Saturday, November 09, 2002

If there was a "idiot of the month" award it would surely go to this fella that Jeff Miller refers to. The reason: he is an author of two books on stupidity. Read what he got arrested for and see if the idiot of the month award would not be a fitting one for him.

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I was finally able to access Gerard Serafin's weblog after nearly two months of difficulties. I am not sure what you did Gerard but you fixed it :)

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"I Have A Cunning Plan" Dept.

Am I jumping the gun, Baldrick, or are the words 'I have a cunning plan' marching with ill-deserved confidence in the direction of this conversation? [Edmund G. Blackadder: From "Black Adder III" Part I Episode III (Nob and Nobility)]

One of my favourite comedy programs of all time is the British series "The Black Adder". And one of the series riffs if you will is the character Baldrick making the announcement "I have a cunning plan" in situations where a plan is called for. (Mainly because Baldrick bats way below the Mendoza line when it comes to cunning plans.)

Nonetheless your blog host thought he would be kinda cute after initially discovering that he made a gaffe in commenting on what initially appeared to be a typo in George Weigel's commentary. When I realized the next morning that it was me that misread Weigel, I decided to leave the "correction" in thinking "I wonder who will notice" as the comment I made sounded kinda serendipitously like I was making a tongue-in-cheek jibe. Well then upon checking the email box there were some emails by readers who *had* noticed - including one who thought I was being a bit sardonic. So briefly on what occasioned this "cunning plan" and then I need to get some sleep myself.

First of all, the "cunning plan" did not work out as well in reality as originally thought so I removed the bit. And though I thought it was a "cunning plan" to leave it in, the idea originated from host oversight the night before when I edited the text for HTML shortly before turning in. This note is to remind you all (and me) to hold off on what appears to be a cunning insight when your mental tube amps are winding down for the night. (Or at the very least do a review the next day rather than simply posting the stuff from the evening before.) Until later today, goodnight...


Michael Savage's Eight Point Plan:

Yeah I listen to Michael Savage as the latter reminds me of my dad when he got passionate about issues. (Not to mention myself except I am almost never as abrupt as Michael can be when he gets ticked - nor was my dad.) Nonetheless, here is the eight point list:

1. Make tax cuts permanent.
2. Close the borders now.
3. Deport all illegal immigrants now.
4. Eliminate bilingual education in all states.
5. Require health tests for all recent foreign born immigrants.
6. Eliminate as many entitlement programs as possible.
7. Reduce the number of Federal Employees.
8. Oil Drilling on U.S. Soil.

I add the following two to the list:

9. Tort Reform and the Abolition of Class Action Lawsuits.
10. Banning Partial Birth Abortions.

Implement the ten points above and watch our nation dramatically improve.

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Jewish World Review is a site I have enjoyed for not a couple of years now with Walt Williams, Michelle Malkin, Mona Charen, Tony Snow, George Will, Thomas Sowell, and Michael Medved being my favourites over there. I note that here because my fellow parishoner Mark Shea made a notification at his weblog about a new columnist they now have over at JWR and it is St. Blogs own Eve Tushnet. Here is a small taste of her first column:

One issue that both parties use to rile their "base" has gotten less attention, but Democratic confusion could mean major Democratic vulnerability on an issue that could not be more central to American governance.

That issue is...
Click here for more...

My ultra brief take on it is that it is a very good debut piece. Give it a read and see if you do not agree with me.

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Friday, November 08, 2002

Thomas Sowell, Mona Charen, and Walter Williams on the Election, Etc.
(aka "A Rerum Novarum Triple Spin")

First Thomas Sowell:

Not since Ronald Reagan has a man who was supposed to be so dumb kept beating people who were supposed to be so smart. This was not only a big win for the Republicans. It was also a big defeat for media smugness and glibness...For more click here...

Now Mona Charen:

How can this have happened? President Bush, the Democrats have been telling us, is such a moron that he can't speak. Why, he's such a bumbler that it's impossible to believe he really runs the White House. He's really just a marionette. It's Dick Cheney secretly manipulating all the strings. Besides, he was "selected not elected" in 2000.

Perhaps now, picking over the wreckage of their election debacle -- a defeat delivered to them by George W. Bush personally -- the Democrats will cease underestimating the president. But let's hope not. Ronald Reagan became one of the great presidents of the 20th century while Democrats kept insisting that he was a simpleton. For more click here...

And though he does not cover the election, your host would be remiss to not mention Walt Williams' excellent dissertation on "the politics of envy". Here is just a taste:

In his Oct. 20, 2002, New York Times Magazine article titled "For Richer: The Disappearing Middle Class," Princeton University economist Professor Paul Krugman wrote, "For the America I grew up in -- the America of the 1950s and 1960s -- was a middle-class society, both in reality and in feel. The vast income and wealth inequalities of the Gilded Age had disappeared. ... Daily experiences confirmed the sense of a fairly equal society. The economic disparities you were conscious of were quite muted."

Krugman's vision of income inequality and the disappearing middle class is an excellent example of the classroom propaganda college professors use to exploit America's immature and inexperienced youth... Here is the rest...

And of course your humble servant had to weigh in with a view of the election issue and the wider dynamics of paradigm change earlier at Rerum Novarum.

Yes I am in a even better mood than usual which means I have not stopped smiling since Wednesday morning :) Hopefully the Dems will continue to underestimate Dubya.

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It is nice to see that the USCCB is at least going to discuss holding the first Plenary Council of the US since 1884. But frankly talk is cheap and I will not be too optimistic about this issue until they make a decision one way or another.


Thursday, November 07, 2002

Points to Ponder:

Did I mention by chance that I see a striking parallel in the attitudes taken by the Democrats and the self-styled "traditionalists"??? I cannot recall offhand if I did or not. I may blog on this later on but decided to note it here in brief for the readers to think about.


I updated my post-election analysis entry which can be read HERE. The original one was thrown together in about seven minutes as I was in a rush to get out the door to go somewhere at the time. Thus it was somewhat incoherent in spots and needed the threads tied together tighter and some segues added so it read correctly and completely. This has been done and I apologize for the half-arsed attempt previously.

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Catholicism In America and the Century Ahead (Part II):
(Guest Editorial Series by George Weigel)

Part I can be read HERE.


4. The renewal of devotional life. In the implementation of Vatican II's renewal of the liturgy, attention was so sharply focused on the Mass that more informal forms of piety—the “devotions” that were once a vibrant part of American Catholic life—seemed to drop by the wayside. But after many years of neglect, devotional life has been revived.

a. Eucharistic piety. The devotional practices of perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and “holy hours” conducted before the exposed Blessed Sacrament have returned to the schedule of many parishes. These practices are intended to promote deeper prayer during the Mass. Where before Vatican II Eucharistic piety was often regarded as a thing in itself, its revival today is clearly linked to the deepening of the Church's liturgical life.

b. Marian piety. The revival of many forms of devotion to the Virgin Mary is doubtless due in part to the continuing phenomenon of reported apparitions of the Virgin. But in many parishes the revival of traditional Marian devotions—communal recitation of the rosary, for example—is unconnected to such paranormal phenomena. Marian scholarship, influenced by John Paul II and by the Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, is also being revived. While Marian piety has generally been regarded as a barrier to Catholic-Protestant ecumenism, the insistence by John Paul II that “true devotion to the Mother of God is actually Christocentric” holds out the intriguing possibility of an ecumenical dialogue that moves directly from Mary into the heart of Christian faith.

c. New forms of devotional life. Perhaps the most prominent of these new practices is the “Divine Mercy” devotion begun by Sister Faustina Kowalska, a Polish mystic who died in 1938 and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1993. This has become the vehicle by which many American Catholics have returned to a regular devotional practice. The intensification of devotional life in the 1990s is both another indicator of the inadequacy of the conventional story-line—which saw devotions of this sort as a pre-modern practice that was bound to disappear—and a tale of populist religion waiting to be reported.

