Monday, December 23, 2013

Phil Robertson's other controversial statement

Amen, brother.
Are we done hyperventilating over Phil Robertson’s GQ interview?

Actually, it’s been kinda fun watching the MSM clutch their pearls over Robertson’s unapologetic assertion that gay sex is unnatural. After all, these are people who have spent no little amount of broadcast time painting Southern Evangelical Christians as inbred, backwoods-residing, mouth-breathing Luddites with a penchant for “flat earth” theories; they have no room in their collective subconscious for Bible-thumpers who are technologically up-to-date and show quite a bit of marketing savvy. Robertson’s forthright citation of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 is precisely the kind of thing they should have expected. So we no more believe in their overdone displays of rage and condemnation than we believe that Louis was shocked, shocked to discover gambling at Rick’s gin joint.

Amazingly, there has been little public support for A&E’s decision to suspend further appearances by Robinson on his own show. The comfort-food restaurant chain Cracker Barrel tried removing Duck Commander products from their in-restaurant stores, only to bring them back out when their customers protested the decision.

Even more strikingly, various gay activists have gone so far as to publicly support Robertson and cry “shame, shame” on A&E. Said Brandon Ambrosino in, “G.K. Chesterton said that bigotry is ‘an incapacity to conceive seriously the alternative to a proposition.’ If he is right — and he usually is — then I wonder if the Duck Dynasty fiasco says more about our bigotry than Phil’s.” And former NOW leader Tammy Bruce tweeted her followers, “The gay civil rights movement was about making sure we weren’t punished for being who we are. Time the left applies that same value to others.”

Saturday, December 21, 2013

No “Christmas” without Christ

Who is your favorite Scrooge? (George C. Scott)
There are few things more pathetic than American Atheists’ annual billboard effort to piss on Christmas. This year, despite their attempt to claim the holiday for their own, is no exception.

Start with the group American Atheists, founded in 1963 by the late Madalyn Murray O’Hair of vile memory. O’Hair, an amazingly foul-mouthed harridan, was famous for her rants that were long on invective and short on subject-matter knowledge; if anything, she was the model for the internet atheist, the kind that makes classic atheists shake their heads and moan in despair. After her sad end in 1995 (abducted and murdered along with her son and granddaughter by a former AA office manager), the leadership of American Atheists were content to let their organization coast along unnoticed and unremarked by the general populace until atheist writers such as Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens raised a wave of public interest early in the last decade.

That is when they decided, with characteristic intellectual laziness, that Christianity could be advertised out of the public square.

Perhaps it was current public relations director, Dave Muscato, who came up with the notion that the average American attends church only out of social compunction and would quit doing so if only she were encouraged to break with everyone else. Maybe that was the case in the Catholic Church prior to 1968 — weekly Mass attendance slumped dramatically after Pope Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae that year. That model might have obtained in the mainline Protestant congregations before they abandoned traditional Christian teachings for trendy lefty innovations. Nowadays, though, the only people who go to church without really believing in anything are Unitarians. Result: thousands of dollars spent on ads telling people who don’t go to church anyway to sleep in on Sunday. Bright … real bright.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The “starter job” myth and economic reality

After my post on Impractical Catholic, “Conservative ‘cafeteria Catholics’ on parade”, got linked into Facebook, my fellow Catholic Stand writer, screenwriter/producer John Darrouzet, asked me if I’d seen Jon Stewart roast the FOXNews business pundits on The Daily. Thoughtfully, he provided a link in case I hadn’t. I hadn’t, because I don’t follow either The Daily or The Colbert Report. (I just don’t watch a lot of TV anymore.)

If you haven’t seen it, go ahead and watch it now; I’ll still be here when you get done.


Stewart is at the top of his game; but then, morons of that caliber are almost too easy to mock. FOX must have some kind of satanic genius for picking commentators that liberals can laugh at; Megyn Kelly’s jaw-droppingly racist “white Santa” statement was an early Christmas — er, “holiday” present for left-wing wits all over the nation.

The one comment that really arrested my attention was made by — I’m sorry, I don’t know any of the players on The Kudlow Report, so I’ll just call her “Talking Head #2”: “I’m a big fan of ‘empowerment’ over ‘entitlement’, and these minimum-wage jobs aren’t meant to be life-long jobs; they’re supposed to get your foot in the door and get skills ….” Or, as a co-worker of mine spat, “They’re supposed to be ‘starter jobs’ for high-school kids, kids working their way through college!”

I don’t know where that myth got started. That it is a myth, a just-so story devised to confirm alrightniks like TH2 in their vocational superiority and material comfort, is incontestable. In the normal course of operations, businesses don’t create jobs to fit a particular kind of applicant; they create the job and then fit hiring criteria to it. TH2 and my coworker have the sequence exactly backward.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

“Ecce ancilla Domini …”

From Genesis 3:9-15, 20:

After the man, Adam, had eaten of the tree, the Lord God called to the man and asked him, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself.” Then he asked, “Who told you that you were naked? You have eaten, then, from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat!” The man replied, “The woman whom you put here with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it.” The Lord God then asked the woman, “Why did you do such a thing?” The woman answered, “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.”

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.”

The man called his wife Eve, because she became the mother of all the living.

