Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Change of Pace. Higher Things.

I had a most enjoyable evening a few nights ago, doing something that I have not had the chance to do in a while - talk to young people about spiritual things.

I talked to the group of ten university students about perseverance. I took on the subject that you know has been dear to me in recent times: the struggle of St. Paul. Specifically, I talked about his struggle with the Corinthians, as seen in the the two letters addressed to them. I don't have the energy to relate everything I said - you will be relieved to hear - but the main points.

If you ever want to meditate on the subject of how to navigate interpersonal problems like a Christian, read these two letters. I was led to examine this subject by Jerome Murphy-O'Connor's book, the review of which will appear in the Summer (May) edition of the Catholic Review of Books.

First and Second Corinthians are a treasure trove for the spirituality of confrontation. How to preach the Gospel when everyone hates you, and you hate making trouble, and yet you know it's God's will - that is the fuller title of the letters.

Do you fit into that category?

I do.

Your own words come back to haunt you. The "pep talk" I gave to these young people, I had to draw on myself. I had a rough week of ideological conflict, some of which you have no doubt perceived. I hate making trouble, but you know, sometimes you just have to. The reason why our world sucks so badly is that peace makers love peace. The bastards love to fight, and they make the world what it is. The Putins, the homosexualists, etc.

What does Paul do?

Paul looks to the cross. He looks to suffering itself as both the vindication of his ministry and - paradoxically - as the source of his strength.

That was my main point.

Paul was a man of many 'feelings' and so we shouldn't be ashamed that we have them too. Feelings indicate very little.

Suffering and conflict are not signs that you are not doing God's will. That is a hard thing for peace-makers to grasp.

What a wonderful group of young people! I miss being around people who are interested in spiritual matters.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Whoops!

Thanks to a friend for pointing out that I misread something by Coren. Thus I have removed all references to him in a previous post so I can re-evaluate what I said about him in light of this new info. Sorry for the error, all, especially Mr. Coren!

The Church, Homosexualism, Nazism

People are quick to throw out the "just like the Nazis" or "you're a Nazi." Such comparisons have become the emblem of bad ad hominem argumentation.

I am doing the Nazi comparison here, but I could just as easily do it with Socialism, it's just that more people are aware of the history of Nazism than of Socialism. But what I am saying here of the Church's relationship with Nazism from about 1929 to 1945 can be applied to Socialism over a much wider period. It is even going on today, especially in places like South America.

I am not saying any one is a Nazi, though. I want to make a comparison between the way German bishops dealt with Nazis in the 1930s with the way many bishops are dealing with homosexualists today. Cardinal Dolan made a very disappointing statement in relation to a homosexual football player recently. Let's take it as an example.

Look at Dolan. Bishop of what might be considered perhaps the most important diocese in the world, next to Rome. How did he get there? Look at your own place of work: how did your bosses get there? Government especially. I've never worked for the government, but I have spoken to enough people who have, and I have been in enough places of business to see my impression confirmed again and again. If you are looking for virtue, for integrity, the higher up you go the less you will surely find. How can I say that? Simply, today - maybe it has always been the case, but I don't think so - to succeed you cannot be inflexible. Now, flexibility might sound like a virtue, but as a complete character type, it is far from that. It means you don't stand by anything. Everything is up for grabs for the sake of advancement. Politician and business leaders are not to be respected. I know they are, but in fact, quite the opposite should be the case. Take any of them, even the one I most naturally admire, Chancellor Angela Merkel. Anyone who can attain preferment in a modern democracy is the very worst kind of person. And, people of integrity can go some distance to attain success, but their integrity will stand almost always in inverse relation to their success. What I am saying, in other words, is that the best of our politicians, say MP Woodworth, is limited precisely insofar as he sees something as a non-negotiable. He does, therefore he is.

Back to Dolan. I can't even imagine the vested interests present in New York. I assume that a see like that functions no differently than the important sees in the Ancien Regime. Let me put it this way: Pope Benedict, and whoever was Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops before Ouelett, did not by themselves, as from a tabula rasa, suddenly decide to appoint Dolan to New York. There was likely more political wrangling going on with that than at a Medici family reunion. And what kind of person can survive such heated contests? Only a person who is more form than substance, usually. Again, I don't know Dolan from a hole in the ground, but anyone who says 'bravo' in the context of a homosexual declaration is form, not substance.

He doesn't seem to grasp that he is bravo-ing someone who is a part of a movement that wants to declare his religion illegal.

