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Friday, November 29, 2013

Hope you and yours had a Happy Thanksgiving.

We did. Heather roasted another perfect turkey, and we added (cooked) bacon to the stuffing, which really worked out well. Plenty of leftovers, too, along with the turkey soup I enjoy making.

Still--yes--still working on the fisk. I should have part II up around Sunday.

What's that?

Ah, yes. The exhortation.

I've printed it, and probably will get around to reading it in detail eventually.

No, the economic parts don't offend me. Frankly, Catholic social teaching has always had problems with liberal (read "capitalism") economics. Even in places where you might least expect to find it, such as condemnations of the horror that is communism (e.g., paragraph 15). I flinch at some of the emphases in EG, and would appreciate a return to that version of CST which acknowledged limits to the healing powers of Caesar in the economic realm. But I think you're fooling yourself if you do not see something morally amiss in modern Western economics. The system that vomits up Miley Cyrus for your consideration, sponsors increasingly...interesting...forms of transgression for family time (e.g., the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade), and is pressuring formerly-solid youth organizations to bend to the zeitgeist is not our friend. If you watch American politics at all, you'll see the business wing of the GOP increasingly agitating for the excising of social conservatives.

Despite them getting their way and successfully nominating and running two of the least culture-warry candidates possible in the last two cycles. Running them right into buzzsaws, in fact.

Nevertheless, count on them to succeed--that's just the way it's going.

So, yes, their discomfort over this document is good. Salutary, even. Their rage-sweat is a perfume, in fact.

But.

But. But. But.

I'm really not interested in reading it in detail right now. My problem is that our genuinely pastoral pontiff has etched his blind-spot disdain into the magisterium. Paragraph 94. So, yeah, he made his perturbation with rosary counters Officially Catholic.

Yep, I'm intransigently faithful to a Catholic style from the past, all right. I have this irrational attachment to the idea that the Church that existed before 1962 has something to offer the world--something more than cherry-picking from the occasional doctor or saint. I have this weird notion that Pius XII and those who preceded him might also have a little something to say about evangelization. I suspect that Vatican II wasn't a consummate vade mecum for how to deal with the world henceforth and in perpetuity. Especially after fifty years of that world's brutish decay from the optimistic New Frontier 1960s.

Yet, good luck trying to find anything that suggests that in the document, whose earliest encyclical cite dates to 1964, and whose sole pre-V2 papal citation can be found in footnote 174. Which is good, since I'm a big Pius XI fan. But there should be more.

Be that as it may, the pique is more personal. Despite reaching out to a traditionalist critic in genuine charity a few weeks back, he now offers this slappy broadside. Please, just stop it, Holy Father. It is unbiblical. It is unworthy. It is unnecessary. It is worse than an insult--it is a blunder. I'm sure I'd get something out of it, but I'm not going to pick it up for a while as a result. I know I'm not the only one.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

The cache groweth.

So, Dear Reader, if civilisation starts swirling down the tubes, swing by my place to help save your humble booklegger's collection.

According to the stat markers at LibraryThing, we literally have over one ton of books. Whew.






There are many fascinating things about the Obamacare rollout.

Besides the schadenfreude buffet line, which Chris Johnson is doing a yeoman's job of chronicling here, here, and here.

The invaluable Ace of Spades points out the media's dereliction of duty, as they fraudulently claim they're just as surprised as we are.

If only we had some kind of institution whose primary mission it was to scrutinize the claims of politicians, contact experts, and report the major facts about major new legislation to the public.
But alas, it seems we don't.

They've chosen to be the President's Digital Praetorians, and they sense--correctly--that their prostituted credibility is swirling down the crapper along with this legislative debacle. Good.

Couldn't happen to a nicer group of whores.

The most astonishing story you will read this week.

Allow me to goad you into reading it with this sentence:

"Today, Davis is not only a musician, he is a person who befriends KKK members and, as a result, collects the robes and hoods of Klansmen who choose to leave the organization because of their friendship with him."

Read it here.

Yes, I'm working on part two of the Maradiaga fisk, but whew--it's daunting. 


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The early harvest.

I hear stories about Pope Francis inspiring people in Italy to return to Mass, and people in South America to return to confession. And I fervently hope the stories are as advertised, that such is lasting and bears good fruit for the future.

