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Showing posts from 2018

"Get With The Times," They Said

You realize this will never happen. The point of the Catholic Church, indeed, of being a Christian, is to not "get with the times." People in every age who are "with it" are being foolish, and hurting themselves. This doesn't mean you have to stop watching the Patriots, or throw your Taylor Swift albums in the trash, per se, but if Jesus and the Holy Spirit call you to do it (for any number of reasons) you should. It does mean that if the Church says homosexual practices, fornication, adultery, and any number of things are sins, then they are. No amount of Cool Points will ever change that, and no amount of dislike for a person or people (or affection for still others) will ever invalidate the things Jesus has taught us. It's passe to believe even that God in Christ has said anything, much less definitively through the Catholic Church, but there we are. Not only does religion make no sense without this concept of revelation in general, but being a Christ

My Ambiguous Wrestling With "Inspiration Porn"

"Inspiration porn" refers to material about people with disabilities where the primary focus is either on the "AB" caregivers and their emotional responses to us living our lives, or is some voyueristic exploitation of some struggle we have, to make "normals" feel good about themselves. I truly do understand why it's a problem, and why it can be demeaning. As one TED speaker put it in paraphrase, I'm not a hero for getting out of bed this morning. On the other hand... A cross is a cross. If someone says to me, "You inspire me," charity requires that my first instinct should be to take him or her at face value. Have you ever noticed all the dying and disabled kids who love sports teams? You might wonder why. The secret is this: Weakness, inability, and failure is a reminder of creatureliness and mortality. Athletic glory and victory is a reminder of the perfection of Heaven. If someone pays you this compliment, stand in awe. Yes, your

Disabled Sexuality, Not An Oxymoron

Yes, it exists. I'm starting to own it. Took me long enough. There is of course an idolatry of sex, and an idolatry of "normal" or "able," and I have been guilty of both at times. "If I don't end up with a normal girl, then I'll never be totally me, or attain my goal." "I don't want a disabled girl." Both of these are false, properly speaking. There is the mystery of chastity, and I have discovered a wonderful thing: You can't really properly order your sexuality, integrating it into the whole of your being, unless and until you acknowledge it is there, and that it's really not that different than anyone else's. All this being said, some of you are quite aware that I have not seen fit to limit my romantic aspirations to the disabled. Ahem. Honestly, I hope it makes someone uncomfortable, so that I have someone to share the awkwardness with! Seriously though, you might consider why it makes you uncomfortable,

On The Other Hand

Once you get past the hot-button issues, (abortion, adultery, fornication, homosexuality) there are those for whom Catholicism is a fashion accessory for their place in the culture war. The only way they feel secure is the knowledge that these sins are more grave objectively than others. However, if you pile enough situationally grave sins together, you still end up in hell. The problem for their erstwhile critics on the "cultural Left" let's call it, is that those sexual sins are actually sins. No amount of raging against Right-wing myopia changes that. The reason I don't call myself "conservative" anymore is that politics is no longer about thinking through issues with a Christian anthropology, and doing the best for the common good; it's about indicating that I'm not Them. And yes, to my mind, the Right is worse about this than the Left right now. And as soon as you call someone to virtue, either in rejecting these silly binaries, or in actu

If I'm A "Socialist," We Are Doomed

I went back and found some old comments on a Facebook post I wrote last year at this time. I rather bluntly said that we shouldn't salute companies giving small raises and citing the tax cut, because if they had the means now, they had it before, in the absence of the law. (Which, to my mind, is utterly uncontroversial.) Wages are due in justice, not charity, and our first goal as citizens and policymakers is to make a just society, as best we can. To give every person what s/he is due. In practical terms, that means paying people working full time enough that public assistance isn't necessary. Anyway, this guy named Ryan August said something like, "It's good to know there are socialist Catholics here to virtue signal," and I got mad, and deleted both of his year-old comments. As a side-note, there are plenty of people who won't make it across the Tiber, because they'll be d---ed if some pope tells them what to do with their money. Well, quite literally

