Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Christians Waking Up To The Arab Spring

This is from an article by a guy named Salim Mansur in the Toronto Sun. Recall that these are just the things that we know about.

William Dalrymple, the well-respected historian and author of From the Holy Mountain: A Journey in the Shadow of Byzantium (1998), recently wrote, “Wherever you go in the Middle East today, you see the Arab Spring rapidly turning into the Christian winter … The past few years have been catastrophic for the region’s beleaguered 14 million strong Christian minority.” 

The decline, probably disappearance, of Christians from the Middle East is an ominous sign of a tragic future for the region. And such an eventuality has precedence. 

Jews of the Arab-Muslim world from the pre-Christian era, with their rich heritage and long historical presence in ancient cities across the region — Alexandria, Algiers, Baghdad, Beirut, Cairo, Constantine, Damascus, Fez, Oran, Sana’a, Tripoli, Tunis and more — were compelled to leave lands conquered by Arabs in the name of Islam following the establishment of Israel in 1948. 

There have been numerous anti-Coptic riots with attacks on Christian churches in Egypt. 

From Gaza reports have come of forced conversions among Christians reduced to a miniscule presence.

Iraqi Christians fled in large numbers following post-Saddam sectarian strife, and they found refuge in Syria. This safe-haven for Iraqi Christians is in jeopardy as the sectarian conflict in Syria has intensified, and Syrian Christians are endangered.

It's natural for all of us to be outraged over this. However, we heard nothing but supportive statements about the revolution in Egypt and the ousting of Assad in Syria. Even with an American presence in Iraq, we are being exterminated there.

It's pretty clear that the governments of the West are anxious for all the Christians in the Middle East to hurry up and die or at least flee so that this pesky moral dilemma can be solved. I can't say I've heard any kind of denunciation of these crimes against Christians. If there was one, it was awful quiet. That seems to be how genocides go. Maybe in a couple of decades, someone will throw us the sop of regret. We'll hear about how "the nations of the world stood silently by" and how horrible it was and how it will never be allowed to happen again.

And somehow we'll all supposed to feel better about ourselves while we trod over the graves of our martyred brethren on our way to the next "Inter-Faith Ecumenical Dialogue For Co-Existence and Tolerance" seminar.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What's Worse Than A Water Park Mass?

I had expressed some reservations about the recently announced water park Mass by the bishop of Honolulu. Boniface and Unam Sanctam made a similar posting. Fortunately, the world has a knack of bringing things into perspective so that you don't lose sight of what's important. In this case, we're reminded of where our real enemies are.

What's worse than a water park Mass?

A Masonic Mass.

Rorate had this story first, and Fr. Zuhlsdorf has picked it up from there.

Really, I mean, what the hell?

Monday, August 27, 2012

"For I Was Hungry, And You Gave Me To Eat"

"...For they will deliver you up in councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues. And you shall be brought before governors, and before kings for my sake, for a testimony to them and to the Gentiles..."

Matthew 25 and Matthew 10

These snippets of Scripture came to mind when I heard the story of Angela Prattis. Ms. Prattis has been found guilty of a zoning violation and is in danger of being fined. Her crime is that she has been feeding hungry children on behalf of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

The horror...The horror

Not even Col. Kurtz could have imagined such depravity. The punishment for her repulsive behavior is to be fined $600 FOR EVERY DAY that she gives out food.

The township intitally threatened Prattis with fines for this summer’s food distribution, but withdrew them after news organizations began asking questions. Now, the township is allowing the woman to keep distributing food cost-free until August 24 – but next summer will be a lot more costly. Prattis told local news crews that she will continue helping her community.

Yeah, don't do us any freaking favors. One must wonder if any of these folks with the township are aware of the whole Great White Throne Judgment. Even if I was an atheist, I think I might hedge my bets a little on this one before I start persecuting a lady feeding hungry kids.

This is where we are as a society, though. Murdering kids by the millions is not only ok, but people can claim a right to do it. Feeding kids who are hungry will make you the target of government extortion.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mass At A Water Park?

Bishop Silva in Honolulu is apparently going to have their diocesan Youth Day at Wet N Wild Hawaii in Kapolei, complete with Mass at 9:45 that Saturday morning. As the father of three boys, this raises some red flags for me. Modesty is a big enough problem at Mass now anyway. What will this be like at a water park? Are they going to make people change before and after?

It just strikes me as something that hasn't really been considered.

Here's the commercial for the event.

Diocesan Youth Day 2012 from HawaiiCathYYAM on Vimeo.

