Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Is This Atheist Incapable of Research?

Or what, exactly, is going on?  This piece shows a disturbing inability to Google or bestir oneself to go, find a practicing Catholic of the sort who, you know, likes stories of saints and miracles, and sit and listen for a while.
Even if this were a miracle, it would only reinforce a disturbing long-term trend. God used to be able to part seas and flood planets. By the end of the Old Testament he was turning people into pillars of salt and Aaron's rod into a snake. At the time of Jesus, God our omnipotent deity was basically down to party tricks, and now, what, easing an old man's backache for a few months? It's hardly the swaggering, all-conquering God of the glory days.
So what's happened? Are we not devout enough? Is God getting old? Has he lost interest? Are his powers subject to some form of spiritual entropy, leaving him hot and spent in heaven? Perhaps this worrying decline in God's powers is what the Vatican's crack team of miracle investigators should really be researching.
Among many, many others: Saint Padre Pio.
And--though dodgy and unverified--Medjurgorje. Cause after the umpteenth report of a dancing sun, I throw my hands up in the air and say, "SOMETHING weird is happening here."

On the Founder of the Christophers

A group in which I have a personal interest. They do some cool work--raising hope, causing prayer, aiding the needy--give college students money for good videosThis is a pretty good exposition of some key aspects of their charism:
In this time of world crisis brought on by advancing inroads of materialism and godlessness, first-line Christophers have it in their power to snatch faith from disaster if they can be found in sufficiently large numbers to carry Christ into the marketplace.
Father James Keller, M.M. who founded The Christophers sixty-five years ago wrote those words then, but their relevance holds true today...
Another pivotal moment for Father Keller came during a meeting at New York's Metropolitan Opera House during which he entered the completely darkened auditorium and couldn't see a thing. The person he was with lit a match and set off to find the light switch. Father Keller recalled, "The sight of that tiny flame made an indelible impression on me. Insignificant as it was, it was greater than the darkness. All that was needed to banish the darkness completely was to multiply that flicker of light."

That's exactly what Father Keller set out to do when he founded the Christopher movement in 1945. He chose the name The Christophers because it means "Christ-bearer" in Greek, and adopted as the movement's motto the old Chinese proverb, "It's better to light one candle than to curse the darkness..."
Father Keller realized this wouldn't be an easy task. He wrote, "To be a Christ-bearer must mean sacrifice, loss of time, inconvenience, suffering, misunderstanding, and countless disappointments that truly try men's souls. Still, the answer is in our hands...."
Father Keller likely never envisioned that he would someday share the screen with celebrities like Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Jack Benny, Loretta Young, and Ann Blyth but such was the case with the film You Can Change the World, which was based on his best-selling book...
Considering the current drift from God and traditional values, his ideas remain as relevant now as they were sixty-five years ago. Yet Father Keller was never one to indulge in complaining about what was wrong with the world. Instead, he encouraged others to focus on the good that could be accomplished.
As he wrote, "The leavening of the multitude with Christian ideals can be done in the same simple way it was by the early Christians of the catacombs -- (through) their consuming love for all men, even their worst enemies, in each of whom they saw the image of Christ Himself. It is a power which the least of us can have. It is the cure for which mankind longs."

On Becoming Debt-Free

I need to start posting these titles in Latin. Anyway--two articles on being debt free.

The first, for the college-bound:
Meet Zac Bissonnette, a graduate of the University of Massachusetts and the author of the book Debt-Free U: How I Paid For an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching Off My Parents. Bissonnette's tale is an eye-opening one – and a must-read for students looking to save every penny they can on tuition.
The cost of higher education is rising – even as the economy remains a tailspin. The average four-year cost for a top-flight school like Harvard or Stanford is almost $200,000. And even a solid state school like UCLA or the University of Michigan will set students back almost $100,000.
So how did Bissonnette come out ahead?
Let's take a look at Bissonnette's results and what he was (or wasn't) working with. He graduated with no student loan debt, no financial support from parents and no scholarships. Or, as the author describes it in explaining his book:
"[This book] is for families who can find fifteen dollars per week in cost cuts…and students who are willing to work hard — thirty hours per week, on average, including vacations — college is affordable: without any savings, student loans, Parent PLUS loans, retirement looting, organ sales, or heroin dealing."
Bissonnette touts some simple concepts, but concepts that might have gone out of style in recent decades. He advocates picking a cheaper state school than an expensive private one; working up to 30 hours a week while you're at school to help pay the freight; and a "no excuses" mentality that stresses hard work, studying and keeping ahead of your academic workload...

Of course, you should go for an awesome Catholic education anyway, but the book should be useful.

And on what NOT to do to get out of debt and have a good credit score:

Your credit score can range from 300 to 850 — the higher, the better. Most articles about credit scores focus on how you can improve your score to get approved for loans and get the best possible interest rates from lenders, but here, we're going to take the opposite approach and tell you how to achieve the worst credit score ever.

If any of these behaviors apply to you, watch out — you're in the process of doing some serious damage to your financial reputation...
You, of course, follow any advice linked here at your own risk (but if you benefit, send money!)

On Sloth

a sin to which (regrettably) I am all too prone:
...sloth is a sin against God, and not against the time clock or productivity. The fact is that it’s possible to work too much, in a way that’s not in keeping with our dignity and ultimate good. The essence of sloth is a failure to fulfill one’s basic duties. Surely one such duty is the human vocation to work. Yet another such duty is the enjoyment of leisure, to take time for worship. The gentleman lying on the sofa may be a more popular image of sloth, but the workaholic, who’s on the job 24-7 and in the process neglects God and family, is the more typical manifestation of sloth in our culture.

Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn put it this way:
“In the United States the difficulties are not a Minotaur or dragon—not imprisonment, hard labor, death, government harassment, and censorship—but cupidity, boredom, sloppiness, indifference. Not the acts of a mighty, all-pervading, repressive government, but the failure of a listless public to make use of the freedom that is its birthright” (quoted in William J. Bennett, “Redeeming Our Time,” Imprimis, November 1995).
Work and leisure are both products of human freedom, and both are intimately tied to our ultimate good. Most of us understand and periodically struggle with the natural aversion to work, but why do we find it so difficult to enjoy leisure? Why do we consign ourselves to a joyless workaholism instead of striking a healthy balance in our lives?...

...modern man tends to define himself by what he does and what he has. Yet, leisure isn’t about producing and owning, but about being—in other words, resting in God’s presence. We often fail to recognize the immense God-given dignity and value we have simply by being who we are, which is prior to anything we might accomplish in life. In Augustinian terms, without allowing for leisure, our hearts are forever restless, and our sense of worth gets tied to what we’re able to produce. This utilitarian mindset not only drives us to overwork, but it also negatively affects how we value others. That’s one reason why our society has such a difficult time valuing the elderly and the infirm in our midst.
Further, as the pursuit of success, acclaim, or riches becomes the source of our personal worth, these human goods in essence take the place of God in our lives. Few of us probably set out to become idolaters, but that’s what we’ve become if our choices and work habits are ordered toward serving mammon, not God (Mt. 6:24; CCC 2113).

