Archive for April 2008

Apology for the mess

April 20, 2008

I’m publishing relevant articles here from my main blog, and some of the articles are fairly old. I also did it backwards, meaning that the oldest articles are appearing at the top here. Oh well. I’ll get around to publishing new material shortly.


St. Josef Stalin

April 20, 2008

Catholicism has a long history of left-wing politics among the laity. In the 70s and 80s, “liberation theologists” tried to institutionalize Marxism, but Pope John Paul II effectively nixed that plan. And North and South American bishops have historically been at the forefront of this left-wing push.

As a result, every community large enough to support two Roman Catholic churches has one left-wing parish, and one conservative parish. I live right across from the left-wing parish here (which I call St. Josef Stalin), but I drive across town to attend the conservative parish.

Louisville (Kentucky) surely has more Catholic parishes per capita than any other community in the nation. One of these is St. James on Bardstown Road.

St. James is a Byzantine (architecture) church, which looks conservative from the outside. Ah, but go inside, into the dome and look up. The Lidless Eye of Sauron gazes back down at you from the center. We attended Mass there in the early 80s, and the during the Intercessions, the nun prayed that we would give our private property to the State, and for the victory of the Sandanistas. She also strummed the guitar and led the congregation in a rousing chorus of We Shall Overcome (but then, Marxist politics and excessive Vatican II guitar masses go together).

Usually, Marxism isn’t quite so unsubtly expressed. It is much more common to hear “For world peace and social justice, we pray to the Lord,” which of course means the same thing. But John Paul II knew all about Marxism, and was quite firm about purging it from the Church.

Contrast this with St. Louis Bertrand, a south Louisville parish (not far from Churchill Downs) run by Dominicans, or St. Martin of Tours. Instead of leftie politics, both parishes offer daily Novenas for Life (that would refer to abortion, by the way). St. Louis Bertrand is home to the Louisville Blue Army; St Martin of Tours offers Mass in Latin.

The conservative parish here sponsors a weekly Novena across the street from the local Planned Parenthood (to those of you who are protestants, a Novena is not a protest; a Novena is a prayer cycle). St. Josef Stalin across the street from our house does not participate (as a parish, though I’m sure there are parishoners who do — even many left-wing Catholics are pro-life).

At one point in my life, Church history and theology were two of my major interests. I read the Church fathers, and more recent theologians. Though I no longer do, the Church still fascinates me. How can such polarization exist in such a monolithic ecclesiastical organization — or more to the point, how can this polarization exist when the Vatican unambiguously favors one side over the other?

For one thing, the Church avoids entanglements in national politics, unless those politics involve questions of morality (I’m thinking here of the movement to excommunicate Catholic politicians who advocate abortion). For another, the Vatican tends to handle American bishops with kid gloves, partially because they understand that the anti-Catholic fervor in the United States exhibited as late as the 60s (during Kennedy’s campaign) could easily rear its head again. With matters of faith and theology, the Church wields a heavy hand; other matters the Church avoids. Even when the Church issues statements about foreign policy, it does not do so in a way that obligates Catholics to fall in line.

Most of all, however, is apostasy. For the most part, Catholics lapse rather than convert. I believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church resonates within the soul of every Catholic. St. Josef Stalin will waver up to a point — but clergy will not defy the Vatican. To do so is to separate oneself from the Church.

However much I may enjoy sneering at the leftie Kumbayah Mass parishes, I think that ultimately, the fact that they can exist is good for the Church in America. Although they may differ on non-essentials, they provide a home for Catholics who hold leftist beliefs — and since the business of the Church is saving souls, not the violent overthrow of capitalist governments, they should have a home in the Church. Only when the Vatican says, “We stand here,” and the parishoners say, “No, we stand here,” has the line been crossed.

There they go again!

April 20, 2008

The American Prospect has published an article on how Democrats can win the culture war. If you can’t bear to read this long-winded, bloviating drivel, here is the thesis [emphases mine]:

Incoming Democratic Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, a former Christian missionary in Latin America, learned the importance of cultural appeals early in his campaign. Kaine, Virginia’s first Catholic governor and one of the two major Democratic electoral success stories of 2005, had worked as a court-appointed attorney for inmates on death row while a young attorney. This, he knew, would be a major strike against him in his bid to run a state whose citizens overwhelmingly support the death penalty, and in a contest against the state’s attorney general, who would inevitably accuse him of being soft on crime and a bleeding-heart liberal.

