Wednesday, September 02, 2015

U.S. Marines chant: "There's no God like Jehovah!"


In case you missed it, this video was posted last September from Camp Pendleton, CA. On base. You gotta love that, Mr. Obama. Oohrah!

[Hat tip to E. Echeverria]

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

The ascent of blogs under Benedict; their decline under Francis?

That seems to be what is suggested by "Rising and Falling" (That the bones you have crushed may thrill, July 31, 2015). What? Have some simply despaired of any meaningful discourse? Is that it?

Imagine no religion: John Lennon, the occult, and post-Christian culture


Carl Eric Scott, "Carl’s Rock Songbook, No. 106, John Lennon, 'Imagine No Religion'" (National Review, May 21, 2015), offers a read, as one correspondent suggests, that is "long, hard to read, and perhaps brilliant." Really. This is a pretty amazing tour-de-force for an online article. In it you learn about John Lennon's brief flirtation with Christianity, his re-immersion into the occult with Yoko Ono, and a whole lot more, all the while accompanied by the thoughtful musings of the author. Like this:
Such a thesis would still predict the more intellectual types abandoning religion as the world modernizes, but would also predict that the less educated masses remain “religious,” by serially entertaining diverse spiritual teachings, as in the days of the pre-Christian Roman Empire. This eclecticism could show up on surveys as a wide belief in “religion,” but this would be misleading if thought about in the old way. For the heretical religiosity of the many would join the secularism of the elite upon precisely one point: defensive opposition to the truth-claims of orthodox Biblical religion, and to the slightest hints of government, corporate, or associational respect being given them. Additionally, this adjusted thesis would regard it as perfectly predictable that the “Great Disruptions” of the 60s and their aftermath, and particularly in the area of sexual relations, would provoke a counter-reactive revival of traditional Judeo-Christian faith for a generation or so. However, the newer generations of those who lost connection with orthodox religion would find ways to live without it, and, to more practically live with the new personal freedom. The latter pattern would be in marked contrast to the wild experiments undertaken by the original revolutionary generation. So in the aggregate sense, the population would return to the overall modern trajectory of decreasing belief in Biblical religion after the 80s/90s plateau, or apparent reversal. It was also predictable that the new personal freedom would license and encourage a greater exploration of religions and religious practices that had never been collectively authoritative—either by law or by common opinion–in America and Europe. The champions of my posited adjusted secularization thesis would admit that the new personal freedom has lead to a lot of “bad religion” of the individualistic and crudely-thinking sort that Douthat describes, but would claim that much of this is pretty harmless and unserious.

Pope Francis: Catholics may licitly receive sacrament of confession from SSPX priests during Year of Mercy

The official announcement comes from the Vatican Bullettino in the form of a "Letter of the Holy Father Francis to the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization at the approach of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy," dated September 1, 2015. The relevant paragraph comes at the end.

The announcement appears also on the usual websites, such as Rorate Caeli today; although I first caught wind of it from the often-comic site of Amateur Brain Surgeon, who can be found conceding that he has "lost a fight" as a "among the most strident opponents" of the SSPX, to whom he now offers his congratulations.

How the future will unfold waits to be seen, although the fireworks between Church Militant's Michael Voris and SSPX-supporting traditionalists (like Michael Matt, Chris Ferrara, Louie Verrecchio, and John Vennari) will likely continue unabated.


Cartoon courtesy of Fr. Z's Blog

Monday, August 31, 2015

"Petered Out"?

Our underground correspondent we keep on retainer, Guy Noir - Private Eye, caught me completely by surprise this evening by walking right through my door at 6:37pm, unannounced and visibly agitated, and handing me a print-out of an internet article that quite apparently had him all riled up.

"This is harsh, no doubt," he said, chewing on a cigar stub. (Since when did Noir take up cigar smoking?) "But I have to admit that Ann Coulter-like broadsides aside, it raises a point that deserves comment," he added, a gravelly growl in his voice.

"What point?" I asked, studiously, trying to steady him.

He took the article from my hands and read: "The Church is supposed to be about religion. It’s not salvation from hunger or poverty or illness or global warming that Christ died on the cross to effect. Can we please have a little religion, now and then."

He snorted, his face flushed with anger: "At what point in the process of making religion modern and reasonable and inoffensive do we decaffeinate it to the point of neutering it?"

"Well, you raise an important question," said I, cautiously.