Blessed John Paul tells us that the story of Genesis contains not only the story of the first sin and Man’s fall but also “the first foretelling of victory over evil, over sin” (Mulieris Dignitatem 11, emphasis in original). Our enmity with Satan stems not from our being children of Adam but rather from our being children of Eve, the Progenetrix; and it is her remote offspring, the Son of Man, who will crush the serpent in retribution for his deception.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

First Sunday in Advent

From Isaiah 2:1-5 NAB:

This is what Isaiah, son of Amoz, saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. In days to come,
The mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills.
All nations shall stream toward it; many peoples shall come and say:
“Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob,
That he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.”
For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples.
They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks;
One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.
O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

What is Advent? Advent is the beginning of the Christian liturgical year. It’s a season of preparation for the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord. “Advent has a twofold character, for it is a time of preparation for the Solemnities of Christmas, in which the First Coming of the Son of God to humanity is remembered, and likewise a time when, by remembrance of this, minds and hearts are led to look forward to Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time. For these two reasons, Advent is a period of devout and expectant delight” (Roman Missal, p. 114, §39). In the words of the Catechism, “When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming” (CCC 524; cf. Revelation 22:17).

Saturday, November 23, 2013

In loving (and selective) memory

Dealey Plaza, looking at the grassy knoll (left) and the former
Texas School Book Depository Building (background).
How long can a city wear sackcloth and ashes for a crime it didn’t commit?

The memorial at Dealey Plaza was rather low-key, which could have been expected even without the bone-squeezing wet cold of the day. Some conspiracy theorists and some citizens protesting police brutality tried to horn in on the solemnities. It could have been worse, however: it could have turned into an anti-conservative bashapalooza.

 The fact is, a significant number of people younger than me — depending on where you place the cutoff, I’m either at the trailing edge of the boomers or in the vanguard of Generation X — tend to view the youth of the 1960s as supremely narcissistic, and the annual spasm of grief over the assassination of John F. Kennedy as just one more symptom of their emotional retardation. And, in all candor, the constantly reiterated “death of innocence” line is not only tiresome and melodramatic but inapposite, as cynics aren’t necessarily any more objective than are idealists; cynicism is merely idealism distorted by despair.

Nevertheless, this cross-generational impatience is too brutally dismissive. Even with a proper appreciation of Kennedy’s all-too-human failings as a Catholic, a husband and a politician, there is still no known sin in his life up to that point that made his death a poetic justice. Even Abraham Lincoln’s most vociferous opponents were astonished and mortified by his death, and Lincoln was a far more controversial man who held power during a more violent, agonized period of our history. By contrast, even given some of the tensions created by the civil rights movement during the time, nobody could look objectively at the events of 1963 and say that Kennedy’s assassination was inevitable. By any reasonable evaluation, it was a tragedy and ought to be acknowledged as such.

However, in the midst of the ritualized outpouring of nostalgia and mourning for a popular president gunned down in the prime of his manhood, there has been some effort to rewrite the history surrounding Dealey Plaza so progressives can draw parallels between 1963 and 2013 — parallels that are far-fetched and, quite frankly, inane.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

What do we want from our schools?

Follow the link to The Anchoress’ page, and read as people bemoan the ignorance displayed by American College Students as Rhonda Fink-Whitman, author of the historical novel 94 Maidens, pounces on them with questions about World War II, the Holocaust, and genocide today. Not only do they moan, they also point fingers, search for causes, and wonder whether a legally mandated curriculum is an appropriate remedy.

One comment, from “Patrick”, didn’t attract attention from anyone but me:

Yeah, well; I aced the advanced placement European history test and was first place in the geography bee, and got the highest grade possible in Advanced American history ... And I can’t say that I’ve led a good life and certainly not a happy one ... So, you know — it doesn’t matter a tinker’s dam to me that I can tell you, in detail, about the Boer War or something.

I’m not surprised no one engaged this bit of educational heresy. Them What Has Bin Eddicated take it for granted that Knowledge is Power®, that those who do well in school generally do better in other areas of life, that to have letters after your name like M.Sc. or Ph.D. will open more doors for you and make you a better person than will a mere G.E.D. If you can’t leverage your education into a good, happy life — oh, well; sucks to be you.

All of which is true in general terms; yet I can’t mock Patrick for expecting knowledge of the Boer War, the Treaty of Westphalia or the bimetallism question to lead him to Elysian fields. Why? Because then he would be well within his rights to ask me, “If it’s not guaranteed to make me a better, happier person, then what’s it good for? Why bother with it?”

How do we answer?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Pope Francis and the “issues trap”

Joanne McPortland’s amusing “Parable of the Papal Interview” expressed a simple truth: orthodox Catholics who have actually read the interview Pope Francis gave Fr. Antonio Spadaro, SJ have mostly loved it. Forget what you’ve read elsewhere: Pope Francis may be unorthodox in his style, but his substance is by no means heterodox.

So I had to chuckle when a troll popped up in the combox to say, “Not at all a good parable because it is so predictable. Right wing cognitive dissonance over the Pope’s interview prevents them from really hearing what he said.”

You see, this piece of complacent snottiness popped up after the rest of the progressive world was gobsmacked by what the AP’s Nicole Winfield, in her original lede, called Francis’ “bizarre U-turn”: a speech given Thursday to Italian gynecologists, in which he slammed abortion and euthanasia as parts of a “throwaway culture”. Talk about cognitive dissonance — Matthew Balan of NewsBusters observes that Winfield’s new lede still tries to preserve the “progressive” box in which media liberals have put Papa Bergoglio by calling it an “olive branch” offered to the “more doctrine-minded, conservative wing”.

