Friday, May 01, 2015

God Does Not Mess with Our Heads

Fracassini, Execution of the Martyrs of Gorkum.
Today I found myself reflecting on Protestantism, and it occurred to me that among its fundamental flaws is that it is okay with the idea of a God Who messes with our heads.  This is because Protestants hold that Christ established an invisible church of true believers, rather than a visible Church of true teachers.  In other words, God leaves us to figure out for ourselves what we need to do to save our souls.  

The idea that God allows us to puzzle out our own path to salvation gives us way too much credit for brains, and God no credit at all for being a loving Father.  What loving human parent allows a child to figure out for himself whether to stick his hand in a pot of boiling water, or light matches, or run out into traffic?  What loving parent fails to pass on to the child wisdom and knowledge that the child cannot learn without being told?  So God sets up visible authority figures for the child in the person of his mother and father in order to teach him the things he will need to know in order to survive in the world -- and also in order to give him a reason to believe what he has been taught without having to find it out through tragic experience.  If God does this in order to secure our temporal good, why would He not, to secure our eternal good, set up a true Church of visible teachers with authority to teach in His Name?  After all, the avoidance of hell and attainment of heaven is the paramount business of our lives.  Nothing else equals it in importance.  It is why we were created.  Failure to achieve our supreme objective is catastrophic and irreversible.  And, if we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that there is a reason Holy Scripture constantly compares mortal man to sheep.  We are not very bright.

So why would anybody even want private judgment to be a true doctrine?  Clearly, the purpose of private judgment is to allow us to rationalize doing whatever we want.  It provides us with a built-in scorn for, or at least suspicion of, authority -- especially the authority of the Successor of Peter -- that permits us to doubt and ultimately disregard any authoritative teaching that goes against our perverse inclinations.  It blinds us to the truth by allowing us to replace reality with our own fantasies and stamping them with the imprimatur of the Holy Spirit.  It gives us a basis to conclude that, after all, breaking our marriage or religious vows or neglecting our kids or accumulating an Everest of possessions or furthering the cause of socialism or apostatizing from the Catholic faith may indeed be our own personal path to salvation.  In the end, private judgment must lead to a forgetfulness of salvation at all, in favor of idolizing the transitory happiness of this life.  Private judgment is ultimately rooted in pride.  This has to be why the confidence of its adherents is not shaken by the proliferation of contradictory and mutually exclusive judgments, each of which is held by someone claiming to have been inspired by God.

But God does not inspire chaos.  He does not leave us without guidance in the pursuit of our most vital interests.  He does not deprive us of light in our search for Truth.  He does not make the most vital truths obscure and indiscernible.  God does not mess with our heads.

Friday, April 03, 2015

The Harrowing of Hell (Re-Post)

I will deliver them out of the hand of death. I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy death; O hell, I will be thy bite... 
Osee (Hosea) 13:14 (Douay-Rheims translation)

Because Christ also died once for our sins, the just for the unjust: that He might offer us to God, being put to death indeed in the flesh, but enlivened in the spirit, in which also coming He preached to those spirits that were in prison: which had been some time incredulous, when they waited for the patience of God in the days of Noe, when the ark was a building: wherein a few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water. 
1 Peter 3:18-20 (Douay-Rheims translation)

...He suffered, died and was buried.  He descended into hell...
From the Apostles' Creed

In this age of modernist obfuscation and general graying out of vivid supernatural reality, the Harrowing of Hell is probably the most ignored of the creedal doctrines.  Yet as Catholics, we are bound to believe that sin shut the gates of heaven against the souls of men; that it was only Christ's Passion and Death on the Cross that opened heaven; that until then, the souls of the Just were imprisoned; and that, after His death, Christ liberated these souls.  Perhaps one reason we do not devote more time to considering this stupendous event is because it has been obscured by the modern obsession with avoiding any and all mention of Hell: its edge has been blunted by the milquetoast English rendition of the event as "He descended to the dead."  This bland, pedestrian translation fails to confront us with the startling fact of Christ in Hell; we are not inspired to inquire further into its meaning.  It seems obvious that while His Body lies in the tomb, the Son of God is among the dead, having died on the Cross; but how can He, pure and sinless, be in Hell, and why?