NewsFlash: WWI About to End

Really?  I thought Germany gave up on the Versailles Treaty and payments a long time (and one godawful dictator) ago:

The First World War will officially end on Sunday, 92 years after the guns fell silent, when Germany pays off the last chunk of reparations imposed on it by the Allies. The final payment of £59.5 million, writes off the crippling debt that was the price for one world war and laid the foundations for another...The initial sum agreed upon for war damages in 1919 was 226 billion Reichsmarks, a sum later reduced to 132 billion, £22 billion at the time.

The bill would have been settled much earlier had Adolf Hitler not reneged on reparations during his reign...

"On Sunday the last bill is due and the First World War finally, financially at least, terminates for Germany," said Bild, the country's biggest selling newspaper.

Most of the money goes to private individuals, pension funds and corporations holding debenture bonds as agreed under the Treaty of Versailles, where Germany was made to sign the 'war guilt' clause, accepting blame for the war.
Weird headline of the day, all the way.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

John Paul II On Gender

and why it matters:

It is a question of understanding the reason for and the consequences of the Creator's decision that the human being should always and only exist as a woman or a man. It is only by beginning from these bases, which make it possible to understand the greatness of the dignity and vocation of women, that one is able to speak of their active presence in the Church and in society.
For more on the dignity of women, read on!

Freudian Slip

So--what's this mean for the whole "start of human personhood/life" debate?
The cover of the October 4, 2010 issue of Time caught my eye a couple of days ago at the Atlanta airport--not the picture but the text: How the first nine months shape the rest of your life

Excuse me, "the rest of your life"? Since when did Time view your life as including the 9 months in the womb? So that's you there in the first trimester? That was your life?

Sometimes headline writers bend a story a bit and don't write lines that are meant to be taken too literally. I know, for I write enough of them myself. So on to the inside text of the article, where influences such as genes, DNA, childhood expereinces and lifestyle choices are cited as typical explanations for our conditions in life.

But there's another powerful source of influence you may not have considered: your life as a fetus. The kind and quantity of nutrition you received in the womb; the pollutants, drugs and infections you were exposed to during gestation; your mother's health, stress level and state of mind while she was pregnant with you--all these factors shaped you as a baby and a child and continue to affect you to this day.

This is the provocative contention of a field known as fetal origins, whose pioneers assert that the nine months of gestation constitute the most consequential period of our lives..... (emphasis mine)

Fr. Thomas Dubay has passed away

A great spiritual writer has gone home to heaven.  One remembrance (and exposition on priestly celibacy!):
My past decade as a Catholic journalist brought me in touch with him occasionally. He was always so kind to take my calls, and when it was possible for him (because he was often traveling or doing retreats), he would take my questions and get back to me. He was an incredibly knowledgeable and loving priest.

In 2006, I interviewed him for an article on priestly celibacy. His insights were, as always, poignant and provided a succinct summary of the theological basis for priestly celibacy.

“Celibacy is imposed on no one,” he told me. “There’s a vast difference between a vocation and a career.” Father Dubay provided five theses for priestly celibacy.

“First, celibacy in Scripture is a privileged sphere of the sacred,” said Father Dubay. “They are set apart for the Lord.”

“Second, celibacy is a radical readiness in pursuit of the Kingdom. Third, celibacy is an immediate ecclesial bridal union. The priest has a marital relationship with the Church. Fourth, it’s a fulfillment vocation. A priest gives up the good for something greater. Finally, it is an excluding fullness. It orients one directly to God so that the person cannot give one’s heart to another in a marital way. It’s a psychological sundering. The virginal charism is a gift for the Church.”

Many others know Father Dubay through his other writings, his retreats, and his many series on EWTN. Father Dubay will be greatly missed. His teaching and his insights were invaluable to many, many lay Catholics over the past few decades.

The last time I spoke with him was three years ago. I interviewed him on St. Teresa of Avila. He is well known for his book on St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, Fire Within, as well as some 19 other books which he authored.

Talking about the legacy that she left the Church, Father Dubay said, “She left a large, flourishing order that still today is doing a tremendous amount of good. She also left her writings, which are extremely rich. As you can see, I’m in love with Teresa. She’s really something. She and St. John of the Cross are, in my judgment, the best we have on the whole subject of intimate union with God.”

I pray that Father Dubay is now experiencing the kind of “intimate union with God” that he so often wrote and spoke about. Father Thomas Dubay, RIP.

"Modernity may be but the enshrinement...of these habits of subtraction"

What a magnificent piece.  Don't miss the romp through the geniuses of the Middle Ages and late Renaissance--I was tempted to excerpt that as well, but one can only do so much:

Modernity may be but the enshrinement and institutionalization of these habits of subtraction. I find it hard to read much modern fiction, not because it is difficult -- it is sometimes obscure, but rarely difficult -- but because I miss the hundred things going on in a poem by Spenser, or in a novel by someone as late as Dickens. I look at a modern building -- I am thinking of the downtown of Stamford, Connecticut. The city has been invaded by the aliens of high finance, who have built huge steel and glass towers, dwarfing a local neo-Gothic Irish church. Where is the true humanity to be found? The church humbles, and exalts; the steel and glass towers rise up in pride, and humiliate. Perhaps that is what most modern architecture is meant to do: to revel in sheer institutional power, in bigness for its own sake, in vastness, in featurelessness, in utter detachment from such lowly things as people, and their loves, and their history; and yet what is it all but streamlined, mechanical, and subtractive? John Ruskin wrote that every corner of a Gothic cathedral is devoted to play. You can't turn anywhere without seeing a googly-eyed gargoyle, or a bunch of lemons, or a woman plying her wool, or a saint, or a sinner. When, in the history of the world, have unnamed artisans by the thousands been freer to sculpt or paint as their hearts and minds led them?

And then I turn to philosophy and theology. I think of a current philosophy professor at Princeton, who says that the only things that count, morally, are pleasure and pain, and that therefore all carnivores should be eliminated. That, besides being absurd and ungrateful and blind to sheer beauty, is rather like a bare brick wall, no complexity, no great craftsmanship, no imagination, no real encounter with the world, no wonder at the fundamental goodness of being. How barren, how simplistic, how jejune, how drab and gray and petty, compared with a single page of Thomas Aquinas, he who was interested in everything, visible and invisible! Our Christian heritage is astonishingly rich; and when we turn away from it, we get blank walls; we get people whose only adverb is only. Then I ask, "Why would anyone wish to subtract from the grandeur of man?" The answer is straightforward enough. When a member of the illuminati, of the ruling class, says, "Man is only an animal," or whatever else he uses for the predicate nominative, depending upon the fashions of the day, what he really means is that you and I are only animals, and that therefore he, as he is possessed of such great intelligence, may do with us as he pleases. Some people vote for higher taxes on everyone, because their own incomes derive from tax revenues; so too some people "vote" to demean and demote mankind, because their power and prestige derive from the demotion. They add -- for themselves -- by subtracting.

