Friday, July 1, 2016

Loss of Confidence in Western Leadership

Fascinating diagnosis of modern Western crises of confidence in our ruling/"elite" class here.

Another run down of symptoms and possible solutions here. Excerpts (links in the original):
Aside from "The Cult of Smartness," why are present arrangements -- let's call ourselves an "aspirational meritocracy" -- failing us?

Hayes' theories are many:

  • Institutions designed to reward merit are being gamed by the privileged, who create a self-perpetuating elite. The most familiar example concerns admission to prestigious schools. Admissions tests like the SAT began as a high-minded reform. Applicants would be chosen for intellectual prowess and compete for their spot on a level playing field. Thanks to test prep, the rich get lots of time to practice on it, while even smart poor kids don't.
  • More broadly, inequality begets more inequality. "Those who climb up the ladder will always find a way to pull it up after them, or to selectively lower it down to allow their friends, allies and kin to scramble up." Thus the astonishingly outsized gains seen at the very top of American society.
  • The intense competition inherent in meritocracy creates powerful incentives to cheat, and encourages the attitude that whatever you do in pursuit of dominance is fine as long as you profit or win. For example, at Enron traders who broke the law weren't punished if they were making money. And in Major League Baseball, everyone pretended that steroids weren't around.
  • When elites break the rules they aren't punished like regular people. They're bailed out of trouble, or spared criminal prosecution for their lawlessness. This is actually the subject of Glenn Greenwald's latest book.
  • There is too much social distance separating the people in charge with the folks subject to their decisions. Thus Catholic bishops who sympathized more with molesting priests than their victims, Senators who send men from a class they rarely encounter to fight the wars they approve, and the disaster planners who couldn't conceive of how the timing of Hurricane Katrina at the end of the month would affect the ability of poor residents to evacuate. There is a long history of Americans complaining about the gulf separating them from their leaders, from the 'distant, unresponsive' King George to the 'out-of-touch, inside-the-Beltway' politicians of today.
.. why not embrace and emphasize reforms that either address elite excesses more directly or have a better chance of having some cross-ideological appeal? Some of the ideas that follow fit those criteria. Others are longtime hobbyhorses that would go some way toward mitigating some of the elite pathologies that Hayes' adeptly identifies.

With that end in mind, I present them for debate, the doable right beside the implausible thought experiments:

Write simpler regulations. Complexity advantages the people at the top, who are always best positioned to exploit its vagaries. As Kevin Drum once put it, "Dumb, blunt rules are the only kind that can work in the playpen of modern finance. We simply don't understand the world well enough to pretend that we can regulate things in minute detail, and we sure as hell don't have regulators who are either smart enough or can move fast enough to stay ahead of the rocket scientists trying to outwit them. That's not just impossible in practice, it's pretty much impossible even in theory. It's just plain impossible. But dumb-as-rocks rules about capital requirements and trading limits and collateral requirements and term structures? Yeah, that can work."

End the War on Drugs, the most extreme example of rich and poor being punished differently for the same behavior.

One way elites "pull up the ladder" is through credentialism. So how about doing away with the many unnecessary professional licensing laws that disproportionately hurt the economic prospects of the poor?

Tax test prep courses, and use the proceeds to subsidize test prep for anyone eligible for free school lunch.

Move the Supreme Court to Omaha, Nebraska, or Salt Lake City, Utah, or Portland, Oregon. And transition to an e-Congress, so that House members spend more time in their districts, being required to cast votes from among the people they represent. One way to decrease the social distance between elites and citizens is to better disperse the elites among the people.

Stop subsidizing college tuition. Instead, take the total sum spent on that enterprise and divide it equally each year among all graduating high school seniors, who can use it for more education, trade school, or more professional development as they see fit.

Stop subsidizing mortgages.

Privately funded media does a great job covering rich people culture. Why should NPR do the same? Publicly radio and television ought to be given a mandate to cover, serve and seek programming feedback from the lower reaches of American earners and the long term unemployed.

That is by no means an exhaustive list, but it's enough for now. ..."

And one more:
... The Nixon pardon, and the way it was sold to the country, became the template for justifying elite immunity. Nowadays, with only rare exceptions, each time top members of the nation’s political class are caught committing a crime, the same reasons are hauled out to get them off the hook. Prosecuting public officials mires us in a “divisive” past when we should be looking forward. It is wrong to “criminalize policy disputes”— meaning crimes committed with the use of political power. Political elites who commit crimes in carrying out their duties are “well-intentioned” and so do not deserve to be treated as if they were common criminals; moreover, politicians who are forced out of office and have their reputations damaged already “suffer enough.” To prosecute them would only engender a cycle of retribution. Political harmony thus trumps the need to enforce the rule of law.


That dynamic expresses the underlying motive of the political and media classes’ general defense of elite immunity: by protecting the lawbreaking license for other powerful individuals, they strengthen a custom of which they might avail themselves if they too break the law and get caught. It is class-based, self- interested advocacy. That is why belief in this prerogative and the devotion to protecting it transcend political ideology, partisan affiliation, the supposed wall between political and media figures, and every other pretense of division within elite classes. It is in the interest of every member of the privileged political and financial class, regardless of role or position, to maintain the vitality of this immunity. And what we have seen over the last decade is the inevitable by-product of elite immunity: pervasive, limitless elite corruption and criminality. ..