First of all, what is the Hell to which Christ descends?  We think primarily of the Hell of the damned, from which there is no escape, and from whose punishments there is no reprieve.  Before the coming of Christ, sin barred the gates of heaven to men.  The souls of the Just could not get into heaven until after Jesus had sacrificed Himself to pay the penalty for our sins.  As St. Thomas Aquinas says in the Summa Thelogica:
[T]hrough Christ's Passion the human race was delivered not only from sin, but also from the debt of its penalty.... Now men were held fast by the debt of punishment in two ways: first of all for actual sin which each had committed personally: secondly, for the sin of the whole human race, which each one in his origin contracts from our first parent, as stated in Romans 5 of which sin the penalty is the death of the body as well as exclusion from glory, as is evident from Genesis 2 and 3: because God cast out man from paradise after sin, having beforehand threatened him with death should he sin.
So what happened to all the good people who lived before Jesus' time, and died without ever having the opportunity to believe in Him or receive the Sacraments?  They dwelt in a place of waiting -- variously called, among other things, the Bosom of Abraham, or the Limbo of the Fathers, or the Limbo of Hell.  There they did not suffer the torments of the damned, but they did suffer privation.  Aquinas elucidates:
After death men's souls cannot find rest save by the merit of faith, because "he that cometh to God must believe" (Hebrews 11:6). Now the first example of faith was given to men in the person of Abraham, who was the first to sever himself from the body of unbelievers, and to receive a special sign of faith: for which reason "the place of rest given to men after death is called Abraham's bosom," as Augustine declares (Gen. ad lit. xii). But the souls of the saints have not at all times had the same rest after death; because, since Christ's coming they have had complete rest through enjoying the vision of God, whereas before Christ's coming they had rest through being exempt from punishment, but their desire was not set at rest by their attaining their end. Consequently the state of the saints before Christ's coming may be considered both as regards the rest it afforded, and thus it is called Abraham's bosom, and as regards its lack of rest, and thus it is called the limbo of hell. 
Aquinas goes on to explain that the Limbo of the Fathers is not qualitatively the same as the Hell of the damned, because the damned suffer eternal torment without hope of reprieve, whereas the Just before the coming of Christ suffered no sensible torments and had hope for a release from imprisonment.  On the other hand, situationally, the Limbo of the Fathers was probably the same as the Hell of the damned:  
For those who are in hell receive diverse punishments according to the diversity of their guilt, so that those who are condemned are consigned to darker and deeper parts of hell according as they have been guilty of graver sins, and consequently the holy Fathers in whom there was the least amount of sin were consigned to a higher and less darksome part than all those who were condemned to punishment.
So, as Aquinas says
Directly Christ died His soul went down into hell, and bestowed the fruits of His Passion on the saints detained there; although they did not go out as long as Christ remained in hell, because His presence was part of the fullness of their glory.
We come to the reasons for the Harrowing of Hell, which we have already begun to touch on.  The Angelic Doctor gives three reasons why it was fitting for Christ to descend into Hell.  Firstly, to bear the penalty for sin -- namely, death of the body and descent into Hell -- in order to free us from penalty (though we are not yet delivered from the penalty of bodily death).  Secondly, to force Hell to disgorge its righteous captives.  And thirdly, to show forth His power and glory even in the domain of the devils.

This last point is worth lingering over.  Because the wills of the damned are confirmed in evil at the moment of their deaths -- just as the wills of the righteous are confirmed in goodness and charity at the moment of their deaths -- Christ did not rescue any of the damned from Hell.  In His essence, He visited only the Limbo of the Fathers; but the effects of His power reached every part of Hell.  Aquinas:
A thing is said to be in a place in two ways. First of all, through its effect, and in this way Christ descended into each of the hells, but in different manner. For going down into the hell of the lost He wrought this effect, that by descending thither He put them to shame for their unbelief and wickedness: but to them who were detained in Purgatory He gave hope of attaining to glory: while upon the holy Fathers detained in hell solely on account of original sin, He shed the light of glory everlasting.
In another way a thing is said to be in a place through its essence: and in this way Christ's soul descended only into that part of hell wherein the just were detained. so that He visited them "in place," according to His soul, whom He visited "interiorly by grace," according to His Godhead. Accordingly, while remaining in one part of hell, He wrought this effect in a measure in every part of hell, just as while suffering in one part of the earth He delivered the whole world by His Passion.
He puts it briefly in another place thus:
When Christ descended into hell, all who were in any part of hell were visited in some respect: some to their consolation and deliverance, others, namely, the lost, to their shame and confusion.
With Christ's visitation, the spoliation of Hell was complete.  A final extract from the Angelical that is worth many hours of meditation (emphasis added): 
When Christ descended into hell He delivered the saints who were there, not by leading them out at once from the confines of hell, but by enlightening them with the light of glory in hell itself.
Think of it.  Hell is the privation of God and His glory.  For the imprisoned elect who found themselves in the presence of the living God and beheld the light of His glory, Hell, in that moment, ceased to be Hell.  Hell was overthrown.  No wonder it is written in Philippians 2:10-11 "That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth: And that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father."

Today at Matins (Office of Readings) according to the revised Breviary, we read the following ancient, anonymous Holy Saturday sermon:
Something strange is happening - there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and He has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.
He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, He has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, He who is both God and the Son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the Cross, the weapon that had won Him the victory. At the sight of Him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”
I am your God, who for your sake have become your Son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by My own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of My hands, you who were created in My image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in Me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.
For your sake I, your God, became your Son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden. See on My Face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in My image. On My back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See My hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree. I slept on the Cross and a sword pierced My side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced Me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.
Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

Monday, March 30, 2015

More Random Thoughts

-- The secular lay members of the Mystical Body of Christ have their own role to play in the history of salvation and a special dignity all our own that is different from that of priests and religious.  It is crass clericalism of a major order to think that the secular lay faithful are not fully participating in the life of the Church unless we are engaged in a flurry of activity at Mass or otherwise doing things that priests ought to be doing.

-- When we go chasing after imaginary "rights," we forfeit our authentic ones, both for ourselves and for others.  When we start chasing after the "right" to pursue our unbridled passions, even at the price of putting to death unwanted babies in the womb, we forfeit our right to a well-ordered society.  When we start chasing after the "right" of two people of the same sex to enter into "marriage," we forfeit the free exercise of religion.  When we start chasing after the "right" of one spouse to put away the other spouse when he gets tired of her and trade her in for a new model, we forfeit the right of the innocent spouse to a common life and consortium; we forfeit the right of the children to live in an intact family with both mother and father; and we forfeit the property rights of the spouses.

