Friday, December 19, 2014

Be Nice, Good Catholic

For a while I've been noticing something: exemplary Catholics unable to get mean when they need to be. I see it most often when it comes to issues of social welfare. "Of course," they seem to reason, "we have to be for economic policies that give money to the poor."

Now, before you get all, "Colin is a big meanie - and isn't he the poorest guy we know?" on me. I will explain the precise intent of this statement.

I mock.
I believe we have to give money to the poor. The 'we' I mean is you and I, not some stupid unnatural thing we call the modern nation state. What's the difference? The difference is, I owe the poor love and care. Me. Not some entity supposedly working on my behalf. What's the difference? If you still don't get it, let me add some more nuance.

I have a massive student loan debt. I have every intention of paying it back (some day, some how). I see now that I should never have taken this loan out, but I did, and it's too late for 'should ofs.' It is my responsibility to pay it back. Thus, it would be wrong, for instance, to decide to give a bunch of money (say I actually had some) to some other person or entity before paying back what I owe. That is my responsibility, and I cannot commute it by means of some intermediary thing, like a government with too many financial commitments. It is wrong for an individual to spend money he does not have. It is wrong for governments to spend money they do not have. Thus, it is wrong to support economic policies that do just that. In other words, if the US debt was flush, it would be wrong for them not to help Mexicans. It is not, not nearly, flush, therefore, it is actually wrong for that government to do so, ceteris paribus

But, of course, it is not wrong for individuals who can afford to do so, to do so, someone like Glenn Beck, which is what he did, actually. In fact, I have no doubt that it would be wrong for a wealthy man like that not to do things like this. 

This is not my ultimate point. I am just attempting to show that just because it is nice, and generously intended, doesn't mean it is actually right and advisable. 

It is actually morally evil to take from future generations. It would be evil, were I to have a farm, to lace it with radioactive elements so that no future generation - my child, grandchildren, etc. could use it. Accruing debt is no different. Thus, debt is not morally defensible (save in cases of short term emergency).

In other words, just because it feels generous doesn't mean it is.

But many strong Catholics have a blind spot here. 

They tend to do the same thing with the issue of homosexuality. Because many of them have bought into the meme of the innocent homosexual is every homosexual, they believe that we should be extra sensitive to them. 

If you know me, you know that I am about the gentlest soul you will ever find. I love babies and old people, kittens and puppies. I love gay people, but I don't laugh at them: I don't think they are humorous; I think they are sad.

And yet when I point out the nefarious side of the homosexual movement, these Catholic lovers of all things soft and sweet jump down my throat with accusations left and right about not being sensitive enough. These are the same people who think that Muslims can be reasoned with. Pope Francis dissented from Pope Benedict's sage Regensburg Address, because he didn't know any better. I am sure that, if he has not regretted this yet, he will eventually, that is, when bombs start going off in the Vatican. And, they will go off. And, regretfully, he will go down in history as the naive pope, like a Pius XII times ten.

But it's not nice to say mean things about Pope Francis, say people like Mark Shea and Simcha Fisher. I don't really read either one of these people, but this is the sense I get. Correct me if I am wrong. And, incidentally, Shea is also a give the poor government money person. In this he is being consistent.

How so?

Not nice things are intrinsically bad things, they reason.

There is a lot of wishful thinking going on here.

That was one of my problems with the Augustine movie, "Restless Heart," which I reviewed for Catholic Insight - check out the latest issue of that great magazine!

Here's my theory. It's three-pronged.

1) Guilt and shame (not the same thing) about their Catholic Faith's hard position on homosexuality, against women priests, etc., makes them bend over backwards to "feel at" these people. The unjustifiable side-effect of this is rose-colored glasses, the assumption that government money grows on trees and that homosexuality can be loved into a state of civil cooperation.

This means their faith is irrational. It is irrational in so far as it is based on a simply false view of fallen human nature.

2) They think Jesus was nice. They equate truth and kindness.

This means they love their children like grandparents - a definite no-no, said C. S. Lewis.