5. A new ecumenism? Theologically intense bilateral ecumenical dialogues were one important fruit of the Second Vatican Council and the Catholic Church's entry into modern ecumenism. The Lutheran-Catholic, Anglican-Catholic, and Orthodox-Catholic dialogues in particular were given ample coverage in the years immediately following Vatican II. But the difficulties encountered by those dialogues in recent years have not been so carefully reported. Neither has the “new ecumenism” that may surpass these bilateral dialogues in importance in time.

The Lutheran-Catholic dialogue reached its apogee on October 31, 1999—Reformation Sunday—when representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation signed a “Joint Declaration on Justification by Faith.” The representatives declared that justification by faith can no longer be considered a church-dividing matter, as the two communions share a common understanding of the truths involved in that doctrine. In other words, the core issue that precipitated the Lutheran Reformation of 1517 has been resolved. But ecclesial reunion is not on the horizon, because other issues have emerged over the centuries.

Post–Vatican II hopes for a relatively rapid reunion between Anglicans and Roman Catholics have also been frustrated, as the practice of ordaining women to the priesthood and episcopate in certain Anglican churches has raised questions about the Anglican understanding of apostolic tradition, ordained ministry, and the sacramental nature of reality. Meanwhile, the leadership of world Orthodoxy has not been receptive to the suggestion by Pope John Paul II that Rome and the Christian East could restore unity by returning to the status that prevailed before the Great Schism of 1054. And while there is widespread agreement on the need for some center of Christian unity, Orthodox, Protestants, and Anglicans alike have been slow to respond to the Pope's 1995 invitation to help him think through an exercise of the papacy that could serve their needs.

But as these bilateral dialogues reached various forms of impasse in the 1990s, a new ecumenism emerged, with Roman Catholics in active dialogue with evangelical and Pentecostalist Protestants. This was pregnant with possibility, for evangelicalism and Pentecostalism represent the “growing end” of Protestantism throughout the world. Mainline Protestantism, at least in the developed world, seems to be on an inexorable course of decline, while evangelicals continue to make great strides in North America, Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia.

This new ecumenism is not aimed, at least in the short term, at ecclesial reconciliation, but rather at mutual recognition and cooperation in public life. It is in part an outgrowth of the pro-life movement, where evangelicals and Catholics discovered each other as allies in the trenches. And while it faces profound theological difficulties, the new ecumenism can point to some significant achievements in the 1990s. It has been little reported—understandably so, for it is hard to “find”; it operates more through informal structures than through church bureaucracies. But it is likely to be one of the defining realities of American cultural life in the first decades of this new century, and it could well have a major impact on American politics as well.

6. Catholic intellectual life. This is no longer confined to the campuses of Notre Dame, Boston College, and Georgetown. Several of the converts noted above hold senior appointments at prestigious research universities, as do such other Catholics as Mary Ann Glendon (Harvard Law School) and Robert P. George (Princeton). Perhaps the most notable among the new Catholic intellectual centers is the Washington-based John Paul II Institute for the Study of Marriage and the Family, which has granted 127 master's-level degrees and seventeen doctorates since 1988. The institute seems likely to play a major part in American Catholic moral theology in the decades ahead. A small Catholic college in Texas, the University of Dallas, is widely recognized as one of the nation's finest liberal arts schools; it has been a pioneer in reviving a demanding undergraduate core curriculum in the humanities as the foundation for any professional vocation.

Viewed through the narrowing lens of the conventional story-line, the debate over John Paul II's 1990 apostolic constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae and its attempt to revitalize the Catholic identity of Catholic universities is yet another power struggle between liberated Americans and authoritarian “Rome.” Viewed through a wider lens, the debate is closely related to the revolt against political correctness on campus, and against the secularist bias that has drained institutions of their religious identities in recent decades. Moreover, the Ex Corde debate has forced a shift of considerable consequence in the Catholic university world. During the 1970s and 1980s, universities asked, “How do we disentangle ourselves from the institutional Church?” Today, however confusedly, the question has become, “How do we reclaim our Catholic identity?” Much more is afoot here than is usually reported.

7. An unprecedented encounter with Judaism. The Jewish-Catholic dialogue of the past thirty-five years has been another of the great fruits of Vatican II. The Church has condemned anti-Semitism and reformed its liturgical and catechetical practice to take account of the Christian debt to Judaism; the Pope has called on the Church to cleanse its conscience about historic anti-Semitic episodes and the Holocaust; Jews and Catholics work together to promote inter-religious tolerance and a civil public square in America; the Holy See has full diplomatic relations with the State of Israel. That, it is sometimes suggested, pretty well completes “the agenda” as imagined in 1962–65.

But John Paul II thinks that the real agenda is just now coming into view. That agenda is theological, not social-political, and it goes beyond the achievements of the recent past to raise questions that Jews and Catholics have not discussed for over nineteen hundred years. What people? What is a “covenant”? How do Jews and Catholics understand their common moral “border,” the Ten Commandments? What is the common content of the messianic hope that Jews and Catholics share? If this new agenda is addressed anywhere it will be in the United States, where the Jewish-Catholic dialogue is most advanced by far, the Jewish population is secure enough to engage in such a conversation, and there are Roman Catholic interlocutors eager to build on recent achievements. Like the new ecumenism, the new Jewish-Catholic dialogue is likely to be most intense in “off campus” settings rather than in official dialogue groups.

8. Liturgy: reforming the reform. Most Catholics in the United States were enthusiastic about the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council. The new question is: is it time to “reform the reform” with a new emphasis on the transcendent, the sacred, and the beautiful? Organizations promoting a “reform of the reform” include the Society for Catholic Liturgy; Credo, an association, mainly of priests, working for more faithful translations of the liturgy from the Latin; and Adoremus, an association of clergy and laity. The way the new liturgical debate plays out will have a major impact on Catholic life in America. Liturgical prayer is not just something that Catholics happen to do when other Americans are reading the Sunday morning papers. Lex orandi lex credendi—“what we pray is what we believe”—is one of the oldest and truest theological maxims, and what American Catholics believe in 2099 will have much to do with the way they pray, liturgically, between now and then.

9. The movements. When theologians speak of the “charismatic element” in the Church, they refer not simply to the “charismatic renewal” with its characteristic behavioral elements (such as spontaneous vocalized prayer, speaking in “tongues,” and healings), but also to renewal movements that have emerged through the leadership of gifted individuals. Since Vatican II there has been an explosion of such movements in world Catholicism. That largely unreported fact is beginning to reshape the face of Catholicism in the United States, giving dedicated Catholics communal reference points for the practice of their faith beyond their local parish and diocese.

Among the most prominent of these groups are Focolare, a movement of Italian origin that takes the unity of the human race as its mission; Regnum Christi, a renewal movement of lay leaders (most of them professionals) associated with the Legionaries of Christ, itself a relatively new community of priests; Communion and Liberation, another Italian-based movement with a marked capacity to attract intellectuals; and the Neo-Catechumenal Way, which works with the unchurched and re-evangelizes the poorly catechized. The Sant'Egidio Community, founded in Rome by left-leaning Italian Catholic university students in the sixties, combines an active liturgical prayer life with service to the poor and with conflict-mediation in the international community; it is widely credited with brokering an end to the Mozambican civil war, for example. Members of L'Arche Community, founded by the Canadian Jean Vanier, work with and live with the mentally handicapped. Then there is the most controversial of these movements, Opus Dei, which has its own unique status as a kind of worldwide diocese.