This is what comes of not paying close attention to what the Pope is saying, of trying to pigeonhole any pope — hell, any major player. My buddy Frank Weathers, for instance, points us to a 2006 speech in which Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI also spoke of the “issues trap” to Swiss bishops on their ad limina visit. And Marcel LeJeune of Aggie Catholics includes other quotes that, taken by themselves, would lead one to conclude that B16 is a liberal. Quoth the wise man Thomas L. McDonald, “There is not a hairsbreadth of difference between the theology of Francis and Benedict.” Different styles, same substance.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The passion of Dan Grieco

Daniel Ralph Grieco
SK Daniel J. Grieco: Beloved husband, father,
friend and brother Knight.
Dan Grieco (1948 – 2013) was in many ways the man I want to be when I grow up.

Dan was one of the first people I met when my brother Bob and I joined our parish’s Knights of Columbus council in 2007. If you met him only once, you might just write him off as a “nice guy”. As you got to know him, however, you learned just how shallow such an assessment could be.

Dan was singularly passionate about everything, from the Church and the pro-life movement to hardwood floors. Whatever he was doing, he was excited about it, and he did his level best to get you excited about it too. Commitment was not a dirty word to Dan; it was almost his motto. If there was a project, he would be the first person to arrive — ready to work — and the last person to leave.

So far as Dan was “nice”, it wasn’t just a general air of bonhomie: he took avid interest in other people’s lives, was warm, engaging and funny, and had no hesitation about telling other people — even other men — “I love you”. If you were in the hospital, you could pretty much count on a visit from Dan. His love for his wife and children was boundless, a shining constant in his life.

But the reason I write of Dan here is because that same vital combination of passion and commitment showed through in his religiosity. Dan’s love of God and the Church was just as fierce, devoted and fully committed as his love for his family and friends. You could almost use the word zealous, except that the idea of zealotry has been spoiled by violent nutjobs; Dan was disgustingly sane. Of all the people I’ve known, he was the best at “walking the talk”.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Things I should have said about traditionalism

Not shown: a real, honest-to-goodness altar rail.
What’s wrong with the word radical? On the surface, nothing; to say someone is a radical X is to say he favors fundamental or thoroughgoing change.

However, the dictionary definition doesn’t always capture the emotive content of a word. In this respect, radical suffers from too long association with the more offensive and disturbing manifestations of political activism. To many people, the radical is a fellow traveler of the extremist, the kind of person who won’t go so far as to throw bombs but who will gladly inconvenience others by taking over school buildings or parks in the name of X. The extremist is a wild-eyed nutjob, while the radical is merely a pain in the ass.

On Thursday, Catholic Stand published “Tradition vs. traditionalism” (don’t read it just yet), in which Your Humble Blogger wrote of a tendency within a segment of the traditionalist community to conflate the traditional Latin Mass with the apostolic tradition. To try to isolate this segment from the rest of the traditionalist community, I used the term “radical traditionalist”. Twice.

It was a risky choice, because some people, especially liberal dissidents, speak of “radical traditionalists” as if all traditionalists were part of a lunatic fringe group. So, as could be reasonably expected, it blew up in my face.

Spirit Daily picked up the piece and drove a lot of traffic to the post, where traditionalists chastised me for painting them with a broad brush; one woman claimed I had “politely defecated” [?] on the traditionalist movement. While one or two couldn’t help but illustrate my point much better than I did, for the most part the combox left me feeling a bit like a bush-league Joseph Bottum: “Waitaminnit, that’s not what I meant!”

Monday, September 2, 2013

A family quarrel

Catholic Circular Firing Squad Redux. And, perhaps not that strangely, Michael Voris is once again the mainspring of the matter. Fortunately, Mark Shea is not involved, having avoided the controversy neatly by hieing himself and his brood to his vaunted hidden island redoubt, so this is the only time I’ll mention him.

Fraternal correction is a difficult enough task for any Catholic to undertake, especially when the brother to be corrected is a person whom you really don’t know. Even in the relative goldfish bowl of the Catholic blogosphere, we may have each other on Facebook and Google Plus, but we’re still mostly strangers to one another. But it can be done, and even result in some good dialogue.

However, when it’s done on the Internet, the correcting party has automatically invited everyone to participate. And when it’s one “celebrity” (we have celebrities?) correcting another, fans get partisan very quickly. Lest you doubt, let me say two words: John Corapi.

It started Thursday with an episode of “The Vortex”, in which Voris accused Catholic Relief Services of kicking AKA Printing Services to the curb because of its connection to the American Life League (here’s the story in LifeSiteNews). In the process, Voris revealed that several major figures in Catholic media, particularly Karl Keating, Jimmy Akin and Tim Staples of Catholic Answers, pull down salaries of over $100k per year; “in the interests of transparency”, Voris said his own salary was about $40k. The substance of his charge was that the big names were wary of going after corruption in Catholic Relief Services and the USCCB because their ministries (and salaries) depend to a certain extent on recognition and support from the bishops.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Bottum, Zmirak and the battle of Verdun

French Gen. Robert Nivelle

If Joseph Bottum’s 6,000-word Commonweal ramble, “The Things We Share,” doesn’t read or feel like a structured argument for Catholic acceptance of same-sex marriages, that’s because it’s not — the subtitle (“A Catholic Case for Same-Sex Marriage”) notwithstanding. Rather, it’s the erstwhile First Things editor’s story of how and why he came to strike the flag of opposition. Some of his statements of fact are so wrong, you can’t help but howl with either rage or laughter. But you can’t fault as an argument that which never pretended to be an argument.