-- That last point bears a little closer examination.  Has anybody besides innocent spouses noticed that no-fault divorce is just a great, big redistribution scheme?  File for divorce, and suddenly, your property isn't your property anymore: the marital estate -- not to mention the separate income of the spouse who makes the most money, even if he is not the one who filed -- gets turned over to the legislature and the courts to distribute as they see fit.  This kind of power in the hands of government perverts the mission of government, which should be to protect society's building-block institutions.  That is why the law favors those who set out to torpedo their families, and leaves those who want to stay together without any recourse.

-- Think you know all about the "Red Scare" and the Hollywood blacklist?  Did you know, for instance, that every single one of the Hollywood Ten was in fact an active member of the Communist Party and had pledged his allegiance to the Soviet Union?  Did you know that, in an effort to gain control over the movie industry, the Communists instigated two bitter, violent and ultimately fruitless strikes of behind-the-scenes studio employees in 1945 and 1946?  Did you know that the blacklist was actually instituted by the studios themselves -- not by the government -- in response to the defiant performance of the Hollywood Ten in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947?  If not, then you need to read Hollywood Traitors: Blacklisted Screenwriters: Agents of Stalin, Allies of Hitler by Allan H. Ryskind.

-- It is always the priests who have to add their little ad-libs to the Mass, or take out parts of the Mass they don't like, who can't faithfully say the black and do the red, who have the greatest reputations for humility and pastoral-mindedness.  This proves that we no longer have a clue in what humility consists.

-- I am happy to be able to report that it has been some years now since I have seen sand or twigs or nothing at all in local holy water fonts during Lent.  But if you are unfortunate enough to live in a place where that foolishness still goes on, don't just take it.  Carry holy water around (REAL holy water, blessed according to the Rituale Romanum -- find a priest willing to do this and create a big supply) and fill the empty fonts, dumping the debris when necessary.

-- Fr. Chad Ripperger is a big proponent of spiritual contracts.  A spiritual contract is when you ask God that, every time you say a particular prayer or do a particular good work, He understand you to be offering that prayer or work for some intention.  That way, you can always pray for the intention even when you are not consciously thinking about it at the time of the prayer or work.  Here is an example of some of my own spiritual contracts.  I like to say the Litany of the Sacred Heart after every Holy Communion.  I have marked particular lines in the Litany with the names of people for whose intention I want to pray every time I say that line.  Sometimes, I just say that line as an aspiration; and every time I do, I am praying for that person.  I also have spiritual contracts tied to some of my daily prayers.  The thought that I am praying for the intentions of people I love every time I say some part of those prayers helps me to persevere in prayer even when I don't feel like it.

-- In these days of institutional rottenness both in the Church and in the secular world, we are told that those who speak out against this rottenness and who try to restore what has been destroyed are "divisive" and "uncharitable."  Bl. Clemens Graf von Galen, the Lion of Münster, teaches us how to respond to this accusation:
My Christians! It will perhaps be held against me that by this frank statement I am weakening the home front of the German people during this war. I, on the contrary, say this: It is not I who am responsible for a possible weakening of the home front, but those who regardless of the war, regardless of this fearful week of terrible air-raids, impose heavy punishments on innocent people without the judgment of a court or any possibility of defence, who evict our religious orders, our brothers and sisters, from their property, throw them on to the street, drive them out of their own country. They destroy men's security under the law, they undermine trust in law, they destroy men's confidence in our government. And therefore I raise my voice in the name of the upright German people, in the name of the majesty of Justice, in the interests of peace and the solidarity of the home front; therefore as a German, an honourable citizen, a representative of the Christian religion, a Catholic bishop, I exclaim: we demand justice! If this call remains unheard and unanswered, if the reign of Justice is not restored, then our German people and our country, in spite of the heroism of our soldiers and the glorious victories they have won, will perish through an inner rottenness and decay.
-- Things in the Church have been so bad for so long that we are ready to leap on any little crumb of comfort -- any tiny sign, for instance, that in fact we have been mistaken all these years about our pastor or our bishop being a doctrinaire leftist, or that reverence will soon be restored in our local parishes -- in the frantic hope that it portends a change for the better.  But once we have devoured that crumb, we see that nothing has really changed, and we feel emptier than ever.  We may  have to endure even worse times before authentic reform comes.  But when it does come, we will not need to wonder whether it is here.  It will be unmistakable.  

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Holy Week and "Gender" Politics

With liberals, everything is always about politics, which means the rest of us must constantly be indoctrinated, lest we fail to see the light.  We can't just have music: we have to have some message set to a tune.  We can't just have a novel: we have to have an attitude adjustment.  We can't just have plays or movies: we have to have leftist sermons disguised as entertainment.  Even religion isn't safe from this busybody interference.  We can't just have Holy Mass, or Vespers, or the Rosary, or Stations of the Cross: our once Catholic worship and devotions have to be salted down with a heavy seasoning of philistinism, narcissism, secular humanism and even downright Marxism.  It is always during this, the holiest week of the year, that the top is off the salt-shaker and the spoons and castor oil are out, and we are lined up to take our medicine.  It is time for us once again to be force-fed our annual lessons in "gender" theory, beginning with the reading of the Passion on Palm Sunday and culminating in Holy Thursday with the washing of the feet.

