Thursday, September 26, 2013

In your charity

My father passed away last night while in hospice care. Please pray for the repose of the soul of Larry Beckman.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"Mere externals"

From Father Z we get this collection of abandoned churches. They're abandoned, they're falling into ruin, and yet they're still more beautiful than many modern churches which have all the charm and religious beauty of an airport terminal.

There's a strain of thought among many Catholics that goes something like this: "Who cares about the architecture? What difference does it make if our art isn't so hot? Why are you so concerned with things like high altars, and stained glass, and crucifixes, and chalices of precious metal? All of these things are mere externals. Our focus should be on Jesus alone."

Our ancestors were not stupid or crazy. There's a reason why they thought it was so important that churches be aesthetically pleasing: God is Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Beauty of itself raises our minds to God who is the source of all Beauty. The second person of the Trinity became incarnate. The Catholic religion, by its nature, involves the senses. Vatican II did not mean for us to turn our Catholic parishes into Quaker meeting houses. Do you think our working class great-grandparents donated their hard earned money to build beautiful churches just so they could show off? As a secondary purpose, religious art and stained glass can be excellent pedagogical tools. Before literacy became universal, illiterate medieval peasants often learned their catechism through art pieces.

Obviously not every parish is going to look like St. John Lateran. But these mere externals are not things that can or should be tossed overboard lightly. Our clothes are mere externals to who we are as persons, but that doesn't mean a man should go out wearing ball gowns.

A foretaste of hell

If we refuse assent to reality: if we rebel against the nature of things and choose to think that what we at the moment want is the centre of the universe to which everything else ought to accommodate itself, the first effect on us will be that the whole universe will seem to be filled with an inexplicable hostility. We shall begin to feel that everything has a down on us, and that, being so badly treated, we have a just grievance against things in general. That is the knowledge of good and evil and the fall into illusion. If we cherish and fondle that grievance, and would rather wallow in it and vent our irritation in spite and malice than humbly admit we are in the wrong and try to amend our behaviour so as to get back to reality, that is, while it lasts, the deliberate choice, and a foretaste of the experience of Hell.
—Dorothy L. Sayers, Introductory Papers on Dante

h/t: Tom Simon

Monday, September 23, 2013

Pay less attention to his words but to the Spirit of Francis

Last time I talked about The Idea of Francis. I suspect that Andrew Sullivan will be caught in an endless Borg-style logic bomb when he learns of this: Pope Francis just excommunicated a pro-gay "marriage" priest.
From all of last week's headlines saying that the Pope wants to forget this nonsense about abortion and gays, you'd imagine that Germaine Greer had been elected to run the Catholic Church. Actually what the Pope was saying was that he wants the Church to talk more about what it's for than what it's against. But that doesn't mean it won't still be against those things that contradict its teachings and traditions.
Just ask Greg Reynolds of Melbourne – a priest who appears to have been both defrocked and excommunicated because of his radical views on women clergy and gay marriage. From Australia's The Age:
The excommunication document – written in Latin and giving no reason – was dated May 31, meaning it comes under the authority of Pope Francis who made headlines on Thursday calling for a less rule-obsessed church.
Now I suspect it will be progressives who darkly mutter about traitors within the Church, of bad eggs in the curia, of dead enders who are carrying on the dark designs of Francis's much despised predecessor. Francis has become the papal equivalent of Vatican II. He's no longer a man, but an event. Fifty years from now Catholics will be vigorously arguing over the text of Francis's words and the "Spirit of Francis." Still, Sullivan's ecstatic that for the first time in thirty years or so he can finally proof text a pope's words to attack his ideological opponents.
The people in the hierarchy and the hard-right of the American Catholic church have put their best face forward after Pope Francis’ categorical rejection of their entire project. 
The hierarchy is on the side of us reactionary restorationists? That's news to me.
One of those whose writings have been almost obsessed with abortion, gay marriage and contraception ...
Call me crazy, but I get the feeling the Church would hardly ever talk of those things if the world was not obsessed with them. I wish I could live in the universe of Andrew Sullivan and other progressive Catholics. Outside of the local FSSP parish, not once in my eight years as a Catholic have I ever heard any priest utter a peep about abortion, gay marriage, or contraception. Not once. Neither from the pulpit or in private conversation.
But that latter point got lost, did it not, in the recent past as an authoritarian Pope demanded “catechetical fundamentals” on everything all the time, often with more dictatorial fear than Christ’s love. Nothing better illustrated this in recent years than Benedict’s disciplining of America’s off-message nuns...
Please. Pope Benedict XVI himself said that the Church must emphasize what she is for in addition to what she is against. It was under Benedict that "affirmative orthodoxy" became a buzzword. Sullivan knows this, but his white hot rage against Benedict will not bend to reality. The "crack down" on the nuns (does the Vatican ever do anything besides crack down in the media's lexicon?) was much too little about forty years too late. Many of the orders which fall under LCWR are heretic or apostate. Granted, they're heretics and apostates who do good social work but heretics and apostates nonetheless. That's why they're dying out and women's orders of the kind that would make white smoke come from Sullivan's ears are growing by leaps and bounds.
On this, how can the theocons ignore the following:
If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing.
To whom do they think the Pope was referring? Who else if not them? Or do they have alternative suggestions?
For the sake of argument, let's pretend that this statement by Francis is as thorough a rejection of Traditionalism as if he had hurled a thunderous anathema from on high against all Trads everywhere (Sullivan would no doubt welcome that bit of papal dictatorship.) First of all, a papal interview with a magazine is not Church teaching. Second, I agree with Francis that all Catholics tend to expect too much from the hierarchy. Many Trads harbor secret dreams of some future pope bringing back all of the stuff by fiat. That isn't going to happen. Whatever else one says of Vatican II, what came after the council was a complete destruction of Catholic culture. It's not coming back overnight. It's not coming back within my lifetime. Legalism by itself will get us nothing. On that I think the pope is right on.

