Monday, December 29, 2014

Merry Christmas you filthy animal, and a happy new year

When I was a boy, my birthday and Christmas were occasions for indulging my youthful avarice: "I want rocket skates, and a laser rifle, and a breakdancing robot, and all of these video games I've written down here, and cookies, and candy…"

Now that I'm an adult, when my friends and family ask what I want for my birthday and Christmas, I reply, "Uhh… hell, I don't know. I could use some new socks, I guess. Maybe some whiskey. Somebody get me a pack of smokes too. I don't suppose anybody wants to pay one of my bills?"

My mother is the only immediate family I have left so Christmas has become a pretty sedate affair. We used to drive to Washington state to visit my maternal grandparents. I like Washington. It's rife with Godless heathens like California, but their political and cultural scene is much saner nonetheless. My grandparents lived way out in the sticks in the western half of the state. Green forests as far as the eye can see, cool climate, constant rain… I might retire there some day, assuming my generation ever can retire, heh.

Sometimes I describe myself as a "Christmas and Easter Trad." The FSSP parish in my diocese is a decent drive, so I go to the Novus Ordo on Sunday more often than not. But I always make the trip for Christmas and Easter Mass. I need the occasional homeopathic injection of Tradition in order to stay sane.

Today is the feast of St. Thomas Becket. If Holy Mother Church still did it like this, I imagine that Catholic politicians giving her the finger would occur much less often:

Monday, December 22, 2014

This day in history

On this day in the year 69, the Roman emperor Vitellius was captured and murdered at the Gemonian stairs in Rome.

On this day in 1216, Pope Honorius III issued the papal bull Religiosam vitam which approved the Dominican Order.

On this day in 1790, the Turkish fortress of Izmail fell to Alexander Suvorov's armies. Suvorov is one of the very few generals in history who never lost a battle in his entire career.

On this day in 1864, Savannah, Georgia, fell to William Tecumseh Sherman's army, concluding his infamous March to the Sea.

On this day in 1894, the Dreyfus affair began in France when Captain Alfred Dreyfus was wrongly convicted of treason.

On this day in 1944, German forces demand the surrender of American troops at Bastogne, Belgium, prompting General Anthony McAuliffe to reply, "Nuts!"

On this day a little over three decades ago, your not so humble host was born.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Is he solid?

There's a certain type of character you'll encounter if you spend enough time working with or for the Catholic Church. This character can be male or female, lay person, priest, religious, or bishop. They put in their 8 hours at the office. They do what's formally expected of them. But you get the impression that this is just a paycheck. They don't like discussing the faith after hours. They're just here to get things done, and they get irritated with "those people" who are al...ways complaining about irreverent liturgy here, or diocesan money supporting a pro-abortion company there. They find orthodoxy tiresome. Sometimes they actively undermine it because it's just too onerous for educated Americans who live a fast paced technological lifestyle, although they always furiously resent having their own orthodoxy questioned.

Religion is first and foremost about providing comfort to the people, then about doing charitable works. God is both our therapist and our cheerleader. They're glad, sometimes secretly, sometimes out loud, that Vatican II did away with all of that barbaric medieval nonsense about unbloody sacrifices, about sin, and hell, and demons, and any pretensions about the Catholic Church alone holding all necessary truths for salvation. That kind of talk would make us a laughing stock today. It's fine if a few reactionary fringes believe it privately, but they can't be allowed to become the public face of the Church.

That kind of character gets under my skin far more than any heretic, pagan, or Godless heathen ever could. They, at least, have the integrity to remain outside a Church whose tenets they don't believe. The Catholic who doesn't believe anymore but still collects a paycheck from the Church puts souls in danger of hell, most of all his or her own.

I've noticed that whenever Catholics meet a new priest, they always ask each other, "Is he solid?" What they mean is, is he orthodox and does he celebrate a reverent Mass? And I be over here like, "Shouldn't they all be like that? Shouldn't that be the bare minimum instead of a pleasant surprise?"