These days, during the reading of the Passion, and while a multitude of men stands around, we have women reading the parts of St. Peter and Pontius Pilate, and men reading the part of the maidservant who confronts St. Peter.  Why is this a big deal?  Because, apart from the fact that it is jarring to hear a woman reading St. Peter's lines, it is obvious that this is not being done out of necessity, since there are plenty of men around; it is clearly being done to make a point, even if those who orchestrate it vehemently deny it.  One grows weary of being peppered by these little points during Mass.  It is hoped that eventually we will grow so used to them that we start ignoring them -- and therein lies the danger.  To ignore them is to be anesthetized, and therefore compliant.  This sort of thing prepares us, gradually, to accept the lie that there is no difference between men and women. Each time one of these little stunts is pulled, that is one more degree added to the temperature of the pot of water that we frogs are sitting in. And the lie has broad and deep implications. If it is true that there is no difference between men and women, and men and women do not each have their proper roles and inclinations ordained by God in virtue of their different endowments, then there is no reason why marriage should only be between one man and one woman; there is no reason why children need both their mothers and their fathers; and ultimately, the union of Christ, the divine Bridegroom, and His spotless Bride, the Church, is a joke.

The gender-bending and general confusion in secular society about the nature of maleness and femaleness is being harnessed by the women's ordination crowd within the Church.  We need to get it through our thick skulls that there is no real difference between the sexes, you see, so that we will realize what an injustice it is that women cannot be ordained to the priesthood.  The inherent dignity of women demands that they have a role at the table too, and not just as sacristans or preparers of meals or on cleaning crews, the argument runs; therefore, women must swarm the sanctuary, must read the male lines in the reading of the Passion, and must have their feet washed -- even though the rubrics of the Mass specify that only men are to have their feet washed, as they symbolize the all-male college of Apostles.  

But this line of thinking betrays a worldly mindset as well as a total lack of understanding of the self-immolation that is the ordained priesthood.  If the inherent dignity of women demands that they have a role "at the table" -- which seems to be how we now think of the Altar of Sacrifice -- why wasn't the Mother of God there at the Last Supper; or, if she was there, why wasn't she mentioned in Scripture? If any woman deserved a place "at the table," surely it was she.  Perhaps the answer is that the Mother of God, rather than standing on her dignity, took her (unglamorous) place at the blood-soaked foot of the Cross, which is identical to the Mass.  Besides: is there something undignified about being a sacristan or preparer of meals or on a cleaning crew?  Generations of saints, including the Mother of God herself, might disagree with such a proposition.   

The Mass is the August Sacrifice of Calvary, where our redemption was won and the powers of hell were decisively defeated; it is not a forum for politicking, and the faithful are not there to serve as a captive audience for liberal propaganda.  For years, the world has been telling us that the sexes are fungible and that sexual identity is purely a societal construct that has nothing to do with nature. This is patently false. Why, then, are we Catholics buying into the gender-bending ideology, and why are we applying it to the Mass?

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Random New Year Thoughts

This four-day weekend after a high-octane December seems a good opportunity to regale the world with my ruminations.

-- 2015 is my 20th year living in Idaho.  That is almost half my life.  But, while you can take the girl out of Southern California, you can't take Southern California out of the girl.  We simply did not have winter in SoCal, where 50 degrees is bundle-up weather.  Winter is therefore a great trial for me, even after all these years, many of which were in the Idaho Panhandle, where ice and snow are far more plentiful than in the Treasure Valley.

-- Given which, I would need a damn good reason to venture out in freezing weather for New Year's.  Which brings us to Boise's answer to the Times Square Ball Drop: the New Year's Eve Potato Drop. We do not have a Times Square or a ball.  What we have got is a giant foam potato hanging from a boom crane, lit by two or three blue and green laser lights; a guy in a potato suit; and, presumably, to gin up the applause, a bottomless supply of booze and perhaps other, less legal stimulants.  When I first saw a picture of the potato on the news, I was struck by its almost exact resemblance to the evidence in a prison contraband case I just handled.  Sorry, but this does not constitute a damn good reason sufficient to justify braving the cold on New Year's.

-- Challis, Idaho started out the new year with a 4.9 magnitude earthquake.  It was reportedly felt clear in the North End of Boise.  I live in Boise, but not in the North End.  I did not feel anything.  An earthquake, for those who have never been in one, is quite unmistakable, no matter how weak.  It is qualitatively different from, say, construction in the area or a heavy truck driving by.  If you're not sure whether you have ever felt an earthquake, you probably haven't.

-- My patroness for 2015 is St. Ann, mother of the Mother of God.  Although she is my namesake, I have neglected her most of my life.  I have been thinking about her lately, and at midnight adoration on New Year's I started a novena to her.  While preparing our New Year's Day dinner, one of my lay Dominican sisters showed me a little statue she acquired at a thrift store.  It was St. Ann instructing her immaculate daughter on Scripture.   A sign?

-- As we enter the new year, it is increasingly clear that the majority of priests and bishops in our time are hirelings.  Sorry, but there is no getting around this and it's time to face up to it.  These hirelings -- most of whom were ordained in the '60s, '70s and '80s -- bear the heavy responsibility for having spent the last half-century (a) trying to transform the Church into something entirely unrecognizable from what she had previously been, and (b) propagandizing the laity into thinking this is a good thing.  Like the process by which a tree trunk is transformed into a piece of stone by the gradual replacement of its organic components with minerals, this attempt to re-invent the Church has transformed the hearts of her members into stone by gradually replacing their Catholic faith with the minerals of socialism, pop psychology, materialism, narcissism and a host of other evils, until they no longer recognize their plight.  Fortunately, most of the current generations of hirelings have not got many more active years left; but, absent an intervention by the Holy Spirit -- which we are not close to deserving -- it will take a long time to undo their damage.

