Saturday, November 15, 2014

Are Pope Francis’ defenders missing the point?

If you haven’t been following the story of Cdl. Raymond L. Burke’s transfer from Cardinal Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura (the High Court of the Catholic Church, if you will) to Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta … well, I can’t say as I blame you. Overall, the reactions have been a classic illustration of the Catholic Circular Firing Squad back in action: traditionalist overreaction, liberal jubilation, and my little group of ultramontanists — to be honest — somewhat missing the point.

There’s some fun to be had watching the Vatican Follies, and speculating over what happens backstage and in the wings. Nevertheless, I agree with Simcha Fisher: there’s much too much agonizing over the shambling monster Frank Weathers is pleased to call the KasperBurke.

A “Calamitous Pope”?

Michelle Arnold of Catholic Answers recently made the excellent point that to call St. John Paul “the worst pope ever” is to show an appalling ignorance of papal history. Similarly, to imply that Pope Francis is “calamitous”, as Rorate Caeli has done in a post uncritically copied and pasted by other rad-trad blogs, is to exaggerate hysterically.

But in our zeal to defend the orthodoxy of Papa Bergoglio against the cheers of the left and the jeers of the right, I’ve begun to think that we’ve discounted criticism we should be listening to, whether we agree fully with it or not. To put it differently, it’s past time for the honeymoon to come to an end and face the reality of Francis’ reign.

This started for me when The Blogger Who Must Not Be Named wrote a piece about the facepalm-inducing, completely Holy-Dude-what-were-you-thinking selection of Cdl. Godfried Danneels for the Synod on the Family — an appointment that could only be overshadowed in insensitivity by nominating Fort Lauderdale mayor Jack Seiler to head up the Office of Papal Charities. Whatever the choice says about Francis’ orthodoxy, it was a bonehead play.

A Pope Divided Against Himself

Cardinal Francis George, the soon-to-be archbishop emeritus of Chicago, recently said in an interview, “[The pope] says wonderful things, but he doesn’t put them together all the time, so you’re left at times puzzling over what his intention is. What he says is clear enough, but what does he want us to do? … I’d like to sit down with him and say, ‘Holy Father, first of all, thank you for letting me retire. And could I ask you a few questions about your intentions?’”

This lack of clarity at times becomes a distinct lack of consistency. One of the most damaging remarks Papa Bergoglio made was in the midst of the La Civiltà Cattolica interview last September:

We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. ... 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.

Sadly, this isn’t an issue of translation. Rather, it’s the current Bishop of Rome validating the media-created impression that “the bishops don’t talk about anything else”, now a stock canard among progressives. From that interview, it was quickly spun from a mild negative observation into a more-or-less positive instruction to shut up. For example, in Rachel Zoll’s recent AP post about conservative US bishop dissatisfaction — evidenced mostly by out-of-context quotes — the reporter writes, “The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and individual church leaders have dedicated increasing resources over the years to the hot-button social issues the pontiff says should no longer be the focus [emphasis mine.—ASL].”

And yet, within days of the reprint of the interview in America magazine, Francis let loose a blast at abortion … ironically, just as NARAL was rolling out a meme thanking him (Marc Barnes’ response is still a treasure). It’s almost as if he were trying to create consensus by alternately indulging and criticizing each side. The overall impression it creates is of a man internally pulled in conflicting directions.

Lost in Translation Issues

Speaking of translation, the Pope’s problems in the Sala Stampa proceed unchecked. The head of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, is a holdover from the reign of Benedict XVI who took over from St. John Paul’s press chief, Joaquin Navarro Valls.

Even during Papa Bene’s reign, there were complaints from the Catholic chatterati about Fr. Lombardi’s judgment; a stellar example was the decision to release the pages from Light of the World: A Conversation with Peter Seewald in which Benedict appeared to have endorsed the use of condoms (at least by gay prostitutes). Now, however, it seems Fr. Lombardi either has lost control of the operation or is in active connivance with certain elements bent at manipulating the media.

For one thing, the controversial mid-synod relatio was so little reflective of the actual discussions taking place that Bp. Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan called it a “prefabricated text”. Then, when the final relatio was released, it included “for information purposes” three paragraphs that had failed to achieve the required two-thirds consensus. Next, while the Italian translation appeared almost immediately, the English translation — the one with presumably the widest impact on the world — didn’t appear for two weeks. When it did, there was a disturbing omission in the text: a clause that speaks of support for the family “founded on the marriage between man and woman”.