In fact, if there were just one fault (there are more, I promise), it’s precisely that it is Bottum’s personal conversion story, as it were, and not a real case against further resistance. For by the time he actually gets down to the meat of his contentions, he’s lost half his audience through lack of interest. In the combox for Matthew J. Franck’s rather impatient takedown in First Things, “Joseph Bottum, Weary and Wearisome,” at least two or three people admit they couldn’t get all the way through it.

Sorry, Jody, either your life or the way you wrote about it is just not that gripping. Next time, cut to the chase.

Moreover, throughout Bottum’s essay you can pick up strains that tell us he isn’t comfortable with the idea of surrender. For instance, in discussing David Blankenhorn’s New York Times flip-flop,  Bottum muses that it’s “not enough for a Catholic to say that legal fairness and social niceness compel us.” And of the anti-Christian element who use SSM as a stick to bash the Church with, he snarls, “if that’s what the same-sex marriage movement is really about … then to hell with it.”

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dennis Moore and a tale of two mothers

If you’re a computer nerd of a certain age, you’ll remember Dennis Moore.

If you’re not, here goes: Dennis Moore is the central figure of a skit from the third season of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Moore, played by John Cleese, is an 18th-century highwayman who models himself after Robin Hood, although his redistribution of wealth eventually backfires. You see, having defined one group as “rich” (and therefore to be robbed from) and another as “poor” (and therefore to be given to), he continues to transfer goods from one set to the other until the Fred Tomlinson Singers, who sing his theme song, startle him by changing the last two lines:

He robs from the poor, and gives to the rich.
Stupid b****!

The last scene of the episode shows Moore, having completely lost sight of his mission, stopping a carriage and forcing the passengers to swap various pieces of wealth with each other to make them equal. His crusade against economic injustice has devolved into an obsessively fussy Redistributionism.

Karla A. Erickson’s guest opinion in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, “Explaining why, next time, I won’t breastfeed”, reminds me very much of that final scene. How so? Because her rationale for bottle-feeding her next child is to correct an apparent inequity of parental attachment that breastfeeding her firstborn supposedly created. Simply put, her son prefers her to her husband for many things; Erickson, an associate professor of — wait for it! — sociology at Grinnell College, will not tolerate any form of gender inequality in her life.

Sometimes we have to do a runaround our bodies to ensure equity. Sometimes we have to do some social engineering to help dislodge our social aspirations from the dictates of our glands and gonads.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

What’s wrong with “What’s Wrong with Distributism”?—UPDATED

The nice thing is, David Deavel has some good things to say about distributism … in a previous post. However, Deavel’s understanding of distributism stops at about 1927.

Specifically, Deavel identifies four “areas of thought” where distributists’ critiques of the capitalist model strike tellingly: 1) the divorce of economics and ethics, 2) the collusion of large business and government and the resultant concentration of power, 3) the effect of the concentration of capital (Deavel says “wealth”, which is not the same thing) on entrepreneurship, and 4) the effect of the welfare state on the citizen’s relationship to the government. “Sadly,” Deavel moans, “distributist thinkers don’t stop at these solid insights. They offer concrete solutions to these social problems — solutions which betray grave misunderstandings of economics and even theology.”

From such a statement, you would expect at minimum a detailed economic critique illustrating distributist assumptions and contrasting them with How the Real World Works. On the theological side, Deavel, an associate editor of Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture, might be expected to have an equally sound understanding of distributists’ reference to Catholic social theory.

What Deavel gives us, however, is a collection of straw men, attributing beliefs and statements (“Distributists like to say that …”) without pulling direct quotes to support his claims, and even stooping to smear tactics by implying admiration for fascism. The farthest Deavel goes toward naming names is to mention G. K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc and Arthur J. Penty, men long dead, while saying nothing of living distributists such as John C. Médaille, Thomas Storck and Race Matthews. It’s as if one were to critique modern psychiatry by analyzing only the works of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and B. F. Skinner.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

An angel in Missouri — UPDATED

Until you watch the news footage on the “mystery priest” incident, you don’t really realize how improbable the story is.

Rural Catholicism means driving long distances for Mass and religious instruction. In some parts of Texas, one priest will have charge of three or four parishes, and will spend more time in his car than any place else except — maybe — his bed.

The only Catholic church in Center, Missouri is on the National Register of Historic Places but not on the Diocese of Jefferson City’s list of active parishes; it’s an eight-mile drive to St. Stephen in Indian Creek near Monroe City. There’s no active parish in New London, just up State Highway 19 from Center; the closest parish, Holy Family in Hannibal, is almost ten miles in the opposite direction from Center. Sacred Heart in Vandalia is over twenty miles south of Highway 19.

That stretch of Highway 19, where all you can see from horizon to horizon are farmsteads and long rows of corn, is where an (allegedly) drunk driver plowed into 19-year-old Katie Lentz’s older-model Mercedes convertible. To intensify the improbability, first responders had blocked off access by road to the scene. So it’s not as though some Blackie Ryan-like character innocuously emerged from, and melted back into, a crowd of urban gawkers who had all inconveniently misplaced their iPhones or had them focused elsewhere; it was just Katie and the New London Fire Department — and lots and lots of cornfields.

And yet, there he was.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The war to end all wars

Western front, 1915-1916. (Source: U.S. Military Academy.)

Over on The American Catholic, DarwinCatholic has posted an interesting article on an ongoing reassessment of World War I. The American Catholic has a lot of posts on American history that don’t even begin to reference Christ, the Church or anything specifically Catholic, so I don’t feel so bad about calling this blog a Catholic blog.