In the spring of 2005 Kaine’s pollster, Peter Brodnitz, of the polling firm Benenson Strategy Group, decided that the campaign needed to develop a strategy to handle such charges. It convened a focus group of white, conservative, religious voters, and explored different ways Kaine could reach out to them. The result was startling. Brodnitz found that once Kaine started talking about his religious background and explaining that his opposition to the death penalty grew out of his Catholic faith, not only did charges that he was weak on crime fail to stick, but he became inoculated against a host of related charges that typically plague and undermine the campaigns of Democratic candidates. “Once people understood the values system that the position grew out of, they understood that’s he’s not a liberal,” says Brodnitz. “We couldn’t even convince them he was a liberal once we’d done that.”

Strategists who had been predicting Democratic success with a more values-based approach considered themselves vindicated. Virginia elected its second Democratic governor in a row, and its first one to survive opposition to the death penalty in an electoral fight. “People appreciate that I have a moral yardstick, and, even if they don’t have the same one, they appreciate that I have one and it’s not all about what a speechwriter puts in front of me or what a pollster tells me,” the governor-elect told the Prospect. That moral yardstick may be just the tool Democrats need.

In other words, they have found a way (they claim here) to fool people into believing they have morals — and we’ll be too stupid to fall for it. How is this a new strategy, exactly? Haven’t they been doing this all along, with their blather about “being for the little guy” while taking positions directly opposite to those of the same little guy?

So yet again, the Democrats show themselves to be the party of superficiality — in fact, right after the election on my old blog, I said as much:

After the election (the gift that keeps on giving!) Democrat after Democrat sat on TV and stated some variant on the “We need to learn how to talk to people in red states” theme. Over and over again, it was the same thing–and still is, because the Democrats are still saying it.

My first reaction to this was to shake my head in disbelief. How to talk to these people? Talk–language–isn’t the issue; issues are the issue. My second reaction was to what the Democrats were implying when they made this statement, that they needed to learn how to “brand” (Clinton’s term) themselves–that is, how to lie in order to seem like they are something other than slobbering, diapered socialists.

This isn’t news, of course, not after Clinton. He campaigned on fiscal conservatism, which he immediately forgot when he was elected. It took Newt Gingrich and the Contract With America Congress elected in 1994 to force Clinton back to the fiscal conservatism on which he campaigned (and now, laughably, for which Democrats take credit).

It didn’t take Whitewater or Monica’s dress for us to figure out that Clinton was a liar. He demonstrated that by turning into a leftwinger as soon as he was elected.

It came as no surprise, then, that Democrats seemed dumbfounded that our President started pushing to fulfil his campaign promises even before the Inauguration. Why wouldn’t it dumbfound them? After all, they run candidates who lie on the campaign trail, condidates who have no intention of fulfilling their campaign promises. That’s what they expected from Bush–and thank God they were disappointed.

It’s not that liberals don’t believe in personal integrity–keeping one’s promises in this case; liberals don’t understand it. They saw no problem with Clinton running as a centrist, then immediately becoming a leftist when he was elected, because that’s an issue of integrity, and even if liberals did understand it, they would ignore it if doing so aided their agenda. This is why to this day, liberals do not understand that Clinton’s impeachment had nothing to do with his getting a blowjob from Monica Lewinsky, and everything to do with his lying under oath. This is also why all of the Democrats who were Clinton’s cheerleaders when he was talking about reforming Social Security before it went bankrupt now claim that there is no crisis, that Social Security is just fine–and why liberals see no problem in doing so.

And it is because liberals do not understand personal integrity that the Democrats have become the party of superficiality, whose current obsession is figuring out how not to look and sound like Marxists while sticking with the same tired platform.

To be fair, though, why would they understand integrity, when you think about it. These are the people who turn cop killers into heros, who malign our military, and who scorn and want to destroy everything this country was founded upon. They wear Che Guevara T-shirts and go to Free Mumia Abu Jamal rallies. They hang U.S. soldiers from their houses in effigy. They believe that criminals are victims, and patently ignore the real victims. They want to forever destroy Federalism in favor of a bloated all-powerful socialist federal government. And most tellingly of all, they swoon at the mention of Chirac and the UN.

Indeed, it would be silly to expect them to understand integrity. They are defined by their utter lack of integrity. The have one and only one thing: an agenda, which they will push no matter what the cost.

Fortunately, there is still a majority of Americans who do understand and believe in integrity, who believe that you should work for a living instead of taking handouts, who support their troops, and who put their country first, right or wrong. And those Americans will flush Democrats into the sewer of their own irrelevance.


