Tuesday, January 21, 2020

On Opinions without Credentials

There is this insidious idea making the rounds to the effect that a lack of credentials is itself a credential.  People opine boldly, vehemently and publicly on matters like theology and canon law with little to no formal training in these fields.  We see this particularly in connection with some of those who give it as their considered opinion that Benedict XVI, not Francis, is the true Pope.  Some advocates of this position acknowledge and even revel in their lack of credentials in the fields relevant to this issue.  Some even go as far as to assert that, since the evidence in support of their conclusions is so blindingly obvious, the rejection of their opinions is tantamount to heresy and blasphemy.

What is the basis for thinking that a lack of credentials is itself a credential?  There seems to be this anti-elitist elitism, a proletarian pride that turns ignorance into a virtue and education into a vice.  It assumes bad faith on the part of the educated, and on the part of educators.  It assumes that the system of acquiring credentials is hidebound, corrupt, and invested in nothing more than furthering its own interests, while the untrained commentator, unspoilt by the taint of any Establishment agenda, is able to see truths that no one inside the Establishment can see.  It allows the anti-elitist elitist to entertain the possibility — indeed, the probability — that, because they are outsiders to the field in which they pronounce judgment, they may well be God’s instruments in bringing about True Reform.  It allows the anti-elitist elitist to dismiss the disagreement of persons with actual credentials as the product of jealousy, self-interest, or a simple unwillingness to face the truth.

I have mentioned previously in this space my frustration with people who will not listen to my legal opinions or take my advice when these don’t chime with what they want to hear.  I will not impute to them the same bad faith and criminal stupidity that they impute to me, to my face and in the most hateful language; but it is clear that they are the ones who suffer from closed minds and blindness to the truth.  They are like the anti-elitist elitists, who, the more wedded they are to their theories, the less likely they are to listen to real experts who disagree with them.

It is true that sometimes God chooses persons who are not expert, educated or even very intelligent to work His purposes; but He doesn’t always.  The Fathers of the early Church were extremely learned men.  Saints Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas, Alphonsus Liguori, Thomas More — all exceedingly educated, and exceedingly holy.  Alphonsus Liguori and Thomas More were lawyers.  These saints all had their particular genius; but even with all their gifts, they still studied hard and diligently.  In other words, since grace builds on and perfects nature, they still had to gain their expertise the old-fashioned way: by hard work.

What about the persons without credentials that God chooses as His instruments?  There are certainly examples in the history of the Church.  Saints Catherine of Siena and Therese of Lisieux lacked academic credentials, yet today are acclaimed as Doctors of the Church.  The Cure of Ars was a failure as a student, but outstanding in holiness as a priest.  St. Bernadette Soubirous was an ignorant shepherd girl from a dirt-poor family who conveyed heaven’s ratification of the dogmatic definition of the Immaculate Conception, even though she did not understand what it meant.  And there was never anyone less qualified to lead armies in battle than St. Joan of Arc, yet she led the French army to victory and secured the true king of France on his throne.

But notice that when God uses these little ones, He crowns their efforts with authentic signs and wonders, to prove that they really are working for Him.  Catherine of Siena wielded enormous influence for good with the Pope.  Therese of Lisieux secured her religious vocation at a very early age, against the odds.  The Cure of Ars had to spend many hours a day in the confessional because  everyone recognized him as a holy priest.  Bernadette Soubirous uncovered a spring of miraculous healing.  Joan of Arc had gifts of prophecy and discernment, led armies to victory and confounded her persecutors.  When someone without credentials or qualifications pronounces judgment on subjects  such as who is the true Pope, consider how often he has been right about other things.  One particularly outspoken proponent of the theory that Benedict XVI is still the true Pope, for example, declared that Donald Trump was only running for president in order to dress up his resume, that he wasn’t serious about running, and predicted that he would throw the election.  Then when he didn’t throw the election, she admitted that she had erred but opined that Trump was a dim bulb who was in way over his head and was on his way out.  Three years later, Trump has so successfully confounded his enemies, and has so far advanced the cause of Christian civilization in his administration, that the Democrats have launched a bogus impeachment proceeding to try to remove him from office.

