, sins are usually fun. They make us feel good or we might just be a necessary evil to accomplish a greater goal. Hardly anyone does evil for the sake of it. Regardless of how sins make us feel, they wound or destroy our relationship with God depending on their gravity. Similarly, our flesh protests when we begin our spiritual disciplines. We claim to be too busy, or too tired, or too distracted by worldly concerns.

The will must be subjected to the intellect, not our emotions. The intellect must be fed with Truth, even if that Truth is offensive to our emotions. Unfortunately, many practitioners of Churchianity reverse this. They refrain from speaking the truth because they do not wish to offend. They demur from speaking about the sinfulness of fornication, cohabitation, contraception, and divorce because they fear that the pews will be empty. Reverend Fathers, the pews are emptying out anyway.

What is the mission of the Church - is it to keep the money flowing and the institution smoothly humming along? Many Catholics, including pastors, approach it that way. Or is the mission of the Church to save souls, to get them into heaven and keep them out of hell? If it's the latter, then fear of offending people should not even enter the equation. Is that not fearing human respect more than God?

Americans are more used to having a multitude of churches, sects, and religions rubbing shoulders with each other within our borders. Ecumenism and interreligious dialogue as we know it today is largely a product of the American experience. Our non-Catholic neighbors should be treated with charity, but never, ever back down from the truth. Never hesitate to affirm that the Roman Catholic Church is identical with the Mystical Body of Christ, outside of which there is no salvation. It is through Christ and Christ alone that we are saved.

They'll accuse of being mean, judgmental, elitist, triumphalist, and uncharitable, but so what? I am Catholic because Catholicism is true. That's the only reason anyone should believe anything. Other Christians and other believers, and non-believers, all think that their worldview is true. But objectively speaking, their religions are either false or riddled with errors. That's not to say they're not good people, but they are nonetheless in error.

The Catholic Church is often knocked for not allowing women into positions of power, i.e. for not ordaining them. On the contrary, the Church is overly feminized today. And where women dominate, men back away. Do your part in the fight against Churchianity, for God's sake.

Skyrim thief build

Here is my thief build. You will see that there is a lot of overlap with my assassin build. To be sure there's a lot in common between the two play styles in game mechanics. This is where roleplaying comes in. Many strategy guides recommend stealth characters should join both the Thieves Guild and the Dark Brotherhood. Astrid and Delvin Mallory are old friends which further reinforces how well the guilds mesh. I enjoy the game more when I limit my characters to no more than two factional quest lines. My barbarian did the Companions and the Stormcloaks. My mage did the College of Winterhold and the Imperials. My stealth guy did the TG and DB. Sometimes it's fun to do one of the stealth quest lines and not the other. For example, the TG never kills its marks. Your thief could take a similar stance and suddenly have pangs of conscience when about to visit Aventus Aretino. Even without the Shrouded Gloves, the Assassin's Blade perk will allow you to one shot many of the trash enemies, especially if you pickpocket their armor off before stabbing them in the back.

You want to be careful about Pickpocket. It's one of the fastest leveling skills in the game, especially if the Thief Stone is active, and the bad guys will scale beyond your combat skills if you're not careful with it. When you think about it though, that squares with the thief's lifestyle. He avoids combat unless absolutely necessary. And with all of the TG fences you unlock throughout the quest line, you'll easily become rich enough to just pay for training in One Handed and Archery (and then steal your money back, lzzozozolozozzolozlol). That's how I roleplayed my guy: he's had the best training money can buy but where the metal hits the meat, he prefers to sneak by as his first resort.

Many players have said they disliked the TG quest line's turn toward mysticism near the end. Personally, I think the Nightingales are awesome. Their armor is my favorite in the game. It's silly that the mask conforms to a human shaped head even if your character is Khajiit or Argonian. Bethesda can make armor have boob plates when worn by female characters, but they can't make a cowl conform to a snouty guy? As per usual, some races - Khajiit and Wood Elves - are the "best" at being thieves according to their starting skill bonuses, but any race can make a good thief.

As always, there are enough perks left over in my build to branch out or invest more before you hit the soft level cap of fifty. The only truly useless skill tree is Lockpicking, particularly if you play on a console like me. Lockpicks are cheap and TG fences always have them for sale. I've become good enough at the minigame that I can pick Master locks after five or six tries. I eventually put my spare perks into One Handed, Light Armor, and Archery. You'll look like an outrageous badass stealth rolling across the landscape in your Batman outfit and tearing into your foes with your Nightingale weaponry and Chillrend. Drop two perks into Smithing to improve your enchanted gear and you'll be the last thing they never see.