These groups are pioneering forms of Catholic life that have never been lived before. Some of them include lay men and women, unmarried, who have taken perpetual vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience and who live in community, yet have an active professional life in “the world.” Interestingly, some of the new lay renewal movements have proven fertile recruiting grounds for candidates for the priesthood.

In his ease with this unpredictable charismatic element in the Church, John Paul II stands in marked contrast to some local bishops (and some Vatican officials) concerned about where these movements and communities fit in the organizational flow-chart. How such groups will fare in the post–John Paul II church remains to be seen, of course. But many of them seem to have achieved enough critical mass to be ensured of a large role in twenty-first-century Catholicism.

10. The seminaries. Seminaries that have welcomed the attempts by John Paul II to revitalize the Catholic priesthood tend to be doing much better than those that have resisted this reorientation. But the story of the priests of the new millennium has only begun to be told. How are these men being prepared, intellectually, for the challenge of preaching and providing pastoral care to the best-educated generation of Catholics in history? How will they help their parishioners cope with the temptations of abundance? What does it mean for the future of Catholicism in America that many dioceses now require seminarians to be at least minimally fluent in Spanish before they can be ordained priests? Will the new immigrants to the United States—the Vietnamese, for example—follow the pattern of previous generations of immigrants in recasting the ethnic character of the Catholic priesthood?

A Culture-Forming Counterculture?

Each of these “new things” in the Catholic Church will have an impact on American public life, for Christianity is an inherently public business. How Catholics pray, how they regard other Christians, how they lead their intellectual lives, how their priests are trained, and the terms in which they understand their dialogue with modernity and whatever follows modernity will shape the Catholic presence in the American public square.

One other aspect of that presence requires a brief look: the Catholic Church as the possible agent of a renewal of American public moral culture. John Courtney Murray raised this issue in 1960, in what remains the single most impressive analysis of the Church's interaction with the American democratic experiment: We Hold These Truths: Catholic Reflections on the American Proposition. Murray argued that democracy could be sustained only by a “consensus” on the fundamental moral claims that made democracy plausible, desirable, and worth defending. That consensus had been sustained in the United States since the colonial period by the great churches of the Protestant mainline: Anglican, Reformed/Presbyterian, Methodist. Yet as early as the 1950s, Murray detected cracks in the foundations. The mainline churches were increasingly unable to articulate the “consensus” persuasively, particularly in the face of the secularist/pragmatist challenge associated with Deweyan liberalism. Moreover, these churches no longer formed a demographic critical mass in American society.

Murray proposed that the Catholic community, long held suspect for its “foreign” loyalties, was now best positioned to revive the consensus and thereby reconstruct the foundations of American democracy, because it was the institutional bearer of a way of political thinking—based on a natural-law approach—that was in touch with the true moral philosophy and political philosophy that underlie the American experiment. And those philosophical roots were to be found, Murray further argued, not in the rationalistic individualism of the Enlightenment, but in medieval Christendom and the common-law tradition to which it gave birth.

Some think Murray misunderstood the philosophical roots of the American Founding; and the degree to which the Catholic Church still “possesses” the natural-law-based political philosophy of its patrimony is certainly debatable. But Murray's diagnosis remains prescient. Much of the clamor of current American public life (and no small part of its degradation) has to do with the fact that Americans are losing the ability to debate issues in the realm of the public moral culture in a civil way—a point painfully illustrated by the vast moral confusions in the 1998–99 debate over the impeachment of the President. Is there a “grammar” that can bring some discipline back into this debate? If so, who is a likely public teacher of that grammar?

The Catholic Church may be. In the social doctrine of John Paul II it has what is arguably the most comprehensive proposal for the free, prosperous, and virtuous society on offer in the world today. That social doctrine has been articulated in terms that are genuinely accessible to “all men and women of good will,” as the Pope habitually describes the addressees of his social encyclicals. The interest shown by the national press in the Pope's social teaching may well reflect a widespread yearning for moral reference points as we face the uncharted territory created by the sexual revolution, the post–Cold War world disorder, the cracking of the genetic code and the subsequent explosion of biotechnologies, and the continuous American struggle to build political community out of extravagant diversity.

Moreover, in its pro-life activism since Roe v. Wade the Church in the United States has developed a considerable capacity for the kind of genuinely “public” moral argument that can indeed be engaged by “all men and women of good will.” To say this is to risk derision, for the Catholic position on the morality of abortion-on-demand has long been labeled sectarian. Yet I would challenge anyone to find a single developed Catholic statement on the abortion license whose moral arguments presume belief in the Nicene Creed. The Church has marshaled publicly accessible and adjudicable scientific arguments on behalf of the pro-life cause, and publicly accessible and debatable moral arguments for the claim that there is an inalienable right to life from conception to natural death. Moreover, in recent years, both the Pope and the U.S. bishops have begun to link the abortion debate to the wider question of the moral foundations of the American democratic experiment.

The U.S. bishops have made their pro-life case in moral terms strikingly similar to those in which they challenged segregation during the 1960s. There, too, public moral arguments rooted in a natural-law concept of justice were deployed—to general approbation. The fact that many now find the same arguments “sectarian” when Catholics address the abortion license (though entirely agreeable when deployed against capital punishment) reinforces the sense that the capacity for serious moral debate has been badly attenuated. Whether the Catholic Church can help lead the country in the recovery of the lost art of public moral discourse at a time when the Church is embroiled in the most divisive debate in the culture war is a serious question.

Is a culture-forming counterculture a contradiction in terms? Not necessarily, as the experience of the Great Awakenings and their subsequent impact on American history suggests. The extent to which the Catholic Church acts as a culture-forming counterculture in the twenty-first century is one of the great stories at the intersection of religion and American public life. And grasping the inherently public character of the Catholic proposal on the life issues is the first, essential step toward covering that story adequately.



Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Catholicism In America and the Century Ahead (Part I):
(Guest Editorial Series by George Weigel)

No, George Weigel has no idea he is doing an editorial series here. But as I am in a good mood after the elections, I want to post something which is positive as we hear so little of it - about the Catholic Church in America. So I will run a series on this throughout the week.

The following is the first part of a speech from George Weigel given in 1999. I hope you find it interesting especially the part about over 150,000 new Catholics in 1997 excluding infants baptized. (And the excellent criticisms of the stupid "liberal/conservative" categories whereby faith issues are framed in inadequate political terms.) But without further ado, Mr. Weigel has the floor:


The Roman Catholic Church in the United States is the nation's largest and most complex religious organization. Its 61.5 million members live in nearly 20,000 parishes, served by more than 400 bishops and 47,000 priests. “Religious professionals” also include some 85,000 sisters, 6,000 brothers, and 4,500 seminarians; among the “para-professionals” are some 12,000 permanent deacons, usually married laymen, who are reviving a ministry that had lain fallow in the Church for many centuries. In 1997, more than a million infants and some 73,000 adults were baptized into the Catholic Church, while another 88,000 men and women already baptized in other Christian communities were received into full communion. The Catholic Church in the United States maintains an extensive health-care system (some 600 hospitals), a large network of social-service agencies, and the world's largest independent educational system (with roughly 240 colleges and universities, 1,300 high schools, and 7,000 elementary schools). These 61 million Catholics speak dozens of languages and espouse the full range of political views on offer in the American republic. They are probably the most varied, multi-hued religious community in the nation. Yet for almost forty years, the Catholic story has been reported in starkly black-and-white terms.

