Monday, February 28, 2011

Get a job!

I love blogging. This is what I was meant to do.

Unfortunately, to keep doing it, I need to eat and pay bills.

So for the next couple of days, I'm going to take a "blog break" to concentrate on getting a job that pays. From here on out, don't expect Monday posts from me unless I can write them on Sunday. But keep tuning in to here and The Impractical Catholic as I continue to laugh, rage, despair, rejoice and pray over the insanity we call Western civilization ... which, as Gandhi said, would be a good idea.

How the next civil war will begin

On April 12, 2011, it will be 150 years since the opening shots were fired on Fort Sumter, marking the beginning of the bloodiest conflict in American history—the Civil War.

Today we stand poised on the brink of an even greater disaster. For over forty years, the pro-life movement has largely defined itself in its opposition to abortion, although a host of other issues have come in its wake, issues the movement was prepared to fight: euthanasia, assisted suicide, eugenics, in vitro fertilization, fetal stem cell research. But it appears now that the knock-out punch, the key victory the “culture of death” needs to reign triumphant, is going to come from the direction we were least prepared to fight.

That issue is gay marriage.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

So just how far have we progressed?

Thursday, I ended my post with the example of Caesar’s wife. This morning, after a night of simmering and fretting over the not-distant-enough collapse of Western civilization (God, I would love to be Chicken Little rather than Cassandra!), I started thinking of the conditions that obtained in 59 BC, when Julius Caesar, having finished a frustrating and not entirely successful consulship trying to work around his obstructive junior consul Marcus Bibulus—people would end up joking about events taking place “in the consulship of Julius and Caesar”—rode off to Gaul and his destiny.

The day he left, the Roman Republic had only fifteen years to live.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Sticking a fork in Virginia's abortion industry

Rock and a hard place. Devil and the deep blue sea. Hobson’s choice. Use whatever cliché expression you will—that’s where the pro-abortion forces find themselves in Virginia.

In chess, the knight is a particularly useful piece because of a placement called the “fork”. In a knight fork, the knight is placed so he can attack two or more of the opponent’s pieces—say, a rook and a queen, or the king and a bishop—simultaneously, forcing the opponent to save one and lose the other. This is particularly effective when one of the pieces being forked is the king, due to the priority of check: because the knight is so difficult to block, the king has to move.

On Thursday, the Virginia legislature approved a measure that would require abortion clinics to meet the same minimum health and safety standards required of a hospital. According to AP reporter Dena Potter, this would force seventeen of the state’s twenty-one clinics to close. Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate, and Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, whose Catholicism Potter found some obscure reason to mention, will sign the bill into law.

Here’s the fork: Do abortion advocates promote safety at the risk of losing access, or promote access at the cost of appearing to not much care about unsanitary clinics and women damaged by the procedure?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Lies and Lila: Caesar's wife

The opening volleys of the “Lies & Lila” battle were almost deafening. Now, it’s settled down to riflemen in single-shot mode, with the occasional rattle of a machine gun. But it’s still a battle—worse, it’s a blue-on-blue incident.

Last Friday, Mark Shea titled his second National Catholic Register blog entry on the controversy “Last Comments on Lying for Jesus”. Then, he felt compelled to make additional remarks on Sunday (“Faustian Bargains”), and again on Wednesday (“Augustine vs. the Priscillianists”). So one of his respondents on the latter’s combox accused him of lying on Friday.

This issue has gotten touchy enough that even a lightly flippant remark can spin off into a round of squawking and squabbling. For all that we’re supposed to practice Christian charity in our remarks, some of the defenses on both sides have become rather acidic — and, by the way, I repeat my apology for my impatient and unjust treatment of Dr. John Zmirak’s argument in defense of Lila; it has since been corrected. Shea, who can be rather snarky to people whom he’s arguing with, senses this, and has toned down his rhetoric … to not much effect.

Satan must be laughing his ass off right now.

Fish need bicycles

It’s been around a century, more or less, since Sigmund Freud threw up his hands and asked the question all men have asked since Adam bit the apple: “Woman: what does she want?”

The answer appears to be that women don’t really know, either.

On Saturday, the online edition of the Wall Street Journal published an extract from Kay S. Hymowitz’s Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Turned Men into Boys, under the title “Where Have The Good Men Gone?” And, as Jennifer Fulweiler reports in her blog on the National Catholic Register, “Only hours after it was posted, it had 300 comments, most of them from men who basically said: ‘Right back at’cha.’ They wanted to know where all the good women have gone.” (The extract has been “liked” over 60,000 times as of this writing.)