I see that my Skyrim builds tend to be my most popular posts. If you're new here, welcome. Come for the video games and stay for the crimethink.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Thinking and doing

Good reflection by Rod Dreher: Is Religion What You Think or What You Do?
I’ve said in this space on many occasions that the faith I had as a Roman Catholic was highly intellectualized. This is not the fault of the Catholic Church, but it has to do with my own approach to the faith. Though I regret having come at it that way, I can’t regret the fact that I really did believe what the Catholic Church teaches, which included the duty to suspend one’s own skepticism before the authoritative teachings of the Church. I don’t apologize for that, or regret that, because that is what Catholics are supposed to do.
I think that's the case with many converts. I read myself into the Church so to speak. To be sure there were many Catholics around where I grew up, but if their personal example was all I had to go on I might never have converted. American Catholics are, by and large, nearly indistinguishable from their Protestant or secular neighbors for good and for ill.
I recognize, though, that relatively few Catholics live with this kind of relationship to their Church. I confess that it always made me feel like something of an alien within the Church. I believed what the Church taught, and though I failed, as we all do, to live by it consistently, I went to confession when I fell short, and really did work to correct my behavior, and to allow my faith in the Church’s authority shape my thinking. That so very many people I would be with in church didn’t do this was alienating to me. To put a fine point on it, it’s not that I was bothered by being in Church with sinners; after all, I was and remain a sinner. What bothered me was that so few people — including, I must say, pastors — seemed to take the Church’s role as a teacher seriously. It was hard to be part of a community in which some core beliefs of the religion were considered more or less beside the point.
This is also something most converts experience. Conversion stories are all love stories. When you fall in love or when you devote yourself to a cause, you want to tell the whole world about it. Jesus Christ himself told us that the world would always hate us or be indifferent to us at best. But it's especially disappointing when you encounter an attitude of indifference in your coreligionists. One of the many beautiful aspects of the Catholic religion (or frustrating aspects if you're not Catholic) is the consistency of it all. Once you accept the basic theoretical framework, everything rapidly falls into place. The Church has reasons for doing everything she does. Why do so few of us take any time to learn those reasons, to internalize them, and make them part of us?
And yet, there is something dessicated and unreal about someone like me, whose head was filled with theology and logic, looking at someone who was raised in the Catholic faith, and whose families have been Catholic since forever, and seeing them as somehow less Catholic than I because they dissent from Church teaching openly. Catholicism, like Orthodoxy, is not a religion of the head alone, but a religion of the heart, and a religion of what you do: liturgy, sacraments, etc. It is the people at prayer. Mind you, if the liturgy and the sacraments and all of it doesn’t lead to an authentic change of heart — a change that is proven by a change in behavior — then it’s in vain. Still, I have no doubt that there are Catholics who are far less orthodox than I was as a Catholic, but who have delighted God more because however flawed their understanding was, they lived lives marked by sacrificial, Christ-like love of the sort that I, with my purer orthodoxy, did not have.
 The poor abuela kneeling in the back of the Church praying her rosary with much weeping and wailing is a better Catholic than I am. If you were to say that she's a better Catholic precisely because of her ignorance of the finer points of theology I wouldn't buy that and I don't think she would either. You can't love who or what you don't know. Those who love Christ and love his Church want to know him and know the Church. Not everyone is intellectually capable or has the aptitude to be a theologian. But those who do have a responsibility to use the gifts which God gave them. Religion is both a matter of the head and the heart. St. John Vianney was a simple man but I daresay he was far more orthodox in his doctrine and pure in his love for God than any of us poor sinners. St. Thomas Aquinas is the greatest intellectual saint of the Church, but even he went on to his eternal reward believing his work fell infinitely short of the Truth.

I found Evangelical Protestantism deeply dissatisfying because of its emphasis on the subjective. How could I know I was right with God? Just a warm and fuzzy feeling of being close to Jesus? One reason why I found Catholicism compelling was its emphasis on the objective. I may feel nothing but Jesus is in the tabernacle. I sin but I know what I must do to make amends. The hierarchy is composed of sinners but the deposit of faith does not hinge on the personal holiness of those whose duty it is to teach it, though one should hope and pray that they are personally holy. It was an enormous load off my mind to know that being in a state of grace didn't depend on however I happened to be feeling that day.

I'm not saying Rod does this, but I quickly grow irritated with those who imply that there must be a radical disconnect between doctrinal orthodoxy and charity. One of the great papal saints, Pope Pius V, once served as a Grand Inquisitor. St. Thomas More went to the headsman's block rather than compromise on a single point of doctrine, the pope's headship of the Church. I think that if you know orthodox belief to the best of one's abilities and that belief changes your behavior in some way, God's Church has room for all types, even dried up old intellectuals like me.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