The story-line was set in the fall of 1962, when The New Yorker published a series of “Letters from Vatican City” written by the pseudonymous “Xavier Rynne.” “Rynne” described his New Yorker reports on the Second Vatican Council (later expanded into a series of books) as “essays in theological journalism.” Their urbanity, wit, and literary elegance, combined with what seemed to be the author's intimate familiarity with the mysterious Vatican, made Rynne a literary phenomenon during the Council years (1962–65).

On Rynne's reading, the Council was the Gettysburg of a civil war between “liberals” and “conservatives” that had been under way in Roman Catholicism since the late eighteenth century. For the first 170 years of that conflict, the forces of “reaction” had been largely successful in controlling the Church, which they saw as a fortress protecting the faithful from the onslaught of modernity. Now Vatican II had been summoned by Pope John XXIII to change the terms of the relationship between Catholicism and the modern world. The pope's blunt criticism of those “prophets of gloom” who “in these modern times. . . can see nothing but prevarication and ruin” signified that the forces of progress had been given a new chance.

Rynne (who turned out to be an American Redemptorist priest, Francis X. Murphy) clearly favored the “liberal” forces of light over the “conservative” princes of darkness. He provided a framework in which otherwise arcane issues—for example, whether divine revelation proceeded from Scripture alone or from Scripture and tradition—could be grasped by reporters and made intelligible, even fun, to a mass audience. This was like politics. There were good guys and bad guys, and the division ran along familiar liberal/conservative political lines.

Triumph of the Conventional Story-Line

By 1965, the “liberal/conservative” framework had become the matrix for reporting and analyzing virtually everything Catholic. There were “liberal” and “conservative” positions on worship, doctrine, church management, philosophy, spirituality, and theology. There were liberal and conservative theories of mission, ecumenism, preaching, religious education, inter-religious dialogue, priestly formation, vowed religious life, marriage, sexual morality, and social ethics. Popes, bishops, priests, dioceses, theologians, lay organizations, seminaries, newspapers, magazines, and parishes were categorized as either liberal or conservative. When someone didn't quite fit the categories—for example, when political radical Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement, attended Mass wearing a black mantilla and praying from a Latin missal—this was chalked up to personal eccentricity rather than to a possible flaw in the taxonomy.

Now there was something to all of this. Vatican II—the Council itself, and the processes of debate it set loose in the Church—was in fact the moment when the long-delayed encounter between the Roman Catholic Church and modern intellectual, cultural, and political life took place. Those who had urged the Church to leave the fortress and sally forth to confront modernity did gain control of the Council's machinery and agenda, and were largely vindicated by the Council's formal product, its sixteen documents. And there were in fact forces of reaction at Vatican II that fiercely resisted the Catholic encounter with modernity, deeming it lethal to the maintenance of orthodoxy and institutional vitality. The problem was that the liberal/conservative framework was thought capable of explaining everything, and it could not do so.

Reporting within the standard account focused excessively on the Church as institution. But the Church is, more importantly, a mystical communion of believers, a “sacrament” of God's presence to the world, a herald making a proposal about the truth of the human condition, a servant of suffering humanity, and a community of disciples. The institution exists only to facilitate these other aspects of the Church's life. Thus “the Church” cannot be identified exclusively or even primarily with the ordained hierarchy; to do so is, in a word, clericalism. And although it is usually thought a particular sin of Catholic conservatives, an intensified clericalism in coverage of the Catholic Church has resulted from the dominance of the standard account. The standard account also led to distorted analysis in other ways:

1. Once the liberal consensus in favor of incremental social change shattered (in 1968 or thereabouts) and political liberalism was radicalized, the liberal/conservative taxonomy proved even more incapable of accurately describing new ideas and movements in the Church. A prime example was the world media's coverage of liberation theology. This complex intellectual and pastoral phenomenon was reduced to a view of liberation theologians as the Latin American version of the “good” forces of Catholic progress, doing battle for the future against the reactionary conservatives who controlled the Latin American hierarchy in cahoots with repressive Latin American regimes. There were, again, elements of truth in this analysis. For far too long the Church in Latin America had been allied with local oligarchies and had not been effective in empowering the poor, socially or politically. Vatican II had rejected classic Iberian Catholic altar-and-throne (or, in the Latin American variant, altar-and-junta) arrangements. This conciliar teaching did presage profound changes, religious and political, throughout Latin America, and those changes were indeed being resisted by the usual suspects.

But the standard account was hopelessly inadequate for grasping the more complex truths of the situation. Among the distortions it induced were: (a) Liberation theology was seen as an indigenous phenomenon, an authentic Latin American “inculturation” of Vatican II. But in reality liberation theology was invented in Louvain, Münster, and other Catholic intellectual centers where the European fascination with Marxism and neo-Marxism was at its height, and then carried to Latin America by Latin American theologians trained in those European centers. (b) Liberation theology was seen as the Latin American expression of the liberal reformism implied in the Vatican II Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. But in fact by 1969 virtually all liberation theologians had flatly rejected liberal incrementalism and were openly committed to various radical reconstructions of social, political, and economic life, usually Marxist in inspiration. (c) Liberation theology was seen as the intellectual expression of a popular, grass-roots movement throughout Latin America. But in fact liberation theology was an elite movement that eventually had an impact on both popular and institutional thinking in Latin American Catholicism.

2. A similar deficiency could be observed in coverage of the emergence of feminism in the Church. Here, of course, the most visible issue was that of women and the priesthood. As usually reported, this reduced quickly to another struggle between the forces of progress and the forces of reaction. The real question, which was not whether the Church would ordain women to the priesthood but whether it could do so, was rarely considered. That there were profound issues about the Church, the ordained ministry, and indeed the nature of created reality itself engaged in this debate was almost never acknowledged. Further, the growth among Catholic feminist theologians of a far more radical critique that opposed the very notion of a “hierarchy” was not well understood; it didn't fit the conventional framework, any more than unabashedly Marxist liberation theologians did.

3. The standard account has also proven seriously deficient for understanding the pontificate of Pope John Paul II. For nearly two decades, reporters and analysts have struggled to portray a pope who seems to occupy several positions along the conventional spectrum. Much has been written about John Paul the “doctrinal conservative,” who relentlessly underscores the most challenging aspects of the Church's sexual ethic and refuses to ordain women to the priesthood; yet little has been reported about the pope who describes marital intimacy as an icon of the interior life of God, who teaches that the Church symbolized by the Virgin Mary is more fundamental to the Christian reality than the Church symbolized by the Apostle Peter, and who insists that, in making its case to the world, “the Church proposes; she imposes nothing.” Then there is John Paul the “social progressive,” extolled as the great defender of human rights, the reconciler of the Church with democracy, the social democrat greatly concerned about the impact of a triumphant capitalism on the post–Cold War world. But little has been reported about his empirically sensitive approach to economics, his celebration of entrepreneurship, his affirmation of the “business economy,” and his sharp critique of the welfare state. The attempt to confine John Paul II within the conventional categories really short-circuits when the great papal defender of democracy blasts the functioning of contemporary democracies and warn gainst a “thinly disguised totalitarianism” (Centesimus Annus, 46).

