Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Social Doctrine And Me

I've been political my entire life. The truth is, I love politics because I love people. It's a noble profession, especially here in America. Yes, I said "especially" and I meant it. America is still a great place, and no one could say otherwise. We have a lot to do, but our history and heritage gives us all we need to do it, whether intellectual or spiritual.

The great gift of America to the world is the recognition of the dignity of the human person, uniquely in regard to people and their government. That the citizen is a participant and co-ruler is the logical conclusion of the belief that legitimate authority is not limitless; every authority and everyone bound by it owes a first duty to the One who sanctions it in the first place.

I mean no disrespect to avowed atheists; though this is a Christian space, this is not an attempt to explicate religious doctrine. Rather, I ask every person to recognize that even the most expansive view of personal license must grant that a virtuous neighbor is better than a vicious one. It is precisely when true force must be applied: when reason and ethics fail.

The good person is predictable; the bad person creates chaos, because there is no limit to his ideas for self-enrichment at any cost. Let me be plain: A large chunk of our politics misses the truth of the social benefit of virtue, and the social cost of vice.

We are witnessing a bizarre play where our two basic outlooks both believe the same lie, at the extremes: That what a person does has no impact on anyone else; the "liberal" believes that wealth alone is the sum of human existence. Some have too much, and others, too little. It's the government's job to fix it. Somehow, sex isn't anybody's business, unless you don't have enough money to have the kind you want. Then, the government can steal the money to pay for it. Subsidized free love is for the good of all? Since when?

Since when did the biological reality of when human life begins become a religious belief? The only religious belief I have heard articulated is the right to an abortion. An entire political party seems to have no dogma but that one. I'd put the federal minimum wage at $13 an hour in exchange for a Human Life Amendment to the Constitution. I dare the Democrats to take the deal.

The "conservative" at the extreme believes the lie, also. Money is the sum of human existence. No one should dare tell us that maybe our system encourages firms to merge, buying favors from the government. We do have faultless poor in America, and it is the government's responsibility, to the extent that some deficit of justice has occurred. We have federalism in fact so that the government does not interfere with self-determination, economic or otherwise, in its zeal to express solidarity with the less fortunate. We do worse than this: The government expresses solidarity with the most fortunate, and any protests of this outrage are shouted down with cries of "Socialism!" The mere presence of an increasing number of highly wealthy people is not constituitive of economic justice.

The failure of the liberal welfare state owes not to its existence, but in the push to destroy the mores and values that would make it function properly. Let me be direct: Only married people should receive any social assistance for the care of children they create. The state is not in the marriage business because a dark cloud of theocracy is descending; the state cares about marriage because--when we strip away all the politically-correct nonsense--only opposite sex pairs create new people. That's why you can't re-define it, and that's why any attacks against marriage, defined as a permanent sexual union between a man and a woman, should be highly discouraged, and by government, when necessary. This is what unites a social conservative and an economic one: economic freedom cannot flourish in an amoral society. No liberties at all survive in the absence of virtue.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Do What Father Says

When he teaches the Truth, and when you know his spiritual advice comes from a close relationship with the Holy Spirit. Let's just say that a priest with a heavy physical cross has a certain credibility when he says to forsake selfishness, and turn to the Lord.

I'm not one for a certain patronizing pity, but if there is something heroic about a life like mine, (and his) it is that the temptations to the idol of Control are deeper for those who seem to have none. It seems counter-intuitive, but it's not.

I could see in his eyes and in his voice that he understood me. And a man like that can push me to something higher without being irrelevant and theoretical.

May Christ be praised for His glorious grace!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Her Name Is Jennifer (Or, Why I'm Not Happy For Brad Pitt Today)

Because he's (most likely) still married to Jennifer Aniston, in the eyes of God. If a marriage tribunal ruled that it never took place, fine. But let's get it straight: there is no re-marriage. Lord, have mercy on us!

Look, I get it, man. Angelina Jolie is totally hot. Can I say "hot" on a Christian blog? I'm not blind. And even if I were, I'd probably still think so. There's a reason people burst out in applause when they hear of old people who've been married 60 years, however. It's praiseworthy; it's noble; it's sacrificial and heroic. Here's the point, though: That's how it's supposed to be.

I know they're just celebrities, and it's easy to mock them. But celebrities are just people. A well-regarded performance in A River Runs Through It won't get you into Heaven. When it's all over, we're all just people.

I hope we all have wedding garments, (let the reader understand) because there are no do-overs.

Still Got It

I was looking at some apartments closer to downtown St. Louis, and talking to this manager-lady, and she turns to my mom and says, "Must be tough, etc." (Keeping in mind that my mom and I were going to live together, anyway) My mom says, "Nah. I've been through this before."

She asked me the same question, and I said, "Well, I'm 34..."

"What?! I thought you were in your early 20s!"


5 Thoughts For Tonight

5. That was so fun, I want all my friends to move away so we can celebrate it.

4. How did I get invited to this party?

3. I'm like, "No, how YOU doin'?"

2. My friend Alex and his wife (and baby August) are going to Franciscan University in Steubenville so Alex can teach philosophy. Converts taking jazz over, yo.