From an anonymous commenter at iSteve:
Some of the virulence… stems from an underlying chain of logic in elite thinking that I find scary: If young black males really do tend to be more crime-prone, then…oh, no, the Nazis were right! So if Americans ever become embarrassed by the insipid political correctness we instruct them to spout, they will immediately thaw out Hitler’s cryogenically preserved brain and elect it president. Or something.
I’ve noticed this for a long time. I can’t claim to have a perfect explanation, but keep in mind that most American lefties tend to embrace (at least implicitly) two key ideas: Utilitarianism and Utopianism.
Look at all the hip SWPL charities that swear their mission is to “End ______ forever!” (Insert “poverty”, “child abuse”, “racism”, “gun violence”, etc.) In contrast, dour conservatives (whether religious or secular) tend to agree with the Gospel warning “the poor you have always with you“.
Similarly, lefties in the USA tend to be basically Utilitarian on most issues- the idea that something should be avoided simply because it is intrinsically immoral strikes most of them as rather quaint, except for issues that don’t really affect them personally, on which they can afford to be high-minded (In fairness, too many conservative Republicans have the same problem, just for different issues). A woman got knocked up by mistake? Sure, abort the pregnancy for her convenience. Dad’s taking too long to die and running up big medical bills? Euthanize him. A jury failed to make an example of an innocent man as instructed? Screw double jeopardy and bring him up on “hate crime” charges.
When you believe (at least implicitly) that 1) Society can be perfected by human means, or at least come reasonably close to perfection, and 2) any practical means to achieve that objective should be seriously considered, the progressive dread of politically-incorrect Hatefacts starts to make more sense. If “genetically inferior” blacks are all that is standing in the way of turning every city in America into a hipster SWPL paradise, what can’t be justified? My theory, then, is that, despite what they say, progressives are not really worried about what crotchety conservatives and religious zealots out in flyover country will do if frank discussions of race become commonplace- they’re worried about what they themselves will have to consider doing. Already, most urban progressives aren’t bothered much by the NYPD’s institutionalized racial profiling, the disproportionate abortion rate of blacks, or sex-ed programs clearly targeted at black teens. How big of a leap is it to, say, forced sterilization? I don’t presume to speak for progressives, but it doesn’t seem like much of a leap to me.
h/t: Heartiste

The Most Hated Man in America strikes again

In 2010 race-related beating case, George Zimmerman pushed to discipline same officers who investigated Trayvon Martin shooting:
In late 2010 and early 2011 George Zimmerman, the Hispanic Sanford, Fla., man who shot and killed 17-year-old black teen Trayvon Martin, publicly demanded discipline in a race-related beating case for at least two of the police officers who cleared him after the Feb. 26 altercation, according to records obtained by The Daily Caller.
In a letter to Seminole County NAACP president Turner Clayton, a member of the Zimmerman family wrote that George was one of “very few” in Sanford who publicly condemned the “beating of the black homeless man Sherman Ware on Dec. 4, 2010, by the son of a Sanford police officer,” who is white.
...Every Sunday, according to his family, Zimmerman would stroll through Sanford’s black neighborhoods handing out the fliers demanding justice for Sherman Ware, and calling for the police to hold their own officials accountable. Zimmerman would also place the fliers on people’s cars outside churches.
“I challenge you to stand together and to have our voices heard, and to hold accountable all of those officers, and officials whom let this atrocious attack pass unpunished until the media revealed it,” one of the fliers reads in part. “This animal could have attacked anyone of us, our children or loved ones in his alcohol fueled rage.”

I, Beefy Levinson, have an exclusive report on the latest adventures of the White-ish Knight Zimmer Man. Unbeknownst to the world at large, the royal baby was a very difficult childbirth. There were dire complications. The doctors worried that neither the baby nor his mother would survive. That is until Zimmer Man burst through the wall of the hospital. He saved the life of Catherine and the royal baby. In gratitude for his heroic actions, the royals named the baby for him: George Alexander Louis.

Man, what is it with these creepy ass crackas and their concern for the well-being of others, am I right?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Somebody got taken to the CDF woodshed

The Diocese of Richmond has done a total about-face:
  • • Our former Holy Father, Benedict XVI, never personally declared that doctrinal differences stand in the way of regularizing the canonical status of the society; nonetheless, the regularization has yet to take place.
  • • The Masses offered by priests of the society are valid. Other Sacraments celebrated in the chapels of the society are considered valid, with the exception of Penance and Matrimony, which are, at best, doubtfully valid.
  • • It is not clear that the society is in schism, and it is not properly called a “sect.” In recent years the Holy See has recognized the society’s expressed desire for regular communion with the Roman Pontiff and the Church he shepherds, and the Holy See’s dialogue with the society since 2009 demonstrates the Church’s commitment to unity.
  • • It is necessary to distinguish between the priests, brothers, and sisters of the society, on the one hand; and the lay faithful who attend Mass at society chapels, on the other hand. The former are clearly in an irregular status. In regard to the lay faithful who attend Mass at society chapels, there has never been a statement by the Holy See that these people are in schism. In fact, the Holy See acts toward them as it does toward all the Catholic lay faithful.
  • • It’s also necessary to distinguish between acts that are invalid and those that are illicit. Acts are illicit when they go against the Church’s law. Still, acts that are canonically illicit may be valid, and, in the case of the society, the ministerial acts of their priests may be illicit and still be considered valid by the Church.
  • • Finally, a comment should be made regarding the Sunday Mass obligation of Catholics. The faithful do not properly fulfill their Sunday Mass obligation in chapels of the society, as the celebration of the Eucharist presupposes not only communion with the Lord, but also communion with the Church He founded, and the hierarchy who govern the Church by Divine mandate.
Rorate noted that the Church has been extremely schizophrenic on the last bullet point. To be sure, it's not ideal to fulfill one's Sunday obligation at an SSPX chapel. Whether it fulfills the obligation or not seems to depend on whoever happens to be on duty at PCED the day inquiries arrive.