I actually don't have an issue with the more "cinematic" elements of this ad. However, it does seem weird that there really isn't a whole lot of talk about God, though. Consider this statement of the event's purpose:

This year’s theme is ‘Rejoice in the Lord always’ (Phil 4:4). It invites our young people to reflect on the presence of God in their daily lives and renew their faith so that they can share it with others. Even when we are not aware of it, God is present, embracing us with His love, filling us with joy; giving us reason to REJOICE. The theme is fitting as we are preparing to celebrate the Year of Faith.

I'm not sure I've ever noticed people doing much reflection at a water park. I have no idea how wading pools, slides, etc. contribute to a renewal of faith. This is supposed to be preparation for celebrating the Year of Faith. What is planned for when the Year of Faith actually gets here? DisneyWorld?

This serves as another reminder that I have no comprehension of "youth ministry." Are the hip elements working? Or is this just me trying to keep those young whipper-snappers off my lawn?

A St. Augustine Movie?


And it looks not so bad. I'm officially intrigued.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

It's Not Just The HHS Mandate

Pretend for a moment that the HHS mandate issue doesn't exist. Zenit has a good synopsis of the recent report from the Liberty Institute and the Family Research Council.

+ A federal judge threatened “incarceration” to a high school valedictorian unless she removed references to Jesus from her graduation speech.

+ City officials prohibited senior citizens from praying over their meals, listening to religious messages or singing gospel songs at a senior activities center.

+ A public school official physically lifted an elementary school student from his seat and reprimanded him in front of his classmates for praying over his lunch.

+ Following U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ policies, a federal government official sought to censor a pastor’s prayer, eliminating references to Jesus, during a Memorial Day ceremony honoring veterans at a national cemetery.

+ Public school officials prohibited students from handing out gifts because they contained religious messages.

+ A public school official prevented a student from handing out flyers inviting her classmates to an event at her church.

+ A public university’s law school banned a Christian organization because it required its officers to adhere to a statement of faith that the university disagreed with.

+ The U.S. Department of Justice argued before the Supreme Court that the federal government can tell churches and synagogues which pastors and rabbis it can hire and fire.

+ The State of Texas sought to approve and regulate what religious seminaries can teach.

Now, throw the HHS mandate into the mix. If you aren't worried about the increasing secular hostility towards religion, what are you smoking and why aren't you sharing?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Society Of Leo XIII?

Who the heck are these guys? I never heard of them until Zenit brought them up.

Two days later the Catholic Herald reported that Bishop David Bell, 41, the head of the Society of Pope Leo XIII, which also celebrates Mass according to the pre-Vatican II form, is in talks with Rome about a possible reconciliation.

Check out these numbers.

According to the Catholic Herald the society says it has 73 bishops and 500 priests, with about 8.5 million people in its congregations.

Five hundred priests? That as many as the SSPX. That's a lot. But seventy-three bishops? Holy smokes. What the heck are the parameters for the episcopacy in this group?

They have a web site, but it's kind of a train wreck. If anybody knows anything more, please drop it in the comment box.

Monday, August 20, 2012

"Christianity" As A Meaningless Term

In an earlier post, we talked about Jimmy Akin's concerns over how a Mormon presidency might potentially damage the public notion of what is a Christian. To be brief, our view was that such concerns are largely irrelevant as the term "Christian" was deprived of its meaning (in true Walker Percyan style) decades ago. Even though a couple of examples were provided in the post, let me add one more that I think is even more telling than the others.

I live in the South. Nay, not only the South, but in an area that would be defined as hardcore Bible Belt country. This area was rock solid Baptist for the bulk of my life. In the last decade-plus, it has begun a steady trend toward Pentecostalism and the non-denominational/charismatic movement. For the most part, though, everybody has stayed within the mainstream boundaries of Christian dogma.

Enter Joel Hemphill.

Mr. Hemphill and his wife, LaBreeska, are very popular singers/songwriters in the Southern Gospel scene. We're talking about 8 Dove Awards (the Christian music version of the Grammys) and an induction into the Southern Gospel Hall of Fame. Even if you haven't heard of them, I assure that many others  have and that they are a pretty big deal in a lot of what the media would call "evangelical" circles.

They are also Arians.

If you want to check out the views in Mr. Hemphill's own words, you can see his denial of the Trinity here. Not content with just being Sabellian/Modalist as so many Pentecostals are these days, he then rejects the Incarnation here. This is all disgusting and blasphemous. What's his rationale for all this? It's not in the Bible, of course! Like the Arians of old, Mr. Hemphill has claimed the Scriptures as his own and distorted them to proclaim a lie about God Himself.

