Friday, July 30, 2004

What It Looks Like When the Center Cannot Hold

Cardinal McCarrick, and like-minded individuals can rest easy: John Kerry is pro-life. From the disturbed ramblings of Alexandra Kerry at the Free-Speech Zoo Democratic National Convention:
We were standing on a dock waiting for a boat to take us on a summer trip. Vanessa, the scientist, had packed all her animals including her favorite hamster. Our overzealous golden retriever got tangled in his leash and knocked the hamster cage off the dock. We watched as Licorice, the unlucky hamster bubbled down to a watery doom. That might have been the end of the story. But my dad jumped in, grabbed an oar, fished the cage from the water, hunched over the soggy hamster and began to administer CPR. . . .

And let me tell you this, when he loves you as he loves me and my sister and his family, as he loves the men who fought beside him - there is no sacrifice too great. When he cares for you, as he cares for this country, there are no surer hands, and no wiser heart.

And so when he teaches you, by the life he has led, as he has taught me and my sister all of our lives, there is no better lesson: That the future of this country is not only his life's work. It's mine and yours. It is all of our life's work, all of us.
Greater love hath no man than he will lay down his life . . . . for a hamster. There are no surer hands, no wiser heart, than (H)is. (H)e loves us all, we are all (H)his family. (H)e is teacher, by the life (H)e has led, a life dedicated to serving the weakest among us, the least among us, our hamsters. There is no sacrifice too great to prove the depth of (H)is love. Our life’s work, (H)is life’s work, is the future of America. Let us take up our patriotism, our concern for social justice, and follow (H)im.

All this bustle about whether John Kerry should receive communion is just nonsense. He is communion. He draws all things unto himself -- the American people, hamsters, rich widows . . .

From the day when Mr. Ponytail (our counterpart, perhaps, to the Baptist), rose in the 1992 presidential debates to proclaim that we are "symbolically the children of the future president," to this most recent example, the Protovangelium of Alexandra, the blasphemous divinization of American politics becomes ever more pronounced. It would be good material for a dark comedy if we weren’t the most powerful nation since Trajan’s day. George Bush proclaimed a New World Order, and his son appeals to a Higher Father to justify a worldwide crusade for "freedom," or whatever it is that America’s supposed to stand for.
And if we want our children to breathe clean air and drink clean water, if we want them to control their own bodies, if we want them to protect the liberties and opportunities that are our birthrights, we must he involved in the struggle. Because on that day, my father was right, we are the luckiest people in the world. We walk on this soil. We feel this sun. And we are Americans. And now, we'd like to present, our dad, John Kerry!
Bill Clinton promised us a New Covenant. Our Senate’s debated Mormon theology as a basis of abortion laws and our foreign policy is tinged with dispensationalist[1] delusions. I wonder what sort of Transfiguration we’ll be treated to at the upcoming Republican version of Mt. Tabor. And, if such things go on long enough, what rough beast, its hour come round at last, will slouch toward Bethlehem to be born.

[1] "Maimonedean" in the original version. I changed it to avoid the appearance of any slight towards the great Jewish philosopher and theologian.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Fr. Stanley Says:
* * *

Yes, Secret Agent Man is coming to my parish to speak on the history of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, in this, the 150th year of its proclamation. SAM will speak on Sunday, August 1st, at 7 p.m. in our newly-renovated church [took out the carpeting, put in tile, new pews, new (larger) crucifix, new statues of O.L. of Guadalupe and St. Joseph, new altar, new pulpit, and much, much more]. I am so happy that SAM will be speaking in the Borromeo lecture series, following in the footsteps of Mark Shea [who will have to come back again, soon, to see the improvements we've made, and to mingle with his many adoring fans here in ColdH2O].
So, be here at 90 Harrison Street in Coldwater, Michigan, at 7 o'clock in the evening for a presentation on the Immaculate Conception. This is a free presentation sponsored by our parish. Also, someone will receive a beautiful statue of the Blessed Mother when we draw a name from among all those in attendance. Secret Agent Man comes to ColdH20!
* * *

I am proud to follow His Imperial Emperorship Marcus Sheavius I. Come to our presentation, and I hope you’ll learn things about Catholicism and the Immaculate Conception that will astound, impress, and inspire!!!!
Dressing like a Doofus

A good post by Old Oligarch is being noticed by lots of bloggers. That’s good. It’s shameful, the way some women dress for Mass. The "fashion" failings of women are bound up with sexual vanity. But the failings of men are bound up with a casual contempt for the duties of religion. The women preen, the men shirk. It resembles Eden, I think. There’s Eve, preening over her impending self-divinization. And over there we see Adam the coward, scuffing the dirt with his toe, shirking his duty to the whole freaking universe. A lot of women dress like Eve for Mass. And a lot of men dress like Adam. Herewith my comment on the male half of the phenomenon.

I get tired of watching T-shirted men sandal-flopping up to the altar like they were in line for beer and brats. I don’t understand why polo shirts and blue jeans are acceptable attire for an audience with the King of Kings. I don’t see why a man can’t take fifteen minutes to shave (or trim his beard) before going to Mass. These guys wouldn’t dress that way to bury their mothers, but they dress like that to see the God-Man die for their sins? Only adolescents and fools would treat the occasion so, and men who dress like that should never complain about the scant attention the Church pays to their masculinity -- they should expect instead to remain marginalized adolescents and doofuses.

Take a moment to consider the clothing of powerful men, men who are doing significant public things. They don’t wear T-Shirts, cargo shorts or sneakers. When and if they ever do it’s only because they want to reassure you that it doesn’t matter if you’re average and they’re not. When it’s important, when their reputations and positions are on the line, they wear jackets, ties, and dress shoes. Because that, my brothers, is the clothing a man wears when his reputation and position is on the line, the clothing that says that he’s a man, he’s serious, and he’s doing something significant. The difference is that in the Mass none of us are average and all of us are doing something important, significant, and public. Chosen generation? Royal priesthood? Holy nation? Any of that ring a bell, doofus?

