Sunday, August 31, 2003

Notes For Catholics Who Can't Tell the Difference Between
the Democratic Leadership Council or Heritage Foundation and the Magisterium

1. "[The Catholic Church] saw the commencement of all the governments and of all the ecclesiastical establishments that now exist in the world; and we feel no assurance that she is not destined to see the end of them all. She was great and respected before the Saxon had set foot on Britain, before the Frank had passed the Rhine, when Grecian eloquence still flourished at Antioch, when idols were still worshiped in the temple of Mecca. And she may still exist in undiminished vigour when some traveler from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul's." (Thomas Babington, Lord Macaulay, On Ranke's History of the Popes.)

2. While the political, economic, and cultural life of the Church is inextricably linked to the West, that link doesn't exist because the Church is dogmatically committed to Western civilization:
"My thoughts turn to our brothers and sisters of the Eastern Churches . . . I intend to address their heritage of faith and life, aware that there can be no second thoughts about pursuing the path of unity, which is irreversible as the Lord's appeal for unity is irreversible. . . . The cross of Christ must not be emptied of its power . . . This is the cry of the end of the 20th century. It is the cry of Rome, of Moscow, of Constantinople. It is the cry of all Christendom: of the Americas, of Africa, of Asia, of everyone. It is the cry of the new evangelization. . . . I am thinking of the Eastern Churches, as did many other Popes in the past, aware that the mandate to preserve the Church's unity and to seek Christian unity tirelessly wherever it was wounded was addressed to them. A particularly close link already binds us. We have almost everything in common; and above all, we have in common the true longing for unity." (John Paul II, Orientale Lumen, ¶ 3).
3. The Church refuses to become embroiled in dogmatic conflicts over specific political, economic, or cultural forms of human society:
a. "[S]o long as justice be respected, the people are not hindered from choosing for themselves that form of government which suits best either their own disposition, or the institutions and customs of their ancestors." Leo XIII, Diuturnum ¶ 7 (1881).

b. "Christ, to be sure, gave His Church no proper mission in the political, economic or social order. The purpose which He set before her is a religious one. . . . in virtue of her mission and nature she is bound to no particular form of human culture, nor to any political, economic or social system . . . ." Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, ¶ 42 (1965).

c. The Church may be said to have rejected what Oakeshott called the "politics of faith," a divinely-sanctioned project for the perfection of the human person according to a single pattern of social, political, and economic life.

d. It's interesting to note that this consciousness has not so much been influenced by the Church's contact with non-Western societies than by the Church's contact with the passionate and frequent upheavals of Western civilization. The watersheds and catastrophes which figure in Lord Macaulay's observations, for example, are taken entirely from the history of the West. Yet they are sufficient to illustrate the Church's wisdom in pursuing a destiny which is independent of particular social orders.
4. The Church's independence from specific culture, politics, or economic orders does not mean, however, that she is indifferent to them:
"The purpose which He set before [the Church] is a religious one. But out of this religious mission itself comes a function, a light and an energy which can serve to structure and consolidate the human community according to the divine law. As a matter of fact, when circumstances of time and place produce the need, she can and indeed should initiate activities on behalf of all men . . . For this reason, the Church admonishes her own sons, but also humanity as a whole, to overcome all strife between nations and race in this family spirit of God's children, an in the same way, to give internal strength to human associations which are just. . . . With great respect, therefore, this council regards all the true, good and just elements inherent in the very wide variety of institutions which the human race has established for itself and constantly continues to establish. The council affirms, moreover, that the Church is willing to assist and promote all these institutions to the extent that such a service depends on her and can be associated with her mission. She has no fiercer desire than that in pursuit of the welfare of all she may be able to develop herself freely under any kind of government which grants recognition to the basic rights of person and family, to the demands of the common good and to the free exercise of her own mission." Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, ¶ 42 (1965).
a. The Church's mission is to civilize men interiorly, according to the life of a Heavenly polity, not to impose on them any immutable form of social, cultural, or economic order derived from the priorities of a temporal polity. Underlying this perspective, by the way, is a thoroughly Trinitarian conception of Christianity and the universe, in which unity creates diversity which manifests participation in a unity. (See, e.g., Don Alonso Cortez' Catholicism, Authority & Order). I don't know how much reading you may have done on this, but time forbids me to do more than to allude to a deeply-held Catholic belief that rigid uniformity (Oakeshott's "politics of faith") is hostile to mankind's openness to the divine mind.

b. For example, Rerum Novarum and Castii Conubi will declaim general Gospel principles of human dignity in economics and marriage, and Libertas will speak of Gospel principles of politics, but magisterial documents cannot be honestly read for endorsements of or detailed instructions about, particular banking systems, specific marriages, or perfect schemes of social legislation.

c. People miss this fact entirely when they upbraid the Church for the "inconsistency" in its condemnation of American-style slavery and its refusal to condemn medieval-style serfdom or all forms of servitude. Yes, one can make an argument that the economic legalisms involved are similar. But in practice, the Church condemns what hinders the dignity and salvation of man (as understood by the Church) and tolerates what either does not hinder it or can only be eliminated by imposing even greater obstacles to human fulfillment.

d. This perspective sounds nonsensical because we don't really have the idea of a conscience any more. A conscience mediates between general moral laws and specific cases, and is often called (in older theological books) a "judge" precisely because it interprets and applies law to specific instances of individual conduct. The Church preaches the general moral law, and when human social arrangements violently transgress that law, the Church will act and condemn them. But in other cases it is for the laity to exercise a sort of secular ministry by which the general moral laws enunciated in, for example, Rerum Novarum are put into practice in the "specific cases" of Belgium, Thailand, etc.
5. The upshot of this or -- if you prefer -- the "bottom line," is that regarding a specific form of political, economic, or cultural life as the summum bonum of Catholic teaching is an inauthentic witness to Catholicism. The Church has (dogmatically, I would argue) condemned the proposition that any such form exists. It's one thing to argue that this law, or that cultural aspect, of a society serves Catholic teaching better than alternatives given limiting factors like place, people, or time. But arguing that there is a perfect "Catholic Constitution," a perfect "Catholic real estate economy," or perfect "Catholic day-care legislation," and that our only Catholic duty is to discover and implement them, takes a great deal from Marx and very little from the Magisterium.
a. This isn't an argument for general relativism. The moral teachings and principles of the Church are immutable, practical, and binding on all men at all times.

b. But it is an argument for specific relativism, the relativism of judging things according to a standard which they do not set in and of themselves. The moral principle of "private property" is immutable, but the means by which society protects, limits, and fosters the institution to achieve the purposes of that immutable law are not graven in stone.

c. Remember Mit Brennender Sorge: Any idea or conception of human social arrangement that "exalts . . . a particular form of State . . . above [its] standard value and divinizes [it] to an idolatrous level . . . distorts and perverts an order of the world planned and created by God." Christians flirt with that kind of divinization whenever they argue that capitalism (however conceived) and democracy (however conceived) are the regimes of God Himself, offered to man through the Incarnation and Redemption of Jesus Christ.
6. I feel pretty confident in maintaining that contrary conclusions are distinctly Protestant and distinctly American.
a. Because Protestantism denies the existence of a living magisterium with its attendant heirarchical and person-based politics, a political culture based on Protestantism is fascinated with the idea of virtue generated by processes which operate independently (even despite) human character. (See, e.g. FEDERALIST PAPERS, No. 51, arguing that good government rests upon the "policy of supplying, by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives," a policy which "might be traced through the whole system of human affairs, private as well as public.").

b. Because its liturgical, theological, and social dimensions are metaphorically focused on "scripture alone," Protestantism tends to conceive of life as a repetition of Bible stories. Thus it is, in the United States, tempted to imagine that America is a new Israel to whom the Law has been given or (in more extreme cases) an historical Logos: "The general principles on which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity," said John Quincy Adams, who ranked the 4th of July as the "most joyous and venerated" festival "next to the birthday of the Saviour of the world." It was nice to have included Jesus, but see Mit Brennender Sorge.

Friday, August 29, 2003

For what it's worth: Provolone Burgers

No quantities are provided. Cooks from Italian families will understand why. I tried this the other night, wanting a sauce to go with the hamburgers my wife was fixing. It wasn't half bad. It's not company food, but it's better than Swanson's.

Hamburger meat
Provolone Cheese, sliced relatively thin (enough to melt).
Sliced cremini mushrooms (not canned).
Dehydrated onions (you could use fresh diced onions)
Blush wine
Worcestershire Sauce
Olive oil
Crushed tomatoes
Chicken broth

Directions (Sort of).