Because, for my part, the most visible fruit of this pontificate has been the occasion to watch intelligent people--my friends--who genuinely love the Church and want what is best for her hurl anathemas, come to blows and engage in a rhetorical civil war.

Good times, as they say.

Good times.



Monday, November 11, 2013

The pastoral disconnect.

The New York Times has an interesting article about "conservative" Catholics feeling swatted aside during this papacy.

It's worth reading not only because it features my friend and newly-minted media speed-dial guy, Steve Skojec, but also because it's a solid article.

First of all, a bit of a chuckle--Veep Steve holds that office in his wife Jamie's real estate agency, which consists of...the two of them. So, subtract the spats-and-monocle look you may be attaching to his visage. Not so by the way, Jamie knows real estate like nobody's business, and helped us navigate a problem we were having a while back. So, if you're in NoVa and need to sell or buy real estate, go her way.

Anyhoo.

I think the article is well done, showing a range of reactions, and fairly so. It misses part of the problem, though--the Pope's steady jabs at what would normally be described as "conservative" spirituality.

That's a crucial point, and one that needs to be remembered. Especially in light of the by-now tedious "older brother" accusation. Which, of course, has turned up in soundbite reactions to this article with the same frequency as yellow snow near a Malamute on Lasix.

The "older brother" retort would fit better if the parable had featured the father repeatedly needling and deriding his older son before welcoming the prodigal back. If certain Catholics have felt like redheaded stepchildren, it's because the Pope has, at times, been a bit slappy, and exclusively toward gingers. For a man with undeniable pastoral gifts, it's equally clear he has his blind spots, and I hope he grows in that respect. Right now, I'm in the position of loving the pontiff, but not really liking him. I am hoping and praying that changes.

While I work on Part II of the fisk, here's something to ponder.

John Zmirak takes Cardinal Maradiaga to the cleaners, albeit not for modernism:

So democracies like ours are “neoliberal dictatorships,” which the Church will help reform through the “globalization of mercy and solidarity,” that is, by helping governments to seize wealth from some people, skim its own share off the top, and distribute that wealth to others. Those “others” will doubtless be grateful, as Hugo Chavez’s supporters were in Venezuela; indeed, they will form powerful voting blocs dependent on state redistribution of wealth, as directed by humble clergymen.

This shows no awareness of decades of research about the true causes of poverty: the lack of clear property rights, political corruption, crony capitalism, populist politics, and centralized bureaucracy. Such problems cannot be solved by foreigners, but by local action to build up a culture of enterprise and institutions that protect small business owners. But it’s much more convenient, comfortable, and conducive to grabbing power to blame everything on the Yanquis. 

The good cardinal has already shown in the past his proclivity for shifting blame. In May 2002, the cardinal explained who was really to blame for the sex abuse scandal: Jews in the media.

Tiny coteries of evil investors cause starvation in the developing world, while cabals of Jewish journalists try to smear the innocent bishops. Is it all clear now? Based on Manichean, conspiratorial analyses such as these, we humble, loving “Samaritans” must reject the pharisaical Church of the past, and march forward to use the guns and prisons of the state to enforce “mercy” and “solidarity” among the classes and the nations.

Read it all.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

The "White Hurricane" of 1913.

The deadliest storm ever to strike the Great Lakes began a century ago today. Here's my post from last year about it.

Here is the list of all the ships wrecked in the storm.

The shipwreck location map (click to enlarge). Some locations are approximate, 
as four ships have still not been found. The most recent find was this summer, the 
tragic Henry B. Smith in Lake Superior.


The overturned hull of the Charles S. Price, the  504 foot long steamer and
"mystery ship" that floated down the St. Clair River before a diver was able 
to go underwater to identify her.



A storm headline.



Finally, Psalm 107 (Douay 106). May God grant rest to the souls of the dead, and guard all who go down to the sea in ships.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Mater et Pedisequa, Part I.

I hate to do the multi-parter thing again so soon, but this one is important, and requires it.

There are times, in Catholic life, when one stumbles across something so gobsmackey that you have to read it twice and walk away to enjoy a relaxing stroll through the autumn sunshine. Then, you return and read it again to make sure your eyes and brain had not, after all, decided to go on a general strike together. To your immense discomfort, you realize you read it correctly the first time.


This presentation by Oscar Andres Rodriguez Cardinal Maradiaga of Honduras is one of those times. Maradiaga is no ordinary prince of the Church--he has been appointed as coordinator of the Pope's "Gang of Eight" which is spearheading reform of the Vatican's bureaucracy.


