Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Immaculate Human Nature

This year for me the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is so simple. The All-Holy, Most Pure, Ever-Virgin Mary signifies the fact that God created us not for sin and death but for righteousness and life. From what other substance could the Son of Man take his own flesh? She marks the turning point in the history of human nature back towards our Creator's original intent. In Mary, God straightens what Eve made crooked. She was graced with the same human nature that Eve possessed, no more and no less inclined towards sin; the same human nature that would serve as the only fitting abode for the Son of God. Sure, you can say Christ is more properly the turning point, but why be so hair-splittingly stingy? I think Catholics have done the dogma a disservice by spinning it as some freakishly unnatural miracle of galactic proportions. Human nature couldn't be more natural than the Immaculate Conception -- that's the point. Somewhere along the way, we implicated sin into human nature rather than into the human condition. Big difference.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Kursk Icon Homecoming

KURSK, September 23 (RIA Novosti) - The head of the Russian Orthodox Church on Wednesday led a procession through the city of Kursk, 300 miles south of Moscow, to celebrate the arrival of a miracle-working icon from the United States.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia carried the icon, called the Kursk Root Icon of Our Lady of the Sign, through the streets, where it was welcomed by over 30,000 people - almost 10% of the city's population.
Amazing. Over 70 yrs of Communist dedication to the destruction of Christianity and look how the people still remember their historic icons. It's like they're welcoming back a real human being, a long-lost family member -- icons as "hypostatic representations" of living saints. It's enough to make you forget it's 2009.

Orthodoxy's making a strong comeback because former Soviet bloc peoples have actual memory and knowledge of the reality of secularist atheism. So they're tired of mucking around with anti-Christian nonsense. We in the West haven't a clue, so our secular atheists get away with calling Christianity a joke and we Christians just pretty much play along slackjawed for lack of a better idea.

The eastern bloc peoples at least have had a full-bodied Orthodoxy to fall back on after Communism collapsed. What will we in the West have after our secular atheism collapses? Protestantized milquetoast Christianity that can barely remember anything older than the last census.

Do we Catholics have a national bishop like Kirill venerating with great dignity an old miracle-working icon (of all things in this technocentric world) with his people? No, instead, the closest we got is McCarrick venerating the dead ass of a virulently pro-choice Catholic aristocrat (RIP, Teddy), musing effeminately with the language and tone of Oprah and Obama about love, compassion, forgiveness, and social justice. Or Mahony venerating his corporate lawyers, his precious bodily fluids (aka, archdiocesan assets), and his demotic immigration hobbyhorse.

I really don't get triumphalistic Catholics. How can one have eyes wide open and not see that the future of Christianity belongs to the Orthodox and possibly a Catholic Church that has repented of its own abandonment of the Patristic sensus fidelium? It's up to Orthodox to bring it back home for us Western Christians.

HT: ROCOR United

Peters on Burke on the Catholic Funeral of the Year

Finally, canonist Ed Peters replies to the recent controversial Burke comments about Ted Kennedy's Catholic funeral. Frankly, I'm a little disappointed. I was hoping he'd address the overwhelming majority of the people at that InsideCatholic dinner who went home convinced that Burke was voicing authoritative, unequivocal opposition to Ted Kennedy's Catholic funeral and participation therein by Catholic prelates. Instead, Peters' treatment is a highly lawyerly and defensive piece of academic legerdemain that misses the forest for the trees.

Peters seems more interested in avoiding the appearance of conflict between his original post on the EMK funeral and the statements of canon law's top dog (which have yet to be released as a full transcript). This is standard lawyerthink: present your position as humbly conforming with a higher authority. So Peters starts out punching at a red herring popular with the dissenting Catholic left: Burke said "the Church erred." But it's a strawman issue that distracts from what conservative or orthodox Catholics have been wrestling with in the wake of the EMK funeral.