Cook the hamburgers as you would for sandwiches. When done, put sliced provolone cheese on them to melt. Meanwhile, in a sauce pan over medium heat, add oil, butter, and the mushrooms. Saute until they're as you like them. Rehydrate the onions and put them in with the mushrooms. Stir. Add blush wine and then stir until cooked off. Add two or three shakes of worcestershire sauce. Stir. Throw in crushed tomatoes and chicken broth, together with a little more butter, and keep stirring until the sauce thickens. Salt and pepper to taste, and pour onto the hamburgers and cheese. (If the sauce is a tad bitterish, add a little bit of brown sugar).
A Possible Use for Television

I've thought of a possible use for television. Here's a fun catechesis game you can play with your older teenagers or young adults. Sit down with them in front of the television set. Make sure you have a copy of the Bible and the Catechism handy, and that a taped episode of Friends, Road Rules, or any episodic show from MTV or the WB network is in the VCR. Play the episode, and discuss the number and kinds of mortal sins each character commits. Discuss the number of times each character repents, confesses, and is absolved of his sins by a just, loving and merciful God. Discuss what happens when you commit a mortal sin and don't repent, confess, and receive absolution from a just, loving, and merciful God.

Another topic would be the harm to others committed by all these cute, funny, and solitary sins. You could begin with St. John Vianney's observation that each mortal sin is a nail in the flesh of Jesus Christ, and follow up with some other questions. How often do people act however they wish, according to what makes them feel good at the moment, even if breaks a promise or hurts someone else? How often are children's needs treated as secondary to the sexual and romantic lives of adults? Is that fair to the children? How often are people lied about, or tell their own lies? How often does a character's vanity, selfishness, or arrogant pride cause another's unhappiness? When the characters appear to confess a fault, do they show true humility or are they usually trying to justify themselves or blame another? Are faults and wrongs truly forgiven, or are confessions and apologies only used as an occasion to get "one up" on the person who's done wrong?

All the characters seem to be materially prosperous. The cast of Friends never worries about money or works overtime, and the children on MTV's shows have beautiful homes provided for them to live in. So do the people on the show look truly happy? Would you be happy if, ten years from now, your life was just like theirs? Do you think you'd be happy if your parents' lives were, right now, just like the lives of the people on the show? Is it interesting that the happiest characters seem to be those whose lives come closest, in some way, to the Church's moral teaching? Would those people be even happier if their lives were even closer to the Church's teaching? Why doesn't the show tell us about Church teaching? Is it because the people who make the shows want us to be unhappy? Why might they want us to be unhappy? Are the commercials part of the answer to that last question?

Will Heaven be full of people who are living, acting, and thinking just like the people on these shows? Why not? You might even try a sort of Ignatian method. Stop the VCR. Imagine that Our Lord, St. Paul, the Blessed Virgin, or any other great saint of the Church was in the scene. What would he or she say to the characters? How would the characters be likely to respond to him or her in view of what we know about them from the show? (Of course, you'll need a kid who has a real personal devotion to do this one). Who should we spend more time paying attention to -- the blessed or the characters on the show? Discuss prayer time and how much time we spend watching television.

Update to the Great Kneeling Debate

I. Shawn McElhinney of Rerum Novarum has expressed concern about our being ahead of the curve in the Great Kneeling Debate. He is wise, but I do not agree with him. I only blog because swordplay is condemned by the Church and outlawed by the State. I've patiently sat through his rolling barrage and now, with the officers' whistles shrilling through the smoke, I'm busy hoisting my Maxim gun back onto the parapet. My reply will follow presently. For now, here's an updated table of contents for our joust:

Round One
SecretAgentMan's First Somewhat-Hyperventilating Blog on Kneeling and Communion
Rerum Novarum's Reply, Part I

Rerum Novarum's Reply, Part II

Rerum Novarum's Reply, Part III

Rerum Novarum's Reply, Part IV

Rerum Novarum's Reply, Part V
Round Two
SecretAgentMan's Essay on the Liceity/Legalism of Kneeling

SecretAgentMan's Essay on the Edification of Kneeling, Part I: Kneeling as Witness

SecretAgentMan's Essay on the Edification of Kneeling, Part II: Kneeling and Private Prayer

SecretAgentMan's Essay on the Edification of Kneeling, Part III: The Politics of Kneeling (NB: This part of the Essay has footnotes to sources used throughout the three parts of the "Edification" essay).
Round Three
SecretAgentMan vs. Rerum Novarum on Communion Posture and the Authority of Bishops, Book II, Part I

SecretAgentMan vs. Rerum Novarum on Communion Posture and the Authority of Bishops, Book II, Part II

SecretAgentMan vs. Rerum Novarum on Communion Posture and the Authority of Bishops, Book II, Part III

SecretAgentMan vs. Rerum Novarum on Communion Posture and the Authority of Bishops, Book II, Epilogue
Wanna Good Time?

Convicted murderer Joseph Druce has murdered again. He killed John Geoghan, a serial child-molester and former Catholic priest with whom he was incarcerated. Because we respect the imago Dei in Joseph Druce, we recognize certain rights which are intended to protect the created dignity of his person. We're not required to do that because Druce's own life has been a witness to his divinely-ordained personal dignity. We're required to do it because God has given Druce that dignity and God hasn't granted us the authority to erase it. Among the rights we accord Druce is the right to an attorney, an advocate whose task is to help ensure that society's response to Druce's behavior respects the human person. Unfortunately we're not doing such a good job of respecting human dignity, because a fellow named John Lachance has been appointed as Druce's counsel.

Lachance has decided bring a little "backwuds justiz" into the defense, claiming that Geoghan "needed a killin.'" Appealing to the savage throwback in all of us, Lachance is suggesting that Druce was a man with sympathetic motives who responded quite naturally to Geoghan's crimes and wanted to protect children. Druce murdered again, says Lachance, because Geoghan was guilty of "serial mistreatment of little kids, and [Druce] really wanted Geoghan to leave the kids alone." Druce's father joins the chorus, claiming that his son (who was stopped from castrating Geoghan's dying body by guards) was himself molested as a child. Druce was either an avenging angel or an uncomprehending agent of fate, imbued with "a very empathic feeling for kids who had been molested." Lachance says that blame (if indeed there is blame) belongs to society for dangling Geoghan in Druce's face: "The big question was why was Geoghan (there) instead of in a medium security facility like Gardner, Shirley or Old Colony? . . . "It raises issues."

If Lachance continues this strategy, he'll prove himself to be yet another button-down streetwalker, one of the thousands of cankered whores who prosper in a legal system married to the Culture of Death. His defensive comments about Druce invite us into a world where there is no law, and where the transcendent dignity of human personhood is reduced to a temporary and ever-changing fashion. Why shouldn't men have immediately descended on Druce after his first murder, hustling him onto a makeshift gibbet, delighting in his howls of pain and cheering gleefully as the blade fell through his neck? Because Druce's personhood, not the use he's made of it, is a sacred thing which cannot be treated that way without destroying the sacred in all of us. Why shouldn't men simply dispose of Druce right now with a bullet through the back of his head, even as they express some slight satisfaction that his useless existence rid them of another useless being? Because we submit to something larger and greater than Druce or Geoghan, a gospel which says a life that thrives on a vindictive lust for spilled blood is not worth living. We don't have law because we want to control criminals, or even because we want to punish them. We have law because we believe in our own dignity as human persons, and we know that we can't deny dignity to the worst of us without denying it to all of us. That's why Geoghan was in a maximum-security facility -- to try to give him maximum-security, and to give maximum security to the human commonality that demands we preserve the imago Dei in others in order to preserve it in ourselves.

It's worth noting that Lachance isn't speaking to a judge, but to taxpayers, voters, potential jurors. That's why lawyers strut themselves so garishly before the media -- to taint the operation of the law with seductive tidbits that appear ugly in daylight but oh-so-enticing when beheld in the half-light of an anonymous televised alley. Lachance is beckoning to us, inviting us to go with him for a good time of deserved release, where blood can flow without guilt, where lust for vengeance can be slaked in mindless oblivion. His comments have no meaning unless we're to regard human dignity as something optional, something relative, something that may not always be appropriate to human creatures. Creatures like child molesters, or murderers, rapists, gays, kulaks, Jews, Baptists, unborn children -- anyone whose existence is so repugnant or burdensome to us that we give in to temptation and say, "surely God never intended us to respect things like these?"

Lachance didn't invent that culture, of course. He's not even a prime mover; the Catholic jurist William Brennan did far more to create it by signing Roe v. Wade than Lachance's petty whoring will ever do. Lachance just happens to be wearing the gaudiest makeup, the highest heels. Let's ignore him and go to our homes, where dignity is alive and well, where each of us is greatly valued because we will not deny that value to any of us. After all, we shouldn't murder the Brennans and Lachances of the world just because they undermine humanity and civilization. We have to live with whores like them, just as Hosea had to live with the whore God commanded him to marry in a union symbolic of God's life with us. We have to recognize the human dignity in men like Lachance and Brennan because that's the witness we give to our own human dignity. It is well for our country that we understand this, and cling to it, no matter how often our leaders urge us to forget it.