-- If you don't know how to recognize a hireling, here are just a few signs: (1) he can't stick to the Missal at Mass, or to the forms of other Sacraments, but must always interject his own comments and/or improvisations.  (2) He preaches errors from the pulpit.  (If you can't recognize errors preached from the pulpit, get yourself a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and get busy.)  (3) He treats being a priest like an ordinary job.  (4) He devotes little time to prayer or actual ministry; he seldom darkens the door of a church or chapel, or makes himself available to administer the Sacraments.  The former deficiency will be harder for the laity to discern than the latter; but if he denigrates or makes fun of popular prayers and devotions like the Rosary, that is a clue.  (5) He has a great love of humanity in general, but little use for human beings in particular; therefore, he treats particular people with coldness and even rudeness.

-- In 2015, Benedict XVI will turn 88.  If he dies while Francis is still the reigning Pope, I fear what will happen to the liturgical reforms he began.

-- Shortly before the close of the old year, I started reading The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War.  Of course, it is a pro-Confederate book, which is what makes it politically incorrect, since conventional "wisdom" has the Confederacy pegged as a bunch of racist neanderthals.  The book makes some good points and gives rise to some considerations that give one pause.  For one thing -- and despite embarrassing sentiments like the one articulated by Confederate Vice-President Alexander Stephens to the effect that the Confederate government was founded upon the "great truth" that the Negro is not equal to the White Man -- Dixie was not All About Slavery, any more than the North was All About Abolition.  Dixie, for all her faults, was also about a lot of things the world is much poorer for having less of: honor; chivalry; faith; subsidiarity; the worth of the individual and the family.  The North, on the other hand, was already imbued with the pragmatic utilitarianism that now dominates our own age -- thanks in large part to the North's conquest of the the South.  To this conquest we may also, I think, trace the destruction of the several states as buffers and defenses against an overreaching and domineering federal government, to whose influence no aspect of our lives is now immune.  And then there is the concept of total war, as put into practice by Union generals, most notably Grant, Sherman and Sheridan.  The evil, racist, backward, slave-holding South, on the other hand, did not practice total war.  Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee rejected the idea of deliberately making war on civilians.

-- It is worth noting, by the way, that in his celebrated and unabashedly pro-Union series on the Civil War, Ken Burns was careful to make clear the unpopularity in the North of abolition as a cause to fight for.  As for Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation (which did not in fact free the slaves), it was decried in the North, not merely by Jefferson Davis.

-- Speaking of Jefferson Davis, have you never been struck by his close physical resemblance to Abraham Lincoln?

-- And speaking of Lincoln: recall that he said, in his Second Inaugural, that the Civil War was God's judgment on the entire country for the sin of slavery.  About 620,000 American soldiers died in the Civil War -- almost a quarter of a million more than died in World War II.  In this country, we enter the new year stained with the blood of nearly as many aborted babies as the total number of dead from all countries in World War II.  If it is true that 620,000 dead was the price we paid for the institution of slavery, what must be the punishment that awaits us for abortion? 

-- And then there are the micro-conflicts.  A small incident over the holidays got me to thinking about what it really means to win or to lose.  There are times when one wins by losing, and times when one loses by winning.  For example, if you engage in a contest of wills with someone who truly wants the best for you, you cannot win except by losing.  Of course, you must be able to recognize those persons who truly want the best for you; and the key is to know what it means for someone to want the best.  It does not mean what a lot of people think it means.  It means the opposite of what the world means.  Ultimately, it means that person wants you to be eternally happy in heaven, even at the expense of your temporal and transitory happiness on earth.

May your New Year be filled with the best, and may it lead you to eternal happiness.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

First Post of 2015...

...just to get it over with.  Not feeling especially inspired at 11:34 p.m.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Passing Scene: 2014

Another year, another retrospective, and thanks to Wikipedia for refreshing my recollection:


1: Marijuana stores open in Colorado.
3: A deadly winter storm hits the northeastern United States.
9: "Bridgegate": Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey apologizes for senior aides abusing their power by deliberately causing a traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge in September of 2013.
25: Murder spree, Columbia, Maryland: three are killed and five wounded in a shopping mall by a gunman who was afterward found dead.
26: 33 same-sex couples are "married" at the 56th annual Grammy awards.
30: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announces that the death penalty will be sought against Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Deaths: Jay Traynor (Jay and the Americans); Phil Everly (Everly Brothers); Ariel Sharon; Carmen Zapata; Alicia Rhett (India Wilkes in Gone with the Wind); Pete Seeger; Stanford Tischler (producer of M*A*S*H); Ruth Duccini (Munchkin, The Wizard of Oz); Russell Johnson (the Professor in Gilligan's Island); Dave Madden (Reuben Kincaid in The Partridge Family); Margery Mason (ancient boo-er in The Princess Bride).


4: Scotland legalizes gay "marriage."
6: Jay Leno hosts The Tonight Show for the last time.
7: Opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.  I personally couldn't care less.
9: The U.S. federal government recognizes gay "marriage."
13: Belgian makes it legal to euthanize persons under 18.  
15: Bangui, Central African Republic: a mass grave full of Christian dead is found in a neighborhood formerly occupied by Muslim rebels.  Also: a federal judge strikes down Virginia's ban on gay "marriage."
20: Murder spree, Alturas, California: 4 are killed and 2 more wounded in a gun and knife attack at the Cedarville Rancheria Tribal Office and Community Center before the murderer is taken into custody.
22: Pope Francis names 19 new cardinals.  Also: ouster of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.
28: Russia confirms that it has moved troops into the Crimea.