Which means, naturally, that we should employ a lens of charitable presumption, assuming the best even in presentations which are clearly not ad hoc Night At The Improv oops-I-brainfarted-again gaffery.


I came up snake eyes. Unless the Cardinal is a prankster whose comic touch extends to preparing and lighting bags of modernist poo on the doorsteps of Catholic ministry folks and university students the week before Halloween...in which case--Zany!




Would that it were. No, no it's not.

No, this one is a humdinger, and needs to be explored closely.



Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga SDB
Archbishop of Tegucigalpa
University of Dallas Ministry Conference
Irving Convention Center
25 October 2013
The title is rather interesting, because as you will see it's not exactly clear, in light of the entire presentation, where evangelizing fits in. No, really, it's that bad. Despite citing them, the Cardinal untethers himself completely from the documents of Vatican II and seems to use the conciliar spirit as a sort of ecclesial feng shui, an astonishing effort to harmonize the Gospel with the world.

Which is a shame--and then a horror--because it gets off to something of a good start. With one caveat.

1. Introduction: It is not possible to talk about the Church, or about the Church today, without referring to the crucial moment in contemporary history that Vatican II has been for her, both as an event of grace and a paradigmatic reference.

During a pre-conclave speech, the then-Cardinal Bergoglio issued a warning about what happens when the Church becomes "self-referential." While Cardinal Maradiaga would no doubt disagree, his speech is loaded with one of the more common self-referential sins of modern Catholic churchmen: the endless appeal to the 21st ecumenical council.


Some of you are probably crying foul, itching to throw a yellow flag, but think about it--how do you think constant, self-praising references to Vatican II sound to non-Catholic ears? 


"We gathered together, thought and talked about the modern world for three years and bam--I tell you! Wow, it just hit us! Now we know how this utterly unique and unprecedented modern world thing works! We even prepared several mission statements! Minds. Blown! Let me tell you humbly--it's the most important event in our recent history, and we are just brimming with insights from our big meeting that we just gotta share! Let us hit you with some knowledge. Incessantly."


Note that he says it is simply "not possible to talk about the Church" without referring back to it. And, my, does he ever refer to it. Over and over and over again. Let me humbly submit that constantly talking about your fabulous insights seems to be the dictionary definition of self-referential.


The Church is rising. There is a significant increment of the faith in Africa, where the Church has grown tremendously during the 20th century. Such vitality can also be seen in some sectors of the Church in Asia –in India, Vietnam, the Philippines. But, at the same time, we are seeing in Europe institutions of considerable size but little energy, as well as a very hostile culture, fed by secularism and laicism. At the same time, we are watching a continent that “is committing demographic suicide at an alarming pace.” Similarly, here, in the United States of America, not everything is gloom, not everything is scandal and sin. No. Here, the Gospel of Christ is also alive and effective. For instance, George Weigel assures us in The Courage To Be Catholic: Crisis, Reform, and the Future of the Church (Basic Books, 2000) that, 200,000 people embraced the Catholic faith in the United States in Easter of 2002, a number that for us is cheerful, and optimistic, and “a vital sign.”


A fair assessment. Perhaps a little over-optimistic, but fine.


2. Vatican II
The Second Vatican Council was the main event in the Church in the 20
th Century. In principle, it meant an end to the hostilities between the Church and modernism, which was condemned in the First Vatican Council. On the contrary: neither the world is the realm of evil and sin –these are conclusions clearly achieved in Vatican II—nor is the Church the sole refuge of good and virtue. Modernism was, most of the time, a reaction against injustices and abuses that disparaged the dignity and the rights of the person.





Well, that certainly is....

I mean you have to agree....

Looked at one way....

Holy hopping snot. I can't make sense of it, at least not without a friend employing some herbal assistance.

"No, dude, it totally makes sense. You see, the Church and modernism are like oil and water, but if you have, like, God's totally ultimate hand mixer, you could make a kind of oil and water vinaigrette without, you know, vinegar. Just like that water-burning car the oil companies are hiding from us, man. Hey? Where are the Cheetos?"

Okay, still no help. 

Oooof. Well, let's see what Vatican I says:

3. If anyone says that it is possible that at some time, given the advancement of knowledge, a sense may be assigned to the dogmas propounded by the Church which is different from that which the Church has understood and understands: let him be anathema.