I once told a beautiful girl in scanty clothes (to whom I was quite attracted), in reply to her assertion to the contrary, that what you wear does, in fact, say something about you. That was 14 years ago and she hasn't spoken to me since.

3) They are irrationally afraid of being grouped in with conservatives per se, the Republican Party, etc., I mean. The ultimate bad word for these people is: Neo-Conservative. I say it is irrational, because fear of a label is not rational. Got it? You can't be both socially and economically conservative! they say, therefore they know they are required to give up the latter for sake of the former. Sure, they chose the better, but they didn't have to chose at all! is my point. They have a fear of not being complex. They have a fear of not being interesting. They have a fear of being considered heartless. Now, I don't know a great deal about Neo-Con policy, but I do not think that to pro-life, pro-marriage and anti-debt is anything but Christian.


It's difficult to say 'no' these days, for some reason.

Let me venture a thought on why good Catholics have a problem with it - and if you've so far only been skimming this post, thinking to yourself, nothing new here, nothing new here, pay attention now, because this is the original part:

False anthropology. These good Catholics who have tried to really learn their faith have gotten something fundamentally wrong about the Church's teaching on human nature. I know I am right about this: I have seen it in too many students and others over the years. They do not understand original sin and the Church's teaching on grace.

According to the teaching of the truth, man does not tend to chose, to recognize, to identify what is actually true and good. To say he does is to be unCatholic, is to reveal your total ignorance of what it is to be Catholic. Most Catholics are Pelagians - a heresy that states that a person's salvation depends upon his choices, that he has the free will to know, to will and to do what he needs to do for sake of salvation. This is a two-pronged error: man by himself cannot know, will and do the good; even if he could, this would not entitle him to salvation.

So what's the relevance here with respect to the topic of the bleeding heart? It is this: Catholics presume that feelings are a gauge to moral correctness. Feelings of compassion, they assume, are good, because it's compassion, after all, not anger. See the fallacy here? Why is your feeling of compassion morally astute while your feeling anger is not? Why does sympathy lead you to the right decision, but anger does not? Anger is just as informative in a bad person as compassion; in a good person so is it also. Read Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Seneca, Augustine and Aquinas, if you don't agree with me.

Why do modern people - even Catholics - think one feeling not need to be informed by objective data and the other does?

Have you noticed that being angry is considered a universally-valid write-off? Angry right-wing so and so...? Morally speaking, being compassionate is just as indicting, as the woman who stopped for the ducks on the highway in Quebec recently learned.

We do the same with all the 'positive' feelings: make exceptions for them - the worst offender being the feeling of romantic love.

So, what's wrong with Shea and all these people I have unfairly chosen to personify my attack here?

1) They have bought into the myth and there are good feelings and bad feelings.
2) They think we must always unreflectively follow the dictates of today's super-virtue, compassion.
3) They believe that there are innocent people. Homosexuals are a privileged people who simply embody love and are therefore always deserving of 'mercy.'
4) Good feelings permit things like national debt and the rights of the wealthy to their wealth to be considered inconsequential compared to the needs of the poor.

I am only talking about Shea and those types because they are, if you haven't guessed already, rather left-wing when it comes to 'social programs.'

Why the act of faith in social programs? What proof do they have that they actually work? Many very 'compassionate' and conscientious political scientists, politicians and economists have observed with great frustration that they seem to do little to change the economic realities of the most down-trodden. Consider Aboriginals in Canada. Money has done nothing to help them. My assumption is, it never will. So, if you cannot answer this observation of mine, then your faith in social programs is at least worth questioning. Do economically liberal Catholics do so? No, they don't because compassion requires no reconsideration for them. Since it is not selfish, they conclude it is correct and Catholic.

Individuals, be generous! But the social program mindset does not deserve your faith.

Kindness can be just as destructive as selfishness. Consider abortion: those who support it are supported a genocide against black North Americans. Compassion is not enough.

This is why I am tired of the word mercy.