But was what he said false? No. A successful slippery person is not that careless. I don't understand why so few bishops have not realized that this movement is one aimed at annihilating Christianity. And here's the point of comparison: looking back, how was it that so few German bishops saw this about Nazism? Nazism, just like homosexualism stands for some positive things: the Nazis were pro-economic success - only a German-hater would be against that, right? The homosexualists are against the persecution of homosexuals, right, and only a Christian-hater would espouse the persecution of gays, right?

Calling a Nazi "someone who is interested in economic prosperity" is like calling a homosexualist "someone who is interested in increasing love in the world" or a socialist "someone who loves the poor."

These are all lies - dangerous lies. And so it is completely unintelligible to me how someone as well-educated and as experienced as the Archbishop of New York does not see that he is aiding the Church's most dangerous enemies.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Year with Pope Francis

There are a number of things that need to be addressed here. Perhaps if I put my main points in point-form that will help me to get somewhere:

1) The pope is a priest, not a politician. If either he or we see him more like the latter than the former, we have a problem. We have a problem.

2) Whether you 'like' him or not, this year has fundamentally upset what it took John Paul II and Benedict XVI 30 years to accomplish: to prove to the Church and the world that the Church's teaching does not change. Pope Francis may be able to reverse what has happened over these last 365 days, but he may not. I am not blaming him per se. We all know the media stirs up controversy.

3) Mostly everything that Pope Francis has done is what "I would have done." Perhaps he and I have learned this year that... maybe we shouldn't have...?  I "would have" reduced the status quo power of the Curia by changing up its membership, would have 'discouraged' the erection of a church-within-a-church with the Latin Mass stuff, would have wanted to preach to outsiders, not just insiders, would have wanted to reduce the institutional trappings of the Church. Yet, this is just one year, and we all know that when you attempt to change something, the sharpest pain is in the transition point: when you tear off the band-aid just before the endorphins kick in to deliver the "sweet" part of the pain. How's that for an analogy? I guess that this is where faith in the papacy needs to kick in in me. I mean, there can be bad popes, poor popes, etc. But there cannot be popes who destroy the Church. We need to at least have that much faith in the Church to consider ourselves Catholic. I am thinking that in about a year's time we will feel pretty silly about how worried we were.

4) The above should have been my last word, but I have more to say. One can say this last thing in all sorts of different ways, but I will say it this way. The great problem we have right now in the episcopacy is this: a culture where positions are esteemed. If you refer back to number 1 above, we can add that bishops are priests, but ones, right now, who are acting like politicians. They need to stop talking to the secular media, and only, or almost only, talk to the Catholic media. Those are the people to whom they owe account, not the world. They need to keep themselves within the sanctuary as much as possible. I mean, there is a lot more I could say here, but I am no St. Bernard or St. Catherine of Siena, so I won't. Bishops don't need to have a view, a position. They are servants of the Gospel, that's it. We don't tolerate priests taking a position in their homilies; we shouldn't bishops either. Taking positions is worldly. It has led to world wars and genocides.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

I Don't Need Your Sympathy, Your Eminence!

There is a disturbing trend in the current pontificate of feeling-guys feeling sympathy from on high for lowly people who desperately need their sympathy. It's all so very condescending, their misplaced compassion.

It all begins with the most vexatious and grammatically unacceptable "where they're at" type talk. You know what I mean, how 'of the people' these people are, who are, if anything, not that. How the German bishops have been tripping over each other trying to show that they too are totally of the people.

Cardinal Kasper, in the presence of the other cardinals, said that the Church should give certain people communion who, though twice "married," mean well. No one can blame someone for wanting to lift a burden from somebody, but is it a burden or is it their salvation that is being lifted away?
"I just, I just think it's so great that, in me,
the Church is finally listening to what the people
are saying, to what the Spirit is 'a sayin."

I am personally offended. In effect, what is being suggested here is that lay people (unlike the clergy) are incapable of making life-long decisions, and thus need to be treated like little children who get another chance.

One free-bee marriage. Where does it end - one free-bee bank robbery, or perhaps one free-bee murder, or abortion?

But the matter is not one of forgiveness. No, forgiveness is predicated on sorrow and an amending purpose. When that is lacking, nothing can be done. None of us can undo what we have done. And we must live with the consequences. Let our wills be changed, despite great cost, and the heavens open up.

Will this mercy improve my marriage? What would I have done when I was struggling, had I known that great cardinals somewhere were plotting that I would never indeed need to struggle at all, for had I known at the darkest point of my marriage that I had one free get out of jail card would I not have taken it? That, when I was on my way out the door, that knowing I had failed her and my own dreams, that I could not yet fail God by accepting that this was but a thing to forget and move on from? Where would that have left my children, let alone my wife? What would they have thought, years later, seeing me with my new wife and children receiving Holy Communion?

