Friday, December 19, 2008

Tools for Obama

The hysteria over Obama's selection of Rick Warren as The Inaugural Invocationater is embarrassingly obvious as staged circus, as are most morality plays. Get the gay activist set to steam red in the face in public and Obama wins more evangelical points. The more crazy rhetoric about conservatives as fascists, anti-Semites, and all-purpose haters and Obama's appeasement policy as cowardly and backward, the better. Now we're hearing conservative pastors on TV defending Obama's virtual virtues of inclusivity and "disagreeing without being disagreeable." I heard one on FOX yesterday stating as simple fact that Obama is opposed to gay marriage. A social conservative holding Obama out to be of one mind with him without Obama ever actually committing to it! The One doesn't even need plausible deniability. Amazing. Obama once again triagulates social conservatives against social liberals and risks nothing in the process. All he needs to do is keep his mouth shut and let the two sides eat each other up. Did I say amazing?

Warren furthermore takes yet another step towards assuming the Rev. Billy Graham Chair of President-Stroking Pastoral Theology. More glory for the Kingdom! Or more glorious book sales, profits from which will of course be generously funneled to the poor dark people somewhere out there. Warren gets to chortle on TV about his new wave brand of merely Dobson/Falwell-free Christianity in the face of fuming propagandizing media attack dogs. Oh, the poor martyr, standing up to the brutal violence of imperial camera lights.

Obama gets to cozy up with the nation's First Pastor-dude who paved the way for Purpose-Driven (TM) pragmatic politics.

I can't figure out whether I should marvel at Obama's political manipulativeness or weep for how easy America is making things for him.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Cao, Jindal & Asian-American Catholics

It's officially a banner year for our rarefied demographic. Or, it's just another colorful hiccup in Louisiana politics. Then again, Louisianans seem to love keeping their political hiccups going (see Sheriff Harry Lee of Jefferson Parish).

The GOP is now taking stock of the role of minority ethnic conservatives in rejuvenating the party (Jindal and Cao, as far as I know, are not products of any self-conscious marketing effort to mobilize the Asian-American electorate). Asian America might want to note how religion can sharpen that which makes AA perspectives unique in America, as well how our own captivity to elitist and materialist liberal ideologies cheapens the legacy of our forebears. Liberal Catholics might want to reassess how their "third-world liberation theologies" produce more dictators and terrorists than honest politicians like Jindal and Cao.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dawkins & Chesterton

I was reading about Richard Dawkins' latest foray into Cluelessness and vaguely recalled a Chesterton quote on insanity and reason. So turning to Google, I found this:
Exactly what does breed insanity is reason. Poets do not go mad; but chess-players do. Mathematicians go mad, and cashiers; but creative artists very seldom. I am not, as will be seen, in any sense attacking logic; I only say that this danger does lie in logic, not in imagination.
I respect Chesterton a lot, but I'm no cult follower. And here he's at his most annoying. Poets don't go mad? Maybe if all you read is Dante, Shakespeare, and Milton. Modernist and Beat poets aside, G.K. certainly was not oblivious to the Romantics, was he? Onto the next Google search result:
The ordinary man has always been sane because the ordinary man has always been a mystic. He has permitted the twilight. He has always had one foot in earth and the other in fairyland. He has always left himself free to doubt his gods; but (unlike the agnostic of to-day) free also to believe in them. He has always cared more for truth than for consistency. If he saw two truths that seemed to contradict each other, he would take the two truths and the contradiction along with them. His spiritual sight is stereoscopic, like his physical sight: he sees two different pictures at once and yet sees all the better for that.
OK, there's the Chesterton I know and love.
It is idle to talk always of the alternative of reason and faith. Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all. If you are merely a sceptic, you must sooner or later ask yourself the question, "Why should anything go right; even observation and deduction? Why should not good logic be as misleading as bad logic? Are they not both movements in the brain of a bewildered ape?"
Somebody, please give Dawkins a Chesterton book!
If you argue with a madman, it is extremely probable that you will get the worst of it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed by the things that go with good judgement. He is not hampered by a sense of humour or by charity, or by the dumb certainties of experience. He is the more logical for losing certain sane affections. Indeed, the common phrase for insanity is in this respect a misleading one. The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.
Poor Dawkins. All the more so after watching him wet himself in Ben Stein's Expelled.

Interview with a Vampire Judge

The Nov08 issue of St. Anthony's Messenger has an interview with the chair of the National Review Board, Judge Michael Merz. It's an eye-roller. Eye started to gravitate upward with this section on bishops in non-compliance with the Charter:
Q. Can anything be done to compel them to participate? Is it that the eparchies do not feel that they must respond to directives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops since they represent Eastern Catholic Churches?

A. No, I don’t think it’s that. Audits are not cheap. Eparchies cover a lot of geographical territory, which makes the audits more expensive. The 2007 audit was accomplished by having one or two auditors on site in each diocese/eparchy, under the direction of the Gavin Group.

The Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, is a case unto itself. They don’t participate either in the audits or in providing data to CARA. Bishop Fabian Bruskewicz says he is observing the canonical norms, as he is obliged to do by the law. [Bishop Bruskewicz says that following the Charter is optional.] I suppose he thinks he is answerable to only the pope. Why would anyone insist on his personal prerogative when what we are dealing with is the protection of children? I don’t understand.

In my letter which accompanied this report to Cardinal Francis George, the president of the bishops’ conference, I said that Bishop Bruskewicz’s refusal to participate, “though undoubtedly within an ordinary’s canonical power, scandalizes the faithful.”
The judge makes a good distinction with Eastern-rite eparchies' logistical difficulties in completing audits and achieving compliance. But beyond that it doesn't take much for him to reveal his managerial impatience and bias. Clearly, he believes the Charter to be a near-flawless piece of ecclesiastical legislation when it's not even particular law. He doesn't distinguish between the Charter and the Essential Norms (intentionally or ignorantly?). I'm already starting to smell that "I'm a John XXIII Catholic, not a JPII Catholic" attitude. As for "scandalizing the faithful," so is moralistic politics. The Judge already starts to lose objectivity here. All positive law, especially one as hastily drafted and politically forced as the Charter, is imperfect and demands caution. I don't think we should be told that a bishop is a scandal simply for refusing to comply with the Charter. Show me, don't just tell me. Otherwise, respect the episcopal office.
Q. Was it the seminary training they had?

A. The preponderance of offenders reported in the “Nature and Scope” study are priests who were trained before Vatican II. Nobody coming out of the seminary immediately began abusing. There’s a lapse time for everybody. And we’ve got to figure out why.

That is why it is really important to do a serious social-science study of the pattern, instead of accepting people’s off-the-cuff explanations, like suggesting that the sexual revolution hit Catholic priests the same as everyone else, but 10 years later. Or suggesting this all could have been avoided if Catholic priests were allowed to marry. Or suggesting gay priests be eliminated. None of these things will explain the data we now have.
Alright. Judge Merz is now coming off the rails. First of all, it says everything that he believes more social science is what the Church needs. The Linacre Centre publishes an entire book on the effects of the Church's evaporating asceticism after Vatican II, which everyone, including the National Review Board of primarily liberal Catholics, ignored, yet Merz would lump such approaches in with all those "off-the-cuff explanations." The greatest flaw of the Review Board was that it is composed of secularized, technocratic, Americanist Catholics who know nothing about the Catholic Tradition (but presume to know everything) and who place ultimate faith, hope, and love in the triumph of Science and instrumental rationality. Judge Merz's comments here only corroborates my impression.
Q. Is that the reason for the upcoming “Causes and Context” study?

A. Yes, that’s precisely what we’re studying. The “Causes and Context” study is ongoing, but needs more funding. The bishops pledged a million dollars for this study, and have already released, I think, $400,000. There are other sources from which we are trying to raise the money. We’ve made applications to several federal agencies that would ordinarily fund studies of this kind, like the Centers for Disease Control. And we have made some requests to various foundations and individuals who are known to contribute to Catholic causes. So at present we are not expecting to have to go back to the bishops for more money.
There are few better indicators of a secularist technocrat than the belief that throwing huge sums of money at a problem is some necessary precondition for effectiveness and success. Did you catch that? We need the Center for Disease Control to help us figure out why priests rape young men. Disease control???!!! Notice also the confidence Merz accords to our 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations to do what the Church presumably cannot do. Nonprofits are another green zone in American politics for ideologues to access the reins of the Church. With the abuse scandal, secularism is digging its claws deeper into our Apostolic Church. But Judge Merz is a graduate of Harvard College and Law School, so who cares what the Fathers of the Church and their present-day representatives might have to say about these things, especially when those reps today are abandoning their own traditions and bowing the knee to the "expertise" of "lay faithful" who drool after a "democratic" Church.
I believe, however, we need to do some serious scientific study of the effectiveness of these programs. Once we’ve got the “Causes and Context” study fully funded, that will be our next research goal. We’ve had some preliminary discussions with top experts in the country about designing an effectiveness study.