When Catholics use the word - and they seem to a lot these days - what do they mean by it? Every word like this has an opposite, so what is it that they suppose advocating 'mercy' is meant to save us from? Ruthlessness and cruelty, Google tells me. If you can think of a bishop or priest anywhere in the world who fits this description, I would say it's time for mercy. In other words, talking about mercy is setting up a straw-man. Or, where else do they suppose they are experiencing cruelty?

From the teachings of the Church themselves? Teachings that are hardly ever abided by anywhere, ever. So, yeah, free us from that tyranny, would you?

Mercy is the ultimate ego trip.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Altar Boys and Other Thugs

"Pink today is for bully-awareness," a school teacher quipped to me today just before mass began.

Priests bullied by altar boys? At our church, the seventeen altar boys that served today (my kids always count them) could have pulled this off, I guess.

For your information, the color coordinates for rose are #FF007F, and those for pink #FFCBDB, which would look like this:

As you can see, priests have every right to insist on us using the correct terminology.

Speaking of boys, altar boys or what have you, as I looked out on all our fine young men and boys serving holy mass, I thought, to write them a letter,

"Dear boys between the ages of 12 and 17. No one likes you. Sure, you are wonderful, sweet human beings, worthy of God's love, but the rest of us just don't like you. You bother us. Your testosterone-filled bodies cause you to be so annoying. We know you can't help it, but that doesn't make us less annoyed by you. In another time and place, you would have been the pride of the village. We would have had little else to talk about than how fine you are: how strong, how fast, how hard you can work, how far you can throw a spear or a rock, how quickly you can till the ground. But that is not this time and you do not till, you direct your energy futilely towards imaginary foes on Call of Duty. You come away from that worse than when you started: you expended no kinetic energy at all, and just had your minds revved up even more. Twice as annoying now as you were before you started. This is not your world, I'm sorry. 

"What we require of you is to sit at a desk all day, next to beautiful and often scantily clad young women, get on a bus - not walk home, do your homework - again, sitting down, and then reward you with your preferred form of leisure: Xbox. But don't be loud, don't run around the house and wrestle with your siblings. And don't go outside, you might get hit by a car or make noise which will disturb the neighbors. This is not your time. It sucks to be you. Surely you've heard the Psalm:

Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lord,
    the fruit of the womb a reward.
 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
    are the sons of one’s youth.
 Happy is the man who has
    his quiver full of them.
He shall not be put to shame

    when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

"Not anymore, my friend. I've even noticed that many modern translations do not have "Sons" at all but "Children." Yep, it sucks to be you.

"So, take your pills to calm your hyperactivity, and make sure you too wear pink on no-bully day. And make sure you become soulless, emasculated adults, ASAP.,"

Sincerely Yours, a guy who has learned to love to sit still all day long

Speaking of manliness, a friend wrote this to me the other day:

Like Christ. You will suffer lots more than you already have before the end of the path you're on. You will lose even more than you already have. You will not escape prison before death. But you will be rewarded. I hope it helps to know these things. Then you can face the future without fear of the consequences. We will all be tested, but you will pass the test. Have confidence. It's actually a happy fate.

This hit me like on tonne of bricks.Why? Not because I have not ever considered it before. These were words from a person who doesn't know me all that well, one who is a lot more worldly-wise than I, not to mention holy and knowledgeable. How do I come across anyway? I figure no one ever takes me seriously, like a voice crying in the wilderness. But what if someone does?

I guess I never realized how much my prognostications about being persecuted were idle fantasies. But my friend's words frightened me. I don't have much to lose, sure. I have my family, but to know their husband/father suffers for Christ is gain, not loss. I have my plans, my literary plans, which, if I am not ready to give them up for Christ are not actually in my heart intended for Christ, then. I have my little hovel here and my happy little life, and, for as much as I see it as a glass half-full, I am very comfortable and content with this happy little life. Being misunderstood, coming off as a fanatic, frightens me, but I must give that over to God too.

I take the world very seriously. I am not joyless. I love to laugh. But I am very serious on the inside and about why God put me in the world. This friend is right that I am constantly getting into trouble (and being surprised by the trouble I get myself into). It's my character. In school it was a problem, but I see know that being a contrarian is necessary for my life.