There is nothing wrong with not having credentials.  But there is something wrong with making a lack of credentials into a credential of its own.  There is nothing wrong with the fact that not everyone is qualified to render judgments about everything.  But there is something wrong with not sticking to what you know when it comes to holding forth on a subject that has implications for the well-being of souls.  Credentials are not dispositive all by themselves: it is true that there are idiots out there with degrees and licenses.

But when someone declares an opinion on an important subject, credentials are relevant.  If there is some indication that someone has poured blood, toil, tears and sweat into acquiring credentials in some subject, it may be that that person’s opinion on that subject counts for more than that of someone who did not put that kind of work into it.

On Opinions With Credentials

If you find yourself disturbed by people who are trying to beat you over the head with their opinion that Pope Francis cannot possibly be the true Pope, listen to what a bishop and professor of patristics has to say on the subject of a heretical Pope.

Bishop Athanasius Schneider: On the Question of a Heretical Pope

Thursday, January 02, 2020

To Start Off the New Year: Some Facts We Can’t Deny

- Having vehemence, eloquence, passion and charisma does not mean you are right.  Adolf Hitler possessed all of those characteristics.

- Only legitimate authority can command our obedience.  We are not required to obey authority figures when they exceed the scope of their authority.  Sometimes, we even have a duty to disobey, since no one, not even the Pope, has the authority to command us to sin.

- It is a curious but undeniable fact that, by pursuing our own legitimate interests, within the bounds of the moral law, we make it possible for others to pursue theirs.  When we work to make an honest living, we create goods and services that others want and need yet lack the ability to produce efficiently on their own, and so provide them with the means of making their own honest living.  Some people are talented enough to make extra, which enables them to exercise greater than average generosity to others who cannot provide for themselves.  Everyone engaging in honest pursuits bestows on society as a whole the benefits of order, peace and tranquility — which in turn further enhance our ability to pursue our own legitimate interests.

- Where there is no private property, it is impossible for people to pursue their legitimate interests.

- The common good is greater than the good of an individual; yet it does not rule out the good of individuals.

- The purpose of the Second Amendment is, purely and simply, to prevent tyranny.  It is a mark of tyrants — whether in the government or in the conference of Catholic bishops — that they seek to disarm the populace.

- The reason we are afraid to do the right thing is because we don’t trust in God and His providence.  It’s no more complicated than that.

- Worrying about things we can’t control takes away both our energy and our motivation to deal with things we can control.  Failing to deal with the things we can control may well bring about the very results we fear when we worry about the things we can’t control.

- Jesus truly is present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, in that tiny Host that is confected on the altar in the Catholic Mass.  If you dismiss the Real Presence as medieval superstition, then consider that some of the most gifted minds mankind has ever produced over the last two thousand years have believed in it.  This side of Jesus and Mary, there has probably never been a greater intellectual than Thomas Aquinas, and he wrote some of the most beautiful paeans to the Blessed Sacrament that ever flowed from the pen of man.

- And speaking of superstition, I doubt if there was ever an epoch in human history that was less superstitious than the Middle Ages, or an epoch more superstitious than the one, still ongoing, that was ushered in by Martin Luther.

- What sign of the Zodiac you were born under has absolutely nothing to do with who you are or what your life will be like.  The Zodiac is nothing more than the stars that lie along the celestial equator, a tool for mapping out the night sky.  Your destiny is not controlled by the motions of celestial bodies.  The destruction of any one of them outside our solar system would have zero practical impact on your life.  In fact, since most of them are so far away that we are only seeing them as they looked centuries ago, it is possible that some of them do not even exist anymore.

- We currently have a bad Pope.  The evidence for this is undeniable, and it is not virtuous to try to deny what is right in front of our faces.  Yet, while the Pope is the touchstone of Christian unity, he is not, and should not be, the center of our everyday lives.  The Catholic Church is much bigger than the Pope, and not even a bad Pope can destroy her.