The Catholic Medical Association recently denounced safe-environment training as ineffective. I found their study disappointing. All they did was a literature review of programs in public schools in the 1980s. We had offered to collaborate with them, but they were not interested in collaboration. Their review of the literature was highly selective. If you want to find out whether a program works, you test kids before they take the program and then you test kids after and you see if there is a change in their awareness and you see over time what the changes in reporting are.

Dr. David Finkelhor of New Hampshire reviewed some of the more recent studies for us [the National Review Board]. One conclusion he reached was that safe-environment training may not prevent the first incident of abuse, but it teaches kids to call abuse by its right name and it gets them to report a first instance. Then we’ll have an intervention in the abuse career of the perpetrator and get him off the street, rather than having repetition after repetition.
So not even the Catholic Medical Association (which happens to have a good reputation of respecting Catholic orthodoxy) has enough "scientific" authority and expertise for Judge Merz. More "training" and "studies show" lingo. Catholic kids are just mechanistic objects of social engineering, not souls who may be negatively affected by premature exposure to slipshod secularist models of sex ed.
Q. Should the fact that 82 percent of the victims who have reported abuse were male and 18 percent were female send up a red flag about homosexuality as being part of this whole issue?

A. Whether the flag is red or not, it’s a data point that definitely has to be considered. It is a different pattern from society at large. Typically, we know from victimization studies about child abuse outside the Church, in society at large, that girls are more likely to be abused than boys and, in addition, that boys underreport abuse. The fact that we have such a high percentage of abuse of males is definitely something that needs explanation.

In the “Causes and Context” study, we hope to figure out the extent to which this is opportunity, the extent it is sexual orientation. When we were kids, it would have been more likely our parents would have let me, a boy, go for a weekend on a camping trip with a priest they knew, than you, a girl. That’s likely to be some piece of the explanation.

Q. Are there other things which make the pattern of abuse in the Church different?

A. This is not classic pedophilia in many ways, although there’s some of that. A few of the abusers have abused lots and lots of little kids. Almost 50 percent of the offenders that we know about offended only once—or at least we know about only one offense they committed. And the bulk of the offenses are against 10- to 14-year-olds. Most true pedophiles prefer their victims younger than that.
Ahhh, a glimpse of sanity.
Q. Is a new Church growing out of this mess?

A. I think we are making good progress. I am very encouraged in a couple of places. There are reformers saying, “We ought to watch bishops more carefully.” An important step in the right direction is serious lay involvement in the Church. The diocesan financial councilors should have been taken more seriously. Nobody in the Vatican has told the U.S. bishops, “We don’t want any more of that National Review Board—get rid of those people.” That’s a good sign.
So much for sanity. Back to "We Are Church" and "Call to Action." Not a single mention of prayer, ascetical formation, discipline, or virtue. No, lay leadership will solve all. Once the Catholic Church looks like the Episcopal or Presbyterian churches, all will be well.
Transparency in the Church has to be learned as a way of life. That is part of what Teresa [Kettelkamp, the executive director of the bishops’ Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection] meant in her cover letter to this report when she spoke about incorporating the Charter and its articles into the daily fabric of the Church.
Transparency, si; incorporating the Charter into my daily fabric, NO! Has the Charter really replaced the Breviary? Cuz if it has, then the Catholic Church is just a figment of Merz's nostalgia. Good for fodder in novels like Angela's Ashes or movies like Exorcist, not worth much else.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Is Kmiec a Pro-Life Dark Knight?

McCain made an excellent point during the Hofstra Debate comparing himself on the Breyer & Ginsberg Senate confirmations to Obama on Roberts & Alito. McCain clearly has not voted ideologically pro-life. Obama on the other hand has been nothing but ideological on judicial appointments. He lied on national TV with his cheap talk about "No Litmus Test" when everything else he's said and done on the matter testifies to the contrary. Make no mistake, Obama will only nominate Roe v. Wade absolutists to the bench in lockstep with NARAL, with one possible exception.

I've been wondering whether this is precisely how Kmiec may be trying to play the Trojan horse. Perhaps this is where Kmiec's seemingly disingenuous apologetics for Obama can serve not only his ambitions for judicial enthronement but for the pro-life agenda. The more ire Kmiec can draw from Christian pro-lifers, the more insulated he becomes from pro-choice suspicions that he is just a recruit for Carhart and the Catholic Five; and the more Obama can appear to be the bipartisan aisle-crosser by appointing Kmiec, that is, if Obama takes his own bipartisan rhetoric seriously.

The probability of success with this Dark Knight strategy is slim if not null when you consider the number of worry-free pro-choice jurists who have been waiting over eight years for judicial advancement. Then there's the problem for Kmiec of a Democratic supermajority in the Senate, which considerably devalues his strategy. The more conservative the Senate, the greater Kmiec's value to an Obama presidency. That doesn't look likely. On the other side, Dark Knight strategy has tremendous downside risk. Kmiec risks further confusion of the Catholic community on the Number One ethical issue on the Church's bulletin board. He risks ennobling Obama for being a principal architect in a Machiavellian mindgame with the electorate.

But now that an Obama presidency seems to be a foregone conclusion, Kmiec's position may be the pro-life movement's best hope. Obama clearly has no affection for those who have not coddled and played defense for him. His remarkable ability to emote temperance and generosity is a testament to his discipline. But he has been clearly frustrated by how the pro-life movement has not leaped en masse into his beneficent arms. He clearly believes he has bent over backwards to move the ball forward for the pro-life movement. He probably wonders why pro-lifers can't see it his way and chalks it up to GOP propaganda enslavement machines. He clearly does not understand how his substantive abortion activism could be seen as anything but moderate.

In other words, there's no way he's going to appoint even moderates like Roberts or Alito. Only Kmiecs have a slim shot, and only because they truly have taken fire from their original tribe for Obama. The more he can make a spectacle of himself as the sacrificial lamb who has been slain in martyrdom for the One by those mean, Pharisaical Communion-denying Bishops, the greater shall be his reward. There really is no rhyme or reason to the ridiculous arguments made by Kmiec otherwise.

But that's the problem with the Dark Knight -- there may be no public reward or vindication. Or maybe there will be. Maybe game theory is all there is to morality in this life.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Liberalism is the Great Combination of church & state

Smug liberal-theological Whiggery annoys the crap out me. Patrick Deneen puts some meat on my emotivist antipathy.
Lilla paints a dramatic portrait of an age of pre-modern violence born of religious warfare and a placid and peaceful condition of modern liberalism in which toleration, industriousness and prosperity govern. Left unsaid is the violent basis upon which liberalism was based, mainly directed toward a world that was viewed through a Gnostic lens of discontent and dissatisfaction, a relationship that was made possible by a “Great Combination” that put humankind in a position akin to that of gods.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Prosperity Gospel chickens comin' home to do you know what

Any of you inculturation-theology nut jobs out there care to defend this one?:
If so, the situation offers a look at how an native-born faith built partially on American econoic optimism entered into a toxic symbiosis with a pathological market. [You know times are hard when Time's spellchecker goes so badly on the fritz]
I'd love to see O'Reilly haul Joel Osteen and Bruce Wilkinson onto the Factor for a good bitch-slapping.

HT: Rod Dreher

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

We Can't Handle The Truth

A democracy that cannot govern itself is arguably not a democracy at all, which makes the craven appeals that mark each candidate in the upcoming election less a symbol and accomplishment of our self-sovereignty than an indication of our enslavement to appetites over which we have no control. This latter condition was defined by the ancients as a condition of servitude, not liberty. Our leaders fear to tell us the truth, but their fear of electoral defeat pales in comparison to our unwillingness to level with ourselves. ~Prof. Patrick Deneen

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

His Name Is Henry Paulson...His Name...

The new story seems to be that if you do not think the government should save certain banks from their own mistakes, you are the political equivalent of Tyler Durden dreaming about obliterating the economic life of this country. ~Daniel Larison
Wait, and all this time I thought Ron Paul was Tyler Durden.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Can we nail that to the cathedral doors?

So Doug Kmiec has now stooped to turning his crusade ministry of reconciliation between Obama's pro-abortion absolutism and Catholic teachings into a cottage industry. So far this Obama phase of Kmiec's career has teased out underdeveloped threads in the Catholic pro-life position, which is good. But most of it has been filled with glaring, embarrassing dodges of the fact that Obama has not bended, does not and will not bend in his resolve to advance a maximalist pro-choice legal regime through the federal judiciary, Congress, and all Executive regulatory agencies.

A sign that Kmiec has totally jumped the shark is his assuming the now-all-too-familiar Victim's Pose. He's now shamelessly flaunting and politicizing the fact that one priest erroneously and stupidly denied Kmiec Communion once and only once. Check out the product description (back cover?) of his new book, Can A Catholic Support Him? (consider how an alternate, more direct title like "Can A Catholic Support Obama?" would have been too pedestrian, too unworthy of His Obamaness):
On April 18, 2008, Douglas W. Kmiec was denied Communion at a Catholic Mass in Westlake, California. Ironically, Kmiec had been invited by a Catholic business group to give a dinner address on the Bishop’s teaching of “Faithful Citizenship.” Kmiec had served as head of the Office of Legal Counsel for both Ronald Regan and George H. W. Bush. But now, he found himself rejected by his faith—simply for endorsing the presidential campaign of Senator Barack Obama.
What?! You mean you haven't marked the historic date yet? That's April 18, 2008, good people of America: a day which will live in infamy, the day the Great Kmiec started to free himself of all that "religulous" popery. Oh, dear, the poor Galileo, the poor, poor Martin Luther. Those bad, nasty, evil Catholics, still persecuting and tormenting the innocent, noble prophets of truth to power, grrrr.