On Discernment of Spirits

Reading this redoubled my awareness that I need to really get reading in some of the great classics of spiritual direction (such as St. Francis de Sales Introduction to the Devout Life, or [for a synthesis of them] Ralph Martin's The Fulfillment of All Desire).

And to be clear: no, the following does not mean "Oh, God! I'm depressed, therefore I'm possessed!" No. This is discussing the spiritual life--temptations and so forth. A person of great sanctity (Mother Theresa) may be beset by a deep inner darkness, and a person of deep sin (oh, I dunno--myself?) can go through life and think everything's absolutely awesome.  This list is more along the lines of an examination of conscience/of life to discern which inner movements of the soul ought to be obeyed, and which resisted. The fruits of the Holy Spirit are enumerated in Scripture. These are the fruits of the devil, the world, and the flesh. Think of the list as symptoms--how ill is a soul from sin? How healthy? Where does your soul stand in light of the great contest?  And please--don't merely use this to self diagnose if the list is causing anxiety. Spiritual directors were given by God for the good of his children.
Signs of the Diabolical Spirit. We have already enumerated the signs of the divine spirit, but since the devil may disguise himself as a good spirit and even cause what appears to be authentic mystical phenomena, it is helpful to mention briefly the various signs of the diabolical spirit.

1. Spirit of falsity. The devil is the father of lies, but he cleverly conceals his deceit by half-truths and pseudo-mystical phenomena.

2. Morbid curiosity. This is characteristic of those who eagerly seek out the esoteric aspects of mystical phenomena or have a fascination for the occult or preternatural.

3. Confusion, anxiety, and deep depression.

4. Obstinacy. One of the surest signs of a diabolical spirit.

5. Constant indiscretion and a restless spirit. Those who constantly go to extremes, as in penitential exercises or apostolic activity; or neglect their primary obligations to do some personally chosen work.

6. Spirit of pride and vanity. Very anxious to publicize their gifts of grace and mystical experiences.

7. False humility. This is the disguise for their pride and self-love.

8. Despair, lack of confidence, and discouragement. A chronic characteristic that alternates with presumption, vain security, and un-' founded optimism.

9. Disobedience and hardness of heart.

10. Impatience in suffering and stubborn resentment.

11. Uncontrolled passions and strong inclination to sensuality, usually under the guise of mystical union.

12. Hypocrisy, simulation, and duplicity.

13. Excessive attachment to sensible consolations, particularly in their practice of prayer.

14. Lack of deep devotion to Jesus and Mary.

15. Scrupulous adherence to the letter of the law and fanatical zeal in promoting a cause. This characteristic readily opens the door to diabolical influence in reformers and demagogues.

Once the spiritual director is certain that a person is acting under the influence of a diabolical spirit, he should: (1) make the individual realize that he or she is a toy of the devil and must resist his influence; (2) encourage the individual to pray to God for the grace to overcome the devil; (3) advise the person to act quickly and with disdain for the devil as soon as the influence is perceived, performing the opposite from what is suggested or felt.

The Human Spirit
The signs of a purely human spirit have been described by Thomas à Kempis in Book 3, Chapter 54 of The Imitation of Christ. His words should be pondered carefully, for he explains the struggle between grace and the human spirit, wounded by sin and strongly inclined to self-love.

The human spirit is always inclined to its own satisfactions; it is a friend of pleasure and an enemy of suffering of any kind. It readily inclines to anything that is compatible with its own temperament, its personal tastes and caprices, or the satisfaction of self-love. It will not hear of humiliations, penance, renunciation, or mortification.

If any director or confessor goes against its inclinations, he is immediately branded as inept and incompetent. it seeks success, honors, applause, and pastimes. It is always a great promoter of anything that will arouse admiration or notoriety. In a word, the human spirit neither understands nor cares for anything except its own egoism.

It is sometimes difficult in practice to judge whether given manifestations proceed from the devil or from a purely human and egoistic spirit, but it is always relatively easy to distinguish between these two and the spirit of God. It will be possible in most cases, therefore, to determine that a given spirit could not possibly be from God and that it must be combatted, even if one is not sure whether it is in fact from the devil or the human, ego.

The following contrasts may serve as general rules for distinguishing between the diabolical and the human spirit. Natural impulses and inclinations are spontaneous; they can usually be traced to some natural cause or disposition; the stimulation of the senses acts upon, the interior powers, and they often persist in spite of prayer.

Diabolical impulse or suggestion, on the other hand, is usually violent and difficult to prevent; it arises unexpectedly or with the slightest provocation; a mental suggestion excites the senses and disappears as a rule with prayer. Self-denial and rectitude of intention are excellent remedies against the spirit of egoism.

In this respect the spiritual director and confessor will do well to keep in mind the general rule for discernment of spirits: if there is a possible natural or diabolical explanation for a given phenomenon, it cannot be presumed that it is supernatural in origin. The following are the principal doubtful reasons or situations:

1. To aspire to some other state in life after having made a prudent and deliberate selection for the existing state.

2. To be attracted to rare phenomena or to singular exercises not proper to one's state in life. When God desires such things he will give unmistakable proof of his will; the test is obedience and humility.

3. An inclination to practice extreme corporal penances. God has demanded them of some souls, but this practice is not in the workings of ordinary providence.

4. A desire for sensible consolations in the practice of prayer or the exercise of the virtues.

5. The "gift of tears" or the strong inclination to concentrate on the sorrowful and penitential aspects of religion.

6. Exclusive devotion to some particular mystery or pious exercise, which easily leads to a distortion of orthodox theology.

7. Extraordinary favors, such as revelations, visions, stigmata, when they occur in a person of little sanctity. The extraordinary graces do not necessarily presuppose sanctity or even the state of grace, but God does not ordinarily grant these gifts except to his servants and friends.

By way of conclusion, we again warn directors and confessors to proceed with great caution in making judgments in matters involving the discernment of spirits. It is easy to make a mistake. In cases of extraordinary phenomena, it should be noted that, as a rule, when these things proceed from God, the soul first experiences great fear and humility and then peace and consolation. If these things come from the devil they often begin with feelings of sensible consolation and satisfaction, but later they cause confusion, anxiety, and restlessness.