Buy The Book: Lovely: How I Learned To Embrace The Body God Gave Me, By Amanda Martinez Beck

OK, I admit it, we are friends. [So this blog continues its tradition of ping-ponging between mindless sycophancy, and complete savagery of, authors more important than you.--ed.] Exactly. And I have been lingering around the Facebook group around this theme for a couple years now. I know how Amanda thinks about things like body image, and I'm almost absolutely certain she is right. I'm not even the target audience, most likely, but she assures me that any person can benefit from hearing her message that all bodies are good bodies. I know one thing for sure: I finished the free sample, and I wanted to read more. I'm just guessing that the Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ figures prominently in the discussion as it goes along. [Catholics capitalize things they think are important.--ed.] You faithful Catholics will probably go, "What about gluttony?" as soon as you read the title, and I know Amanda has spent a lot of time interacting with such objections in

A Night Of Rain

It's been raining often here for weeks. I had that semi-serious thought all semi-liberals and liberals have, that if it's raining this much this late into December, we've really done a number on our climate system. This isn't Florida; we have snow here. Anyway. While I usually love rain, because it reminds me of the waters of baptism, I'm getting a little sick of it. Last night, I thought it was starting to really get to me, and then I remembered the storms were in my soul. I went to Confession. Admittedly, I went to another priest, because although I can't quite figure out how not to break the heart of God, I didn't want to break Father's heart. Not yesterday. I had another image for rain that came to mind: tears. Heaven knows I have had enough of those. Rain is a plot device in many stories. Writers got together and decided that "It was a dark and stormy night" is a terribly ham-handed way to start a story, and a sloppy way to convey sa

In Praise Of Bernie Sanders (Again)

One of the things that we have to recognize at a minimum is that "real" socialism--where a central government controls all aspects of economic life--doesn't work. It doesn't work--and is morally defective--partly because it denies the existence of private property as such; that the prudential decisions of what one individual determines, up to and including his material needs, and those of his or her family, are not to be subordinated and denied for the sake of the State and its self-preservation. The first part of that, you'd get wide agreement, I'd imagine. One of the problems of various totalitarian regimes ostensibly devoted to socialism, especially in the last century, is that they acquired enough power that the rights and duties of individuals were ruthlessly crushed, and subsumed. As seems to happen, the regime apparatchiks never seem to struggle to find food, and frankly, a lavish lifestyle. Anyway, numerous people on the "Right" in countries

Clarity Time: You Have No "Church"

I know I shouldn't get frustrated. Evangelicals don't know the mess they're actually in. They can't. The imperatives of Sola Scriptura do what they do. You have to account and explain for the reality of visible Christian division, and conceiving of the church universal as invisible seems to solve the most pressing problem, which is how Christians could be united when their visible communities so obviously aren't. More than the apparent obvious division, which any snarky papist could use simply as a talking point, is the dogmatic uncertainty this push for a false unity tries to hide. The reality is this: Christians under the paradigm of Sola Scriptura do not agree on major  points of dogma and Christian practice. Just exactly how will you have a coherent Christian answer to any question? Some people within smaller "conservative" communities are doing yeoman work, rediscovering natural law, ancient creeds, and all manner of things, and for that, I'

Restore The Years

People often joke, and are flippant about so-called "trigger warnings." I'm not going to do that. In fact, I'm giving you one now. This post may be hard to read, for all manner of reasons. If you can't make it through, I understand. I have had a lot of opportunities to reflect upon death the past few months. I think one of the more difficult aspects of death, besides losing a particular person whom you love, is being reminded of all the others you have lost. We can be told a thousand times, "It really wasn't your fault," and we know the right answer; we can even say it. And still we find ourselves saying, "Did I do enough so that they knew how much I loved them?" The fragility of life confronts us ironically with our complacency, the knowledge that in many ways, we take our days for granted, as though they will never end. In another context, I identify strongly with Will Hunting, the brilliant, haunted, abused working-class kid from Bos