Deaths: Maximilian Schell; Philip Seymour Hoffman; Richard Bull (Nels Olsen on Little House on the Prairie); Shirley Temple Black; Sid Caesar; Ralph Waite (The Waltons); Bob Casale (Devo); Garrick Utley; Harold Ramis.


8: Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappears over the South China Sea between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing, carrying a crew of 12 and 227 passengers.
13: Over 100 rockets are fired from Gaza into southern Israel, with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement taking responsibility.

21: Russia annexes Crimea.  Also: a federal district judge in Michigan throws out that state's ban on gay "marriage."
22: A mudslide engulfs a neighborhood in Oso, Washington, killing 43.
23: Two shooters invade a Christian church in Mombasa, Kenya, killing six and wounding more than a dozen.  There is reluctance to pin the attack on Islamists.
27: Barack Obama meets Pope Francis.
29: Same sex "marriage" commences in the U.K.

Deaths: Glenn McDuffie (the sailor in the famous Times Square V-J Day kiss photo); David BadEagle Yeagley (Comanche conservative writer); David Brenner; Fred Phelps (founder, Westboro Baptist "church"); James Rebhorn; Dane Witherspoon; Richard Black (artist, creator of Mr. Clean and Smokey the Bear); Charles Keating.


2: Murder spree, Fort Hood, Texas: shooter kills four and wounds 16 before turning the gun on himself.  Also: Australia's highest court recognizes a neuter "third" sex.
4: Beginning of the west Africa ebola outbreak.
9: A student stabs 20 people at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, Pennsylvania.
12: Armed protesters drive off BLM agents come to gather cattle in the Cliven Bundy standoff in Nevada.
13: Murder spree, Overland Park, Kansas: a 73-year-old shooter kills three at two Jewish community centers before being apprehended.
15: The Supreme Court of India recognizes transgender as a "third gender."
22: The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the right of states to ban affirmative action under their state constitutions.
27: Pope Francis canonizes two of his predecessors, Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII.  Also: a three-day tornado outbreak begins in the southern U.S., resulting in 36 deaths.
29: Convicted murderer Clayton Lockett dies of a heart attack after a botched attempt at execution by lethal injection.

Deaths: Mickey Rooney; Peaches Geldof; Reid Buckley.


5: The U.S. Supreme Court affirms the constitutionality of opening legislative sessions with prayers.
15: Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, a pregnant Christian woman, is sentenced to death in Sudan for the crime of apostasy.  Also: The National September 11 Memorial and Museum is dedicated.
19: a judge throws out Oregon's ban on same-sex "marriage."
23: Murder spree, Isla Vista, California: a shooter travels around town killing six and wounding 13 before turning the gun on himself.
31: Bowe Bergdahl is freed by the Taliban in exchange for the release of five Guantanamo Bay prisoners.

Deaths: Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.; Mary Stewart (novelist, author of the Merlin series); Jeb Stuart Magruder (Watergate scandal figure); Jerry Vale; Maya Angelou; Wojciech Jaruzelski; Mary Soames, Baroness Soames (daughter of Winston Churchill).


8: Murder spree, Las Vegas, Nevada: a married couple fatally shoots two police officers and one other person before themselves dying in a murder-suicide.
19: King Felipe VI ascends the Spanish throne.
30: Yosemite National Park celebrates its sesquicentennial.

Deaths: Ann B. Davis; Ruby Dee; Casey Kasem; Patsy Byrne (Martina the poisoner in I, Claudius); Eli Wallach; Meshach Taylor; Bob Hastings.


2: Former French president Nicholas Sarkozy is brought up on corruption charges.
4: The United Nations announces that it will recognize the same-sex "marriages" of its staff members.
8: Israel launches Operation Protective Edge, to stop the firing of rockets into Israel from Gaza.
9: Murder spree, Spring, Texas: a shooter murders six and wounds one before being taken into custody after a stand-off.  The dead are the shooter's former in-laws and include four children.
15: Croatia recognizes same-sex life partnerships.
16: Typhoon Glenda hits the Philippines and will also strike in south China and Vietnam, killing 195 people.
17: Eric Garner dies after a confrontation with New York City police over his illegal sales of cigarettes, in which police use a headlock maneuver on him.

Deaths: David Greenglass (Soviet atomic spy, brother of Ethel Rosenberg); James Garner.


9:  NASCAR driver Tony Stewart runs over and kills another driver, Kevin Ward, Jr., during a race.
10: Rioting begins in Ferguson, Missouri over the police shooting of Michael Brown, who had just robbed a convenience store
15: The centenary of the Panama Canal.
19: James Foley, kidnapped American journalist, is beheaded by ISIS.

Deaths: Robin Williams; Lauren Bacall; Arlene Martel (Spock's betrothed, T'Pring); Don Pardo; Richard Attenborough; Glenn Cornick (bassist, Jethro Tull); James Brady (Reagan's former press secretary, wounded in the assassination attempt on the President).