However, this doesn't stop The Hemphills from visiting churches all over the South to sing songs and preach their message. You can find it on the web site above, on YouTube, or maybe a community near you. They are clearly making an effort to convert others to this abominable message. There are YouTube clips of sermons preached at "ministers' conferences." There are more than a few people in attendance.

What does this say for Mr. Akin's worries that society might lose its vision of what it means to be Christian? It says that society has already been blinded to the objective definition of Christianity. With The Hemphills even being invited to allegedly Trinitarian churches to perform and speak, I think it's fairly obvious that there is at least a large contingent of folks who, even though they profess belief in the Trinity, don't think it matters a whole lot. This battle is over. We lost. Just another step in the Church's slow retreat through history.

So rest easy, Mr. Akin and any others who share his reservations. You have nothing to fear from a Mormon  president somehow twisting the masses perception of what a Christian is. Things really can't get much worse than they are.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Blessed John XXIII: Patron Of Heretics And Schismatics?

If you are to believe Rev. Tom Sanford, then yes.

Sanford left the Catholic priesthood more than a quarter- century ago. But now he’s back behind the altar. He’s pastor of a new spiritual community, born out of his frustration with what he believes is the philosophical backsliding of the Catholic Church. Sanford started Blessed John XXIII Ecumenical Church around Easter, and he’s starting small. When he walks down the aisle to “We Gather Together,” three worshippers stand and sing along.

It's good to know that he's given himself the competency to judge the Church to have engaged in "philosophical backsliding." One of St. Francis de Sales arguments against the Reformers was to ask from where they derived their authority. A similar question could be posed to this man.

Yet Sanford and his flock say there’s a larger point beyond their small numbers: They have left the Catholic Church to become better Catholics.

Yes, and there's a larger point to that. In seeking to be better Catholics, they have placed their souls in danger.

Sanford says he couldn’t stay. He believes church traditionalists are trying to undermine 50 years of church reforms set in motion by the worldwide councils known as Vatican I and Vatican II. The final straw came early this year: the church’s decision to reinstate the original 1963 English translation of the Mass. Supporters say the wording better reflects the beauty of the traditional Latin liturgy. Critics call it clunky. More important, Sanford believes, it springs from a philosophical retrenchment, “and I couldn’t abide by it.”

Holy smokes. He left over the new translation! We speculated a bit on this in the past, but this is the first instance we've heard of somebody actually doing it. What hath consubstantiality wrought?

To go back to our subject line, though, we have to wonder if Sanford is remotely familiar with Blessed Pope John. This is the same affliction  we noticed with Joe Biden. We are therefore forced to ask the same question. Is Sanford ignorant, dishonest, or insane? The facade of Blessed John as some sort of Ecumenical Prince is annihilated if you read anything he actually wrote. Whether it's stuff from his private journal, his initial response to becoming pope, or the summons to Vatican II itself, Blessed John was far sterner than any of his successors in discussing the value of non-Catholic religions.

I leave the newly-spawned heretics and schismatics of this insultingly-named community a thought from the man they claim as their patron:

It is the will of God, the Church's founder, that all the sheep should eventually gather into this one fold, under the guidance of one shepherd. All God's children are summoned to their father's only home, and its cornerstone is Peter. All men should work together like brothers to become part of this single kingdom of God; for the citizens of that kingdom are united in peace and harmony on earth that they might enjoy eternal happiness some day in heaven.

Somehow, Pope John missed the memo about random priests appointing themselves as cornerstones.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

ND Student Petition On The HHS Mandate

Of course, since this is at ND, I'm not shocked that this particular petition is asking the University to drop its lawsuit against the mandate and surrender to the President's agenda.

The petition, which includes signatures from approximately 140 students as of this week, faculty, staff and alumni, originated as a personal letter to University President Fr. John Jenkins from philosophy graduate student Kathryn Pogin. It argues for the University’s compliance with the mandate based on philosophical and legal principles...

“We want it to be a starting point for dialogue and discussion,” she said. “We didn’t want it to be antagonistic toward the administration or Fr. Jenkins.”

There's that word again. Dialogue. We've seen how well that's worked in the past. At some point, I'd love to see an analysis of where dialogue has actually helped the Church in these sorts of matters. Nothing springs immediately to mind. The examples I've gotten in the past have usually involved communism. I'm not sure what Cold War folks were watching, but the great period of dialogue during the reigns of Blessed John XXIII and Paul VI didn't do much good. Ask Cardinal Mindszenty. It wasn't until Blessed John Paul II's adoption of much more uncompromising posture that anything was accomplished.

Anyways, back to the main story here. There are three main points argued in the petition. Let's take a look:

“First of all, it’s not clear to us that the University couldn’t comply with the mandate without remaining within Catholic practice,” she said.