Lastly, apropos of the inclination some persons experience to change their state of life (and usually to go to a higher and stricter form of life), the director will bear in mind that it is quite possible that a grace is given by God but without God's wanting the person actually to change one's state in life.

For example, a priest who is actively engaged in the apostolate may experience a strong desire to spend more time in prayer and solitude. In trying to understand the reason for this strong inclination, he may erroneously judge that it is God's will that he enter the Carthusians or the Trappists. Such is not necessarily the case, however, for it may be that the only thing that God is asking of the priest is that he be less involved in the whirlpool of activity and that he dedicate more time each day to prayer and recollection.

We would state the following as a general rule for the solution of such cases: if an individual has prayerfully and seriously selected the state of life in which he or she is, then he or she must present a serious positive cause for changing this state of life. Otherwise, the will of God is the present state of life. Another practical test is to see whether the individual is performing the duties of the present state in life with all fidelity; if not, the person should not even think of changing to another state.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The World of Cartoonists

Looks more interesting than I realized (Calvin and Hobbes rules!):
The most respected world cartoons are wordless; the cartoonists believe cartoons are a universal language, understandable by all. In fact, there is quite a wide culture gap – most world cartoons look strange to an American eye and we have a hard time finding world cartoonists to syndicate, whose work can be understood by our audience... 
Unfortunately, American cartoonists rarely participate in international competitions, giving many of the cartoonists around the world the idea that we are aloof elitists. When we look at these contests, American cartoonists see a foreign style that doesn’t fit with our taste. The world cartoons typically are paintings – nice illustrations of ironic scenes, contrasting the rich vs. the poor, the violent vs. the peaceful, the powerful vs. the powerless, and the oppressed vs. their oppressors. We call these “daisies in the gun barrels” cartoons. In recent years the international cartoons also focus on illustrations of technology vs. people who are not technologically advanced, and environmental sensitivity vs. insensitivity. 
In the USA we draw wordy, joke cartoons about Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears with no underwear, Obama, elephants and donkeys. If Americans were to enter the foreign contests, our cartoons would be ignored as out-of-step with the world aesthetic.  It isn’t hard to understand why we don’t enter these strange contests.
The cartoons included in the post are worth a look.

Catholic or Post-Modernist

An interesting checklist, though I'm not sure their last point really gets at the heart of that issue:
I want to...submit that there are a number of persistent habits of postmodern discourse that pretty much all of us have been habituated to in our sojourn in this post-modern city, and that we ought to purge from ourselves. There is a good chance that we might be confusing ourselves and others if we are doing any of the following, and I would submit that it would be a good thing to ask regularly for the aid of the Saints to keep ourselves from…
  1. Thinking that values are something that we choose depending upon what we find works for us. According to this popular way of thinking, a woman suffering from the anguish of infertility will invariably choose a value system that helps her to conceive a baby by any means necessary, and a woman who has decided not to pursue a career and who seems to conceive more often than some people sneeze will find that the values of NFP make her feel fulfilled. In either case, the absolute and sovereign right of the individual to choose her own values and to be free of having to defend or explain them is fanatically asserted; in either case, the assumption is that “values” are not really our highest rational commitments—they are nothing other than a means individuals choose to gratify their non-rational drives for things like personal fulfillment, “authenticity”, the will-to-power, the ultimate orgasm, etc. If you find yourself saying that values are just something relative and subjective, and that every individual’s choice of them is inviolate, then you might be talking like a postmodernist, and not like a Catholic Christian.
  2. Thinking that everything is “personal”—that a discussion about whether or not it is appropriate to wear shorts and flip-flops to mass is ipso facto a personal insult to everyone who has ever gone BBQ-casual to the Lamb’s High Feast; that suggesting tattoos are more pagan than Christian is offensive to all the good Catholics and Christians who have tattoos; that someone’s idea that a good Catholic homily should cite books more than sports is nothing more than an expression of that person’s personal preference for books over sports. If you find yourself thinking “this impersonal and objective argument is offensive to me because it suggests that I might be wrong about something,” or “this impersonal- and objective-sounding argument is nothing more than this person’s preferences, likes, dislikes, or loyalties, so I don’t have to take it seriously,” then you might be thinking like a postmodernist, and not like a Catholic Christian.
  3. Really, really loving pop culture—music, movies, news media, talk radio, television shows (even really smart ones)—or just finding yourself always thinking in its images, its tones and rhythms, its personalities, or arguing that there is no distinction in value between the work of, say, Caravaggio andAvatarIf you find yourself talking about Dennis Prager or Hugh Hewitt more often than you do about the Pope’s weekly Angelusaddress, or arguing that “Lost” is a real work of genius, right up there with The Divine Comedy, then you might be talking like a postmodernist, and not like a Catholic Christian.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Another Benedictine Round-up

And here we go.

On the still-enduring-yet-increasingly-ridiculous nickname:

I'm curious to know how many state visits it will take -- how many meetings with abuse victims, how many World Youth Days, how many photo ops like this -- before people stop trotting out the Rottweiler line, as if he has suddenly undergone some radical transformation, and state the obvious: Pope Benedict is a "shy," "warm," "lovable, elderly figure." It's not some act he's putting on to win over crowds; anyone who has been paying attention would know that -- as the massive crowds who turned out for his visit can attest.
Yes, Benedict had a reputation (unfair even then) as the Church's watchdog -- ten years ago. He's now been pope for five. It's not like he's been hiding under a rock all that time, and this is some shocking new character development. Can we please come up with some new headlines?

On the reason for Catholic love of the Pope (not Benedict XVI--of the Pope):
Catholics do not — should not, must not — look to the Vatican to supply the church with all its saints and visionaries and prophets. (Indeed, many of Catholicism’s greatest figures have had fraught relationships with the Holy See — including John Henry Newman, the man beatified on Sunday.) They look to Rome instead to safeguard what those visionaries achieved, to guard Catholicism’s inheritance, and provide a symbol of unity for a far-flung, billion-member church. They look to Rome for the long view: for the wisdom that not all change is for the better, and that some revolutions are better outlasted than accepted.
On Saturday, Benedict addressed Britain’s politicians in the very hall where Sir Thomas More, the great Catholic martyr, was condemned to death for opposing the reformation of Henry VIII. It was an extraordinary moment, and a reminder of the resilience of Catholicism, across a gulf of years that’s consumed thrones, nations, entire civilizations.
This, above all, is why the crowds cheered for the pope, in Edinburgh and London and Birmingham — because almost five centuries after the Catholic faith was apparently strangled in Britain, their church is still alive.
On his call to the laity in Britain:
...In Birmingham, he beatified John Henry Newman, personally raising to the altars a son of the Church for the first time in his pontificate. In doing so, he quoted Blessed Cardinal Newman: “I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it.”

By this visit Benedict XVI equipped us to become that laity...