"Arnold Lunn in Whithin That City has some terrific lines on this I will have to find... Meanwhile, prepare to be offended," he declared, handing me back the print-out of his article and rubbing out his cigar stub in a saucer lying on the kitchen table.

He sighed and cleared his throat, scanning the room. "Got any Scotch around here?" he asked.

Hilary White, "Petered Out" (Remnant, August 26, 2015):
In late July, the very secular paper, USA Today, reported: “Growing conservative disaffection with Pope Francis appears to be taking a toll on his once Teflon-grade popularity in the U.S., with a new Gallup poll showing the pontiff’s favorability rating among all Americans dropping to 59% from a 76% peak early last year. Among conservatives, the drop-off has been especially sharp: Just 45% view Francis favorably today, as opposed to 72% a year ago.”

Some of the pope’s most tireless Catholic “conservative” defenders – including some who have suggested he could just wave his magic pope-wand and allow the cohabiting and divorced to receive Communion – are finally wearying of the constant barrage of nagging. Elizabeth Scalia, the doyenne of Patheos’ neo-Catholic bloggers, wrote recently that she is growing weary of Pope Francis’ constant “scolding” on his pet topics of capitalism, the poor, the environment or the ill-defined “mercy”.

Ms. Scalia observed recently that of a group of Catholics on an internet forum discussing the pope’s environmental encyclical, “some were weary-negative of the encyclical; some were weary-positive. What struck me most was that they all seemed in some way weary.”

“Some of them wish Francis was clearer in his meaning; they’re tired of trying to ‘figure out’ his point, which often seems ambiguous. Others are tired of trying to defend and explain him.” Either way, she says, “I’m just tired of feeling scolded.”

Carl Olson, editor of Catholic World Report, noted Scalia’s backing away from Francis and also wrote in July that more Catholics on the “right” of the US Church were getting worn out by this “hyperbolic and exhausting” pontificate. Read more >>

Slouching toward the Synod ...

With the October Synod only a month away, one wonders what the rival factions are preparing in the wings. One recalls the secret meetings of the revisionist Teutonic bishops in Rome, and the recent publication of the defense of traditional marriage doctrine by eleven cardinals, like a gauntlet thrown at their feet. Should be interesting, to say the least.

From Michael Voris one has, as one should expect, this robust anticipation of the battle ahead with greetings and solicitations for support.

On the other hand, from a far different quarter, one has Amateur Brain Surgeon [TM] and this rollicking jaunt through fantasy land.

Blog & Mablog, culture wars, and the joy of battle


"In the spirit of Rachel Dolezal’s spray tan, and Bruce Jenner’s lipstick,
I propose this simple reversal of color as a way of moving forward . . ."

Doug Wilson, "And Then Swash Some More" (Blog & Mablog, August 1, 2015):
C.S. Lewis says somewhere that if war is ever lawful for a Christian, and it is, then the martial spirit is also lawful. There are times when the spirit of war descends, and in a lawful cause there are few things more exhilarating.
Consider what an eventful few months we have had. On April 24, Bruce Jenner attained unto girlhood. On June 16, Rachel Dolezal grew into her spray tan. Then on June 17 we had the Charleston shooting and subsequent uproar over the Confederate battle flag — a symbol for sober heads of states’ rights. Then just a few days later, on June 26, the SCOTUS beclowned itself an egregious assault on those very same states rights, not to mention Biology 101. And then somewhere in there some enlightened brass in the military started talking about a transgendered fighting force, I mean, what could go wrong there? Then in early July the first eucatastrophic torpedo from CMP landed amidships at Planned Parenthood. Now none of this means that God wants us to stop fighting. But it very plainly means that He wants us to be happy.

Speaking of triumphalism, this is related to triumph. And in Scripture, it is bad when the wicked triumph, and it is good when the righteous do. “Lord, How long shall the wicked, How long shall the wicked triumph?” (Ps. 94:3). Good question, and we should pray that question more. “Moab is my washpot; Over Edom will I cast out my shoe; Over Philistia will I triumph” (Ps. 08:9). But isn’t saying that Moab is your washpot kind of trash-talking, kind of taunting? Isn’t it kind of like saying we are going to scale their city walls and then slap their mamas?

C.S. Lewis mentions that this spirit of battle joy is part of how Chesterton made a conquest of him.

“The sword glitters not because the swordsman set out to make it glitter but because he is fighting for his life and therefore moving it very quickly” (Surprised by Joy, p.191).