I’ve heard all the predictable replies to this complaint. "Some people can’t buy fancy clothes." Buddy, this isn’t about the quality of your clothes, but the message sent by their form. If you can’t afford a $1,500.00 suit, then by all means don’t buy one. Buy the $70 blue polyester jacket at Target. If you can’t afford a $70.00 jacket at Target, then try and get one from Goodwill or some similar outfit. And whatever you do, spend $5.00 on a tie and wear it with a collared shirt. Wear real shoes. Wear a belt or suspenders (but never both), and pants which aren’t blue jeans. You can even ditch the jacket if the temperature’s over 80 and the Church doesn’t have air conditioning.

"I don’t want to clutter my religion with all those status symbols and rules." Yeah, friend, sure -- that’s why you’re wearing Birkenstocks and fashionable golf shirts. It’s why every item on your person has a label: You’re completely unconcerned with status. When you dress like you’re going out with your buddies for a beer, you’re telling me that Jesus is one of your beer buddies. I know guys who think that way. They’re all doofuses. And rules? I hereby give you ALL the rules. Jacket. Shirt with Collar. Tie. Pants which aren’t blue jeans. Belt or suspenders, but never both. Socks in any color except white or colors of the rainbow. Brown, black or burgundy shoes that cover your toes. Those are the rules. The rest either comes naturally, or not, but either way you’ve got more dignity than somebody who comes to Mass in clothes he bought at the Pro Shop.

"Jesus doesn’t care about things like that." Yes He does. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." If your clothing says you don’t need to impress anyone, even Him, with care and attention to your person and the most dignified clothing you can find, then you’re not in love. If your clothes say the Mass is nothing more than a dinner and a movie, then you’re not showing much awareness of your soul. And if you really do want to live up to Him, and you really do think the Mass is a big deal, but you’re dressing to give the opposite message, then you’re not worshiping Him with your mind.  Any way you cut it, your cargo shorts and "This T-Shirt Was Made from Hemp" getup is a proclamation of an individual, personal failure to pay respect. Be faithful in the little things, like your clothing, and you might just get a chance to be faithful in larger things, like being the spiritual head of a marriage.

"Oh, so you want us to wear suits for daily Mass, and then change into work clothes?" Through an imaginary pharisaism, one can turn any obligation into a ridiculous burden and then shrug it off, confident that Jesus doesn’t want all that "mindless and oppressive formalism." No, I don’t want you to don a suit for daily Mass and change at your workplace, although I’d be impressed if you did. Worn before, during, or right after work uniforms, scrubs, and work clothes are honest. They’re St. Joseph’s clothing. They say you’re supporting your family but have taken time from your day to worship the God who gave you a family to support. But on Sundays and Holy Days? On days when you don’t have to work? I don’t see you wearing Dickies or Timberlands then. I see you wearing the teenager’s sockless shoes, the little boy’s baggy shorts and -- perhaps worst of all -- golf clothing, the "regular guy’s" sartorial paean to blandness and mediocrity. I see you choosing to dress like a doofus.

"In other cultures . . . ." Oh, shut up. Just shut up. Or move there. I don’t give a damn which it is, just pick one or the other.

"This is perfectly acceptable attire. Men do wear polo shirts and blue jeans to callings, funerals, weddings, and public celebrations of all kinds." Yes, that’s true. And I know men who chew tobacco at all these events. I have nothing against chewing tobacco. I chew tobacco.  (Snuff, actually.) It’s relaxing, and conducive to good marksmanship. But indulging the habit at such times is wrong. It’s wrong because it says that what’s happening "HERE" and "NOW" is not enough, not sufficiently riveting, to completely involve one.  It says he has a capacity for interest and participation which isn’t quite being filled by the funeral of a friend’s loved one, a wedding, or the unveiling of a war memorial. Or it says that his limited capacity for interested participation is so consumed by chaw that he can’t really notice that people are grieving, new lives are beginning, or that communal allegiances are being forged and renewed. It is simply not done, and the man who does it is a hick, clod, berk and a boor. He's a doofus, and he's a doofus even if he's surrounded by other doofuses who’re also toting expectorated fluids around in  little styrofoam coffee cups. Blue jeans and polo shirts don’t display the best and highest in a man’s interest, attentiveness, and respect. It doesn’t matter how many other guys are giving less than their best.   Manliness is what you do when no one else has your back.

Before it’s said I’m being snotty, I’ll say it first. I’ve dressed like a doofus for Mass. It’s not something I’m proud of. Fortunately, it’s something I haven’t done in a while and don’t intend to do in future. In fact, writing this has made me aware that I’ve been . . . well, not slipping, but on the verge, so to speak, of slipping. If I don’t watch myself, and don’t make a conscious effort to put that Land’s End polo back in the closet, then someday my guardian angel will take a spiritual picture of me in flip-flops, parachute shorts, and a SexWax T-Shirt preparing to receive the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord. Then I’ll have to spend one or two hundred years in purgatory staring at that picture, being whipped with the leather belt I didn’t wear, agonized at how I could ever have been so nonchalant in the very presence of God. Don’t let this happen to someone you know.   Suck it up, and knot the tie.  Friends don’t let friends dress casual.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

C'mon Over! . . . .

I will be giving a presentation on the Immaculate Conception of our Lady at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Coldwater, Michigan on Sunday, August 1.

Blogging will be light until afterwards. If you can come, I’d really enjoy meeting you!
I Was Sorry to Learn about This

Jerry Golsdmith died on July 21, 2004. He studied under the master movie composer Miklos Rosza (Ben Hur, King of Kings, Dragnet, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, etc.). Goldsmith composed moving, memorable, hauntng scores for all genres of film . His work includes the music to The Hindenburg, Hoosiers, Alien and Aliens, L.A. Confidential, Rudy, Not Without My Daughter, The Russia House, Rambo, Outland, Masada, MacArthur, Patton, The Boys from Brazil, The Wind and the Lion, Chinatown, Papillon, The Planet of the Apes, The Blue Max and Lillies of the Field.

He wrote music (including some themes) for lots of television shows, too. Such as Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Police Story, Barnaby Jones, The Waltons, Room 222, Man from U.N.C.L.E., Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Dr. Kildare, Twilight Zone, Wagon Train and Perry Mason.