But, but, one might also get delusions of grandeur as a persecuted follower of Christ, using it as an excuse for one's personal failings.

Manhood: suffering for Christ. That is why boys 13-17 are annoying, and why even those kids who were most obnoxious in school might be meant for something good.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Kind of World You Want to Live In

I'd like to discuss the issue of doctors' freedom not to participate in abortion and/or prescribing contraception. The issue as it sits in Canada is summed up in this Globe article.

I am sure some of you know doctors in this position. I do.

Now, obviously, one can never be forced to violate their conscience. And these doctors mostly have well-formed consciences, both according to their Christian (often Catholic) faith, and, in the case of contraception, not only according to their faith, but according to their knowledge of medicine (the pill, etc., is not, are not, healthy, actually).

Yet - and yet is not a nevertheless or a however - yet medicine in Canada is not generally understood as the vocation of the individual, an expression of the individual's heart and talent and desire for service. In Canada, a physician is understood to be a mere cog in a medical machine. They are not individuals but government employees, administering a service. Much like a Nazi doctor. No, no amount of money, no prior commitment to upholding the policies of a system, justify violating ones conscience or doing what is intrinsically evil.

So, what is the problem? A single bad policies that violates the consciences of individual doctors, or the modern Canadian system that has no place for the individual as an individual?

The other day a 'friend' of mine on Facebook, whom I respect and generally agree with, talked about 'ending' poverty or whatever. That word makes me nervous. I am not saying that poverty is good. I am saying, however, that the presumption that evil can be ended is dangerous and inevitably inspires more harm than good.

People who want to end things trample over things that inhibit this grandiose plan, like personal freedoms. Yes, having millions of dollars while others go lacking is heinously evil. It is also heinously evil to make others conform to your idea of what should be done. Others have ideas too - have you consulted them? Their ideas might even be better than yours - have you considered that?

Ending cancer is one thing, ending hunger another. The former involves, likely, the solving of a medical mystery. The latter involves a total life-changing program to be imposed on every human being present and future. It would be more far-reaching than even China's evil program. It would have to dictate what you can eat, what work you do, how many children you can have, mandate abortion, sterilization, what kind of education you can receive... that is to say, every aspect of our lives.

Have you ever asked yourself how they elimination poverty in the Star Trek world? This is a little dark secret that we are simply supposed to ignore? This idea was at the heart of Gene Roddenberry's philosophy for Star Trek: education (i.e. scientific advancement) will bring about an end of poverty. I would like to know how it is supposed to do that? He obviously didn't have the Chinese model in mind for this. He simply assumed that when people are educated they will give up stupid prejudices like religion and other irrational ideologies that enable poverty. But if you attempt to employ the scientific method to solve the problem of poverty, what do you end up with? Something short of a free human being. Not a human being at all, says C. S. Lewis. But what's more important freedom of life? Freedom, I say without hesitation. In Roddenberry's world all the human beings just happen to all see that having children is not all that important, I guess: how many births have there ever been on all the Star Trek series combined? I can think of fewer than a dozen. And yet, the human race goes on in the future? The 'Enterprise-D' had a crew of 1000. I can remember two births on that seven or eight year series. And there were many families aboard that ship. According to Roddenberry, human beings as a whole species will just happen to see the wisdom of population control. Just happen to.
You know, "the Future," where, of course, men will be
content to wear a-sexual spandex jumpsuits,
just like women.

So, to my friend's question, are we to eliminate poverty with socialism or with freely elected charity, I say I don't like your question at all. A world with poverty is better than one without freedom. And, evidently, you can't have it both ways. At least we haven't so far. The Church has been preaching for 2000 years and it has developed a lot of good things like hospitals and religious organizations that serve the poor, but it has not eliminated poverty, not nearly. That is not possible for the reasons I have indicated above. It is only a shame when you have not lived well.

And so back to doctors in Canada. These are government functionaries. Just like professors in public universities are: they are all expected to do simply what they are told. And they do. They are not models for human beings, however. And so those two or three doctors out there who have stuck their necks out, I say, wow, you have someone kept your souls. Good for you. But you do understand what you are, right? And the problem is not one bad law. The problem is a system that turns free human being into functionaries.