Winning, triumph, does present its spiritual challenges. We should consider them thoughtfully if and when we get there. But for the time being we have better things to do . . . like fighting. Like fighting all in. We must fight, and not like a grim-faced, moralistic thug either. We must fight like cavaliers. We must swash and we must buckle, and then we must swash some more.
 [Hat tip to JM]

More Juicy Ecumenism ...


Mark Tooley, "Evangelical Focus on the Smart, Young & Beautiful" (Juicy Ecumenism: The Institute on Religion & Democracy's Blog, July 31, 2015) -- with relevance for German bishops and Vaticanistas too!  (And this time from a former CIA employee who is now president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy.)
In recent years there’s been much understandable and laudable Evangelical conversation about expanding Christianity’s reach to attract diverse demographics through creative branding, especially but not exclusively Millennials.

These exertions have led to rhetorical, liturgical and sometimes theological innovations whose goals are greater persuasive power with the unchurched and unevangelized. Sometimes the tweaking is primarily about packaging, like the preacher shedding his shirt and tie for skinny jeans and t-shirts. Sometimes and more problematically it is about the substance of the Gospel, particularly sexual ethics but also about the exclusivity of Christ, the full authority of Scripture, and emphases on Christian social justice.

This ongoing conversation disproportionately focuses on reaching a particular kind of fairly narrow demographic: typically very educated, overwhelmingly Caucasian, white-collar, socially liberal, urban-minded and upwardly mobile young people. Not in-coincidentally, this well-heeled and fashionable social subset is also a preoccupation for secular commercial advertising. It’s an important group, as its members wield or will wield influence over our culture for decades to come, influencing millions. But does this demographic merit preoccupation to the near exclusion of others in Evangelicalism’s public conversation?

There are other major, often unreached for the Gospel demographics that are maybe not as prestigious but no less spiritually important and in some cases far more numerous. A gun-owning middle aged white man in West Virginia or central Pennsylvania who’s a truck driver or living on disability is not a major part of the Evangelical conversation. A near retirement age housewife who works part-time at Wal-Mart in a small Midwestern city is typically not part of the conversation. A Millennial age high school drop-out, unwed mother is typically not part of the conversation. Working class or unemployed black people are typically not part of the conversation. Nor are Asian or African immigrant families who come from traditional cultures, especially if they’re not doctors or engineers and are instead driving cabs and/or working retail. Hispanic immigrants are often topics of Evangelical public conversation because of immigration politics. But evangelistically appealing to a 35 year old Guatemalan construction worker or restaurant cook is not typically central to the conversation.

Juicy Ecumenism: wherein a Mennonite sees more clearly than many Catholics?

At the very least, this should give pause as to how the Catholic magisterium is being perceived by Evangelicals under the present pontificate:

Rick Plasterer, "Prospects and Perils for the Synod on the Family" (Juicy Ecumenism: The Institute on Religion & Democracy's Blog, August 28, 2015): 
Christians believe that God has revealed eternal truths, and thus we necessarily believe that this revelation does not change regardless of changes in the world. This is the irreducible confession of faithful Christians, and is necessarily “conservative.” Our faith may be about to be put to the test, regardless of which historic branch of the Christian faith we belong to, by possible change in the formally sanctioned Catholic practice regarding sexual morality, which may result from the upcoming Ordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, to be held in Rome in October.

To review where the Catholic Church is at this point, Pope Francis has dramatically altered the course of the Catholic Church, from the clear direction of doctrinal orthodoxy of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, itself a reaction to the attempted accommodation of the world by the Second Vatican Council, which shook the Church to its foundations. The clear direction of these popes not only cheered and rallied the Catholic faithful, but also drew support (and with some, conversion) of non-Catholic Christians similarly threatened by the inroads of the modern world into Christian life and faith. Thus, any weakening of the Catholic Church’s strong defense of historic Christian faith and morals, of God as a supreme ruler, of Jesus as offering salvation from personal sin, and of Christian sexual morality condemning sexual activity outside of the divinely ordained marriage of man and woman affects not only Catholics, but all Christians in their struggle with the world, the flesh and the devil.