My Yoke Is Easy

Some people find it very difficult to go to Mass. Other than the logistics of having a disability, I never have. Jesus said, "And after I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to my myself." The Church teaches us that at the offertory, this is when we prepare to offer ourselves and our lives in union with Christ. And especially when the celebrant prays, "Through him, with him, in him..." In a typical morning offering, we pray, "O Lord, I offer You all my prayers, joys, works, and sufferings [in union with Christ offered in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass]." Everything flows from Calvary, from the cross of Christ. Not as though it isn't finished, but indeed, because it is. Jesus wants to bring the power of His Cross, indeed, His whole paschal mystery, into every corner of our lives. This is why we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass over and over. The petition of the Our Father, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done" is a re

Man Of Sorrows

I do not understand this mystery: the Father's love envelops us and surrounds us, but He does not (usually) take away the Cross. In my limited way, this might seem like a contradiction, but it's not. I long to understand its meaning, but all I have is to love God in the midst of it. At other times, it has seemed like grief was a deep hole or chasm from which I would never emerge. Now, it seems like an alternate reality. It's not denial, but it's close, like a bewildered confusion. The world makes no sense now. It goes on, just as it did before, but I go on, with effort. There have been moments where I said, "I don't think I can do this," and Jesus answered, "Yes, you can." Jesus the great high priest is exalted, of course, but he is our brother. I can see him weeping with us, and holding us near. We need the hope of the resurrection, but sometimes, not yet. You can't look at the sorrow and tragedy in the world and go, "Well, that&#

If You End Up At "The Church Is Wrong," Turn Around

I just read a really long piece from a Catholic guy who's same-sex attracted. "Gay," if you like. He was faithful. He lived in a great community. He was ashamed and afraid for a while. But when he was honest, it seems like he faced less hostility than he figured. Well, yeah. True Catholicism is love for literally everyone. Few practice it, but it's true. I can't claim success in that practice, but I do try. With God's power, I will succeed. Anyway, this guy believed in the Church's teaching, so he tried every celibate path known to mankind. I believe him. I can also believe it's terribly hard. It's also true that he just gave up. And there is a cottage industry of people not only ready to celebrate that, but ready to place the blame on orthodox faithful, who simply believe what the Church teaches on faith and morals. If you ask, "Is it really true that God said..." the answer is likely "Yes." We don't follow the Church

You Shall Not Murder

We're still struggling to get this right. This one gets broken all the time, in every place you can think of. It's actually not a wonder that King David committed murder to cover up his adultery, because illicit sex makes men unable to think clearly. How many people today are committing a worse crime to cover their shame? You can drop balloons from the ceiling of a sports venue to celebrate the chance to become the leader of the free world. Imagine the fawning press. Imagine the euphoria, and rightly so. You might even win. I dare the Washington Post to ask that man about his meditations on "You shall not murder." I would like to see it. Even the second-best newspaper in the land is apt to cloud the matter with an array of euphemisms. We let them, really. In a lot of ways, no one likes to be uncomfortable. I'd rather ask him if he thinks Villanova can beat Duke in basketball. The smoke from the evil incense offered at the wicked altar smells like springtime fl

Thoughts On The Elections

It went about how we all thought: the Democrats took the House, and the Republicans strengthened their hold on the Senate. In 2 years, the GOP will have more seats to defend in the Senate. That should benefit the Democrats. Events, of course, have a way of upending that, as always. I absolutely think this election was a referendum on President Trump. I also think he both hurt, and helped his party. The moderate GOP of Romney and Kasich is dead, at least in the Congress. They lost over and over in districts carried by Clinton. They'll keep losing, until Trump is gone. There was nothing to be learned for the young progressive Democrats. They'll feel vindicated by their close losses, and give no quarter to the disaffected moderate Republicans. I call all that a net negative for the nation. After all, the establishment found the same hostility within the GOP. I don't mourn for the loss of Senator Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana. I'll tell you why. Even if he's less enthusia

Kidnapping Is Wrong, But...

