Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Book Review: The Five Beasts of St. Hildegarde, by Reid Turner

Apocalyptic predictions have always been with us. Maybe it's my imagination, but it seems like more and more people sense that something has gone astray in the world. To those with even a modicum of historical knowledge, civilization has been going downhill for a long time. Families are dissolving, the mass migration of Third World peoples is creating strains on the resources of the First World countries they are mass invading, and trust in political leaders and institutions is at an all time low. Author Reid Turner graciously sent me a complimentary copy of his book, The Five Beasts of St. Hildegard: Prophetic Symbols of Modern Society, in which he examines the prophecies of the eponymous saint, elevated to the rank of Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012.

Hildegarde's date of birth is unknown, but she wrote one of the largest bodies of letters to survive the Middle Ages. Blessed with mystical visions since childhood, Pope Eugenius III believed they came from the Holy Spirit and gave her his blessing to record them for posterity. Turner focuses on her visions of the end times as told in Part III, Chapter 11 of her work Scivias. By their very nature, mystical visions can be difficult to explain, but Turner's sobering commentary explains how well this one matches to the last 140 years or so of Western history.

Hildegarde speaks of five "ferocious epochs of temporal rule," that presage the coming of the Anti-Christ. Each epoch was symbolized by a beast. The first is the fiery dog, corresponding roughly with the period from 1870 to 1914. This time was characterized by people with biting temperaments, that burned with passions for their personal causes but not for God's justice. The second period is that of the yellow lion, from 1914 to 1945. The countries of the West would be eager for combat but the long drawn out conflict would weaken and tire them as the color yellow began to show.

The time of the pale horse, from 1945 to 1991, was a time when the people, tired of war, began to drown themselves in lust and licentiousness. This was, of course, the era of the Sexual Revolution and all of its destructive consequences for the hardiness of the West and the health of the Church. The fourth era is that of the black pig, from 1991 to the present. It's characterized by leaders who wallow in the filth of corruption and impurity. The pale horse represented fatigue after the cultural and sexual excesses of the times, but with the black pig, the hippies of the 60's have grown up and control the Establishment now. They happily diverge from the commandments of God and the natural law in their public positions.

The final era is that of the grey wolf. We have not reached it yet, but Hildegarde describes it as a time of even greater social unrest before the coming of the error of errors: the anti-Christ. She said that the people will "rob and plunder" each other, neither black nor white but grey in their cunning, dividing and conquering the rulers of the realms. Each animal is portrayed as having a black rope in its mouth, symbolizing the people's attachments to that era's particular sin. The grey wolf is different however: it's rope has strands of black and white. The white strands symbolize that there is hope in this era; some people will still hold to the true faith and resist the evils of their time through ardent wonders.

This book, like most Catholic apocalyptic works, makes for a sobering read. When we think of the end times, we imagine it mostly in Protestant terms. Not even most Catholics know about the rich theology and mystical works concerning the end times that are part of our heritage. Turner's book whets the appetite for those who would like to know more. I recommend it.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

"A government of laws and not men"

As much as I like John Adams, he was only half right when he portrayed a government of laws and not men as the ideal. Laws are written, interpreted, and enforced by men. For example, there is ample evidence that the authors of the 14th amendment did not intend for it to enable chain migration and birthright tourism. The Founding Fathers surely did not intend for the federal government to become the gargantuan monster it is today, and yet here we are.

I alluded to it in my previous entry, and I will expand upon it here. Modernity presents us with a choice: either enforce the laws exactly as they are written, or else we will descend into barbarism and anarchy as everyone ignores whatever laws they dislike. In practice, everyone knows that doing the right thing sometimes means defying the law, whether it's the Fugitive Slave Act, Jim Crow, or Roe v. Wade. Liberals cheered for Gavin Newsom when he ordered San Francisco county clerks to issue marriage licenses to sodomites in defiance of Proposition 8. At Nuremberg, the West decided that "I was just following orders," is not a license to do evil.

Civilized society rests on the bedrock of natural law. It's well and good to enforce the laws exactly as they are written, but even then they will not and cannot be equally enforced. Laws against trespassing do not equally apply to us both if you are the homeowner at 1 Elm Street and I am not. Government simply is authoritative discrimination in favor of one alternative instead of others. Our representative republican form of government discriminates against those who would prefer a Catholic monarchy. Liberalism discriminates against those men who would be happier living like vikings: looting, pillaging, and raping.