The SSPX is an unusual case. Juridically they are not in schism, though they may be declared formally schismatic if they consecrate new bishops before they are fully regularized in the life of the Church (and Mnsgr. Fellay et. al., aren't getting any younger.) It's bizarre to hear so many progressives gravely pronounce "They are being disobedient to the Holy Father," before they get back to work writing op-eds about how the Church is wrong to oppose contraception and gay "marriage." Likewise, a certain priest blogger for whom I have enormous respect sometimes writes pieces where he urges the SSPX bishops to crawl on their hands and knees across St. Peter's Square and kiss the pope's feet with much sobbing and wailing until he fully reinstates them. One wishes a considerable number of bishops who are ostensibly in full communion with the Church would do likewise, begging God and the Holy Father to forgive them for transferring child abusing priests from parish.

Thanks in large part to Pope Benedict XVI, the SSPX no longer has a monopoly on the Traditional Latin Mass. Traditionalism may have focused on the liturgy when it began, but Traditionalism is much more than the Mass. Likewise, Traditionalism is no longer bound up with the fate of the SSPX which is a good thing in my view. To be a Traditionalist is to believe that the old Mass is a positive good which formed countless saints, martyrs, Doctors, confessors and popes, and should not merely be preserved but actively promoted as a means to renew the life of the Church. To be a Traditionalist is to believe that the lives and writings of the saints are the most helpful means for an active healthy spiritual life. Traditionalism means not being blind to the spirit of compromise and muddleheadedness that has pervaded the Magisterium for the last fifty years, nor the failures of leadership  from the hierarchy or their actions which deviate from official teaching. Traditionalism means agreeing that the Church was more successful in her mission and her members more faithful then than they are now.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Chesterton on interreligious dialogue

"CREEDS must disagree: it is the whole fun of the thing. If I think the universe is triangular, and you think it is square, there cannot be room for two universes. We may argue politely, we may argue humanely, we may argue with great mutual benefit; but, obviously, we must argue. Modern toleration is really a tyranny. It is a tyranny because it is a silence. To say that I must not deny my opponent's faith is to say I must not discuss it . . . It is absurd to have a discussion on Comparative Religions if you don't compare them."

~G.K. Chesterton: "Illustrated London News," 10/10/1908

Will he ever learn to stay in his vehicle?

George Zimmerman emerges from hiding for Truck Crash Rescue:

George Zimmerman, who has been in hiding since he was acquitted of murder in the death of Trayvon Martin, emerged to help rescue a family who was trapped in an overturned vehicle, police said today.
Zimmerman was one of two men who came to the aid of a family of four -- two parents and two children -- trapped inside a blue Ford Explorer SUV that had rolled over after traveling off the highway in Sanford, Fla. at approximately 5:45 p.m. Thursday, the Seminole County Sheriff's Office said in a statement.
I wonder if the rest of the media will describe it as "the Hispanic George Zimmerman rescues family?" From now on the professionally offended will spit "Zimmerman!" the way Jerry Seinfeld used to growl "Newman!" Tom Wolfe further cements his reputation as most prophetic writer of the twentieth century.

Keeping up with our rightful monarchs

I'm not referring to the Protestant usurpers, but the descendants of the Catholic House of Stuart.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Chesterton on reform

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, ‘I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.’ To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: ‘If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.’
This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious.
There are reformers who get over this difficulty by assuming that all their fathers were fools; but if that be so, we can only say that folly appears to be a hereditary disease. But the truth is that nobody has any business to destroy a social institution until he has really seen it as an historical institution. If he knows how it arose, and what purposes it was supposed to serve, he may really be able to say that they were bad purposes, that they have since become bad purposes, or that they are purposes which are no longer served. But if he simply stares at the thing as a senseless monstrosity that has somehow sprung up in his path, it is he and not the traditionalist who is suffering from an illusion.
—G. K. Chesterton, The Thing