In an attempt to resolve these seeming contradictions, analysts have portrayed the Pope as an angry old man incapable of understanding a world he helped create, or as a kind of uniquely Polish schizophrenic, doctrinally “rigid” but socially “progressive” on at least some issues. In both cases, the tendency has been to set this pontificate against Vatican II. But in fact the Pope, who played a significant role at the Council and as archbishop of Kraków conducted one of the world's most extensive implementations of Vatican II, sees himself as the particular heir of the Council.

4. According to the standard account, churches and movements that have identified with the inevitable triumph of the “liberal” side should be prospering. But that is not what has happened. In a striking parallel to the experience of world Protestantism, liberal local Catholic churches are dying or struggling in prosperous, free lands (such as Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand), while self-consciously orthodox Catholic communities are flourishing in Africa, usually under conditions of poverty and sometimes under serious persecution. In the United States, Catholic practice tends to be lower (and in some cases dramatically lower) in self-consciously “progressive” dioceses than in “conservative” ones.

A similar pattern prevails among religious professionals. The only communities of nuns that are growing in the United States are communities that have broken ranks with the liberal consensus among religious women, as embodied by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. The seminaries that are growing are replete with candidates for the priesthood who identify with John Paul II. Dioceses that are self-consciously “liberal” have a difficult time attracting candidates for the priesthood.

Since Vatican II, world Catholicism has seen a historically unprecedented explosion of lay renewal movements. Although considerable ink has been spilled on reporting such activist organizations as “Call to Action,” “We Are Church,” and the fraudulent “Catholics for a Free Choice,” the numbers involved in these “liberal” enterprises are simply dwarfed by the numbers involved in renewal movements that identify with the Church's center of unity, the Bishop of Rome.

Rerum Novarum, So to Speak

A good “model” suggests how to organize our understanding of a complex reality and what to expect from that reality in the future. When a model cannot account for large portions of the relevant data and cannot trace a plausible outline for the evolution of what it attempts to describe, the time has come to discard it.

I have no substitute model to propose. Rather, what I would like to suggest is something both old-fashioned and quite compelling: real reporting on the lived experience of American Catholics, concentrating on those aspects that have been under-reported or ignored and that bid fair to be major factors shaping the Church's life and impact in the next several decades. Ten such “new things” suggest themselves...

1. The New Catechism and its impact. Published in English in 1994, the new Catechism of the Catholic Church is far more than a compendium of doctrine. It is a bold, coherent, and compelling account of the hope that has sustained the Church for two millennia. That in itself makes it worthy of serious reporting and analysis. But the Catechism can also be called a major cultural event in the Western world. To those who claim that plurality is an absolute in the modern world, the Catechism affirms the unity of faith over time and the availability of God's word of truth to all. In a culture convinced that there is your truth and my truth, the Catechism affirms that we cannot live without the truth.. At an intellectual/cultural moment in which incoherence is taken to be the bottom line of reality, the Catechism proposes Christian faith as a coherent framework for understanding what is, how it came to be, and what its future holds.

Although the Catechism was an international best-seller in the mid-1990s, only in the future will its real impact become apparent. For the Catechism was a challenge to the process-oriented approaches to religious education that had dominated Catholic catechetics in the United States since the late 1960s, approaches that had produced two sadly illiterate generations of Catholics. Tracking the influence of the Catechism on the reform of Catholic religious education is one way to look into the possible future of Catholicism in the United States.

The Catechism is also a powerful populist tool by which parishioners facing dubious preaching and teaching can challenge claims that strike them as questionable. It is thus a further antidote to the perennial problem of clericalism, and an instrument of intellectual accountability of a sort not seen in Roman Catholic circles since the Counter-Reformation.

2. A “Catholic Moment” in the New South? The rapidly changing demographics of the Old Confederacy suggest that Catholicism might be on the verge of great advances in an area where it has long been virtually invisible. While Roman Catholics make up only 3-5 per cent of the population of the Carolinas, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Virginia south of the Rappahannock, prosperous urban areas of the “New South” are 15-20 per cent Catholic, and the percentage is growing, mainly through immigration. Moreover, the Catholic population at the region's major state and private universities is 20-25 per cent and increasing. At Duke, nominally Methodist, Catholics are the largest religious group on campus, followed by Jews; Methodists are third. Similar situations obtain at the University of North Carolina, Wake Forest, The Citadel, and the University of Georgia. If a sizable portion of these southern-educated Catholics remain to work in the South, the future upper-middle-class and upper-class elites of the New South are likely to be significantly, even heavily, Roman Catholic.

The booming economy of the New South and the region's increasing influence in national politics also afford opportunities for the Catholic Church. Given the decline of mainline-oldline Protestantism in the region (as elsewhere), the major Christian options are Roman Catholicism and evangelical Protestantism of various forms. And in the future life of the New South, Catholicism has a certain comparative advantage. Catholic social doctrine is a well-developed approach to the tangled moral questions involved in creating the free, virtuous, and prosperous society. Moreover, its natural-law “grammar” gives it more public traction than evangelical Protestantism has in an increasingly pluralistic (and secular) society, given the tendency of some evangelicals to make public moral arguments in ways that seem to preclude the participation of non-evangelicals in the debate. Catholic social doctrine can be engaged by everyone. While evangelical political mobilization in the Old Confederacy during the last two decades has been impressive, the kind of appeals typically mounted by evangelicals may not remain politically viable in the New South.

3. Converts and the high culture. Gary Anderson of Harvard Divinity School, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese of Emory University, Paul Griffiths of the University of Chicago, Robert Louis Wilken of the University of Virginia, Dr. Bernard Nathanson (one of the founders of the National Abortion Rights Action League), theologian and editor Richard John Neuhaus, columnist Robert Novak, historian Thomas Reeves, New York philanthropist Lewis Lehrman, Florida governor Jeb Bush—these are among some of the more prominent men and women who have, in the past decade, been baptized or received into full communion with the Catholic Church. Perhaps the most prominent “revert” is Justice Clarence Thomas of the U.S. Supreme Court, who has returned to active practice of the faith in which he was raised. It is surely significant for the Catholic future in the United States that many prominent intellectuals and public figures have in recent years joined themselves to a religious community that the modern secular intelligentsia has often regarded as the great enemy of free inquiry. It is also of interest that the ecumenical journal First Things, founded in 1989 by Neuhaus (then a Lutheran pastor), has within a decade become the most widely read journal of religion and public life in the country, with a paid circulation of over 30,000 and a core readership of perhaps 125,000. Many prominent converts and “reverts” are linked to First Things as authors, editors, or board members.


To be continued...

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Analysis of the Overall Election Trends:
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

My ultra-brief take on it is this:

The election was in a sense the culmination of thirty years of the Democratic party running without any new ideas of their own but only against the ideas of others. This policy - though it failed in 1972, 1980, 1984, 1988, and 1994 - actually worked for the most part in 1974, 1982, 1986, 1992, and 1996. (The Dems got lucky in 1976.)

But when have I ever settled for the "ultra brief" my friends??? ;-) I give you now a more extended economical take on the matter.

For the genesis of the modern campaign smearing you have to go back to 1964 when the scoundrel Lyndon Johnson started the "vote for me or my opponent will drop the bomb" style of campaigning.{1} Even the "Great Society" was basically a sequel to the "New Deal" so the repetition of these ideas from year after year started then - along with the same crap being recycled. (We Democrats are for "the little guy", etc.)