According to Hymowitz, women are no longer satisfied with “guys”, i.e. men in their twenties and thirties stuck in an “Animal House” mindset, not really caring about careers, content to spend long hours at the PlayStation with their buddies, drinking beer and downloading internet porn … “a hybrid state of semi-hormonal adolescence and responsible self-reliance” now being called “pre-adulthood.”

Men aren’t completely satisfied with it, either.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Getting our priorities straight

Over the last hundred years, under the malign influence of Madison Avenue, we’ve managed to corrupt the concept of “need” almost beyond repair.

Take a look at the Bowflex doing duty as a coat rack in your rumpus room. You don’t have the discipline to do free sit-ups every day for six weeks; what made you think you had the discipline to do the dozen or so exercises on that thousand-dollar machine for the same length of time? But it looks cool, the pitchperson promised “fast results”, so you said not “I want this” but “I need this!” Now you have a household traffic obstruction and a beer-keg belly.

(I’m not blaming pitchpersons; my cousin by marriage, Laura Kristi, has done a few commercial shoots herself.)

Welcome to the wonderful world of social engineering, where various enterprises of dubious morality routinely screw up our priorities by transforming our desires into psychologically completing must-haves. We never knew how empty and unfulfilling our lives were until we learned about the Sham-Wow. Just how did we manage to survive so long as a species without the ability to surf the Web and video chat from the most barren spots in the US?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Forgiving the Unforgiveable

I’ve been robbed at gunpoint twice in my life. In both cases, the perpetrators were black men. Some months after the second episode, I learned that one (white) friend had told another, “Well if he doesn’t hate black people now, he never will.”

I never will.

One of the things I’ve learned in my life is that I own my reactions. I don’t have to yell back when I’m yelled at; I don’t have to insult when I’ve been insulted; I don’t have to be hurtful when I’ve been hurt. My control isn’t complete; my temper still occasionally gets the best of me … but not nearly as often as when I was ten years old. The “serenity prayer” helps.

I don’t believe in a “victim discount”. Anger doesn’t justify an unjust dislike of a whole class of people. Being hurt by Person A doesn’t make an automatic distrust of Person B rational simply because the two share some accidental commonality. My having been a victim doesn’t excuse me from exercising my share of the seven virtues to the best of my ability … or praying to God for assistance when that “best” falls short.

I bring this up not to boast—“See what a wonderful person I am!”—because I’m still very much a “work in progress”. Rather, I’m trying to explain why I get impatient with some of the public actions and words of SNAP and their counterparts.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Save the heathens!

In response to “A house divided”, BetternBefore writes:

This probably is all over my head. Is it wrong for me to question why Catholics (or Mormons for that matter) would want to legally force non-Catholics like me to produce unwanted children? Did I misunderstand when I was thinking the objective was for the number of Catholics to grow? With the overpopulation of this planet continuing, you can’t possibly want more of us heathens around.

I actually welcome the question, because it provides me the opportunity to bring together some threads of thought from earlier posts. It also gives me an opportunity to practice charitable responding, because BetternBefore is a friend of mine, whom I cherish and respect.

To recapitulate: “A house divided” noted that most successes of we call (pace Ven. John Paul II) the “culture of death” have come from a divide-and-conquer strategy of pushing different agenda items at different times. The Pill made it possible to finally disconnect three human activities—sex, reproduction and marriage—which need to remain connected, even when looked at from purely non-religious anthropological grounds.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Lies and Lila: Constructing a "just lie doctrine"—UPDATED

I have what I hope will be my final thoughts on the issue here. But, as Harry S. Truman said, "Never say 'never', 'cause never's a helluva long time."
*     *     *

The law falls silent in the midst of arms.
The mere fact that war has broken out does not mean
that everything becomes licit between the warring parties.
Gaudium et Spes, 79 § 3 (cf. CCC 2312)

For the last two weeks, the Catholic blogosphere has been rather turbulent with the burning question: Were Lila Rose and LiveAction justified in securing the videos exposing some of Planned Parenthood’s corrupt activities through pretense? Is lying justified in the fight against abortion? Is it ever justified?

A quick survey of the answers:
  • Reginaldus, New Theological Movement: It’s a sin to lie, even to Planned Parenthood. (Note to self: never embed your conclusion in your title.)
  • Carolyn Moynihan, Mercatornet: Entrapment is too much of a sticky wicket; even MSM journalists are backing away from it.
  • Richard Collins, Linen on the Hedgerow: Of course you may lie; you can be a saint and lie. (See the note under Reginaldus.)
  • Christopher Tollefson, Public Discourse: A movement built on truth shouldn’t win its victories by lies.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why does a good God allow suffering?