- Pope Francis embodies the sort of absolutism that the Church’s enemies have always falsely ascribed to the papacy itself.  Interestingly, however, these same enemies like Pope Francis and embrace him as one of their own.  This proves that it is not absolutism that they object to: in their book, in fact, anything less than absolutism in the service of their pet ideologies is treason.  What they really object to is the authentic content of the Catholic faith, so they favor Pope Francis to the extent he seems to represent a rupture from Catholicity.

- If there is a silver lining to the dark cloud of the current pontificate, it is that the enemies of the Church, both within and without, are now showing their true colors.  This is because they think that they are now having their Big Mo.  The same thing is happening, by the way, in the secular world.  President Trump is exposing the enemies of America and all the good things for which she stands by overturning the order which the entrenched political elites have set up for their own enrichment.  God is allowing all the poisons that lurk in the mud to hatch out.

I would like to close with my favorite quote from George Neumayr, a Catholic reporter who has devoted much of his career to exposing corruption within the Church:
Be as wise as serpents and gentle as doves, Jesus Christ told his disciples. In dealing with enemies, in other words, prudence is not a vice and stupidity is not a virtue. 

The First Post of 2020

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Passing Scene: 2019

2019 has been a most eventful year, not least for me.  This year I became a homeowner.  Then, on the very afternoon of the day I closed on the house, my car was totaled in a collision and I had to then buy another car.  2019 has also been a very eventful year for the country, and for the Church.

1: Catholic Austria legalizes same-sex "marriage."
3: A Chinese probe becomes the first man-made object to land on the far side of the Moon.
23: New York legalizes abortion up to birth.  The legislature gives itself an ovation and "Catholic" governor Andrew Cuomo orders the pink lighting up of New York landmarks in celebration.
27: Islamic terrorists bomb the Roman Catholic cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo, the Philippines, killing 20 and injuring 120.
29: Pakistan's supreme court upholds Asia Bibi's acquittal for blasphemy.

Deaths: Bob Einstein (Super Dave Osborne); "Mean" Gene Okerlund; Carol Channing; Kaye Ballard.


1: President Trump pulls the U.S. out of the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, citing Russian non-compliance.
3: Pope Francis visits Abu Dhabi where, in a shocking break with Catholic doctrine, he declares that God wills the diversity of religions.
12: Discovery of the wreck of the U.S.S. Hornet at the site of the Battle of the South Pacific.  Also: North and South Korea announce a joint bid to host the 2032 Summer Olympics. 
13: End of mission for Mars rover Opportunity, which ceased communications in June of 2018.
14: William Barr is confirmed as Attorney General.
15: President Trump declares a national emergency at the southern border.  Democrats gear up to challenge his declaration in court.
21: Jussie Smollett is arrested for filing a false police report in connection with his staged "mugging" at the hands of Trump supporters.
26: Cardinal Pell of Australia is convicted of child sex abuse charges, for which he will receive a six-year sentence.
27: Beginning of the Hanoi Summit between the United States and North Korea.

Deaths: Clive Swift (Hyacinth Bucket's husband in Keeping Up Appearances); John Dingell; Albert Finney; Betty Ballantine; Lyndon LaRouche; David Horowitz (Los Angeles consumer reporter); Beverly Owen (first actress to play Marilyn on The Munsters); Peter Tork (the Monkees); Katherine Helmond; Doug Sandom (The Who); Nathaniel Taylor; Andre Previn.

3: Tornados strike Lee County, Alabama, killing 23.
6: Alek Trebek announces his terminal stage 4 pancreatic cancer diagnosis.
21: President Trump announces his intent to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
22: Robert Mueller delivers his bomb of a report on the alleged misdeeds of President Trump.
26: All charges against Jussie Smollett are dismissed.
29: The Cayman Islands legalizes same-sex "marriage."

Deaths: Christopher Alan Pallies ("King Kong Bundy"); Luke Perry; Godfried Cardinal Daneels.