An interesting overview of the trip:
...It was certainly not the most auspicious beginning of a papal journey. But speaking to reporters on his plane en route to Edinburgh, Pope Benedict said he was not concerned about reports that a cool reception awaited him. “I must admit that I am not worried,” he said, noting that similar negative predictions of likely disaster were made in the run-up to his visits to France in 2008 and the Czech Republic last year. “All Western countries have, each one in its own way, strong anticlerical and anti-Catholic opinions, but they also have a strong presence of the faith,” he said. He said in Britain there was also “a great history of tolerance” and so he was making his visit “in good spirits and with joy”.

As it turned out, the Pope’s intuitions were right on target. From his arrival in Scotland onwards, the Pope was given a warm reception at every event he attended. He and his entourage were particularly surprised and delighted by the sustained and thunderous ovation that accompanied him into and out of Westminster Hall for his keynote address of the visit. And they marvelled that so many people had spontaneously turned up along The Mall in central London to see him make his way to the Saturday prayer vigil in Hyde Park.

Conversely, this was the first foreign journey in his five-and-a-half year pontificate when Benedict XVI was met with significant protests. While a few placard-carrying hecklers turned up at most venues of the visit, the most significant event by far was Saturday’s “Protest the Pope” rally that saw several thousand people march through central London. However, the Protest the Pope marchers were outnumbered 45:1 by the Hyde Park prayer vigil pilgrims and people on The Mall combined.

What was noticeably more significant was the extent to which Pope Benedict not only spoke at events but also listened. This was particularly the case in London.

The British organisers from both Church and state also ensured that the Pope witnessed a cross-section of the nation’s rich and complex tapestry of religious, secular and political culture.

The festive gathering with students and teachers at St Mary’s University College, Strawberry Hill, on 17 September was one of the best examples of the Catholic Church in Britain on display, affording the Pope time to see the character of Catholic schooling as well as speak himself. Also held at Strawberry Hill was the meeting with representatives of other faiths where talks by Archbishop Patrick Kelly, the Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks and Dr Khaled Azzam, chief executive of the Prince’s School for Traditional Arts, actually occupied more of the programme than the Pope’s address.

At Westminster Hall, where Vatican officials stressed that Pope Benedict’s address was one of his most important to date, the introduction by House of Commons Speaker John Bercow and the post-address appreciation by House of Lords Speaker Baroness Hayman both highlighted how the business of democracy and governance is done the British way. The Prime Minister’s words at the farewell ceremony in Birmingham were an additional voice to this particular chorus.

Pope Benedict was well aware that his own words would have a resonance far beyond Britain and would reach what he called, “the two billion members of the Commonwealth and the great family of English-speaking nations throughout the world”...

You Know It's Bad When The Atheists Are Sympathetic

Bernard-Henri Lévy, a well-known atheist associated with what is considered to be the European left, said in an interview that Catholicism is by far the most attacked religion in Europe. The prominent intellectual also noted it was unfortunate that so many injustices are committed against Benedict XVI.

“The Pope’s voice is extremely important,” Levy told Spanish newspaper ABC this week. “And we are very unjust to this Pope. I am not Catholic, but I think there is prejudice and especially major anti-clericalism that is taking on enormous proportions in Europe.”

“In France there is much talk about the desecrations of Jewish and Muslim cemeteries, but nobody knows that the tombs of Catholics are continually desecrated,” he added. “There is a sort of anti-clericalism in France that is not healthy at all. We have the right to criticize religions, but the most attacked religion today is the Catholic religion.”

Levy said he supports the construction of the mosque at Ground Zero and is opposed to the use of burkas, but he said Catholicism suffers more attacks than Islam. “Muslims are defended in the intellectual world, but Catholics much less,” he underscored.
And, as if to emphasize his point:
Months after The New York Times’ clumsy attempt to implicate Pope Benedict XVI in the mishandling of the case of a U.S. priest who abused more than 200 deaf children— and after numerous experts and Church officials pointed out that the very documents cited by the Times proved the opposite of its conclusion — CNN is rolling out a “one-hour special” that repeats precisely the same errors...
The implication, of course, is that Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, interfered with the course of justice against an admitted pedophile priest, overriding the protests of local Church officials.
The facts show exactly the opposite. And the proof is right there in the documents published by The New York Times along with its article. We address this case at length in “Pope Benedict XVI and the Sexual Abuse Crisis: Working for Reform and Renewal,” but here’s a quick summary...

On Christian Courage

In the context of a commentary on Benedict in Britain:
Such is the state of things in England, and it is well that it should be realised by all of us; but it must not be supposed for a moment that I am afraid of it. I lament it deeply, because I foresee that it may be the ruin of many souls; but I have no fear at all that it really can do aught of serious harm to the Word of God, to Holy Church, to our Almighty King, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, Faithful and True, or to His Vicar on earth. Christianity has been too often in what seemed deadly peril, that we should fear for it any new trial now. So far is certain; on the other hand, what is uncertain, and in these great contests commonly is uncertain, and what is commonly a great surprise, when it is witnessed, is the particular mode by which, in the event, Providence rescues and saves His elect inheritance. Sometimes our enemy is turned into a friend; sometimes he is despoiled of that special virulence of evil which was so threatening; sometimes he falls to pieces of himself; sometimes he does just so much as is beneficial, and then is removed. Commonly the Church has nothing more to do than to go on in her own proper duties, in confidence and peace; to stand still and to see the salvation of God.--Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman

Friday, September 24, 2010

On Social Justice

Yes.  Exactly.  Excerpts:
...The Church's social doctrine is rooted in Scripture and especially draws upon the Church's social encyclicals of the past hundred or so years, beginning with Pope Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum in 1891. 
But social justice is two things. It’s also a code word used by the political left to push a liberal social agenda coupled with a collectivist economic agenda that walks and talks like socialism. In other words, to appeal to Catholics, especially those who might tilt to the left religiously and politically anyway, some political operatives use Catholic jargon like "social justice" or "common good" or "preferential option for the poor" to manipulate public opinion. But what they mean and what the Church means are, well, two different things.When it comes to “social justice,” though, ambiguity is the name of the game. The political left understands that compassionate-sounding Catholic language can be used to generate support among Catholics. Yet the political activists are not using the terms in the same way, and most Catholics are too ignorant of the Church’s social doctrine to say boo about it. 
So, while "social justice" is two things (Church teaching and liberal code word), the two things are blended just enough to cause considerable—and largely calculated—confusion. And this ambiguity is also found among some Church leaders in the field of social concerns, who can seem at least as committed to partisan Democratic politics as they are to the Church’s actual social doctrine. Some would go so far as to consider support for President Obama's radical social agenda as a "proportionate reason" for not supporting a pro-life, pro-family candidate. That’s why many orthodox Catholic leaders, not to mention conservative commentators like Glenn Beck, would like to do away with “social justice” altogether.
How did we get to this point? 
We are living during a crisis of faith. Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes, which reflects the thought and input of the man who would eventually become Pope John Paul II, notes the unprecedented acceptance of systematic atheism and secularism in today’s world. Many people are looking for solutions “right here, right now,” without reference to the divine or to our supernatural end. 
Such secularist and materialistic models have in some places corrupted the Church’s social outreach. When this happens, social justice degenerates into myopic political activism. The authentic quest for human development then becomes co-opted by agendas that are completely opposed to Church teaching and the good of the human person, most notably the pro-abortion forces and the “gay rights” movement. 
Accordingly, we frequently encounter “peace and justice” Catholics who outright dissent from Church teaching on abortion and other “conservative issues,” or who relativize such teachings to an intolerable degree. Our rejection of such distortions of Church teaching can, unfortunately, lead us to swing the pendulum in the other direction--to our not paying sufficient attention to the social doctrine of the Church. 
I can’t say I have all the answers to this problem. I do think that any attempt to sweep “social justice” under the rug would be akin to Martin Luther’s trying to remove the Letter of James. It wouldn't work. Even more, social justice is a thoroughly Catholic principle that we shouldn't be ashamed of and certainly can't abolish from the Catholic lexicon. For faithful Catholics, social justice is a "home game," and we should proactively promote what the Church really teaches on the subject  
So, I think a good place to begin would be for Catholics to start learning, teaching, and eventually applying the authentic social teaching of the Church. A great place to start would be by picking up a copy of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, or by reading it online. The Compendium has many sections, including ones on human dignity, family, work, peace, economics, and politics, all examined in light of official Church teaching, through the lens of God's love for mankind and the Church's mission to the world.

Of course, the application of principles in this area can be difficult and even contentious: 
--How do just war principles apply to the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq? 
--How does the principle of subsidiarity relate to President Obama’s healthcare legislation? 
--How does the Church’s teaching on the fundamental dignity of the human person inform the debate on immigration reform? 
The list is endless. We might not ever end up agreeing on all these issues, but if we approach them using the same rock-solid Catholics principles, then—and only then—the Church as such can have a meaningful, united voice in the public square. 
Lastly, the “big picture,” which Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have seen and brilliantly proclaimed on behalf of the Church, transcends the artificial separation of the “pro-life” and “peace and justice” camps that we often find in the Church in America. The contemporary loss of the sense of God has led to a culture of death that is fundamentally violent and unjust. The remedy is found when we turn our gaze upon Christ, the Lord of Life and Prince of Peace.

Vatican Bank in the News. Again.

Well that's...odd.
"...A spokeswoman for the Bank of Italy said it had been acting under European Union directives."

It is the very last phrase of this article which catches my attention. 
Here, in the final sentence of the story, we learn something that turns the entire story upside down, as it were. 
Throughout the story, we are under the impression that someone at the Bank of Italy was responsible for this decision to sequester Vatican funds and open an investigation of the Vatican bank’s top two officials. 
Then, here, at the end of the story, we learn that the Bank of Italy was “acting under European Union directives." 
We know that the European Union began — with considerable input from leading Catholic laymen, like Konrad Adenauer, Alcide de Gasperi, Robert Schuman — as a political structure to try to ensure that Europeans would never again engage in a fratricidal civil war. 
We know that Europe has become something different than what those three men envisioned: a place where the Christian roots of Europe are denied, and where many Christian moral beliefs have been cast aside. 
What were the “European Union directives” which led to this action against the Vatican by the Bank of Italy. Who issued those directives, and for what reason? 
These are open questions.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I Really Dunno What to Say

One story is weird.  Two stories...well, I dunno.

Satanist Church Rents Out Oklahoma City Civic Center for Exorcism

Satanic group re-forms under new name with plans for public event in Oklahoma City

The Church of the IV Crown Princes

and now from the great nation of Canada:

Satanist low-key about impact on campaign
Scott Robb could have a devil of a time winning a seat in October's civic election.

The 31-year-old security officer is the founder of the Darkside Collective, which he believes is the first Canadian-based satanic church.

"I have been a practising Satanist since 1996. I briefly joined the Church of Satan in San Francisco in 1997 and quit there in February 2000 and started my own church."

Robb, one of five Ward 4 council candidates, compared his group's beliefs to psychological improvement or Buddhism rather than the occult activities of popular culture.
For example, their black magic involves letting out emotions such as anger through ritual so they won't be open to emotional outbursts, he explained.

Satan represents the forces of nature, and the self is the highest embodiment of human life, according to the group's website.

Members stand for law and order, rejecting any connection to "pseudo-Satanists" or devil worshippers, who are known to engage in illegal activities, the website says.

They also oppose most beliefs of Christian dogma, such as forgiving easily, said Robb, who holds the title of high priest.

"If someone wrongs us, we use our curse words to expel the anger or whatever upsets us ... and then we completely ignore that individual."

The church doesn't have a building or hold weekly rituals. Most contact between the roughly 100 members in North America, Europe and Australia occurs on the Internet, Robb said...

You know, most atheists do just fine without this. A ton of people go the neo-pagan route. But these do not, for whatever reason, suit you. You choose to worship the Lord of the Lie, the murderer from the beginning, the enemy of God, the human race, and all that's good.

Why? And why should we trust you?

Muslims For Free Speech!

Very good!  Canadian and American Muslims take a stand for free speech.

In the wake of this appalling turn of events:
The last time Molly Norris was in the news was July. She’s the Seattle cartoonist who responded to censorship of South Park by declaring April 20 to be “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day."...
So Norris shows some solidarity with these victimized cartoonists. Outrage ensued — protests, riots, you name it. She quickly backtracked and explained she didn’t mean to offend. Too late, Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki declared, putting her on an execution hitlist...
So how does someone respond to a death threat from al-Awlaki? The Seattle Weekly, where she used to be published, has the latest. And it’s not good:

You may have noticed that Molly Norris’ comic is not in the paper this week. That’s because there is no more Molly.

The gifted artist is alive and well, thankfully. But on the insistence of top security specialists at the FBI, she is, as they put it, “going ghost”: moving, changing her name, and essentially wiping away her identity. She will no longer be publishing cartoons in our paper or in City Arts magazine, where she has been a regular contributor. She is, in effect, being put into a witness-protection program—except, as she notes, without the government picking up the tab. It’s all because of the appalling fatwa issued against her this summer, following her infamous “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” cartoon.
this constructive reaction has come from the American/Canadian Muslim community:
We, the undersigned, unconditionally condemn any intimidation or threats of violence directed against any individual or group exercising the rights of freedom of religion and speech; even when that speech may be perceived as hurtful or reprehensible.

We are concerned and saddened by the recent wave of vitriolic anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiment that is being expressed across our nation.