Oh puhlease.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Slick and theatrical, but compelling. Catholic Church of the United States of America, remember thyself. Yes, it's just a vote. But it is a vote.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Noble Lies

I've been wondering why Obama fans seem invincibly incapable of applying their own critiques of McCain/conservatives to themselves or their guy. Virginia Postrel's Atlantic piece helps.
Obama’s glamour also accounts for some of his campaign’s other stumbles. Plenty of candidates attract supporters who disagree with them on some issues. Obama is unusual, however. He attracts supporters who not only disagree with his stated positions but assume he does too. They project their own views onto him and figure he is just saying what other, less discerning voters want to hear. So when Obama’s chief economic adviser supposedly told a Canadian official that, contrary to campaign rhetoric, the candidate didn’t want to revise NAFTA, reporters found the story credible. After all, nobody that thoughtful and sophisticated could really oppose free trade.
Like any candidate, Obama of course has position papers on specific issues. But even well-informed observers disagree about whether he represents the extreme left wing of the Democratic party or something more market-oriented and centrist. As the NAFTA flap demonstrates, his supporters can’t even decide what the candidate really thinks about free trade. His glamour makes it easy to imagine that a President Obama would dissolve differences, abolish hard choices, and achieve political consensus—or that he’s a stealth candidate who will translate his vague platform into a mandate for whatever policies you the voter happen to support.
At the risk of bitter disillusionment, perhaps Obama hopes to do for the country what his father’s image did for him: provide a noble lie that tricks us into self-improvement.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Beasts behaving humanly...Brilliant

Strange how it is that whenever we're overexposed and worn thin by 24/7 displays of the viciously bestial spectacle we call presidential campaigning, something in us starts craving displays of humanity by wild beasts.


While Giuliani's slam at Obama's community organizing experience only succeeded in reminding us what a smarmy scumbag he is, Palin's jab was far more subtle. I can't believe people are blurring the difference. Prof. Perry's back at his partisan worst:
Something from a MOJ Reader
from Mirror of Justice by Michael Perry

A MOJ reader sent this to me. I thought some other MOJ readers might like to see it. (I had not known about the web site Catholic Democrats, here.)
Palin Attacks Catholic Community Organizing by Senator Obama; No Mention of Economic Distress Across America

Minneapolis, Minn. - Sept 4, 2008 - Catholic Democrats is expressing surprise and shock that Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's acceptance speech tonight mocked work that her opponent had done in the 1980s for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. She belittled Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama's experience as a community organizer in Catholic parishes on the South Side of Chicago, work he undertook instead of pursuing a lucrative career on Wall Street. In her acceptance speech, Ms. Palin said, "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities." Community organizing is at the heart of Catholic Social Teaching to end poverty and promote social justice.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has operated the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, its domestic anti-poverty and social justice program, since 1969. In 1986, the Bishops issued Economic Justice for All: Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the US Economy, which said, "Human dignity can be realized and protected only in community." Senator Obama worked in several Catholic parishes, supported by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, helping to address severe joblessness and housing needs in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods of Chicago.

"It is shocking that a vice presidential candidate would disparage an essential component of the Catholic Social Tradition with her condescending attack on urban community organizing," said Dr. Patrick Whelan, president of Catholic Democrats. "Her divisive rhetoric, repeatedly pitting small towns against urban communities, demonstrates not only a lack of charity toward the needs of some of the least among us but a fundamental disrespect for those who dedicate their lives to overcoming poverty across our country. Her sarcastic tone is also emblematic of the contempt that she and Senator McCain have shown toward actually addressing the economic distress that is gripping America in these difficult times. Economic issues, including extreme poverty, are among the most important to Catholics and other people of faith in this election."

"Why do Governor Palin and the McCain Campaign sarcastically attack efforts to organize unemployed Catholics and Protestants? Senator Obama has spoken warmly about his experiences as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago," said Lisa Schare, chair of Catholic Democrats of Ohio. "His work in helping people who were experiencing the real trauma of losing their jobs and livelihoods demonstrates an authentic Christian spirit and the real essence of Catholic Social Teaching, something strikingly absent from Governor Palin's remarks tonight."
I trained and worked with Alinsky-school community organizers and one thing I always admired about them was their selflessness and independence from partisan nonsense. They didn't care about what sort of credit they were getting from politicos or media outside the community. It almost was a tacit point of pride among them that the more "invisible" but effective they were, the greater their organizing chops. The more misunderstood by the media machines the better. They preferred to manipulate, and not be manipulated by, the media. They preferred to operate under the radar of conventional political strategists intent on chopping up and controling local political power according to party self-interest, not according to the real interests of real subsidiary communities like parishes and local congregations.

True organizers are political ninjas and would never stoop to this sort of demonstrative, affected, self-centered whining over how their "profession" got snubbed by national politicians on the stump. That Catholic Democrats are stirring up this typical victimization/identity-politics resentment shows either how little they understand traditional community organizing or how much community organizing has become mainstreamed and thus cheapened by our therapeutic politics.

Palin's speech cheapened our public discourse on plenty of matters, but she simply did not malign Catholic community organizers. She was making the point that if Democrats give so much credit to organizers named Obama, maybe they should give her some due for being a small town mayor, which does intrinsically carry an enhanced set of responsibilities. It was designed to belittle Obama's organizing experience, to be sure, but its effectiveness derived from Obamamania's unprovoked belittling of small town mayors. This is just how national parties play politics. To be "shocked" and wax indignant about the GOP's insufficient respect for community organizing just makes these Catholic Democrats look no less crass and bullying than Rudy.

Finally, community organizing is at the heart of the USCCB's Campaign for Human Development (CHD), not of Catholic Social Teaching (CST) per se. It's an important distinction. CST doesn't directly endorse without qualification specific social forms other than the family, the parish, and the diocese. The CHD is primarily a national philanthropic fund for local community organizing, not an organic community in itself. It is just as vulnerable to bureaucratic self-interest as any other NGO with trans-local scope. These Catholic Democrats are trying to squeeze as much anti-GOP and pro-Democrat juice out this and they're producing more bitter pulp than juice. Let's just remember that by their own self-identification, Catholic Democrats have a conflict of interest: party first, local communities somewhere after that. True organizers know that and should brush these political charlatans off their rolled-up sleeves.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

I don't get "LifeNews"

Often I've found a link to a great article excerpted on someone's blog, only to click the link to a or site. As soon as I see the words "Life" in the title, I then have to worry about its impartiality and credibility. Now I'm all for full-throated partiality and partisanship for the unborn, but that doesn't help me when I want to forward a article to a pro-choice friend or one on the fence. Imagine getting a link to a news article reported on a site called ""

Secondly, articles, like this one on Justice Ginsberg's latest argument to a feminist group that abortion rights and slaves' rights are analogous, often have no external links to a less obviously partisan primary source. So now I have to wonder how seriously to take the piece. Now I have to Google it [sigh]. LifeNews should know LIFE is too short for pro-lifers to have to worry about these things.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Who's Afraid of Pat Buchanan?

That's a Google search I just did as I read all the frenzy of accusations against Palin for of all things, wearing a Buchanan button way back when. Not surprising that the Left thinks Buchanan's a right-wing neo-Nazi moonbat, even though he's held the Endearing Crazy Uncle chair at MSNBC longer than Olbermann's been doing Countdown. What is surprising is the GOP's total concession of the media-fabricated caricature of PB. No one is defending the poor guy. We all want to believe that the GOP has transformed itself overnight by swallowing the magic Palin pill. But it's the morning after and it's still an all too human political party. It's a shame the GOP isn't following through on this "libertarian-paleocon" window of opportunity. But then again, I was ready to hit the snooze button on McCain's VP announcement.

Lessons in Catholic Dissent

Our favorite pro-life Catholic legal turncoat, Doug Kmiec, has an interesting interview w/NYTimes:
Q. Would you like to see Roe v. Wade overturned?

A. Yes, but not on the terms usually suggested by Republicans. Roe is mistaken constitutional law not just because it invalidated state laws on the subject but because it is contrary to what is described as a self-evident truth in the Declaration of Independence, namely, that we have an unalienable right to life from our creator. It may surprise the general citizenry that not a single sitting justice utilizes the declaration as a source of interpretative guidance.

But even employing the jurisprudential methods applied by the modern court, there is no satisfactory showing that abortion as a matter of custom and tradition was properly found to be an implied aspect of the liberties protected by the 14th Amendment.
These are solid points. I agree w/Kmiec that pro-lifers need to take the limits of overturning Roe more seriously. Of course, Kmiec's points here would make Obama and any Obama supporter cringe since they are Roe v. Wade defenders to the extreme. So let's see if he addresses this glaring contradiction.
Q. Given those views, why do you support Barack Obama?