Would it really be that wrong to kidnap Dr. Patrick Deneen, and force him to go on a car trip with me, and Confirmation Sponsor Guy? Does he even know how awesome that would be? [Probably not, since you said "kidnapping".--ed.] It's a term of art, OK? [It's also an aggravated felony in most states.--ed.] Details, details! Anyway, he would become aware of my elite fanboy status, which is fine. It's not my fault his books are great! Whether he wins the argument(s) is almost secondary to the sheer pleasure in reading the guy, in thinking his thoughts after him, and so forth. I definitely wish I had studied political science with him as an instructor! [Are you ever going to review "Why Liberalism Failed"?--ed.] Yes. My real life has intruded, but yes. And then I'm going to read Dr. Jordan Peterson. He's earned the right. I'm guessing Deneen has better things to say, but everyone is reading, watching, and talking about Peterson. I might want this

Love Is The Answer, Redux

I was thinking about my favorite movies, and especially what makes them effective in terms of pathos. The writer sets up for the things he wants you to feel; he or she seeds the ground, so to speak, so that when the big climax comes, it doesn't feel forced, cheap, or silly. One of the great things about the troika of William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and DeForest Kelley--better known as Kirk, Spock, and McCoy--is that those actors spent a lot of time thinking about their characters in relation to the others. What would it be like if I were this guy, and these other two guys were my closest friends in the universe? Everything you would say, or could say, changes as a result. In the greatest scene in Star Trek history--the climax of The Wrath of Khan--the whole thing was set up by another scene in Spock's quarters. Kirk just found out that someone has blocked his radio transmission with Dr. Carol Marcus, as they tried to find out who is playing games with Marcus's Genesis proje

Don't Lose Your Audience

I'm not the "Resistance," if you didn't know. For some, the presidential absurdity that is Donald Trump afforded them the opportunity to shout what they already believed even louder than they did before. One of the dangers of being politically engaged, and specifically in something that you're truly passionate about, is that you might think more people are with you than actually are. Not that what I think is--or ought to be--is determined by how popular it is, but depending on the audience, I try to calibrate what I'm saying to be at least in terms that those people will agree with, and understand. Persuasion can be an act of love, and a cooperative act of walking together, if you do it right. I'm not saying I'm good at it, but I do try. Still, to this day, I agree with Mark Shea more than I disagree. I believe there is probably a moderate pro-life Democrat in there somewhere. Like a lot of us, he was a Republican at some point in the past, because a

I Pray In The Bathroom

I've always had a big bathroom. Ever since I was 12 years old, I've had a giant bathroom. It comes with the territory I guess, as a person with a disability. When I moved out of my house into an apartment in the city, I got another giant bathroom. Maybe it's not as big as the other one, but it's big enough. Most people spend a lot of time in there, for reasons both obvious and less obvious, and it got me to thinking. I remember a music video from the time I was in high school from that pop singer, Jewel. She's singing her song in the bathroom. Actually, it's a public one as I recall, and I wouldn't say the video is worth your time, on the whole. Still, someone asked her about it, and she said, "A bathroom is a sanctuary." She's right, you know. When Jesus said we should go into our inner rooms and close the door, and pray to our Father in heaven, it carries a deeper meaning than simply to go someplace private. After all, you can pray anyw

"I Can't Be Civil To Someone Who Supports...."