You are anxious and worried about many things

My parish had a guest celebrant today: Fr. Michael Shields, missionary to Siberia. Today's Gospel reading was the account of Jesus being served by Mary and Martha. Traditional exegesis holds that Martha represents the active apostolic life while Mary represents the contemplative life. Fr. Shields said that the purely contemplative life is a special vocation to which not everyone is called, but that even the most active lay person, priest, or religious must make some time for contemplation; Blessed Teresa of Calcutta's Sisters of Charity spend hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament every day. Prayer is the nourishment of our soul just as food is nourishment for the body. If we don't eat, we sicken and die. If we don't pray, the life of grace in our soul withers and dies. Prayer is also the fuel for our apostolic work. The lay man who works but doesn't pray quickly burns out. The priest who works but doesn't pray will labor much and have little to show for it when he's done. With the typical clarity of the saints, St. Alphonsus Liguori put it this way: "He who prays will be saved. He who does not pray will be damned."

Several lay faithful from Magadan traveled with Fr. Shields to the US to help him with his fund raising for the mission. Many of them had done time in the Gulag when the Soviet Union still existed. One old woman had fashioned a rosary out of trinkets, fishing line, and left over slag from the camp's smelter back when it was still operating as a prison. Another lady had been a prostitute as a teenager and slept in the streets in thirty below weather before being baptized by Fr. Shields as an adult. They had all suffered but they all persevered. The USSR is dead but life is still hard in Siberia. The message of Fr. Shields's homily was that God is greater than our problems. God has been there for the people of Magadan and he'll be there for you. Christianity will not end all of your suffering but it will enable you to endure suffering in a spirit of love and self-sacrifice, just like our Blessed Lord.

Cross posted to Catholic Veritas

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Starship Troopers: I've said it before and I'll say it now, democracy simply doesn't work

If you've seen the movie but not read the book, I strongly recommend you drop everything and go read Starship Troopers right now. It's an easy read; I managed it in two afternoons and I'm a dummy. In some ways it's simply an extended reflection by Heinlein on the nature of government. The book is over fifty years old so I'm not going to bother warning about spoilers. In the Troopers society, only military veterans are permitted to vote. Only veterans are considered to be full citizens of the Terran federation. Everyone else is a civilian who is free to pursue any course in life they wish but they are not permitted to vote. As in all of Heinlein's books, one of the characters is a stand-in for Heinlein himself and in this case it's the main character Juan Rico's high school teacher of History and Moral Philosophy. The teacher explains that the reasoning behind only allowing veterans the vote is simple. Is it because they are of a higher moral fiber than civilians? No; anyone who has ever served will tell you that putting on a uniform does not necessarily change a man's moral character or else there would never be war crimes, courts martial, or dishonorable discharges. Is it because they are more intelligent than civilians? No; if anything that's an even more risible suggestion than the first one. The reason why only veterans are allowed to vote is because they have demonstrated through their actions that they are capable of placing the greater good before their personal welfare.

This was and still is considered blasphemy against our civic religion in which the biannual voting ritual has taken on transcendental significance. Even Catholics who really ought to know better subscribe to the mania for getting as many warm bodies into the polling booths as possible, even if it's probably material cooperation with evil to vote for anyone in a given election cycle (this is usually expressed as "Vote Republican or the babies get it.") Universal suffrage is the goal, where every free and equal superman has equal political representation, where the collection of individual wills becomes one mighty unified Will.

One of the problems with this model is that the unwashed masses don't always vote the way they "should," that is they don't always choose liberalism. Remember how many do-overs the EU had every time they put treaties to a national vote? Remember how much anger and outrage there was when we Californians passed Proposition 8 which outlawed same-sex "marriage?" But liberalism can't assert moral superiority over its enemies because that would violate absolute equality. To be coherent on its own terms, all of the free and equal new men, liberated from the arbitrary chains of tradition and history, must freely choose liberalism. Therefore, those who explicitly reject liberalism must - existentially they must - be subhuman Nazis. It's one of the great ironies of our age that the Nazi is considered the great transcendent evil and the total opposite of the new liberal man. Of course it's not just the illiberal man whom liberalism dehumanizes; the waste bins at Planned Parenthood are filled with the hacked up body parts of other untermenschen. What is euthanasia besides the liquidating of liberal supermen unable to exercise their will? The liberal feels about reactionaries voting the same way the reactionary feels about felons or dead people voting.

