Monday, December 29, 2014

What took Robert Tracinski so long?

You know things are getting pretty bad when a libertarian atheist devoté of Ayn Rand links arms (albeit grudgingly) with conservative religious types. That’s just what Robert Tracinski does in his Federalist post, “Confessions of a Reluctant Culture Warrior”.

Why would it be such as surprise? Because libertarians tend to be liberal where a Christian who takes traditional Christian morality seriously ought to be conservative, and vice versa. Because many atheists, like Tracinski himself, object to select parts of traditional Christian morality, and clamor that adopting anything they don’t like into law is tantamount to enacting a “Judeo-Christian Sharia” or a “theocracy”. Because Ayn Rand’s objectivism is, as Marina Galperina so charmingly put it, “the philosophical system for people who pleasure themselves over thoughts of laissez-faire capitalism and believe that self-interest is the highest moral purpose and that’s that, the objective truth, f**k you;” Tracinski proposes it as a “third way” precisely because it isn’t and can’t be considered a religion-based ethos.

Whatever else you can say about self-interest, though, it can occasionally prompt you to recognize that precedents established to destroy your cultural nemeses can — and often will — be turned against you and your allies sooner or later. And in the struggles over the last year, from the Hobby Lobby decision to gendered toys, Tracinski, whose normal position on cultural issues was “Could we talk about something else, please?”, heard Martin Niemöller begin his famous poem with a new line: “First they came for the Christians ….”

Tracinski the libertarian objectivist atheist has finally seen the Progressivist Thought Police on the march.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas

Shut your computer off. Go play with your kids; eat some food; hug your spouse; go to midnight Mass ... whatever. Do something with your Christmas that isn't staring at a monitor and is engaging with the people in your house and neighborhood.

Merry Christmas, and happy New Year.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Virginity is Not Purity

Purity ring. (Photo source: JamesMarner.com)
There are three posts you should read: “Christians, Stop Staying Pure Till [sic] Marriage” by Sarah (last name unknown), “I Didn’t Wait For My Future Spouse, and You Shouldn’t Either” by Daniel Wilde, and “I Kept My Virginity, But Not My Purity” by Danielle Renfrow. By no means do these young Christian writers — two single, one married — suggest that other Christians engage in premarital sex. Rather, all three are critics of the Evangelical “purity movement” and the language with which it’s been taught.

Until recently, there’s never really been an explicit Christian theology of sexuality to tie the various prescriptions and proscriptions of sexual behavior together. You could even say, with some justice, that Christianity has always been ambivalent about sex.

On the one hand, the Church long ago rejected the Gnostic position that even sex for the sake of reproduction was sinful; on the contrary, she taught that marriage, childbearing and childrearing were positive goods. On the other hand, passages from both Christ and St. Paul suggest that people could pursue celibacy “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:12), that there is something of value to celibacy that doesn’t obtain to marriage (vide 1 Corinthians 7:32-34).

This ambivalence persists about fornication. Considered strictly as sex between two unmarried people, with the implication that neither one intends or is committed to marry the other, it has always been considered a sin (e.g., St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica II-II:154:2 SC); however, as a pastoral matter, its gravity was (and still is) often underplayed. And premarital sex — that is, sex between people who do intend to marry — hasn’t always been considered a grave matter in every time by every communion.

So marriage has always been good — but not better than celibacy, while fornication has always been bad — but not always as bad as other sexual sins. Nevertheless, the idea that sex is an unclean necessity isn’t authentic to the Christian tradition. That fact, however, hasn’t stopped some Christian idiots from teaching it as a “biblical” principle. (Exhibit #2,623 in the case against sola scriptura.)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Final Report: three decades too late

Religious Sisters of Mercy. (Source: vocationblog.com)
Tuesday, December 16, saw the Holy See’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (CICLSAL) release its long-awaited final report on the apostolic visitation of American institutes of women religious. Initiated during the pontificate of Benedict XVI, many of us saw it as the beginning of a thorough house-cleaning, while many nuns and liberals saw it as the beginning of a misogynistic oppression by a patriarchal Church.

The Final Report, however, was not the severe tongue-lashing many orthodox Catholics expected. Between the initiation of the visitation in December 2008 and its conclusion in 2012, the dicastery changed prefects, from the outspoken Lazarist Cdl. Franc Rode to the more conciliatory secular bishop Cdl. João Braz de Aviz. (Secular, in this context, simply means “not attached to any specific religious order”.) Both men have had concerns about the weakening of religious orders by liberalizing trends; +de Aviz said in an interview that he was nearly driven out of the seminary and the Church by liberation theology. Nevertheless, +de Aviz chose to take a more soft-pedaled approach with the skittish, distrusting women religious the Congregation would study.

As a result, the Final Report — which is more of a generalized executive summary — has copious praise for the work women religious have done and are still doing. Specific criticisms are presumably restricted to the reports the Congregation “foresees” will be issued to “those Institutes which hosted an onsite visitation and to those Institutes whose individual reports indicated areas of concern.”

Nevertheless, there is some steel underneath the velvet glove: not every paragraph is either laudatory or exculpating. Moreover, the report points to data which indicate that, for many American institutes, the visitation has come two or three decades too late to save them.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Battle at the Communion Rail

Communion rail, Church of the Holy Ghost, Tiverton, RI
(© 2012 Fr. Jay Finelli)
The new pastor of the Windy City, my fellow Omahan the Most Rev. Blase Cupich, didn’t wait too long to start the usual suspects huffing about the “Francis Effect”. In an interview with CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell, Abp. Cupich stated — or rather implied — that he wouldn’t deny participation in the Eucharist to Catholic politicians who hold positions contrary to Church teaching.

I say “implied” because, in context, +Cupich seems to be talking about an ad hoc decision during a Mass to withhold Communion: “I would not use the Eucharist, or as they call it ‘the communion rail,’ as a place to have those discussions or a way in which people would be either excluded from the life of the church.

“The Eucharist is an opportunity of grace and conversion,” he told [O’Donnell] in an interview that aired on “Face the Nation” Sunday. “It’s also a time of forgiveness of sins, so my hope would be that grace would be instrumental in bringing people to the truth.”

Naturally, this is the kind of thing that leads Huffington Post’s Carol Kuruvilla, playing the classic “good Church/bad Church” game, to gush, “Cupich’s softened approach stands in stark contrast to the position held by Cardinal Raymond Burke, a prominent conservative Catholic archbishop who has led campaigns to ban Catholic politicians who support abortions from receiving communion.” Just as naturally, it leads many in the Catholic commentariat, such as Brian Williams of One Peter Five, to wail and harrumph:

Let us hope and pray that Our Lord is not subjected to further sacrilege, and His Church to further scandal, by an outright refusal to enforce Canon 915 in Chicago. The Church loses credibility when she rightly advocates for protecting the unborn, but then gives Holy Communion to high profile, unrepentant, Catholic politicians who support the “right” to an abortion.