April 20, 2008

Actually, it’s not. It’s one more example that the ACLU and its affiliates ironically do not understand the Constitution. This is what the establishment clause is supposed to protect — and not putting up Christmas trees.

Oh. You want to know what I’m talking about? Sure. It seems that a single teacher at a Catholic school in New York got pregnant, and told her administrators that she was going to have the baby, but had no intention of marrying the father — and they fired her:

Fired teacher, unwed and pregnant, sues Catholic school
NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal discrimination complaint against a Catholic school, charging that it unjustly fired an unmarried teacher for being pregnant.

“I don’t understand how a religion that prides itself on forgiving and on valuing life could terminate me because I’m pregnant and choosing to have this baby,” Michelle McCusker said Monday at a news conference to announce the suit.

The 26-year-old preschool teacher was fired last month from St. Rose of Lima in Queens, according to published reports. The Diocese of Brooklyn also was named in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint.

“This is a difficult situation for every person involved, but the school had no choice but to follow the principles contained in the teachers’ personnel handbook,” diocese spokesman Frank DeRosa said in a statement.

The handbook says that each teacher must “convey the teachings of the Catholic faith by his or her words and actions.”

What’s amazing is that the NYCLU don’t get it — and they put it on their website:

NEW YORK — The New York Civil Liberties Union today charged a private Catholic school with discriminating against an unmarried Catholic schoolteacher by firing her because she became pregnant.

What part of “private Catholic school” don’t these idiots understand?

“Michelle McCusker was fired because she chose to have a child,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU.

No, moron, she was fired because she chose to have a child out of wedlock, at a private Catholic school. What is so difficult to understand about that?

John Leo identifies a broader problem:

There’s a broader problem: many institutions are now using anti-bias laws and regulations to trample the ministerial function.

No doubt, though that’s not the root problem here. The problem is that the government is not supposed to be able to intrude on non-governmental agencies — you know, as in, for example, private Catholic schools. This is the legacy of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the best legislative example of that chestnut, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Barry Goldwater wouldn’t vote for it for this very reason: The government can adopt all the non-discrimination policies it wants, for its own employees; the government has no business telling anyone else who they may or may not hire or fire, or dictate any “anti-discrimination” policies in the private sector.

It’s fortunate this woman was fired, since she’s too stupid to understand why she got fired — and therefore too stupid to ever be allowed anywhere near a classroom.

Legislate with care

April 20, 2008

“Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God, the things that are God’s.”
The Gospel According to St. Matthew, 22:21

This was spawned in part by an article on The Cafeteria is Closed, supporting the ecclesiastical discipline of Catholic legislators who support abortion, and an article on Gay Patriot, about the University of the Cumberlands receiving tax monies from the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

No matter whether I support the stance or not, I strongly disagree with the ecclesiastical discipline of politicians for their voting patterns on issues — and I question whether the Church even has the authority to do so. After all, one who votes for a pro-abortion bill has not, technically, violated any precept over which the Church has authority; were a politician to have an abortion, that would be an entirely different situation, and the Church would have the authority to discipline her.

I question whether one can be a good, practicing Catholic and support abortion, but that is a matter of conscience (and one of ecclesiastical function). That does not mean, however, that I think Kerry or Kennedy, or whoever should be excommunicated because of his stance on abortion law in the United States.

The problem I have with this is that anti-Catholicism is alive and well, and for two hundred years here in the United States it was fueled by the belief that Roman Catholics would put their allegiance to Rome before their allegiance to the United States. This, after all, was the primary reason the Knights of Columbus campaigned for “one nation under God” to be included in the Pledge of Allegiance, and this belief was alive and well as recently as the campaign of John F. Kennedy (this is also why I sympathize with Mitt Romney, who is being put through the same questions Kennedy was).

If the Church starts excommunicating politicians who support abortion, then that belief will again rear its ugly head. And if politicians vote against abortion solely because they fear the discipline of the Church, then that belief is justified, and those politicians should be kicked out of office.

I use abortion here only because it is the key Catholic political hot button, but immigration or gay marriage would be equally applicable.

I am a practicing Catholic, and not a liberal kumbayah Catholic. But I would vote for no politician who would put his allegiance to the Vatican over his allegiance to the United States. And I would encourage other conservative Catholics to ponder this issue deeply before giving it their support. Such things have a way of biting back.

We see this in an incidental point Gay Patriot makes when he discusses the University of the Cumberlands, and whether the university should receive taxpayer funds. He says:

How ironic though that the Blaine Amendment adopted to the Kentucky Constitution, and indeed most state constitutions, during the height of anti-Catholic hysteria in the late 19th-century could now come back to bite them in the ass.