While Francis can speak English, he’s reportedly not very fluent in it. In the modern papacy, that’s a vulnerability; and it appears to Robert Royal someone is exploiting it:

Even if this is merely a slip, I personally am not much reassured. It means that the whole Vatican apparatus for translating and carefully reviewing sensitive documents is unreliable, at best.
There’s a simpler explanation, I’m afraid. Among the current uncertainties in the Church, the “mistranslations” have all leaned in the last two years in the direction of progressive views. That certainly tells us something.

Bishop Schneider’s claim of manipulation of the Synod process appears accurate. What good reason could there be for not publishing the entire proceedings? … The argument that keeping them private would promote free and open discussion is not self evidently true. If anything, it was probably thought to promote the interests of those who produced the suspect interim report, and then wanted to keep the small group discussions private.


It’s tempting to blow off these analyses — especially considering the comments in Dr. Royal’s combox, some of which verge unto sedevacantism (how many times does it need to be said that St. Robert Bonaventure’s obiter dictum on heretical popes is neither infallible dogma nor canon law? that it doesn’t give anyone the spiritual authority to “unseat” the reigning pontiff?). However, neither author is disrespectful of Francis or of his actions. Like Cdl. George, they’re simply wondering: What the heck is going on in Francis’ mind? What are his real intentions?

It’s been suggested that we look at Francis’ actions rather than his words. Unfortunately, appearances can still be deceiving; looking at Cdl. Bergoglio’s tenure as archbishop of Buenos Aires only tells us what resulted, not what was intended — the former doesn’t necessarily follow from the latter.

It also does no good to ask, even rhetorically, “How many converts has Pope Francis made?”, or to point out dramatically, as Inés San Martín does, that Francis’ popularity isn’t stopping the exodus of Latin Americans from the Church. No one pope, no matter how saintly or impeccably orthodox, can single-handedly fix all the Church’s internal problems, or completely undo the damage done by an increasingly secular and hostile external metaculture. He needs our help more than he needs our criticism.

But it would be nice if we had some clear direction, rather than contradictions and an unseemly talent for vituperation.

Trust and Prayer

This is not a jump onto the “Badmouth the Pope” bandwagon. As my Catholic Stand colleague Matthew Tyson says, the best response to the KasperBurke is to trust the Pope. Moreover, we should trust in the Holy Spirit Who guides and leads the Church (John 14:26, 16:13), and in Christ’s promise to St. Peter that “the gates of Hades shall not prevail against” his Church (Matthew 16:18-19). What should be coming from our hearts is prayer, not a bunch of God-I-hate-Bergoglio smack talk.

Nevertheless, the Pope is a human being, too. When we fail to recognize his faults and failings, it does as much injustice to him as it does to refuse to allow him faults or failings. The pope is protected from teaching error in matters of faith and morals; he isn’t protected from sin or bad judgment.

No, Francis isn’t the worst pope ever. But he’s yet to show he’s the best possible pope we could have under the circumstances.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Beast writer confuses snark with legal analysis

A Steaming Pile of Outrage Porn

Imagine you’re Crash Davis. Yes, the minor-league baseball player memorably portrayed by Kevin Costner in Bull Durham. You know you’re not going to make it to the big leagues. You even know your team is unlikely to win in the minors. But you’re a professional, and you give it all you’ve got.
This, it seems to me, is the position of Appellate Judge Jeffrey Sutton, a respected conservative thinker who’s unlikely to make it either to the Supreme Court bench or the right side of history when it comes to same-sex marriage, but who is still a judge’s judge, a consummate professional. What would you do?

This lede, from Jay Michaelson’s “All The Wrong Reasons To Ban Gay Marriage” in The Daily Beast, tells us exactly where the author is going … and it’s going nowhere pretty. Instead of offering a thoughtful deconstruction of Judge Sutton’s majority opinion in DeBoer v. Snyder, he’s going to whine, snark and ad hominem Sutton to death.

Granted, so much is to be expected from anyone who deliberately writes for The Beast, one of too many e-zines that exist simply to grunt out steaming piles of outrage porn for the consumption of a polarized, perpetually angry public. Writing for these vendors of schlock journalism must be easy — all you have to do is emote for 1,500 words or so.