He won only a single Oscar, for his frightening score to the silly and execrable movie, "Omen." (I remember being able to dissolve my high-school friends into fits of laughter by hissing, "Dandy Christ! Dandy Christ!").  In a way, that's fitting:  Goldsmith wrote lots of wonderful music for lots of really dumb films I haven’t mentioned in my lists.

Goldsmith’s influence lives on, IMHO, in the work of composers like James Horner (Braveheart, Apollo 13, The Perfect Storm). I will really miss hearing his compositions. I hope someday they’ll release all of them on CD, not just medleys and snippets as with some scores, but all of them. Especially his score to The Hindenburg which is just beautiful.  Rest in peace, Jerry Goldsmith, and may I attend one of you concerts in Heaven.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Irascible Look at Goofy News

Activists are trying to prevent spraying for mosquitos: "We will continue to say pesticides are toxic at any dose -- please stop making us sick," said Whiteman, who says she suffers from sensitivity to chemicals." My dear, of course pesticides are toxic. They’re supposed to be toxic. What would you like them to spray mosquitos with? Something inert, like the stuff between John Kerry’s synapses?

From a story about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s "Girlie Man" comment: "Originally popularized in a Schwarzenegger-inspired Saturday Night Live skit about a pair of fitness gurus, the governor's use of the term "girlie men" angered legislators, gays and women's groups." Apparently, this shoe fit.

Canada goes postal over mailman-shaped dog treats: "The pet store chain, which has 292 outlets in Canada, agreed to withdraw the treats after it received a letter from Canada Post saying that employees were concerned about the risks mail carriers face from dogs and unhappy with having dog biscuits shaped in their likeness." A Canadian study commission has proposed replacing the biscuits with treats shaped like Christians. "These new biscuits aren’t for lions," said Jack Cretin, head of Canada’s Commission for Peace and Tolerance, "but we’re working on that."

Billy Crystal's new movie:  "When Valkyrie Met Neibelungen."More than 80 percent of single German women are perfectly happy without a man in tow . . . the survey of 1,003 women showed only two percent did not enjoy their solitary lifestyle and 36 percent opted to stay single because it was more fun. Almost half the women said they preferred single life because it was easier to keep their homes tidy and 36 percent said . . . they didn't have to endure watching sports on television. A sign of the decline of the West? Inroads of ungldoy individualism? Perhaps. But if your alternative is Arnold Schwarzenneger . . . .

Planned Parenthood lowers the bar on pedophilia . . . [P]eople e-mailed or called to complain about the project in which older teens were allowed to make condom necklaces fashioned of nylon netting, condom packets and pipecleaners. Planned Parenthood representatives said the activity was aimed at removing the stigma and secrecy from contraceptive use. "The intent is to make condoms a normal part of life," said Paul Robinson, community relations director. "You do what attracts the older youth." The necklace project was so popular among older teens that the booth ran out of supplies, said Deanna Leitner, public affairs field organizer with Planned Parenthood. But younger children were not allowed to make the necklaces or take free condoms. "We were talking about condoms and being safe," she said. "I'm certainly not doing what I'm accused of doing, which is distributing condoms to very young children." First Planned Parenthood draws the line at "older youth," then "older teens," then "younger children," and finally "very young children." But it shouldn’t be thought that these people lack morals. They absolutely refuse to distribute condoms to unborn children.

"This is my breast implant. There are many like it, but this one is mine . . .": "[M]embers of all four branches of the U.S. military can get face-lifts, breast enlargements, liposuction and nose jobs for free -- something the military says helps surgeons practice their skills." This is the kind of story that leaves me in doubt about what to do. Quote Plutarch’s account of the orders Caesar gave his legionaries before the battle of Pharsalia? (Caesar ordered them to "strike . . . upwards into the eyes and faces of the enemy; telling them that those fine young dancers would never endure the steel shining in their eyes, but would fly to save their handsome faces.") Or lament that a hundred billion dollars’ worth of sophisticated and destructive weaponry is being entrusted to youngsters so witless that they’d let Army plastic surgeons "practice" on them?

MAN ATTACKED BY MIDGET LAWYER!!!!"Peter Fischel, a marine biologist at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, said that barracudas are not usually aggressive toward humans. "It's quite a myth that they go out and attack people," Fischel said. "Generally, it's a mistake by the fish when they bite someone.". That’s what we all say until we can swim really, really close.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Reader Input Requested!!!!!!!

I’m speaking about the Immaculate Conception at the end of the month, and it occurred to me that I should ask blog readers if there’s any questions, issues, or problems they might have about the dogma that they’d like to have answered. If so, could you use the comment boxes or my email address to ask/discuss them? I promise to answer in writing too, not just incorporate them into my presentation.

Also, I’ve heard that Santayana had some interesting things to say about Protestant opposition to marian devotions. Does anyone know a link or a source? Thanks.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Brief Scan of the Modern Church

Fr. Dowd proves that he’s a crank who just doesn’t understand modern civilization. We’re not supposed to get rid of the lice-ridden drunk. We’re supposed to spend hours letting him talk to us, invite him to our dinner tables and let him sleep in our childrens’ bedrooms. If we don’t, people will think we won’t reconcile ourselves, and come to terms with progress, liberalism and modern civilization.

The Mighty Barrister impermissibly attempts to draw parallels between a bishop’s using the Eucharist as a "weapon" to protect the Church during the fight over integrating Catholic schools and more recent controversies.  Poor Barrister; doesn’t he realize that analogies with the civil rights are only allowed to promote same-sex marriages? Obviously, the man won’t reconcile himself, and come to terms with progress, liberalism and modern civilization.

Dale Price apparently has some sort of problem with strong, independent women who can think and choose for themselves. Really, Dale, don’t you think you’re a bit over the top comparing a woman who can slice up two of her three children to an SS selection officer? If we keep thinking that way, we won’t reconcile ourselves, and come to terms with progress, liberalism and modern civilization.

Fr. Rob Johansen has been silly enough to trace society’s openness to same-sex marriage back to society’s embrace of contraception and no-fault divorce laws. Good grief! Is there no end to the intellectual anarchy produced by Catholicism? Guess Fr. Rob hasn’t reconciled himself, and come to terms with progress, liberalism and modern civilization.

Well, that’s the Catholic Church for you, all topsy-turvey and misguided ever since the modernists took over.