The main thrust of Darwin’s post is that post-war revisionism struck early and hard. Most of us who learned anything about the war in school learned that it was a horrendous waste of life, as idiot generals and field marshals hurled frontal attack after useless frontal attack in an obscene homage to Napoleon’s tactics; why, such attacks had become outdated by the end of the American Civil War!

Of course, now that I read this, I realize that the Civil War never dealt with front lines that extend hundreds of miles; with one end fused to the English Channel and the other to the Swiss Alps, the Western front didn’t permit flanking attacks. Just the sheer number of soldiers by itself changed the way the war had to be fought.

The generals of the war, Darwin points out, knew very well Napoleonic tactics wouldn’t work. The problem was finding something that would work. Both sides were fairly evenly matched for inventiveness; as soon as one side found a possible solution, the other side would develop a counter. For instance, gas worked for the Germans only until the French and English started producing their own gas masks. The art of war had to be not just changed but reinvented altogether.

But did the war have to be fought at all?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Mary, Martha and earning readers

Now as they went on their way, [Jesus] entered a village; and a woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.”

Jacopo Comin (Tintoretto) (1518-1594)
Christ in the House of Mary and Martha
I’ve referred to Luke 10:38-42 before, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, as Jesus’ big convention-crossing moment, when he allows Mary the sister of Lazarus to sit at his feet as a disciple, a place only men could take. Here, if one wishes, one finds Jesus unequivocally treating a woman as an equal to the men around her, refusing to relegate her to the role of servant to men against her will.

That’s if one wishes to do so. G. K. Chesterton noted, in The Everlasting Man, that Christ “did not particularly denounce slavery … [but] he started a movement that could exist in a world without slavery. He never used a phrase that made his philosophy depend even upon the very existence of the social order in which he lived. He spoke as one conscious that everything was ephemeral, including the things that Aristotle thought eternal.”[1]

In the same way, the passage in Luke’s Gospel is not about sexual politics or women’s equality. Rather, it’s about how we let the thousand details of quotidian life distract us from discipleship.

By “we”, of course, I mean “I”.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Roberts Central Committee

This has been brewing for a couple of days, so it’s gonna be a long one:

You can’t tell me you were surprised by the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor. I saw it coming ten years ago to the day, the day AJ Anthony Kennedy issued the majority opinion in Lawrence v. Texas.

Forget for a minute — in fact, forget forever — all progressive triumphalism about being “on the right side of history” or “the inevitability of change”. Let there be one defeat or one setback, and suddenly they’re afraid the toothpaste can and will be put back in the tube.

The fact is, I knew eventually we’d see such a decision because progressives were constantly trying to reassure conservatives that the Lawrence decision would never lead to a right to same-sex marriage. It reminded me too much of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s gloss of the private adventurer: “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.”

The fact is, I knew eventually we’d see such a decision because progressives are impatient consequentialists: they want to win now, and aren’t fussy about how it’s accomplished. Besides, things that progressives have said in the past lead me to suspect that progressives would prefer a central committee made up of right-thinking people rather than any truly representative form of government.

The Roberts Court is now as close to being that central committee as any non-communist government can have. The problem is not simply that, as in Lawrence, Roe v. Wade and many other cases, the Court’s decision is sloppily reasoned due to being driven by an agenda rather than the case’s merits. Rather, as AJ Antonin Scalia’s dissent points out, Windsor should not have come before the Court at all. In its rush to strike down DOMA, the judiciary stepped out of its jurisdiction.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The undeclared civil war

Prof. Robert Reich, UC-Berkeley.
Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich has noticed that, in the absence of legislation from Washington, the states are pretty much fending for themselves. The problem is, according to his article in the Christian Science Monitor, “many blue states are moving further left, while red states are heading rightward. In effect, America is splitting apart without going through all the trouble of a civil war.”

Of course, Congressional conservative Republicans are to blame. They’ve shut Congress down, refused to play ball with Our Glorious Leader, and left the states to their own devices. But while this sudden absence of power in Washington has allowed blue states to do various worthy things like hike taxes on the rich, impose stricter gun regulations and legalize pot, it’s also allowed the evil red states to cut education and basic services, as well as allow anyone to carry a gun and shoot on sight.

So okay, maybe I exaggerate Reich’s liberal spin on the issues, but that he is a liberal is left to no one’s doubt. (Professor of public policy at UC-Berkeley? Go figure.)

“Federalism is as old as the Republic,” Reich remarks, “but not since the real Civil War have we witnessed such a clear divide between the states on central issues affecting Americans.” Trenchantly observed; and yet from the tenor of what follows, it appears that Reich can’t truly grasp its meaning. To Reich, it’s not so much that red and blue are going their separate ways but rather that red is having a hard time getting with the national program. Federalism is fine when Minnesota legalizes gay marriage and expands trade-union rights, but when Arizona allows state troopers to check the immigration status of suspected illegals, or North Carolina puts surcharges on hybrid and electric cars …? The idea that different values might be in play doesn’t seem to enter his mind.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Apologetics toolbox: Redemption and heaven

As unreliable as the MSM is in reporting on matters religious, religious bloggers and non-mainstream news outlets are almost as bad at reporting on what the MSM says about religion. Has anyone actually read an article or post which declares, without any weasel words or equivocal phrasing, “Pope Francis said Thursday that atheists can go to heaven by doing good works”? If you know where such posts can be found, please send me the links and I’ll post them here.

Of course, that’s not what the Pope said, as Jimmy Akin takes some time to explain. Pace Terry Mattingly, HuffPo’s headline (“Atheists Who Do Good Are Redeemed By Jesus As Well As Catholics, Pope Francis Says”) is only as dramatic as the fact is — all mankind has been redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice. If there’s any problem with the anonymous author’s piece, it’s that s/he confuses redemption with justification: “…the Pope’s words may spark memories of the deep divisions from the Protestant reformation over the belief in redemption through grace versus redemption through works[bold font mine.—TL].