We are even more concerned and saddened by threats that have been made against individual writers, cartoonists, and others by a minority of Muslims. We see these as a greater offense against Islam than any cartoon, Qur’an burning, or other speech could ever be deemed.

We affirm the right of free speech for Molly Norris, Matt Stone, Trey Parker, and all others including ourselves.

As Muslims, we must set an example of justice, patience, tolerance, respect, and forgiveness...Islam calls for vigorous condemnation of both hateful speech and hateful acts, but always within the boundaries of the law. It is of the utmost importance that we react, not out of reflexive emotion, but with dignity and intelligence, in accordance with both our religious precepts and the laws of our country.

We uphold the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Both protect freedom of religion and speech, because both protections are fundamental to defending minorities from the whims of the majority.

We therefore call on all Muslims in the United States, Canada and abroad to refrain from violence. We should see the challenges we face today as an opportunity to sideline the voices of hate—not reward them with further attention—by engaging our communities in constructive dialogue about the true principles of Islam, and the true principles of democracy, both of which stress the importance of freedom of religion and tolerance...
Signatories follow. This is very good to see.

St. Pio of Pietrelcina

ora pro nobis:
On September 20, 1918, as he was making his thanksgiving after Mass, Padre Pio had a vision of Jesus. When the vision ended, he had the stigmata in his hands, feet and side.
Life became more complicated after that.
The understatement of the century...
Padre Pio rarely left the friary after he received the stigmata, but busloads of people soon began coming to see him. Each morning after a 5 a.m. Mass in a crowded church, he heard confessions until noon. He took a mid-morning break to bless the sick and all who came to see him. Every afternoon he also heard confessions. In time his confessional ministry would take 10 hours a day; penitents had to take a number so that the situation could be handled. Many of them have said that Padre Pio knew details of their lives that they had never mentioned...
A number of people have reported cures they believe were received through the intercession of Padre Pio. Those who assisted at his Masses came away edified; several curiosity seekers were deeply moved. Like St. Francis, Padre Pio sometimes had his habit torn or cut by souvenir hunters...
"The life of a Christian is nothing but a perpetual struggle against self; there is no flowering of the soul to the beauty of its perfection except at the price of pain" (saying of Padre Pio).

Cyber Missiles--Away!

Well. Cyberwarfare just upped the ante:
Stuxnet surfaced in June and, by July, was identified as a hypersophisticated piece of malware probably created by a team working for a nation state, say cyber security experts. Its name is derived from some of the filenames in the malware. It is the first malware known to target and infiltrate industrial supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) software used to run chemical plants and factories as well as electric power plants and transmission systems worldwide. That much the experts discovered right away.
But what was the motive of the people who created it? Was Stuxnet intended to steal industrial secrets – pressure, temperature, valve, or other settings –and communicate that proprietary data over the Internet to cyber thieves?
By August, researchers had found something more disturbing: Stuxnet appeared to be able to take control of the automated factory control systems it had infected – and do whatever it was programmed to do with them. That was mischievous and dangerous.
But it gets worse. Since reverse engineering chunks of Stuxnet's massive code, senior US cyber security experts confirm what Mr. Langner, the German researcher, told the Monitor: Stuxnet is essentially a precision, military-grade cyber missile deployed early last year to seek out and destroy one real-world target of high importance – a target still unknown.
"Stuxnet is a 100-percent-directed cyber attack aimed at destroying an industrial process in the physical world," says Langner, who last week became the first to publicly detail Stuxnet's destructive purpose and its authors' malicious intent. "This is not about espionage, as some have said. This is a 100 percent sabotage attack."

US Debt

The question is not if it's a problem. The question is, how big of a problem is it exactly?
The CBO estimates the debt will be at $US16.5 trillion in two years, or 100.6 per cent of GDP.But these numbers are incomplete.

They do not count off-budget obligations such as required spending for Social Security and Medicare, whose programs represent a balloon payment for the Government as more Americans retire and collect benefits...
Mr Kotlikoff and Mr Moylan agree US national debt is much more than the official $US13.4 trillion number, but they disagree over how to add up the exact number.
Mr Kotlikoff says the debt is actually $US200 trillion.
Mr Moylan says the number is likely about $US60 trillion.

That is close to the figure quoted by David Walker, the US Comptroller General from 1998 to 2008.

He launched a campaign to convince Americans that the federal spending and debt is a greater threat than terrorism.
But whichever figure is accurate, all three agree that the problem has worsened in the last few years.

They say it is because Congress and the Administration, whether Republican or Democrat, consistently overspend.

On Humanity

our intended fate, and uttermost beauty at the end of all things:
The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre of pyre—
To be redeemed from fire by fire.

Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.

...We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

On Living in a Novel

written by a great Author who actually has a recurring role in his own work, and how we live in a society of wizards--strange beings who speak into stones and hear voices from distant lands, who gaze into light-drenched crystals and behold fell deeds and weird entertainments, whose leaders can at will summon fire from the heavens to smite the cities of their enemies.  Indeed, such a society is a substitute for the ways of the truly wise, of the Poverello and the Little Flower, of those who knew that the way of the divine Dove is the path towards man's final end, rather than the twining coils of the serpent:
To communicate with Mars, converse with spirits,
To report the behaviour of the sea monster,
Describe the horoscope, haruspicate or scry,
Observe disease in signatures, evoke
Biography from the wrinkles of the palm
And tragedy from fingers; release omens
By sortilege, or tea leaves, riddle the inevitable
With playing cards, fiddle with pentagrams
Or barbituric acids, or dissect
The recurrent image into pre-conscious terrors—
To explore the womb, or tomb, or dreams; all these are usual
Pastimes and drugs, and features of the press:
And always will be, some of them especially
When there is distress of nations and perplexity
Whether on the shores of Asia, or in the Edgware Road.
Men's curiosity searches past and future
And clings to that dimension. But to apprehend
The point of intersection of the timeless
With time, is an occupation for the saint—
No occupation either, but something given
And taken, in a lifetime's death in love,
Ardour and selflessness and self-surrender.
For most of us, there is only the unattended
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts. These are only hints and guesses,
Hints followed by guesses; and the rest
Is prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action.
The hint half guessed, the gift half understood, is Incarnation.
Here the impossible union
Of spheres of existence is actual,
Here the past and future
Are conquered, and reconciled,
Where action were otherwise movement
Of that which is only moved
And has in it no source of movement—
Driven by daemonic, chthonic
Powers. And right action is freedom
From past and future also.
For most of us, this is the aim
Never here to be realised;
Who are only undefeated
Because we have gone on trying;
We, content at the last
If our temporal reversion nourish
(Not too far from the yew-tree)
The life of significant soil.

What is Humanity?

The life we lead is glory and tragedy interwoven as thread into yarn:
Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind of our, and Adam's curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.