If I had a nickel for every time someone has said that to abstain from voting is tantamount to betraying one's country, I could buy myself a bottle of Jack Daniels. Last November, many Catholics I know suggested that failing to vote for Mitt Romney would mean the blood of every aborted child under President Obama would be on the non-voters hands. My one vote was materially meaningless in the national election for president. It was impossible that my one vote was going to affect the outcome of the election nationally or even in my home state of California ("I can imagine it happening without involving a contradiction" does not mean the same thing as "It is actually possible in reality.") I think everyone implicitly knows that their vote is statistically meaningless in terms of deciding the national election for president, though I think many balk at its implications. A vote is more than the material act of pulling a lever. By voting you are giving your consent and your stamp of approval to the system of liberalism. I think more and more Catholics will refuse to do that as liberalism becomes increasingly sclerotic and overtly anti-Catholic. The thing you must understand about modern elections is that they are not essentially about choosing our rulers. It's about taking liberalism as a given and building social consensus around it. Elections are the lex orandi to liberalism's lex credendi.

This is in part why liberals are so fanatical about expanding the franchise as widely as possible. Women's suffrage, for example, is now considered a matter of basic justice instead of a prudential decision about how best to govern society. This is why the Founding Fathers restriction of the franchise to property owning white males is now considered tremendously unjust. Our ancestors weren't crazy or stupid though. They had a reason for restricting the franchise: they felt that those who had a stake in society would make better judgments about governance. Seeing the illiterate Rachel Jeantel on the stand during the Zimmerman trial reinforced my belief that universal suffrage is silly. I don't pretend to have all the answers, but I've often thought that restricting the franchise to the male married-and-never-divorced heads of households with at least one legitimate child would immensely improve our politics (I'd have to give up my franchise under such a scheme.)

Friday, July 19, 2013

The sun will rise, the tide will come in, and Mark Shea will explode

It's that time of the year again for one of Catholic apologist Mark Shea's quarterly red faced, spittle flecked, vein popping, neck bulging tirades about what awful, awful people those dirty Traditionalists are. His latest emotional eruption was prompted by the creation of this website: Faithful Answers. For Mark, the creation of this website constitutes a radical assault upon the lives, fortunes, and sacred honor of his friends at Catholic Answers:

As the internet continues to facilitate the fractaling of the Catholic Church, what happens over time is that smaller and smaller enclaves of specialized groups find more and more petty things to get upset about and declare other Catholics “not really Catholic”.
So, for instance, witness the fate of poor Karl Keating, Jimmy Akin, and all the good people at Catholic Answers, who have striven with might and main to faithfully defend and bear witness to the Faith for 20 odd years. As their reward for countless hours of tireless service, what do they get? A kick in the teeth. 
My four loyal readers know that I can be slow on the uptake and often skim over important details when I'm pounding these keys in the heat of the moment, but what the hell? A kick in the teeth? Mark baldly asserts that the founder of Faithful Answers, Chad Arneson, founded his website because he's filled with a Satanic superiority complex, believing himself to be more pure and faithful than his brothers and sisters in Christ. What is Mark's evidence for Chad's interior state? Apparently this:
I know many of my readers have probably availed themselves of Catholic Answers – either through their many heavily promoted EWTN programs or their website – on a number of occasions. I never really have. There have been a few times I’ve gone their in search of information on some topic related to the Faith, but almost every time I came away disappointed. Their forums I found to be dens of modernist disinformation, but even the “main” website was never particularly edifying to me.
What slander! What calumny! This anonymous writer whom Mark has never met found Catholic Answers to be not particularly edifying! It's a bit baffling to me that a long time blogger like Mark Shea would get so offended by a description of a website's discussion forum. I am not in any way responsible for what other people may say in the comments. It should be painfully obvious that comments by other people do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the host. If I say, "Mark Shea's comment boxes are filled with crazies," that does not say anything about Mark's output as a blogger or about his character, but apparently he disagrees (for the record, I don't believe his comboxes are filled with crazies). The CA forums may very well be dens of Modernist disinformation, but that doesn't say anything about the character or personal orthodoxy of Jimmy Akin or Karl Keating. But in true Shea fashion, he takes a random comment and expands it into a colorful sermon on how that one comment is representative of how terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad some people are:
What’s ironic is how deeply Protestant this sort of Truly True Purely Pure stuff is. Instead of the Catholic model, which sees other apostolates as different expressions of the Catholic Faith and which work together to build up the body of Christ, Arneson’s group of angry Traditionalists treats CA (and EWTN, and, frankly, almost every Catholic in the world) as rivals and enemies and, thereby, re-enacts the worst of Protestant fissiparousness. They are, of course, aided and abetted by such sites asAngelqueen and Pewsitter, who likewise regard almost the entirety of the Catholic Church’s members as enemies of the Faith except for themselves and a few like-minded Catholics. Indeed, it’s a problem that tends to plague that subculture of Catholics whose gravest concern is kicking out other Catholics deemed to be impure.
The only one who's coming off as angry in this exchange is Shea. I've never met any Catholic, Traditionalist or no, whose "gravest concern was kicking out other Catholics deemed to be impure," nor did I find any evidence of such an attitude on the Faithful Answers website. I think many Catholics are woefully ignorant of the faith and live like pagans, but I don't want them kicked out. I want them to live, learn, and love their faith.
So while Pewsitter and Angelqueen and Faithful Answers may have concluded that me and my ilk (that is, 99% of the Church) are a blight and a plague on the Purely Pure Church and need to be purged, I think them members of the Body of Christ who are, to be sure, massively wrong on a number of things, but still my brothers and sisters in Christ. They may kick me and folks like Catholics Answers out. But I’m not kicking out Angelqueen, Pewsitters and Faithful Answers and similar self-appointed inquisitors. I’m not even kicking Nancy Pelosi out. That’s her bishop’s job, not mine.
Here Mark plays the hero, manfully fighting the good fight against the forces of darkness who want to kick poor innocent souls like him out of the Church while implying that he himself is a much better Catholic than his imagined opponents because he's not like them one bit, no sir. Which makes this next section a bit confusing for a dummy like me:
 So with unerring instinct for making exactly the wrong choices in defending Pure Truly True Catholic Faith, not from actual enemies of the Faith, but from other faithful Catholics, Faithful Answers manages to bring on board as their superstar quarterback none other than “Dr.” Robert Sungenis...
After an impassioned tirade about how it's wrong, wrong, wrong to want to kick people out of the Church, Mark plays the "guilt by association" card due to the presence of his long time nemesis Robert Sungenis. For the record, anti-Semitism is bad. But two and two still make four even if an anti-Semite says so. Mark doesn't want to kick out a supporter of abortion and homosexual "marriage" like Nancy Pelosi, but a few ethnic slurs from Sungenis makes him worthy of being cast into the outer darkness where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Makes sense to me.
“Faithful Answers” is a manifestation of the ongoing devolution of reactionary Catholicism into a sort of auto-immune disease at work in the body of Christ. Ironically, the ranks of this subculture are often filled by converts longing for an imaginary Golden Age, not by Catholics who actually have a living memory of life before the Council. 
I'm a convert and I've never yearned for a Golden Age. Just a faithful one. Ours ain't it compared to sixty years ago, or six hundred years ago. I don't want to live in the past; I just want there to be a little more continuity with it. It's a bit rich for a convert like Shea to lecture other converts after a long jeremiad against believing in Truly True Purely Pure Catholicism.
Memo to all Protestant converts attempting to remake the Church in your image and likeness: you cannot build a life on protest. The Church is enormously resistent to the attempt to make it into your final Protestant sect and will not comply with your demand to use it as a tool for telling off your last sect and saying, “Ha! I’ve outgrown you!” The Church seems to be stubbornly and divinely instituted to be, in this world, a collection of screwups, oddballs, factory rejects, wimps, failures and slackers. 
Well, I never formally belonged to any Protestant sect before being received as a Catholic, so I don't have anyone to tell that I've outgrown them. The Church surely is a collection of losers (most especially me) but losers who are supposed to be pursuing holiness. I've been rough on Shea but I'm a long time reader of his. His writings were of help to me when I was contemplating joining the Church eight years ago. He's got a good heart. But I stand by what I said about him last year: once in a while he gets a bug up his ass over some competing personality in Catholic media and he will scream and yell and rant and rave about how OUTRAGEOUS they are...

And when they themselves or people who agree with them try to answer Mark, he calls them whiners and self-pitying fools. "What a terrible animal this is! When attacked, it defends!" Chill out Mark. Damn.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Skyrim paladin build, plus how to have more fun

The traffic for this blog has increased exponentially over the last month. Is it because of my trenchant analyses of the problems besetting the Catholic Church in America? Or perhaps my devastating, unanswerable critiques of philosophical liberalism? No, it's my Skyrim guides and WWE reviews. What my public wants, my public shall have. And that's the bottom line cuz Beefy Levinson said so. FUS RO DAH, mes enfants.

Today we're going to look at the paladin build. This build appeals to me as I am a reactionary religious extremist in real life. Here's my perk plan for a paladin. Normally I don't like hybrid builds because they require you to spread yourself pretty thin over many different skills. A good rule of thumb is to focus on four skill trees and dabble in one or two others. This hybrid build works well though because of Restoration's Respite perk. Respite heals your stamina in addition to your health which means unlimited power attacks so long as your magicka holds out (sure, you could just eat veggie soup, but this is more fun and immersive.) You can switch between your shield and a healing spell which will make you an invincible tank in combat. D&D paladins typically used maces. Personally I prefer swords. Imperials make good paladins since they start with all of the right skill bonuses, although as always you can play any race you want. For ranged I prefer Archery, but if you want a more magic focused paladin you could do Destruction instead. I like the idea of using holy fire to destroy zombies.