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Rod Dreher notices the symptoms of a society-wide adoption of the pedagogy of the oppressed. Excerpts:
... Honestly, I’ve had it with people. I’ve had it with Trump supporters who think their anger and their outrage gives them the right to punch people in the face. I’ve had it with Black Lives Matter and other Social Justice Warriors who think the so-called righteousness of their cause gives them the right to silence those who disagree with them. I’m sick and tired of people who think everything wrong in their lives is because somebody, somewhere, has wronged them. Guess what? You can’t screw whoever you like, have as many kids as you like, or as many partners as you like, walk away from your marriage (if you ever marry), and expect everything to be okay. You can’t drink, drug, party, “keep it real,” make excuses for your children, make excuses for yourself, allow our degraded popular culture to raise your kids, and expect a good outcomes. You can’t throw money at problems and expect them to go away (e.g., pay to send your kids to a Christian school, and assume that your tuition fee contractually entitles you to opt out of the moral and spiritual formation of your children), or assume that being a Nice Middle-Class Person is sufficient. It’s not. I’m tired of the rich and the middle class who expect everything to be handed to them, and fall to pieces when it isn’t. I’m tired of the working class and the poor who live as if their relative material deprivation gives them a pass from having to live by basic standards of conduct that most everybody understood and affirmed within living memory, but which are all but forgotten today.

Above all, I’m tired of a culture in which so many people have no idea how to tell themselves no, to anything, ever. A culture of entitlement. Believe me, I’m talking to myself as well. This is the beginning of Lent for us Orthodox Christians, and I am taking inventory of my own tendencies to sin, to disorder, and I don’t like what I see. You might try it too. ...

Bill Cosby and Abortion

An interesting point. Excerpt:
... Notre Dame is set to award the Laetare Medal to Vice President Joe Biden, a man whose record on abortion could hardly be worse. He is not slightly in favor it; he has often been one of abortion’s strongest supporters in the Senate. When you award a man with this record your highest honor, what do you say about yourself? At least these three things.

First, you show that don’t really take the evil of abortion all that seriously—certainly not as seriously as other forms of sexual assault against women, which is precisely what abortion is, since you would never consider awarding any honor at this point to Bill Cosby. ... 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Catholics Oppose Trump

Oh, certainly not all Catholics oppose Donald Trump in his presidential election bid. But the voices raised in opposition are significant, and getting louder.

From the earliest, there was Mark Shea, a man whom I've always considered a remarkably accurate barometer of where the Catholic middle really is. He's generally right, even if he sometimes gives into his feelings and is rather more polemical or less than polite in his zeal for truth.

There was CatholicVote, right around the same time that National Review came out with the "Trump Edition," lining up an array of conservative leaders to lay out the case against the Donald (who really seems to be more of a Scrooge McDuck than a Donald, but I digress).

And now, there's George Weigel, Robert George, and many of the mainstays of what could be called the Catholic Right writing in National Review, calling on their fellow Catholics and all people of good will to oppose the Donald.

And, of course, there's Pope Francis, sort of.

I really hope Catholics take note--Trump is a reality TV show star, running for president as though he's just in one more telecast contest. He's a character, and so he plays well on TV, but there's no hint of any political, diplomatic, or governmental expertise in his repertoire. He's not someone who should be president, especially not given the tremendously difficult and dangerous times we live in at present.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Recession in a Jubilee?

It may actually be time to pay the piper.

...[D]espite record low mortgage rates, first-time homebuyers can no longer afford to make the down payment. And without first-time home buyers, existing home owners can't move up.

Likewise, the total value of stocks has now become dangerously detached from the anemic state of the underlying economy. The long-term average of the market cap-to-GDP ratio is around 75, but it is currently 110. The rebound in GDP coming out of the Great Recession was artificially engendered by the Fed's wealth effect. Now, the re-engineered bubble in stocks and real estate is reversing and should cause a severe contraction in consumer spending.

Nevertheless, the solace offered by Wall Street is that another 2008-style deflation and depression is impossible because banks are now better capitalized. However, banks may find they are less capitalized than regulators now believe because much of their assets are in Treasury debt and consumer loans that should be significantly underwater after the next recession brings unprecedented fiscal strain to both the public and private sectors.

But most importantly, even if one were to concede financial institutions are less leveraged; the startling truth is that businesses, the federal government and the Federal Reserve have taken on a humongous amount of additional debt since 2007. Even household debt has increased back to its 2007 record of $14.1 trillion. Specifically, business debt during that time frame has grown from $10.1 trillion, to $12.6 trillion; the total national debt boomed from $9.2 trillion, to $18.9 trillion; and the Fed's balance sheet has exploded from $880 billion to $4.5 trillion.