1. I think it'd be cool if we called it "The Steub." Seriously, let's make this happen. "You going to Ohio State?" "No, man. My lame-o parents are all about the Catholic education, so I'm going to The Steub." [This is not a John Hughes movie; no one says "lame-o" anymore.--ed.] You just did. [Arrrgh!--ed.]

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

That Awkward Moment

When I read something on the occasionally interesting The Gospel Coalition website, realize it's Kevin DeYoung, and stop reading. Not only is he comically anti-Catholic, but he is the epitome of tribalism, theological truncation, and oversimplification. Seriously. I would read Karl Barth backwards in French before I even thought about reading a book by DeYoung. I'd read Tillich. I'd read almost anything else.

I had a hard time leaving Reformed theology. I truly did. But he would have inspired me to leave faster.

The fact that he's a leader in this New Calvinism is tragic. I'm sorry. But not.

Is It Echoing In Here?

Haven't I said this 12,000 times? No matter. Seminarian Joe is way smarter and cooler than me, so let's hope something sticks. Paging Fred Noltie!

I find in recent days as I mull the thing over in my head that the presupposition of discontinuity that gets one off the hook for schism is, in the end, a radical juxtaposition between the divine and the human. I'll wait while you recover from the realization that this indirectly denies the Incarnation. Yes, it freaked me out as well.

The Tiber is warm this time of year.

5 Thoughts For Today

5. Oh, come on! That's funny! More proof that we are ruled by humorless scolds.

4. Humorless, gay-vangelizing scolds. [Did you just approvingly link Matt Walsh?--ed.] Yes, I did. I'm Catholic. We don't wring our hands about "tone." It's an act of charity to tell someone to stop being such a fascist.

3. And someone should be mad about Gosnell. They buried that story, on purpose, to avoid damaging public support for abortion.

2. C'mon Padres. Pitching a dude who's 6-13 (now 6-14) against the Brewers was just Stults.

1. Bases loaded, one out, down by a run. A hit would be nice, but whatever you do, HIT IT IN THE AIR! Situational hitting. You're lucky we won.

Monday, August 25, 2014

You Can't Have An Ecumenical Council Without The Pope

Even if he's not there, it doesn't go down without his say-so. It's always been that way, and it always will. So it just strikes me as mind-games to speculate whether the bishops wanted to be "distant" from the Holy Father or not in any one case.

We have the same 3 choices: 1. Accept all the ecumenical councils as the most solemn invocation of the Church's authority; 2. Reject all of them as an unlawful imposition of human authority; or 3. accept some and reject others.

If you choose (3), then you cause 2 problems: You violate JK's Axiom #1: "One cannot be both the arbiter of divine revelation, and a humble receiver of it at the same time," and 2. You lose the ability to distinguish human opinion from divine revelation. At some point, the convenience of the "true gospel" conforming precisely to what you already believe will test your intellectual honesty, just like it did mine.

You may hold up the Westminster divines or their documents as the moment when the truth was "recovered," but that's just it: they weren't the only ones claiming to speak for Christ at the time. I sensed this right away: Just because I currently inhabited a community descended from them doesn't mean they were right. I'm sure you have as many personal reasons to ignore this challenge as I did, but you've got to push through it. It's the intellectually honest thing to do.

We're looking for the visible Church in history. Because the Church is no less visible than Christ in the Incarnation. Think of it: An invisible "Church" lets us make our own "gospel", Inception-style. Sola Scriptura makes it even worse: I can make my own faith, and look pious and humble, too. Not everyone is willfully doing that, of course. But at the least, we're wasting time by submitting to a community that by its own admission is not the sole Church that Christ founded, and dodging the question of the true ultimate authority in Sola Scriptura. (It's ourselves.)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

If Nicea Is Correct, Then Christ Founded The Catholic Church

At the end of the day, it's that simple. Because the Council Fathers did not and could not use an hermeneutical method that did not exist (Sola Scriptura). They also knew that arguing with heretics and schismatics concerning the literal sense of Scripture theoretically and in fact has no end-point.

So when you see a patristic quote about testing everything by Scripture, they are speaking of it in its mystical sense. A mystical sense that they understood from their own ecclesial self-awareness. If you will pardon the simplification, there is no "them" if there is no "us." Schism is always a schism from; it can't be a sin if it's just an unfortunate separation. It's always unfortunate, but tragic, culpable, and provoked by the sins of others are not mutually exclusive.

The only good reason to accept an ecumenical council is that it is the most solemn invocation of the authority of the Church Christ founded. I was unwilling to accept one or two, and deny the others. I was also unwilling to deny them all. Therefore, I had but one choice to avoid atheism: become Catholic.

It is better to be ad hoc concerning the dogmatic determinations of the ancient Church than to reject them all; it is precisely at the points of our concurrence that we are being impelled toward unity. But we ought not mistake real but imperfect communion for its fullness. If any important dogma had been articulated without the consent of the Bishop of Rome, perhaps that Church's exclusive claims would not be so strong. Alas.

The humanistic explanation of Christian doctrine and practice is simply the Protestant option to reject ecclesiastical authority pushed to its logical end. In effect to say, "God had nothing to do with any of this." The middle positions accuse God of revelatory peek-a-boo, but at least there is something revealed.

But what if the See of Peter is the anchor of "classic Christian orthodoxy," as many are fond of calling it?