The blame falls on every single person who uses phrases like "We should have a law for..." and "how do we eliminate..." You are the problem.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Essence of Catholicism

I have no idea why I was thinking about this at mass today. As far as I can remember, the readings had nothing to do with the issue, nor the feast of Our Blessed Lady of Guadalupe.
You know what's in this box? Ever since Peter the Great,
we have been putting the self-respect of bishops in here.
I am hoping to catch up to Stalin soon. Hey, look, Kirill,
this one is yours. Right there. See it?

I started to think about the difference between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. If there is one thing you could say about the essential difference between these two general communions (there is no one Orthodox Church as there is one Catholic Church), what would it be? If you asked an Orthodox theologians he might say something like the mysticism of the East versus the rationalism of the West. Those are general characteristics, but they are not essential differences. John of the Cross is as Catholic as Newman. Augustine is as mystical as any Eastern Father. Yes, we have Aquinas, and they have Palamas, but let's not exaggerate. No Catholic theologian has a problem with the East's mysticism.

Is it the filioque - the West's addition to the creed that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and (que) from the Son (filio)? I would like someone to show me, then, how your average Catholic and Orthodox pew-sitter has been remotely effected by this little word if this is a source of our great difference.

Leave it to the great Hungarian, Cardinal Mindszenty.
Tortured and then imprisoned for forty years.
You are getting warmer if you start to talk about the papacy. And, yes, it is key, but I am going to say that it is key, but not for the reason you think. The papacy merely expresses and strengthens the independence that essentially characterizes the Catholic understanding of the Church, versus the inescapable caesaro-papism of the East. Over the centuries the patriarchs have been subsumed by the secular rulers of the countries in which they have found themselves: under the Byzantine emperors, under the Russian czars, premiers and now presidents, under the Turkish sultans. The Protestants have exhibited the same history: cuius regio, cuius religio - the ruler determines the religion of the country. Most Protestants have been very happy status quo functionaries. Yes, there have been exceptions in great men like Kierkegaard, and groups like the Quakers, the Doukhobors, the Mennonites, etc. It is no surprise that in a country that gave birth to the cuius regio doctrine of Luther that such a pathetic resistance to Nazism was offered by the Christians of that country. It also says something about the pathetic state of German Catholicism today, as exemplified by such zeitgeist conformists like Kasper.

Gregory VII with humbled Henry IV - would never happen in the East.
But this has not been the history, the remarkable part of the history, of Catholicism. Our greatest heroes are bishops (and popes) who have stood up against Caesar. Yes, the goodness of this resistance proves an ecumenical embarrassment today, but it is Catholicism. It is Augustine's doctrine lived out: the City of God is in but not of the City of Man, and there is only one allegiance.

The East's list is far shorter than the West's. I can think of St. John Chrysostom (not a great example as his primary persecutor was the Bishop of Alexandria) and those like St. Germanus and the iconophiles who resisted the iconoclastic emperors for that one glorious moment in the 8th century.

Archbishop Darboy
The West is full of examples like this. Most of us would know of people like St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, a few of us have heard of St. Thomas of Becket and Popes Gregory VII, Innocent III, Boniface VIII. But don't forget about Pius VII who stood up to Napoleon, to Leo XIII, and Pius XI and XII who stood up vs. the Fascists and Italian imperialists. We should remember Georges Darboy killed by the Paris Commune and all other self-respecting prelates who resisted up to the point of death, worthy of the name, bishop.  But let us note that this all started way back with the 4th to 9th century popes who continually stood up against kings and especially Emperors - usually, but not always popes (remember St. Ambrose). And, although I am not his biggest fan, I have to tip my hat to Bergoglio in the old days, living out the Catholic tradition of resistance to Caesar.

Go ahead and comment that I forgot about some Eastern bishop - go ahead: I am here to learn! But, and this is a challenge I throw out to our Eastern brothers: live like we have lived, or I should say, like our greatest have lived.