Banks may be better off today than they were leading up to the Great Recession but the government and Fed's balance sheets have become insolvent in the wake of their inane effort to borrow and print the economy back to health. As a result, the federal government's debt has now soared to nearly 600 percent of total revenue. And the Fed has spent the last eight years leveraging up its balance sheet 77-to-1 in its goal to peg short-term interest rates at zero percent....
Interestingly, all this comes in the context of the extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy called by Pope Francis. Jubilee years, historically, have been characterized by debt forgiveness of one sort or another. Perhaps it's time to return to an ancient remedy for the fix we're in.

Friday, May 1, 2015

"What Does ISIS Want?"

The Atlantic has a great article giving the run down. Some key points:
Baghdadi spoke at length of the importance of the caliphate in his Mosul sermon. He said that to revive the institution of the caliphate—which had not functioned except in name for about 1,000 years—was a communal obligation. He and his loyalists had “hastened to declare the caliphate and place an imam” at its head, he said. “This is a duty upon the Muslims—a duty that has been lost for centuries … The Muslims sin by losing it, and they must always seek to establish it.” Like bin Laden before him, Baghdadi spoke floridly, with frequent scriptural allusion and command of classical rhetoric. Unlike bin Laden, and unlike those false caliphs of the Ottoman empire, he is Qurayshi.

The caliphate, Cerantonio told me, is not just a political entity but also a vehicle for salvation. Islamic State propaganda regularly reports the pledges of baya’a (allegiance) rolling in from jihadist groups across the Muslim world. Cerantonio quoted a Prophetic saying, that to die without pledging allegiance is to die jahil (ignorant) and therefore die a “death of disbelief.” Consider how Muslims (or, for that matter, Christians) imagine God deals with the souls of people who die without learning about the one true religion. They are neither obviously saved nor definitively condemned. Similarly, Cerantonio said, the Muslim who acknowledges one omnipotent god and prays, but who dies without pledging himself to a valid caliph and incurring the obligations of that oath, has failed to live a fully Islamic life. I pointed out that this means the vast majority of Muslims in history, and all who passed away between 1924 and 2014, died a death of disbelief. Cerantonio nodded gravely. “I would go so far as to say that Islam has been reestablished” by the caliphate.

I asked him about his own baya’a, and he quickly corrected me: “I didn’t say that I’d pledged allegiance.” Under Australian law, he reminded me, giving baya’a to the Islamic State was illegal. “But I agree that [Baghdadi] fulfills the requirements,” he continued. “I’m just going to wink at you, and you take that to mean whatever you want.”

To be the caliph, one must meet conditions outlined in Sunni law—being a Muslim adult man of Quraysh descent; exhibiting moral probity and physical and mental integrity; and having ’amr, or authority. This last criterion, Cerantonio said, is the hardest to fulfill, and requires that the caliph have territory in which he can enforce Islamic law. Baghdadi’s Islamic State achieved that long before June 29, Cerantonio said, and as soon as it did, a Western convert within the group’s ranks—Cerantonio described him as “something of a leader”—began murmuring about the religious obligation to declare a caliphate. He and others spoke quietly to those in power and told them that further delay would be sinful.

Cerantonio said a faction arose that was prepared to make war on Baghdadi’s group if it delayed any further. They prepared a letter to various powerful members of ISIS, airing their displeasure at the failure to appoint a caliph, but were pacified by Adnani, the spokesman, who let them in on a secret—that a caliphate had already been declared, long before the public announcement. They had their legitimate caliph, and at that point there was only one option. “If he’s legitimate,” Cerantonio said, “you must give him the baya’a.”

After Baghdadi’s July sermon, a stream of jihadists began flowing daily into Syria with renewed motivation. ...

Before the caliphate, “maybe 85 percent of the Sharia was absent from our lives,” Choudary told me. “These laws are in abeyance until we have khilafa”—a caliphate—“and now we have one.” Without a caliphate, for example, individual vigilantes are not obliged to amputate the hands of thieves they catch in the act. But create a caliphate, and this law, along with a huge body of other jurisprudence, suddenly awakens. In theory, all Muslims are obliged to immigrate to the territory where the caliph is applying these laws. ...
Fr. Dwight Longenecker makes some interesting points:
the literalism of their interpretation of the Quran is fused with a frightening apocalyptic mindset. To the uninitiated, Muslim end-times prophecies seem just as complicated as the predictions in the Book of Revelation and the complex explanations given by apocalyptically minded Christians and Jews. Islamic prophecies envision that the armies of Rome will meet the armies of Islam in northern Syria, and after a near defeat, the stragglers of the Islamic army will go to Jerusalem to meet their messiah.

As some Christians see Armageddon as the plain where the final battle takes place, the Muslims see the Syrian city of Dabiq near Aleppo. Wood explains, “It is here, the Prophet reportedly said, ‘that the armies of Rome will set up their camp.’ The armies of Islam will meet them, and Dabiq will be Rome’s Waterloo or its Antietam.”

This is the conquest of Rome that the Muslim fundamentalists anticipate. Having taken Dabiq, the ISIS leadership has proclaimed, “The spark has been lit here in Iraq, and its heat will continue to intensify … until it burns the crusader armies in Dabiq.”