A. There is a widespread misconception that overturning Roe is the only way to be pro-life. In fact, overturning Roe simply returns the matter to the states, which in their individual legislative determinations could then be entirely pro-abortion. I doubt that many of our non-legally-trained pro-life friends fully grasp the limited effect of overturning Roe.

Secondly, pundits like to toss about the notion that the future of Roe depends on one vote, the mythical fifth vote to overturn the decision. There are serious problems with this assumption: first, Republicans have failed to achieve reversal in the five previous times they asked the court for it; and second, it is far from certain that only one additional vote is needed to reverse the decision in light of the principles of stare decisis by which a decided case ought not to be disturbed. Only Justices Thomas and Scalia have written and joined dissenting opinions suggesting the appropriateness of overturning Roe.

So given those views, the better question is how could a Catholic not support Barack Obama?
@#$%^&!??? What happened to that glaring contradiction between Kmiec's stated rejection of Roe and Obama's absolutist devotion to Roe? It's one thing to argue that overturning Roe doesn't get pro-lifers where they want to go, but if you're going to advocate a candidate who will not tolerate any derogation from Roe and who has expressly declared his intent to legislatively enshrine Roe into black letter law and wipe out all moderate limitations on Roe, then you must answer how Obama's pro-Roe absolutism squares with Kmiec's anti-Roe relativism. They aren't symmetrically opposed to each other, granted. But I just don't see how endorsing a pro-Roe absolutist and crusader is the logical next step after accepting Kmiec's qualified rejection of Roe.

Applying this to the issue of abortion, the senator has repeatedly indicated that he is not pro-abortion, that he understands the serious moral question it presents, and, most significantly, that he wants to move us beyond the 35 years of acrimony that have done next to nothing to reduce the unwanted pregnancies that give rise to abortions.

Senator Obama’s articulated concerns with the payment of a living wage, access to health care, stabilizing the market for shelter, special attention to the needs of the disadvantaged and the importance of community are all part of the church’s social justice mission.
Again, if Obama is against 35 years of acrimony, then please explain his crusading pro-Roe absolutism? I stress "crusading" because of Obama's public proclamation to absolutize Roe through the Freedom of Choice Act and through pro-choice litmus-tested judicial appointments. How is Obama's extremist hostility towards the Born Alive Infant Protection Act and the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act supposed to combat partisan acrimony? How is it NOT the epitome of in-your-face partisan acrimony?

Finally, Kmiec collapses into the Victim's Pose, demonstrating how he's worn out his brake pads in his headlong descent towards Victimization Derangement Syndrome.
Q. You have been fiercely attacked by some Catholic abortion opponents and in one instance barred from receiving communion. How do you feel about that?

A. To be the subject of an angry homily at Mass last April 18 and excoriated as giving scandal for endorsing Senator Obama and then to be denied communion for that “offense” was the most humiliating experience in my faith life.

To be separated in that public manner from the receipt of the eucharist, and to be effectively shunned or separated from the body of Christ in the sense of that particular congregation, has left, I very much regret to say, a permanent spiritual scar. Thankfully, it has also given me a new appreciation for the significance of the sacrament in my daily worship. And the priest, having been called to order by Cardinal Roger Mahony, sent me an apology, which of course I have accepted.

Nonetheless, I remain deeply troubled that other church leaders not fall into similar traps. That would do untold damage to the church within the context of American democracy.

There are clearly partisan forces that want nothing more than to manufacture or stir up faith-based opposition to their political opponents. The church has been careful to underscore that Catholics have unfettered latitude to vote for any candidate so long as the intent of the Catholic voter is not to express approval of a grave evil.
How American. What dissenting Catholics almost always fail to comprehend is that there IS a uniquely Catholic way of dissenting with honor/grace and that there is a dishonorable, disgraceful worldly way of dissenting. Their inability to first of all distinguish the two, and secondly, to take the high road, represents the tragedy of American Catholic thinking today, because it is endemic regardless of one's position on abortion.

Reflexive victimhood is the flagpin of liberal secularist thinking, regardless of the ideological content of your dissenting views. Whether you are a conservative dissenting from a liberal-dominated circle or a liberal dissenting from a conservative-dominated circle, it's liberal-secularist to publicly pose as the victim of some mean-spirited conspiracy to quash one's voice. Part and parcel of this pose is the bare assertion of a conspiracy or degenerate groupthink, which relies on the audience's readiness to presume the worst in the dominant circle from which one is dissenting.

A NYTimes audience is brimming with readiness to presume the Catholic Church is and has always been on that side of Hitler. Kmiec ought to know that and probably counts on it.

The ressourcement Catholics of the pre-Vatican II era knew how to dissent against Church hierarchy. Henri de Lubac and Yves Congar were both censured by the Magisterium and humbly understood their place and station, trusting that Truth tests all things and takes its own time to do it. Their spiritual disposition helped to ensure that many of their controversial insights would be vindicated. Respect for magisterial consensus and solidarity is a critical discipline in standing up for one's non-conforming beliefs. Above all, the dissenter must express the priority of the Body of Christ over one's own "revelations." To moralistically throw oneself a pity party for how a "bad" cleric imprudently denied him Communion and to impute that cleric's imprudence to the sensus fidelium is cheap and Oprah-school.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Let's play ball!

Sarah the Barracuda vs. Obama Yo Mama: one-on-one half-court. Inexperience issue settled. ...Ok, maybe not, but you know you could sell out MSG with that matchup.
during high school she was a point guard for its championship basketball team. "Everything I need to know, I learned on the basketball court," she once remarked.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Love you like you was mine...

but respect the Thin Line:
Biden-qua-politician should not be the object of special attention by ecclesiastical leadership. Rather, Biden-qua-Catholic should be. And he will be. ~ Ed Peters

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Now I'm never gonna be able to identify myself as a "devout Catholic" with a straight face ever again. I think an inventory of politically ambivalent (but theologically useless) adjectival modifiers for the noun "Catholic" is in order, just so we know what's left. If only we could copyright them and restrict them to "fair use."

They shoulda built a Greek Temple

From CNA:
The unprecedented gathering of Latinos went uncovered by the local news media. Instead, local news channels chose to cover a demonstration by about 1,500 anti-war protestors and a martial arts training session for protestors from the anti-war group Re-create 68, which was held in preparation for their first demonstration.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008 Obama is wrong

I don't know exactly how successful has been at remaining party-neutral, but their latest article confirms that I, and most pro-lifers, can still read and not lie, contrary to what Obama was telling us:
A June 30 Obama campaign statement responding to similar claims by conservative commentator William J. Bennett says that SB 1082 did not contain the same language as the federal BAIPA.
Obama campaign statement, June 30: Illinois And Federal Born Alive Infant Protection Acts Did Not Include Exactly The Same Language. The Illinois legislation read, "A live child born as a result of an abortion shall be fully recognized as a human person and accorded immediate protection under the law." The Born Alive Infant Protections Act read, "Nothing in this section shall be construed to affirm, deny, expand, or contract any legal status or legal right applicable to any member of the species homo sapiens at any point prior to being 'born alive' as defined in this section." [SB 1082, Held in Health and Human Services, 3/13/03; Session Sine Die, 1/11/05; BAIPA, Public Law 107-207]
The statement was still on Obama's Web site as of this writing, Aug. 25, long after Obama had accused his detractors of "lying." But Obama's claim is wrong. In fact, by the time the HHS Committee voted on the bill, it did contain language identical to the federal act.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Who's Not A Cultural Catholic?

We should be wary to attack a fellow Catholic for being "culturally Catholic," a term which only has weight from within an historically anti-Catholic Protestant America. While Biden's Catholicism is in grievous error, it ain't chump change either. When orthodox Catholics resort to an ideological posture that tolerates no distinctions between pro-choice Catholics, orthodoxy loses. The distinction between a Biden and a Kerry Catholic is the difference between Notre Dame and Georgetown: both are elite schools torn up by post-V2 rifts within the Church, but one is far more grounded in the working class spirituality and ethos of the American Church (thereby handling Catholic identity with far more grace) and the other is hopelessly infected with Ivy-league wannabeism (thereby failing miserably on Catholic identity).

I also note how classically Irish-American Biden's faith is -- pugnacious yet endearing, proudly Roman yet insecure about its latent Puritanism. Look at most of our bishops; they're not that different in attitude. Unfortunately, the majority of American Catholics think exactly like Biden. We are complicit when Biden's errors merely reflect the severe anemia within our post-V2 Church, with which, it needs to be said, we are in communion. Consequently, the Dems have far more to gain nomminating a Biden Catholic than say a Brownback Catholic. But a Kerry Catholic would have been a loser too. The Dems calibrated it just about right politically.