As StrongBad might say, "I'm no theologist, but I think 'anathema' is bad."


And, if I may be so cheeky, let me point out what modernism meant to the Saint who decided to brain it:


Still it must be confessed that the number of the enemies of the cross of Christ has in these last days increased exceedingly, who are striving, by arts, entirely new and full of subtlety, to destroy the vital energy of the Church, and, if they can, to overthrow utterly Christ's kingdom itself. 


Soooo...Vatican II was an armistice with the enemies of the cross of Christ? Who were just poor ol' misled social justice crusa--er, collaborators trying to make the world a better place?


No no no. NO. Modernism is better thought of as an attempted palace coup against God Himself, staged within the Church herself. Sure, all revolutions cloak themselves in good motives, in terms of justice. That doesn't justify them, much less their tactics.


Oy, vey. One fears that the Cardinal is writing Anthony Cekada's ad copy for him. Really, there's no salvaging this--it's a clusterfark. If the Cardinal's argument is accepted, the Church isn't descending into a hermeneutic of rupture. It's worse than that--it's a hermeneutic of malleability, with Vatican II the funhouse mirror-shaped lens used to examine Tradition. 


And then burn it like ants on a sidewalk.
The Vatican II Council officially acknowledged that things had changed, and captured the need for such a change in its Documents, which emphasized truths such as these:
Is that what the Council officially acknowledged--that modernism had a lot  of really, really good points? Turning previous councils like Vatican I on their head?


Emphasis added even though it shouldn't have to be.

So, we're just jettisoning the documents and winging it now, I guess? Vatican II: I'm OK, You're OK.


1º) The Church is not the hierarchy, but the people of God. “The People of God” is, for the Council, the all-encompassing reality of the Church that goes back to the basic and the common stuff of our ecclesial condition; namely, our condition as believers. And that is a condition shared by us all. The hierarchy has no purpose in itself and for itself, but only in reference and subordination to the community. The function of the hierarchy is redefined in reference to Jesus as Suffering Servant, not as“Pantocrator” (lord and emperor of this world); only from the perspective of someone crucified by the powers of this world it is possible to found, and to explain, the authority of the Church. The hierarchy is a ministry (diakonia = service) that requires lowering ourselves to the condition of servants. To take that place (the place of weakness and poverty) is her own, her very own responsibility.
The Suffering Servant is one of my favorite images of Christ. However, it is far from the only valid one. It's not, as anyone with a fleeting grasp of the New Testament can admit. Christ Pantocrator arose out of that NT datum that He is Lord. Also, that the wind and waves obey Him. That at His Name, every knee is to bow. That He is the Son of Man

And Christ Pantocrator--Christ the King--was--and is--a handy reminder to those who hold power, from Emperors all the way down to drain commissioners, that they answer to a King who stands over all. One who expects them to do justice to all.


The examples can be multiplied--I mean, I haven't gotten into the really heavyweight stuff in John. But the point remains--a vision of the Church based on only one facet of Jesus is going to be an impoverished and distorted one. Yes, I want ordained deacons, priests and bishops to serve, but I also expect them to rule when necessary--as did Jesus. The Holy Spirit gave us four gospels, with a plenitude of images of Christ and the Church. Why fixate on only one? Be all things to all men, so that you might save some, as a wise man facing a world of multiple beliefs--and no beliefs at all--once said.


Part II to follow.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Dad Brag Time!

Because this isn't All Francis--All the Time!

If you are in the Metro Detroit area during the weekend of December 6-8, please come on down to the Warren Civic Theatre to see the troupe's presentation of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

Based on the novel by Barbara Robinson, which features a family of juvenile delinquents barging into the local church's Christmas pageant audition, getting all the starring roles, and--mirabile dictu--eventually getting into the spirit of the season, the story is a hoot. We read it to our children every year.



My older three children auditioned, and all three have lines. Maddie is...drumroll please...the lead character, Beth Bradley, who essentially frames and narrates the story! Rachel is Gladys Herdman, the youngest of the delinquents, and the Angel of the Lord character featured on the cover. The trick will be for Rachel to become intimidating ("Gladys is fast--and she bites!"), but we're reminding her of how much her big brother annoys her, giving her motivation to "mean up." 

Oh, and Dale III also has a speaking role, with a amusing zinger about his double-jointed little brother. Not too shabby for a competitive casting audition!

See you there!