This is based largely on a tortured extension of double effect that you can read in the actual petition here. From what I can tell, the petition is less of an argument that access to contraceptives is actually ok and more of an appeal to ambiguity, saying that it isn't clear what the moral status of the mandate is. In a nutshell, the petitioners seem to be requesting that, in the case of a potentially sinful action, one should err on the side of doing the action anyway, rather than choosing a path of restraint.

“In addition, even if there is a genuine conflict with freedom of religion, which we’re not convinced there is, at least with respect to contraceptives, we think the legal argument favors compliance with the mandate.”

The legal argument is left somewhat vague. Sure, there's the  possibility that the Supreme Court will hear what it feels to be a compelling legal argument to uphold the mandate. I have absolutely no idea why this means that ND should go along with it. Unjust laws are not laws at all, regardless of what the President or the Court say.

The petition also makes a claim based on Dignitatis Humanae.

In its concern for religious freedom, the administration should remember that Dignitatis Humanae says not only that religious belief and practice should be protected but also that "in spreading religious faith and in introducing religious practices everyone ought at all times to refrain from any manner of action which might seem to carry a hint of coercion."

In an astounding leap of intellectual dishonesty, the petitioners argue that ND's refusal to help employees chemically sterilize themselves amounts to "indirect coercion" and "imposing its religious beliefs and practices on its employees." Let's ignore for a moment that one could use this exact same argument to force ND to provide for abortions, benefits for homosexual couples, and a host of other items repugnant to Catholic belief. For some reason, I'm betting that the petitioners wouldn't have a problem with any of those things either. Let's also ignore that this line of reasoning completely bypasses the fact that ND employees aren't slaves and therefore any such "indirect coercion" is the result of the employees' free choice to work for ND.

Instead, let's note what DH actually says about HHS mandate-type stuff:

However, government is not to act in an arbitrary fashion or in an unfair spirit of partisanship. Its action is to be controlled by juridical norms which are in conformity with the objective moral order. These norms arise out of the need for the effective safeguard of the rights of all citizens and for the peaceful settlement of conflicts of rights, also out of the need for an adequate care of genuine public peace, which comes about when men live together in good order and in true justice, and finally out of the need for a proper guardianship of public morality.

So if you ignore the government's obligation to God, the objective moral order, and the safeguarding of morality, the petition makes perfect sense. In other words, if you ignore the rest of what DH says.

The petitioners' final concern is that other aspects of Catholic identity at ND are being ignored or somehow short-changed. What are these issues? Allowing heretics to promote their views to students in philosophy and theology classes? Allowing supporters of infanticide to deliver speeches at graduation? The performance and display of repulsive "art" on-campus?

Of course not.

“Further, we believe Notre Dame would better serve its Catholic mission by focusing on improving campus services for families rather than embroiling itself in a legal challenge,” the petition states...

“[The lack of affordable health coverage] is actually more of a problem than we outlined in the petition because state health programs are not available to international students, so some international students’ dependents go uninsured,” she said. “We think that’s a moral issue and an issue of Catholic identity.”

Is this not begging the question just a little? It requires the assumption that the previous arguments are valid and correct. To get to this point, ND must accept that there is nothing actually wrong with the HHS mandate. Why? Because if there is something wrong with the mandate, and the courts uphold it, then ND has no choice but to shut down or wipe out its insurance program altogether (which, of course, would mean paying millions of dollars in fines under the Affordable Care Act). To even reach the problem of how effective the current employee/student health insurances are, there has to be an entity providing the insurance in the first place. The petitioners have decided to ignore that in order to create a diversion to some other element of "Catholic identity" that may or may not be problematic.

It's great to know that the petitioners have so much respect for Catholic identity since they are comfortable letting it be sacrificed in exchange for expanded health coverage.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Whither The Hate, Part 2

You might remember the homosexual protesters who bullied the old lady during the Proposition 8 stuff in California. In case you don't, it's at this post. To continue pondering on where the hatred in this debate comes from, I direct you to the following video from Tancred over at the Eponymous Flower.

What a hateful guy. Praying the Rosary and all.

Mark well his comment at the end. The core belief that drives these protesters is certainly not tolerance.