2: ISIS releases a video of the beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff.
11: Oscar Pistorius is found not guilty of murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, but will be convicted of a lesser charge.
18: Murder spree, Bell, Florida: shooter kills his daughter and six grandchildren, ages 10 years to six months, before turning the gun on himself.  
19: Results of September 18th referendum on Scottish independence: Scottish voters reject independence, 55.3% to 44.7%.
20: Pope Francis appoints Bishop Blase Cupich of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane to succeed Francis Cardinal George as head of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
24: A fired former employee of Vaughan Foods who had converted to Islam returns to the plant and beheads one female employee and stabs another before being shot and wounded by the plant's owner.
25: Eric Holder announces his resignation as Attorney General of the United States.

Deaths: Joan Rivers; Polly Bergen; Ian Paisley.


2: The United States relaxes a ban on the sale of lethal weapons to Vietnam.
8: Death of Liberian Thomas Eric Duncan, the first documented ebola victim in the United States.
9: Estonia legalizes same-sex partnerships.
19: Closure of the disastrous Synod on the Family, and beatification of Pope Paul VI.
22: A gunman murders a guard on ceremonial sentry duty at the Canadian National War Memorial in Ottawa, then runs into the parliament building, where he is taken out by Kevin Vickers, the Commons Sergeant at Arms.
24: Murder spree, Marysville, Washington: a freshman at Marysville Pilchuck High School fatally shoots five other students before turning the gun on himself.  Also: Murder spree, Sacramento County, California: a gunman kills two two sheriff's deputies, and wounding a third and a civilian, before being captured.
25: Unconstitutional government interference adds Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, North Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming to the number of states with gay "marriage."

Deaths: Fr. Benedict Groeschel; Paul Revere (Paul Revere and the Raiders); Jan Hooks; Oscar de la Renta; Marcia Strassman; Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier.


1: Brittany Maynard, an activist for physician-assisted suicide who suffered from brain cancer, very publicly takes her own life.
3: Official opening of the new 1 World Trade Center.
4: The Republicans take Congress.  Meanwhile, citizens of Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C. vote to legalize recreational marijuana.
17: The Church of England adopts legislation in favor of female bishops.
19: The beginning of the Bill Cosby sexual assault allegation scandal.
21: The House of Representatives sues Barack Obama over executive orders in connection with the implementation of Obamacare.
24: A grand jury returns a no bill in the shooting death of Michael Brown.  More riots ensue in Ferguson, Missouri.  Also: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel resigns.
28: Finland legalizes same-sex "marriage."

Deaths: Jimmy Ruffin; Richard Schaal; S. Donald Stookey (inventor of CorningWare).


4: A grand jury returns a no bill in the death of Eric Garner.  Protests ensue.
15: Murder spree, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania: a man travels around the county murdering his ex-wife and her family, then commits suicide.  Also:  The U.S. Supreme Court creates a good-faith legal mistake exception to the warrant requirement.
15-16: An Islamist held the employees and patrons of a Sydney, Australia chocolate cafe hostage until police raided the cafe.  Two hostages and the Islamist died.
16: Scotland legalizes same-sex "marriage."  Also: a federal district judge in Pennsylvania declares Obama's immigration executive order unconstitutional.
17: The United States and Cuba resume diplomatic relations.
20: Two New York City policemen are assassinated, supposedly in retaliation for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, by a shooter who later turns the gun on himself.  Moral microbes across the country applaud the murders.

Deaths: Joe Cocker; Mary Ann Mobley; Ken Weatherwax (Pugsley on The Addams Family); Queen Fabiola of Belgium; Edward Hermann.

May 2015 be an improvement over 2014.

Monday, December 08, 2014

The Immaculate Conception

Yesterday was the 73d anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; today, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, is the 73d anniversary of our declaration of war on Japan.  Mary under the title of the Immaculate Conception is the patroness of these United States.  Have you ever thought about whether there is any significance in the fact that we entered the Second World War on our patronal feast?

This year it seems good to link to a couple of apologetics posts on the subject of the Immaculate Conception:

Mary, Conceived without Sin, You DID Know: why a certain popular song about Mary must never be sung in a Catholic Church

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Remember Pearl Harbor

That awful December 7th, 73 years ago, was also a Sunday.  At a stroke, the lives of millions were turned upside down and changed forever.

A Japanese camera captured that stroke on the morning of December 7, 1941.  The images of Japanese planes, tiny yet unmistakable, can be seen passing over Ford Island.  The U.S.S. West Virginia and U.S.S. Oklahoma, on the far side of the island, have just sustained torpedo hits. 

One of the iconic images of the Pearl Harbor attack: the U.S.S. Arizona burns.  The explosion of the Arizona's forward magazines claimed 1,177 of the 2,403 American lives lost at Pearl Harbor.  The crew of the nearby U.S.S. Tennessee attempts to fend off burning oil with fire hoses.  

The first two American chaplains to die in World War II -- one Protestant minister, one Catholic priest -- died at Pearl Harbor.  Protestant chaplain of the Arizona, Capt. Thomas Leroy Kirkpatrick, sprang to action in sick bay as soon as the attacks commenced.  Sick bay was so near to the forward magazines that he was killed almost instantly in the great explosion while ministering to the wounded.  Chaplain Kirkpatrick still lies with his crewmates in their sunken ship at the bottom of the harbor.
Chaplain Kirkpatrick's clock was recovered from the wreck of the Arizona, the hands frozen at the moment the forward magazines exploded.  

The U.S.S. Oklahoma, capsized and burning.  429 men perished aboard the Oklahoma.