It's fine to point out the obvious: Burke never said the Church erred, but that hems around the question of whether Burke was communicating his opposition to episcopal blessing bestowed upon EMK. Clearly, Deal Hudson at Crisis Magazine thought Burke to be opposed. And I'd bet Raymond Arroyo felt nothing but smug vindication by Burke. Pro-life websites are now explicitly claiming Burke (who is their current incarnation of the Code of Canon Law) condemns granting Catholic funeral rites to pro-choice Catholics like EMK (here, here).

But Peters doesn't really address this beyond acknowledging "how the people are confused." Instead he cleverly spins Burke's comment on public signs of repentance as prescriptive, rather than descriptive of the law. For Peters, Burke was simply stating his advocacy of future amendments to the Code or canonical jurisprudence. The takeaway, however, for most has been that Burke's opposition to Catholic funerals for pro-choice Catholics is descriptive of the current state of canon law (ius vigens). Peters waves us off from finding in Burke's speech any criticism or opposition to his brother bishops (or Peters) who signed off on the funeral. I seriously doubt anyone left the dinner with anything close to this interpretation in mind. Peters may or may not be right on Burke's actual intentions, but it ignores the fact that Burke never stated that he "wants to see canon law come to require 'public signs of repentance'" in the future; and thus it's just as speculative as David Gibson's claim that Burke condemns O'Malley & McCarrick's participation in EMK's funeral (which is tellingly similar to what Arroyo, et al, are saying as well).

Sure, Peters can argue that he's a canonist and this is precisely what canonists do. But I'd counter that his audience is not primarily academic. Hands down, Peters is the premier canonist for the Catholic blogosphere. At the end of the day, Peters is completely in the right on the canonical merits of EMK's funeral. I just wish he were a bit more honest about what Burke actually did say and how it gave fuel to more, not less, confusion.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Rush of Blood

Illusion acts in one way, and God in another -- God the illimitable Master of man, who was and is now their Creator. He who created and re-creates, does He not remain always the Creator? Therefore, beloved brother, listen how the action of illusion differs from divine action. Illusion, when it approaches man in thought or in dream, in some subtle idea, by some apparition which can be seen with the physical eyes, or by a voice from on high heard by the physical ears, never approaches as an absolute master, but comes as a charmer who seeks acceptance by man, and from his acceptance gains power over him. The action of illusion inside or outside man is always action from without; it is open to man to repel it. Illusion is always met at first by a certain doubt in the heart: only those whom it has conquered decisively accept it without question. Illusion never unites a man who is divided by sin, it does not stop the upsurge of blood, does not lead the ascetic to repentance, does not make him small in his own eyes; on the contrary it fires his imagination, encourages the rush of blood, brings him to a certain tasteless, poisonous enjoyment, and flatters him insidiously, inspiring him with self-conceit and establishing in his soul an idol -- 'I'.

Bishop Ignatii Brianchaninov, from The Art of Prayer, p. 147.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hypocrisy, hypocrisy everywhere nor any drop to drink

Social and cultural liberals love to invoke the hypocrisy of abortion foes when it comes to the death penalty, war, torture, environmentalism, etc. Apparently, it's hypocritical to see a difference between a constitutionally protected right of a private individual to execute innocent, defenseless human life and the constitutionally protected right of the state to execute convicted, adult humans who have intentionally committed heinous crimes against the innocent. And it's hypocrisy to notice a difference in the way death row convicts get due process of law, but human embyros don't. It's also hypocrisy to note that the death penalty kills at most in the low three-figures per annum while abortion kills over one million per annum.

Who knew there's no difference between abortion and death penalty? And who knew that hypocrisy flows only in one direction: if you think abortion is wrong, then to treat death penalty or war or torture ANY differently makes you a hypocrite; but if you think death penalty or war or torture is wrong, then to favor abortion rights is perfectly A-OK. Who knew hypocrisy only applies to pro-lifers?

No one ever acknowledges, however, that the accusations of hypocrisy against pro-lifers can come from social conservatives on the flip side as well. If you're against Roe v. Wade, which made abortion a constitutionally protected right, you must needs be opposed equally to Lawrence v. Texas, which made sodomy in the privacy of one's home a constitutionally protected right. And in the six years since that decision, have we seen a massive effort from social conservatives to topple it? Ask any pro-life Catholic whether they care to see Lawrence overturned and most will think of their local St. Lawrence parish before a SCOTUS decision.