"Votes are blunt instruments for expressing voter preference." I still remember this from my undergraduate studies. Voters are actually bands of coalitions, gathered together in the tent of the parties, which are supposed to serve as a heuristic for people who have better things to do. If I tell you that I voted for Bush twice, depending on where you sit, you could draw all sorts of conclusions. Some people would be pleased, and others would be horrified. Yet I can't show my work on that; unless I tell you what I was thinking, my preferences, my beliefs, everything about who I am is hidden to you. What if the heuristic tells you really nothing about me? Because I also voted for Obama. I might even say, it could have been a mistake. But it happened, and I don't think I was incorrect about those things in his favor. I still agree with myself on that. But this underlying philosophy that is so omnipresent in our society that we don't notice it--classical liberalis

Why I Do Not Receive The Chalice

The primary reason is our faith. One reason the Council Fathers at the Second Vatican Council were skittish about Communion under both species is that the Council of Trent of happy memory had taught that the whole Christ is substantially present in one. That is, if you receive the Host alone, you have received the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Our Lord. Likewise, the chalice, if for some odd reason one did receive only the chalice. It is actually confusing for the ministers of Holy Communion to say, "The Body of Christ," and "The Blood of Christ," respectively. This teaches the average person that part of Jesus is in the Host, and part of Jesus is in the chalice. This isn't what Our Lord is telling us to believe! I'm sure you've seen the surveys about what Joe and Sue Catholic believe about the Eucharist. It's not good. Secondly, spillage and other desecration remains a perennial and valid concern. It is manifest silliness that Communion und

Voting For President In 2020

I'll probably abstain. There's no way Trump gets my vote. I shouldn't have to say this. I shouldn't have to prove why this is a rational and moral decision. Because people are so invested in defeating "The Left," they have ignored all the evil that he represents. More than this, the manifest ignorance, authoritarian tendencies, and damage to the civic space increases each day. Trump must go. He was unfit from before day 1, and that remains true. I will not sacrifice everything to defeat the cultural Left. Because you can't, just by voting. I understand why people have gotten to this point, where they ignore things they shouldn't ignore. The cultural tides are strong; the Democrats are beholden to inhuman and vile philosophies that countenance the murder of human beings, the destruction of the family, a disastrously false view of the human person, and the list could take hours. Even to get some relief from the attacks on religious freedom, I could s

A Dumb Argument

"Don't like abortion? Don't get one!" You'll find some abortion rights progressive saying this in every comment section on every article on this issue ever published in the internet age. (You can find an individualist libertarian saying the same thing.) There are a myriad of assumptions in this statement. Let's unpack a few: 1. My individual free choice is the most important thing in the entire universe. 2. There is no public, moral dimension to this question. 3. My body is the only thing involved. All three are false. In reply to the first, I can say that I could eat a bowl of arsenic shaped to look like corn flakes. It's possible. That'd be idiotic, and morally wrong, but I could do it. I could steal my neighbor's movie collection. Again, idiotic and wrong, but possible. That is, it's theoretically within my ability to do. Is it within my rights, my freedom, to do? No. Because my freedom is limited in reality to what is morally licit. I

Arguments Concerning Sexual Identity

I saw an argument today: People who identify as gay (or another sexual identity) believe that the Catholic Church, and Christians in general, hate them; Some Christians do in fact hate such people; But in fact, Jesus loves all people, their sins notwithstanding; Therefore, Catholics and other Christians should attend gay weddings (and other ceremonies) to show solidarity with the people involved. And the counter-argument: The Church (the Catholic Church) teaches that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered, (CCC, 2357) that is, by their nature contrary to God's design for the body, and for human sexuality and cannot be approved under any circumstances; (stipulate to the compassion, respect, and sensitivity commanded of Christians by Jesus in CCC, 2358) Attendance at a wedding signifies approval and celebration of the union, or putative union; To approve and celebrate such unions would be to commit the sin of scandal; (CCC, 2284-2285) Therefore, Catholics and