Third, Francis is his own man so obviously he's going to differ from his two predecessors. Even so, the progressive's portrayal of JPII and BXVI as radical right-wing tyrants who policed our every thought and action is so bizarre and nonsensical that it scarcely rises to the level of being wrong. Exhibit A: Hans Kung is still a Catholic priest in good standing. I rest my case. Francis's methods are not infallible. His prudential decisions are not dogma. Time will tell if his approach is what's best for the Church in these days. If it brings souls to Christ, that's good enough for me.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Idea of Francis

I'm convinced that it's not Pope Francis who is so beloved by the world, but The Idea of Francis. TIOF is a blank screen upon which everyone is projecting their hopes and fears. We obsessively hit the refresh button on our browsers, awaiting the latest jot or tittle to emerge from Rome with baited breath. Ah ha! Success! Finally! Pope Francis says that his favorite lunch is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a bag of chips and a glass of lemonade! It's obviously a devastating rebuke to his accursed predecessor, the right-wing tyrant Pope Benedict XVI of painful memory, who was well known for his lavishly expensive meals with only the priciest wines!

Pope Francis gave a lengthy interview with America Magazine. There's been much commentary on it but that commentary only makes sense if you keep in mind that it's not Pope Francis they're analyzing but TIOF. This, for example:
“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.
TIOF only spoke the first sentence. People who adore TIOF immediately began shouting from the rooftops that the pope wasn't going to bother them anymore about their lifestyle choices. A few fevered souls entertained hopes that maybe, just maybe, this would be the pope to change the Church's teachings on those subjects. Cooler heads thought that while the pope might not change them, at least they can publicly express their dissent now. What Pope Francis actually said was that 1) he's a a faithful son of the Church, which means he accepts and believes those teachings the world finds most offensive, but 2) there's more to Catholicism than a checklist of moral commands. This will undoubtedly shock my heathen friends, but he's right.
The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.
The "Good News" of the Gospel is the redeeming death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To leap directly into the more esoteric dogmatic or moral subjects before preaching that essential truth is to put the cart before the horse. The sequence approximately goes like this: Do you believe in the redeeming death and resurrection of Christ? Yes. Do you believe Christ gave authority to the Catholic Church to teach and preach in his name? Yes. Do you therefore accept certain moral and spiritual commandments of the Church as coming from Christ? Yes. If you skip the first or second question, then the answer to the third will invariably be no.