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Book Review: The Generals, by Thomas E. Ricks

Ricks is one of my favorite commentators on the American military. His book Fiasco probably did as much to turn American public opinion against the Iraq war as the nightly casualty reports on the news. The comedy of errors that was our adventure in Iraq beggars belief when you really study the personalities and lack of planning involved, but Ricks set it all down in black and white. His latest work on American generalship isn't exclusively or primarily about the 2003 Iraq war, but he shows that the incompetence of our current brass is rooted in the mistakes and personalities of the past.

Ricks begins by describing the American military experience in World War II. Only serious history buffs can usually name any American generals from that time besides Eisenhower and Patton. George Marshall is the closest the modern American military has to a founding father. It was Marshall's system of promoting and firing officers that turned the American armed forces from a third rate backwater to the superpower it is today. Marshall worked hard at remaining cold and impersonal. He never met or chatted with the president socially. He was ruthless in his drive to identify and promote those who could hack it in combat and fire those who couldn't. Marshall and his protégé Eisenhower wanted cool, calm, collected, cooperative team players above all else but who still maintained streaks of optimism and aggression. Marshall relieved some officers who probably didn't deserve it, but back then being relieved of your command wasn't the kiss of death for your career that it is today. It was a sign that the system was working. Men who were relieved often got a second or third chance to prove themselves too.

Some men had trouble fitting into this new paradigm, mainly George Patton and Terry Allen. Douglas MacArthur was the polar opposite of George Marshall, a bombastic, pompous, and increasingly erratic figure who was finally fired by Harry Truman because the Joint Chiefs of Staff didn't know what to do with him anymore. Unfortunately, MacArthur poisoned civil-military relations for decades to come.

The Army failed in Vietnam because it waged World War II style warfare against a 4GW style opponent. William Westmoreland - probably the most unimaginative American officer to ever wear stars - wanted "search and destroy" missions. He failed to realize that in Vietnam the prize was the people, not the terrain or even destroying the North Vietnamese army. The Marines were somewhat more successful because they integrated themselves into villages, making friends, learning the people's routines and thus quickly being able to identify strangers who were Vietcong.

The Army nearly fell apart after Vietnam and was rebuilt from the ground up by William DePuy, Huba Wass de Czege, and William Richardson. DePuy greatly strengthened the Army's tactical proficiency while Wass de Czege and Richardson founded the School of Advanced Military Studies which focused on teaching officers slated for the higher ranks how to think as strategists. Unfortunately, DePuy didn't appreciate the other two or the school they founded. This is reflected in many modern American generals effectively being jumped up battalion commanders. They're great tacticians most of the time, but few of them really know how to think at the operational or strategic level. That's why General Tommy Franks of the recent Iraq and Afghanistan adventures could be asked, "What kind of war are we fighting?" and he responded by describing how to clear a cave. It was a fine answer for a sergeant. From a general, it was astonishing.

The Army is a big institution, and like all big institutions, it tends to put its own welfare first ahead of its ostensible mission. Since World War II, almost all generals who have been relieved have been relieved by civilians, not their brother officers. The rotation system in particular has stymied effective military operations. By the time the officers and men come to fully understand their new environments, they're rotated out. Incompetent officers are left in place because they'll be rotating out anyway, and why bother with all the paperwork? It undermines unit cohesion and sometimes leaves outright criminals unaccountable for their actions. Officers come to "punch their ticket" for a combat tour, and rotate out. This is opposed to World War II where the only way soldiers went home was through Tokyo and Berlin.

These days, officers are generally only relieved because of personal peccadilloes that become public. When careerism waxes and accountability wanes, soldiers get killed. Marshall understood that the career of an officer is not worth the lives of his men. It's unfortunate the Marshall system has broken down. We've returned to our Vietnam type, expecting that moar dakka will fix everything. I hope the Iraqis have tasty cuisine, because a massive influx of Iraqi restaurateurs and cab drivers will be the only thing we gain from our recent adventures.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Traditional readings, Third Sunday of Advent

Philippians 4:4-7: Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice. Let your modesty be known to all men. The Lord is nigh.
Be nothing solicitous; but in every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasseth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
I'm always suspicious of Christians who go on and on about the joy of the Gospel. God wants us to be rich and successful and maniacally happy at all times, they tell us. Rejoice, celebrate, party hard, carry on! Those of us who are grim and reserved by nature, well we must be bad Christians then. The Gospel hasn't really taken hold of us. We lack faith. We make the little baby Jesus cry. The Joel Osteens of the world, they must not ever suffer or feel bad at all, so strong is their faith.