Hubert Humphrey was one of the last of the "old guard" Democrats if you will - among the last of the really moral leaders of that party. And as in the Church the year of the "paradigm shift" of sorts was 1968.

Prior to that time in the Church the authority of the pope was accepted; since then it has been marginalized to attempt to legitimize dissent. Prior to that time the Democratic party was a viable option - even if barely - and could claim to have some degree of congruity with the morals of average American society. But after that time the Democratic party started running on borrowed capital from the past or simply in opposition to the Republicans or other groups which had an actual agenda of sorts.{2}

Electorially it is not an exaggeration to say that from as early as 1970 unto the present day, the ultra liberal fringe has controlled the machinery of the Democratic party.{3} And other than Jimmy Carter in 1976 - who won on a fluke - that has been the way they have operated ever since: campaigning on fear and uncertainty while promoting policies of the Great Society and New deal that only reinforce the fountains from which institutional dependance on government flow. So institutionalizing a dependence on government was one way to "home-grow" your votes. Another was the appeal to "nostalgia".

How else do you explain that for many years a lot of people like my father identified themselves as Democrats and did so on the basis of a misconception of what the Democratic party stood for??? My father called himself a Democrat but voted Republican in practically every presidential election he was eligible for starting with Goldwater in 1964.{4}

The reason is complex here as he was a big fan of Kennedy who was economically more conservative than is generally admitted.

Nonetheless, this pattern of voting oftentimes for Republican legislative candidates - and virtually always for the executive candidates - while claiming to be a Democrat continued until I was able to impress upon him the fact that he was a conservative Goldwater type and there was no room amongst the Democrats for such a person anymore. (And had not been for a long time.)

After that he was solidly identified as a conservative though not a Republican - perhaps because of the thought that his father was right on the issue but either way I never pushed it.{5} My mother was a Democrat in name and fact for a long time and only the abortion issue perhaps drove her to disassociate herself from the Democratic party into a kind of quasi independent status along with my father and I.

How do you explain someone like my maternal grandmother who voted Democratic her entire life - starting with FDR in 1936 all the way to Clinton in 1996.{6} The only exception was a vote for Goldwater in 1964 which is rather odd but I digress.

Her comments on the political issues were practically boilerplate in she would say "I was there Shawn" ("there" referring to the Depression) "I know what it was like" and no amount of explaining the facade that she bought into would change her mind one iota. She honestly believed that Gingrich and the Republicans wanted to throw her out on the street and take away her Social Security. No matter how often my father and I told her it was a charade and scare tactic it was to no avail.{7}

But how many people like my late father were union men almost their entire working lives and (unlike him) could not disassociate themselves from the so-called "party of the people" mantra??? And how many people like my late grandmother were depression era strugglers who thought that FDR and the Devilcrats Democrats were their economic saviours??? More than we will know but people of those generations are passing away or some of them are wising up to it now. That is part of what explains what happened here in the 2002 elections which one has to go back to the Civil War to find a similar phenomenon.

Usually a poor economy means the party in power suffers and by this standard Gore should have won in 2000 by a reasonable margin and the Democrats should have retained the Senate and possibly regained the House in this off year cycle as that is traditional for off-year elections. But what happened this year is historic and one has to go back to the days of Lincoln to find a similar phenomenon as what happened in this election.

Is it possible that as the Republican party was born a few years before that time that this election may be the start of the death rattle for the Democrats??? Might we get a schism here where the more conservative "Reagan Democrats" finally bolt the party for a third party as the current Democrats go even further to the extremes???{8}

The generation that lived through the Depression and were fed the lies about Roosevelt saving the economy are now an insubstantial block of the voters. Labour unions also have dwindled to less than 15% of workers and practically half of the union rank and file are conservatives now in the sense that they identify with Republicans or are independent voters.

Another stronghold of the Democratic party since 1932 (previously they voted almost all Republican) are black Americans who have as a group become much more prosperous in the past twenty years. And as they become more prosperous they realize just how much of a robber baron Uncle Sam really is. Also, the Green Party is siphoning off the environmentalist lobby which was among the most vocal of the Democratic supporters previously.

It may also help that more than half of registered voters are also investors in stocks, bonds, real estate, and the like. Prior to 1990 it was around 40%. (And prior to 1980 it was probably less than 15%.) In short, the Democratic Party was aimed at certain demographics that have changed over the years gradually. They held this together with LBJ style lying scare tactics which to those who went through the Depression could be powerful psychological triggers.{9}

The Democratic party is and always will be the party of slavery. The difference is that they have moved from physical slavery to economic and psychological slavery. And the Republican party for a long time did not know how to capitalize on this in a way that would tap into the Democratic party base. But the seeds planted by the economic policies of Ronald Reagan bore fruit in the 1980's and into the 1990's - only briefly halted by a recession brought on arguably by Bush's raising of taxes.

Clinton got by on this same capital for many years and the economy grew *in spite* of his boneheaded policies. It helped however to have Republican congressional majorities in the last six years of Clinton's term to mitigate the damage he would have otherwise wrought on the economy.

In short there are a lot of factors that went into this election going as it did. We got a foretaste of this in 1994 that things were starting to shift paradigmatically.{10} But lest all of this sound as if I am a party loyalist I reiterate: I identified myself as a Republican in the mid/late 1980's and the early 1990's. Since the 1996 elections, my eyes were opened and I stopped affiliating with the Republicans seeing in far too many of them a profound betrayal of classical conservative principles.

I vote for a lot of Republican candidates but at times it is akin to following the "half a loaf" strategy if you will: better to have half a conservative than none at all. (And I do vote for Independants and Libertarian candidates at times too.) The next two years are going to be crucial because the Republicans finally have full control for the first time since the first two years of the Eisenhower Administration. (Prior to that they had a two year stint in '47-'49 and before that you need to go back to the Hoover Administration.)

Even Reagan only had the Senate on his side for the first six years of his presidency. (He never had the House on his side.) So W has the opportunity to really make a statement for 2004. Let us hope he does not blow it or it may be another long time before the Republicans are given full and complete control over both houses of Congress and the Presidency again.


{1} Not to mention Johnson being very Mafioso in his handling of political enemies: something that my father heard first hand from Texans when he was involved in long-haul trucking through the Lonestar State in the early 1960's.

{2} The fact that they were the party of slavery even then proves itself in that it was the Republicans in Congress - who were the minority at the time - that gave the Voters Rights Act the votes it needed to pass in 1965. Most Democrats voted against it including Albert Gore Sr. But I digress.

{3} The first explicit manifestation of this was in 1972.

{4} Except for 1968 and 1972 out of a dislike for Nixon and in 1992 where he voted for Perot. Not only that but he generally voted for Republicans for governor of the state and other offices as well. (And as we lived in the Pacific Northwest and not the South, the "Blue Dog Democrat" theory will not fly here so do not bother trying to apply it.)

{5} For I came to realize that his decision to not affiliate with either party was correct and I did likewise some time ago.

{6} And possibly Gore in 2000: I cannot recall if we were able to get her to the polls that year as her car was taken away earlier that year.

{7} Hence the political parody "Werewolves in Congress" by Paul Shanklin in the mid 1990's was applicable in spades here.

{8} Witness the new House minority leader Nancy Pelosi as proof positive of what I am saying: if she is part of Democratic leadership it will set them back at least two decades if not kill their party completely.

{9} Not to mention labourers and blacks believing that the Democratic party was the party of civil rights and labourers: both of which were never true.

{10} For if Clinton's election was a mandate then 1994 would not have gone as it did for him.