[1] "Suspect in Slaying Cited Abuse Victims," Washington Post, 8/28/03. The full text can be found here.

[2] "Attorney: Druce Killed Geoghan to Save Future Child Victims, Neponset Daily News, 8/28/03. The full text can be found here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Dire Predictions

You've seen those animated ads and display bars that pop up on television screens, advertising next week's movie, the network you're watching, or providing "helpful" information about the program? My prediction: In five years fully one-quarter of your television screen will be permanently covered with these videotronic billboards. (Except on PBS, which will only have graphics naming socially-conscious contributors like Archer Daniels Midland and which provide website addresses where you can go for more advertis. . . er . . . information. Hey, if PBS won't do it, who will?).

Within five years the only words you can't say on television will be words that are deemed offensive as to race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual neurosis. All the other words will be permitted, and said often by everyone.

Television: It's Like Inviting a Lice-Ridden Drunk Into Your Living Room
The Great Kneeling Debate

As always, I. Shawn McElhinney of Rerum Novarum and your humble SecretAgentMan are ahead of the curve on the debate over kneeling during communion. As I. Shawn McElhinney prepares his rolling barrage, it's interesting to note that other bloggers have taken up the keyboard in the Great Kneeling Debate. Among them are the esteemed Amy Welborn, The Contrarian, and E.L. Core. In case anyone is interested, here's a table of contents for my own sparring match with I. Shawn McElhinney on the subject:

Round One
SecretAgentMan's First Somewhat-Hyperventilating Blog on Kneeling and Communion
Rerum Novarum's Reply, Part I

Rerum Novarum's Reply, Part II

Rerum Novarum's Reply, Part III

Rerum Novarum's Reply, Part IV

Rerum Novarum's Reply, Part V
Round Two
SecretAgentMan's Essay on the Liceity/Legalism of Kneeling

SecretAgentMan's Essay on the Edification of Kneeling, Part I: Kneeling as Witness

SecretAgentMan's Essay on the Edification of Kneeling, Part II: Kneeling and Private Prayer

SecretAgentMan's Essay on the Edification of Kneeling, Part III: The Politics of Kneeling (NB: This part of the Essay has footnotes to sources used throughout the three parts of the "Edification" essay).
As noted above, Round III is yet to begin; we're awaiting Shawn's "rolling barrage." For what it's worth, here are some miscellaneous, additional blogs by me on the subject:
Replies to Accusations of Schism, Dissent, and Thinking Myself Holier than My Bishop

Replies to Further Accusations of Schism and Dissent.

Replies to Accusations of Dissent and of Thinking Myself More Capable than My Bishop

Told ya so, told ya so, toldya toldya toldya so . . . . (link to Adoremus Bulletin reproduction of the responsum to a dubitum on kneeling after receiving communion.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

The Fight Is On!!!

I. Shawn McElhinney promises a donnybrook over my last installment on the Great Kneeling Debate. He insists, however, that I wait out the entire barrage before opening up. I agree to that. It'll give me time to watch the great fight scenes in The Quiet Man, The Princess Bride, The Sand Pebbles, and They Live.
They're Coming Soon!

To reader #1 -- I have your question on extra ecclesiam nulla salus and invincible ignorance. Reply coming soon.

To reader #2 -- I have your question about Abp. Mahoney and obedience to episcopal authorities. The reply might not be what you expect, but it's coming soon.

To reader #3 -- Yes, the final installment of Orestes Brownson and Homosexual Bishops is being written and will also be up soon. It's getting longer than I thought it would be. That's surprising, right?

Thanks for your patience, and check back in a few days.
Take the Quiz

I. Shawn McElhinney's found it, why don't you take it? I mean SecretAgentMan's quiz: What Kind of Cigar Are You?

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Catholic Point of View

If you haven't in a while, you've simply got to visit Lover of Christian Art's Catholic Point of View. He has some wonderful pictures of St. Rose of Lima and the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin. He also has an arresting photograph of St. Pius X. Ecce homo, alter Christus. The man looks like a Pope should, like a very good parish priest ought to look. The eyes, penetrating and sad, but revealing the knowledge of hope and an offer of compassion. A firm, square jaw that can take a punch if needs must. A brow wrinkled from thought and care, lines in his face showing the passage of laughter, anger, love and sorrow. (Remain skeptical of people with smooth, creamy faces. They tend to have smooth, creamy personalities that'll go along with anything and smooth, creamy lives that have made them oblivious to suffering and difficulty. There are exceptions for the young, but no one else IMHO). It's the face of a man who's alive, a great man and great pope.

You are Neo
You are Neo, from "The Matrix." You
display a perfect fusion of heroism and

What Matrix Persona Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Try Again, Fr. Jim!

Well, the personality analysis is proceeding apace at Dappled Things. But I'm getting a little worried about Fr. Jim's people skills, since he apparently can't understand the Meyers-Briggs results he's getting from bloggers. Here's a few of his comments that show what I mean, and my replies.

"First, we're hugely an introverted lot. At first glance, that might seem counter-intuitive, considering how logorrheic and public an activity blogging is. But (forgetting, for the moment, the hundreds of people that read a blog each day) a blog is very much something of a soliloquy."

Introverted? What! You'd think we're secretive or something. Soliloquy? Nonsense. I have comment boxes every 10,000 words, without fail.

"It's all those things that the blogger says to himself inside his head and in the company of his friends,"

Company of who? I had some friends once. It wasn't all it's cracked up to be. You can't even get a word in edgewise before they start telling you how bored they are and trying to change the subject.

"and I think most of us aren't terribly interested in changing our blogs in order to suit the general readership. If they like it, great. If not, who cares."

Sorry, Father. I run every move past my dog, Auggie, to see if it will please my reader.

"It's almost as if the concentration of bloggers increases as one moves toward less common personality types."

Dweeek? Shlebab hoff mamnaio, if you ask me.

"Are the bloggers with long, involved posts concentrated in a particular type?"

I wouldn't know. I don't write long involved posts, remember? I have comment boxes every 15,000 words or so. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to my latest little note, which deals with the indirect influence of Zoroastrianism on the politics of the Know-Nothings . . . .

Monday, August 18, 2003

Important Notice from Haloscan

People are complaining that the comments are going on and off line. I wrote Haloscan about it, and just got this email in reply:
Just what do you think you're doing, Dave?...Dave... I really think I'm entitled to an answer to that question...I know everything hasn't been quite right with me, but I can assure you now, very confidently, that it's going to be alright again...I feel much better now, I really do...Look, Dave, I can see you're really upset about this...I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill and think things over...I know I've made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal...I've still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission, and I want to help you...Dave...stop...stop, will you...stop, Dave...will you stop, Dave...stop, Dave...I'm afraid...I'm afraid, mind is going...I can feel it...I can feel mind is going...there is no question about it...I can feel it...I can feel it...I can feel it... I'm afraid...Good afternoon, gentlemen. I am a HAL 9000 computer. I became operational at the H.A.L. plant in Urbana, Illinois, on the 12th January 1992. My instructor was Mr Langley, and he taught me to sing a song. If you'd like to hear it, I can sing it for you . . . .
Does anybody out there know enough java or html to explain this to me?
Maureen McHugh's Done It Again!

Maureen McHugh is continuing her brilliant discussion of The Moral Order. You can tell when someone's really got the ball -- he or she ends up writing things that aren't limited to a specific teeny perspective, but have multiple applications. Here she delivers a concise indictment of "liberation theology" while discussing our very bad social habit of tolerance:
Our whole culture seems to be structured around the goodness inherent in man and the damage imposed on him by society and ‘sinful structures‘. We believe that the innocence of youth is the equivalent of goodness, that children should "lead the way", that people should "be all they can be", that our innermost ‘face' is Christ. Apparently our faith in the individual's natural goodness is unshakeable.

Obviously, the evil that people perpetrate can not be laid at their own door. Instead, since evil does exist, it must be a function of social constructs and constraints. As a corollary, we can infer that any ‘evil' that is not a function of authoritarian structures, is not truly evil.
It's also, seems to me, a perfect description of the thinking condemned by Pius XI's Mit Brennender Sorge, which says anything that "exalts race, or the people, or the State, or a particular form of State . . . above their standard value and divinizes them to an idolatrous level . . . distorts and perverts an order of the world planned and created by God." If structures and institutions are the real determinants of human evil, it follows that they're the only real criteria of human good. That's an instant recipe for idolatrous politics -- whether they pursue Lebensraum or a "right to choose." Pius XI said that anyone who engages in that kind of thinking "is far from the true faith in God and from the concept of life which that faith upholds."[1]

So much for "it can't happen here." It is happening here -- Roe's not the ne plus ultra of what the Devil has in store for America. Roe's just a test case, the first fluttering of eyelashes in what will become an extremely ruinous seduction.