Why would such an assertion be controversial? In strict justice, atheists can’t be wholly blamed for getting Christian concepts mixed up. For one thing, Catholic catechesis and religious formation have degraded considerably since 1965; for another, common Christian consensus understanding of such basic concepts has also fallen apart, as a natural consequence of sola scriptura and the rejection of human religious authority. If we don’t get these things right, how do we convince the non-believer?

The assertion is only controversial if we believe that redemption is a guarantee of heaven — that, because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, you don’t really need to do anything other than be “good enough” to go to heaven. This is the error that needs correction. So what is redemption?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

To a very special Mother

Originally posted May 8, 2011

Fundamentalists and Evangelicals sing in truth, "What a friend we have in Jesus!" But I wonder what their Friend thinks about the way they talk about His Mother.

You may read the Bible. You may read it so much that you can rattle off whole chapters from memory without missing a word. But if you don't have a proper love and reverence for the Blessed Virgin Mother, then either you don't truly understand what you read, or your relationship with Jesus is way off. Or both.

Yes, Marian devotion can be overdone, just as you can have an inordinate or improper love for your own mother. But the opposite is just as true. "As a protestant," Randy at Speak the Truth in Love writes, "I looked at Mary and saw a concubine. Someone who performed a biological function. A surrogate mother. I was told to look at her and marvel at how amazing a thing she did. God using her body to bring Jesus to the world. That contemplating that was dangerous. It might lead me to worship Mary."

Yes, Randy has come past that point. And to be fair, there are Protestants who love Mary as well. "You Catholics don't have sole claim on her," one woman said, and I for one am willing to share. But to regard Mary as important only for her uterus? That wrongs not just Mary — and all women should take umbrage at it — but God as well.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The foundations of the New Jerusalem

Today, the sixth Sunday of Easter, almost starts us on a countdown to Pentecost, the “birthday of the Church”. For the first reading (Ac 15:1-2, 22-29) concerns the Council of Jerusalem (ca. 42) and the letter the Council sent to the gentile Christians of Antioch, Syria and Cilicia — not just the first ecumenical council, but also the first instance in which the Church instructed others without appeal to Scripture, Christ’s teaching or other precedent.

There is a choice of second reading; for our purposes, let’s take Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23. In this reading, the angel shows St. John the heavenly Jerusalem, the City of God, which he tells us “had twelve courses of stones as its foundation [the Greek has themelious dōdeka, “twelve foundations”], on which were inscribed the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” This should call back to our minds St. Paul’s words to St. Timothy, where he refers to the Church as “the pillar and foundation [hedraiōma][1]of the truth”.

Again with the Gospel we have our choice, so let’s follow John 14:23-29, which forms part of Jesus’ “Last Supper discourse”. In this passage, the Lord promises the gathered disciples, who will (with one lamentable exception) become his first apostles, that “The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name — he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” Earlier, he had said, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you” (vv. 16-17).

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Picking on gay people—UPDATED

Former PE teacher Carla Hale
It would be easier for everyone if, like Rainbow Sash, we all wore some form of distinctive clothing to signify to the Catholic Church leadership what sins we were committing and not confessing. Then perhaps gay people wouldn’t feel singled out.

Let me tell you what brought that thought into my mind: Recently the Diocese of Columbus fired Carla Hale, a phys-ed teacher at Bishop Watterson High, after learning that she is in a lesbian relationship. Hale has said that she was terminated March 28, two weeks after an investigation spurred by an anonymous Bishop Watterson parent. The parent had sent diocesan officials a copy of Hale’s mother’s obituary, which listed the complainant as “Carla (Julie) Hale of Powell” — “Julie” being her companion’s name, and in parentheses just like other spouses’ names. Hale apparently confirmed that she and her partner consider their relationship a “marriage”.

Naturally, Hale is shocked, shocked! that she could have been fired: “That had nothing to do with my ability to teach and coach. I don’t think I’m immoral; I don’t think I’ve done anything that’s unethical,” she complained in a local television interview. Of course, maintaining false pretenses and contract violation have nothing to do with morality, right?

Hale’s lawyer, Thomas Tootle (oy, the poor man), struck all the expected buzzwords, accusing the diocese of orientation discrimination, demanding her reinstatement and threatening a lawsuit. “The Catholic Church has their own perceptions on immorality, but when you look at the contract, who decides that term, ‘immorality’? That, ultimately, will be decided by an arbitrator,” Tootle declared. Oddly enough, nobody heard an orchestra swell its volume dramatically.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Caricatures of the Catholic Church

Abp. Fulton J. Sheen and his Life Is Worth Living blackboard.
One of the eminently quotable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen’s most well-known dicta is this: “There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church — which is, of course, quite a different thing.”

Let’s face it: The history, beliefs and culture of the Catholic Church comprises almost 2,000 years of development. To do justice merely to the last hundred years or so would require two or three volumes the size of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is thick enough to make Stephen King pale with fright. Frankly, non-Catholics ought to read Frs. John Trigillio and Kenneth Brighenti’s Catholicism for Dummies® and at least peruse the Catechism before they attempt to comment on matters of the Faith. All too often, though, people hate a caricature of the Church, usually one they learned from similarly ill-informed people, like a person who hates Pres. Obama based on editorial cartoons he’s enjoyed.