Oh, and make sure you stop at Chik-Fil-A whenever you get the chance.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Here's One For Karl

And all our other Eastern Catholic peeps:

Thanks to Catholic Memes for the image.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Her Glorious Assumption

Angels with archangels bear thee up. Impure spirits trembled at thy departure. The air raises a hymn of praise at thy passage, and the atmosphere is purified. Heaven receives thy soul with joy. The heavenly powers greet thee with sacred canticles and with joyous praise, saying : "Who is this most pure creature ascending, shining as the dawn, beautiful as the moon, conspicuous as the sun? How sweet and lovely thou art, the lily of the field, the rose among thorns; therefore the young maidens loved thee. We are drawn after the odour of thy ointments. The King introduced thee into His chamber. There Powers protect thee, Principalities praise thee, Thrones proclaim thee, Cherubim are hushed in joy, and Seraphim magnify the true Mother by nature and by grace of their very Lord. Thou wert not taken into heaven as Elias was, nor didst thou penetrate to the third heaven with Paul, but thou didst reach the royal throne itself of thy Son, seeing it with thy own eyes, standing by it in joy and unspeakable familiarity. O gladness of angels and of all heavenly powers, sweetness of patriarchs and of the just, perpetual exultation of prophets, rejoicing the world and sanctifying all things, refreshment of the weary, comfort of the sorrowful, remission of sins, health of the sick, harbour of the storm-tossed, lasting strength of mourners, and perpetual succour of all who invoke thee."

O wonder surpassing nature and creating wonder! Death, which of old was feared and hated, is a matter of praise and blessing. Of old it was the harbinger of grief, dejection, tears, and sadness, and now it is shown forth as the cause of joy and rejoicing. In the case of all God's servants, whose death is extolled, His good pleasure is surmised from their holy end, and therefore their death is blessed. It shows them to be perfect, blessed and immoveable in goodness, as the proverb says: "Praise no man before his death." This, however, we do not apply to thee. Thy blessedness was not death, nor was dying thy perfection, nor, again, did thy departure hence help thee to security. Thou art the beginning, middle, and end of all goods transcending mind, for thy Son in His conception and divine dwelling in thee is made our sure and true security. Thus thy words were true: from the moment of His conception, not from thy death, thou didst say all generations should call thee blessed. It was thou who didst break the force of death, paying its penalty, and making it gracious. Hence, when thy holy and sinless body was taken to the tomb, the choirs of angels bore it, and were all around, leaving nothing undone for the honour of our Lord's Mother, whilst apostles and all the assembly of the Church burst into prophetic song, saying: "We shall be filled with the good things of Thy house, holy is Thy temple, wonderful in justice." And again: "The Most High has sanctified His tabernacle. The mountain of God is a fertile mountain, the mountain in which it pleased God to dwell." The apostolic band lifting the true ark of the Lord God on their shoulders, as the priests of old the typical ark, and placing thy body in the tomb, made it, as if another Jordan, the way to the true land of the gospel, the heavenly Jerusalem, the mother of all the faithful, God being its Lord and architect. Thy soul did not descend to Limbo, neither did thy flesh see corruption. Thy pure and spotless body was not left in the earth, but the abode of the Queen, of God's true Mother, was fixed in the heavenly kingdom alone.

St. John Damascene, First Homily on the Dormition

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Pray For Cardinal Kung's Canonization

As supporters of the Cardinal Kung Foundation, we ask that all of our readers please join in praying for the opening of the cause for canonization of this great warrior of Christ's Church. When so many of his brethren chose the path of Judas, His Eminence was steadfast in his fidelity to the Successor of Peter, even through decades of imprisonment.

Through the intercession of Mary, Our Lady of She-Shan, we ask for Our Lord Jesus Christ's blessing on this endeavor so that, by the canonization of His servant, Cardinal Ignatius Kung Pin-Mei, He may be glorified throughout the world and especially among our suffering brothers and sisters in China.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Why The Butler Did It (Allegedly)

According to the Irish Independent, the Pope's butler, Paolo Gabriele, has now been formally charged for his role in the leaks scandal. It's "aggravated theft" for him and a heretofore unnamed accomplice working for the Vatican IT service. None of that comes off as a big deal, I think. We were expecting charges against the former and figured that someone else would be right behind him. Now for the interesting parts:

According to the document, a €100,000 cheque belonging to the Pope was recovered from Mr Gabriele's apartment during the investigation, as well as a gold nugget and a 1581 Italian translation of Virgil's classic poem Aeneid by Annibale Caro, both of which were gifts to the Pontiff.

This is weird for me. First, that the Pope just happens to have this kind of stuff just lying around for someone else to pick up. I mean, who keeps 400+ year old manuscripts just out in the open?

During his questioning, Mr Gabriele allegedly insisted he "meant to give back" the items, that he had also written to the Pope expressing his "sorrow" and adding that he had not received "any money or other benefits" insisting that he had acted to "keep the Holy Father informed of certain facts and events."

Ah, he "allegedly" did so. Assuming that  he did, this is almost as weird as the first part. Was the copy of The Aeneid at the library not good enough?