Some of my Facebook friends were ribbing me about this paragraph:
If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing. Tradition and memory of the past must help us to have the courage to open up new areas to God. Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ‘security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists­—they have a static and inward-directed view of things. In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies.
Again, in the minds of progressives, TIOF only spoke the first sentence. Finally, they thought, after thirty plus years of JPII and BXVI not only do we have an ally but one who is calling out those awful, awful Trads by name! I hate to be the bearer of bad news progressives, but Pope Francis is not about to usher in your imagined golden age of married lesbian priests blessing the abortions of transgendered single mothers. Likewise, I'd ask Traditionalists to relax. Pope Francis has the authority to turn back the clock to the days of Ecclesia Dei, when bishops only allowed one Traditional Latin Mass per month on a Thursday afternoon in the basement of the downtown mental ward. But I wouldn't bet money on it:
Yes, there are hermeneutics of continuity and discontinuity, but one thing is clear: the dynamic of reading the Gospel, actualizing its message for today—which was typical of Vatican II—is absolutely irreversible. Then there are particular issues, like the liturgy according to the Vetus Ordo. I think the decision of Pope Benedict [his decision of July 7, 2007, to allow a wider use of the Tridentine Mass] was prudent and motivated by the desire to help people who have this sensitivity. What is worrying, though, is the risk of the ideologization of the Vetus Ordo, its exploitation.”

I readily acknowledge that Pope Francis differs in style from his predecessor. That the pope has different priorities than mine and emphasizes other areas of Church teaching than I do is not worthy of any foot stomping outrage. TIOF however, is definitely on my side. TIOF is surely about to put my ideological opponents to the wind. And I will carefully parse every word of TIOF to proof text my arguments that he's on my side. Seriously, I have noticed that people who adore TIOF have generally not read his first encyclical letter. It's probably too long and boring for them. When will TIOF get back to providing them ammunition for online debates?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Update

Dad's in stable condition. I visited him along with mom yesterday. My parents have been divorced for twenty years, but mom dotes on him as if they had never separated. He's perfectly lucid but physically weak after everything that's happened. One of his doctors came in and told us the full story. Dad is in his 70's and has had a heart attack before. A lifetime of alcohol use has contributed to his condition. Essentially all we can do now is make his final days comfortable. They give him a few months at the most.

Dad is not a young man and he's lived a full life. Intellectually we know that our parents have to go sometime but it's an emotional shock nonetheless. Life goes on all around me and I still have my own duties to perform, but everything has an air of unreality about it. I feel detached from my surroundings. My mind is elsewhere. Dad would want me to carry on, and I will. But it's frustrating when you can't do anything for your loved ones.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Prayer request

To anyone who reads this blog, I would ask you to please pray for my father Larry Beckman. He was diagnosed with congestive heart failure late last night and the doctors are not optimistic. Thank you.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The last resort for helping a drunk

Pope Francis on turning back the clock:
“The defining aspect of this change of epoch is that things are no longer in their place. Our previous ways of explaining the world and relationships, good and bad, no longer appears to work. The way in which we locate ourselves in history has changed.Things we thought would never happen, or that we never thought we would see, we are experiencing now, and we dare not even imagine the future. That which appeared normal to us – family, the Church, society and the world – will probably no longer seem that way. We cannot simply wait for what we are experiencing to pass, under theillusion that things will return to being how they were before”.
I agree that we can't passively wait for the darkness to pass. It will not pass in my lifetime nor in all likelihood yours. I don't believe it's coincidental that the encroaching darkness and the Church's internal chaos are happening simultaneously. Marriage is crumbling, the family is in shambles, and to watch the news is to be continually assaulted with stories of decadence, despair, and violence.

His Holiness claims that the old ways of explaining the world, of explaining man and his eternal destiny, no longer seem to work. I would argue that its the new ways that don't appear to work. Vatican II's stated purpose was not to promulgate new dogmas or doctrines, but to present old ones in new ways to modern man. Truth is truth, and not subject to change. There's nothing wrong with trying new ways of teaching perennial truths, but a willingness to try new things should be coupled with a willingness to admit when those new ways have failed or that they're not as effective as the old ways. I think that's the reason I often tear out my rapidly thinning hair when dealing with Church officials. Many of the things they are so passionately attached to may have been fresh and exciting in the 1970s. In the 21st century they're just embarrassing. It's humbling and awe inspiring to be in a Church that is centuries behind the times. It's worthy of a facepalm to be in a Church that is always five minutes behind the times, huffing and puffing to catch up.

I wonder if it's less that we are unable to talk to the world as that the world doesn't want to listen. Sometimes the only thing you can do for a drunk is wait for him to hit rock bottom. You don't want him to suffer. You want him to quit drinking and begin living right again. But that won't happen unless and until he wants to. It doesn't help our cause any that the Church's confidence is shot and her identity so muddled. But the world will come around eventually. You can ignore the truth but you can't escape it.