Monday, July 19, 2004

My Two Cents on the Baptisms of Arians

Random Catholic, in comment to my blog on baptism immediately below, asks as follows:
Wurt? Arian baptisms were valid? From New Advent:
"Using Greek terms, (Arianism) denies that the Son is of one essence, nature, or substance with God; He is not consubstantial (homoousios) with the Father, and therefore not like Him, or equal in dignity, or co-eternal, or within the real sphere of Deity."
How is baptizing in the name of such a god not a defect of intent? Watchoo talkin' 'bout, Willis?
I think Pope St. Siricius' decision should be set in its proper context. First, while modern writers have concise summaries of Arianism, and while we can easily compare the fruits of that scholarship with the equally-concise definitive teaching of the Church, things at the time could be rather less clear. This is a case in which we must "rewind" our understanding and put ourselves in the shoes of an ordinary Christian living without the benefit of Catechisms, the fully-developed Magisterium which produces them -- or even (perhaps) the Council of Nicea itself, the magisterial act by which pure Arianism was declared heresy in such a way as to bind all Christian consciences.

I say "pure" Arianism because it was a slippery doctrine, its tendrils variously rooted in the subtleties of Platonic and Aristotelian metaphysics as well as equally-subtle misunderstandings of those metaphysics. It can be very difficult to pin down all those variations, quasi-departures, and sub-deviations. Even the author of the Catholic Encyclopedia article you quote from NewAdvent is forced to hedge his evaulations with words that indicate he’s summarizing, construing, and placing various perspectives on Arian theology as necessary to define its error. For example, the sentence you quote is preceded by a summary in which the author accounts for the "drift" and tenor of Arian ideas, qualifying his analysis with the statement that the sentence is the "genuine" doctrine of Arius. Even then, he must conclude by saying these heretical tenets were held by the "Arian sectaries who reasoned logically." In short, the author’s summary is limited by the fact that Arians made up their theology as they went along, modifying and altering it frequently to suit challenges of opponents and the perceived necessities of its own terms. In so doing, Arianism developed any number of distinguishable sub-schools and movements whose ideas may or may not have directly mimicked the proposition so bluntly summarized and put into the mouths of the "Arian sectaries who reasoned logically." If there were Arians who reasoned logically, surely there were Arians who reasoned illogically, nonsensically maintaining divnity in Jesus despite the logical consequences of their initial views which are so readily and easily identified after the time. Cardinal Newman notes that this is the way of all development of doctrine -- true and false doctrine. He does not say that doctrine can be known to be true or false depending simply on whether it develops -- heresy and orthodoxy both develop themselves according to the typical and universal conditions of debate, discussion, uncertainty, deduction, and induction which are involved in human activity. Newman resorts to other criteria than the fact of "development" to prove that one or another strain of Christian thinking is inauthentic, a "false" development as opposed to a true development. Consequently, the Pope’s ruling on the validity of Arian baptism cannot be read as a straightforward answer to the question: "Can a valid baptism deny the binding teaching of the Church on the godhood of Jesus Christ." The state of Arian and orthodoxy thinking was much more nuanced, complicated, and diverse for that to stand as a summary of the issue the Pope faced.

The author whose article you quoted goes on, almost immediately, to distinguish the bulk of what can be called "Arianism" from the stark tenet he derives for the "sectaries who reasoned logically."
But a view so unlike tradition found little favour; it required softening or palliation, even at the cost of logic; and the school which supplanted Arianism form an early date affirmed the likeness, either without adjunct, or in all things, or in substance, of the Son to the Father, while denying His co-equal dignity and co-eternal existence. . . . They approached, in strict argument, to the heretical extreme; but many of them held the orthodox faith, however inconsistently; their difficulties turned upon language or local prejudice, and no small number submitted at length to Catholic teaching. The[y] attempted for years to invent a compromise between irreconcilable views, and their shifting creeds, tumultuous councils, and worldly devices tell us how mixed and motley a crowd was collected under their banner. The point to be kept in remembrance is that, while they affirmed the Word of God to be everlasting, they imagined Him as having become the Son to create the worlds and redeem mankind. Among the ante-Nicene writers, a certain ambiguity of expression may be detected, outside the school of Alexandria, touching this last head of doctrine.
Pope St. Siricius wrote his decree in 385 A.D., some sixty years after the Council of Nicea. Even the author of the Catholic Encyclopedia allows that Arianism became watered down considerably almost immediately after its "founding." After Nicea, when the divinity of Jesus Christ was infallibly proclaimed, Arianism had taken the form described by the second quotation -- a motley collection of fuddle-headed thinkers who insisted on the divinity of Jesus Christ but who disputed the full measure of Christian orthodoxy either because of subtle differences in theological/philosophical terminology or local prejudices, men and women who both maintained and denied the teaching of Nicea simultaneously via confused lines of thought and self-contradictory formulae. Even orthodox Christians continued to be plagued by difficulties in Christological theology. Nicea did not end dispute about what it means to say that Jesus Christ was God and man; several more bitter and vituperative controversies ocurred before councils at Ephesus and Chalcedon the main outlines of our Christology were settled.

The situation Pope Siricius faced, therefore, was not a pat, cut-and-dried question well and easily settled by more than a thousand years of research and magisterial development. It was a fluid and confused situation populated by all the kinds of error one sees in the Church today on other issues. I know of Catholics who are baptized and confirmed in RCIA who believe, quite wrongly, that contraception is a matter of personal choice. Yet they profess, as part of the rite, that they hold and believe everything the Church teaches and believes. Do they have a defect of intent, or a defect in understanding about what that intention requires? They sincerely and genuinely believe that Jesus Christ established and founded the Roman Catholic Church and made the Bishop of Rome the visible head of that Church on earth. They sincerely and genuinely believe that they must believe what the Roman Catholic Church teaches and believes. But they have been betrayed by false or stupid teachers into not realizing that their intention -- to believe in communion with the Pope -- requires them to condemn and eschew contraception. Their baptisms are valid, even though their faith is materially heretical. So, I think, with the Arians living sixty years after Nicea. Few, if any, of them were hard, "logically-reasoning" Arians who flatly and completely denied the redeeming divinity of our Lord. They had been betrayed by false or stupid teachers into not realizing that their belief in that divinity demanded and required other beliefs about Him as well.