Scripture superficially supports the happy go lucky types. Today is also known as Gaudete Sunday, taken from today's epistle: Gaudete in Domino semper. Doesn't St. Paul himself tell us to rejoice always in the Lord? I think the words "rejoice" and "joy" are becoming as abused as the word "faith." Many people, even many Christians, believe that faith means to believe in something without any evidence at all to support it. The Church has never held to this definition of faith, going so far as to anathematize those who claim the existence of God cannot be proven through reason alone. The theological virtue of faith means accepting truths solely upon the authority of the God who has revealed them.

When St. Paul tells us to rejoice in the Lord always, does that mean we should always be partying hard? Not necessarily. We may feel emotional joy in the fact of our baptism and being in a state of grace, but such emotions are generally gifts from God. We can't manufacture them at will. Everyone suffers and everyone feels bad from time to time, even and especially Catholics. The joy of the Gospel consists partly in rejoicing in our suffering. We have hope in God and hope for paradise where every tear will be wiped away and there will be no more death. As far as the Godless heathen is concerned, suffering is just one damned thing after another. The Christian suffers but he has faith that the God who loves us won't test us beyond our endurance.

John 1:19-28: And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent from Jerusalem priests and Levites to him, to ask him: Who art thou? And he confessed, and did not deny: and he confessed: I am not the Christ.
And they asked him: What then? Art thou Elias? And he said: I am not. Art thou the prophet? And he answered: No. They said therefore unto him: Who art thou, that we may give an answer to them that sent us? What sayest thou of thyself? He said: I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Isaias. And they that were sent, were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said to him: Why then dost thou baptize, if thou be not Christ, nor Elias, nor the prophet?
John answered them, saying: I baptize with water; but there hath stood one in the midst of you, whom you know not. The same is he that shall come after me, who is preferred before me: the latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to loose. These things were done in Bethania, beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. 
Humility is one of the greatest of Christian virtues. Christ tells us, "Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart." Unfortunately, humility has a bad reputation these days. We think being humble means being a door mat. We think of the humble man as one who neurotically runs himself down, who never stands up for himself or speaks out when the situation warrants it. The humble man is the beta male, the runner up, the good sport who doesn't care about winning or losing. Sounds like a nerdy loser, right?

That's not how the saints understood humility. Humility means recognizing yourself for what you truly are. What are we compared to God? We are weak and sinful creatures. We are incapable of performing meritorious good works without the grace of God. It's God who leads us to prayer, to fasting, to all virtue and holiness. Humility means acknowledging that we are as nothing compared to God, and yet still he loves us and takes care of us. Because we are made in his image and likeness, no human life is worthless or useless. Our fallen nature often rebels at submitting to earthly authority, let alone the authority of God. The saints tamed their egos through mortification. Mortification can take many forms: fasting, abstaining from harmless goods, wearing hair shirts, keeping silent, forgiving injuries, etc. The idea behind mortification is to strengthen our will and our spirit to be more devoted to the things of God. We see the spirit of mortification live on in an increasingly secular world. How many people diet and subject their bodies to rigorous discipline because they want to look beautiful on the outside? Are we going to do less to look beautiful on the inside?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The torture report, or the seamless garment of death

One of the devil's greatest tricks is getting us to sin without ever giving us the thing we are willing to sin for. The torture report tells us that not only did we end up torturing innocent men (ice baths, 60+ hours of standing sleep deprivation, rectal feeding, etc.) but the bad guys didn't even give us actionable intelligence. The American Right, still in the thrall of neocons for whom it is always 1938 and everyone is Hitler, says the Democrats are at fault for handing our enemies a propaganda victory.

The Obama administration is reluctant to use the word "torture," and it's inconceivable that they will hold anyone in the torture regime responsible for their actions. So he's pro-abortion and pro-torture by default... a seamless garment of death.