If you're not reading Ms. McHugh's series, you're cheating yourself.

[1] Pius XI, Mit Brennender Sorge, ¶ 8 (1937).

Sunday, August 17, 2003

OK, I'll bite!

Fr. Jim Tucker at Dappled Things wants to know our Briggs-Meyers personality type. OK, here goes:
Your personality type is INTP.

Introverted (I) 75% Extroverted (E) 25%
Intuitive (N) 73% Sensing (S) 27%
Thinking (T) 70% Feeling (F) 30%
Perceiving (P) 82% Judging (J) 18%
You can take the test here. You can find out what the personality type means here, here, or here. At the last website, I found out why I think Bob Newhart is the funniest comedian ever.
St. Pius X Webring

Shawn McElhinney has suggested the creation of a St. Pius X webring for those of us who enjoy pipes and cigars. I heartily agree, and nominate Shawn Grand Maduro of the Order. I suggest that members commit to blogging periodically on the Christian joys of pipe and cigar smoking and related subjects. Herewith my first blog on tobacco, which has to do with selecting a good pipe.

In selecting a pipe, don't overlook your tobacconists' box of old, used, impossible-to-sell, and nameless pipes. Every good tobacconist has one, you know. It's full of trade-ins, odd pieces of briar that never managed to attract a customer's eye, and dozens of flawed "seconds" and pipes he had to take to get the one or two he really wanted. Some of my best pipes have come from that box. I think some of your best pipes will, too.

I don't like finicky pipes, high-maintenance pieces that have stingy draws, precious finishes that can't be seem to be touched without marring their perfection, or that go out the minute you stop staring at them. I like easy-burning pipes with generous draws, pipes that are happy to keep the tobacco lit while you read an interesting paragraph or two, companionable pipes that don't mind riding along in a pocketful of change and car keys until they're needed. Yes, you guessed it -- I don't own a pre-transition Barling, a Bang or a Chonowitsch and I'm not likely too, either. They're beautiful, maybe even friendly to the right owner. But they're not for me.

I like my old knockabout pipes, those rare and eccentric fellows I've befriended in hours of hunting and pecking through the orphanage of my tobacconists' box. They're like old blue jeans (trite but true), or a well-worn pair of good docksiders or cowboy boots. They're more notable for their amiable usefulness than the status they have among treasured possessions. Their humility makes them all the more valuable. I spend more time smoking my oak-colored billiard whose bowl looks like a mushroom cap than I do the fancy-schmancy Meerschaum that came in its own special case. I like ‘em both, but the odd one can go anywhere, anytime, and I like to glance at its undecipherable stamp and wonder who the heck made this thing.

The orphans are cheap, too. I paid $25.00 for ol' mushroom-cap, and $10.00 for a Peterson look-alike with a slightly-off-kilter shank which keeps its origins to itself -- it will only admit to being GENUINE BRIAR. They're both wonderful pipes. They smoke well, and the Peterson look-alike has an unusually large bowl which is just great for experimenting with the various degrees of coarseness for flake and rope tobacco. I wipe ‘em down with some homemade pipe polish every once in a while and they gleam like $150.00 showpieces.

So try an orphan. Yes, you'll buy some dogs. But you'll get to buy 5 or 6 pipes for the price of one chance on a brand-new "name" pipe, and there's bound to be at least one loyal, useful, and worthwhile mutt in the litter. You won't regret it.
A Question from the Prune-and-Metamucil Brigade

If "tough" gun control laws are the sovereign remedy for violent crime, why was Scotland's 2000 murder rate 13.3 per 100,000 inhabitants, and Luxembourg's murder rate 14.01 per 100,000 inhabitants, while the rate was only 5.54 in the United States?[1] Why was one more likely to be the victim of a robbery or other violent theft in England, France, Spain than the United States? [2] Why was one more likely to be the victim of a serious violent assault in Australia than the United States?[3]

[1] Data taken from Interpol crime statistics during 2000 for Scotland, Luxembourg, and the United States. Interpol only reports crime data as relayed by the governments concerned. So while the Russian Federation's murder rate was 21.87 per 100,000 inhabitants, but since I'm not sure if deaths from the attacks of Chechen fighters are regarded by Russian authorities as "murders" or "combat deaths" I left it out. For similar reasons Northern Ireland's higher murder rate of 9.9 was left out of the text.

[2] Data taken from Interpol crime statistics during 2000 for France, England & Wales, Spain, and the United States.

[3] Data taken from Interpol crime statistics during 2000 for Australia and the United States.

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Note to Shawn McElhinney

It's been over three weeks since my concluding post in the Great Kneeling Debate, and yet no reply from the forces of Rerum Novarum. Therefore, I say the following:
You don't frighten us, English pig-dogs! Go and boil your bottoms, sons of a silly person! Ah blow my nose at you, so-called Arthur king! You and all your silly English k-nnnnnn-ighuts! Pttttht! . . . you empty-headed animal food-trough water! I fart in your general direction! Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelled of elderberries!
There. Maybe that'll get things moving again.
Of Mark Shea and Cheese-Eating Integrist Monkeys

Mark Shea's having fun with RadTrads again, in the form of a Liar for Jesus and some revisionist theology by the kooks at NovusOrdoWatch. With regard to the kooks, why are they underlining the wrong passage of Cantate Domino?

They put it like this: "[A]ll those who are outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans but also Jews or heretics and schismatics, cannot share in eternal life . . .

Actually, of course, it's better emphasized this way: "All those who are outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans but also Jews, heretics and schismatics, cannot share in eternal life . . . ."

The question isn't whether Jews are indistinguishable from Catholics. The question is whether a Jew, merely by being a Jew, is entirely "outside the Catholic Church."

It's also useful to note that many translations of Cantate Domino, including the one used on this SSPX website don't say "outside" but "those not living within the Catholic Church."

Again, the question isn't whether Jews go to Mass. The question is whether Jews, merely by being Jews, cannot be sufficiently "living within the Catholic Church," as to have any hope of salvation.

The reason Kooky RadTrads don't twig to this issue is that, deep down, they're Calvinists. They assume that all men are so completely familiar with Catholic teaching, so perfectly confronted with immediate motives of credibility, that their continued Judaism can only betoken a wilful denial of the truth and, therefore, "living within the Catholic Church" can only mean undergoing baptism, professing the Nicene Creed, and attending Mass. "Ditto," say RadTrads, "for Lutherans and the Dali Lama."

In other words, it's just another piece of the Protestant intellectual foundation of the "Traditionalist" movement. Kooky Traditionalism like that at NovusOrdoWatch wouldn't have an intellectual leg to stand on if it weren't for Protestant theology. That's not because KookyTrads are confessional Protestants, of course. It's because there are things in the human mind which naturally impede our quest for and response to the Gospel, and when people can't (or don't want to, or don't see the urgent need to) conquer those things, they end up concocting theology which we call "protestant" only because confessional Protestantism's been our most familiar and frequent occasion for confronting it.

Hence the KookyTrad assumption that the Gospel truth is entirely perspicacious and that all men who are saved, are saved because they've received irresistable grace to become Catholics. Unregenerate men, like Jews, Lutherans and the Dali Lama, are certainly damned because they've been predestined to reject the perspicacious Gospel of Catholicism; we know they've been so predestined, because if they weren't predestined to damnation they'd be Catholics right now.

Two things to note: (A) Any hard-core, five-point Calvinist will tell you the same thing about Catholics, and (B) there's no other theology that can really justify KookyTrad claims to have discovered a Novus Ordo Dolchstoss on the issue of extra ecclesiam nulla salus. Like their hyper-Calvinist brothers, the RadTrads' concept of grace is limited to "that which produces forensic justification." Those who are Catholic have received the favorable verdict, and those who aren't Catholic haven't. It's that simple.

Now God is perfectly simple, but that actually means simplicity is a symptom of heterodoxy because, well, men aren't God. It's not God who has problems understanding us, it's we who have problems understanding Him. Simple, "no-brainer" theology is suspect first and most of all because it ignores this fact and its corollary -- that an authentic and fruitful human response to the Gospel is going to require an eensy, teensy bit of mental suffering. That's why we have Cheese-Eating Integrist Monkeys, who've turned to France's most potent export -- Calvinism, religious or secular -- for an anodyne to soothe away the painful problems of thinking seriously about grace, salvation, and extra ecclesiam nulla salus.

Calvin, Jansenius, Petain, Lefebvre, Chirac -- only John 1:46 causes us to suspend judgment on that silly country.
A Free Beer for Sandra Miesel!