The prophecies say that the enemy is “Rome,” but as Rome has no army, interpreters have different ideas of who “Rome” is. Some think it refers to the Eastern capital of the ancient Roman Empire, meaning Istanbul. Neighboring Turkey, then, is the “Rome” the ISIS murderers plan to conquer.

Other Islamic commentators suggest that “Rome” is shorthand for any infidel army, which could be made up of apostate Muslims allied with Christians and Jews. Others believe “Rome” is a synecdoche for any Christian power or alliance. Therefore, when the terrorists say they will “conquer Rome,” it is unlikely that they are referring to a literal attack on the capital of Italy and the Vatican.

Nevertheless, the secular political leaders in the West need to understand the deeply religious nature of the Islamic State group and take stock. ...

Thursday, February 26, 2015

All Too Often

You've been told to do something which seems useless and difficult. Do it. And you will see that it is easy and fruitful.-- St. Josemaria Escriva: The Way

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Tuam, Dead Babies, and Modern Morality

So the Tuam scandal became a thing on a friend's Facebook wall a little while ago. I went digging, and found a good reassesment of the story from the Washington Post and an excoriation of what made the story an international cause celebre by the atheist Brendan O'Neill. Fine and good.

And then there was this story from the Guardian.

And I'm kind of stunned.

What sort of tonedeafness leads someone to put out a story headlined: "The horror of Tuam's missing babies is not diminished by misreported details: Tuam's mothers and the unhappily pregnant today are not unconnected. It is time for Ireland to liberalise its abortion laws"?

Really? "I'm so outraged by how awfully the Catholic Church treated unwed mothers and killed their children through neglect that I'm going to call for us to legalize killing the children in the womb. There. Problem solved."

She's not mad about the missing children of Tuam. She's mad that they couldn't all have been made to disappear.

I can understand the outrage at the way unwed mothers were apparently treated in Ireland decades ago, and understand that our failures to be as holy as we should cause all sorts of hell to break loose. Yes. Fine.

But someone's really going to turn this into an argument for loosening restrictions on killing kids in the womb? Really?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Screwtape is Not Amused

This is what it looks like when the tempters allow the patients to get away. Excerpts:
... I had a hard time getting to the Holy Hour and Benediction. All day the day before I experienced the most dreadful spiritual crisis I have been through since I converted to the Catholic Church. My mind was deluged with negative thoughts, to the point that I began to wonder if I even was Catholic or had a right to enter any Church.

Then, at mass that evening, I prayed and prayed and it let up.

Later that night, I got hit with a sudden and rather violent gastrointestinal thing.

It was at that point that I finally recognized old scratch.

The next day, I thought about skipping the whole Benediction. I felt so terrible, and now I was tormented with thoughts that I might meet a particular person there who had hurt me in the past and who I dread ever seeing again.

I prayed, and knew that I needed to go.

I told a friend of mine that all this made me feel as if the devil thought that if Rebecca Hamilton showed up at this Benediction he would be cast back into hell. I told her that if other people were getting a dose of what I was getting, I feared that the church might be empty.

But, despite all this, I went.

And what I experienced was the Presence and Love of Christ...
For those who have no idea what I'm referring to, behold a bit of awesome.

International Theological Commission

Their documents are all online! And most in English (haven't checked all of them).

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Point of Catholicism

What's the point of the Catholic Church?
"We wish to confirm once more that the task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church." It is a task and mission which the vast and profound changes of present-day society make all the more urgent. Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, and to perpetuate Christ's sacrifice in the Mass, which is the memorial of His death and glorious resurrection."--Evangelii Nuntiandi, 14

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Why Christians Can Eat Shellfish