In an email I received just today, a non-Catholic friend of mine reported, “A very good friend of mine, her dad’s a rancher, & he fell off a flatbed truck & broke his neck & is mostly paralyzed now & in terrible pain constantly now, next week moving from rehab to the VA. It’s heartbreaking. Very hard on my friend. What can prayer do for that, huh?”

Before you get huffy, let me tell you that the question wasn’t meant to be sarcastic. I don’t know, and won’t presume to guess, where she is on her spiritual journey. But she is respectful of other religions, even as she struggles with the tough questions … as do we all, if we possess sufficient reflection.

The problem of suffering is one such question: “How can a benevolent God allow people to suffer?” In fact, if you equate suffering with evil, you can see it ties into the logical problem of evil. At some point, every philosophical and religious system must directly deal with suffering and give some answer to it; otherwise, it’s not worth holding.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What shall we do with the bishops?

What’s the point in having a “church”?

Well, part of it is to enable community worship of God. But only part. The other part is fully expressed in Jesus’ words to the Eleven: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations …, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20) ….

That’s “teaching them”, not “telling them to figure it out for themselves”. Jesus taught one gospel message, not six or seven billion.

Right from the Pentecost, the followers of “the Way” split into two separate groups: disciples and apostles. “Disciple” comes from the Latin for “student”; the student’s role is to learn. To execute that role faithfully, the disciple learns what is taught … not what he wants to learn, not what he thinks the teaching ought to be.

“Apostle” comes from the Greek for “one who is sent forth as a messenger”; the messenger’s role is to pass on the message. To execute that role faithfully, the messenger must transmit the message sent … not what he thinks it ought to be, not what suits the audience’s preferences.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Hoping without reason

Officially, Lent doesn’t begin this year until March 9. But for Catholics in America, especially in Philadelphia, it’s already started.

The release on Thursday of the grand jury’s findings in re the investigation into the handling of sexually abusive priests has the usual gang of idiots shouting the usual irrelevant “solutions”: end celibacy, throw away the Novus Ordo Mass, ordain married/women/gay priests, jettison Vatican II … yadda, yadda, yadda. No doubt that ambulance chaser Jeff Anderson and his journalistic sock puppet Laurie Goodstein will reveal that Pope Benedict XVI was behind the whole thing, their conspiracy theory based on some innocuous letter that mentions him in passing. We also have the über-Evangelicals crying that the whole mess proves the Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon, atheists chortling over another bit of evidence towards religious hypocrisy, the professional victims of SNAP spending more time venting their righteous rage than actually helping anyone recover … in sum, a lot of people talking to hear their heads roar, as my father (God rest his soul) used to say.

Meanwhile, the decent, churchgoing faithful in the City of Brotherly Love stumble around, frightened, fearful, anguished, angry—betrayed. Dear God, please wrap them in Your loving embrace, and give them healing with Your Spirit.

I’m angry, too. Again. I’m especially disappointed at Cdl. Justin Rigali, whom I had thought was one of the new breed of bishops we’ve needed for so many years, but who placed too much trust in a Secretary of the Clergy who was too damned dumb to realize the game has changed. (+Rigali turns seventy-five this year, and will be required to submit his resignation as Archbishop … just one more bishop leaving under a cloud.)

Dear Lord, forgive my impatience; for in railing against fools, I become a fool myself.

Monday, February 14, 2011

On time mismanagement

If you’re between the ages of eighteen and forty, the chances are that you haven’t gotten your priorities straight. Why? Because you think you still have time.

Yes, I know that in general we’re living much longer today. I know that researchers have hopes of turning off the “aging gene” so we can look at eighty the same as we do at eighteen. (Of course, this will be an option only for the rich … assuming we’ll still have the research dollars to make this a reality after this year.)

But there’s no turning off the mortality gene. For you, tomorrow may never come; you may be shot to death in a convenience store robbery, or killed in an auto accident, or be the one in X percent of cancer patients for whom chemotherapy fails. That we’re living into our late seventies is not even the beginning of a promise that you’ll get to thirty-nine. This very night, your soul may be required of you (Lk 12:20).

In consideration of the day—St. Valentine’s—I direct this specifically to young singles “playing the field”. You think you’re actively looking for Mr./Ms. Right; the fact is, you’re distractedly browsing the racks while idly dreaming of the tailor-made mate. You think there’s plenty of time to settle down, get married and have a family … but you don’t really know that for a fact. And so you’re frittering away the ages best suited for parenthood in order to do—what?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A house divided

Are we ramping up towards another civil war?