The document also revealed how Gabriele had told prosecutors that he had acted because he had seen "evil and corruption everywhere in the Church" and he wanted to stop it spreading adding: "I reached the point of no return. I was sure that a shock, perhaps by using the media, could be a healthy thing to bring the Church back on the right track."

This is all repeating the theme that we've heard  throughout this whole deal. There is an  internal war going on. People are trying to "help" the Pope by bringing these things up to the public. There is very little indication of how these things are actually all that beneficial. Either the folks behind it don't know anything all that bad or their access to information isn't really that great.

As of right now, we're left wondering what is happening. All we know is that things have got to  be bad for there to be so much Curial laundry getting aired.

A Lutheran Candidate

Just wondering.

If we ever see a Lutheran in a modern presidential election, will the media ask him/her their position on Jews? We know Luther's stance, and after all, shouldn't anyone proclaiming to follow the teachings of Brother Martin be forced to give an account of himself on this issue?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

My Favorite Story From The Olympics

Courtesy of Fr. Zuhlsdorf/CNA:

Ethiopian athlete Meseret Defar provided one of the most emotional moments of the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games when she crossed the finish line in the 5000 meter race to win the gold.

She then pulled a picture of the Virgin Mary out from under her jersey, showed it to the cameras and held it up to her face in deep prayer.

An Orthodox Christian, Defar entrusted her race to God with the sign of the cross and reached the finish line in 15:04:24, beating her fellow Ethiopian rival Tirunesh Dibaba, who was the favorite to win.

A teary-eyed Defar proudly showed the picture of the Virgin Mary with the Baby Jesus that she carried with her for the entire race.

Here's the picture. How wonderful.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Romney's Mormonism

Now that Mitt Romney has picked Paul Ryan as his running mate, the presidential election here has taken an interesting turn. First, I can't recall any other ticket that didn't have a Protestant on-board. I'm already bracing myself for the "cult conspiracy" claims that will no doubt rapidly proliferate among my mostly-Baptist and Pentecostal friends, relatives, and co-workers. That's ok, though, because maybe this is something that will make them look into Catholicism a bit more. Most of them hate Obama, so perhaps this sort of enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend deal will let some of the mistrustful air out of the room.

Looking at Romney, though, the Mormon issue is apparently a way bigger deal for Catholics than I first thought. Jimmy Akin of Catholic Answers fame has written an article in which he expresses extreme reservations about having a Mormon president. These reservations are, of course, rooted in the peculiar Mormon beliefs in things like polytheism, all the while claiming simultaneously to be Christian. Naturally, this is a doctrine that is repulsive to Catholics and anybody else who bears the name Christian, since it is basically blasphemous. There is but one God and so on and so forth. Viewing the election through the lens of Romney's Mormonism, Akin writes:

To elect a Mormon to the American presidency would, to my mind, be a disaster. 

It would not only spur Mormon recruitment efforts in numerous ways, it would mainstreamize the religion in a way that would deeply confuse the American public about the central doctrine of the Christian faith. It would give the public the idea that Mormons are Christian (an all-too-frequent misunderstanding as it is) and that polytheism is somehow compatible with Christianity. 

In other words, it would deal a huge blow to the American public’s already shaky understanding of what Christianity is

That means it would massively compromise a fundamental value on the scale of the abortion issue. 

Faced with the choice of voting for a pro-life polytheist-claiming-to-be-Christian or a pro-abortion whatever, I might well choose to simply sit out that race and refrain from voting for either candidate, because voting either way would mean doing massive damage to America.

While I think these are probably legitimate concerns, I think Akin overstates their degree. Let's take a look at them separately:

1. It will help Mormon recruitment.

Will it? Have any other religious denominations benefited from having one of their own elected president? If Al Gore had won and died in office, would there have been an influx into Judaism thanks to President Lieberman?

To the contrary, I think this might help slow down Mormon recruiting. Every time a Mormon missionary knocks on my door, I invite them in and we have a discussion. Sometimes, this will go on for several weeks. The one thing that is consistent in their script is that they always try to make Mormonism and Catholicism sound like the same thing. If I had a nickel for every time they say, "So you see how they are so much alike," I could probably balance the national budget all by myself.

The election of a Mormon president would demand greater scrutiny of the Mormon religion, especially their fabricated views of history and lack of supporting evidence for those views. Mormonism is spreading pretty fast anyway without a president. I just don't see the occupant of the White House being that big of an assist.