Friday, September 13, 2013

"Evil does not exist"

(Last night I attended a talk on St. Thomas Aquinas's thoughts on good and evil. These are things which occurred to me based on my notes and recollections)

Every human action has three components: the object, the intention, and the circumstances. A lot of bad moral reasoning arises from confusing the object with either the intentions or the circumstances. When we hear the word "object" we think of our goal, as in "What is the object of the game?" In the Church's terminology, object means our actual chosen behavior. It means what we actually do, not what we wish we could do. Modern people tend to think of themselves as ghosts in the machine, as omnipotent disembodied wills piloting their bodies like a meat robot. Contemporary moral thinking tends toward making sure the ghost in the machine has good intentions.

Consider a cake. The object - my actual chosen behavior - is eating a piece of cake. My intention is to enjoy a tasty dessert. The circumstances are it's my birthday. This action is therefore good. Let's change the object now. I devour the entire cake by myself, while the intentions and circumstances remain the same. I am guilty of the sin of gluttony. Consider a husband and wife making love. The object is they are having sex. Their intentions are to strengthen their emotional bonds and to conceive a child. The circumstances are they're in the privacy of their own home. The sex act in these circumstances is good. But what if this man and woman are not married to each other? Then it becomes the sin of fornication. Suppose the man and woman are both married but not to each other. They are both guilty of the sin of adultery.

In both cases - eating a cake or having sex - a good act is made evil by changing the object, intentions, or circumstances. All three components must be good for the act to be considered good. If there is a privation of what which is good, we call this evil. Darkness is not a thing, but the privation of light. Coldness is not a thing, but the privation of heat. Evil is not a thing, but the privation of goodness. Evil is a parasite. It only exists because the good exists. Without some degree of goodness in it, a thing could not exist at all. This means that the devil himself is good insofar as he has Being. All Being is contingent on God who is Being. Even the damned in hell have goodness because they have Being. C.S. Lewis thought the existence of evil in the world was itself a good proof of God's existence. You cannot call something crooked unless you know what straightness is. Likewise, you cannot call something or someone evil unless you know what goodness is.

The poet Dante Alighieri is known for his Divine Comedy, but only the first part - the Inferno - has really made an impression on pop culture. Dante portrayed hell as being divided into nine circles. The first few circles are considered to inflict the mildest punishments. Those are where the damned suffer for the sins of wantonness. They sinned through failing to control their natural urges: lust, gluttony, avarice, and wrath. The objects are not disordered, but rather through weakness sinners fell into excess or deficit. The lower circles of hell are populated by those who willfully and consciously choose evil: the violent, heretics, schismatics, sodomites, blasphemers, usurers, suicides, profligates, sowers of discord, sorcerers, and thieves. In the frozen wastes of Lake Cocytus, traitors are tormented by the devil himself.

Why are all forms of fraud punished the most severely in Dante's work? Man is made in the image and likeness of God. God is Truth. Telling lies is thus a direct assault upon the image of God that exists in all of us. It injures that likeness in ourselves and to those whom we tell lies. Good and evil always begins in the will. All of us suffer from weakness of will. But fraud involves a deliberate decision to commit an act of malice. Eating, drinking, and sex can all be good things. They can become evil if we misuse them. Lying cannot ever be a good thing. Granted, not all lying rises to the level of mortal sin. A white lie, by definition, does not involve grave matter. But the lie is never good in itself, and no intentions or circumstances can make an act which is evil in itself good. And before you ask, no, not even in everyone's favorite example of hiding Jews in your basement from the Nazis.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

"No parishioners without a parish"

A common theme in the mainstream Catholic blogosphere is how terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad Traditionalists can be on the internet, or even in person. Generally it comes down to "A Trad once hurt my feelings so now I'm going to hurt theirs right back." When writers get into a high dudgeon about how mean and nasty Trads are, I usually respond with a simple "I have never experienced that of which you speak." All of the Traditionalists I've met in real life and on the internet have been courteous and eager to explain the many treasures of our Catholic patrimony which have been unnecessarily lost over the years. The first Traditional Latin Mass I ever attended was a weekday Mass at night in a bad neighborhood. A complete stranger came to me and my then girlfriend and asked us if it was our first time there. We said yes, and he gave us each a copy of the little red PCED booklets explaining the Mass and our responses. Perhaps it's a natural consequence of my mild and loveable personality,  but I've never, ever had a bad experience with a Traditionalist or a Traditionalist community. Even if I did have one, I think it would be silly for me to condemn everything  about them and refuse to ever consider the merits of their beliefs and practices (which are mostly the same beliefs and practices of our great-grandparents.) I largely read myself into the Catholic faith because the behavior of all the Catholics I actually knew was... less than edifying.