Public Education: Its Foundation, And The Red Herring That Obscures It

The system of public education exists philosophically and theoretically upon the foundation that the purpose of education is being formed in virtue. The good, the true, and the beautiful were once the foundation of the liberal arts, and in fact, the definition of the liberal arts. If the common good exists as something more than a set or collection of private goods, then it stands to reason that some baseline education in the liberal arts ought to be a matter for public concern. That is to say, it is a worthy matter for significant public funding. This contention is irrespective of other arguments that could be had about subsidiarity, or parental rights and duties. Knowledge itself is a part of the common good, because it does not diminish when it is shared. What is known to be true benefits those who do not know that a particular thing is true, and also those who take great pains to deny that a particular thing is true. It is a red herring to use the content of public school cur

Thinking Of Robin Again

I never saw "Mork and Mindy". It was before I was born, and "goofy space alien lost on Earth" isn't exactly a timeless premise. It introduced us to Robin Williams, though, and he managed to do roles that really mattered after this, dramatic and powerful roles. He's an Oscar winner, you know, and long enough ago that you can't brush it aside. Anyway, I saw a clip remarking that Mork and Mindy debuted 40 years ago, and I got to thinking. "Hook" means the most to me, and I don't care what people think. Spielberg himself disavowed it, but all that means is, even a legendary director might not know what he's talking about. That movie is about fathers and their kids. It's about learning to value what's most important. One character says to Peter, "I wish I had a dad just like you." Me too, kid. Me too. "What Dreams May Come". I have never seen or felt the reality of grief at sudden loss portrayed so accurately.

The Basis For A Public, Universal Morality

The ground of a public universal morality is the inherent dignity of the human person. This dignity cannot be given or acquired; it is recognized, facilitated, appreciated, and deepened. If it were conferred as the result of some action, the person would be a mere instrumentality, whose utility to someone or something would merit special rights or privileges. No, this cannot be correct, for the dignity of people is not subject to some valuation of their capacities in some technocratic sense. In another sense, the human capacity transcends illness, misfortune, and defect. It is the capax   Dei, though the State concerns itself primarily with the natural end, both individual and common. The basis for legitimate government as such is this common good, and the end for which government exists. If the very definition of public life presupposes the community, then the legitimacy of the State cannot be subject to the consent of any individual, even a great many individuals. Consent indicates

One Obvious Problem With "Differently Ordered"

As you may know, the Catechism  says that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. Fr. James Martin, SJ, proposes this paragraph say, "differently ordered". We'll take Father at many of his other words that he backs this change in order to avoid causing unnecessary hurt to all the people who experience sexual attraction to people of the same sex. It's not a small point; we are not generally known at the moment to be the fond home of such people. The big problem is this: (wait for it) "Differently ordered" implies moral neutrality with respect to the acts themselves. Notice that this paragraph refers to acts, and not to persons, as well. That's because the philosophical language does suggest that our sex organs have an end or purpose for which they are designed. [You can almost hear the affirming Mom going, "Sweetie, it's not bad; it's just different!"--ed.] We're talking about two separate questions: 1. The moral lice

Re-Thinking "The New Pro-Life Movement"

Nothing could ever remove from me the basic conviction that abortion is gravely immoral, and never acceptable. It still causes me to ask myself, "What would you trade to end abortion?" Would I trade a universal basic guaranteed income? How about universal health care? Strict gun laws? High taxes on the rich? My answer is an emphatic "Yes!" to all of these. I haven't really thought about precisely what I think about those things in themselves; I might still reserve the right to think all those other ideas are imprudent, or incomplete. But the benefit of asking myself this question is getting at the gravity of "intrinsically evil." If I prefer my ideology to the truths about the dignity of the human person, then I must at least consider that, for all my passion for innocent children, I'm not really prepared to do anything and everything licit to stop it. A Catholic priest in Confession has to weigh all these mitigating factors when assessing culpab

