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 dĂ©cor, 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.