The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire,
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.

The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires.
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars.

The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood—
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.

The Intersection of Grace and Nature

which is to say, the nexus of time and eternity, according to Dr. Regis Martin, can be described thusly:
At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless; Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is, But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity, Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards, Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point, There would be no dance, and there is only the dance. I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where. And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Parties and Suchlike

We really need a proper third party--not just the Tea Party, but a proper third party. Cause this is all too true:
"The world does not progress. It wobbles." - G.K. Chesterton

Augustine on Marriage

in brief:
Forasmuch as each man is a part of the human race, and human nature is something social, and has in itself the power of friendship for a great and natural good; on this account God willed to create all men out of one, in order that they might be held in their society not only by likeness of kind, but also by bond of kindred. Therefore the first natural bond of human society is man and wife...
And this is the reason why marriage is not within the power of human civilizations to change--marriage is the foundation and fundament on which all societies rest, the basic fabric of human relations from which all other relations flow. As such, it is prior to society, and so society may do little other than choose between monogamy and polygamy, between no-fault divorce and no way to divorce. Marriage itself, like the earth under our feet, is a necessary precursor to our individual and societal existence.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Point of the Christian Faith

and, indeed, of all of human existence, is utterly, incredibly glorious. Literally.

...The absolutely supernatural gifts, which alone are the supernatural properly so called, are summed up in the divine adoption of man to be the son and heir of God. This expression, and the explanations given of it by the sacred writers, make it evident that the sonship is something far more than a relation founded upon the absence of sin; it is of a thoroughly intimate character, raising the creature from its naturally humble estate, and making it the object of a peculiar benevolence and complaisance on God's part, admitting it to filial love, and enabling it to become God's heir, i.e. a partaker of God's own beatitude.

"God sent his Son . . . that he might redeem them who were under the law: that we might receive the adoption of sons (ten ouiothesian). And because you are sons, God hath sent the spirit of his son into your hearts, crying: Abba, Father. Therefore now he is (Gr. text: thou art) not a servant, but a son. And if a son, an heir also through God" (Galatians 4:4-7) "Who hath blessed us with [all] spiritual blessings in heavenly places, in Christ . . . Who hath predestinated unto the adoption of children (ouiothesian) through Jesus Christ unto himself" (Ephesians i, 3-5). "Behold what manner of charity the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called, and should be the sons of God" (1 John 3:1).

Further, this exalted estate is described as a communication or partnership with the only-begotten Son of God, a participation in the privileges which are peculiar to Him in opposition to mere creatures...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Searchable Free Chesterton

For delightful humor, and for an upside down view of the world which is really right side up, nothing is a match for the writings of Gilbert Keith Chesterton, an unapologetic convert to the Roman Catholic faith. His prolific writings are marked by breadth of topics, depth of analysis, and heights of expressiveness. What this world needs is a 300 pound, cigar chomping, humorous saint. For more information (lots of it) about "the best writer in the 20th century", go to
Oh, when the Jollies come marching in...

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Fr. Spitzer et. al on Larry King

Watch Fr. Spitzer on Larry King Live! Click here for a transcript.

The Coming Election

Probably a true analysis:
Candidate Obama swelled into office with an ambitiously liberal plan. He promised his party that his legislative items would be more than policy triumphs; they'd be political triumphs. Stick with me, he said, and we'll get credit for leadership. Voters will come to love this stuff. Polls will improve. I'll campaign in your district.

It was bunk, as many Democrats knew even back then. Witness the threats and bribes necessary to coax a bare majority for every vote. But enough went along. And now that the ambitious Obama experiment in liberal governance is going kaboom, his members—even those who voted with him—are running for cover.

Health care? A total of 279 House and Senate Democrats voted for ObamaCare. Not one is running an ad touting that vote. How can they, given headlines about Medicare cuts and premium hikes? You will, however, find a growing catalogue of ads such as this one from Maryland Rep. Frank Kratovil: "As a career prosecutor, I made decisions on facts, not politics," and that's why "I voted against . . . the health-care bill."

Not to be outdone, Alabama Rep. Bobby Bright's ad explains he voted against "massive government health care." South Dakota's Stephanie Herseth Sandlin boasts she voted against the "trillion-dollar health-care plan." But the prize goes to former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes, vying to get his old job back: Not only is ObamaCare "financially devastating," it is "the greatest failure, modern failure, of political leadership in my lifetime."

Stimulus? Only a handful of Democrats can be found who will even utter the dreaded "s" word—and those are the ones bragging they voted against it. The rest have developed a curious code involving brief references to "roads" and "bridges." Even the White House is running from the White House. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs crankily lectured the press corps this week that the latest $50 billion Mr. Obama wants to "spur" the economy is absolutely not a "stimulus."

Cap and trade? "I voted against Nancy Pelosi's energy tax on Hoosier families," explains Indiana Rep. Joe Donnelly in an ad, echoed by North Carolina Rep. Mike McIntyre and Pennsylvania Rep. Jason Altmire. And the yes votes are rushing to argue that all they were really voting for was "renewable energy."

Financial regulation? What's that? Most of the country doesn't know, and few Democrats are bothering to explain. They see more mileage in ads putting distance between themselves and the auto bailouts, the president's budget, or the party's cultural reputation. Roy Herron, running in Tennessee, ran an ad describing himself as a "truck-driving, shotgun-shooting, Bible-reading, crime-fighting, family loving country boy." This is not a joke.

As for campaigning, Mr. Obama failed to warn Democrats that—thanks to the agenda he was asking them to pass—by September he'd be upside-down in his approval on most issues, and not much help. Instead of a president to help them, Democrats have found a president to run against. And it isn't George W. Bush...

Will the anti-Obama strategy work? In this environment, running away from Mr. Obama certainly beats running to him. Then again, midterms are referendums on a president's agenda, and the country is in a mood to punish Democrats en masse. For those anti-Obama Democrats who do survive, the political lesson will be that there is mileage in telling Mr. Obama no...

On Gold


For investors convinced U.S. lawmakers and central bankers will successfully manage the budgetary woes and the massive unfunded liabilities of Social Security and Medicare, then gold is overvalued in the long term. Righting America's national balance sheet would explicitly raise the dollar's value as investors with money abroad move assets into a more-sound American economy. The selling of euro, yen and pounds would push the dollar higher—and gold lower.

If, however, you worry the U.S. balance sheet is irreparably damaged, then gold currently reflects the likelihood that a weak-dollar trend still has years to run as the U.S. struggles with its financial mess. Investors—and consumers—looking to preserve their purchasing power will gravitate toward gold, since its quantity isn't easily manipulated.

Invest in gold, then, according your beliefs about the future of the greenback. Just don't invest based on the idea that gold is a proxy for inflation. You are likely to be played for a fool.


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