In the last three weeks, the pro-life movement has been handed gifts, first in the revelation of Dr. Kermit Gosnell and his little shop of horrors, then in the most recent undercover videos released by LiveAction, which in turn has prompted several state governments to begin inquiries into Planned Barrenhood’s activities. We’ve also learned that Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) plans to call HHS Sec. Kathleen Sebelius to testify before the House on taxpayer funding of Planned Barrenhood in light of the videos … not to mention a $1.3 billion dollar discrepancy between public funds received and spent.

All this has taken place as HR 358, the Protect Life Act, makes its move to a full committee vote. PLA is part of a package of House bills aimed at the abortion industry and the pro-aborts’ efforts to frog-march the rest of America into participation. Naturally, the pro-aborts are feeling the pressure and are promising to fight back … in House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s words, “make this issue too hot to handle”.

But Pelosi has said other things that should give us pause for consideration:

Friday, February 11, 2011

Of dragons, unicorns and boggart-Gods

Image source:
Your next door neighbor appears in your doorway. His clothes are burnt to a crisp, his eyebrows and eyelashes are singed off, his hair and face are carbonized, and he is oddly enough close to hysterical panic. “There’s an invisible dragon in my garage!”

No. There can’t be. Dragons don’t exist. But he’s clearly not himself, so you say soothingly, “What did it look like? How tall was it?”

“It was invisible,” he reminds you.

“Then how do you know it was a dragon?” you persist reasonably.

He rolls his eyes. “Take a look at me. Does this look like a cat scratch?”

You try again: “But you must realize what this looks like to me. For all I know, you could have been playing with a stick of dynamite, or fooling around with your blowtorch, or you could have tripped and fallen face-first into a fire ….”

He interrupts you shortly. “But I wasn’t playing with dynamite; I don’t have a blowtorch or a fireplace; there were no F-16s backed tailpipe-first into my garage or any other dumb thing you want to drag in. I was attacked by a fire-breathing dragon.”

 You try one more time. “But if you didn’t see the wretched thing, how do you know it was an invisible dragon?”

“He told me.”

So you try to keep him calm while you try to figure out a way to call the men in white. He’s obviously delusional because it’s so unlike him to play such an elaborate practical joke; of course, he must have somehow set himself on fire, then convinced himself that he heard and spoke to ….

Your mind yammers a thousand different explanations for your neighbor’s extraordinary behavior. But how would you respond if he suddenly demanded of you, “How do you know there’s no such thing as an invisible dragon?”

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Spirits in the material world

There’s been a couple of nights this last year that I’ve had the creepiest experience ever: At the end of a dream, I’ve felt the presence of an Evil One, just over my shoulder and chuckling in my ear. Both times I woke up praying the Hail Mary, and sat on the edge of my bed smoking a cigarette to calm my nerves because the experience scared the bejabers out of me.

Anxiety dream? Perhaps; I wouldn’t rule it out.

“Hell … [is] as much a fact of the universe as is Heaven.” So Scripture attests;[1] so the Church Fathers taught;[2] so the Catholic Church maintains.[3] “… [T]he evidence we have is beyond the reach of the empiriometric sciences,” because: 1) by definition and design, the natural sciences study the material universe, and therefore have tools that only work within the scope of materiality; and 2) because the bulk of natural scientists rule out the immaterial a priori, and therefore aren’t willing to spend time, effort and resources trying to make it detectable, far less measurable.

Demons are real, too. Father Dwight Longenecker has posted a fascinating reflection on possession and exorcism, beginning with the story of his first — and to date, only — experience of a possession. I also recommend to you An Exorcist Tells His Story by Fr. Gabriele Amorth, who was for many years the chief exorcist of the Diocese of Rome. I tell you this, not to convince you that I’ve been demon-haunted — heck, I’m not even convinced — but to underscore the fact that for many people the immaterial is not only real but a living, waking nightmare.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Our Heavenly Grandfather and the BK Theory of Christianity

The National Catholic Reporter, that haven of mostly-dissident Catholics (with the saving exception of John L. Allen, Jr.), has a regular section called “Eco Catholic”. The most recent installment—a hysterical screed against the doctrine of hell—shows that writer Carol Meyer has trouble distinguishing conservation from nature worship.

I’m writing about hell because it is an unthinkable, horrible, destructive concept that can’t possibly be true. I frankly can’t even imagine how anyone came up with something so horrific. Could any wrong merit the terrible pain of burning in fire, while fully conscious, for a week or a year, much less eternity? What kind of a monster would inflict that on anyone? How could such cruelty and sadism be consistent with a God of love? I don’t buy it for a minute.