Reading Pope Francis’ commitments and intentions have become something of an esoteric science, like the old science of Kremlinology, which attempted to discern the intentions and future moves of the Soviet leaders. But it does seem clear from his commitment to truth as evolving, rather than absolute, is that whatever traditionalist structures he maintains at the present time in the Catholic Church, his orthodoxy is held inside large liberal brackets. Like the Jesuits of old, in their battle with the fierce Jansenists, who championed an Augustinian emphasis on sudden conversion, Pope Francis favors “gradualism,” drawing people toward the holiness that Christ and the apostles require of believers while accepting them in the life of the Church on easy terms. It is not easy to defend this strategy from the Bible (Matt. 5:18, Matt. 5:28, I Cor. 6:18, I Thess. 4:3, II Thess. 3:6, to give a few examples), but it is an approach likely stood more chance of success in drawing people to holiness in the pre-modern world. The modern assault on the truth of the Biblical revelation is so strong and pervasive that a policy of gradualism is likely to be subverted into accepting worldliness as holiness. Feminists, homosexual activists, and those who reject the Christian doctrine of sin and salvation as an imposition on human autonomy do not want forgiveness, but acceptance as being righteous by the Church and all its people. The Pope’s statement that “the Holy Spirit has surprises” seems to foreshadow this.

So called "gender fluidity" and the distortions of language


Our friend, Guy Noir - Private Eye, sent us the link to the following (quite good) piece in a recent telegram from Western Union (his technology skills seem to have relapsed a bit): Melanie R. Cameron, "'Gender Fluidity' and the Language Contrary to Catholic Teaching (Installment #2)" (Catholic365.com, June 25, 3015).

Guy appended this additional comment in his telegram:
I grew up in Fairfax County. So this piece struck me. People in and outside the church ask why believers can't just let all this be. The truth of the matter is no one will let us be. The historical antecedent might be different, but that certainly is the case now. Also note two things in this article. One, she is talking about eighth-graders. Absolute children. Too, I observed the double backflips she does to make sure no one thinks she is remotely prejudicial. Even so, she produces the sort of thing one would hope you hear from Rome these days. Hope, but not…

Boy Scouts of America caves to LGBT propaganda


Back on August 5, Fr. Z posted this piece, a statement by Bishop Kagan of Bismarck, ND, on the Boy Scouts decision on homosexuals.

A reader, commenting on the piece, wrote:
I’m very conflicted about this. I’m an Eagle Scout, as are my brother, father, uncles, and many male cousins. There’s a lot of great things about scouting. But even when I was still active in the early 2000s certain scouts (and scouters, as the adult employees are called) were distributing rainbow knot patches to be worn alongside the other awards on the uniform. (Above the left breast pocket, where the Ad Altari Dei relgious knot would also go.) Talking with people still involved, it seems the rainbow knot movement has grown, and is rampant in the Northeast. (My experience of the same is in Silicon Valley.)
David L. Alexander (or manwithblackhat), in another comment, writes:
As an Eagle Scout, a member of the Order of the Arrow (essentially Scouting’s honor roll), and a local Scout Commissioner for the last eleven years, I’ve been watching events with no small amount of concern. This latest decision surprises me only for its haste, but not its eventuality.

Two years ago, when restrictions on the basis of sexual orientation were lifted for youth, it was suggested that, benignly interpreted, this might not be a problem. Granted, many children in the pre- and early-adolescent years suffer from identity issues, at times in the area of psycho-sexual maturity. But there was more to the new policy than that, and those who were in denial (including, I’m sorry to say, some of the leadership of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting), expected it to go no farther. Indeed, upon becoming National President of the BSA, Dr Robert Gates insisted he would not revisit the issue during his term. One year later, he insisted on revisiting it, not just later in the year, but by this summer, citing not only the changing times, but the mounting pressure from legal challenges, not only by volunteers, but by job applicants in states with anti-discrimination laws, and once-supportive corporate foundations with anti-discrimation policies.

With little in the way of consultation from the rank-and-file, the vote by the National Executive Board last month was overwhelmingly in favor of the change, and effective immediately. Religious institutions could still select leaders on the basis of their own moral tenets, but the units they sponsor do not exist in a vacuum, not all Catholic boys can find a Catholic-sponsored troop nearby, and “Family Life” is one of the required merit badges for Eagle.

You see where this could go, right?

I’ve spent the last two years being a pain in the neck at meetings, warning my colleagues that their indifference would kill the very movement they thought they were saving. I could tell them “I told you so,” but they still wouldn’t believe it, and it still wouldn’t heal a broken heart. It certainly hasn’t helped that for the past two years, Catholic leaders involved in Scouting have maintained that the policy concerning youth did not violate Catholic teaching as long as no open sexual activity was involved. (They’re still saying it now with respect to adults, but not without reservations.) On top of that, adult volunteers who attend seminars listen to their intelligence being insulted: “The mission has not changed, the mission has not changed …” Had we not buried our heads in the sand, there might have been alternatives.