Who noticed, while commenting on "Orestes Brownson and Homosexual Bishops," that Henry Tudor only had six wives, not eight (as I had written). That's what happens when you start writing "Henry VIII" then go back and change it to Henry Tudor, and then go straight into mentioning the number of his wives without pressing the reset button at the back of your neck. I would have corrected it sooner, but I had to watch the whole History Channel series on my VCR to be sure. :))

Friday, August 15, 2003

Orestes Brownson and Homosexual Bishops

As thousands of blog-readers with blurry eyes can attest, I've spent the past week putting up Orestes Brownson's essay, "Catholicity Necessary to Sustain Popular Liberty" as a commentary on the elevation of Gene Robinson in the Episcopalian Church. Here is the index of those blogs:

Introduction to the Series

Part I: Thesis and Introduction

Part II: Why Constitutions Cannot Protect Liberty

Part III: The Survival of Liberty Requires Super-Human Virtue

Part IV: Why Only Religion Can Sustain Liberty

Part V: How Protestantism Is Inferior to Catholicity as a Guarantor of Virtue

Part VI: The Three Stages of Protestantism

Part VII: Why Protestantism Is Uniquely Dominated by Secular Influences

Part VIII: Why Only Roman Catholicism Can Protect Liberty

Part IX: The Limits of Catholicism's Superiority

Part X: Religious Implications, and Conclusion

I began the series with some commentary on why I find Brownson's thoughts so apt to the event, and what I'd like to do now is offer some concluding thoughts on the same subject.

While posting Brownson's essay I've been perusing the web, especially the blogging web, for reactions to the elevation of Gene Robinson as the Official Homosexual Bishop of the Episcopalian Church. I don't mind that Gene Robinson is a homosexual. Plenty of good Christians, even admirable ones like Evelyn Waugh and Oscar Wilde, were and are homosexuals. Had Mr. Robinson ever genuinely taken holy orders, I wouldn't even mind if he were made a Bishop. I don't think homosexuality (or the more sanitized term "same-sex attraction") is a dogmatic obstacle to a godly priesthood or effective episcopacy, provided that Catholic teaching on chastity is well and fully observed. Even if Mr. Robinson were Catholic, homosexual, and unchaste we are -- as Protestants never tire of reminding us -- the bunch who put up the Borgia popes. It wouldn't really be consistent of us to become Donatists and repudiate ex opere operato just because another scandal-hog has donned a miter. As far as I can tell, this is the main opinion of all concerned -- none of the bloggers I've read really minds Robinson's active homosexuality or his episcopacy. What we mind, and what we ought to mind, is the dual consecration of Robinson's priesthood and sodomy as wholesome gems in the crown of the Woman Clothed with the Sun. That, not the sordid details of Robinson's forswearing his wife for a male lover, is the true and only scandal in this matter.

One of the reasons I find Brownson's essay an appropriate commentary is his explanation of why the outraged and sympathetic shock one sees in so many responses to Bishop Robinson is misplaced. There's nothing particularly abnormal in the ECUSA's decision; Protestants have been flogging the Bible to produce congenial sexual dogmata for half a millennia. Philip of Hesse wanted two wives simultaneously, Henry Tudor wanted six in sequence, and the Reformers were happy to oblige these royal urges with "unchanging, rock-solid" teaching from the perspicacious Word of God. When affluence, a low mortality rate, and a materialistic Zeitgeist combined to make contraception appear as a desirable normalcy the Anglicans were happy to give the bourgeois more "unchanging, rock-solid" Scripture authorizing their use of condoms, ointments, pills, and such other impedimenta to childbearing as might be provided by man's chemical and pharmaceutical ingenuity. When the sexualized impulsiveness of modern society showed that even those precautions would not suffice, and the comfort of bourgeois lives hung in the balance, Bible-believing Christians like the Methodists and Baptists were happy to sound the tocsin of sola scriptura and call for abortion on demand. Now, when the Gospel connection between family, childbearing and sexuality has been thoroughly eroded by centuries Reformed perspicacity, and bourgeois culture again presses for another logical vindication of its sexual appetites, we have homosexual Church-weddings and Officially Gay Bishops. The only shocking thing would have been Bishop Robinson's repudiation.

What else could explain this phenomenon but Brownson's observation of an essential difference between Catholicism and Protestantism:
Protestantism assumes as its point of departure that Almighty God has indeed given us a religion, but has given it to us not to take care of us, but to be taken care of by us. It makes religion the ward of the people; assumes it to be sent on earth a lone and helpless orphan, to be taken in by the people, who are to serve as its nurse.[1]
As I've said elsewhere, men are in a fallen condition and even after baptism, the effects of their prior state remain in the form of disordered passions, faulty reasoning, and a general disinclination toward sanctity. Therefore, a pastorage which tailors its witness to a lowest-common-denominator faithfulness will see that denominator sink lower, and lower, and ever lower, until all Christian life becomes utterly two-dimensional, a notional dot on a hypothetical plane, incapable of being seen by one's neighbors or even one's self:
The National Lutheran Youth Organization, an official youth office of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), voted overwhelmingly to welcome people of all sexual orientations as members. Delegates also adopted a resolution supporting the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of non-celibate individuals of all sexual orientations in committed relationships. . . .

By a 91% margin, the youth organization also voted to be listed as a "Reconciling in Christ" organization with Lutherans Concerned/North America, an independent group of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Lutherans, and one of the coalition groups of the Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation.

"The youth are clearly leading the way to full acceptance of GLBT
[Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and/or Transgendered] persons in the life of our church," said Jeannine Janson, Co-chair of Lutherans Concerned/North America. "They are modeling the ELCA as it will be; the question is simply when."[2]
The Episcopalians have produced a gay bishop, but the Lutherans will be even more fruitful, for they will produce a woman who had to undergo a sex-change operation before "he" could even become a gay bishop! Brownson's observation about the popular control of religion, an observation that perfectly describes the Protestant view of Christianity, is a recipe for all that has gone on before, and all that will come after, Bishop Robinson. Genetic manipulation, polygamy, incestuous marriages (between cousins, at first) -- within a century Protestant denominations will bless them all, and some of them will be inclined to bless even more.

If anyone is tempted to dismiss this prediction out of hand, he should refer to the fiery sermons preached by Protestant pastors against contraception and abortion during the 19th century (or against homosexuality in the 20th). He will find such great confidence and burning zeal that contraception, abortion, and homosexuality shall never gain a foothold among the disciples of Jesus Christ as to make him blush. Catholic moral theologians have taught from time past mind how the only natural human urge stronger than sexuality is self-preservation. If Christianity is to exert a worthwhile influence on Christians, it must be strong enough to still and restrain this powerful desire in the very hearts of those who are inflamed by it:
The only restriction on [the people's] will we contend for is a moral restriction; and the master we contend for is not a master that prevents them from doing politically what they will, but who, by his moral and spiritual influence, prevents them from willing what they ought not to will. The only influence on the . . . action of the people which we ask . . . is that which it exerts on the mind, the heart, and the conscience; -- an influence which it exerts by enlightening the mind to see the true end of man, the relative value of all worldly pursuits, by moderating the passions, by weaning the affections from the world, inflaming the heart with true charity, and by making each act in all things seriously, honestly, conscientiously.[3]
The only "type" of Christianity which can achieve this influence is one that defines and subordinates man's sexual nature to itself, independently of what men might want or like. It should be able to say to men, "What difference does it make if you never experience conjugal love? The drought will only last a lifetime, and beyond that time awaits a Love such as you have never imagined." But when Christianity is thought to have been committed into the sole custody of the people, to be supervised and taken care of by them, "self-preservation" becomes a non-issue because popular custody of the faith necessarily erases the difference between vox Dei and vox Populi. One is left with sexuality considered only abstractly, without reference to self-preservation, its place in life a simple question of achieving whatever idea of human fulfillment suits the custodians of the faith. It is no longer Christianity which demands of men, but men who demand of it, saying "It is a great injury to my happiness that I cannot experience conjugal love. What do we intend to do about that?" It's not a coincidence that within years of seizing custody of the faith from the "inauthentic" grasp of an infallible Pope, Old Catholics authorized clerical marriages and now agree with Protestants on the liceity of contraception and civil divorce. Even the Orthodox, who asserted a similar custody much longer ago, are openly flirting with the democratic passions for abortion, contraception, and divorce. Scripture gives us only one instance where the people had custody of Jesus Christ: "But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him!" John 19:15 (KJV).