In this regard it’s worth noting that baptism, like all the sacraments, is less of a reward than an act of condescending mercy -- we do not receive communion or baptism because we are right-acting, decent, and doctrinally-sound folks. Even if we are all those things, and we should strive to be so, we’re still unworthy of the divine communion that occurs in the Mass, of the absolving mercy that is expressed in Baptism. We have all those wonderful things not because we’re "ready" to have them, but because God gives them to us despite our unreadiness. God absolves me today in the confessional, even though He knows I will sin next week. He grants me a proleptic share in the life of the Trinity this Sunday even though He knows that I have very sloppy, stupid and incorrect beliefs about this or that subject of dogmatic theology. This isn’t an argument for valuing indifferentism or sloth of conscience; it’s meant to point out that all Christian life is essentially a witness to God’s sovereignty and our enduring need for His undeserved mercy. Even the Incarnation whose nature was disputed by the Arians and the others was an act of undeserved condescencion by God. As He reaches out to us in our sins, overcoming them, undoing their presence in our souls, so He also reaches out to us in our foibles, stupidies, and obstinacies, undoing their presence in our minds. In His time, of course, which is oddly incongruent with our expectations. We cannot grant baptism in the name of the Trinity to someone who doesn’t believe the fullness of the Gospel teaching on the Trinity. We cannot grant it even if we know that baptism in the name of that same Trinity will be efficiacious despite his positive ignorance. But this is as much a part of our own conscientious duty to honor God as we know Him as it is a part of the candidate’s formation and eligibility for the sacrament. If God has suffered some of His children to be claimed for the Trinity by heretical ministers (Arian baptisms followed the Trinitarian formula), our duty to approve or disapprove of the act has been vacated by circumstances not of our making. It only remains for us to follow the commandment that baptism, however stupid or ill-formed a recipient may be as regarding the more advanced realms of human theological knowledge about the Nicene meaning of homoousion, admits him into membership in the Church. Pope St. Siricius was doing no more than following this law, recapitulated some 900 years later by St. Thomas: "[R]ight faith is not necessary in the one baptized any more than in the one who baptizes: provided the other conditions are fulfilled which are essential to the sacrament. For the sacrament is not perfected by the righteousness of the minister or of the recipient of Baptism, but by the power of God." Summa, III, a. 68, q. 8.

Homoousion was the word chosen by the Nicene fathers to express the unity of Son and Father. A further glimpse of the theological quagmire of orthodoxy’s relationship with Arians and Semi-Arians can be gained by looking up the word in the Catholic Encyclopedia:
(Gr. homoousion - from homos, same, and ousia, essence; Lat. consubstantialem, of one essence or substance), the word used by the Council of Nicaea (325) to express the Divinity of Christ. Arius had taught that the Son, being, in the language of Philo, the Intermediator between God and the world, was not eternal, and therefore not of the Divine substance, but a creature brought forth by the free will of God. (See ARIANISM) Homoousion was indeed used by philosophical writers to signify "of the same or similar substance"; but as the unity of the Divine nature wasn't questioned, the word carried the fuller meaning: "of one and the same substance". However, not only is homos ambiguous; the word ousia itself was often taken as equivalent to hypostasis (person), as apparently is the case in the anathema attached to the Nicene Symbol. And therefore the affirmation of the identity of nature might be taken in the heretical sense of the Sabellians, who denied the distinction of person. It was only after many years of controversy that the two words acquired their distinct meanings, and the orthodox were able to describe the Trinity as one in ousia and three in hypostasis or persona. Previously to the Council of Nicaea, Tertullian had already used the Latin equivalent of Homoousion, conceding to Praxeas the Sabellian that the Father and the Son were unius substantiae, of one substance, but adding duarum personarum, of two persons (Adv. Prax., xiii). And Dionysius of Alexandria used the actual word in a letter to Dionysius of Rome (Athan., "De dec. Syn. Nic.", xxv, 26) and again in his letter to Paul of Samosata. On the other hand, Origen, who is, however, inconsistent in his vocabulary, expressed the anti-Sabellian sense of Dionysius of Alexandria by calling the Son "Heteroousion". The question was brought into discussion by the Council of Antioch (264-272); and the Fathers seem to have rejected Homoousion, even going so far as to propose the phrase heteras ousias, that is, Heteroousion, "of other or different ousia". Athanasius and Basil give as the reason for this rejection of Homoousion the fact that the Sabellian Paul of Samosata took it to mean "of the same of similar substance". But Hilary says that Paul himself admitted it in the Sabellian sense "of the same substance or person", and thus compelled the council to allow him the prescriptive right to the expression. Now, if we may take Hilary's explanation, it is obvious that when, half a century afterwards, Arius denied the Son to be of the Divine ousia or substance, the situation was exactly reversed. Homoousion directly contradicted the heretic. In the conflicts which ensued, the extreme Arians persisted in the Heteroousion Symbol. But the Semi-Arians were more moderate, and consequently more plausible, in their Homoiousion (of like substance). When one considers how the four creeds formulated at Antioch (341) by the Semi-Arians approached the Nicene Creed as nearly as possible without the actual word Homoousion, there may be a temptation to think that the question was one of words only; and the Councils of Rimini and Seleucia (359) may seem to have been well advised in their conciliatory formula "that the Son was like the Father in all things, according to the Holy Writ". But this very formula was forced from the Fathers by the Emperor Constantius; and the force and fraud which the Semi-Arians used throughout the greater part of the fourth century, are proof sufficient that the dispute was not merely verbal. The dogma of the Trinity was at stake, and Homoousion proved itself to be in the words of Epiphanius "the bond of faith", or, according to the expression of Marius Victorinus, "the rampart and wall of orthodoxy." (See ARIANISM; TRINITY.)
Got that? Jesus is either homoousion with the Father or not, depending on the metaphysical context one brings to the words homos and ousia -- some of those contexts and interpretations are heretical, some of them are orthodox. Now we can say, rightly I think, that it would be a very cruel God who would give us a faith to which questions like this is very important without giving us a Church who could answer them infallibly. But we can also say, with equal rightness, that God would be very cruel to give us a faith which depended on our ability to answer all these questions correctly on our own. That’s part of the mercy of Catholicism’s teaching on the sacraments; they operate by their own working, both de jure and de facto, without our having to become dogmatically perfect.