The paladin is a holy warrior, carrying the light of the divines into Skyrim's darkest corners and purging the land of the undead menace. You want to use the Turn Undead spells when delving into Nordic crypts. Dawnbreaker should be your favorite weapon so do that quest as soon as possible. You can switch between a shield or a ward depending on which foes you are facing. I like the idea of wards in principle but Bethesda hosed up the practice. There is one thing they do very well though: wards will allow you to laugh at dragon breath since those are considered magic.

To get into Skyrim and have more fun, think up a backstory for your character. Play him according to his personality. For example, my mage was an alcoholic who stole every bottle of booze in sight. My paladin's parents were killed by vampires so he swore at an early age that he would exterminate the undead wherever and whenever he found them. That is until he met the beautiful (and essential) Serana...

Turning "subsists in" up to eleven

UPDATE, 7/23/13: The presentation which I write about in this entry will now include the presence of one of Sacramento's diocesan priest who will be there to discuss the purpose of the Interfaith Council of Greater Sacramento. I thank the Diocese of Sacramento for their attention to this matter.

A friend of mine posted this to our young adult group's page on Facebook:
 Have you ever wondered about other people’s faith? What do we learn from the belief system of others? Why so many faiths and so many expressions on Christianity? How can we live together with freedom of religion, appreciation for people of all beliefs, and how are we to live our own faith, humbly serving God and all of humanity? This Workshop is also being offered on Saturday at 1:15PM as Workshop 509. - See more at:
This is a talk being offered at the Diocese of Sacramento's Ministry Days for Catechists. The speaker is Mr. Jon B. Fish who is apparently a practicing Mormon according to my source. A quick google search turned up this:

The Christian world - and often the non-Christian world - have asked over and over, "Who is Jesus? How can I know Him better?" Sometimes it is simple curiosity. Sometimes it is a strong desire to understand Him clearer. This book dwells scripturally and personally with the relationship fostered and gained through 60 years of following His teachings and the trying to live as He lived. Beyond that reasonable approach the author also dwells on the approach to Christianity taken by "a Mormon boy." From the earliest days of boot camp in the Vietnam War era to the business journeys and friendships collected through the years, the question has been asked again and again, are Mormons really Christians. This is the answer to that question from the eyes of an LDS father and grandfather and lifetime member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints...the Mormons.
Assuming of course that the speaker is the same Mr. Fish as the author of that book, this is problematic to put it charitably. My first response was to take our Lord's name in vain in addition to other unprintable thoughts. Surely in a diocese with over one million baptized souls, the chancery could have found at least one baptized and practicing Catholic who was able and willing to give that talk. I'm not opposed to the subject of the talk in principle but I am skeptical, to put it lightly, that a man whose religion officially teaches that Catholicism is a work of the devil has anything edifying to teach to a group of Catholic catechists.

I'm certain that Mr. Fish is a perfectly nice man, a good man, a family man. Nonetheless, Mormonism cannot even be classified as Christian. They do not believe in the Triune God. All Mormons who convert to Catholicism must be baptized just as any other non-Christian convert. It's especially disingenuous for the diocese of Sacramento to not mention that Mr. Fish is a practicing Mormon as his bio paragraph states that he's served "the Church." [Update, see below] I mean, I know that the progressives who work at the chancery (but I repeat myself) take an enormously broad view of how the Church of Christ "subsists in" the Catholic Church, but this is ridiculous.

I'm disappointed that my diocese is doing this but I can't say that I'm surprised. This is part of a larger pattern in the whole American Church. Either the Catholic Church is the one true Church of Christ founded by Jesus himself for the salvation of souls outside of which there is no salvation, or it isn't. If it is, then our Blessed Lord's divine command to go out and baptize all nations is literally a matter of eternal life and death. Strictly speaking, the Catholic Church has nothing to learn from other religions. Ours was divinely revealed and contains within it everything necessary for salvation. Tolerance and ecumenism and interreligious dialogue are all well and good but only if they are a means to the end of converting them. The end game for ecumenism and interreligious dialogue is that they reject, abjure, and pronounce anathema upon the errors and heresies of their old religions.

If anyone from the diocese of Sacramento ever reads this, and I am wrong about Mr. Fish's religion, I will happily publish a retraction. I make no speculations about the personal orthodoxy of those who organized this talk, but from a prudential standpoint this is a profoundly boneheaded move that will only confuse and scandalize the faithful.

UPDATE, 3:56 pm: My good friend Juan hijo de Juan confirmed it. Why are my Catholic tithing dollars going toward paying a Mormon to lecture Catholic catechists on anything pertaining to religion?

UPDATE, 4:42 pm: The diocese has corrected Mr. Fish's bio paragraph so that there is no longer any confusion as to his religious affiliation, for which I thank them. I stand by my opinion that it's problematic at best to pay a Mormon to lecture Catholic catechists on interfaith relations when so many Catholics do not even have an adequate grasp of their own religion.