The foolish assumption of most of the attacks on Biden from pro-life Catholics is that the Dems should select a Catholic that reflects Roman orthodoxy, as if Dems should care at all about the orthodox chunk of the Catholic vote when it's only a minority 1) rigidly locked into the GOP and 2) unstably or unconvincingly represented among swing-state Catholics. This is how catechesis and formation intersect with politics. Too many pro-life Catholics think we can solve the problem of pro-choice Catholics simply by more politics. But until we get our own house in order, we'll continue to send mixed messages and see Biden Catholics promoted to prominence.

How can we complain that much when we produce "Hear-&-See-No-Evil" Abps. Mahony, Egan, Niederauer, Wuerl, and the USCCB as our national Magisterium? We forget that they are the fruits of our harvest, not just the product of top-down machinations in the Curia.

The proper response to the Biden announcement is what Amy Welborn admonishes the bishops to do: TEACH, NOW.

CORRECTION: Abp. Wuerl is exercising his teaching muscles. Sorry, I was sounding off machine-gun style, or internet style.

CORRECTION II: Wow, Cardinal Egan's gone up to take a swing at Pelosi's spitter too! Come on Mahony, Niederauer, you're up next!

Of course, I am being facetious. Pelosi's not the only target here and merely criticizing her theological doublespeak just contributes to the Beltway Science Fiction Theatre. She's just a Speaker of the House of Americanized Catholics, a rather divided, confused house.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

How not to nix a liberal Catholic prof

That the Univ of San Diego is taking action against Rosemary Ruether's appointment to an endowed chair in "Roman Catholic Theology" is not my issue. I'm glad they did that. But there are many good reasons to "nix" her appointment, so why of all things would the university administration trot out her abortion stance as the single reason, as if she were running for political office?

Among the strongest arguments from liberals concerned about the friction between "Catholic identity" and "academic freedom" is the ideological ossification of Catholic thought. As a Catholic who cares about orthodoxy, I'm with the liberals on this point. The battle for Catholic identity on our campuses should never be framed in ideological terms -- no political litmus tests which are more applicable to the campaign trail than the white paper trail. As anti-abortion and pro-life I try to be, I cannot find much comfort in a Catholic administration that revokes a faculty appointment on the primary grounds that the appointee is pro-choice, not because I'm sympathetic to the views of pro-choicers or believe in their "right" to preach the abortionist gospel on a Catholic campus, but because litmus tests cheapen the Catholic vision of intellectual integrity and excellence.

What I would prefer to see more confidently expressed is the argument that academic freedom is MORE vibrant in pursuit of Catholic orthodoxy; that heresy is a throttling of the Truth; that the attempt to belittle and relativize Catholic orthodoxy on Catholic campuses in the name of academic freedom is really just liberal secularism/Protestantism imposing its own totalitarian vision of Truth on other communities who may dissent. USD could have mentioned that the theological disciplines can only be properly called a science if it is pursued ex corde Ecclesia.

So while Ruether's abortion stance is morally repugnant, it is, more importantly from a university's point of view, intellectually repugnant. The pro-choice position fails to meet academic standards that are intrinsic to any university much less a Catholic university.

Furthermore, as important as opposition to abortion is to Catholic theology, it is obviously not the primary object of study. The university should have made some reference to the substance of Catholic theology and how Ruether's work is of shoddy quality. She is without question one of the most overrated Catholic theologians of the post-V2 era, whose popularity derives not from the merits of her scholarship but from its incendiary posture of dissent and heresy which has value and utility only for liberal secularist and Protestant ideology. Catholic theology should proudly confidently put all ideological pursuits on notice as unbefitting of the "Queen of the sciences." We can easily find in Ruether's impoverished Christology, her anemic neo-pagan feminism, her sloppy relativistic ecumenism, and her weak attacks on hierarchy and patriarchy an ideological self-impairment that is simply not worthy of even a faculty position, much less a chair in Roman Catholic theology at a Roman Catholic university.

One of the great weaknesses of so-called "conservative Catholicism" in America is its casual adoption of ideological/political thinking on orthodoxy. We are told often that orthodoxy is neither conservative or liberal. Yet Catholics who appreciate orthodoxy, even in the apostolic sense, often fall into this trap anyway, in large part because ideology has crept into every nook and cranny of Catholic life, most disastrously in its liturgy and spirituality. Catholicism has become excessively Westernized and modernized, hence Sean Hannity thinks of himself as an orthodox Catholic.

In our collective amnesia, the Catholic and Apostolic mindframe that predates Trent is almost completely beyond our grasp, even though it is our birthright. This is why we now need a Pope to compensate for the other pillars of orthodoxy of our Apostolic past that we've neglected: liturgy, asceticism, monasticism, iconodulism, synodal subsidiarity, inter alia.

Kudos nonetheless to USD for caring enough about Catholic identity to block Ruether's accession to a theological cathedra.

Virtually, almost, nearly

Google anything on the Born Alive Infant Protection Act and you'll get the smears and counter-smears. I was frustrated from not finding a direct side-by-side comparison of the Illinois and federal bills on the first search results page. Instead the first few search results pages are full of statements from the pro-life side merely asserting that the two bills are "virtually" or "almost" or "nearly" identical. Thanks but I can use too. As I learned in college writing class, "Don't tell me, show me!"

I had to search within National Right to Life Committee's website to find it. Not even its front page has an obvious link to the comparison. But here it is. The 8/18/08 update by NRLC on the "Obama cover-up" is very informative too.

Hadley Arkes, in a new piece for The Catholic Thing, has a succinct dismissal of Obama's claim that the "neutrality clause" of the federal bill that was added to the IL bill was somehow critical to his interest in protecting Roe v. Wade. In essence, the added clause, which states that nothing in the amended definition of what constitutes a "born-alive infant" should be construed to affect the jurisprudence of Roe v. Wade whatsoever, is superfluous since a fetus born alive by definition is no longer a threat to the mother's health under Roe.

What hasn't been explained clearly enough by either side is how BAIPA actually operates. It doesn't actually mandate or ban any acts by anyone. It's just a defintional expansion to the rules of construction or interpretation on health care for neonates. It's protection by redefinition.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

"above YOUR pay grade"

That's what Obama really meant to say at Saddleback. We're too dumb to appreciate the intricate nuances of his brilliance. We really are.
Warren, to his credit, didn’t pose a metaphysical question, or a biological one. He asked a legal question: “At what point does a baby get human rights, in your view?” Obama tried to dodge by saying that from a “theological perspective” or a “scientific perspective” the issue is “above his pay grade.” But Warren asked a more narrow question, and one that any politician who votes on abortion laws should be able to answer. And of course, as a supporter of Roe and Casey, Obama does have an answer: He thinks that a baby acquires rights when it’s born - well, perhaps depending on how and why it happens to be born - and lacks them at every juncture before birth. He just didn’t want to come out and say it. ~Ross Douthat

Monday, July 21, 2008

X-Files Politics

Great anticipatory review of the new X-Files movie over at Taki's Top Drawer, examining the non-ideological, conservative-ish politics of the show, including some Southern Gothic Catholic themes.
Perhaps the clearest conservative themes in “The X-Files” emerged in connection with religion. Scully’s Catholicism was the focus of several episodes, and she was depicted as a woman of sincere faith, if not a consistent churchgoer. Two episodes show Scully in the confessional, once after saving a boy who is a stigmatic from a man who was in league with the devil, and again after helping to thwart the devil from taking the souls of four teenage girls, whom Scully comes to believe had been sired by an angel. It’s doubtful a leftist show would ever feature the devil as a real character. It’s even less likely it would depict him occupying the professions he did when he appeared on “The X-Files”: a high school biology teacher (“Die Hand Die Verletzt”), a social worker (“All Souls”), and a liberal Protestant minister who advocates tolerance and opposes fundamentalism (“Signs & Wonders”).

“Signs & Wonders” might be the most reactionary episode in the entire series. Mulder and Scully go to rural Tennessee to investigate a murder, and they immediately begin to suspect Enoch O’Connor, a snake-handling fundamentalist preacher who expelled his daughter and her boyfriend from his congregation when she became pregnant. (Interestingly, in addition to sharing the same last name as the great Southern writer Flannery O’Connor, Enoch has the same first name as a character in O’Connor’s novel Wise Blood and wears old-fashioned glasses reminiscent of the type worn by the writer). When Scully complains to Mulder about O’Connor’s “intolerance,” he replies, “Sometimes a little intolerance can be a welcome thing. Clear cut right and wrong, hard and fast rules, no shades of gray.”

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Benedict the Cleaner

If only these messes could be cleaned. Benedict meets with Australian victims of pervert-priest underlings of Catholic bishops:
The brief Vatican statement said the encounter took place in the chapel of Cathedral House, the residence of Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, where Benedict XVI resided during much of his trip. The four victims, two men and two women, were accompanied by a small group of supporters and an Australian priest charged with pastoral outreach to sex abuse victims.
When are the bishops going to learn that the Pope does not enjoy doing their job for them? I can't help but squirm with every public apology Benedict makes. It's quite obvious that Benedict is humiliated by this shadow that follows him throughout every Apostolic visitation he makes. Bishops are and have always been in the best position to prevent the harm and remedy the damages, yet they continue to do little more than evade, bark, make excuses, deflect responsibility, parade pretty during papal photo-ops, and mutter some sweet-nothings about how wonderful the Church is to make the Pope feel nice. Meanwhile, the Pope continues to apologize for them at every major papal event. According to Vatican II and Apostolic Tradition, they're NOT Benedict's bishops, even though he appoints them (another reason to get rid of that antiquated role for the Pope). A "priest charged with pastoral outreach to sex abuse victims"???? I didn't know the bishops could canonically delegate their cahones to a subordinate.