Oh, the hypocrisy of these pro-lifers. They're not fooling anyone about their social-conservative bonafides. They're no different than the social liberals who want to ban guns and religion.

Would any social liberals care to join this non-existent chorus faulting pro-lifers for not being equally opposed to Lawrence v. Texas?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Center-of-Attention Liturgy

Narcissists come in both homo- and heterosexual versions. They are attracted to the clergy, because they can be the center of attention and manipulate other people. Within the clergy, they tend to rise to the top, because they want more attention and more opportunity to manipulate people.

And so the People of God get archbishops like Weakland and Sanchez. And children are abused and die. ~Leon Podles
Nothing to see here, people. Addiction to versus populum liturgy has absolutely nothing to do with this.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Velimirovic didn't respect Spanish Catholicism much

Fascinating 1916 critique of church history don Adolf von Harnack by St. Nikolaj Velimirovic, by way of Ora et Labora:
Christianity is founded upon a drama and not upon a science; therefore its growth and development are dramatic and not scientific.
Proto-Balthasarian? St. Nikolai would probably have a lot of critical things to say about von Balthasar's theodramatics, but it's still noteworthy that both affirm the dramatic nature of Christian faith in contrast to the scientific or positivist mindset of the modernist heresy.
The killed and martyred kings, princes, bishops, priests and laymen from these [Orthodox] countries will not be ashamed before the martyrs from the Coliseum.
I do wish Catholics acted as if their every decision were made looking the holy martyrs unblinkingly in the eye -- another useful feature of icon veneration.
Roman Catholicism in Spain came through its test very badly. Before the Islamic invasion, and after it for a long time, the Christian population showed itself inferior to the Moors, in work, in justice, in progress. But to the honour of Roman Catholicism I must say that it stood the test very well in Croatia and in Hungary in its struggle against Islam. German cathedral Protestantism failed in its test. It is destroyed as a religion, it exists only as an archival science. It ceased to be what Christianity really sought to be--a drama; it is transformed into an indifferent scientific medium for reading, exploring, classifying, comparing, criticising. It is no more a living, dramatic being--no more the serving, ruling and suffering Christ. There is very little heroic or divine in it!
I have no idea specifically what about Spain, Croatia, and Hungary St. Nikolai is talking about, but the question he's answering is an important one. What does the Church's response to persecution and opposition by the princes of this world say about its members and their understanding of the true faith?

Friday, May 01, 2009

Catholic 'Imagination'

I've always had a problem with the so-called Catholic mystical or contemplative tradition. Having studied it in div school, I never found it very personally edifying or, more importantly, for real.

As I slowly wade through St. Silouan the Athonite by Elder Sophrony, I keep coming across insightful comments that inadvertently explain my many discomforts with Tridentine Catholicism.
The second [pattern of logismoi] applies to those who practise the first form of prayer and indulge in 'visual meditation' -- who conjure up scenes from the life of Christ or similar sacred studies. It is generally neophytes who adopt this course. With this sort of imaginative prayer the mind is not contained in the heart for the sake of inner vigilance. The attention stays fixed on the visual aspect of the images considered as divine. This leads to psychological (emotional) excitement, which, carried to an extreme, may result in a state of pathological ecstasy. One rejoices in what one has 'attained', clings to the state, cultivates it, considers it to be 'spiritual', charismatic (the fruits of grace) and so sublime that one thinks oneself a saint and worthy of contemplating Divine mysteries. But in fact such states end in hallucinations, and if one does not succumb to physical illness, at the least one continues 'bewitched' and living in a world of fantasy.
I have yet to read a Catholic anticipate and defend these concerns, whose scope reaches everything from Ignatian to Carmelite spirituality. It probably says more about my ignorance, but the current de facto sense of the faithful is that human imagination is a wonderful unalloyed good to be given free reign "in the Spirit" so long as it does not directly conflict with Catholic doctrine. I hear this Oprahesque sentiment all the time from priests, bishops, and religious. See how we tend to define spirituality legalistically and negatively, devoid of Christological substance? Christ is more often than not a foil or a guard rail to our imagination, not the purifier of the imagination.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Prof. Michael Perry is liberal Catholic scum