I'm old enough to remember a time when you could think of the United States as basically a good nation that, for all its blunders, had its heart in the right place. I grew up with Ronald Reagan, the shining city on the hill, Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall, and so on. I remember when the Evil Empire dissolved on Christmas Day 1991 when the Soviet flag was lowered from the Kremlin for the last time. Nothing in this world is all together evil since our being is sustained by the God in whose image and likeness we are made. But the United States did serious evil under George W. Bush and it's unlikely Barack Obama or any future president will hold anyone accountable for that evil.

We like to think of ourselves as so much freer, smarter, more tolerant, more liberal, and just plain better than our savage ancestors. We like to tell ourselves that we've transcended the old superstitions and ideologies that led to the Holocaust or the Communist bloodbaths. It's a bad joke when we consider the bins of slaughtered infants or the dozens of men whom we subjected to torture. We haven't transcended the past. Transcendence can't happen without repentance.

Fake but accurate

Does anyone else remember the 2004 election when Dan Rather was busted for using fraudulent documents as the basis for a major story, and how he defended himself by claiming the documents were "fake but accurate?" We all had a good laugh at his expense and he ultimately lost his job.

With the UVA rape story turning out to be a hoax, Lena Dunham exposed as the white Tawana Brawley, and the media penning non-ironic editorials about how the truth and the facts don't matter because social justice, it turns out Rather was simply too far ahead of the curve. Sure, innocent men may have their lives ruined, but as another great Social Justice Warrior once said, you can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs.

Monday, December 8, 2014

On the Immaculate Conception

Today is a Holy Day of Obligation, so Catholics need to go to Mass. The Novus Ordo readings include the account of Adam and Eve partaking of the forbidden fruit. God punishes the serpent thus:
Then the LORD God said to the serpent:
“Because you have done this, you shall be banned
from all the animals
and from all the wild creatures;
on your belly shall you crawl,
and dirt shall you eat
all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike at your head,
while you strike at his heel.”
That is the New American Bible translation. The venerable Douay-Rheims puts it like this:
And the Lord God said to the serpent: Because thou hast done this thing, thou art cursed among all cattle, and beasts of the earth: upon thy breast shalt thou go, and earth shalt thou eat all the days of thy life. I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.
The Latin says "ipsa" and so is rendered "she" in English. Some of the Fathers read it as "ipsum," or "he." In the latter sense, it is the woman's seed, Jesus Christ, that will crush the serpent. In the former example, the woman, understood to be the Virgin Mary, is the one who crushes the serpent. It's an old chestnut of Protestant polemics that Catholics worship the Virgin Mary. Whatever virtues Mary possesses come from the unique graces she received from God. Whatever homage we pay to the Virgin Mary is reflected upon her son, Jesus Christ, from whom all virtue springs.

The way I describe the fall of the angels to children is thus: "God, in his infinite power and wisdom, showed his entire plan of salvation to his angels. Being of preternatural intelligence, angels understand everything at once as opposed to us natural human beings who learn things through linear progression. Lucifer was the most beautiful and powerful of the angels. When he heard that the angels were expected to be helpmates to human beings, when he saw that God would become incarnate and be born through a woman, he balked. 'You expect us magnificent angels to bow down before these... these filthy apes whom you've made from the mud and the slime?! Non serviam!' It was then that St. Michael the Archangel bellowed, 'Who is like God?!' The war in heaven ended when Michael grabbed the traitor Lucifer and power-bombed him spine first onto a fire hydrant so hard that he and his fellow rebels were sucked all the way down into the fiery pit where they remain to this day."

Tradition holds that what really ground Lucifer's gears was the idea that a human woman was to be the greatest of God's creatures. It was offensive enough to him that God was to become man, but to expect that he, Lucifer, would acknowledge a creature to be greater than himself was too much. Anecdotes from exorcists suggest that demons particularly hate invoking the intercession of Mary. She is the greatest of saints and her intercession is uniquely powerful among the saints. If you think loving Mary detracts from the love of God, remember that it's impossible for any of us to love her as much as her son Jesus Christ loved her. Catholics are not bound to believe private revelations, but when the Church hold that private revelations such as Fatima or Lourdes are "worthy of belief," the wise Catholic will listen to what Mary tells us.