But whine, snark and ad hominem arguments aren’t legal analysis. I don’t mean they’re not legal analysis because they come from a journalist or a blogger; I mean they’re not legal analysis even if Justice Anthony Kennedy does it, as he did in United States v. Windsor (2013). Whine, snark and ad hominems are a feature of playground name-calling, which is often interchangeable with political rabble-rousing and (unfortunately) certain brands of comedy.

The “Counter-Majoritarian Force” Fallacy

Let’s begin with a paragraph from Sutton’s majority opinion that ought to be uncontested wisdom:

Of all the ways to resolve this question, one option is not available: a poll of the three judges on this panel, or for that matter all federal judges, about whether gay marriage is a good idea. Our judicial commissions did not come with such a sweeping grant of authority, one that would allow just three of us — just two of us in truth — to make such a vital policy call for the thirty-two million citizens who live within the four States of the Sixth Circuit.

Here, in just eighty-six words, is crystallized the central objection so many people have to judicial activism, whether it be on behalf of the left or the right: the courts’ power of judicial review does not exist to pass judgment on the moral imperatives of the public. The question in such legal matters is whether a law transgresses the bounds of the Constitution, not whether they offend the refined sensibilities of the judiciary.

But Michaelson isn’t having any of it:

First, and least convincingly, the court argues that it is better “to allow the democratic processes begun in the states to continue” debating the merits of same-sex marriage, rather than “take a poll of the three judges on this panel.” As noted by Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey in dissent, this is an outrageous position. The whole point of courts is to be counter-majoritarian, i.e., to interpret the constitutional principles that constrain majorities from oppressing minorities.

This is false: The whole point of the courts is to apply the law. Occasionally, the law that must be applied is the Constitution, which is “the supreme Law of the land”; only when federal or state laws do transgress that “supreme Law” are courts properly counter-majoritarian. By Daughtrey’s (and Michaelson’s) rationale, no one on the left should have a problem with the frustration of the will of the majority and the protection of minorities from oppression in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (2014); the whole point of the “counter-majoritarian force” theory is to prop up results-first-premisses-to-follow judicial intervention.

Raging Bullshit

As shallow and wrongheaded as the “counter-majoritarian force” argument is, at least it has the merit of appealing to a legal theory. Not so with Michaelson’s next argument:

Next, the court makes a totally different argument: constitutional originalism. The claims about democracy and precedent vanish from Judge Sutton’s opinion, which now observes that “From the founding of the Republic to 2003, every state defined marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman,” and concludes that “the Fourteenth Amendment permits, though it does not require, states to define marriage in that way.”
Wait, what? From the founding of the Republic until 1967, many states defined marriage as a relationship between two people of the same race. Does that mean that the Fourteenth Amendment permits states to define marriage in that way?
Of course not. This is why “originalism” is so beloved of cultural conservatives: All it really means is “keep the status quo.” By originalist logic, segregated classrooms, compulsory prayers in school, and bans on contraception are all magically constitutional, simply because they were present in some older time of yore. (Of course, the same logic would forbid corporations from making political donations, but originalists somehow don’t get around to that point.)

In these three paragraphs, Michaelson turns into a raging demagogue, pressing all sorts of buttons to reach past our critical apparati and yank our emotional reflexes. Originalists, you see, are big meanies who like to kick puppies and make children cry for fun; given their way, they’ll march us right back to the days of Jim Crow and “in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant”. Without going off into multiple sidebar discussions on any of the individual points, it still remains that this argument piles together several bugaboos into one massive red herring.

However, Judge Sutton’s argument isn’t ideologically conservative but rather pragmatically conservative. The point of judicial restraint is that, if our society is going to change, that change should be organic and empirical, not imposed by a judicial élite working from an abstract theory of “what ought to be”.

The most outstanding example of judicial adventurism is Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857), which attempted to force a resolution on the question of slavery based on a bad interpretation of property rights, and instead insured the eventual outbreak of the Civil War, over a hundred years of sectional mistrust, and racial antipathy. Equally devastating in its own way was Roe v. Wade (1973), which created a right to abort out of thin air and remains hotly contested. And in years to come we may all learn to regret Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2009), which expanded the concept of corporate personhood. To date, few supporters of judicial activism have come to grips with the enormous social and economic costs that have been incurred by jurists reading their ethoi into the Constitution.

The latter case demonstrates another point: progressives should fear judicial activism. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — for all their triumphalist talk about “the inevitable march of progress” and the “right side of history”, any setback will find liberals openly fearing that the toothpaste can and will be put back in the tube.