This permissible difference between orthodoxy and an imperfect conception of it is implied by the very teaching that, in order to be valid, the minister of the sacrament must have the intention of doing what the Church does. Christ is the final minister of all the sacraments to everyone; His priests and (in the case of Baptism) lay disciples minister these sacraments as His servants. (See, e.g. Summa, III, a. 64, q. 1). Now, consider the servant whose master tells him to store hay in a loft against the coming winter. If the servant were better educated, more quick of wit, he would know that his master does not wish him to pick up each straw individually and carry it to the loft. Nor would the servant entertain all sorts of silly ideas given to him by equally uneducated (or even wicked) fellow-workers about how each straw must, upon arriving in the loft, be sorted and stacked with other straws according to length. And he would not have listened to their silly or malicious stories about how the hay will be used in the winter time to make gold cloth. But the servant doesn’t know all this -- he’s ignorant, misinformed, and not particularly acute to begin with -- and so he spends the next fifty days carrying straws up into the loft and sorting them by length. Yet with all this stupidity, error, and departure from the truth, the servant still intends to do what his master is doing -- getting the hay into the loft to be used in the coming winter. So with the sacrament of baptism (or all the sacraments, in their various ways); if the minister knows that he is to baptize with water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, in order to bring a child into unity with God and His Church, then he has the intention of doing what the Church does even if he has really bad ideas about some of the particulars which follow the event.

If orthodoxy were required, then the formula would be quite different. It would be said that in order for a sacrament to be valid, the minister must act in unity of belief and doctrine with the Church, and that would be Donatism by another name with all its attendant difficulties. There was a time when Dominicans hotly disagreed with the idea of Mary’s Immaculate Conception -- how could their baptisms have been valid, if the constant and orthodox faith of Christ’s bride, expressed in Ineffabilis Deus, was otherwise? They couldn’t have been, unless we adopted a definition of "unity with the Church’s doctrine" that very closely mirrored the actual requirement and its ability to tolerate some ministerial deviation from doctrinal purity. So I don’t think Pope St. Siricius dropped the ball on this one. I think he ended up saying what St. Thomas said 900 years later. And who can be a heretic if he says what St. Thomas says? :))

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Baptism Question
A reader writes:  "I have a friend that asked me the question, why is it bad to be baptized more than once? I tried to answer logically, and by the good old, "because you can't" line, but neither worked. I wonder what your answer would be. "
Briefly, my answer is that baptism is the second birth of which our Lord spoke when He said, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God," and "[e]xcept a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." John 3:3 & 3:5. To baptize more than once would depart from our Lord's teaching, for He taught that we are to be born only "again" and not "again, and again, and again and again" for as many times as we might wish for sentimental or other reasons. To be perfectly accurate, we cannot be "baptized again." We can only be baptized.[1]
St. Paul preached there was one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. Ephesians 4:5.  He taught that baptism was the fulfillment of circumcision, a sign of the new covenant just as circumcision was a sign of the old.  Col. 2:11-12.  Every sacrament has an aspect of singularity. One can be baptized only once, consecrated to holy orders once, confirmed only once, baptized only once. The Mass is celebrated many times, but what is celebrated is one, single Sacrifice. We may and should confess frequently, but only to return to one Mercy granted by that single Sacrifice. And if one may marry more than once, each marriage is still unique, an unrepeatable wedding of lives and bodies. Not to sound pompous, but our God is not interested in mulligans, do-overs, rewinding and starting over again. He wants perfection, either intrinsically or by the redemption of what is imperfect.  But  He doesn't tolerate pretense about what is or what has happened.

Another reason, I think, has to do with faith. Faith in God, faith in His promises. He has promised that the rebirth achieved by grace through baptism is indelible, permanent. Even the damned will be distinguishable from one another by the presence or absence of the mark of baptism. His forgiveness achieved by grace through confession is permanent. Sometimes He wills that we not "feel" forgiven after confession. It is time to enjoy the gift of faith then, the gift of believing that we are forgiven because He forgives us, not because our emotions or psyches have reassured us of the fact. Go and try to confess to a priest a sin you have already confessed -- he will not allow it. He may pray over you, beseech God's mercy, but he will not countenance the idea that, absent some culpable flaw in your earlier confession, you were not forgiven because you don't "feel" that way. So, looking at baptism, we can see that the unrepeatability of the sacrament is actually also a gift, an opportunity to exercise the same gift of faith in His promises as opposed to our fleeting and frivolous desires to feel or experience certain things.

This has always been the Christian understanding of baptism. From the Council of Arles, 314 A.D.: "Concerning the Africans, because they use their own law so as to rebaptize, it has been decided that, if anyone from a heretical sect come to the Church, he should be asked his creed, and if it is perceived that he has been baptized in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, only the hand should be imposed upon him, in order that he may receive the Holy Spirit. But if upon being questioned he does not answer this Trinity, let him be baptized." Even the baptisms of heretics, if they believe in the Trinity, are valid; hence the heretical convert may have been baptized in his former sect, if it was in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Notice that the Council does not say, that if he has not been baptized in the name of the Trinity, he should be "re-baptized," only "baptized." Baptism could only be administered once.

In 385 A.D. Pope St. Siricius wrote a letter about this question, saying "And so on the first page of your letter you have indicated that very many baptized by the impious Arians are hastening to the Catholic faith and that certain of our brothers wish to baptize these same ones again. This is not allowed since the Apostle forbids it to be done and the canons oppose it, and after the cessation of the Council of Arminium general decrees went to the provinces by my predecessor Liberius of venerable memory prohibit it. These together with the Novatians and other heretics we join to the company of the Catholics through the sole invocation of the sevenfold Spirit by the imposition of a bishop's hands, just as it was determined in the Synod, which, too, the whole East and West observe. It is proper that you also do not deviate from this course henceforth, if you do not wish to be separated from our company by synodal decision."