Indeed. The Blaine Amendment, more appropriately termed Blaine Amendments, since the Amendment was never ratified by the Senate but was adopted by all but eleven of the states, was fueled by anti-Catholic hysteria in the 19th century, in response to the large number of Catholic schools that had been established in the United States. Because there were quite a few individual state amendments, I cannot cite the text, but Blaine Amendments denied funding to Catholic students or schools (depending on which one of the various amendments passed).

The Blaine Amendments were pushed by Protestants and Protestant churches and organizations. They were, in fact, the beginning of the “wall of separation between Church and state,” at least in the realm of education.

Here we have an example of how legislation can bite back. The Blaine Amendments, or the “wall of separation” that descended from those amendments, are now being used against Protestants, and they don’t like it. Now, we see Protestants — some of whom feel the same way about Catholics as did their forbears who passed the Blaine Amendments — doing everything they can to undo the damage they created. And though I sympathize, part of me cannot help but feel that they brought it on themselves.

Be careful what you legislate — in Church or state — lest you become a victim of your legislations. As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.


April 20, 2008

When I was younger, I came very close to going to seminary and taking vows. I grew up not far from a Benedictine Archabbey, where I spent a significant amount of time. Even later in life, I spent two weeks at an Orthodox monastery (and let me tell you, that’s hard on your feet — they pray for hours, and if you didn’t know, the Orthodox never sit or kneel, but stand throughout). Church history and theology both fascinate me. End the preface.

Ecumenism was at its most trendy in the 80s, when we lived in Louisville (see here). I can’t say I was impressed then, and am even less so now.

This might annoy some of my readers, but I see the Church as wounded by the Great Schism. I believe that any movement toward ecumenism should be first with the Orthodox, for whom I have the highest respect.

Neither the Roman Catholic Church nor the Orthodox are rushing into any such ecumenism, unlike the Protestants (I’ll get to them in a moment). After all, the Eastern Orthodox and the Oriental Orthodox have agreed that the agree on all matters of faith, even the dual nature of Christ, yet are moving very slowly toward reconciliation. One of the problems, of course, is Apostolic Succession. Which bishop of Alexandria, for example, is valid?

The reunification of the Western and Eastern Churches is thornier. The issue is, of course, that which caused the Schism in the first place: papal primacy. On theology, there is really no significant block, save perhaps for the filioque, though Rome and the Orthodox have agreed that the clause really represents no theological difference.

The Western and Eastern Churches are both orthodox (with a small ‘o’ referring to faith), and they are both conservative — not necessarily in a political sense, but a theological sense. In fact, the Western and Eastern Churches seem to be almost the only theologically conservative churches left in the world. Of course, this also slows ecumenism; neither is, as I said before, rushing to reunify.

Both have been taking in both individual converts and whole parishes from historically orthodox Protestants, particularly the Anglicans. Both have “Anglican Rite” parishes, in communion with either the Western or Eastern Church, but allowed to worship with their own liturgy.

That isn’t ecumenism. That is the opposite of ecumenism. It’s welcoming those who left the Church back, usually because the converts were disillusioned with the lack of orthodox faith in their own churches.

And that leads us to Protestantism. Although I welcome ecumenical progress between Rome and the Orthodox, I really don’t much care about the same between Rome and Protestant churches. Actually, that’s not entirely correct. I should have said that I am leery of any ecumenical progress between the two (with one exception, as I’ll explain below).

Ironic as it may seem, the one Protestant church with which I struggle the most in terms of possible reunification with Rome is the Anglican Communion — ironic because historically, at any rate, of all the Protestant churches, the Anglican Communion has been the most orthodox, and has had the least theological difference with Rome.

But while other Protestants left the Church in what at least they thought of as good faith, the Church of England did not. I hate to be crass, particularly here, but let’s be honest: the formation of the Church of England, and its split with Rome, was all about Henry VIII wanting some strange, and that’s all it was about. There was nothing even remotely excusable about the origins of the Church of England.

Rome should set as the first condition for reunification with the Anglican Communion that they admit the utter bad faith in which they left the Church.

But any reunification between Rome and Canterbury is unlikely, given how far down the path of “inclusivity” Anglicanism has travelled, to the point that, like nearly all mainstream Protestants, they share no faith or theology, and expect you to believe nothing. The ease with which the Anglicans and Lutherans recently joined, despite very real (at least historically) theological differences, speaks for itself.