Don't misunderstand: other things being equal, I believe laws should be enforced as they are written. But in the everyday messiness of human life, our rulers have to make authoritative discriminations at the level of particulars. With apologies to the prophet Chesterton, a man who doesn't believe in the natural law doesn't believe in no law, but he will believe in any law.

Since laws are enforced by men, it behooves us to ensure that we are ruled by good men.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

No sir, that is an unlawful order and I will not obey

Kim Davis is the first of what will be many I hope. Not that I hope more Christians go to jail because I think they should uphold laws enforcing sodomite "marriage," but that they go to jail because they refuse to compromise their convictions. You know how sick American Christianity truly is when even self-professed Christians demand that Davis carry out an unlawful order.

Every time some case like this comes along, the legal positivism bandwagon clatters through town. Goodthinkers argue that clerks and other public officials must - they absolutely must - uphold the laws exactly as they are written no matter their "personal feelings." The personal feelings line is actually meant to discourage us from doing any hard thinking on whether there is a conflict between the positive law and the natural law.

Ironically, there is nothing in the United States Constitution or any statute anywhere in the English speaking world that states we must embrace legal positivism. It's actually a fairly recent innovation in Anglo-American judicial philosophy, and not one that is without critics besides religious wacko extremists like me.

The natural law is the necessary basis of positive law:
1959 The natural law, the Creator's very good work, provides the solid foundation on which man can build the structure of moral rules to guide his choices. It also provides the indispensable moral foundation for building the human community. Finally, it provides the necessary basis for the civil law with which it is connected, whether by a reflection that draws conclusions from its principles, or by additions of a positive and juridical nature.
Other things being equal, we have a moral obligation to obey civil laws even if our rulers are wicked. We may elect the cryogenically frozen brain of Hitler president, but we still have to drive on the right side of the road. However, that obligation ceases and we gain a moral obligation to disobey any civil law that purports to contradict the natural law. "I was just following orders," is not a valid excuse to do evil.

The choice that is presented to Christian public officials - either enforce the law or resign - is a false dilemma that begs the question. There is no problem if you do not presuppose legal positivism. The left-liberal option of jumping out of the positivist frying pan and into the emanating post-modern penumbral fire is also false. Both represent attempts to push the natural law outside of the Overton Window and replace it with the Nietzschean will to power.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Only Nixon could go to China

Pope Francis unilaterally grants the SSPX faculties for the Year of Mercy:
The Society of St. Pius X learned, through the press, of the provisions taken by Pope Francis on the occasion of the upcoming Holy Year. In the last paragraph of his letter addressed September 1, 2015, to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, the Holy Father writes:

«I establish that those who during the Holy Year of Mercy approach these priests of the Society of St Pius X to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation shall validly and licitly receive the absolution of their sins.»

The Society of St. Pius X expresses its gratitude to the Sovereign Pontiff for this fatherly gesture. In the ministry of the sacrament of penance, we have always relied, with all certainty, on the extrdaordinary jurisdiction conferred by the Normae generales of the Code of Canon Law. On the occasion of this Holy Year, Pope Francis wants all the faithful who wish to confess to the priests of the Society of St. Pius X to be able to do so without being worried.

During this year of conversion, the priests of the Society of St. Pius X will have at heart to exercise with renewed generosity their ministry in the confessional, following the example of tireless dedication which the holy Curé of Ars gave to all priests.
Since Vatican II, Catholics have taken great pains to speak of Protestants and the Orthodox as our separated brethren, whereas before we called them heretics and schismatics. It's been mostly a one sided love affair, but ecumenism is a huge industry within the Church so it's not going away any time soon, alas. However, when it came to the SSPX, even the most liberal Catholic ecumaniacs became the second coming of Pope Innocent III, hurling thunderous anathemas and interdictions from on high and loudly demanding that the SSPX submit to the pope's authority and repent in sack cloth and ashes. Would that they were so eager for obedience to the papacy in other matters.

It's obvious by now that Pope Francis is a liberal who doesn't care to get into the finer points of doctrine. Time and again, conservative Catholics have wound up with egg on their faces when they denounced a liturgical abuse - such as washing women's feet on Maundy Thursday - only for Pope Francis to do it himself. Ironically, because he doesn't care all that much about doctrine or canon law, Pope Francis has pretty much brought the SSPX back into the Church's good graces. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to revoke their faculties once the Year of Mercy is over barring any major transgressions by the SSPX.

Whether he did this with full knowledge beforehand or unwittingly, Pope Francis has done a good thing here. Here's hoping the SSPX is fully integrated into the mainstream Church; she desperately needs a homeopathic injection of that old time Tradition.