So in all the many, many religious liberty debates swirling around, a certain set of arguments emerge time and again, namely:
  • Christians claim that their religious texts, particularly the Bible, ban certain acts and behaviors.
  • Christians don't live up to all the laws in their Bible, including the prohibitions on eating certain foods, wearing clothing of a certain composition, or touching a dead pig's skin.
  • Christians are arbitrarily cherry-picking doctrines from their religious texts and being inconsistent. This is obviously all an exercise in banning things you don't like and pointing to certain passages to justify your bigotry.
A prime example of this sort of reasoning appeared on The West Wing.
There's a huge gaping problem with the line of argumentation, though: the people using it haven't taken the time to read their Bibles. See, it's not as simple as "The Bible is our holy book and we must do what it says." Why? Because the Bible isn't simply a book. It's the collected works, the omnibus edition of inspired writings, with human authors and a divine author. So you don't just do what the Bible says, because the Bible says a lot of things, just as I don't just walk into a library, grab a book off a shelf, and attempt to use it as a guide to driving through downtown Manhattan. I can go into a library and probably find the appropriate map if I go to the right section and read that map according to the rules of its writing, but a poetry text or an encyclopedia will probably be highly unhelpful. Similarly, I would not ask someone to look to the deeds of the Babylonians or the Egyptians as recounted in the Scriptures as paragons of the sort of religious behavior demanded by the God of the Bible. Just because it's in the Bible doesn't make it normative. Also, there's a key concept guiding our interpretation of the Scriptures called the divine pedagogy, or the divine condescension. Simply, God accomodates his revelation to our weakness. We are like children--we have to go through the grades in school in order. You cannot ask a kindergartener to undertake college level work, not normally. There are especially gifted people, just as some people are saints from childhood (the luckies!). But for the great mass of humanity, training is required before great feats of intellect or of sanctity. So the laws God gives at certain points are accommodated to the weakness of the people, such as Moses' teaching on divorce (Matthew 19:18). Do portions of the Old Testament shock you? God was accomodating the weakness of the people. Keep in mind that certain aspects of modern society would shock the ancients, as well. God is merciful. We are sinful and concupiscent. He tells us the truth, he holds us to the highest standards, and he is infinitely merciful. Why does the law change? Because the covenants change; because the people change. There are elements which are permanent, however, and it's important to discern which are part of what C. S. Lewis called the "tao" or the natural law, and which are part of the disciplinary norms for a given people or age. Similarly, not all the books of the Bible are to be read in the same fashion by a Christian reader. The whole is part of our heritage, yes, but not everything within it is binding upon us. That's not just me or extra-biblical Catholic tradition talking--that's the Scriptures themselves. Read Acts 15 and its account of the Council of Jerusalem. There, a Church council, guided by the Holy Spirit, taught with authority that the Christians were not bound to obey all the tenets of the Mosaic law:
‘It is the decision of the holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right. Farewell.'"
So out of all the tenets and prohibitions of the Mosaic Law, including the bans on shellfish, the clothing of threads from several plants, etc, what remains? Do not eat meat sacrificed to idols, do not eat the blood of animals or the meat of strangled animals, and keep the laws regarding marriage. Is this the whole law binding upon Christians? No, for there's more taught by Jesus:
  • Love God and neighbor (Mark 12:30-31 and crossreferences)
  • Love one another as Jesus has loved us (John 13:34-35)
  • Keep the Ten Commandments (Mark 10:17-31)
We also have the sermon on the Mount and a rich repository of other moral teaching from both Jesus and the early Church throughout the rest of the New Testament, but the above covers what remains from the Old Testament's law. There's a great deal of wise counsel in the Wisdom literature, of course, and much more to learn from the rest of the Scriptures. But next time someone tries to complain about controversial Christian teachings when "they just pick and choose what they're going to enforce!" take some time to explain the different genres of Scripture, the way in which later texts interpret earlier texts, the notion of divine condescension, and the Scriptural teaching on which portions of the Jewish Law apply to Christians. For more on all this, see:

Monday, July 7, 2014

Something Rotten in the State of the Holmes Family

Possible Sherlock spoiler.

Mrs. Holmes, somehow, is the Napoleon of crime.

Mother Holmes, the woman who is a mathematical genius and has written a book (according to fansites) called Dynamics of Combustion--these are two key elements of Moriarty's character in the original stories.
Is he not the celebrated author of The Dynamics of an Asteroid, a book which ascends to such rarefied heights of pure mathematics that it is said that there was no man in the scientific press capable of criticizing it?—Sherlock Holmes, The Valley of Fear
It's been the subject of comment in a number of places, and yet consistently no one seems to conclude that this might indicate something about Mrs. Holmes' character. Also, Jim Moriarty keeps threatening to "burn the heart out of you," indicating that he at least believes he also understands something of the dynamics of combustion. Perhaps he intends to complete what he believes Mrs. Holmes failed to finish? Mother Holmes, who made no appearance in Sherlock's mind palace as he lay dying. The only member of his family to show up there was Mycroft, who served as a stand-in for the parents. Mother Holmes, who has a lot to answer for--"You should tell her that. She doesn't understand much." Mother Holmes, whom Mycroft attempted to stand in for. Also, the putting down of Redbeard is compared by Sherlock to being murdered, essentially, and it's still one of his pressure points after all these years. Mycroft became a machiavellian manipulator who runs England, and Sherlock became a damaged, drug addicted, high functioning sociopath. John said they (his parents) seem so normal. Sherlock said that's his burden to bear, or words to that effect. And her husband is the sane one. Something's really, really wrong in the family Holmes.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Trinity Sunday!

What is the doctrine of the Trinity and why does it matter?  Dr. Robert Stackpole answers.  Excerpts:
"When I am reading the Diary of St. Faustina, I find great comfort and consolation in all that Sr. Faustina writes about the compassionate Heart of Jesus and His merciful love for us. But when she starts talking about the Holy Trinity, my mind goes kind of 'blank,' and I really do not know what she is talking about."
If that has been your experience too, then know that you are not alone. In fact, many millions of Catholics have never really been brought "up to speed" on what the Church teaches about the Holy Trinity, and why it is so important — indeed, why, in many ways, it is the central doctrine of our faith. When St. Faustina writes about the Trinity, she assumes knowledge of Trinitarian doctrine that few of us possess, and this can make those passages in her Diary seem somewhat foreign and opaque to us. But fear not: With the help of the Holy Spirit, over the next few weeks, we shall ponder the mystery of the Trinity together, and thereby draw a little closer to St. Faustina in mind and heart.