I don’t care if scripture mentions hell or Jesus talked about it, if saints had visions of it, or if it’s a time-honored Catholic teaching. It simply can’t be justified on any level. [Emphasis mine.—TL]

Sic volo, sic iubeo: the perpetual chant of what Kate of Australia Incognita calls “the Magisterium of Me”. So Martin Luther said when asked to justify throwing out certain epistles from the New Testament: “Thus I will have it, thus I order it, my will is reason enough. … Doctor Luther will have it so, and … he is a Doctor above all Doctors in the whole of Popery.”[1] We can call it the Burger King Theory of Christianity, where you can “have it your way”.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Another day, another revelation ..

I just got done saying yesterday that faithful witness to Christ means suffering for those who fail to live up to the demands of Christian discipleship. And now here we are again, with a 1984 letter from the Congregation for the Clergy, this one to the late Bishop Manuel Duran Moreno of Tucson, advising him to turn over personnel files to civil lawyers “under no circumstances”.

To give then-prefect Cdl. Silvio Oddi his due, he remonstrated with +Moreno that the unnamed priest “should have [been] removed from his pastorate immediately upon completion of the process outlined in n. 20 of the motu proprio Ecclesiae Sanctae, of 1966. The signed testimonies about his drunkenness, outrageous language, liberties with women, etc., are too numerous and convincingly articulate to leave any [doubt] that Father’s ministry is both harmful and inefficacious and should therefore have been terminated long ago.”[1]

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The cost of witness to Christ—UPDATED

In a prison cell in Kabul, a man named Sayed Mussa awaits trial for apostasy, as he has for nine months. Mussa was arrested after videotapes showed him among other Afghans praying at a private Christian baptism. At a previous jail cell, Mussa had been beaten with sticks by a guard, and assaulted and raped by two inmates at the encouragement of Taliban prisoners.

Afghanistan's new US-sponsored constitution is supposed to protect freedom of religion. However, a loophole allows judges to apply Shariah, Islamic law, in cases of conversion; under a fundamentalist interpretation, that can mean death by hanging for Mussa. But even if he's released to rejoin his wife and children, who fled to Pakistan for their safety, he is still a martyr.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Those awful Catholics!

In a recent post about married priests, Simcha Fisher included a delightfully droll aside about some of the commentors that frequent Fr. John Zuhlsdorf’s blog What Does the Prayer Really Say: “The commentors he attracts always make me want to hide in the catacombs, to get away from those awful Catholics.  Brrr.”

Since I show up there every now and again, I know what she means. They’re not just on Fr. Z’s blog … those awful Catholics are everywhere.

On this blog, I occasionally throw stones at crypto-Protestant organizations like Young Catholics for Choice and Rainbow Sash; there is a valid distinction between the merely unconventional and the heterodox. (Reject the authority of the Pope and bishops? Substitute your own interpretation of Scripture for the Church’s? Get in line, right behind Martin Luther and John Calvin—you’re a Protestant.)

But while I agree with traditionalists on many points, some of them have a tendency to be “more Catholic than thou” in their remarks. If you don’t attend traditional Latin Masses exclusively, if you don’t sneer at Vatican II, if you don’t home-school your kids, if you don’t have an open admiration for the Society of St. Pius X (a schismatic traditional sect), they tend to treat you as barely worthy of the Catholic moniker. Brrr.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Stop with the whining!

Does eating “Jesus chicken” make you a homophobe?

On February 11th and 12th, the Pennsylvania Family Institute will hold seminars in Camp Hill and Reading on “The Art of Marriage: Getting to the Heart of God’s Design”. The organization’s president, Michael Geer, asked the local independent operator of Chick-fil-A to co-sponsor the event (i.e., provide the sandwiches).

Chick-fil-A is a big deal down here in the South. A family-owned company, they’ve been embraced by the free-church Evangelicals because of the Christian ethos promoted by the owners … they’re the only QSR chain that closes on Sunday. However, even secularists love what they call “Jesus chicken”. I’m not a fan myself; must be the same cultural thing that exists between New Mexicans and Blake’s Lotaburger (the only chain that offers chiles for your burger), or the East Coast and Krispy Kreme.

Now, as you can probably guess, PFI is a political group which takes a definite stand on one side of the culture wars. Chick-fil-A’s Christian orientation goes beyond being closed on Sunday; employees gather together for prayer, and the owners contribute to a variety of Christian political and social organizations. So when the franchisee agreed to the co-sponsorship, Geer exulted to Kim Severson of the New York Times, “It’s a win-win situation.”

Not for the gay community, though. PFI’s pro-marriage, pro-family, pro-life orientation includes opposition to same-sex marriage and gay adoption. The Cathy family, who owns the chain, contributes frequently to groups which oppose same-sex marriage initiatives. To gay activists, the alliance is a match made far south of heaven.