I will agree that Trads have an unfortunate tendency to keep to themselves. This is undoubtedly a leftover from the days when they were more viciously persecuted by Church authorities, but that was then and this is now. There was a time when we had to take extraordinary measures to ensure the preservation of Tradition. But we shouldn't settle for preservation; our goal should be to see Tradition restored. I was surprised at the number of my fellow young adults in Veritas who admitted that they do not have a regular parish. For some of them this is due to the nature of their jobs, but many of them are simply not registered anywhere. Given the mobility of most young people these days, the territorial organization of parishes might seem quaint or outdated. And there might be a good reason for you to attend a parish other than your geographical one; for example, in my geographical home parish it's been made very clear to me by various parties that "my kind" of Catholicism is not welcome there and good riddance to it, and that there would only be a celebration of the EF inside the church over their dead bodies. But you should be involved somewhere.

The form that involvement takes will depend on your individual talents. But it's important that we avoid a "lone wolf" mentality. The New Evangelization is as much an internal venture as external. Catholics who take the faith seriously enough to fulfill their Sunday obligation every week are usually eager to learn more about the faith. Trads should keep in mind that if they make use of the old disciplines and prayers, it's because God has decided we need the extra help. And if we're deriving good fruits from these practices, charity dictates that we should be happy to share them with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Trust me, I'm all too aware that parishes are still a mixed bag, especially in California. But for the sake of your spiritual life and for the restoration of the faith, you need to eventually pick one and stick with it.

Putin on the Ritz

Strange days when an ex-KGB man makes more sense than our own elected leaders:
The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.
Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multireligious country. There are few champions of democracy in Syria. But there are more than enough Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government. The United States State Department has designated Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, fighting with the opposition, as terrorist organizations. This internal conflict, fueled by foreign weapons supplied to the opposition, is one of the bloodiest in the world.
...No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists. Reports that militants are preparing another attack — this time against Israel — cannot be ignored.
It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it. Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan “you’re either with us or against us.”
But force has proved ineffective and pointless. Afghanistan is reeling, and no one can say what will happen after international forces withdraw. Libya is divided into tribes and clans. In Iraq the civil war continues, with dozens killed each day. In the United States, many draw an analogy between Iraq and Syria, and ask why their government would want to repeat recent mistakes. 
 ...My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.
The first generation of neoconservative intellectuals were largely former Trotskyites who rejected communism but never lost their appetite for revolutionary violence. These days one can make a pretty good living as a neocon columnist so long as you know how to make analogies. They don't have to be good analogies so long as you can compare something, anything to Munich. Or Ellis Island.

Putin's final paragraph is particularly offensive to pious neocon ears. They take it for granted that not only is America exceptional but that it is her God-given duty to police the world. The Iraq and Afghanistan debacles have not put a dent in their invincible self-confidence in the efficacy of warfare in solving all of the world's problems. It cannot be the case - it simply cannot - that American intervention in another country's internal affairs might leave them worse off than they were before. And who cares what happens to Middle Eastern Christians anyway?

Neoconservatives are America's House of Bourbon: they learn nothing and forget nothing.

Striking a blow against the Cathedral, one drone at a time

Roosh devises tactics to blunt one of the Cathedral's weapons:
Their attack depends on four factors:
  • A low-paid, liberal staff writer who wants to destroy a man’s livelihood either for laughs or to please her boss massa
  • A victim who had an impure thought that could be construed as “racist” or “misogynist”
  • Informal coordination between different blogs to juice a particular story for page views
  • Creating enough anger in readers so they act upon the perceived outrage
Their system is quite effective at reaching the desired end, but like all systems, there is a weakness. Can you spot it?