...One time, after receiving Holy Communion, she [St. Faustina) began to understand that the entire Holy Trinity came to dwell within her soul:
Once after Holy Communion, I heard these words: You are our dwelling place. At that moment I felt in my soul the presence of the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I felt that I was the Temple of God. I felt that I was a child of the Father. I cannot explain all this, but the Spirit understands this well (451).
Now, you might be thinking to yourself, "That is all very beautiful, but I still don't get it! What does the Trinity really mean? How can God be One in being and essence, but Three Persons at the same time? And what difference does it really make if we believe all this or not?"

Well, Sr. Faustina wanted to know more, too! Listen to what she wrote near the very start of her Diary:
On one occasion I was reflecting on the Holy Trinity, on the essence of God. I absolutely wanted to know and fathom who God is. ... In an instant my spirit was caught up into what seemed to be the next world. I saw an inaccessible light, and in this light what appeared like three sources of light that I could not understand. And out of this light came words in the form of lightning which encircled heaven and earth. Not understanding anything, I was very sad. Suddenly, from this sea of inaccessible light came our dearly beloved Savior, unutterably beautiful with His shining Wounds. And from this light there came a voice which said, Who God is in His Essence, no one will fathom, neither the mind of angels nor of man. Jesus said to me, Get to know God by contemplating His attributes. A moment later, He traced the sign of the cross with His hand and vanished (30).
So, right from the start, Jesus was telling her that no one can ever completely fathom the mystery of the Trinitarian Being of God, but that if we contemplate God's attributes, we can at least begin to understand it. And as we have seen, that is precisely what Sr. Faustina did: The more she contemplated the compassionate love in the Heart of Jesus, and the more she appreciated the "glowing center of love" in God and the "burning center of God's love," especially manifested in the Holy Eucharist, the more she began to appreciate what it means to say that God is Three Persons in One Being or Essence...
For more, see here.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Dr. Faust and the Harvard Black Mass

Yes, the name of the president of Harvard is Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust. Savor that for as long as you like.

Don't know why that's a funny coincidence? Because Dr. Faust was the president of Harvard during the affair of the Harvard Black Mass.

Thank heavens, the event was moved off campus, postponed indefinitely by the sponsoring organization, though Satanic Temple members claim to have still held some part of it in an off-campus restaurant. But the whole affair is instructive in a number of ways.

The response of the Archdiocese of Boston.

One of the oddities of the whole affair is the purported distinctions being made by the so-called Satanists between themselves and people who actually believe in the Devil. Excerpts (links in the original):
...The Satanic Temple is a kind of stepchild of LaVeyan Satanism, which also is not Satanic. LaVeyan Satanism–the “Church of Satan”–was founded by a ridiculous fraud named Howard Levey, who assumed the name of Anton LaVey and made himself up to look like a cartoon Mephistopheles in one of the least-convincing attempts to appear menacing since Kermit the Frog stuck a pair of vampire fangs in his mouth...

LaVey was a sham psychic/occultist and musician who hit San Francisco with his act at just the right time in the 60s and became a celebrity because he seemed transgressive. He saw Lucifer as a force of freedom and liberation (and thanks for that, John Milton), but mostly as a way to make money and annoy the squares.

He cobbled together an asinine philosophy from scraps of Nietzsche, Ayn Rand, and a book called Might is Right by Ragnar Redbeard. It’s all the usual will to power, do as thy wilt, fascistic, watered-downed Crowleyite hokum designed to empty pockets and get women naked. (Say what you will about Aleister Crowley, but the man was no idiot and he took things seriously. He would have eaten these frauds for breakfast.)

In other words, American neo-Satanism is all just a big act from people who want attention...

The problem, however, is that their deep ignorance and hatred has left them stumbling around in a very serious, very dark place.

And even though the Satanic Temple is a fraud, Satanism is quite real. It’s just that real Satanists don’t advertise the fact...

See, they may not believe in Satan, but Satan believes in them, and he knows Useful Idiots when he sees them...
This is a beautiful summary of the whole, screwy situation. Excerpts:
Ok so let’s get this straight then:

The Harvard Cultural Studies group is hosting an event on campus that includes a Satanic Black Mass from a group that claims not to actually believe in Satan never performed a Black Mass and when called on to explain the university’s position  equated a Black Mass to a Shinto tea ceremony and Buddhist meditation.

FYI if you google “diversity & “tolerance” at harvard this is the gum that comes up from the Harvard School of Public Health
we are committed to tolerance, sensitivity, understanding, and mutual respect everywhere within our community, and we hereby affirm our promise to provide a welcoming place for one and all. 
Meanwhile we are further told that the Satanic Temple does not only doesn’t actually believe in Satan, really isn’t going to use a consecrated host after confirming that they were and it’s all just a misunderstanding that wasn’t meant to offend anybody even though the claim a it’s no big deal either way.