This year marks the 160th anniversary of Pope Bl. Pius IX's proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Today is also the 150th anniversary of that same pontiff's "Syllabus of Errors." The Syllabus isn't dogma, but one dearly wishes churchmen still talked like Pio Nono.

Seasons Beatings: Be There or Go to Hell!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Sexodus, or: People respond to incentives

From the comments at Dalrock's blog comes this story from Breitbart:
"My generation of boys is f**ked," says Rupert, a young German video game enthusiast I've been getting to know over the past few months. "Marriage is dead. Divorce means you're screwed for life. Women have given up on monogamy, which makes them uninteresting to us for any serious relationship or raising a family. That's just the way it is. Even if we take the risk, chances are the kids won't be ours. In France, we even have to pay for the kids a wife has through adulterous affairs. 
"In school, boys are screwed over time and again. Schools are engineered for women. In the US, they force-feed boys Ritalin like Skittles to shut them up. And while girls are favoured to fulfil quotas, men are slipping into distant second place.
"Nobody in my generation believes they're going to get a meaningful retirement. We have a third or a quarter of the wealth previous generations had, and everyone's fleeing to higher education to stave off unemployment and poverty because there are no jobs.
"All that wouldn't be so bad if we could at least dull the pain with girls. But we're treated like paedophiles and potential rapists just for showing interest. My generation are the beautiful ones," he sighs, referring to a 1960s experiment on mice that supposedly predicted a grim future for the human race.
After overpopulation ran out of control, the female mice in John Calhoun's "mouse universe" experiment stopped breeding, and the male mice withdrew from the company of others entirely, eating, sleeping, feeding and grooming themselves but doing little else. They had shiny coats, but empty lives.
"The parallels are astounding," says Rupert.
Asking "What's wrong with young men?" has become a cottage industry since the recession began in 2008. Amusingly, many of the stories are framed as, "Get over it, men! Those young ladies need husbands!"
Social commentators, journalists, academics, scientists and young men themselves have all spotted the trend: among men of about 15 to 30 years old, ever-increasing numbers are checking out of society altogether, giving up on women, sex and relationships and retreating into pornography, sexual fetishes, chemical addictions, video games and, in some cases, boorish lad culture, all of which insulate them from a hostile, debilitating social environment created, some argue, by the modern feminist movement.
You can hardly blame them. Cruelly derided as man-children and crybabies for objecting to absurdly unfair conditions in college, bars, clubs and beyond, men are damned if they do and damned if they don't: ridiculed as basement-dwellers for avoiding aggressive, demanding women with unrealistic expectations, or called rapists and misogynists merely for expressing sexual interest.
 I like to think I've contributed in some small way to correcting one of these problems. I've told the girls at LifeTeen that whether they decide to marry or enter religious life, they're going to be asked out by many guys in the mean time. If they're just not feeling it, then kindly reject him. Don't get onto social media and be all, "OMG a total creeper harassed me today!!!"
Meanwhile, boys are falling behind girls academically, perhaps because relentless and well-funded focus has been placed on girls' achievement in the past few decades and little to none on the boys who are now achieving lower grades, fewer honors, fewer degrees and less marketable information economy skills. Boys' literacy, in particular, is in crisis throughout the West. We've been obsessing so much over girls, we haven't noticed that boys have slipped into serious academic trouble. 
I was fortunate that my high school offered a mix of traditional literature in English along with the nascent multiculti propaganda. College, in contrast, was much worse. You could practically see the guys deciding that reading was for chicks and fags. Granted, I have a financial interest in urging more people to read, but it's sad to think the classics of the Western Canon are going untouched because of bad experiences in high school or college. Heinlein probably doesn't qualify as great literature, but I guaran-damn-tee boys would much prefer to read him as opposed to Barbara Kingsolver or Maya Angelou.
Men say the gap between what women say and what they do has never been wider. Men are constantly told they should be delicate, sensitive fellow travellers on the feminist path. But the same women who say they want a nice, unthreatening boyfriend go home and swoon over simple-minded, giant-chested, testosterone-saturated hunks in Game of Thrones. Men know this, and, for some, this giant inconsistency makes the whole game look too much like hard work. Why bother trying to work out what a woman wants, when you can play sports, masturbate or just play video games from the comfort of your bedroom?
This one is easier to solve: pay attention to what women do, not what they say. Whenever a woman states an opinion, mentally tack on, "...right now," to the end of her sentences, i.e. "I believe divorce is a bad thing... right now."
Jack Donovan, a writer based in Portland who has written several books on men and masculinity, each of which has become a cult hit, says the phenomenon is already endemic among the adult population. "I do see a lot of young men who would otherwise be dating and marrying giving up on women," he explains, "Or giving up on the idea of having a wife and family. This includes both the kind of men who would traditionally be a little awkward with women, and the kind of men who aren't awkward with women at all.
"They've done a cost-benefit analysis and realised it is a bad deal. They know that if they invest in a marriage and children, a woman can take all of that away from them on a whim. So they use apps like Tinder and OK Cupid to find women to have protected sex with and resign themselves to being 'players,' or when they get tired of that, 'boyfriends.'"
Extramarital sex is not an option for serious Catholics. Otherwise, I really can't conceive why Godless heathens bother with marriage at all anymore. Civil marriage isn't even a contract when one party can unilaterally dissolve it on a whim. Divorce will financially destroy a man for the rest of his life in most cases. The mother will almost always get the children unless she explicitly says she doesn't want them. I agree it's tragic that so many young men believe being players or permanent boyfriends are their only options. I laugh (because otherwise I'd cry) when the usual suspects say that men need to man up. If you're serious about encouraging young men to get good jobs, marry, and have children, then we need to completely reform our socio-economic paradigm. Because where feminists and white knights see a bunch of immature boys, I see men responding rationally to the incentives of the modern world.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Book Review: Live Free or Die, by John Ringo