Telling the World Bank and the IMF to share (other people's money) with the poor is a good start, Holy Father. But talking about global warming and pets isn't living out our Catholic tradition of resisting Caesar. Leave the economics to the communists. Give us Christ!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Why Would I Bother?

I think anyone short of St. Paul would ask himself this upon occasion. I ask it perhaps daily.

I know I do good work. But it's the old Ignatian for the greater glory of God part that's the rub. And besides, the good I do is mixed with a bunch of bad.

These matters aside, I have to take stock here and there and say to myself: here's the difference I can do, here is the difference I did. I have learned that, for sake of sanity and perseverance, you have to think small. The smaller the better. Don't think about writing the book that will finally definitely refute all errors and heresies. Think of responding to one thing, of presenting the truth on just one matter. Perhaps once a day.

There are friends of mine who do tireless work for the pro-life movement. I think of one mother in particular whom, it seems to me, spends all of her non-mothering time, witnessing online by arguing with pro-choicers. Is she ever going to convince them all? Not in a million years and not without water-boarding (which is not all that pro-life anyway).

Evil is well financed, says the holy priest. I am just one guy. I am not the most dynamic person, charismatic, attractive. And I am poor. Nevertheless, I am one of the most erudite forty-year-olds around: I decided to become that way at about fifteen years of age. So I need to play to my strength, and so I do. (Oh, and I am a poor organizer and financial guy.)

So, what do I do? Simply concentrate on teaching the Gospel perhaps by no other means than refuting one error per day to one person at a time. Nor need these truths be the most grandiose ones.

Let me give three examples here, and consider that these make up for this week so far:

1) The Gospels that the Church recognizes as authentic are the most ancient ones. (That doesn't, of course, mean that they are for this reason true.)

2) The Church does not have a position on extra-terrestrial life. (It's commitment to Aristotelian hylomorphism means that it declares that a soul is present when reasoning happens, and so if a thing reasons, it has a soul, thus, making the problem of aliens not much of a problem.)

3) NFP is linked to success in marriage; contraception to failure.

There, that wasn't too difficult was it? There's no need to get too hot and bothered about anything. Some people actually want to find the truth. Don't bother with any other type other person.

I don't know if my life and 'ministry' has made a difference to anyone in the world. I can't even say that 'I would like to think it does.' I don't want to think anything other than what's true. My life doesn't need to make a difference. I want good for my family, good for the Church and good for the world, but I don't need it to come from me. I used to need it that way. Now, as long as I am faithful, making a difference is almost irrelevant to me.

Almost, but not not altogether, because if I know something is working, I will do that. If I know it is not, I will try something else. Wanting good for my family, the Church and the world requires trying to bring it about when I know I have it in my ability to do so. I don't know if the truth has the ability to win hearts by itself or not. I see a lot of people running after any number of stupid things. And yet, is this only because there are too few voices of reason out there, taking the time to simply say what needs to be said, not yelling it, just calmly articulating it?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Today's Highlight: Me!

A little while ago I blogged about how pop songs employ the basic demagogic tactic of lauding the 'me!' in little girls. Let's not just pick on poor old feminist fodder.

I am just finishing up the last marriage book I promised to review for the upcoming 'Marriage and Pop Francis' issue of the Catholic Review of Books. It's The Gospel of the Family: Going Beyond Cardinal Kasper's Proposal by Perez-Soba and Kampowski (Ignatius Press, 2014). And it got me to thinking.

I am sure you have met many people suffering from divorce. I have. They were common growing up. Some were Catholics (I wasn't raised Catholic) and it sometimes came up how they were processing that part of things. After I became Catholic I admired how one woman who was close to our family, though divorced and remarried outside of the Church, had the sense not to receive communion. Others were a little, or more than a little, resentful of the Church. Now, as you guessed from the title of the book, it is a response to that large personality, Cardinal Kasper. No surprise, I don't care for him. One thing I really don't care for is how personality intrudes into theology. Do you know how much, for instance, we know about Duns Scotus, one of the greatest theologians who ever lived? Neither his birthday, birth year, place of birth (not even country of birth! - in those days Scotus could mean of Scotland, but also of Ireland, believe it or not.) But then you get that big German mug of Kasper's pushing itself in front of everything. If there is one thing that you can really say about Pope Benedict, it is that he was a very unassuming person (not to mention, diminutive), and, other than for his massive intellect, completely nondescript. This is why the press looked passed him.