How They Can Be Beaten

The weakness lies in the original writer of the hit piece. Once the story goes viral, she is often forgotten, but it’s her where the counterattack can be successfully executed. There really is no point engaging the bot army because their numbers are more than 10,000 times ours. Any attempt to fight them on Twitter will result in defeat, especially when you consider that they have tons of soldiers with over 50,000 followers (I have less than 6,000).
There is also no point in attacking companies like Gawker, who earn millions of dollars a year and can withstand any criticism we throw at them. But the blogger making $30,000 a year, trying to eke out a living in New York City, with hopes of climbing up the career ladder once it’s clear she’s not talented enough to be a real writer, is very vulnerable to being even slightly attacked. Anything that damages her future employment chances will cause her grief, pain, and a decrease in income.
Twitter is a medium that is short and fleeting. Unless we can raise a huge rage army at short notice, which we can’t, there is little point using this medium to fight back. But there is a medium which lasts forever, and where numbers don’t matter as much. That medium is Google.
I have been successfully destroyed on Google. My name is linked to all sorts of negative material that ensures I will never get a corporate job again in my life. That’s fine with me since I make my living via other means, but that’s not fine for blog writers who still need to depend on corporate America. Little Susie is writing for Jezebel today, but she will have to change jobs at some point, meaning a Human Resources airhead will search for her name to make sure she is a proper fit for the company. What would be HR’s reaction if they google their promising applicant and find this?
 Heck, I write at least one blog entry per week that by all rights should get me blacklisted from ever working in the corporate world again (plus it's not like anyone has to work hard to learn my real name.) At some point, we, as a culture, decided that men should lose their livelihoods over the things they say outside of the office. There's really no such thing as a private life anymore. Did one of your friends post pictures of your rowdy weekend shenanigans on Facebook? Expect a pink slip to be waiting for you on Monday morning.

I'm no longer a seminarian, in part, because a priest I trusted betrayed my confidence by sharing a letter I had written to him with third parties. That's on me, to be sure, for putting my opinions in writing in the first place. Rather than slink away in silence however, I decided to double down and become even more vocal and more persistent. As I said to Roosh and and his readers, never, ever, ever back down when the Junior Volunteer Thought Police try to shame you into silence.

I don't mean you shouldn't ever change your mind if the situation warrants it, such as new facts coming to light or your argument being reduced to tatters. I mean that every time someone says, "You're a racist, sexist, homophobic, heteronormative, misogynistic, cis-gendered bigot!" you should answer with "What are you going to do hippie? Cry?" Or even better, inform them that you are deeply offended by their harsh language and demand that they apologize. That usually makes them back off. In their minds, to apologize is to concede defeat. This is why every four years we witness the pathetic spectacle of Republican candidates trying to prove a negative. "I'm not racist! I promise that my first appointment will be a one-armed black lesbian!"

Of course it's easy for me and Roosh to say stuff like that. It is damned near impossible for a writer to kill his career unless he willfully chooses to stop writing.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Beefy Levinson, New Evangelizer

I believe the decline in numbers of priestly ordinations over the last fifty years is due in part to blurring the distinction between the ordained priesthood and the priesthood of all believers. To put it another way, we Catholics have been clericalizing the laity and laicizing the clergy. Anything and everything done in the Church today is now called a ministry. My personal favorite - I am not making this up - is calling the janitors "ministers of sanitation." If everything is now a ministry, then the danger is that people will start to think of the priesthood as just one among many - ordained ministry. Don't misunderstand; lay employees and volunteers honorably serve the Church and God's people. Within the three major states of life - lay, priestly, religious - we may have a call within a call. A vowed religious may be called to the priesthood, but his primary vocation is that of a religious. A diocesan priest's primary vocation is to serve God's people in the parishes where he is appointed, but he may also be a seminary professor or a writer or speaker like Fr. Robert Barron. Likewise, some lay people may have a calling to serve the Church in a certain way be it as a catechist or a youth minister or an apologist.

But what is the lay vocation, properly speaking? Does it even make sense to speak of the lay state as a vocation considering it is the "default" into which all of us are born? Indeed it does. Religious orders are, by definition, apart from the world even if their charism involves active apostolates. They live in community and pray together. Parish priests can be active in the world but they are nonetheless tied to their parish and their diocese barring any release from their bishop. The responsibilities of the parish priest include a promise to recite the Divine Office every day which is usually an abbreviated form the Office that religious pray. Lay people live and work in the world. To use a martial metaphor, if the Church is God's army on earth then the laity are the enlisted soldiers. We are the tip of the sword, so to speak. Speaking of the human side of the Church, it is only through the prayers and contributions of the laity, either through time or treasure, that the Church is able to accomplish much of her charitable work.