Firmly, Or Not At All

Solidarity is the firm determination to act for the common good. Because the pursuit of any virtue benefits everyone, not only the one who seeks it, the pursuit of virtue is intrinsic to the common good, and the noblest expression of solidarity. Current events indicate that the lack of virtue is graver than many suspected. It may at times feel overwhelming. Most of us will not be investigating the crimes, or advising the pope. We can however pursue virtue, and reject vice. By grace, we can draw closer to God. Many wise people are saying this, and it's correct. One of my earliest lessons as a candidate, a learner in holy mother Church, was that grace builds upon nature, but does not destroy it. Practically, what this means now is that civil authorities uncovering the sin and evil are serving Truth Himself, no matter how they relate (or don't relate) to Him personally. When clergy have covered things up, undoubtedly hoping that sin would not be seen to mar the Church's beau

The Eucharist As Catalyst For Unity And Conversion

I have a friend who is in the process of possibly revising his theology. He told me that the "memorialist" position on the Eucharist that characterizes the communities of the radical Reformation no longer makes sense with how he reads John chapter 6. Obviously, I agree. Yet if someone is Protestant, there must be some sort of juxtaposition between faith in Jesus as the Bread of Life, and the Eucharist as the Bread of Life. Certainly, the end of the passage (vv. 51-68) is the part that Catholics point to as the clearest exposition of Catholic Eucharistic faith. It makes sense to spiritualize the graphic parts that a plain reading--and in the ears of the Jewish audience--suggest cannibalism. Jesus makes no effort to comfort the listeners, however. And in fact, a Catholic reading sees no juxtaposition between faith in Christ, and Eucharistic piety. The spiritual and the sacramental are one. I said to my friend, “It's not definitive evidence by itself, but the best refutati

A Note On "Clericalism"

"Clericalism" is an idea that inordinate honor and deference is given to those in the clerical state. It does happen. The people of God at an individual level have placed too much trust in clergy with whom they have been associated, and have been exploited as victims on some occasions. Predators often misuse trust; that's how these crimes happen. Clericalism as an explanation might be a lazy explanation for what's happening, if the reason one believes that inordinate honor has been given to the clerical state is that no honor should be given at all. To be direct, if someone believes in the abolition of the sacramental priesthood, they should just say that. It's unprincipled to decry clericalism when you don't believe in clerics at all. Still, we should do our best to remember that no cleric--even the pope--has the right to command that which is evil. We should know the Commandments, and our catechisms, and refuse obedience if we're commanded to partici

A Loss Of Identity, But A Liberation

I think it no longer wise to identify with any political party. As a Catholic, I am duty-bound--and joyfully hold to--the teachings of the Catholic Church. In regard to, "You shall not commit adultery," and the teachings of our Catechism, it had never been difficult to identify as a Republican, because at least regarding public policy on these questions, progressive ideology has almost nothing to offer. Abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, divorce, contraception, and a host of other evils are actively promoted. We also know that vicious totalitarianism of a socialist nature gripped large portions of the world in the twentieth century, and the United States spent much of its time and treasure combating both the ideology, and the nations promoting it, for good and ill. Socialism that manifests especially in atheistic materialism has been roundly condemned as contrary to the dignity of the human person by the Church since the late 19th century. I think the postwar ascendance o

Father Of Mercies

I know this guy . Frankly, I wish you did, too. He's one of those special people who changes the world some small way every time he says anything. Those are dangerous and wonderful people. And I feel something of what he's feeling and trying to communicate here, but from an odd direction: as a son who lost a father long ago. My one enduring memory is a happy one, and it made me think of a story. I was in the house of a guy Russ probably knows, and my college buddy lent me a hand, and left me alone for a few minutes. My friend--we'll call him "Jim"--went back to the kitchen to speak to his father. We'll call him "Larry". Larry was lamenting that day, all his putative failures great and small. I heard him apologize to Jim more than once. It still shakes me, what I heard next. "All I remember is that you loved me, Dad." It's not sacramental absolution, but it's pretty close. When you entrust yourself and your son to God's