There are not few men in my position who had only that one thing left to them to dignify their struggle - not the honour of not going back on one's word - which the Cardinal does not respect anymore, not the warm feeling of love from one's wife, nothing but that one thing, that this was God's will and that His grace is sufficient to rescue you from things rashly considered, words too quickly said, actions impetuously undertaken, the presumption that I was actually ready and able to undertake marriage. Who of us has ever made so perfect a choice, one so immune from the effects of sin that he would not have cause to fall back on it, if he could, in his moments of weakness and self-pity?

One free life of vice to be lamented of on the death bed; one free apostasy; to have both God and mammon.

In this way has the Cardinal sold out the dignity of our married state. It is not a sacrament. Though indelible, it is not as important as those other sacraments that the Church can never permit profanation of, but marriage, yes, it is not so important that it cannot be profaned for a while.

Let the priests, then, worship God on Sunday, but some other god on the other days, since, now, sacrilege is no great matter. Unless it is not sacrilege to despise a thing as small as marriage.

Are there grounds to persevere, to encourage perseverance in others left to us now? Are there left any grounds for undertaking so onerous a thing as marriage in the first place? Where has the right to security gone, that any Catholic taking on this sacrament has a right to believe exists, if it is just as well whether you persevere or not, that we shall all be treated the same, those who suffer and remain faithful and those who do not?

No man may say that sin is not sin.

The Church does not create rules, it merely interprets the Law of God. The Church can no more say that sin is not sin than it can say women can be priests and that bread and wine and pizza and beer are interchangeable in the Lord's Supper. The Church's one job is to point the way to Christ, not to indulge people's weaknesses.

My sins are sins. I am a human being. Of all creatures on earth, my kind alone can partake of the mystery of salvation. I have at hand the choice of life or death. That is my human dignity. If you take away my ability to damn myself, to sin, you take away my humanity. You turn me into an animal or a child who has not attained the age of reason.

Clerics do me no favours in treating me like a child unable to sin. Fools and children cannot form an indelible matrimonial bond. Which do you consider all of us now, Cardinal Kasper? My marriage is by the grace of God, not by grace of bishops.

It has never been said that one may persevere in a sinful state and yet remain in communion with the Church.

This is an heretical proposition.

Perhaps if Adam had one more try all of this never would have happened. But God made Adam in His image and likeness, with ability to choose and to suffer from a choice badly made.

Perhaps if God had been as compassionate as Cardinal Kasper things would have gone better.

How dare you, Your Eminence, tell my wife and I that our suffering meant nothing, our suffering for our believe in the holiness of marriage. Bishops are slow to learn that these people who choose "second marriages" are not their friends, and not willing to die for the Faith, are not the really the Body of Christ. Let the crowd go where it will, they are not of Christ.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Crimean War II

Tolstoy fought in the Crimean War and
produced this work as a reflection
of his experiences.
I have a soft spot for Russia. It is the land of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. I'd like to believe it could actually some day be the "Holy Mother Russia" it always wished, nay, presumed it was. My mind spent its teenage years in Russia.

But I want Russia to be roundly pummeled by the very people I so roundly dislike: Obama and the EU.

First of all, Tolstoy won't be at this Crimean War, and so I don't mind about a new Charge of the Light Brigade (probably M1 Abrams and Leopard 2s, which are by no means light - both weigh more than 60 tons a piece).

Second of all, Putin, for as much as I have enjoyed him sticking it to the West vis a vis abortion and homosexualism, is a thug, a bad man. Obama is a bad man too, but he has not infringed on another nation's sovereignty, per se.

Tertiarily, Ukraine is a good nation going through a bad time. It has suffered unbelievably in the 20th century, mostly always courtesy of Russia.

Putin has made a reasonable gamble. Obama has no stomach for war. Nor the EU. It is altogether conceivable that Russia will walk away with at least a chunk of Ukraine, to the shame of the UN. Thugs cannot be allowed to prosper.

The good that can come out of this is that either Putin will get the bloody nose he deserves and desperately requires, or Americans will realize that they need a real leader.

The baptism of Grand Prince Vladimir.
Americans have a duty to the world that they have been squandering under their president. Americans have gotten themselves into their mess because they believe there is an actual world where everybody should be able to afford everything they want, marriage means nothing, abortion is without consequence, Westerners are always wrong in whatever they do politically, and government should be able to spy on private citizens, just because Obama knows better.

Putin ain't gonna bake your cake. So what are you going to do about it?

I need to add that I am ashamed that the Canadian government has stated that it has positively ruled out military intervention. Doing nothing when bad men pick on the innocent is not pacific but cowardly. I hate the idea of good people dying over a senseless act of aggression over a meaningless thing called a 'border.' But even more do I hate the idea of abandoning the innocent. No, violence should not be the first action; it should be the last; but never ruled out entirely.