The total number of the Oklahoma's dead would have reached 441 if it were not for Fr. Aloysius Schmitt, Lieutenant Junior Grade, Acting Chaplain.

On December 7, 1941, the young priest from St. Lucas, Iowa, had only been ordained for six years, appointed a chaplain for two and a half years, and had celebrated his 32nd birthday only three days earlier.  Did he have any suspicion that that was to be his last birthday, and indeed almost his last day on earth?  Yet although death came to Fr. Schmitt suddenly, it did not find him unprepared, nor even without Viaticum: when the Japanese attack began, he had just finished celebrating Mass.  

When disaster struck, Fr. Schmitt went to sick bay to minister to the wounded and dying. Mission Capodanno gives the following moving account of what happened next:
When the Oklahoma was struck and water poured into her hold, the ship began to list and roll over. Many men were trapped. Schmitt found his way -- with other crew members -- to a compartment where only a small porthole provided enough space to escape.

Chaplain Schmitt helped other men, one by one, to crawl to safety. When it became his turn, the chaplain tried to get through the small opening. As he struggled to exit through the porthole, he became aware that others had come into the compartment from which he was trying to escape. As he realized that the water was rising rapidly and that escape would soon be impossible, he insisted on being pushed back through the hole so that he could help others who could get through the opening more easily. Accounts from eyewitnesses that have been published in the Arizona Memorial newsletter relate that the men protested, saying that he would never get out alive, but he insisted, "Please let go of me, and may God bless you all."

Fr. Schmitt, martyr of charity, was posthumously awarded the Navy/Marine Corps Medal for his selfless bravery, which saved the lives of twelve crewmen who otherwise would have been trapped in the sinking ship.

Remember Pearl Harbor, soon to pass from living memory.  Remember and do not forget.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

General Thoughts

Better thinkers and more diligent observers than I have already picked over and dissected the particulars of the Synod and its emanations.  Herewith some general thoughts about what is going on right now in the Church and the world:

-- I have said many times before, and continue to maintain, that the majority of Catholics simply do not have the Catholic faith.  This includes priests and bishops, as well as Catholics who attend Mass every Sunday.  Too many Catholics are so busy trying to make friends with the world that they no longer feel obliged to believe the content of the Deposit of Faith.  The most worrisome ones are those who still keep up the appearance and external observances of Catholicity.  They will be the most impervious to repentance.

-- The current corruption in the Church set in more than a century ago, though it is only in the last 50 years or so that it began to be obvious. I think the attempt to bury the traditional Mass was the lancing of the boil. The beauty of the liturgy had covered up the fact that we were worshiping with our lips and not with our hearts. Once that was taken away, the infection was set in front of our faces.  Yet this did not make us recoil in horror and repent. Instead, we rejoiced in the exhilaration of finally having our own way, as opposed to doing things God's way. Now, we are practically in a state of prostration, though there are still many who don't see this. But the reality is that evil is having its hour, both in the Church and in the world at large. We are so overwhelmed with evil that we try desperately to spin things that come out of Rome as harbingers of reform. We hail the tiniest victories as great successes and a sign that things are getting better. Yet these soon get swallowed up in the status quo ante, and before you know it, we are back to square one.  Proverbs 27:7: A soul that is full shall tread upon the honeycomb: and a soul that is hungry shall take even bitter for sweet.

-- This chastisement in which the Church finds herself was never going to play itself out until we got a Pope imbued with the "Spirit of Vatican II."  Let us face the fact that Francis is that Pope.  Francis can no more sink the Barque of Peter than could the most decadent and corrupt of the Borgia Popes; but he can -- and does -- give us a very rough ride.  That Pope Francis does not get the effects of what he does and says is frankly laughable.

-- The Pope Francis effect, incidentally, is an example of one disastrous consequence of the current spirit of experimentation born of self-will, namely, the cult of Personalities.   As long as doctrine and liturgy are givens, it doesn't matter nearly as much who occupies the Throne of Peter -- or, for that matter, who is bishop or pastor. But after half a century of tinkering with the liturgy, with doctrine also seeming to be "changeable" and "evolving," personalities take on an exaggerated importance. The same thing happens in secular society when the rule of law is undermined. That is how we get tyranny in secular society, and how we get chaos in the Church. When Liturgy ceases to be a given, the impression is created that Doctrine is also no longer a given; and when the givens disappear, so do vital checks on the behavior of those in authority.  Thus we find ourselves constantly on the edge of our seats, wondering what new shocks our superiors are going to administer to us, and hoping and praying for slightly less sadistic new shepherds.  We need to repent of our self-will and submit ourselves to the givens, and then personalities will shrink back down to their proper insignificance.

-- Meanwhile, the bishops, priests and laymen who are without the Catholic faith are openly declaring themselves, thinking -- wrongly -- that Pope Francis has sung a new church into being and ushered in the Age of Aquarius.  The great sifting of men is well underway. 

-- Bringing to mind the stanza from the Dies Irae, which our betters have tried so hard to bury along with the bodies over which it should always be sung:

Inter oves locum præsta.
Et ab hædis me sequestra,
Statuens in parte dextra.

With Thy sheep a place provide me,
From the goats afar divide me,
To Thy right hand do Thou guide me.

Things are so bad that only God can turn them around. We are long past the point of being able to rely solely on our own efforts. We must amend our lives, pray and do penance. Then, when the Holy Spirit does make His move, we will not need to wonder whether things are starting to turn around. There will be no doubt.