The Truth Is The Truth

There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed. It's better to live in the truth and be occasionally reminded that you hate and resist the truth than it is to pretend the truth is other than it is. I don't have anything to add to discussions of current events, except to say that the truth about any situation is preferable to any comforting lies. It is indeed a comforting thing to know that the Church does not need me, in a sense. When I offer my gifts to the Body of Christ, I do so in the complete knowledge of God's sovereign care. Jesus will preserve His Church; he does not promise to preserve the reputations of those who have done wickedness in darkness. I think some people read this --especially the part about freedom--and secretly go, "Yeah, but..." It's easier to blame God than it is to face the darkness within. Then again, why does God permit all manner of evil to be visited upon the innocent? Your guess is as good as mine. It's an age-old dif

Who Am I To Argue?

Here's some news: human beings are sinners. Sometimes, heinous evil on a large scale is in evidence. We know this. On the one hand, we cannot overstate the human capacity to do the wrong things. On the other hand, if Jesus loves me enough to give His life for me on the Cross, I don't have the right to say that I am worthless, unlovable, et cetera. That would be a lie. I'm valuable enough that the most beloved Son of the Father shed His blood to redeem me, and would have done it if I were the only one. Before we move on to the warm feelings and affections that meditating on this reality almost always provokes, we need to realize that anything in me that denies this, insofar as I indulge it, is a sin against the truth. Any honest accounting of our sins is the acknowledgement of our failure, our great distance from His perfection, but that perfection is not a standard as such; it is God's very existence, His communion. He wants us to be with Him. If I don't want me

Catholics And The Death Penalty: A Brief Note On Theological Method

It didn't take long, but many observers began to think that the revised paragraph CCC, 2267 was ambiguous. There is some talk of asking for clarification in some official capacity. If something could be read in continuity with the tradition, or it could be read in discontinuity, the most charitable and sensible thing is to read it in continuity. Sensible, because a radical discontinuity is in many respects impossible, and charitable, because it's reasonable to think that the pope, whoever he is, wants both continuity and clarity. I think it would be reasonable to say, "This or that wording might be better, because..." but I cannot help but be concerned when the first reaction to something like this is suspicion and fear. One thing at a time: "What do I understand the teaching to have been? Do I need to look more extensively at things previously offered? Do I understand what is being said now? What are major key terms used? Are they similar in meaning/intent to

Why Liberalism Failed (Patrick Deneen) JK's Opening Remarks

I have not been able so far to give this book the attention it deserves, but now I'm ready. At present, I am re-reading both the Introduction and the first chapter, and I've been looking things up. When I am ready, you'll get my summaries with questions, comments, and wider reflections. Once more, I take the posture of a student to a teacher. I saw him at a recent conference with Professor Cross, but Deneen was practicing what he's been preaching, and joined one of his children at an event, so I didn't get to introduce myself. I can say that what he's arguing is deeply resonant with my own experience, my own biography, and my sense as a person with a profound disability that the anthropology of our whole world order is wrong. Someone offered a blurb on the back that this book would have something to challenge both sides of our political culture, so to speak. I suppose that's true. But I come to this book having largely removed myself from politics, at leas

On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books, Karen Swallow Prior

Firstly, I want to thank Dr. Prior for the privilege of reading an advance copy of this her new book. If it is even secondarily offered as an invitation to read many of these great books, then it succeeds wildly. I kept reflecting on what sort of phrase I could use to describe this book. Finally, it came to me and it never left: this book is a meditation on the virtues. Calling it a meditation on the virtues sounds kind of heavy, and it obscures a certain friendly and unobtrusive tone that this work possesses. Although we've never met personally, I felt like I was talking to Karen about these books, or that I was a student in one of her classes. The premise of this work seems to be that in reading the great books and in contemplating their characters, we learn a little more about ourselves, and what it means to be human. If this is the principal goal of the work, it succeeds beyond what I suppose the author imagines, based upon the few notes of self-assessment she provides. Given