Catholic units could have organized a certain degree of separation, much as what was proposed when the BSA was founded in 1910 with the support of the very Protestant (and hence very anti-Catholic) YMCA. Catholic-sponsored units would be formed for Catholic boys, under the guidance of Catholic chaplains. Indeed, up to now, units of the Mormon Church (where it is a required priesthood formation program for boys 11-15) have long operated more or less independently. With numbers amounting to 16 to 18 percent of the youth membership, they were a force to be reckoned with.

(Now, even the Mormons were caught by surprise, and are already considering pulling out of the BSA, in favor of their own boys’ movement on an international scale.)

The other alternative could have gone a step farther, as many Scout associations in Europe are organized as “federations,” with semi-autonomous associations divided along ethnic or sectarian lines. (Switzerland’s has separate associations for French-, German-, and Italian-speaking Scouts. Israel’s has seven separate associations; for Jews, Christians, Arabs, Druze, Orthodox, and so on.) Under those circumstances, differences of religious beliefs and cultural norms are simply not fodder for conflict, and a world brotherhood of more than a century continues to flourish.

But it may be too late for the BSA. Between some trying too hard to make nice, and (I say this somewhat guardedly) others giving up the fight too early, we are seeing the end of the Boy Scouts of America as an influence on the fabric of American life. From 1999 to 2012, they lost 22 percent of their youth membership. In the two years that followed, they lost just over half that much more. If the Mormons pull out, and other disaffected parties follow, the BSA could lose as much as 25 to 30 percent MORE of its youth membership in one to two years.

They’ll tell you it’s because they increased the membership dues. They’ll tell you anything. What they won’t tell you, is what they don’t want to admit to themselves.

In the end, I never left Scouting; Scouting left me.
And this, a comment related to Confession but applicable to analogies being tossed around more broadly ...
The analogy of the Church Militant as a spiritual field hospital is pretty good, provided that we remember that in field hospitals lots of people don’t make it.

We are like pilgrim soldiers in the Church Militant, on the march to our objective of salvation in the patria. We are beset by enemies even from even within (the world, the flesh and the Devil). The Church herself is beset by enemies even from within! So, the march is hard. We cannot take the smooth and easy roads, where ambushes await us in even greater numbers and severity. Ours is the harrowing steep, narrow path. Even there the Enemy is crafty and seemingly numberless. We are going to take wounds along the way. Some of them – those of our own doing – will be serious.

The adage “all bleeding stops” applies to the spiritual life too: one of these days, people, you are going to run out of time. You are going to die and go before the Just Judge. Some people are going to run out of time and bleed out rather than [recover in a] field hospital.
[Hat tip to JM]

Sunday, August 30, 2015

"Grappling with Kasperism"


"Its long-winded, repetitive and exhausting but I tried grappling with Kasperism," says the author (That the bones you have crushed may thrill, August 30, 2015).

"Treason of the Clerisy"

In case you missed it, by Maureen Mullarkey, "Treason of the Clerisy" (First Things, July 27, 2015), on the fortunes of parishes rejuvenated by Fr. Rutler's administrative tenure and taken over by his successors. On the stripping of icons as a case study in pastoral stupidity. The article begins thusly:
I foresee churches with their Jesuit bureaucrats open daily from 9-5, closed on weekends.

Georges Bernanos

Jesuits are blameless in this article, but the point stands, says Mullarkey. It always stands.

[Hat tip to JM]

GQ on Coulbert: "Totally smoking ..." Ha-ha!

Or, says our underground correspondent, Guy Noir - Private Eye, perhaps, with an eye to the pope on the cover of Vanity Fair and Colbert in GQ, the title of this post should read "AMERICAN CATHOLICISM 2015"

See Joel Lovell's GQ article: "The Late, Great Stephen Colbert" (GQ, August 27, 2015), and then this video:


And then there's Bishop-elect Robert Barron's "Stephen Colbert, J.R.R. Tolkien, John Henry Newman, and the Providence of God" (CWR, August 25, 2015), although I something tells me we won't be seeing Bishop Barron making the cover of either Vanity Fair or GQ, as much as he may covet the honor.

Oddie: "This Pope Does Not 'Do' Doctrine"

William Oddie, "This Pope Does Not 'Do' Doctrine" (Crisis magazine, August 28, 2015).

[Hat tip to JM]