I came across this video a couple of months ago and it has not lost any of its enchantment over me. There's no question that it's a highly stylized and romanticized vision of Serbian Orthodox pride, yet it's so different from the visions of national or religious pride that more often than not strut out in pompous and grotesque displays. Notice the characters, the facial expressions, the backdrops. Joy, pride, sobriety, lightness, wisdom, peace, purity, innocence, equanimity -- not an ounce of puritanical aspiration or eroticized exhibitionism. Notice the way tradition strums, pipes, and plucks aside modernity without apology, anxiety, or fear.

Notice the celebratory spirit free of that "Woo-Hoo!" frivolity and catharsis so common to Westerners. Notice the youthfulness without the nihilistic, self-conscious, and insecure gesticulations of "youth culture." Serbian young adults make appearances without that unctuously vacuous look that comes almost uniformly attached to the faces of Teen America (see World Youth Day). Notice how children and babies are displayed without trying to push a political agenda. Even the playfulness of the children exudes a reverence that is extinct in the race of adults which spends billions desperately clinging to the trappings of youth. Childlike without being childish. Note the traditional clothing and instruments, worn and played as if they were extensions of their souls, not props or ornamentation to exploit some vaunted romantic past.

Notice how the lyrics is the only thing that's expressly about Christ's Pascha; bodily expressions and interactions seem to embody it. Images of a priest and churches flash by, but they're not the center of attention, nor is it suggested that they're marginal or insignificant. The Orthodox have a wonderful way of embracing the hierarchical constitution of their Church without making it the centerpiece of their lived Faith -- a pro-clerical non-clericalism, while we in the West continue to oscillate listlessly between mindless anti-clericalism and mindless clericalism.

All this love of country may have a dark side (what doesn't?), but it gives me pause whenever I hear another Westerner castigate intransigent Slavs who refuse to kneel to Westernism, whether in the form of NATO, UN, EU, or the ecumenical movement. I'm a Chinese-American Roman Catholic and this video adds a little more cement to my sense of solidarity with Serbia. It's just a sentiment, but it says a lot about my political and religious convictions. The particular mediates the universal indeed.

This should be our model for how Christianity and culture interact. The Faith should penetrate so deeply into the culture as to make its expressions liturgical. The video shows Serbians enjoying some traditional folk dancing, but no one even contemplates inserting folk dances into the middle of Divine Liturgy! Why do we in the West persist in the satanic lie that Liturgy should reflect secular life when the universal Catholic and Apostolic Tradition has shown us that we are to make our secular life reflect the Liturgy? The joy of the Resurrection is not just a churchy joy or pietistic, moralistic, or apologetic joy; it must always become a Serbian joy, a Greek joy, a German joy, an American joy, even a New Yorker joy.

Monday, July 07, 2008


Defended by its supporters as "densely theological" and "border[ing] on the poetic," derided by its critics as pastorally insensitive and a "linguistic swamp," the thumbs-down from more than a third of the USCCB's 250 Latin-rite members marks the first failure by an English-speaking episcopal conference to approve to a "Gray Book" proposal of the revised translation of the Roman Missal; the fixed "Order of Mass" was approved by the Anglophone conferences in 2006-7 (and still awaits the recognitio of the Holy See), while the proffered Proper had already been green-lighted by four other national benches before facing the American hierarchy. Rocco Palmo
You'd think they were writing the Articles of Confederation from scratch. If Holy Tradition really truly concrete, substantive, living, and enhypostatic to us Catholics, we wouldn't be wasting so much time pining for recognitios and supermajority votes out of the alphabet soup of committees and conferences that has come to define the Latin Rite Church. Why do we continually act as if we're reinventing the wheel when we have a 2000 year-old Tradition to guide us? "Linguistic swamp"? I wish we could assemble that one-third+ bishops in their lace-negligee choir dress, have them look any group of Orthodox in the eye and tell them that the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is a "linguistic swamp." I'd pay to see that kind of bloodshed, especially when there are plenty of sees that could use some vacating.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Inculturating America

Nothing like July 4th for this Catholic to bash on American culture. It's been interesting for me to read intra-Orthodox debates about the prudence of establishing an autonomous or autocephalous American Orthodox church. The general consensus among the bewildering array of Orthodox jurisdictions seems to be that it's still way too early and thus imprudent. The wiser elements of Orthodoxy seem to grasp that American culture is highly problematic and that before autonomy or autocephaly can be granted the Christian Faith must sink deeply, penetrating into and transforming American culture to create an authentically Orthodox-American culture before anyone can take seriously the idea of an American Orthodox Church.

Blogs like Art & Faith marvelously demonstrate what this true form of inculturation looks like. A&F does it for Russian Orthodoxy and incidentally, has no qualms about rejecting the existential rationales for the Orthodox Church of America (OCA) and its progeny (St. Vlad's Seminary, Frs. Schmemann and Meyendorff, et al). By the way A&F has got to be the most visually moving blog I've ever encountered. Thank you, Ms. Drezhlo.

This should not be such a foreign concept to American Catholics as we have learned the hard way how inculturation can behave like sulphuric acid on our own ecclesial life. So I think a rule is in order for American Catholics: To inculturate in America is to Protestantize and commit "soft heresy." We tried to implement trusteeism for church property back in the 19th century, aspiring to the efficiency of Protestant polities; today it's couched in terms of mushy canon law and theology about the dignity of the parish as a juridic person, but it's still essentially promoted in the spirit of American (Protestant) anti-traditional and anti-sacramental narcissism. Therefore, trusteeism (which today takes the form of statutory parish incorporation) is imprudent. In liturgy, "ecumenically-friendly" use of Protestant music is imprudent, even though it's often permissible in and of itself. This has nothing to do with feelings. No need to hate Protestants or America. This is just about preserving that which preserves and gives life to Catholics, our Apostolic Faith. It's about being radical in our Faith, caring about the roots of our Faith which need watering as much as the branches need pruning and care.

Institutions and structures matter more for Catholics than they do for Orthodox and that can be a very healthy difference. But the Orthodox can teach us how culture (also a major concern for JPII and B16) is its own pillar of Faith. May we learn from the cautious patience of the Orthodox in our struggles with inculturation. Pro ecclesia, pro patria.

Vigil of the Next Big Decree

Rocco's got the latest buzz on yet another papal tidal wave regarding liturgy:
These would be changes which would be added to the changes in the liturgy and regarding sacred vestments which the Pope, together with his Master of Ceremonies, Monsignor Guido Marini, has made in recent months, to recover ancient traditions: the restoration of the crucifix at the center of the altar, the distribution of Communion to the faithful in the mouth while kneeling, the recovery of the pastoral staff of Pius IX (the ferula), the changing of the style of pallium (the strip of white wool with red crosses worn by the Pope), the restoration of the papal throne used in the Consistory and the celebration of Mass with the back to the assembly, as happened in January in the Sistine Chapel.
Benedict's too smart to not be aware of the problematic bootstrapping logic underlying his actions on liturgy, which is why I'm a little confused. Clearly, Benedict believes the Holy Mass must be accorded the highest dignity and be rooted in a hermeneutic of continuity. Yet here he is changing this or that by papal fiat alone. The substantive correctness of the changes are not the real issue (I'm usually gung-ho about anything Benedict does). What is worrisome is the apparent precedent of popes tweaking the liturgy to suit their theological convictions, however "correct" they may be. Many argue that Benedict's renovations are merely corrective of the errors of the "Spirit of V2" but what's to stop the next pope from arguing the same according to his understanding of the erroneous interpretations of V2?

Imagine we elect a Cardinal Mahony to the papacy (a truly bone-chilling thought). How will Benedict's actions today affect the way a "Pope Roger" will mandate on the liturgy? I don't reject Newman's doctrine of development, but its weakness seems to be an inability to handle this very scenario. We either believe the Mass has an unchanging essence guided by Holy Tradition, or it's something that floats according to whoever's in charge justified by rationalistic rationalizations.

I'm just getting tired of this recurring Vigil for The Next Big Vatican Decree, as if my ability to pray with the Church requires breathless attention to dicastery stationery. It's a process that creates its own cynicism and apathy, mainly because it's so destabilizing and political in nature, not too different from our anguished obsession with 5-to-4 Supreme Court rulings. Does this decision help the people enter more deeply into the Holy Mysteries or does it just cause more alienation from the res of our liturgical and sacramental life?