As St. Paul tells us, the Body of Christ has many different members. Each part has a purpose. What would happen to the body if the eyes said "I don't want to see but to hear?" or the feet said "I want to be the eyes and see?" Earlier I mentioned the problem of clericalizing the laity. It is a good and laudable thing for lay people to directly assist the Church through taking jobs as secretaries, catechists, and such. Father can only hire so many people or handle so many volunteers. Our primary mission as lay people is to bring the Gospel into the workplace and the culture.

What does that mean? It doesn't necessarily mean you hang out in the break room on your ten and argue over the finer points of theology with your Protestant coworkers (although if you have the aptitude and desire to do so and they're willing to listen, go for it.) I strongly urge all Catholics to review and study their faith enough to be confident about the basics. Speaking from my own experience as a former heathen interested in joining the Church all those years ago, it was, no offense, like pulling teeth to get you people to evangelize me.

"Is it true you guys worship Mary?"

"Uh, I don't think so..."

"So why do you pray to her then?"

"Uh... uh... I dunno..."

Let me give you an example of how I've put the New Evangelization to action. This may scandalize you though. I've noticed that here in the United States almost everyone is a Puritan, even the Catholics, even the atheists. Where is it that young people congregate in large numbers? The bars, the pubs, the taverns. If I had a nickel for every patron who has said to me, "Wait, you can smoke and drink as a Catholic?" I could buy myself a fancy steak dinner. But how do you broach the subject of the Catholic faith to complete strangers who may or may not be in a drunken stupor?

The Church has a hierarchy of feast days and Holy Days. I often said to my friends, "Come! We must drink and celebrate for today is the feast of St. Cunegunda!" or whoever.

"Huh? Who's that?"

"Oh, you've never heard the tale of this outstanding saint? Let me tell you the story. We must head back through the mists of time to the 13th century, the greatest century..."

I love history and telling stories. I like to think it was through my love of history that God planted the idea of becoming Catholic in my heart. As John Henry Newman said, to be immersed in history is to cease to be Protestant. But not everyone has my gifts, and other people have gifts that I don't have. Ask yourself what you like to do, and then ask how you can use that for the good of souls. In some ways, lay people have more freedom than priests and religious. Lay people can move and work and evangelize in the world as they see fit (likewise, that immersion in the world carries with it more dangers than faced by priests and religious.) Make the most of it.

(cross posted at Catholic Veritas)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The one constant in American foreign policy

...is that Middle Eastern Christians are going to get massacred.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Al-Qaida-linked rebels have launched an assault on a regime-held Christian village in the densely populated west of Syria and new clashes erupted near the capital, Damascus _ part of a brutal battle of attrition each side believes it can win despite more than two years of deadlock.

As the world focused on possible U.S. military action against Syria, rebels commandeered a mountaintop hotel in the village of Maaloula and shelled the community below Wednesday, said a nun, speaking by phone from a convent in the village. She spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
Good on Rand Paul for pointing out that the US government is going to lend aid and comfort to men who shell nuns and orphans.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Killing the sacred cows of publishing

One of Vox's dread ilk brought this to my attention. Pretty much every chapter is gold so instead of block quoting the entire book, I will simply commend you to the text.

It's an exciting time to be a budding young writer. The old guard, in many ways, was more upset with Vox for being the bearer of bad tidings instead of his political views. There's something ironic about science fiction writers being so opposed to advances in technology. Someone should write a book.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Shut up and take my money


Hideo Kojima: "Gentlemen! How can we make Big Boss suffer even more in this game?"

Big Boss is like the classic Aristotelian tragic hero: a basically good man with a flaw that leads to his self-destruction.

Rex Mottram goes fourth

If you meddle with the Mass, the papacy will collapse:
A large part of so-called “conservative” Catholicism is committing a very serious error: in order to save what remains of the Catholic presence in the world, to render the mission of the Church stronger in secularized society, and faced with the moral weariness of many ecclesial sectors, it is making an effort to increase Catholic pride, by focusing totally on the Pope. Moreover, it is handling this attention on the Pope in exactly the same way as the newspapers, television and internet sites, who are extolling the humanity of the Pontiff, underlining with pride the popular interest in his person.  They are behaving in the exact same way as the world devoid of faith or not concerned with faith, with their descriptions of oceanic gatherings around the Vicar of Christ, of his impressive gestures and the controversial choices that he seems to be making.