And well they should. Theoretically, an activist judiciary riddled with social conservatives could roll back whatever changes progressives like. The likelihood of a modern conservative activist judiciary rolling back Brown v. Board of Education (1954) or Griswold v. Connecticut (1967) is so slender as to be non-existent; however, Roe, Windsor and arguably Lawrence v. Texas (2003) would make the short list. It’s precisely the pragmatic, “don’t rock the boat” restraint that has saved Roe in the past.

Imposing Judicial Morality

These are merely the most egregious errors. I haven’t touched, for instance, on Michaelson’s irrelevant traipse over the “biblical value” of polygamy to dismiss natural law arguments offhand as “codswallop”. (Polygamy isn’t a “biblical value”; it was merely a fact of early Hebrew society that the Jews eventually gave up.) Michaelson’s post is simply too long — and too riddled with meretricious badmouthing — to warrant further attention.

Rather, the whole of Michaelson’s rant can be summed up thus: “The courts shouldn’t impose conservative morality and values on us; they should impose progressive morality and values on us.” That the courts ought not be in the business of imposing any values other than those “we the people” have written into the Constitution — which is what originalism is really about — is a position Michaelson has yet to comprehend.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

To a friend who is leaving the Catholic Church

A Hard Saying

I so totally admire your love of the Catholic Church Tony. I am saddened that some of the rules I can not live with and will be joining a Lutheran one that will accept me.
What could I say? Facebook is where I keep in touch with my family and friends; I don’t go there to engage in verbal fisticuffs or stand on my soapbox. And yet, I can’t help feeling the answer I gave — “Forget it, lady. You gotta do a lot worse than that to lose my friendship” — was well-meaning but unsatisfactory.

I suppose I could have been a smartass and built some quibbles based on the precepts of the Church or on canon law. But either of those sallies would have ended in an exasperated “You know what I mean!”

In fact, I do know what you meant, my friend. It’s not really the rules you can’t live with, but rather some of the teachings. It isn’t a question of whether the Catholic Church accepts you: she does, and always has. Rather, it’s a question of what you accept — or, rather, what you reject.

You’re not the first person to abandon the Church over a teaching that sticks in the craw. Read the “Bread of Life” discourse (John 6:22-66): as Jesus insists that “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (v. 53), his verbs in the Greek become more graphic, switching from phagō (to eat) to trōgō (to chew, or gnaw like an animal). At the end of it, many of his disciples leave him, telling themselves and each other, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (vv. 60, 66)

Monday, October 13, 2014

What’s procreation got to do with sex?

Have you seen this child lately?

Ask a Stupid Question

I wouldn’t blame you if you don’t believe me. I neglected to save the link, so I can’t prove it happened; I can’t even remember which blog it happened on (either Creative Minority Report or The American Conservative … I think). But, in the midst of a discussion a few years ago — was it about gay marriage? abortion? — an apparently intelligent and educated woman asked, in all seriousness, “Who said reproduction has anything to do with sex?”

I know — “You honestly expect us to believe that? Seriously? No one’s that dumb!”

Truly, most people, when they’re thinking about it, know that you don’t get pregnant from germs spread around the office, or from a bad batch of chicken or kale you bought at Walmart. Parents who don’t stop having children, like Damien and Simcha Fisher, can testify to this common knowledge from the many stale repetitions they get of the fake-hearty jab whenever a new baby is on the way: “You do know what causes that, don’t you?”. And God knows how many times I’ve heard other people jovially refer to the act as “making babies”, even when creation of a newborn was the last thing the participants wanted.

And yet ….

If you really pay attention to arguments concerning abortion, contraception, gay marriage and other pelvic issues, you do get the sense that many people believe reproduction to be incidental to sex, even accidental, rather than its biological raison d’être. You ever notice how many times they refer to penises and vaginas as if they were the only sexually distinct organs, as if testes and uteri had no known function to fill? And that they mention ovaries only to rhyme with “rosaries”?