Maybe it’s just me but these people don’t seem trustworthy. In fact I seem to recall a expert on Satan noting some credibility issues concerning those who follow Satan in the past:
You belong to your father the devil and you willingly carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies.
As Harvard has a divinity school I trust they can figure out the source of this quote....
The Satanic Temple (apparently a group based out of New York) is also behind the attempt to get a statue of the devil in an Oklahoma courthouse. Tom McDonald has an important run down of the consequences of their actions:
Catholics have been reminded of something important: our precious Sacrament is the target of wicked people, and even though this incident was stopped, others continue. Now more people are aware of that fact, and are offering acts of reparation for this wounding. That would not have happened if this incident had not forced the issue into public consciousness.

We also needed to be reminded that these people–both fake Satanists and real–are also children of God. They’ve invited demons into their souls, almost certainly without realizing what that means. Jesus did not curse the possessed: he exorcised them. We, too, should pray for these tools of the enemy, that they may be freed from their bondage to evil and welcome into the light of Christ, where they shall always have a loving home.

More than one Satanist has found his way to Holy Mother Church, and if we are to be Christians, we must not lose sight that it’s our job to lead them back, while also fighting the evil they wish to bring into the world

And while we do this, we must remember that the battleground of Satan is within us as well. As Solzhenitsyn wrote, the line separating good and evil passes right through every human heart. I’d rather not lose a single soul to Hell. Not one. Not even the soul of my worst enemy..

One of the key aspects of the whole event is the attitude which the Harvard group sponsoring the event was taking toward the opposition. Excerpts:
“While it is unfortunate that many people took personal offense at rituals for which they have little or no understanding of their context, what we find most disturbing have been the demands that the rituals and beliefs of marginalized members of society be silenced,” the club wrote in the emailed statement. “It is gravely upsetting to us that some people feel vindicated on the basis that they have disingenuously mischaracterized our invited guests as being part of a hate group.”
And this, as well. Excerpts:
...Members of the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club, who posted fliers and notices on campus and online about the Satanic worshipping happening on May 12, said the event is educational and meant to add historical context to a lecture on the subject that will precede it. “Our purpose is not to denigrate any religion or faith, which would be repugnant to our educational purposes, but instead to learn and experience the history of different cultural practices,” the group said in a statement. “This performance is part of a larger effort to explore religious facets that continue to influence contemporary culture.”...
The language is echoed, to a certain extent, by the Satanic Temple spokespeople, as well.
...Given the group’s insistence that they are engaging in an intellectual and educational exercise meant, as Greaves put it, “as an expression of personal independence from overwhelming cultural influences”, I asked if obtaining a Consecrated Host through stealth — and using it for an “intellectual” exercise that would constitute grave abuse to believing Catholics — would pose an ethical dilemma for them which could affect their credibility. Greaves wondered whether anyone connected with the group “would waste time going to all that trouble. The odds are almost zero...”

Speaking anonymously, a spokesman added, “please understand, there is in fact, respect for the beliefs of others, and our intention was not to be in anyone’s face. We did not mean to mislead...”

They appear to me to be more interested in advocating against belief of any sort, and pricking the culture, than in actually pursuing supernatural interests. That they are more, as it were, “seculo-politico-atheo-satanists” rather than supernaturalists.

Having spoken with several people within the organization, I am not entirely sure they fully understand what they’ve gotten themselves into, with this “re-enactment”. When I asked Greaves what he would do if, in the midst of their exercise, something from the etheric plane made itself known, he laughed and said, “well, then I’d have to reassess.”

Greaves says his Satanism is “a metaphorical construct” meant to unshackle the world from belief in supernatural good or evil because belief has “led to horrible things” and “the idea of Satanists as deviants has never done the world any good...”
And here. Excerpts:
...As Mesner tells Vice writer Shane Bugbee, "While the original thinking was that the Satanic Temple needed to hold to some belief in a supernatural entity known as 'Satan,' none of us truly believed that. I helped develop us into something we all do truly believe in and wholeheartedly embrace: an atheistic philosophical framework that views 'Satan' as a metaphorical construct by which we contextualize our works.

"We've moved well beyond being a simple political ploy and into being a very sincere movement that seeks to separate religion from superstition and to contribute positively to the cultural dialogue."