This is a good old fashioned hard science fiction novel. Hard SF is difficult to do well. I've read lots of hard SF that was bad. It generally contains stuff like this:

"Hey professor, are we ready to head off to Alpha Centauri?"
"We certainly are. As you know Bob, we've made remarkable breakthroughs in interstellar travel thanks to work done in the early 21st century by JPL and its dedicated team of scientists such as..."

Bad SF uses its characters as mouthpieces to provide infodumps. At the other end of the spectrum, soft SF and space operas are essentially fantasy stories that take place in the future or in outer space. They seldom go into great detail about how their superior technology actually works. The Star Wars movies are space opera; the films don't explain how lightsabers work or go into much detail about what "hyperspace" is and how it allows them to travel faster than light. Star Trek is soft SF; once in a while an episode will focus on some technical problems the crew is facing, always solved with technobabble.

Hard SF is speculative about science as we currently know it. It takes currently existing technology or what we know about physics in the 21st century and extrapolates it further, whether by decades or centuries. It's difficult to do well, and even if the author fails, he failed while attempting something great. Live Free or Die isn't great but it's a fun read.

Humanity's first contact with extraterrestrial life comes when the Glatun federation builds a "gate" inside our solar system that allows any other species in the galaxy to travel to earth via other gates. The Glatun only want peaceful trade. The Horvath, on the other hand, show up and declare that humanity works for them now. We are to turn over our precious metals or face annihilation. Enter Tyler Vernon a crusty old computer tech, who accidentally discovers a resource on earth for which the Glatun will pay handsomely. Vernon becomes the richest man on earth and uses his newfound wealth to begin constructing weapons that will enable humanity to shake off Horvath rule.

Even the aliens use technology that is reasonably extrapolated from what we currently have. The Glatun, for example, have implants in their brains that basically give them access to the extraterrestrial version of Google. Vernon's crowning achievement is a new space station the size of the Death Star. To acquire the necessary power to mine asteroids for precious metals, his company builds an array of solar powered lasers. Throughout the novel is a 1940s-50s style can-do attitude. The Horvath have seemingly invincible superiority, but we won't go down without a fight.