In less than one hundred years, we have gone from accepting pregnancy as the natural consequence of sex to regarding ourselves entitled to sex without consequences … at least, those we don’t want just right now. So powerful is this sense of entitlement that we’re driven to treat reproduction as an unnatural “occasional side effect” of sex, or even as a disease. Reality must not be allowed to intrude upon our human right to get our freak on.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Pope Francis, Islam and jihad

A troubling passage in Evangelii Gaudium

Andrew Bieszad, a scholar on Islam, seems to believe Pope Francis is teaching error — or, at least, opiniones intolerata — about the “Ishmaelites”:

For Islamic scholars, there is a statement in the apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, which is particularly troubling:
Faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalisations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence. (p. 253)
As the situation in the Middle East escalates, and the violence of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) spills rivers of innocent Christian blood, this statement seems incongruous with reality.

From Bieszad’s perspective, Francis is apparently taking an attitude not taken by our forefathers in the faith; to assert this, Bieszad not only quotes the defiance spoken by a big handful of martyrs, but also theological heavyweight Saints John Damascene, Thomas Aquinas, and Alphonse Ligouri, not to mention latter-day hero Hilaire Belloc. If Bieszad doesn’t go so far as to call the pope a heretic, he does manage to imply that Francis is both wrong and a Neville Chamberlain-type appeaser.

The funny thing, though, is that the Islamic scholar doesn’t directly dispute Francis’ assertion, “authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence,” with any citation of the Koran or mainstream Islamic scholars. Rather, he seems content to let the juxtaposition of Francis’ words and ISIS’ deeds do the work for him.

Another funny thing: When I began writing about eleven years ago, I was initially writing to defend the Catholic faith against the slanders and misunderstandings of Protestants and non-believers. Now, I spend an increasing amount of time correcting fellow Catholics. And thereby hangs a point.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Free-market economics and bad philosophy

Reading doctrine through ideological glasses

The most pervasive problem facing the Catholic Church in America today is our predilection for reading both Scripture and Tradition through ideological glasses. If bad philosophy leads inevitably to bad science, it leads even more quickly to bad theology.

The left has a history of trying to reconcile Catholicism with socialism, even Marxism, despite the explicit condemnations of various popes beginning with Bl. Pius IX (cf. Syllabus of Errors). The right’s version sometimes goes so far as to baptize Randian objectivism — to which Ayn Rand herself would  have objected — but more often settles for its own version of the “health and wealth gospel”; i.e., invocation of free-market capitalism.

As I’ve outlined before, “cafeteria Catholicism” on the right tends to play a game I call the “appeal to theological weight”. If a citation of pope or dicastery runs counter to a free-market position, the tactic is to claim it sits on a level of theological certainty low enough that a Catholic of good conscience can dispute or ignore it.

Even when the authority of a document, such as Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum, is treated as authoritative, it’s creatively interpreted so that all the troublesome bits get ignored. For example, read this post in Ethika Politika, in which Gabriel S. Sanchez takes Joe Hargreaves to task for his sins of omission.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Praying for Obama

Is he really praying? Does it really matter?

Respecting the President’s Name

Living in Texas, I often have occasion to reflect on Elton John’s satirical “Texas Love Song”. The link takes you to a live version of it performed in Austin, possibly the bluest city in Texas, in 1998, with Sir Elton’s pre-performance caution, “Don’t be offended.” Probably they weren’t; many square miles of Texas hold people who still wouldn’t recognize the song as satire, and the people of Austin most likely hold them in as much contempt as did lyricist Bernie Taupin.

One line especially stands out to me right now: “And kids still respected the President’s name.” Personally, I can’t think of a single POTUS whose name was universally respected in his lifetime; even ol’ George Washington came in for some calumny during his second term, and didn’t achieve veneration second only to the Blessed Virgin Mother until some years after he passed. When Taupin wrote the song, the President was Richard M. Nixon, who had succeeded Lyndon B. Johnson — ’nuf ced; hippies weren’t totally to blame.

Still ….

Father Erik Richtsteig at Orthometer and I have a couple of things in common: 1) We’re both friends of Katrina Fernandez (and, I believe, Frank Weathers); 2) We’re both Knights of Columbus. Yesterday, attending the Knights’ annual convention in Orlando, he posted on his status:

The cold silence didn’t bother me; that was possibly the least disrespectful thing the Knights could have done in response to Pres. Obama’s message. Nor did the reactions of Fr. Erik’s followers, which all told wasn’t a Facebook “two-minutes’ hate” so much as an all-day grump, bother me … except for one:

“Let his days be few; and let another take his office.” Brrr, yikes.