"He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him." (Is 53:2)

I hate to draw a parallel here to our own Prime Minister, but let's be honest. He his capable. Comparing him to Trudeau is like comparing Einstein and turpentine. Sorry that rhymed, so I had to use it. But Harper has no charm, no charisma, and, though, not ugly, certainly not handsome. Would I want him working for my business? I certainly wouldn't want Trudeau working for it, well, perhaps if my business was a Starbucks. He'd be a good draw for the young idiot crowd. Style vs. substance.

Back to my point more directly. Here's the danger when the clergy get involved in cults of personality. It becomes about the priest, the bishop, the pope, rather than the Law of God. The Church has done a very bad job with this recently. For as much as the Church is trying to 'use' Pope Francis' unusual approach and personality for sake of evangelization (hopefully, for that sake), it is a strategy doomed to fail. Why? As I said, it puts man before message, and the man becomes a scale for weighing the message, not the message itself. It becomes a man's message rather than God's. It becomes a product of a certain style, approach, trend, pattern of a man or of an epoch and not of God. For instance, I can easily dismiss everything he says about the liturgy with the phrase, "I am a Pope Benedict Catholic." And this has been Pope Francis fault, to at least some degree, as he keeps taking a renovator's approach, eschewing tradition.

When it comes to the issue of marriage, divorce and cohabitation, the large personalities of Kasper and others have set themselves up as objects, rather than simply as servants. This is our modern world, everyone needs to have something distinctive about them. The ever-funny site, Eye of the Tiber, had a joke about the dissident Legionary priest who parted his hair in the middle. Yes, the Legionaries brought conformity to a whole new level, but the basic point is sound: it's not about you, it's about God! Now, for the Legion, the means became the end. But look at it this way. In the Middle Ages the first thing that happened when you became a religious: tonsure! Everyone got the same haircut; it was about humility.

But now, everyone needs to have their own distinctive angle. I hate to say it but this current College of Cardinals is the biggest group of distinctive personalities you'd ever find. This is not a complement. You guys dress the same, so why not act like you represent something larger than yourself? But neither should I tar the whole with the one brush - there are saints among them too, I have no doubt. But it is a bad indictment.

Totally. Authentic. 100% gimmick free.
How can we get (back?) to the point where new bishops coming into a diocese are not considered regime changes, that something new and different is going to happen now? The messenger is being put in the way of the message. We all lose when this is the case.

"Shall I apply for an annulment?"

"This bishop is really old school, you should wait till next year. He'll be seventy-five and then chances are a more 'open-minded' bishop will come in."

Then no attempt to understand why the Gospel and the Church teach as they do. It's just about Father so-and-so, the problem is not with me.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Christianity, The Immune System

I don't know all that much about biology. I do know, however, that when the body registers an offender in it midst, it springs into action and attempts to destroy that intruder though a variety of means. This is why we get the symptoms we are used to with flues and colds, etc.: fevers, runny noises, aches, vomiting...

I am overly concerned with the fate of Christianity in the world. Overly - that's not a word one would expect me to use in this context. But I am overly concerned because anything that robs someone of his peace can't be from God, not totally anyway. I don't mean that it's ideal that we be insensitive to everything around us. There is a great deal of middle ground between losing one's peace and being insensitive, though.

I know God doesn't want me to get angry, upset, distracted, and He especially has no wish for me to contemplate violence. Sometimes violence is necessary, but to entertain thoughts of violence is never God's wish, nor is one contingent on the other, even though this is all more easily said than done.