A Catholic for Ancient Faith Radio

Ancient Faith Radio is amazing for its unwavering focus on a lived faith itself, not just a "living faith" or discourse on faith. No talk shows obsessing over ephemeral political or moral controversies in imitation of MSM. No soap box sermonizing or chasing after this or that soundbyte. No Christianized psychobabble trying to create a parallel cottage industry to Dr. Phil or Oprah. No ideological warfare between proggies and traddies. It does simple things, like a reading from a passage of Scripture or the Fathers, or a brief comment on the Psalter, all interspersed with tons of short distinctly Orthodox choral pieces from around the globe. Orthodox English-language choral output is much bigger than I ever thought for such a numerically small segment of English-speaking Christianity.

AFR is also usually quite nice to Catholicism. There's little of the Augustine-phobia that marks so many Orthodox converts and hardliners. It does pop up noticeably once in a while -- annoying but tolerable next to Catholic radio's own frequent self-gutting Protestantizations of Catholic faith. I've often heard readings from Sts. Augustine, Leo, Clement, Benedict, and even minor league Western saints like St. Dunstan of Canterbury. I've yet to hear Aquinas -- that would be a shocker. If only Catholic radio would draw deeply from the Roman Martyrology or The Golden Legend! At any rate, Catholics would do well to nourish their faith by getting in touch with our own tradition from AFR. Once again, it's the Orthodox who seem to be serious about keeping us anchored in an Apostolic Faith. I guess what I'm arguing is that AFR is more fully Catholic than most of Catholic radio.

It's streamable from iTunes too (unlike Relevant or Ave Maria Radio).

Anti-China Activism = Protestantism?

Interestingly, Interfax (Russian Orthodox English-language paper) labels this cartoon as "Protestant." If you substitute Rome for Beijing, Catholic Church for China, Interfax isn't totally off the mark. Of course, that's not exactly flattering to us Catholics. Something that always tempers my animosity to Protestantism is the fact that almost everything historically Protestant was "Made in Late Medieval Catholicism" -- remade and repackaged beyond recognition, to be sure, but directly and almost exclusively drawn from Western Catholic ruins. Catholicism is the material cause of Protestantism, a fact I wish our apologists would address with a little more self-critical honesty. Canon law even recognizes that when a Protestant becomes Catholic, he is by default enrolled in the Latin-rite Church by virtue of lineage. Now there's an admission of liability.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"I don't know anyone who's pro-abortion."

It is truly amazing to witness pro-lifers melt when Obama utters category-blurring, gravitas-soaked farts like this. Darwin Catholic has a good deconstruction of the Obama-Dean meme.
As best as I can make out, this view boils down to holding that while abortion may not actually be wrong, it's no fun and people don't (all other things being equal) want to have one. Thus, when Howard Dean announced, "I don't know anyone who is pro-abortion" he means it in the same sense one might say, "I don't know anyone who is pro-wisdom-tooth-extraction." No one wants to have his wisdom teeth out. It's not fun. It's not something you'd do unnecessarily. But in a situation where your other options are clearly painful or expensive, you have them out.

At a minimum, abortion is unpleasant. So of course, no one is going to seek one when she doesn't "need" one. In that sense, no one is "pro-abortion".

But since my teeth do not in and of themselves have any rights, dignity or moral worth, I didn't have a whole lot of qualms having my wisdom teeth cut out when they threatened to cause problems for the rest of my body. On the other hand, if my aunt is causing a lot of trouble and pain in the extended family, I cannot legally take her out somewhere and have her surgically divided into several pieces in order to remove the strife. That's because she's a human being with her own rights and inherent dignity.

So contra Howard Dean, the question is not whether there are people sitting around thinking, "Wow, I wish I could get an abortion. That would be so much fun." but rather whether it is wrong to procure an abortion in order to avoid undesirable consequences. And it is, so far as I can tell, on this point that there is considerable division in our politics and our culture. (What Mr. Dean has attempted to do is redefine "pro-abortion" in a ludicrously null set, while remaining blind to the moral issue at play.)
The confused pro-aborts will come back crying that any law that banned wisdom-tooth extractions and forcing people to carry their dental impaction to full term would be a cruel violation of one's right to privacy. On the other hand, wisdom teeth do not result from anyone's free will. Neither is pregnancy due to rape. It would be a huge advancement if we could restrict abortion to rape cases, though even such tolerance for abortion is still full of contradictions.

Is it possible for a pro-choice politician to parse the issue in such a way that truly advances the national debate so that a pro-lifer could support him/her in good conscience? DC's the first pro-life Catholic I've read who's done the homework for pro-choicers:
I do not think it is possible for one to argue, from a pro-life perspective, that the election of any politician who is only anti-abortion in the abortion-is-like-having-your-wisdom-death-out sense will move us closer to a culture of life. However, there is a kind of pro-choice candidate who I think could. Imagine that a pro-choice candidate emerged who said, "I believe that abortion consists of the intentional killing of an innocent human person. As such, it is a great moral evil. A just country would ban such a practice. Unfortunately, we are not a just country and too many of us rely on evil to maintain our standard of living. I don't believe that during the next four years it is possible for us to make any progress towards outlawing this act of killing. So while I will support policies that will give women in crisis pregnancies other options, I will not advance any new legislation to end the slaughter. Some day, I hope, we will reach the point when we're ready to stop, and then we will change our laws to protect every human life."

Now, I disagree with that approach, but I can respect it a lot more than the "safe, legal and rare" rhetoric. I could see how electing that kind of pro-choice politician would help move us forward.
I would only add that such a politician would have to also include, in his promise to not advance any new legislation to end abortion, a promise to not advance any new legislation that expands it or overturns the modest restrictions already lawfully in place. A moratorium on all abortion or reproductive choice laws would impose more of a freeze on the pro-choice agenda than on the pro-life agenda.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Church of Ex-Catholics

I just read yet another ditty on "ex-Catholic Tom Tancredo" and find it so interesting how no one really seems to care what two-bit Protestant startup (they're all startups to us) he's joined, just that he's an ex-Catholic, which is always good for a little spice if you're criticizing the Pope. The Church of Ex-Catholics really is the second largest denomination in America...except for the fact that under canon law, 99% of them are still Catholic.

The Ecumenical Council of Sarbanes-Oxley

I've had to research some material from orgs like the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management and the Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities. They do a lot of good work, drawing on the expertise of lay Catholics in the fields of management, finance, law and accounting. But their language is saturated with little more than Catholicism-as-our-business banality. It's already the dominant mold of Catholic apostolates in health care, education, and social service. Dioceses and parishes have been more resisitant, but they need to get with the times, the failure to do so being the material cause of the priest scandal, so we are instructed. It's telling how often they're constantly reminding themselves that "the Church is not a business." If we have to remind ourselves with self-referential slogans, then you know something's not right. They love talking about what the Church is not and never get around to what the Church IS, has been, and will be. Accountability and other virtues of good corporate morality reminiscent of ol' time Puritan religion are writ large like their shiny banners. It's almost as if the priest scandal was a Felix Culpa moment. Now the laity can assume their proper place of empowerment as corporate busybodies of the Church. Then Amy puts finger on it in her reflections on the hand-wringing over the "impact" of the papal visit:
Thousands of people. Good-hearted, faithful people. Challenging each other, not to go out and evangelize, but to revision, refashion, and think yet one more time about structures. Very anxious about numbers, about energy, about the Spirit, but totally blind, either through ignorance or a kind of bigotry, to the new movements and initiatives right under their noses which are drawing people to Christ through the Church, seeing all of these things, somehow, as problems instead of as good news.

It is so ironic to me that so many who have so much disdain for the institutional Church in terms of structure and even teaching function are fixated on structure and can’t seem to think about much else.

Circumstances in which sincere and well-meaning initiatives and movements to help people connect more intimately with Christ happened in a context that ended up leaving us more at sea, in many ways. There’s no blame - it’s just what happened. Perhaps it was even necessary. But the point is, when you take a rather urgent sense that perhaps there were some areas of Church life that were functioning as obstacles to Christ, rather than doors, combine that with Scriptural and historical studies which had the ultimate effect of casting doubt on the trustworthiness of anything we think we know about what the Scriptures or the Church tells us about Christ, and then combine that with ideological battles and then mix all of that up in a culture in which authority is a bad word, relativism reigns and the Catholic Church is not, to its great surprise, the only game in town…you have massive confusion as to why we are doing what we are doing and what we are doing at all.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Wright's Demands to the Man

From The Christian Century, one of the last of the great mainline Protestant institutions, a year ago:
I asked Wright what response white churches should make to his Africentric gospel. He referred to a crash course on inner-city ministry he used to teach to white seminarians. He would close the course by telling them that the final exam was this: when their friends or family or parishioners exhibited racism, the students should speak up. If they didn't, they failed the course. And only they and God would know.
First of all, when did they stop using "Afrocentric" and how is "AfrIcentric" an improvement? I can't keep up with the PC dictionary. Secondly, if that's all Wright wants from the white devils, then all his "prophetic preaching" really is just a joke and a stunt.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Going gently into that good night

Haven't seen much blogging about these developments at Seabury-Western seminary in Evanston and Episcopal Divinity School.
April 24, 2008

EVANSTON, IL – The Trustees of Seabury-Western Theological Seminary today declared that the Episcopal Seminary “is in (a state of) financial crisis that threatens survival of the institution” and has given notice to all faculty that employment will end on June 30, 2009. The school also eliminated nine staff positions. The final date of employment for most of these staff will be May 23 – a week after graduation and the school’s 150th anniversary celebrations.
What a way to celebrate 150 years. Very sad. I wonder, who's next?