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Tuesday, November 05, 2002

The latest quiz making the rounds is "Which Founding Father Are You?" Here is my test result:

The really spooky thing is, this analysis is darn close I must admit. Those who want me to have more faith in humanity can start by voting correctly in this election and not like a bunch of stupid little okay I said it. Happy??? ;-)

[Update: The picture and caption for that quiz can be viewed HERE. -ISM 8/03/05]


"Election Aids For Proper Voting" Dept

A Theory of Vital Importance to the Health and Well Being of Human Freedom

Walt Williams on Several Key Issues Pertaining to the Above Theory

And while a 100% prolife vote is not necessarily congruent with voting for the candidate who either disallows or will legally plunder you less, if in doubt it is an excellent "tie-breaker" issue when it otherwise appears to be Democans and Republicrats. The following should be of assistance there:

National Right to Life

At the very least the same Constitutional illogic that allows Roe v. Wade to exist is what allows people to think the government has the right to steal from us in ways that the average person could never do without committing a crime. More to think about and I exhort you that the thirty minutes to read the above materials to inform your voting will go a long way towards correcting the problems that are inherent today in several areas.

Remember though, pro lifers have a history politically of shooting their movement in the head. And sometimes you have to take part of a loaf and do this a few times before you can get the entire loaf. Forgetting this principle has resulted in the pro lifers politically shooting themselves in the head in the past. (In brief, that is how they lost the Republican controlled Senate to Democrats in 1986 which meant losing control of the Judiciary which meant defeat for Bork in 1987. And as 1990 proved, Bork's replacement was the swing vote that retained Roe v. Wade.)

I commented on this at Kevin Miller's weblog but could not find the commentary for some reason via a quick check of the weblog. I will try to find it though sometime today or tomorrow as it detailed this monument of short-sighted thinking. But in brief:

If you stick to the principles outlined above the right people will be elected.

And when I say "right" I do not mean that they are right simply because *I* say they are. Instead "right" because they will stick with the Constitution and what it really says. And that is the bottom line really since ignoring that principle is what got us into the messes we are mired in to begin with.

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Monday, November 04, 2002

I have been told I was on the road to hell, but I had no idea it was just a mile down the road with a Dome on it. -- Abraham Lincoln

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Points to Ponder:

There remains one matter which must not be passed over in silence, and that is, to remind the priests of the whole world, as Our most dear sons, how absolutely necessary it is, for their own salvation, and for the fruitfulness of their sacred ministry, that they should be most closely united with their Bishop and most loyal to him. The spirit of insubordination and independence, so characteristic of our times, has, as We deplored above, not entirely spared the ministers of the Sanctuary. It is not rare for pastors of the Church to find sorrow and contradiction where they had a right to look for comfort and help. Let those who have so unfortunately failed in their duty, recall to their minds again and again, that the authority of those whom "the Holy Spirit hath placed as Bishops to rule the Church of God" (Acts 20:28) is a divine authority. Let them remember that if, as we have seen, those who resist any legitimate authority, resist God, much more impiously do they act who refuse to obey the Bishop, whom God has consecrated with a special character by the exercise of His power."Since charity," wrote St. Ignatius Martyr, "doth not suffer me to be silent concerning you, therefore was I forward to exhort you, that you run in harmony with the mind of God: for Jesus Christ also, our inseparable life, is the mind of the Father, even as the bishops that are settled in the farthest parts of the earth are in the mind of Jesus Christ. So then it becometh you to run in harmony with the mind of the bishop" (Ep. ad Ephes. 3.). These words of the illustrious Martyr are re-echoed throughout the ages by the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. [His Holiness Pope Benedict XV: encyclical letter Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum §28 (November 1, 1914)]

I am surprised that in my Open Letter to My Friend Albert that I missed this citation. I include it here as it completes a string of six consecutive pre Vatican II popes (and seven of the previous nine pre Vatican II popes). So to my friend Albert, (and my other readers) I have another Roman pontiff to add to the "obey your bishops as they rule with divine authority" crowd. See the open letter above for similar cites from Pius VI, Pius VII, Pius IX, Leo XIII, Pius X, Pius XI, Pius XII, and John XXIII.

Rome spoke at least nine times between 1775 and 1943 on this very issue. At what point will the rebellious untraditional self-styled "traditionalist" crowd recognize that this issue is closed and submit to their diocesan bishops in true Traditionalist fashion??? Inquiring minds want to know...


Sunday, November 03, 2002

We will have another installment of "Conversations with Culbreath" soon. I just received a response to the entry located HERE and will work out a response over the weekend by mid week hopefully.

Most Catholics who believe in the importance of Tradition as an anchor are reconsidering a lot of what has been passed off as "passe" in recent decades. The presence on the Internet of the Document of the Second Vatican Council have opened many peoples eyes to what the Council actually said versus what so-called "experts" for years told us they said. I have to believe that those who have recourse to the Council's so-called "spirit" either have not read the documents at all or (if they have) they have done so to prooftext them to suit their own agenda. (And I will not go into what self-styled "traditionalists" have done to them.)

In this situation often those labeled as "conservatives" (a term I personally find rather revolting because of how this term is misconstrued) find themselves fighting a two front war. The first is against those who want to conform the Church to the world in a manner whereby she loses her identity (the so-called "liberals"). The second front is those who want to climb back into a kind of "cultural cloister" and go back to the kind of "ghetto Catholicism" that permeated the Church in the two and a half odd centuries preceding the Second Vatican Council (the self-styled "traditionalists").

But much as your humble blog host would give his Kingdom for a viable third party in politics, the same is the case here as there is an ally in our cause and a valuable one at that: Catholics who like us value the Church's patrimony and who want to see her renewal but through a charism if you will that utilizes many of the older forms of the Latin liturgical tradition. These are our brothers and sisters of Ecclesia Dei. More on them in a moment.

For those tuning in for the first time, Jeff is one who is both Traditionally minded but also possessing of those virtues that many who call themselves "traditionalists" are lacking. And in light of how the squeaky "trad" wheels are the ones that get the bulk of the attention, people like Jeff are like conservative pro lifers in the Democratic party: they generally are not heard above the racket. And yet they are the very people who SHOULD be given a forum because they represent a solid contribution to the arena of ideas.

An example of the kind of contribution I am referring to can be seen HERE in an essay written by a member of the Society of St. John. Whether you agree with them or not (in whole or in part) there is still a viable alternative being offered here that by far transcends the screeds of those who create the stereotype of the "traditionalist". And we intend to give that reasoned and faithful side a voice in interactive dialogue here on occasion. (All part of trying to maintain balance here at Rerum Novarum.) Stay tuned for more details in the days and weeks and months ahead...

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More from Catholic Light:

But this time not from His Supreme Canonmeister ;-) No this one is from an "Alexandra Baldwin". As the linking at Catholic Light was not working for her post, I reproduce it here in its entirety.

Sister Nouveau Mary Rides Again!