Friday, August 1, 2014

McDonald’s and the Screwing of the American Worker

Protesters outside of McDonald's Oak Brook, Ill. HQ,
20 May 2014. (© Fast Food Forward)
McDonald’s is facing more problems … and I’m not referring to their relatively disappointing revenue performance. Or their ill-considered sponsorship of VH-1’s absurd time-slot filler Dating Naked.

No, the new problem is that, on Tuesday, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the Golden Arches could be named as “joint employer” in a number of workers’-rights complaints against franchise-owned stores. AP’s Candace Choi tells us that the franchisees aren’t happy about it either. “If franchisors are joint employers with their franchisees, these thousands of small business owners would lose control of the operations and equity they worked so hard to build,” said a statement released by the International Franchise Association. And that’s no small source of worry, because franchisees have little control over their operations and equity to begin with.

For those of you without any QSR experience, let me give you my perspective on it: In one way, buying a franchise is like buying a house —the only thing you really own is the promissory note you signed for the loan. On the other hand, there are significant differences: In your house, you can have the décor, the furniture, the food and the clothes you like. When you’re a franchisee, you’re not really your own boss; the major difference between you and a regional manager is that you have assets at risk.

General managers (the ones who run individual stores) see it clearly. Choi’s story mentions the frequent visits corporate reps make “to check up on how franchisees are running restaurants, including by standing outside the drive-thru to time how quickly cars go through. Said longtime employee Richard Eiker, ‘Managers go crazy when corporate comes in for these inspections.’”

They do; I know.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Why I’m neither a conservative nor a liberal

The other night, I ran across a headline in my Facebook feed which said that Michele Bachmann had suggested the children of illegal immigrants be put into labor camps. I forgot my own rule and “shared” it; in mitigation of my own stupidity, I did ask that someone tell me the story was a distortion of something she actually said.

Not fifteen seconds after “sharing” it, I came across a status update from Simcha Fisher that said in essence, “Stop sharing the Michele Bachmann story. It’s a satire.” Quickly I took it down and replaced it with an apology and Tom McDonald’s meme (left).

Minutes later, a friend of mine who’s a member of the Omaha tribe posted yet another headline, in which Ted Nugent allegedly called Native Americans “vermin”. I told Verdel (my friend) what had just occurred with me, giving him a “heads up” that the story might not be what it appeared. In fact, it seems that the quote may have been taken out of context, and Nugent’s organization has posted an official denial on his website. I’m willing to give Nugent the benefit of the doubt because I distrust journalists more than I dislike him.

It’s not just liberals who do this. Just over a month ago, I debunked a clip that took a couple of phrases spoken by Pres. Obama in his Address to European Youth out of context, mashed them together and created a Hitleresque sentiment that, on his worst, most careless day, the man would never say in front of cameras. (He may or may not think like that, but he’s too smart a politician to ever publicly say it.)

Once upon a time, the self-dubbed electronic journalists of the new media loudly proclaimed that they would keep the mainstream media honest. Unfortunately, all they seem to do now is make the MSM look honest by comparison.

Friday, July 18, 2014

“The Mass of All Time”: Epilogue

No accounting for taste

De gustibus non est disputandum has been loosely translated as, “There’s no accounting for taste.” But when we say it like that, we imply flippantly that someone has chosen to pursue a godawful aesthetic choice despite our best efforts to point them in the right direction.

Unless there’s some objective criteria to which both sides agree, then no dispute over tastes can ever be resolved — you like what you like, and there’s an end of the matter. No matter how detailed your technical analysis, you’re not going to make a Billy Joel fan give up “the Piano Man” in favor of Elvis Costello, or force a person to get more pleasure out of listening to Metallica than to Barry Manilow. Concerning tastes there are no common grounds for disputation, and therefore no hope for resolution: you’re arguing for the sake of being ornery, that’s all.

Now, I’m not such a naïf as to believe that Anthony J. J. Mathison’s essay, which I’ve posted over the last four days, is The Last Word on the Novus Ordo Mass. People have been writing Last Words on topical issues since people have had writing, and the disputes have gone merrily on despite such thunder from the rostrum. The same is true for Catholics; we never resemble sheep so much as when we go astray, each of us turning to his own way (Isaiah 53:6). Rome may have spoken, but not everybody gets the memo that the case is now closed.[*]

What Mathison has done is clear the field of some errors, both historical and liturgical. This gives us room to consider the debate between traditionalists and “neo-Catholics” on grounds other than that of aesthetic “taste”, if you will.