[1] There are occasions when the validity of a baptism is made dubious, either because of what is known about its circumstances or what is not known about its manner. In such cases the Church allows a "conditional" baptism, namely a baptism which is intended by the Church to be administered only if the previous rite was fatally flawed and which leaves the determination of which baptism is valid to God’s secret judgment.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Sorry to Hear That

The Shea / Johansen pilgrimage to France has been canceled for lack of reservations. I would have gone, but that was a lot of dough for me, my wife, and our new daughter, not to mention paying someone to nurse the dog through his separation neuroses. May I suggest some alternative venues for future plans?
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Our Lady of Victory Basilica and National Shrine

Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

The Ukrainian Catholic National Shrine of the Holy Family which is close to the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center.

They're in the US, so you can drive or take a bus. Accomodations might be less expensive too, and there's the possibility of stopping off on the way there or back to visit relatives. Just a thought.
American Fascism's Possible Future

The true battle will be between modern civilization and anti-modernists; between those who believe in the primacy of the individual and those who believe that human beings owe their allegiance and identity to a higher authority; between those who give priority to life in this world and those who believe that human life is mere preparation for an existence beyond life; between those who believe in science, reason, and logic and those who believe that truth is revealed through Scripture and religious dogma.

* * *

Anti-individualistic, the Fascist conception of life stresses the importance of the State and accepts the individual only insofar as his interests coincide with those of the State, which stands for the conscience and the universal, will of man as a historic entity. It is opposed to classical liberalism which arose as a reaction to absolutism and exhausted its historical function when the State became the expression of the conscience and will of the people. Liberalism denied the State in the name of the individual; Fascism reasserts the rights of the State as expressing the real essence of the individual. And if liberty is to he the attribute of living men and not of abstract dummies invented by individualistic liberalism, then Fascism stands for liberty, and for the only liberty worth having, the liberty of the State and of the individual within the State. The Fascist conception of the State is all embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value. Thus understood, Fascism, is totalitarian, and the Fascist State - a synthesis and a unit inclusive of all values - interprets, develops, and potentates the whole life of a people.
The second quote is from Benito Mussolini. He -- not Adolf Hitler -- was the author and progenitor of fascism. Hitler's Germany was merely a variation on the theme of Mussolini's Italy, adding a hazy concept of biological determinism to the country's extant anti-Semitism to create Nazism's particular loathesomeness.

It's important to understand that, when it comes to examining the moral value of a political system, the Holocaust may serve as a potential distraction. Its horror is so great that we tend to focus solely on it, allowing it to exclude consideration of the philosophies that truly enabled the crime. The root of genocide was not simply anti-Semitism. It was the widespread acceptance of the idea that state and society were the supreme entity, the only one cognizable by man, capable of telling us all what is good and what is evil, who is human and who is not, that gave the Nazis the intellectual "power" and "freedom" to do what they did. The evil of Anti-Semitism had its role to play in the crime. But even Christian anti-Semitism at its worst could not provide a society with the intellectual and moral framework required to conceive and implement the Final Solution. Fascism's idea that the state, and nothing else, defines human identity did that. It's worth bearing in mind because of the first quote's author.

The first quote, which calls for civilized secular states to do battle against the primitives who cling to religious sources of identity and direction, is from Robert Reich. Reich's brilliant career propelled him to one of the most powerful positions in American government. He now teaches at a prestigious university and writes extensively for respectable journals. That he can do so while being himself a fascist (and he is not new to the cause) is a sign of the times, of the corruption of the society in which we live. The new fascists have been busy fostering the idea that the state is the only arbiter of right and wrong, even of who is human and who is not. They rail today, as they did seventy years ago, at the Church which tells them they are wrong:
Whoever exalts race, or the people, or the State, or a particular form of State, or the depositories of power, or any other fundamental value of the human community - however necessary and honorable be their function in worldly things - whoever raises these notions above their standard value and divinizes them to an idolatrous level, distorts and perverts an order of the world planned and created by God; he is far from the true faith in God and from the concept of life which that faith upholds.
Pius XI, Mit Brennender Sorge, ¶ 8 (1937)
The fascists didn't like it then, and they don't like it now: "I think Archbishop Burke has gone too far; he is now delving into politics," says pro-abortion fascist William Lacy Clay, a congressman from St. Louis, "Perhaps the Catholic Church should surrender their 501-C status."

Yes, perhaps the Catholic Church ought to be destroyed as a visible, influential social institution if it's going to "delve into politics" by telling fascists like Clay and Reich that human beings do, in fact, owe their allegiance and identity to something higher than the state:
This God, this Sovereign Master, has issued commandments whose value is independent of time and space, country and race. As God's sun shines on every human face so His law knows neither privilege nor exception. Rulers and subjects, crowned and uncrowned, rich and poor are equally subject to His word. From the fullness of the Creators' right there naturally arises the fullness of His right to be obeyed by individuals and communities, whoever they are. This obedience permeates all branches of activity in which moral values claim harmony with the law of God, and pervades all integration of the ever-changing laws of man into the immutable laws of God.
Pius XI, Mit Brennender Sorge, ¶ 10 (1937)
When the Church tells us to obey the civil authority, men like Clay and Reich nod and smile, comfortable with the healthy role the Church is playing in politics. But when the Church preaches an uncomfortable truth, the Clays and Reich of the world thunder imprecations, and recite totalitarianism's dark and threatening litanies. The fascists, you see, know that the Church should serve God. They just disagree with her about who God is, and they get angry when their divinity isn't properly recognized.

Here's a religious dogma for Mr. Reich: There can be no more harmony between Catholicism and fascism than that which exists between Christ and Belial. The fascists will try to destroy the Church, here, in this country, just as they have done in other countries where men who think like Clay and Reich, Diocletian and Trajan, have ruled:
And yet a hackneyed reproach of old date is leveled against her, that the Church is opposed to the rightful aims of the civil government, and is wholly unable to afford help in spreading that welfare and progress which justly and naturally are sought after by every well-regulated State. From the very beginning Christians were harassed by slanderous accusations of this nature, and on that account were held up to hatred and execration, for being (so they were called) enemies of the Empire.
Leo XIII, Immortale Dei, ¶ 2 (1885)
The old Romans, like the new fascists, have some truth in their accusations. We are enemies of an Empire, the one ruled by principalities and powers, by spiritual wickedness that encourages men to regard themselves as gods, with the rights and powers of gods.