Case in point: Before I went on my post-Easter “Internet fast”, I wrote a post for The Impractical Catholic arguing that the “rich Catholic Church” trope was a simplistic and unjustified treatment of Church finances. When I came back online Saturday, I found a reply from “Chester” which was little more than a dismissal. For our purposes, two lines stand out which illustrate this tendency to beat the stuffing out of straw men:

I think you raise some good points about businesses, but the Catholic church claims to be above human law, above mere business dealings.
The Catholic church is claimed to be a charitable organisation, but they actively discriminate against women and gays. If your god is good enough for everyone, so is your time and money.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Resurrecting the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin

Fibrils from one of the image areas of the Shroud.

Just when you think you’ve debunked a religious artifact good and proper ….

Many people who only know that the Shroud of Turin is alleged to be the burial shroud of Jesus Christ were happy to accept the 1988 carbon-14 dates — 1260 to 1390 — without further question, and not all of them were atheists or anti-Christians. Many Christians would find a Christ who actually rose from the dead to be upsetting; they much prefer the Resurrection as a psychological metaphor rather than as an historical fact. So the “medieval forgery” became the Accepted Wisdom quite easily, despite later stories concerning the integrity and scientific value of the tests.

Those who knew anything more about the Shroud — I’m not a qualified sindonlogist myself — weren’t happy with the results, for reasons having nothing to do with religious faith. The fact is, no one has come up yet with a plausible explanation for how the image on the Shroud was formed given the technological limitations of the 13th and 14th centuries. None of the techniques suggested to date, and some have been rather inventive, would leave an image with the physical and chemical characteristics known of the Shroud; in fact, no one’s had luck reproducing the Shroud with 21st-century tech. Frankly, at this point Erich Von Däniken’s aliens can look like a more credible explanation for the Shroud than some anonymous High Middle Ages genius.

Tuesday saw the release of news about a series of three new tests, two chemical and one mechanical, carried out by “a number of professors from various Italian universities”, which point to a date of 33 BC ± 250 years. This puts 30 AD, the generally accepted year of Jesus’ death, well within the bracket.

Cue the protests.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Pushing social conservatives out the GOP door

The root of the GOP’s problem now is the same as that of the Democrats in 1969: the party’s reputation has been ruined by a botched, unnecessary war — Vietnam in the case of the Democrats, Iraq for the GOP. This may sound implausible: every political scientist knows that Americans don’t care about foreign policy; certainly they don’t vote based on it. But foreign policy is not just about foreign policy: it’s also about culture.

This is the theme that Daniel McCarthy convincingly fleshes out in “The GOP’s Vietnam”. Basically, the Vietnam era created the templates we still use for defining political left and right; however, those templates no longer fit an electorate where “an 18-year-old first-time voter in 1992 was born the year after [Pres. Richard] Nixon withdrew most U.S. forces from Indochina” (1973). The cultural values which created neo-conservatives out of baby boomers disaffected and disenchanted with the New Left no longer obtain for the millennials, for whom “[the] sexual revolution [has] been background noise … since the day they were born.”

The GOP never learned to talk to the post-Vietnam generation in the first place; over the last decade, it compounded the problem by launching wars that, far from resolving the unfinished business of the Vietnam era, only made clear that those who are refighting the conflicts of that time are oblivious to today’s realities.

This generational disconnect showed up at the recent CPAC conference. Brad Todd of FOXNews reports, “For three decades, the locus of the Republican Party family debate has been over social issues. Today, there is no such fight — and that’s the bad news for all of us social and foreign policy conservatives. … The activists who power the elevation of Sen. [Rand] Paul and his ilk are corporately much less interested in the pro-life, pro-family agenda that drove the conservative movement for years, and openly hostile to the muscular foreign policy that has differentiated Republicans from Democrats since the Age of Aquarius.”

Thursday, March 21, 2013

O those awful Catholic writers!

Nope, no religious bigotry here in the Land of Tolerance!
My last post, on gender differences, drew attention from an unexpected source. I mentioned that SisterLisa, the author of a condescending piece on women’s ordination and male insecurity, had drawn inspiration in part from a piece of satire written for Forbes by Victoria Pynchon. I just mentioned it; I neither praised nor blamed it.

In the marvelous world of cyberspace, that’s all you need; it must have shown up as a trackback. Pynchon decided to be the first to comment. As of this writing [3/21/13 @ 12:27 am], I’m having issues with IntenseDebate, so her comment hasn’t shown up yet.

There are a few lines that deal with Pynchon’s own experience of gender stereotyping and social role expectations. It’s not my purpose to devalue or minimize them; while the examples she quotes may sound quaint to postmodern ears, there are still parents who are pleased when their daughter is a “girly girl”, and who are more apt to give them a cosmetics case for their twelfth birthday rather than a chemistry set. No, I’m simply cutting to the chase:

I have no business telling Catholics what they should do, think or believe. I’d prefer it if Catholics didn’t tell non-Catholic American women what they should do, think or believe. [That’s a first.] If Catholic writers would like to tinker with women’s lives, perhaps they should stick to reconciling the gap between the Church’s position on birth control (it’s wrong) and American Catholic women’s refusal to stop using it.

In other words, she’s happy to “discuss” gender biological differences — so long as it’s her talking and me shutting up. Drat that pesky First Amendment, which allows me to shoot my mouth off whenever I please on whatever I please! Why … it even allows Catholics to have opinions on secular subjects! O the outrage!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Gender differences and feminist sexism

Back in November, Deacon Greg Kandra reprinted a list that was making the rounds of “10 reasons why men shouldn’t be ordained”. In essence, it’s a list of stereotypes flipped against men rather than women. “I have to admit,” Kandra chuckled, “this made me laugh.”