Apparently, for the Temple, "contributing positively to the cultural dialogue" consists of taking the "source and summit" of the Catholic faith, the Eucharist, and using it in some sort of quasi-historical/theatrical evening of entertainment...
Dawn Eden did some digging and perhaps found what exactly motivates some of the members of this organization. Excerpts:
...All things considered, when I read that Greaves says he intends the “Black Mass”  to be “an expression of personal independence from overwhelming cultural influences,” I have to ask, from what kind of cultural influences does he seek independence? From where I can see, by engaging in a hateful mockery of the Catholic faith, he seeks to declare independence from the teaching that human beings should be protected from all forms of harmful exploitation. He seeks to declare independence from the one institution in the world that has, for two thousand years, defended the dignity of the human person against those who would use and abuse others for their own ends. Finally, in his vituperative attacks against victims (which, from his Internet trail, are clearly personal and go far beyond “debunking” psychological theories), he declares himself independent from the Church which teaches not only that intrinsic evils exist, but that one of those intrinsic evils is rape...
The language of the Harvard sponsors and, to a certain extent, the Satanic Temple folks, is entirely in conformity with the pedagogy of the oppressed. The logic can be simplified thusly:
  • The status quo is imperfect/evil/actively oppressive (pick which one applies)
  • Those with power/money/etc. (whom we shall call the "oppressors") benefit from the status quo, for they are at the top of the heap in the midst of it. 
  • Those without power/money/etc. (whom we shall call the "oppressed") do not benefit from the status quo.
  • Since the status quo is imperfect, it is the source/maintains the existence of evils.
  • In order to fix those evils, the status quo must be overturned/dismantled/deconstructed.
  • The status quo will be ended when those without power/money/etc. struggle to acquire said power/money/etc. from those who currently possess it. 
  • Any evils done in the course of the struggle are the products of the status quo, and the fault of those who benefited from/maintained the status quo. 
  • Thus, the oppressors are to blame for everything wrong/evil, and the oppressed are always and forever the victims/innocent/free from guilt for anything done in the name of the revolution.
It's a tempting way to think, and to be. There truly are the situations and people where intolerable oppression generates violent reactions. But to work to "raise the consciousness" of every group into the mindset of the oppressed, setting everyone into jealously guarding every bit of power, money, influence, privilege, what have you against the demands or depradations of anyone else always and at all times--that's a recipe for hell on earth.

In many ways, this is the basic structure of Marxism--the oppressed/proletariat must rise against the oppressors/bourgeois to achieve the revolution which shall usher in the end of the status quo and the dictatorship of the proletariat, which shall eventually resolve itself into the classless society without haves or have nots.

I call it the politics of envy. Why? It leads to an endless cycle of violence. The dictators after the revolution shall be the new haves, and the former bourgeois, the new have nots. The only real way out of the cycle is forgiveness, charity, and supernatural grace.

But Marxism has no room for God, or grace, or forgiveness--at least, ideologically. And so you get the strange hells of the gulag archipelago and the culture of the life, the lands where deception reigns and all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.

And then there's what happens when you take this Marxist framework and attempt to stretch it over a Christian worldview. What happens? Well, think it through: those with power who maintain the status quo are evil. Those without power who challenge the status quo are good.

God is the Creator and Sustainer of all things, the source of all that is, the Lord, the One who gives all free will and metes out justice and mercy. The Devil is the rebel, the revolutionary, seeking to wage war on heaven, overthrow the Power that be, and redistribute power.

Who, then, becomes good, and who evil, according to the politics of envy?

How do I know I'm not just being paranoid? Simply, Saul Alinsky.
“Lest we forget at least an over the shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins - or which is which), the very first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom - Lucifer.” ― Saul D. Alinsky, Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals
This is a concatenation of the dictatorship of relativism (also called the culture of the lie, populated by the people of the lie) and the politics of envy. The Anchoress sums it up well. Excerpts:
Breitbart News: What is your overall impression of the entire affair?

Scalia: I think it's demonstrative of how comfortable we as a society have become with lying to ourselves and being lied to. Harvard Extension can convince itself – and others – that all it's doing is hosting an intellectual exercise; the Temple folks can convince themselves, and some, that they're not really tempting a supernatural, or etheric plane; but we know that there are "things seen and unseen" constantly at work.

It is so much easier to believe these over-rationalized-into-fantasy lies than to do the hard work of saying "no" to someone, or of respecting others, even if it involves some self-denial. It's a human condition, common to us all, but it seems to me to be in ascendance. The easier way always is.

And in thinking about and responding to the Harvard Black Mass, the Anchoress's son pinpoints the weakness at the heart of the politics of envy. Excerpts:
“But, it’s a Gift,” Buster said, “So they only cheat and hurt themselves.”

I was a little confused. “What do you mean, which is the Gift, the Holy Eucharist, or sexuality?”

“Both,” he said. “They’re both gifts, but I’m talking about the Gift of the Body of Christ. Christ gave himself to us, feely, of his own free will. A Gift freely given. If someone takes the Gift and spits on it or whatever — they’re only destroying what was given to them, they are destroying what is “theirs.” They don’t in any way destroy the Giver of the Gift, or lessen the Giver, or the Gift. So they have no power over it, they can’t dominate it. All they can do is destroy themselves within themselves.”

“Yes,” I agreed. If I freely give you a car, and you decide to smash it up, you’ve lost out, not me. If I give you my life, and you are unappreciative, it doesn’t lessen what I have done, but reveals the void within you.”

“That’s why even during the Passion, those who wanted Jesus dead could not have victory over him,” Buster mused, picking up on today’s Gospel reading. “So, no matter how they mistreated Him or misjudged Him, or tortured Him…He had consented to it. And so they lost, and He won.” The Power was always His.”

“Right,” I said, wondering what I was thinking about when I was 16 years old.

“And so, these people at the black masses — they have an illusion of power, but the power is always Christ’s, because He is the Gift.”


“It doesn’t make me feel any better to think of anyone desecrating a Host,” he mused. “But if they don’t realize that the power they think they have is only an illusion, then really…’they know not what they do.’”


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