Guilt, the Movie

I don't watch many 'hollywoodish' movies. The more well-known the actor, the less inclined am I to watch it; the more raved, the less apt am I to watch. The reason might be as simple as the fact that movies are an escape for me and I can't mentally escape if I am recognize this person outside of the role before me.

Further, the last thing I will ever watch is a movie about social injustice a la Jews, black people, homosexuals, whatever. I did like that movie a few years ago about the Jews in Eastern Europe who had formed a sort of militia, fighting back against the Nazis. That was because this was not the "Jew as victim" thing that I have seen a million times. I will not believe that a whole race of people never fought back. I know my Bible (and my Josephus) well enough to know that this is not the Jewish people. And, I cannot get too excited about American racism again, I watched Amistad and Mississippi Burning, I don't need to watch Twelve Years a Slave.

The point of this post is the moral duty that was performed last night at the Oscars (Emmys?) by awarding the slavery movie its necessary Oscar (or Emmy? - obviously, I didn't watch it).

It seems that each year Hollywood execs do their moral duty by given the year's 'moralistic' movie it's award. I want to talk about the why. Now, there are different reasons for the necessity of this, depending upon the role one plays in it. The execs do it to defend their morally vacuous industry and personal lives. Fans require it because they need to know their lives stand for more than just mindless entertainment and consumption. They believe they are good people because they want to condemn slavery - like that condemnation really costs them something. Reminds me of the guy here in Barry's Bay with the bumper sticker that says "No Uranium." I have seen Putin, Harper,Obama and even Kim Jong Un in that car with him a number of times. Rumor is, he has almost resolved the Ukraine problem. But I digress.

I am not saying that there is no such thing as racism. But, given American culture, having another movie about it is sort of like having another movie about the life of Our Lord, with another actor who looks exactly like all the other actors who have played that role. There I said it. Someone had to. I feel much better now.

There are 'racists' in the US. But a racist in the US is sort of like a Satanist - someone whose dedication to something is so funny because, well, who defines their lives simply as an anti-something? Satanism means I don't like Christianity. Ok, great, but what do you like? Nietzsche was anti-Christianity, and his reasons were really interesting. A vegetarian is uninteresting if he is simply anti-meat. Now, if he has a definite idea about health, etc., then that is something. If he knows all the ins-and-outs of biology, etc., then he becomes a human being with depth. Don't tell me about how bad it is to put an innocent black man into slavery. Yes, of course that's bad. But so is kicking cats. Open and shut. Not interesting, not art. Make a movie about horrible black people (like those in the Central African Republic) and slavery. Or, if you are going to make a movie about racism, make it about the uncomfortable reality of the encroachment of Islam on Western society. Tell me about tolerance in that context. There is no problem with tolerating an Uncle Tom - that is a fake issue; people like that are not why there is racism in the world. But what about an obnoxious, arrogant Islamist - you know, a real problem with dimension? Black and white (no pun intended, because not clever) scenarios are not worth being made into a movie. Don't get all self-righteously anti-racist when you have no intention of ever befriending someone in Compton, or some place like that. What made Breaking Bad so compelling is that it was about a 'hero' who gradually became a quite contemptible person regardless of the justification he attempted to provide for his behavior. Have Denzel Washington and Will Smith ever been other than thoroughly lovable?

In theological circles, I have met many so-called theologians who are simple "rah-rah go"-ists who call this theology. That is not theology; at best it is apologetics, but, really, a superficial chauvinistic 'ism.' It's about team spirit: we are right and you are wrong; esprit de corps; theology as a team-building exercise. Theology is directed to unfolding the truth of God, not  building the confidence of a group.

Awards to movies like this is not about art, it is about team-spirit building. What is the US, Western secular culture, etc? It is a society that condemns slavery, apparently. How satisfying is that? My question is, is it enough? Sixty years ago when a million Canadians went off to fight the Germans and the Japanese, these soldiers had a definite sense of what their culture stood for, and why it was worth dying for. The Germans and the Japanese generally thought so too about their nation. However, I do not think that many people want to serve and die for a secular nation. American culture is so shallow today. No one wants to die for it. No one would die for a democracy that is morally bankrupt and actually persecutes its best members. A culture that simply opposes racism cannot be cohesive. When you cast off Christianity, you are left with a United States with no raison d'etre. Multiculturalism has no metaphysical depth; anti-racism, anti-homosexualism, these will not unite men. This is the function that anti-racism movies are meant to perform. It only works on people who really aren't that deep: children and, well, movie-people.