2. It will create confusion about Christianity.

This is a battle that's already lost, as we sort of recently discussed. Jimmy Akin, of all people, should realize this given the types of questions he gets on the Catholic Answers radio show. Would he have similar reservations voting for a Modalist from TD Jakes's congregation? Like Mormons, they claim to be Christians, while blaspheming against the Persons of the Trinity. Oneness Pentescostals, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc. can  all fall into the same category. My wife had never even thought about the Trinity until we were married. My kids' barber proclaims himself a Southern Baptist yet is quite blunt that he "doesn't go in for that 'Three Persons, One God' stuff."

Personally, I think it's absurd to conclude that there is somehow more damage to be done. Once something is utterly destroyed, you can't destroy it more. Such is the state of the word "Christian" in the societal lexicon.

Nobody in the political arena cares what Christianity is anymore, except when they are trying to paint evangelicals (another word completely bereft of meaning) as radical-minded primitives. For those few who might be presented with this new thing "Mormonism" and want actually to use their brains to find out more about it, we can be comforted with the idea that they will now be exposed to plenty of counter-evidence due to the phenomenon I mentioned in #1.

Let's face another simple fact, there has never been nor, in my opinion, will there ever be, an orthodox Catholic as president. Let's not try to make Kennedy into something he wasn't. Every president who has ever held the office has been a heretic/schismatic to one degree or another. For someone like Jefferson, who was a deist and redacted Scripture to omit things like the Resurrection, I'd say he's at least in the same camp as Romney, though perhaps not adhering to exactly the same claim of being Christian, I suppose.

Akin also ignores one other enormous factor in this analysis. From what we know, Romney is at least indifferent as to Catholics. He has spoken out against the HHS mandate but so have lots of other people of various religious and irreligious stripes. Contrast this with Obama, who has quite forcefully declared open war against God's Church and His Faithful. Even considering Romney's moral flexibility on issues, at least he has never tried to obliterate Catholicism from the public sphere altogether. This is Obama's posture, and I fear that his re-election will be a very, very bad thing for the Faith.

Akin admits that there can be reasons to vote for polytheists, including Mormons. I suggest that, when contemplating his position in this election, he recall the recent comments by Cardinal George and discern which candidate makes this future more likely.

Friday, August 10, 2012

What's Old Is New

Earlier this week, I mentioned the intellectual laziness associated with nominalism in discussing Christianity. This was the shpiel I gave about Christianity being reduced to a label with no essence. It works out pretty well for folks who don't want to think too hard about stuff or who have adopted a sort of Christian agnosticism. The latter usually gets presented as something like "I know God and I know Jesus. I don't think we can REALLY KNOW if Jesus is God or if the Eucharist is more than just a symbol or if there is a visible Church or ..."

In my undertaking to get through the entire Schaff series of the Fathers, I've found myself in the letters of St. Augustine. He mentions a similar phenomenon:

In that age the studies of contending schools of philosophers were pursued with such ardour, that the one thing to be feared was the possibility of error being approved.

It's hard to believe this was ever a dominant perspective in the intellectual world. After all, you've got modern  allegedly Catholic universities who not only don't fear error being approved, they go so far as to present courses where the main subject is an error presented for open consideration as truth.

For every one who had been driven by the arguments of the sceptical philosophers from a position which he had supposed to be impregnable, set himself to seek some other in its stead, with a perseverance and caution corresponding to the greater industry which was characteristic of the men of that time, and the strength of the persuasion then prevailing, that truth, though deep and hard to be deciphered, does lie hidden in the nature of things and of the human mind. Now, however, such is the indisposition to strenuous exertion, and the indifference to the liberal arts, that so soon as it is noised abroad that, in the opinion of the most acute philosophers, truth is unattainable, men send their minds to sleep, and cover them up for ever. For they presume not, forsooth, to imagine themselves to be so superior in discernment to those great men, that they shall find out what, during his singularly long life, Carneades, with all his diligence, talents, and leisure, besides his extensive and varied learning, failed to discover. And if, contending somewhat against indolence, they rouse themselves so far as to read those books in which it is, as it were, proved that the perception of truth is denied to man, they relapse into lethargy so profound, that not even by the heavenly trumpet can they be aroused.

This reminded me of every person I've ever spoken with, Catholic or otherwise, who thinks that we know more than the Fathers and Doctors of the Church just because we drew the lot of living in 2012. For Catholics, these tend to be Vatican II "superdogma" types who think the Church was mostly wrong until 1965. Among Protestants, they funnily enough have basically the same view, except that the Church was completely wrong until the Reformation, with most adding that the Reformers were wrong until their own preacher read the Bible for the first time.

St. Augustine speaks it pretty plain. Nothing puts a guy's mind to sleep quite so fast as the assurance that (a) he's smarter than everyone else and/or (b) there's nothing out there to really be known anyway.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Walker Percy Expounds On An Important Theme

From Fr. Placide's conversation with Bad Catholic Dr. Tom More in The Thanatos Syndrome. Fr. Placide plays the role of questioner:

"Do you think it is possible that words could be deprived of their meaning?"