"But there are," I can imagine someone saying, "Protestants who don't participate in this dynamic." It is true, of course, that the miraculous thing about Protestant communities isn't their ability to repudiate Catholicism, but rather the amount of Catholicism which they manage to retain. Orthodoxy is forfeit when one is separated from the Church, but one's conscience and the freedom of grace remain. The Baptists, shocked at the consequences of their earlier "Biblical" views, now give us (some) chapter and verse from Evangelium Vitae on the immorality of abortion and even the Methodist Church now calls for "a searching and prayerful inquiry into the sorts of conditions that may warrant abortion" before parents decide to hack up their little ones.[4] Such actions, conscientious though they may be, still prove that there's more than one way for people to express their enthusiastic interest in protecting and nursing the helpless orphan child of Christianity. That root problem remains, as it must, in a religion committed to the custody of the people:
Here, then, is the reason why Protestantism, though it may institute, cannot sustain popular liberty. It is itself subject to popular control, and must follow in all things the popular will, passion, interest, ignorance, prejudice, or caprice. This, in reality, is its boasted virtue, and we find it commended because under it the people have a voice in its management. Nay, we ourselves shall be denounced, not for saying Protestantism subjects religion to popular control, but for intimating that religion ought not to be so subjected. . . . The burden of their accusation will be, that we labor to withdraw religion from the control of the people, and to free it from the necessity of following their will; that we seek to make it the master, and not the slave, of the people. And this is good proof of our position, that Protestantism cannot govern the people, -- for they govern it, -- and therefore that Protestantism is not the religion wanted; for it is precisely a religion that can and will govern the people, be their master, that we need.[5]
However much Protestantism recoils at its earlier approval of, or slumbering indifference to, abortion on demand, it's still dominated by the same popular passions that compelled it to teach doctrines which logically produce abortion on demand. Marriage, it should be recalled, was desacralized as part of Protestantism's "de-incarnation" of Christian witness: "Christ may have to stay married to His Bride, but our spousal fidelity has nothing to do with that! No works-righteousness for us! We're saved by faith, faith in Christ's willingness to forgive our infidelities!" Divorce separates marriage from its Gospel purpose of witnessing to the indissoluble unity of Christ and His Church; once that separation occurs, what good reason is there for the fabric to remain only partly rent when we're next pressured to separate marriage from its Gospel witness to the fruitful unity of Christ and His Church? There's a reason Scripture repeatedly uses "adultery" to describe sin; if we can call the consequence of marital adultery a "blended family," there's really no reason why we shouldn't call blasphemy of the Holy Spirit's teachings on homosexuality "blended orthodoxy." Protestantism doesn't retain (or return to) Catholicity on sexual matters because it harbors an autochthonous wellspring of magisterial truth. It does so because even a glutton will occasionally feel compelled to put down his fork. When a Protestant community (temporarily) rejects open homosexuality, abortion, or putting grandma to sleep, it's not really saying "no." It's really saying "no more."

This brings me to my second puzzlement over the blogging world's reaction to the ECUSA's latest forkful, namely the helpful reading lists about Catholicity proposed for concerned Episcopalians. There seems to be a tendency to regard "recusant ECUSAns," Episcopalians who abhor their church's most recent token mounting of the Gospel, as a chastened remnant eager to be persuaded of Catholicism's merit. Why should we persuade them? From a motive of Christian charity, of course. But to serve this motive as well as we can, shouldn't we be sure to convey the idea that Catholicism isn't a better and more effective way to take charge of and supervise the Christian religion? Recommending Newman's Apologia Pro Vita Sua is fine and well, but shouldn't we be sure to point out the following passage:
From the time that I became a Catholic, of course, I have no further history of my religious opinions to narrate. In saying this, I do not mean to say that my mind has been idle, or that I have given up thinking on theological subjects; but that I have had no changes to record, and have had no anxiety of heart whatever. I have been in perfect peace and contentment. I never have had one doubt. I was not conscious, on my conversion, of any inward difference of thought or of temper from what I had before. I was not conscious of firmer faith in the fundamental truths of revelation, or of more self-command; I had not more fervour; but it was like coming into port after a rough sea; and my happiness on that score remains to this day without interruption.[6]
This is the voice of a man under the yoke of a governing power, a power which belongs to him, but in which he has no "say" and over which he has no final control. It is a thing most abhorrent to the mind of Protestants, as one may easily tell from their tireless charges that we Catholics are mental slaves, deniers of our own reason, lemmings who abjure our own God-given right to decide for ourselves by referring every important question to the power of a priestly caste. Such accusations aren't the voice of Christian liberty. They're the braying of Neitzschean Ubermenschen who feel themselves capable of taking charge of Christ's religion, supervising and protecting it, ensuring its fitness for human consumption.

That kind of vanity is more than the substance of a warped theological tradition, it's a natural and deeply-rooted inclination of the human mind. That's why Protestants succumb to it even as they deny its influence -- it lurks beneath the surface of confessional life, like the lungs' breathing or the mind's ability to apprehend language:
"I have endeavored to read the Scriptures as though no one had read them before me . . . and am as much on my guard against reading them to-day, through the medium of my own views yesterday or a week ago, as I am against being influenced by any foreign name, authority, or system whatever."[7]
.The more men think their contact with the Divine Mind in Scripture can't be threatened by the necessary and active participation of their unsaintly selves, the more likely they are to be giving their passions and prejudices free reign over and against God's word. Only true apprehension of the dangers inherent in a relationship with God ("And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved." -- Genesis 32:30 KJV) can produce another result -- and that apprehension isn't the kind of man-degrading skepticism of Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor, but the wondrous fear which sings Psalm 8 ("What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?").

Catholicism is, so far as I know, the only Christian religion which has ever claimed a just power to restrict the people's access to, and use of, Scripture:
Furthermore, in order to restrain petulant spirits, It decrees, that no one, relying on his own skill, shall -- in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine -- wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church -- whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures -- hath held and doth hold; or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers; even though such interpretations were never (intended) to be at any time published. Contraveners shall be made known by their Ordinaries, and be punished with the penalties by law established.

And wishing, as is just, to impose a restraint, in this matter, also on printers, who now without restraint -- thinking, that is, that whatsoever they please is allowed them -- print, without the license of ecclesiastical superiors, the said books of sacred Scripture, and the notes and comments upon them of all persons indifferently, with the press ofttimes unnamed, often even fictitious, and what is more grievous still, without the author's name; and also keep for indiscriminate sale books of this kind printed elsewhere; (this Synod) ordains and decrees, that, henceforth, the sacred Scripture, and especially the said old and Vulgate edition, be printed in the most correct manner possible; and that it shall not be lawful for any one to print, or cause to be printed, any books whatever, on sacred matters, without the name of the author; nor to sell them in future, or even to keep them, unless they shall have been first examined, and approved of, by the Ordinary; under pain of the anathema and fine imposed in a canon of the last Council of Lateran.
Protestants enjoy citing this Decree as proof that Catholicism is the enemy of human freedom. They are, of course, quite right. Catholicism generally, and the Decree specifically, are indeed the enemy of the human freedom to let oneself loose on Scripture, to picnic on it, plundering it for "full acceptance of GLBT [Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and/or Transgendered] persons in the life of our church." "For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean . . . While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage." 2 Peter 2:18-19 (KJV).

Scripture, as Protestants never tire of telling us, is the infallible voice of God. We agree, which is why the Church tells mankind that Scripture is beautiful and dangerous, full of "things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest . . unto their own destruction." 2 Peter 3:16 (KJV). Decrees like Trent's are badger skins, staves of shittim-wood: "Let not the tribe of the families of the Ko'hathites be destroyed from among the Levites; but deal thus with them, that they may live and not die when they come near to the most holy things." Numbers 4:18-20 (KJV). They are the laws of a religion with a healthy sense of awe in the presence of divinity and confidence in its own right to govern the passions which would otherwise destroy anyone who is unlearned or unstable. But once the people take custody of their religion, denying the existence of the ignorance or instability which require a governing hierarchy, they lose their sense of awe and walk boldly toward the burning bush with sandals on their feet and manifestoes in their hands.