No, it is not from the Pope that we need to start in order to save our Catholic life: in fact, not from the Pope at all, but from the Holy Mass, from the Holy Eucharist.

So that we can explain ourselves, we turn to one of the most important spiritual authors of the of the last century, Dom Chautard, Abbot of  Sept-Fons.  

In his text, Les cisterciens Trappistes, l’ame cistercienne, where he explains the Cistercian vocation, the Benedictine Abbott, at a certain point, describes the talk he had with the French Prime Minister, Clemenceau, the famous “Tiger”.  It took place during the years of the suppression of religious orders and when Dom Chautard was charged with the delicate task of saving the monastic presence in France.  Consequently, he found himself in a meeting with the radical and anti-clerical “Tiger:” 

We think it is of great use to translate and transcribe what the Abbot reports of  their conversation:

Don Chautard to Clemenceau: “I will set about answering your questions: What is a Trappist? Why did you become a Trappist? And in order not to overdo it, I will settle for this argument: a religion which has the Eucharist at its base, must have monks devoted to adoration and penitence.

"The Eucharist is the central dogma of our religion. It is called the generating dogma of Catholic piety. It is not the papacy, as you seem to think.

"The Papacy is nothing other than the word-bearer of Christ.  Thanks to the Papacy, the faithful keep the dogma and morality taught by Jesus Christ intact. It is this protection that keeps us on the right road, precisely marked out by our Divine Founder. But it is only Christ that remains, the Way, the Truth and the Life.

"Now, Christ is not a Being who disappeared someplace we do not know of, nor even the far away Being that we think of.  He is alive. He lives among us. He is present in the Eucharist. And this is why the Eucharist is the base, the centre, the heart of religion. From whence comes every life.  Not from anywhere else.

"You do not believe it. But we believe it. We believe firmly, resolutely, from the depth of our being, that in the tabernacle of each of our churches, God truly resides under the appearance of the Host.”

It is clear then, the central dogma of Christianity is the Holy Eucharist, everything starts from there, not elsewhere…and if faith diminishes in the central dogma, in the Holy Eucharist, everything in Christianity and in the Church will collapse. 

Has it not been like this these past years?
 Indeed. If you lose faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, then you have lost the Catholic faith in its entirety. The excessive focus on the person of the pope is a symptom of the Church's decades long meltdown. When EWTN was born in the United States, it quickly became the go-to resource for the orthodox Catholic faith. Getting into debates with my fellow Catholics on the internets quickly devolves into "My document carries greater Magisterial authority than your document."

Ultramontanism in the 19th century was born from political strife such as France's anti-clericalism or Italy's unification wars. Today's ultramontane moral relativism is rooted in the lack of leadership and the moral, theological, and liturgical anarchy that still reign in much of the Catholic world. If your pastor and your bishop are Modernists then of course you're going to focus on the person of the pope. Of course you're going to turn to resources like EWTN. When the late, great John Senior was asked why he attended an SSPX parish he replied, "If Weakland is in, then who's out?"

My heathen friends often say on Facebook that they love Pope Francis. "Really?" says I. "Which part of his encyclical do you like best? Or which of his public speaking really came out at you?" Silence. I expected as much from them. If you're going to make a big public show of how much you love a particular pope, then do try to love the pope and not your idea of him.

They learn nothing and forget nothing

House Speaker Boehner supports president's call to bomb Syria:
WASHINGTON — Speaker John A. Boehner said on Tuesday that he would “support the president’s call to action” in Syria after meeting with President Obama, giving the president a crucial ally in the quest for votes in the House.
Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the No. 2 House Republican, quickly joined Mr. Boehner to say he also backed Mr. Obama.
“Understanding that there are differing opinions on both sides of the aisle, it is up to President Obama to make the case to Congress and to the American people that this is the right course of action, and I hope he is successful in that endeavor,” Mr. Cantor said in a statement.
I, for one, don't see anything that could possibly go wrong with the US acting as Al Qaeda's air force in Syria. When this first broke into the news I wondered if Obama was secretly hoping that Congress would shoot him down so that he could take credit for wanting to do something while shrugging and saying his hands were tied. No one ever went broke overestimating the stupidity and cowardice of the Republican party.