As well it should; it’s a light, airy tongue-in-cheek exercise conducted in the demolition of a straw man. Which didn’t stop SisterLisa at Soul Liberty Faith from using it, along with another satirical list written by Victoria Pynchon at Forbes, to create a patronizing “there, there, you poor widdle babies” post on male ecclesial leadership. The essence of her argument is this: Conservative men don’t want women priests and deacons because they’re insecure.

Men who are insecure in their pants tend to puff up their ego with brutish verbiage with their self proclaimed titles and they belittle those around them. Their childish behavior reveals the fear they suffer from and perhaps it’s time they openly admit their brokenness so they can find healing. In this era of women theologians and justice seekers these men will rise louder and more brutal in their effort to keep women oppressed. The more fervent women are in putting their collective foot down about abuse, oppression, and equality the greater path we pave for women and children world wide. …
So perhaps we should be in prayer for our insecure brothers who rail against women in leadership. It just might make a difference for them to know we understand their insecurities and will hold them up in prayer. ... So when you see men like these … just pat them on the back and let them know it’s all going to be okay. We still need men in the world and there’s no hidden agenda to minimize their gender or belittle their sexuality.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Who was Saint Patrick?

Just so you know: I hold green beer to be an outrage, the defilement of an innocent pilsner that hadn’t done anyone harm (yet). I wait for the Church to add it to the list of sins crying out to Heaven for vengeance.

Other than that, Saint Patrick’s Day is not an optional memorial to me. Nor is it a day solely for getting plowed, whether the instrument be a fine product of the Old Country like Jameson’s or something unnatural and heretical like the vile Presbyterian abomination, scotch. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten drunk on St. Paddy’s; when I did drink to excess, which hasn’t been for a long time, it was because I still thought getting drunk was fun (which started to change about the third or fourth time a night of such excess left me “driving the porcelain bus”).

Lá Fhéile Pádraig is a solemnity in Ireland, which in Church-speak means that Mass attendance is not required but very highly recommended. Instead of purple, the ordinary liturgical color of Lent, the celebrant wears white. In some rural locations, the folk still leave a bowl of porridge on the front stoop, in case the saint should be wandering through and be in need of sustenance. (That’s Irish hospitality for you; if ever you sit down for a meal at an Irish house, your hosts will do all in their power to insure you don’t get up until you’re stuffed.) No fasting and abstinence; instead, festivals, dances (céilithe) and parades, and the Irish government uses the time to promote Irish culture (and economic opportunities).

Thursday, March 14, 2013

“We have a papa …”

A couple of weeks ago, in “Has the papacy become ‘just a job’?” I lumped concerns that emeritus Pope Benedict’s resignation had changed the nature of the papacy in with other bits of “silliness inflicted on us by the incessant noisemakers well described as ‘the chattering classes’”. This, I think, goes to show that I can miss the point just as anyone else can.

The basics, I think, are still valid. People who don’t buy into Catholic theology of the papacy, especially the Pope as vicarius Christi, can be found inside the Church as well as outside; you can’t be disillusioned if you don’t have an illusion to begin with. For those of us who do believe it — and to be in communion with the Holy See, you must — what does Benedict’s resignation really change? “The ‘cult of the strong leader’ may suffice for those who hang on to late nineteenth/early twentieth century speculative anthropology.  However, it’s bad history and bad theology, not to mention a total misread of Joe Catholic in the pews.”

That’s the response of the mind. But the heart often discerns truths the mind doesn’t wish to face, and can tell the difference between explaining and explaining away.

Robert Moynihan wrote of an encounter he had with a cardinal before the conclave, a man very troubled in his heart. Said the cardinal, “I love [Benedict], but this should never have happened. He never should have left his office. It is like a man and a woman, a husband and wife, a mother and father in relation to their children. What do they say? They say, ‘until death do us part!’ They stay together always.” And the ineffable Fr. John Zuhlsdorf confessed that he’d been (among other things) angry over the resignation.

I missed it totally. The word “pope” comes from the old Greek papa, “father”. Many people around the world, who know Benedict only though his books and the media, still felt abandoned by their Papa.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Income inequality a blessing?

When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist.
—Dom Hélder Pessoa Câmara
The philosopher … rose up and departed with the air of a man that had co-operated with the present system.
Samuel Johnson, The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia

According to’s editor, John Tamny, income inequality is a good thing.

Keep in mind, I get this second-hand from Michelle Smith of You could therefore argue that she quotes Tamny selectively. On the other hand, Smith says nothing to contradict or undercut Tamny, so she’s either in agreement with him (“He who is silent consents”) or letting him hang himself with his own words.

Tamny points to the rising popularity of cell phones, reminding us that back in the 1990s these devices were a source of awe. The wealth of the wealthy has also changed society by improving the masses access to a wide range of items, from music to healthcare. [Please hold the laughter in; the best is yet to come.]
“[T]he simple, life-enhancing truth [is] that when the wealth gap is increasing, that’s a certain signal that the lifestyle gap is shrinking —rapidly,” Tamny writes.
“[T]he sentient among us should cheer every time they read of rising inequality,” he adds. “The sentient should cheer because it signals enterprise being rewarded, freedom to keep the fruits of one’s labor, and then for all of us not rich it signals that our lives are getting better and better; the lifestyle disparity between us and them (the rich) shrinking precisely because economic achievement is taking place.”