Christianity is not doing well right now. There is a lot to be concerned about. Most of all: homosexualism is trying to make actual Christianity illegal - because real Christianity requires that we view homosexuality as either sin or as sickness, there are no two ways about it.  And Islam. Why did I put this growing violent threat second? Well, in North America Islam is a more remote threat at the moment. In either case, if the first group does not destroy us, the second one will attempt to. It might even be the case that after the second has destroyed the first it will move on to us. In any case, neither one is our friend.

Mindszenty under the Communists.
Soon Collins or Prendergast?
It used to be that communism was our worst enemy. Of course, the socialists who threatened Christianity both here and abroad have now morphed into the homosexualist party. Do a Venn diagram. You should have the 'homosexualist circle' inside the 'socialist circle,' which almost completely fills up the 'leftist circle,' which almost completely fills up the 'secularist circle.' Same enemies as ever, just a different name. And sneakier and more experienced now; the one holding all the power in North America.

Look at a place like Poland, even Russia. Under the Commies, Christianity was suppressed yet vibrant. Its communities were everything you would ever want them to be. To these people their faith was their life. Now that Christianity is no longer persecuted in those countries, it seems to have lost its vitality. I think we are seeing the opposite trend at work here in North America. People are becoming more conscious of what Christianity implies for civil life. So they have to make a choice, a choice which they never expected they would have to make.

I am not the first to think about the state as a body writ large. Plato's Republic is based around the idea. St. Paul used the analogy a few times in reference to the Church. It used to be that secularists tolerated Christianity as the body's liver, the thing that kind of spruced things up a little, not something that really made too many demands on the rest of the body. But secularists are now no longer appreciative of this service, and Christians who continue to think in this status quo manner are being more and more marginalized every day. Sure, we can still have chaplains in the pay of the military, the police, etc., just as long as they don't make anyone uncomfortable with actual Christianity or the Holy Name of Jesus. But even that will eventually expire.

Christianity has been serving as society's liver for quite some time, but, because its contribution is no longer welcome, and because the liver itself has ceased to consider its job in the way it always has - that of straining out the poison of sin - but now, rather, that of ameliorating bad feelings and of promoting social justice, this model no longer works. An antagonistic model is taking over, sociologically speaking.

Christianity is starting to behave like white blood cells, T-cells, natural killer cells, and the like. Simple story: hostile germs or bacteria enter the body, these guys notice, attack, multiply, attack some more. You wouldn't even be aware of the fact that your body could do this had you never been infected by something harmful. You'd never get a fever, a runny-nose, etc. Like a muscle never exercised, so is your immune system if it never has to act. But in acting, it gets stronger. Let's extend the analogy further: we treat runny-noses, fevers, etc., as the enemy, but they are quite the opposite. So too annoying Christians. Yes, these call a spade a spade: adultery, pornography, drunkenness, greed: true Christians stand in the way of body's good times. Thus, you hate them. And, you take medicines to undermine the immune system's work, believe it or not! Yes, sometimes a fever gets too high and needs to be brought down, even though the fever was trying to help - like an auto-da-fé, or something like that.

The moral of the story is, when we hear about Christianity declining, on the one hand, or, one the other, hear about it growing here and there, when we hear about a new interest in spirituality, an increase in priestly vocations, or a modern renaissance for the Church (as in the case of this interesting article), we have to remember that Christianity in our culture behaves just as the body's immune response behaves. It will rise and fall as threats come and go.

You may find this grim and pessimistic or, if you are of the mind that society is moving beyond religion, you might find this a positive take on Christianity's longevity. It is what it is. The decline of the Church here and there is not a sign of the apocalypse. Two-thousand years of political ups and downs for Christianity should have proved this by now. I think you will find that my immune system analogy can also cast some light on the fate of Christianity in China and the fate of Catholicism versus Pentecostalism in South America. I also think it can tell us a fair amount of relevance about evangelization and apologetics. Further, I think it can tell us something about our souls, how God made us and how He wants to feed us.

Christians have to feel that their faith costs them, believe it or not. People in general don't like to be told what they can and cannot do, but only certain Christians will respond to persecution with renewed or increased vigor. Christianity will be vigorous when it has a reason to be. Over the centuries persecution has been its number one reason. It is then that people will suddenly feel that God is calling them to something greater.