Laurie Goodstein's recent NY Times piece appears to be a credible, truthful, and completely believeable expose of our bishops' prior notice that pervert priests were running around murdering young souls with little fear of episcopal discipline. Her coverage doesn't tell us much we didn't already know. And it confirms my own disgust with the bishops' collective delusion and cowardice. The sanctity of their sacramental office remains the only thing we have with which to judge them. If it seems insufficient, then it is because we (lay & cleric alike) have clericalized it, bureaucratized it, degraded it, and made it small.

But leave it to our "liberal Catholic" brethren to outdo the NY Times in the cowardly anti-Catholic cheap shot department:
These are the men--the men!--whose insights regarding the complexity of human sexuality we are expected to genuflect before. Gimme a break. If women had been bishops--indeed, if mothers had been bishops--would this have happened?
He calls himself a "Catholic legal theorist" when the obvious rebuttal to this dreck -- since apparently so many out there must think likewise -- is that if children, puppies, or rocks were bishops the scandal wouldn't have happened either. If the Catholic Church or the human race didn't exist, the scandal wouldn't have happened either. And this is held out as a Catholic legal theorist's argument for women priests?

And is genuflection to the "insights" of the individuals who hold the office of bishop what we do when Catholics stand for orthodoxy? Funny, since that's quite the opposite from what I believe. I genuflect instead to the bishops' lack of personal or private insights. I bow to their conformity and conductivity to the fullness of the Apostolic teachings.

It is proof of their mindless commitment to secularist Protestant totalitarianism that liberal Catholics, instead of dealing with real suffering in a real world or a real Catholic Church, must twist everyone's suffering into a mere pretext for their own solipsistic worship of themselves and their Castro District Cosmos.

Anti-Obama fatigue

I used to love to hate Obama. Then the company started to stink. Count me in with the "disappointed but not outraged" sect of Catholics on the ND-Obama story. Podles, once again, sums up my ambivalence:
Both sides of the Obama controversy, however, demonstrate a Catholic tendency that does no good to the Church: the tendency to see everything in terms of will and obedience, that is, in the context of a voluntaristic approach to morality. Attempts to find a way in canon law to block the invitation are one sign of this attitude; but the defenses of Obama also demonstrate the influence of voluntarism.
If you're tired of the showboating, johnny-come-lately parade of bishops' letters and op-eds, you'll want to read the rest. Note that, once again, Podles is an orthodox Catholic who is not so naive to accept everything that "orthodox" or "conservative" Catholics do or say in the public square as marching orders. This skepticism has become a necessary disposition for all Catholics foolish enough to follow ecclesiastical politics.

The real battle for the soul of American Catholicism is not between the Commonweal/America and First Things/Crisis Catholics. Both need to fight themselves (agere contra) a lot more. Only in asceticism does the mind find a defense against the silliness of the public square, naked or not.

I used to believe that the problem with the academic ivory tower was that the "Life of the Mind" fantasia it worships is too disembodied and abstract. But I don't think that's it. To the contrary, it's not scornful of "the world" and "the flesh" enough. If ND wants to embody Catholic intellectualism, it would impress me far more if it abandoned the boringly superficial and moralistic ideologies of tolerance, diversity, dialogue, etc., and embraced the monastery as the archetype of the intellectual life.