Kill Bill?

Ann Althouse (no right-winger) has the definitive take-down of the Bill Moyers-Rev. Wright interview. Moyers eats more dirt than Wright, which I think isn't emphasized enough. It's not Wright per se that is the cause of fury. It's the smug hypocritical moralism of his defenders and the Left in general. Wright is just the convenient symbol of the Left's intellectual and moral bankruptcy. But Moyers and his smarty-pants ilk are the real target of righteous conservative ire.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Cannibalism of the Left

Yeah, it's not just their unborn. This would be a beautiful thing to behold:
I'm beginning to think Hillary Clinton might pull this off and wrestle the nomination away from Barack Obama. If she does, a lot of folks—including a huge chunk of the media—will join Bill Richardson (a.k.a. Judas) in the Deep Freeze. If the Clintons get back into the White House, it will be retribution time, like the Corleone family consolidating power in "The Godfather," where the watchword is, "It's business, not personal." Eleanor Clift
With all due respect to the Don, of course.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Face of Liturgy

"Thus to ask what is 'suitable' must always be the same as asking what is 'worthy': it must constantly challenge us to seek what is worthy of the Church's worship."
- Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, "On the Theological Basis of Music," The Feast of Faith
True. And a good word to all liturgical directors. But Ratzinger still let's us off too easily here, for what does it say about the Church if her liturgy, after 2000 years, is still something we need to "liturgically direct" at all, "suitably" and "worthily" or not? That, I think, is an underlying pustule in Catholic liturgics, one which erupted this week into a heated dispute between loyal Catholics over the music selected for the Nationals Stadium Mass. Ratzinger implicitly concedes that liturgy is a product of human design, subject to tinkering semper reformanda ad nauseam, in pursuit of some ideal set of theological-aesthetic rules or standards. So we bicker and fight over those standards and meanwhile continue to tinker and advance our agendas, occasionally getting some liturgical fiat that resolves some issues, but invariably creating others. This seems to be the "other" liturgical cycle governing Catholic worship, especially since Vatican II.

So I wonder if the West needs to recover what is implicit in the East -- that sense of liturgy as acheiropoieta.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Methadone for Politics: Pope

Living in DC, you become something of a politics addict. No surprise there; it's a well-known fact of life in the Beltway. I'm no exception. But watching and listening to Benedict read his address in his slippery, sibilant English to 25,000 Catholic young people in Yonkers -- and I mean really listening -- I realized, as I flipped the channel for a sec only to find Tim Russert's face bulging with rapture over yet another Clinton-Obama fracas, this presidential race is soooooo boring.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Rip Van "Healing"

The poor word has been forced to do so much work, I'm afraid there's nothing left in him. Can we give him a break? Just shelve him for a while, in that dictionary we no longer reach for. Let him sleep. Give him, say, 20 years.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"Our Worst Critics Prefer To Stay"

is the winner of the contest for Best 6-Word Motto for the US over at the NY Times' Freakonomics blog. I heartily concur with the Freakonomicons.

It's also why I'm always amused by the cowardly litanies of the Catholic Church's sins by the Bill Maher-Penn & Teller-HuffPo-Kos idiocracy, which is supposed to present us Catholics with overpowering reasons against continued membership in her rolls. Next to the sins of Uncle Sam, Mother Church may still be a whore, but she's no butcher. So if we're not crazy for prizing our US passports, spare me the sanctimonious lecture for how I cling to my rosary.

The anti-Catholic blowhards aren't even critics. They're too childish and ignorant to deserve the title. The Catholic Church: Our best & worst critics prefer to stay.

Vocation, Vocation, Vocation

Sometimes I forget how horrid the vocations crisis is. Only 22 seminarians enrolled in an archdiocese of 2.5 million Catholics. Zero in the first-year theology program. How's this for "hope":
The Rev. Luke Sweeney, director of vocations for the archdiocese — which covers the Bronx, Manhattan, Staten Island and seven counties west and north of the city — says the church must make its case if it hopes to reinvigorate a priesthood that is increasingly elderly. “How do we get the ‘cool’ factor back into the priesthood?” Father Sweeney said. “If we don’t sell the priesthood, we can’t legitimately ask a young man to consider the priesthood as a vocation.”
With vocations directors who thinks the priesthood needs to be sold and made cool, who needs Satan the Great Destroyer of the Sacred Presbyterum? Even if I were considering the priesthood, a comment like that from the guy who has been entrusted with formation of the future priesthood for one of our preeminent dioceses only tells me to save my marbles for a calling with a little more self-respect. It's is a total admission of the emptiness and impotence of modern Western Catholicism and it's totally consistent with my sense of the Cardinal Egan's therapeutic-bureaucratic style. Talk about out of touch and clinginess.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Not even two days old and it's already a "Bitter-gate." The lovers and haters of Obama have predictably disgorged themselves of their defenses and attacks. Yawn.
One thing I like about Barack Obama is that when he hands himself lemons, he tries to make lemonade as you see in his response to those who criticized his characterization of the public mood in Pennsylvania. Recall that the whole meetings with the political leadership of rogue states started as a gaffe, but eventually became a synecdoche for willingness to move beyond the conventional wisdom of a broken establishment.

I have no idea whether this particular response to this particular controversy will "work" but it's still the correct approach and one that shows, I think, a more sophisticated grasp of media dynamics than we've seen from most Democrats over the past few years.*
OK. So he's no cheap panderer the way Hilary is. But I'd be a lot more sympathetic to this line of defense if Obama actually demonstrated any equanimity on the God & guns issues. There's nothing very controversial in Obama's restatement of the fact that the GOP has capitalized on middle America's lack of faith in government's ability to make a positive difference in their economic lives and has used the culture wars to corral them.

But Obama is totally out of touch with the Democratic Party's complicity in this admittedly pernicious electoral dynamic. He doesn't seem able or willing to acknowledge how the Democratic Party, by its dogmatic and activist moral anarchism, has been equally busy (however unwittingly) driving middle America into the tax-cutting, job-exporting, dollar-eviscerating arms of the GOP. And while economic issues may enjoy a certain natural priority in the public square, social issues and the positions that social conservatives hold were not invented by the GOP ex nihilo.

If Obama actually showed some moderation and flexibility on the policy questions surrounding embryos, guns, gays, etc., then his self-defense would have a leg to stand on. But he's stubbornly clingy to passage of the Freedom of Choice Act, for instance, stating his intent to make it the first bill he wants to sign into law, and repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. Last I checked, FOCA or DOMA won't do much to return jobs to PA. If economics is the ball we should be keeping our eyes on, and all those morality/values issues little more than red herrings to make us vote redstate, then why is Obama himself so "clingy" on these issues?

Either these social issues are epiphenomenal or they're more complicated than that. I think it's the latter. But if you're going to insist on the former, then everyone's got to be less clingy to them. If middle America has little reason to be so clingy to their pro-life positions, then Obama has little reason be so clingy to his pro-choice position. But you just can't decouple that and claim you're so in touch with reality.

UPDATE: Now he's firing back (or bailing water) with his old "politics of division and distraction" and "silly season" schtick. Who was it again that first raised the issue of God & guns in the middle of a discussion on economic policy? So I guess what he's saying is that the GOP & Hilary engage in the politics while Obama engages in the syntax of division and distraction.

Obama and his defenders still have not accounted for why he found it so necessary to broach the subject of God & guns when he was talking about the economic anxieties of middle America. It has been the Democratic party line to blame Rovianism for middle America's consistent pattern of voting against economic self-interest. Obama has yet to distance himself critically from this liberal Democratic script and its self-serving half-truths. He's still cutting along the same grain: You working class folk need to let go of your false Roveian consciousness and come out of the cave. If you needed proof that Obama's politics is at root Marxist, look no further.

It amazes me how smart the Dems continue to think they are, even as they bang their heads against the wall of white proles voting against their so-called economic interests. At best, then, I can grant to Obama that he wasn't intentionally driving the religion wedge into his talk; rather he was just clinging to the old liberal script, which is more interested in absolving liberals for their failure to appeal to the whole political person, not just homo economicus.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Earth to NY Times, again

The Pope is the head of state for the HOLY SEE, not Vatican City.
Secret Service agents, the pope’s own Swiss Guard security forces and several thousand officers from the New York Police Department will share the daily job of safeguarding the pope, leader of the Roman Catholic Church and the head of state of Vatican City.
Right, just like President Bush is the head of state for the District of Columbia.
The pope, traveling on his jet, Shepherd One, will arrive at Kennedy Airport next Friday morning, the day before the start of the Jewish celebration of Passover.
It's a chartered jet, Sherlock. The Pope/Vatican doesn't own planes.