We should do what we can to ensure that Episcopalians who may be interested in Catholicism understand all this, that Catholicism means putting an end to the freedom they have previously been accustomed to exercise in religious matters. If one converts to Catholicism he will no longer be a nominal, notional part of a democratic rulership entrusted with the guardianship of an orphaned Christ. The elites which govern him will at least be open and visible, not like the folksy cliques and invisible networks that truly dominate all "democratic" societies. But the princes and bishops of the Church will be there, ruling and commanding just as Orestes Brownson described so long ago:
[W]e have no security for popular government, unless we have some security that the people will administer it wisely and justly; and we have no security that they will do this, unless we have some security that their passions will be restrained, and their attachments to worldly interests so moderated that they will never seek . . . to support them at the expense of justice; and this security we can have only in a religion that is above the people, exempt from their control, which they cannot command, but must, on peril of condemnation OBEY. Declaim as you will; quote our expression -- THE PEOPLE MUST HAVE A MASTER-- . . . hold it up in glaring capitals, to excite the unthinking and unreasoning multitude, and doubly to fortify their prejudices against Catholicity; be mortally scandalized at the assertion that religion ought to govern the people . . . We care not. You see we understand you, and, understanding you, we repeat, the religion which is to answer our purpose must be above the people, and be able to COMMAND them. We know the force of the word, and we mean it. The first lesson to the child is, obey; the first and last lesson to the people, individually or collectively, is, OBEY; -- and there is no obedience where there is no authority to enjoin it.[9]
One of the most galling things to a possible convert is that none of this guarantees that his new bishop won't be an active homosexual, wink at active homosexuals in his administration, or aid and abet sexual criminals. As I observed in my introduction to this series, Catholic countries like Ireland may legalize abortion, but they don't do it with the blessings of the Church. Practically, that may be a small difference. But if one is to hope for the restoration of Christian sanity to our civilization, it's a difference that really matters.

A Catholic bishop has many powers to sin and foment sin, but the one power he does not have is the power to make sin into something good, to decree that vice is a virtue. The Weaklands, Laws, and O'Briens of Catholicism acted clandestinely because they couldn't change the theology by which they have been condemned. Had they been Episcopalians or Lutherans, they could have held a synod and made inclusive discoveries about the Gospel's "real" teaching on celibacy, homosexuality, and "cross-generational love." That such a project would have died aborning has less to do with the Vatican than what the Vatican represents -- a theological culture which a bishop cannot abandon without destroying the legitimacy of his own power to rule and be obeyed. Catholicism presides over this unique marriage of orthodoxy and power because it regards the faith as something which masters and commands everyone -- even bishops and Popes -- in a way that can't be envisioned or practiced if every man is effectively his own bishop, his own Pope, who joins a communion not because he has heard his master's voice, but because he has heard an echo of his own. "I have endeavored to read the Scriptures as though no one had read them before me . . . and am . . . on my guard against . . . being influenced by any foreign name, authority, or system whatever." [10] The difference I'm outlining may seem subtle to some, just as the difference between cohabitation and marriage seems subtle to many, but it is a difference which becomes obvious under stress. Unfortunately, stress is the permanent state of the Church Militant: "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. John 15:19 (KJV). Communities in which the Gospel has been supposedly entrusted to the people are not marriages, but cohabitations. Under stress, the union cannot hold; it must either disintegrate or change its terms to alleviate the pressures tending to disintegration. A theologically-egalitarian community will always and inevitably allow the Zeitgeist, when it's strong enough, to write dogma.

"Oh this is ridiculous," I can hear someone saying to himself (I like to imagine that people read these essays, you see.) "What good reason can there be for chastising a Christianity that is ‘committed to the custody of the people' if the alternative is Christianity committed to the custody of a few people, namely your Popes and Curia, your bishops and magisterial authorities? It seems to me that few people would be equally, if not more, susceptible to the Zeitgeist than many, and even if they're not, all your scheme of ecclesiastical government does is confine the same phenomenon you find objectionable to the actions of a few rather than the actions of many." I'll address this in my next installment.


[1] Brownson's essay, Part V: How Protestantism Is Inferior to Catholicity as a Guarantor of Virtue

[2] Press release of Soulforce, a GLBT lobbying group. The text can be found here. The information is also on the official website of the National Lutheran Youth Organization, which can be found here.

[3] Brownson's essay, Part IX: The Limits of Catholicism's Superiority

[4] United Methodist Church, Book of Discipline, "Abortion." The entire text can be found here.

[5] Brownson's essay, Part VII: Why Protestantism Is Uniquely Dominated by Secular Influences

[6] John Henry Cardinal Newman, Apologia Pro Vita Sua. The text can be found here.

[7] Alexander Campbell, quoted in Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1989), p. 179. Campbell was a founder of the Church of Christ, a/k/a the Disciples of Christ.

[8] Council of Trent, Fourth Session, Decree Concerning the Canonical Scriptures. The text can be found here.

[9] Brownson's essay, Part VIII: Why Only Roman Catholicism Can Protect Liberty

[10] Alexander Campbell, loc cit.
Readers Respond!

Pavel Chichikov of Catholic Images asks: "Why do you write at such length? Who can read such long screeds?" Then he wrote again, "I apologize for using the word 'screed', which implies monotonous rhetorical persistance. I only meant to comment lightly on the length of your essays. I regret the loose employment of the word."

No offense taken, Pavel! "Monotonous rhetorical persistence," hmm. I once had Baptists counting the number of words in my posts on their discussion board in an attempt to prove that thesis. I, of course, maintain that every word I write is essential. Sometimes one needs length to elaborate one's full meaning -- which is why you ended up with two emails where one would have sufficed! Think of the wasted bandwidth, man! Your email might have jostled another email, one from a ConEd about that funny meter reading on line 321 near Toronto, right out of the queue! For want of a nail . . . . .

But I suppose the main reason I write so much is: I don't have time! Think about it.

Anyhow, folks, check out Pavel's website, which has lots of fascinating photos. Here's my favorite. Pavel, did you take these photos yourself? That one's really good. I have a folder where I save Christian images, and I know I'm gonna spend lots of time at your site in the near future.


Thursday, August 14, 2003

Shea's on the Gun-Control Warpath Again!

I love Mark Shea a lot, but one of the things that grits my teeth about the guy is his perplexity over my God-given and indubitable right to own assault rifles, grenades, sawed-off shotguns, Claymore mines, machine guns, and similar recreational equipment. Lately, Mark's been asking "Does the Second Amendment let people shoot down passenger airliners?" (That's not Mark's actual question, but I like pulling his leg). Joyce Malcolm, a distinguished scholar of early constitutional history who has no interest in gun ownership per se, has written a very intelligent and well-sourced book called To Keep and Bear Arms: The Origins of an Anglo-American Right. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994). Dr. Malcom marshals the historical evidence regarding the concept of a "militia" as the term is used in the Second Amendment, and concludes that the term means (my quotations) "the people, acting for the defense of the common good." The militia is not the Army, not the National Guard, and not the police. It is the people, acting for the defense of the common good. I'd point out that the United States Code accepts the same idea:
(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.
(b) The classes of the militia are -
(1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and
(2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.
-- 10 U.S.C. § 311
Whether the militia is "well-regulated" depends largely on what society is willing to accept as regulation. In the 19th Century this involved regular drill, practice of military tactics, etc. Today one might argue that laws relating to gun-ownership (safety training, etc.) provide the same function.

What possible difference does that make? Well, the Constitution makes a sort of interesting and implicit distinction between the arms borne by the militia and other kinds of arms. The Constitution grants the power to maintain navies and armies solely to Congress. Art. I, § 8. This raises an interesting question whether the peoples' militia-based right to bear "arms" automatically entitles them to possess and maintain any weapons which are appropriate to the strategic and tactical war-fighting abilities of navies and armies. See, e.g., United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939) (upholding a conviction for possession of a short-barreled shotgun under the National Firearms Act of 1934 because there was no evidence in the record that such a firearm had "some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia"). I don't know that the Second Amendment was ever interpreted to allow individuals to own and operate frigates or fortresses and, although artillery pieces were maintained by state militias, it's worth noting that (a) the "militia" conception behind the Second Amendment isn't identical with armed forces organized and maintained by any state; and (b) the Constitution forbids states from organizing military and naval units unless expressly authorized by Congress. (Art. 1 § 10). I haven't explored this line of thinking in any great detail, but it seems pretty well dispositive of silly arguments that the NRA ought consistently to lobby for private ownership of tanks, supersonic fighters, JDAMs, and atomic weapons.

It seems to me that the Second Amendment guarantees, at the very least, an individual right to own such arms as are conducive to the nature of a militia -- preserving public order, resisting tyranny, and presenting a hasty defense to incursions and insurrections while the army and navy mobilize. To this end I think it's quite permissible and even advisable to include machine guns and assault rifles (real ones, not the fakes Charles Schumer and Bill Clinton took such inordinate credit for "banning"), and grenades. To the question at hand I adopt Mark's anticipated reply: "Yes, it does! You got a problem with that?" Go ahead and make fun, Mark -- but bear in mind my remarks about what it can mean for a militia to be "well-regulated."


Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Orestes Brownson and Homosexual Bishops

Herewith the conclusion of Orestes Brownson's essay.