Asceticism, Repentance, and Eucharist -- next to that, how do we let Tolerance, Diversity, and Dialogue dominate the horizon of Catholic academia? Therein lies ND's real problem. Pro-life crusader bishops run into the same contradiction when they gesticulate more outrage over this symbolic crisis than they do over the persistence of clerical sexual predators and bureaucratic coverups under their watch.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Clergy Abuse Matters: World vs. Church

First Things has an open debate between victims' attorney Marci Hamilton and diocesan defense attorney L. Martin Nussbaum over statutes of limitation. The World: 1; The Church: 0

Philokalia Republic has a fine summary of the National Review Board's report on the staggering costs of clergy abuse for 2007 & 2008. The World: 1; The Church: 0

The World: 2; The Church: 0

Our dear hierarchy, evidently, is still hiding behind purely secular (and frankly pathetic) corporate legal and public relations strategies. It's yet more evidence that the episcopacy is still pretty confused about what exactly a bishop IS (beyond mere validity and liceity) in the post-Vatican II world. If we need any proof that neither the letter nor spirit of Vatican II is self-interpreting, how Lumen Gentium has done little to provide concrete guidance or even clarity of thought as we weather this shameful "filth" (to use Benedict's term) in our hierarchy should be plenty.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Malcolm X the Conservative

Shelby Steele is always a refreshing tonic on race matters.
The appeal of conservatism is the mutuality it asserts between individual and political freedom, its beautiful idea of a free man in a free society. And it offers minorities the one thing they can never get from liberalism: human rather than racial dignity. I always secretly loved Malcolm X more than Martin Luther King Jr. because Malcolm wanted a fuller human dignity for blacks -- one independent of white moral wrestling. In a liberalism that wants to redeem the nation of its past, minorities can only be ciphers in white struggles of conscience.
I've also, more often than not, found myself the oddball conservative for loving Malcolm over Martin. But Steele's WSJ op-ed for today is not really about Malcolm so much as the more fundamental problems in the GOP's metanarrative which prevent it from getting a fair hearing in an American electorate hungry for national justification and sanctification.

As a theological aside, somewhere in the trauma of the Civil War and Reconstruction, Protestant theology of redemption and eschatology got transferred from the church to the nation-state. Bleeding heart activism is the Protestant work ethic projected onto the political and social realm. What the activists always fail to question is the deification of the State.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Papist Way

The American Papist has surged in the last year into the upper echelons of Catholic blogdom. I've been very impressed by Peters the Lesser's tenacious coverage of Church news. But it wasn't till today when I read his brief comment on the news of declining American Christianity that I came to regard him as a true Catholic "it-getter":
Folks, we have work to do. And we can start by attending to our own affairs - becoming more faithful ourselves is the first step to renewing our culture. And we must allow Christ to transform ourselves before He can transform others through us. So, know your faith, live your faith, love your faith. That's the papist way.
No ideological cant. No ultramontanist passive-aggressiveness. No whiny victimization mentality. No political camp. No traditionalist liturgical fascism. No moralistic blame games. No neocon Americanism. Just proper papism.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

More Mahony baloney

I greatly admire and respect Prof. Garnett for being an outspoken orthodox Catholic lawyer. But here's an example of how corporate defense expertise can cloud one's regard of the Church as a sui generis organizational client. Garnett is more precise about the criminal statutes, but Podles gets the bigger picture. Compare and contrast.

Dr. Leon Podles:
U.S. Attorney Thomas O’Brien is known for novel applications of law in going after outrageous behavior. He is trying to nail Cardinal Mahoney on grounds of fraud for failing to provide honest services. It will be a difficult case. Although actions of Mahoney reek of perjury, being an accessory before the act and after the act to felony, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, he is slippery enough to escape indictment, since these charges are hard to prove.

Cardinal Mahoney, along with many bishops, did something morally wrong in inflicting known abusers on unsuspecting parishes. The problem is whether they did anything illegal. Law are made to cover only crimes that people probably commit. As an extreme example, a German helped someone commit suicide and then ate part of his body. The German courts discovered there is no law against cannibalism in Germany – no one ever thought to pass one. Similarly, no one ever thought to make it a crime to put known pedophiles in parishes with access to children, because no one thought anyone would be so depraved and hard-hearted as to do that. Our lawmakers were insufficiently acquainted with Catholic bishops.
Prof. Rick Garnett:
Putting aside the serious and interesting church-autonomy questions, this use of the wire-fraud statute strikes me (and, I gather from the news, many others) as big-time prosecutorial grandstanding and overreaching.