"Deprived of their meaning. What words?"

"Name it! Any words. Tom, USA, God, Simon, prayer, sin, heaven, world."

"I'm afraid I don't understand the question."

"Here's the question," he says in a brisk rehearsed voice. Again, for some reason, he reminds me of a caller calling in to a radio talk show. He almost raises his eyes. "If it is a fact that words are deprived of their meaning, does it not follow that there is a depriver?"

"A depriver. I'm afraid-"

"What explanation is there?" he asks in a rush, as if he already knew what I would say.

I always answer patients honestly. "One explanation, if I  understand you correctly, is that a person can  stop believing in the things the words signify."

"Ah ha," he says at once, smiling as if I had taken the bait. "But that's the point, isn't it?"

"What's the point?"

"Don't you see?" he asks in a stronger voice, eyes still lowered...

"Not quite."

"It is not a question of belief or unbelief. Even if such things were all proven, is the existence of God, heaven, hell, sin, were all proved as certainly as the distance to the sun is proved, it would make no difference, would it?"

"To  whom?"

"To people! To unbelievers and to so-called believers."

"Why wouldn't it?"

"Because the words no longer signify."

"Why is that?"

"Because the words have been deprived of their meaning."

Such is the result when we forget the essences of things.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Had To Laugh

I don't think I'd posted this before. No matter. Even if I did, it's worth repeating.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


After experiencing my 3 billionth discussion with folks on the importance of dogma this past week, something occurred to me which has undoubtedly occurred to a lot of folks already.

The increased disintegration of religions based on dogma in favor of religions based on individuals is heavily influenced by nominalism. I realize that nominalism is unfortunately (and somewhat ironically) subject to certain variant meanings, so let me be clear that what I'm meaning is the denial of universals. In more plain speak, folks might regard this as rejecting the idea of a thing's essence (using the lay definition of the word). Romano Amerio talks a lot in Iota Unum about a confusion about the essence of things, but he spends a great deal of time explaining how people have mixed things up, rather than completely forgotten them. To break it down even further, while attempting to do as little violence to the term as possible, think of nominalism as basically saying that the only things that there are are things that resemble each other and that we apply the same label to. Apples are apples because they are red, round fruits that have a certain taste and that grow from a certain tree. There isn't a greater concept of "appleness" to any of them. There's just the individual characteristics and the common name that we slap on them. Likewise for everything else, including people.

For an example of the latter point, consider the Reformed position of total depravity, which said that our human nature was destroyed by original sin, which meant that we were hopelessly corrupt and capable of nothing but sin. This is why the Reformers opted for theories like imputed righteousness and forensic justification. With no human nature left that could be redeemed, the best deal we could get was having Christ's righteousness cover us over and God play make-believe that we were holy instead of just turds.

The way Christians have evolved, including a lot of Catholics, they clearly apply this same sort of reasoning to Christianity. Take an extreme example, like that of the Jehovah's Witness. Jehovah's Witnesses are Arians. They reject the divinity of Christ and reduce Him to being St. Michael. No, really. Is it therefore possible to say that JWs aren't Christians?

Well, duh-doy. This is an easy one. Or it should be.

Of an equally duh-doy stature is the new Modalism aka Oneness Pentecostals. Some of these folks have gotten to be rather famous as ostensibly Christian. Think of TD Jakes, who is obviously a Modalist until he goes on TV and then he doesn't talk about it. Anyways, given that they deny the Trinity, should Oneness Pentecostals be classed as Christians? Of course not.

The only way such groups can be classed as Christians is if we accept a nominalist view of what a Christian is. In other words, if you take a bunch of monotheists who claim that there was a guy named Jesus who had something to do with their being saved from sin, you can look at such a group and label them "Christian." Don't expect for their to be any real underlying "Christianity." It's just a bunch of groups that look and act the same.

I used pretty radical cases, but you can take it through several levels of gradation, I think. Really, this is a popular mindset because it allows for a great deal of comfort and convenience. Every time you hear someone say, "I'm a Christian. I just love Jesus. I don't get into all that dogma/doctrine/religion stuff," what they're really saying is "I've taken a label for myself. Anything beyond that is immaterial and could be something else if you talk to someone else who has claimed that label. Now, get away from me before you make me think."

What we're left with, then, is a Christianity that has been stripped of any real meaning. Just a name-tag to slap on our shirts so that we don't have to ask the tough questions about stuff like who God is, who Jesus is, what people are, and so forth.