("But does she ride on an earth-friendly bicycle? anything-but-U.S.-made compact car? or perhaps a broom?" ~Sandra Molnar, author)


Why, it's Sister Nouveau Mary, and she's charging down the street,
Nose a-twitch at scents of heresy and rumors far from sweet
That her very own disciples ("Future Leaders of the Church")
Are fomenting revolution and have left her in the lurch.
Now here it is First Saturday, and every girl in class
Has bugged out of enneagrams and gone to morning Mass.
It was Sister Athanasius (of all people!) with a grin
Who had told her of the dire straits her protegees were in.
For all the girls were making a novena! To Saint Ann!
"And we all know, Sister Mary, that's the way to catch a man!"
To catch a WHAT? The little brats! And here she'd spent her life
In saving her young charges from becoming justawife!
Not stifled slaves to One of Them, tied down to babes and home,
But her elite, her avant garde, crack troops for the Sack of Rome!
Now she puffs and trots the faster, lest that saint unreconstructed
Should smile on those petitioners ere their prayers could be destructed.
And she contemplates with horror (lo, her knees have turned to water)
Just how badly that same saint had failed in raising her own daughter.
And she seeks in vain for comfort: "It could be worse, after all--
The whole bunch could have gone to join the Daughters of Saint Paul."
Then her high heels click the faster, but no comfort can she find
For the worm of doubt is burrowing and whispering in her mind:
"Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, say, how does your garden grow?
With poppet pope-ettes, rootless plants not meant to bud or blow
And given not the Living Water and the Light they need,
But sterile potions you distill from silly books you read?
Or have they fled your circled chairs, your paper-bannered room,
Transplanting out in God's green world, where they'll be free to bloom?
And if you could form yourself anew, to which would you incline:
To be a dry stalk in the sand or a branch of the Living Vine


"This is Your Brain on Bastiat...Any Questions?" Dept.

It is nice to read the writings of a man so schooled in the philosophy of Frederic Bastiat. I refer here to Walt Williams who discusses the fallacy of the president "creating jobs" HERE. In the election mindset of the above article I suggest these Williams gems also:

Rights versus wishes

[This one outlines the fallacy many people have over what constitutes a "right": Bastiat covered this earlier in the series above]

Freedom of Association

[Note: This ties in with Bastiat's assertion that liberty and fraternity cannot coexist]

Threats to rule of law in America

[Note: This deals with one of the three fundamental rights that Bastiat noted precedes all legislation]

America: a sissified nation?

[Note: this deals with the lure of socialism covered in earlier installments of Bastiat at the link above]

Why America's become sissified

[Note: I see a lot of my father's outlook in this post in retrospect]

Phony diversity

[Just a reminder of the status of our "institutes of higher learning"]

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And to continue with Pete for a moment, he apparently will be involved with Envoy's new weblog also. Hence I may end up linking to that log at this one too. I like many of the people at Envoy but at the same time I worry that the kind of problematical evangelical approaches I discussed earlier originate from such sources which promulgate "boilerplate" argumentation stylings. For that reason I am hesitant to add that link at this time but will wait to see how it develops over there.

But as for Canon Vere, I find it interesting that Pete jumps ship to Catholic Light *and* Envoy at around the same time a Bull of Excommunication was going to be issued to CLOG from the Sequestered Inquisition Tribunal. I am wondering if this is merely a coincidence or if there is not something here much deeper then that {insert ominous music, slowly retract camera from close-up angle, and fade to black...}


You know, I may have to inaugurate a special department for the discussion of spirits with these kinds of weblog entries popping up throughout the Catholic blogosphere of St. Blog's...


Holy Souls Masses Registration:

I found a really cool link at Lisa Graas' "Sacramental" BLOG (see margin for the link) on the Holy Souls. What it is in essence is a registry of souls which are remembered at various masses throughout the year. Here is what the site says about itself:

All registered souls will receive an extra 500 Masses starting on All Souls Day, Saturday Nov 2nd, 2002 !! Click to read the letter. The souls are remembered in a group at the altar as "all souls registered in the Purgatory Project". There are too many names for the priest to say each name at each Mass.

God knows exactly who they are.

Indeed He does. Registration is free and the Capuchian brothers will be offering 500 masses during the month of November for the suffering souls.

Here is information on the project:

The Purgatory Project

As of ten minutes ago, I made the following submission to the list. (The ones with an astrisk passed away between March 17, 2000 and May 19, 2002.)

*Richard Dunn McElhinney f
*James Dunn McElhinney u
T. Mildred McElhinney gm
Paul Dowd McElhinney gf
McElhinney fam
Dunn fam
Flynn fam
McCann fam
*David Kanski u
*Mary H. Kanski gm
Harry Kanski gf
Harold Kanski u
Kanski fam
Duma fam
Rogowski fam
Denny fam
Haluk fam
Omafrey fam
*Mark Usher sgf
*Virginia Usher sgm
Usher sfam
Hellstrom sfam
*Mel Clark sgf
*Jane Clark sgm
Clark fam

Eternal rest grant unto their souls o Lord and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and all the souls of the faithfully departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen

Remember: the sooner you register, the better.


Pete Vere and Beer:

Two subjects that it is nice to discuss as a package deal if you will :)

I still remember when Kevin tossed out the idea to Shawn Tribe, John Lacroix and me about organizing a Traditional Monastic Beer pilgimige through Europe. He proposed that we divide out time between the Ecclesia Dei monasteries and the brewing monasteries, and enjoy the time of prayer, beer and fellowship.

So says The Canonical Chancellor of Catholic Light Weblog before mentioning my addition of Michael Jackson's Beer Hunter review site to this weblog. I assure you Pete, my knowledge of Michael Jackson goes back many years - back to the days when I had a pair of parachute pants. (Okay, not *that* far back but at least a good ten years.) Back when I started formulating my hard and fast rule that no beer made in America or Japan was worth drinking{1} I became familiar with the man whose job I am not the only one to wish I had. Who would not want to travel the world, sample beers, write reviews of them, and get paid all at once??? But I digress...

I remember years ago buying various beers from one of his books and sampling them to compare to his reviews. Michael Jackson (note: this is *not* the "unaglove" fella) tends to give higher ratings to a beer the stouter it is. That is his general protocol as far as I can tell and while I do not agree with some of his ratings for this reason, I still link to his reviews because if nothing else he promotes one of those pleasures in life that does not often get talked about on Catholic weblogs or websites. (I am not "pro-stout" or "anti-stout" and my preference for a beer does not depend on that criteria.)

I mean, is there a theological argument for beer??? There is for wine of course (see the Lord's use of wine throughout the Gospels and Paul's exhortation in i Tim v,23-25). Wine has the support of Holy Writ whereas beer applies as a logical extension if you will. As for cigars well I have thought for a long time about writing a piece on cigars and the rosary and how they go together very well. But that is a subject for another time.


{1} I have since modified my stance and some American microbrew beers make it into my "domestic exemptions" list. (Including some friends who are SSPXers who brew their own beer and make a very tasty Guinness Stout wannabee.)

My preferences are still overwhelmingly for imports though. Another good standard is the bad water standard which simply states that "the worse the water the better the beer" (translation: "if the country has awful water then they are virtually certain to have excellent beer"). And this principle applies to Mexico and India among every dirt poor nation on earth who has beer I have sampled. But of course that rule is not as rigid as the "no beer from America" rule which - like all hard and fast rules - has its exceptions. (Beer brewing is one area that America could learn from Canada on IMHO.)

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The Faith Legion Has a New Member!!!

As making the profession of faith as prescribed by the Apostolic see is a requirement for admission and as Jeff Miller hath made said professio according to the prescribed form, Jeff's Atheist to a Theist weblog demonstrates its worthiness to be officially enrolled in The Faith Legion. Hence his fealty made manifest by public blog profession to the Chancellor of the Legion List by the power vested in the selfsame Chancellor in his primatial position as Sovereign Thane and Lord High Executioner of Rerum Novarum, I declare that such enrollment is to take place immediately with all rights and privileges of said enrollment remaining intact, stable, and valid all things to the contrary notwithstanding.