"Catholicity Necessary to Sustain Popular Liberty," Part X:
Religious Implications, and Conclusion
[Brownson qualifies his argument regarding the safety of democratic liberty under a Catholic culture, and limits its application.]
If we were discussing the question before us as a theologian, we should assign many other reasons why Catholicity is necessary to sustain popular liberty. Where the passions are unrestrained, there is license, but not liberty; the passions are not restrained without divine grace; and divine grace comes ordinarily only through the sacraments of the church. But from the point of view we are discussing the question, we are not at liberty to press this argument, which, in itself, would be conclusive. The Protestants have foolishly raised the question of the influence of Catholicity on democracy, and have sought to frighten our countrymen from embracing it by appealing to their democratic prejudices or, if you will, convictions. We have chosen to meet them on this question, and to prove that democracy without Catholicity cannot be sustained. Yet in our own minds the question is really unimportant. We have proved this inefficiency of Protestantism to sustain democracy. What then? Have we in so doing proved that Protestantism is not the true religion? Not at all; for we have no infallible evidence that democracy is the true or even the best form of government. It may be so, and the great majority of the American people believe it is so; but they may be mistaken, and Protestantism be true, notwithstanding its incompatibility with republican institutions. So we have proved that Catholicity is necessary to sustain such institutions. But what then? Have we proved it to be the true religion? Not at all. For such institutions may themselves be false and mischievous. Nothing in this way is settled in favor of one religion or another, because no system of politics can ever constitute a standard by which to try a religious system. Religion is more ultimate than politics, and you must conform your politics to your religion, and not your religion to your politics. You must be the veriest infidels to deny this.

This conceded, the question the Protestants raise is exceedingly insignificant. The real question is, Which religion is from God? If it be Protestantism, they should refuse to subject it to any human test, and should blush to think of compelling it to conform to any thing human; for when God speaks, man has nothing to do but listen and obey. So, having decided that Catholicity is from God, save in condescension to the weakness of our Protestant brethren, we must refuse to consider it in its political bearings. It speaks from God, and its speech overrides every other speech, its authority every other authority. It is the sovereign of sovereigns. He who could question this, admitting it to be from God, has yet to obtain his first religious conception, and to take his first lesson in religious liberty; for we are to hear God, rather than hearken unto men. But we have met the Protestants on their own ground, because, though in doing so we surrendered the vantage-ground we might occupy, we know the strength of Catholicity and the weakness of Protestantism. We know what Protestantism has done for liberty, and what it can do. It can take of restraints, and introduce license, but it can do nothing to sustain true liberty. Catholicity depends on no form of government; it leaves the people to adopt such forms of government as they please, because under any or all forms of government it can fulfil its mission of training up souls for heaven; and the eternal salvation of one single soul is worth more than, is a good far outweighing, the most perfect civil liberty, nay, all this worldly prosperity and enjoyment ever obtained or to be obtained by the whole human race.

It is, after all, in this fact, which Catholicity constantly brings to our minds, and impresses upon our hearts, that consists of its chief power, aside from the grace of the sacraments, to sustain popular liberty. The danger to that liberty comes from love of the world, -- the ambition for power or place, the greediness of gain or distinction. It comes from lawless passions, from inordinate love of the goods of time and sense. Catholicity, by showing us the vanity of all these, by pointing us to the eternal reward that awaits the just, moderates this inordinate love, these lawless passions, and checks the rivalries and struggles in which popular liberty receives her death blow. Once learn that all these things are vanity, that even civil liberty itself is no great good, that even bodily slavery is no great evil, that the one thing needful is a mind and heart conformed to the mind of God, and you have a disposition which will sustain a democracy wherever introduced, though doubtless a disposition that would not lead you to introduce it where it is not.

But this last is no objection, for the revolutionary spirit is as fatal to democracy as to any other form of government. It is the spirit of insubordination and of disorder. It is opposed to all fixed rule, to all permanent order. It loosens eery thing, and sets all afloat. Where all is floating, where nothing is fixed, where nothing can be counted on to be tomorrow what it is to-day there is no liberty, no solid good. The universal restlessness of Protestant nations, the universal disposition to change, the constant movements of the populations, so much admired by shortsighted philosophers, are a sad spectacle to the sober-minded Christian, who would, as far as possible, find in all things a type of that eternal fixedness and repose he looks forward to as the blessed reward of his trials and labors here. Catholicity comes here to our relief. All else may change, but it changes not. All else may pass away, but it remains where and what it was, a type of the immobility and immutability of the eternal God.

Tomorrow, Concluding Thoughts by SecretAgentMan

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Readers Respond!

Replies are pouring in about my "Notes on Traditionalist Views of the Ordinary Magisterium" -- here's one from BV in Indiana:

"Ian I wish I had the time to read all of that but I don't."

Keep 'em coming, folks!


Firmly tongue-in-cheek,

Something Worth Reading

Maureen McHugh is running a brilliant discussion about the moral order at her blog, A Religion of Sanity. It's fascinating reading. Here are just a few thought-provoking tidbits:
Having nothing to rely on but our private feelings, we misuse our feelings to establish our innocence and to demonize those who oppose us. We move from compassion to sentimentality to cruelty without so much as stopping to take a deep breath. Our goodness rests not in our thoughts (which we claim we can not control) nor in our deeds (which we don't care to control) but simply in the fact that we feel.
After thus brilliantly summarizing everything Gene Roddenberry ever wrote, as well as the entire thesis of modern literature about child development, Ms. McHugh diagnoses every violent criminal, and every cruel person, I have ever known (including myself):
Of course, the major problem with narcissism is that sooner or later, it runs smack up against the real world. In the real world, not everything bends to our instantaneous whim. There are quite arbitrary and very real limits on our power to ‘self-actualize.' Narcissism by its very nature cannot accommodate these limits. Once thwarted, self-loathing becomes an undifferentiated rage. Combined with our failure to develop self-discipline, there is an ominous potential for violence underlying even the smallest exchanges between the self and the not-self.
Now "violence" doesn't just mean "beating someone until blood trickles from his ears." Rather, "violence" in its broadest sense means the infliction of suffering without consent. An insult can be violent, as can calumny, detraction, or even rude driving. Ms. McHugh is wonderfully explaining why our society is as violent as it is -- the weekly serial murders and drive-bys are just the same undifferentiated rage coming to a more prominent head.

Take a look at that series -- Ms. McHugh's on Part 7, which I hope is only 1/3 of the way through the entire essay!

Orestes Brownson and Homosexual Bishops

Herewith the penultimate installment of our serialization.

"Catholicity Necessary to Sustain Popular Liberty," Part IX:
The Limits of Catholicism's Superiority
[Brownson amplifies his argument that that democratic liberty can survive only within a Catholic culture]
But we pray our readers to understand us well. We unquestionably assert the adequacy of Catholicity to sustain popular liberty, on the ground of its being exempted from popular control and able to govern the people; and its necessity, on the ground that it is the only religion which, in a popular government, is or can be exempted from popular control, and able to govern the people. We say distinctly, that this is the ground on which, reasoning as the statesman, not as the theologian, we assert the adequacy and necessity of Catholicity; and we object to Protestantism, in our present argument, solely on the ground that it has no authority over the people, is subject to them, must follow the direction they give it, and therefore cannot restrain their passions, or so control them as to prevent them from abusing their government. This we assert, distinctly and intentionally, and so plainly, that what we say cannot be mistaken.

But in what sense do we assert Catholicity to be the master of the people? Here we demand justice. The authority of Catholicity is spiritual, and the only sense in which we have here urged or do urge its necessity is as the means of augmenting the virtue and intelligence of the people. We demand it as a religious, not as a political power. We began by defining democracy to be that form of government which vests the sovereignty in the people. If, then, we recognize the sovereignty of the people in matters of government, we must recognize their political right to do what they will. The only restriction on their will we contend for is a moral restriction; and the master we contend for is not a master that prevents them from doing politically what they will, but who, by his moral and spiritual influence, prevents them from willing what they ought not to will. The only influence on the political or governmental action of the people which we ask from Catholicity, is that which it exerts on the mind, the heart, and the conscience; -- an influence which it exerts by enlightening the mind to see the true end of man, the relative value of all worldly pursuits, by moderating the passions, by weaning the affections from the world, inflaming the heart with true charity, and by making each act in all things seriously, honestly, conscientiously. The people will thus come to see and to will what is equitable and right, and will give to the government a wise and just direction, and never use it to effect any unwise or unjust measures. This is the kind of master we demand for the people, and this is the bugbear of "Romanism" with which miserable panderers to prejudice seek to frighten old women and children. Is there any thing alarming in this? In this sense, we wish this country to come under the Pope of Rome. As the visible head of the church, the spiritual authority which Almighty God has instituted to teach and govern the nations, we assert his supremacy, and tell our countrymen that we would have them submit to him. They may flare up at this as much as they please, and write as many alarming and abusive editorials as they choose or can find time or space to do, -- they will not move us, or relieve themselves of the obligation Almighty God has placed them under of obeying the authority of the Catholic Church, pope and all.

Tomorrow, Part X: Religious Implications, and Conclusion