The dialogue and infodumps can be dry in places, but it succeeded in filling me with a sense of wonder and optimism about what humanity can achieve. As we're living through the self-inflicted fall of Western civilization, I need all the good escapism I can get.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The problem with Francis

"Woe to you when men shall bless you: for according to these things did their fathers to the false prophets." - Luke 6:26

Many of my Godless heathen friends have spoken about how much they love Pope Francis. Just now I saw one of them praise him in a Facebook update, specifically how the pope said atheists can be saved if they do good works. I presume she was referring to this old story. The patheos Pollyannas were quick to leap to the pope's defense, declaring no, he couldn't possibly have said anything like that. It was a translation error and he was only making the nuanced point that if non-Christians are invincibly ignorant and live according to the Natural Law as best they can discern through the lights of their own reason and conscience they can go to heaven. And besides, Pope Francis is a genius at evangelization, something all of you stupid, hateful, evil bigoted Reactionaries hate! You hate your neighbors, you hate Jews, you're schismatics, and you're not as humble, faithful, and eager to share the faith as us! Excuse me, I was channeling Mark Shea there for a minute.

Leaving aside that specific example of the pope's logorrhea, we've seen other examples of Godless heathens praising Francis to the skies such as Elton John and the Advocate magazine. Is this love for Francis motivating them to repent, confess or be baptized, become a formal member of the Catholic Church, and live lives of virtue and holiness? It's possible that it could happen. The example of St. John Paul II has demonstrably inspired conversions. Or is Pope Francis popular with the world because they believe, rightly or wrongly, that he's one of them? That he has to say certain things in public for the sake of us rubes who actually believe this stuff, but he does it with a wink and a nod toward our progressive overlords?

Francis does not inspire confidence. Whenever he appears in the headlines my first thought is always, "Oh God, what has he said this time?" I stand by my earlier assessment: he's a bog standard liberal Jesuit who has a fierce contempt for anything or anyone that smacks of pre-Vatican II Catholicism.

Traditional readings for 1st Sunday of Advent

What goes unsaid eventually goes unthought, which is why I appreciate the prayers of the old Mass so much. Yesterday's Collect:
Stir up thy power, we beseech thee, O Lord, and come: that from the threatening dangers of our sins we may deserve to be rescued by thy protection, and to be saved by thy deliverance: who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
Compare that with the Novus Ordo Collect for yesterday:
Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God, the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming, so that, gathered at his right hand, they may be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom. 
This pattern holds throughout the year: the old Mass frequently beseeches God to deliver us from our sins and always has our judgment in mind. The Novus Ordo seldom mentions such things. The first traditional reading comes from St. Paul's letter to the Romans:
Brethren, knowing the season; that it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep. For now our salvation is nearer than when we believed. The night is passed, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day: not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and impurities, not in contention and envy: but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Advent emphasizes the two senses in which we await the coming of Christ: in the weeks before his Nativity, and the end times before his Second Coming. It's not as severe as Lent, but Advent is traditionally a penitential season where we are expected to increase our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Every day of Advent brings us closer to the coming of Christ in both senses of the term. Paul urges us to give up the works of darkness because even if the Second Coming isn't happening any time soon, our personal judgment at the moment of our death can come when we least expect it.

The traditional Gospel reading comes from St. Luke:
At that time, Jesus said to his disciples: And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea and of the waves;
Men withering away for fear, and expectation of what shall come upon the whole world. For the powers of heaven shall be moved; And then they shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud, with great power and majesty. But when these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand. And he spoke to them in a similitude. See the fig tree, and all the trees: When they now shoot forth their fruit, you know that summer is nigh;
So you also, when you shall see these things come to pass, know that the kingdom of God is at hand. Amen, I say to you, this generation shall not pass away, till all things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
The Catholic religion is by nature something of a reactionary enterprise. Doctrine develops, sure, but the New Testament is rife with warnings to Christians to pass on the faith exactly as they received it. Jesus says that heaven and earth will pass away, but his words never will. Paul urges us not to believe any new doctrine even if it ostensibly comes from an angel. The first coming of Christ was in the humblest of circumstances: a stable or a cave. There will be no mistaking his second coming. And that's why Holy Mother Church traditionally urges us to greater works of prayer and penance during this season. At least she used to anyway.