There is one orthodox Protestant church I would like to see at least enter into talks with Rome: The Missouri Synod Lutherans. They alone, because of their conservative theology, refused to amalgamate with all the other Lutheran bodies, and now, they remain the only Lutherans in the United States. John Paul II stated that the Church could now call the Augsburg Confession Catholic, in the capital-C sense; that leaves little theologically in the way, other than that sticky papal primacy issue — and of course over six hundred years of antipathy between the two.

I once heard a theologian say that the only Reformation in the Reformation occured in the Church, and that the Reformation was misnamed. I agree. Those who objected could have remained in the Church. They chose instead to leave. I am no great fan of any kind of ecumenism with Protestants for that reason.

None of this means, of course, that I scorn those who attend Protestant churches. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ. Nor does any of this mean that I behave uncharitably toward Protestants. All it means is that when it comes to reunification with Rome, I feel no urge to push the process.

Whither Christendom

April 20, 2008

God or the Girl is on right now (TiVO) — and believe it or not, it is actually pretty good (and the title really doesn’t describe the show). It’s a very respectful glimpse of three young men who are all struggling with whether they should become priests.

The contrast between this respectful treatment and these “we don’t discriminate, we don’t care what you believe, come to our church” commercials is striking — and led me to this blog entry.

It seems the Christendom has divided into two halves: The churches that hold to their convictions, and the churches that seem to see themselves as large group therapy sessions.

In the first group, we have Roman Catholicism, Eastern (and Oriental) Orthodoxy, the LDS, and the conservative Protestant churches. In the second, we have the so-called “mainstream” Protestant denominations.

Even though all of the churches in the former group don’t necessarily share the same theology, they are all similar in one important way: They see themselves as communities of faith, while the second group see themselves as communities of … well, what?

When we gather for the Mass or Divine Liturgy, we do so as a community of believers. We recite the Nicene Creed to confirm our belief. We pray the same prayers together, because we are a community of believers. The Eucharist is the celebration of our community, where all who profess the faith partake of the Body and Blood of our Lord. We gather to worship as members of a community that goes back to the beginning of Christianity — this is why we have an order for the Mass or the Divine Liturgy, one that changes very little over time. On any given day, the Mass or the Divine Liturgy is the same all over the world; we are not just a community in our own parish, but worldwide.

Yes, the Roman Catholics have moonbat clergy and members who want to change the church into a Unitarian Universalist clone (note that the Orthodox do not), but the church is not a democracy, and the Benedict XVI is starting to stand firmly against it. The Anglican Communion is being torn apart by the same factions, though without a rigid hierarchy, the Anglicans may very well split, especially since the Anglicans long ago dropped doctrinal allegiance from their priority list. And I’m not trashing the Anglicans; I feel a great deal of sympathy for Anglican believers and the situation in which they find themselves. Nor is the problem one of a single issue, such as the ordination of women; these “issues” come in constellations, and always with a watered down, feel good, build your self-esteem and be included theology.

This is why ecumenism is such a thorny issue for the former group, yet comes so easily to “mainstream” Protestants. It’s a matter of belief. Doctrine. Theology.

From the former perspective, ecumenism is difficult enough with churches in which you are in near total theological unity: Rome and Orthodoxy, for example. It is difficult because there are no “picky” points when it comes to doctrine. One phrase added to the Nicene Creed (the filioque) can block unity until one side moves.

But how do you unify with a church that requires very little in the way of belief from its members? Community cantatas and prayer services are all very well, but the ultimate goal of ecumenism is full communion, and if you commune because you are part of a community of believers, how then do you allow non-believers to commune?

All of the former churches know exactly who they are, and exactly what they believe. The latter churces not only do not know, but do not care, or see why it should be an issue. And indeed, if you have redefined yourself to be some kind of social club, where faith and doctrine have taken a back seat to inclusivity and political correctness even to the point that you no longer care if your clergy believe in the Divine nature of Jesus Christ, why would you care about faith?

I’m not a big fan of Protestantism when it comes to faith and theology. However, I have the utmost respect for the Protestant churches who have refused to water down faith in favor of “inclusion,” and like Catholicism and Orthodoxy, have drawn a line in the sand and state, “This is who we are and what we believe, and we don’t care whether you approve or not.” However much we may differ on matters of faith, we both belong to communities of believers.

It is not the purpose of the Church to make you feel good about yourself, improve your self-esteem, give you warm fuzzies, make you feel included no matter what, or validate you. The “mainstream” Protestants have lost sight of why the Church exists, and have nothing to offer congregants they can’t get watching Oprah on TV.