You think you can subdue Christ's Church with tax laws, Mr. Clay? How little you know Him. Be our guest, if it must come to that. Revoke our 501(c)(3) status. Make us the only body of Christians in America who are deprived of the benefit of your laws. Send us into poverty, make us social outcasts, fugitives from the state's "righteous" claim to total power. Then blame us for the chaos and suffering that will happen when our hospitals close, our schools shut down, and our charities lock their doors. Nero did it. Why shouldn't his children delight in their inheritance? His modern children will reap the same harvest as their father, increasing our numbers tenfold. When that happens, and we threaten to overwhelm America's new tinpot theocracy, other men will come along and do even harsher things, as they always have, confident that Christ can be killed by the state, eager for men to have no king but Caesar.

Let them come, if come they must. Let them revoke the laws that let us vote, own property, hold decent jobs. Let them do their worst, if that is what God wills. It will not matter. In the end their Empire will be dead and gone. Its ruins will echo with the laughter of children.

Monday, July 12, 2004

A Caffienated Brain

. . . has produced these random thoughts:
It seems that for many Catholics who are politically conservative, "prudence" plays the same part that "conscience" plays in the theology of many Catholics who are politically liberal.

What is a Trill but a secularized, "science-fictionized" fantasy of the Real Presence?

Because God alone is good, He alone is the unconditional value; creation is a hierarchy of descending goods, each in its place, none having meaning except in relationship to Him. Thus does Christianity free men from all inhuman tyranny, for each human act can only be conditionally valued and never respected for its own sake.

Evil cannot give life. Thus, if evil is to progress, make headway in the world, it must rely on the life of others, creations and creatures brought to a point where they are corrupted and die, coming within the expanding necrosis that increases the evil realm -- not by growth or change -- but by adding to the sheer number of dead things.

Only belief in the Resurrection can allow men to overcome their circumstances without changing them, thus preserving their human dignity from all oppression and disdain.

"Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." If there's nothing in my life which isn't an intolerable burden to me, if I am not suffering from an injustice which should not have to be suffered, there's probably something very wrong with my life.

Not all good things will be offered for the improvement of a person, a cause, or a situation. Sometimes God may will that we offer good things as a judgment on those who will reject them, like the houses or cities who refused to hear Him through the Apostles.

If you suffer for long because of the hardness of another's heart, think what great coldness, what awful hardness, you are trying to rescue the poor fool from!

Worldly men are hard, cold, and rigidly press their rights. To paraphrase St. Paul, the world will not tolerate suffering, and is cruel; the world envies and vaunts itself, puffing itself up it behaves unseemly, seeks its own, and is easily provoked. The thoughts of worldly men are consumed with evil, the evil they wish to do, and of the evil they fear from others. Such men are brittle and inflexible. They cannot accept true challenges or salutary changes. They cannot make a way. So they must be compensated for by men who are able to suffer, to give up their rights, their due, what the world "owes" them, in order to make way for new things.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Thursday, July 08, 2004

A Mystery.

I can think of several possibilities for this and this:
1. Not enough people clicked the "paypal" button during the last CAEI fundraiser to pay the ransom.

2. Chris Gaines.

3. A devilishly-clever anagram for "Mark Shea."

4. Taichung is a lot closer to Seattle than I thought it was.

5. There's a movie currently in production that stars Dan Ackroyd, Eddie Murphy and Jamie Lee Curtis in some surprising roles. (The scene where Mark Shea is evicted from the College of Cardinals because Ratzinger and Lustiger have framed him for stealing a JPII coin is hilarious).

6. I missed some kind of announcement.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Around St. Blog's

With a few minutes to spare, and with nothing to offer from my own pen, here are some interesting posts on some of the blogs I read.

Courtesy of Southern Appeal we learn that Sunday was the birthday of Calvin Coolidge, one of America's great presidents. We also see this hilarious photograph of John Kerry being as dishonest about gun ownership as he is about his religion. Commenters at SA have rightly -- and instantly, they must be gun owners themselves -- noted that Kerry is holding a shotgun with his finger on the trigger while paying no attention to where his firearm is pointed. A fellow (or lady) known as The Angry Clam wisely comments: "That's why they're all about banning guns. None of them are smart enough to use them safely, and assume the same thing about all the rest of us gun owners." So I'm announcing a gun buy-back program for Democratic politicians. I will pay $1.00 -- NO QUESTIONS ASKED -- for every Purdey, Bertuzzi, Chapuis, and Famars di Abbiatico and Salvinelli shotgun delivered to me within the next 180 days. Let's keep our gated communities of well-heeled liberals safe for the children they could have aborted, OK?

Over at El Camino Real Jeff Culbreath tells of his family's politically-incorrect fourth-of-July celebration. Not only did they attend a bullfight over the weekend, but they -- gasp! -- sang a religious song for the occasion:
. . . And there's another country, I've heard of long ago
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
we may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
and soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
and her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.
Fr. Jim has blogged some very interesting ruminations about our country, including some positive views about what I had thought is our greatest weakness -- the lack of a sense of history. He concludes, "The American Experiment is 228 years old today, and it has been a great success." Yes, by many measures -- perhaps by almost any measure fit to measure secular regimes -- it has. But I take some comfort in the fact that a great nation will always have room for obscure, crabby, pessimists like myself.

The Curt Jester notices a recent "dissenting movement" among Catholics and has, as always, provided appropriate visual aids for the occasion.

Dale Price manfully handles critical reactions to one of his blogs, providing some interesting thoughts along the way. For example, "[P]ersonal holiness is no proof against awful judgment." Yes, that's quite true.

John da Feisole -- whose writings about the Bishops and Catholic politicians are not always agreeable to me -- has asked an interesting question: "What doesn't make sense to me is why they're [Catholics who are upset about the Church's antipathy to pro-abortion Democratic politicians] angry at the bishops, for teaching that the minor premise is true, and not (as far as I can tell) particularly angry at a major political party for teaching that abortion is a public good. I can't think of a flattering explanation for the selective indignation." Neither can I.