8: Felicity Huffman and 13 co-defendants plead guilty to charges related to bribing top-drawer colleges into admitting their children regardless of merit.
11: Korea's 1953 abortion ban is overturned in court.
15: The Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris is severely damaged in a fire.  The high altar survives, while the Novus Ordo picnic table altar is crushed beneath the remains of the collapsed roof.
25: Several people die in a wave of tornadoes across Texas and Louisiana.
30: Emperor Akihito of Japan abdicates in favor of his son, Naruhito, making him the first Emperor of Japan to abdicate in over 200 years.

Deaths: Fritz Hollings; Georgia Engel; Peter Mayhew.


6: Birth of Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, seventh in line to the British thronefirst child of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
12: Islamic terrorists burn down a Catholich church during Mass in Dablo, Burkina Fasso, killing six, including the priest.
15: Governor Kay Ivey of Alabama signs into law legislation that criminalizes abortion except when "necessary" to avert a serious health risk to the mother.
21: In yet another blow to human dignity, Washington state legalizes human composting.
23: John Walker Lindh, who has not renounced Islamic extremism, is paroled 17 years into his 20-year prison sentence.
26: Terrorists shoot up a Catholic Church in Toulfe, Burkina Faso, killing four.
30: Governor Jon Bel Edwards of Louisiana signs a bill banning abortions as early as six weeks.
31: Murder spree, Virginia Beach, Virginia: a disgruntled city employee murders 12 and wounds four before being shot dead by police.

Deaths: Grumpy Cat; Barbara Perry; Peggy Lipton; Doris Day; Tim Conway; I.M. Pei; Herman Wouk; Claus von Buelow; Carmine Caridi; Leon Redbone.


7: Police arrest an Islamic terrorist who had planned to attack Times Square in New York City.
15: The first Mass is celebrated at Notre Dame Cathedral since the fire on April 15th.
18: President Trump announces he will run for re-election in 2020.

Deaths: Alistair Browning; Robert Sorrells; Gloria Vanderbilt; Judith Krantz; Bryan Marshall; Max Wright; Billy Drago.


2: Nike cancels its line of Betsy Ross flag shoes after Colin Kaepernick attacks them as "racist"; in response, Rush Limbaugh launches a "Stand Up for Betsy Ross" merchandise campaign that raises more than $5 million for Tunnels to Towers, a charity that pays off mortgages for the families of fallen soldiers and first responders.
9: Protests, still ongoing, in Hong Kong against the move to establish measures to extradite fugitives to mainland China.
23: Boris Johnson is elected lead of the United Kingdom's Conservative Party.  The Queen will ask him to form a government as Prime Minister the following day.
25: The feds resume usage of the death penalty.
28: Murder spree, Gilroy, California: shooter kills three and wounds 12 at the Gilroy Garlic Festival before being shot dead by police.
29: Announcement of Capital One data breach, in which the data of 106 million people in the United States and Canada were compromised.
31: Dozens are wounded in an explosion at the ExxonMobile oil refinery in Baytown, Texas.

Deaths: Pat Crawford Brown; Lee Iacocca; Arte Johnson; Ross Perot; Rip Torn; David Hedison; Rutger Hauer; Jeremy Kemp.


4: Murder spree, Dayton, Ohio: a shooter murders nine and injures 27 a bar before being killed by police.
5: Harland and Wolff, the shipbuilding company that constructed the Titanic, effectively goes out of business after 158 years.
10: Sex trafficker and billionaire Clinton pal Jeffrey Epstein is found dead in his jail cell in an apparent "suicide."
14: A shooter on a spree in Philadelphia hits six police officers, though not fatally.
15: The state of Israel puts the kibosh on anti-Semitic congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib's planned visit on account of their support for the Palestinians' boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign.

Deaths: Ian Gibbons (The Kinks); Toni Morrison; Freda Dowie (Caesonia in I, Claudius); Barbara March; Kip Addotta; Peter Fonda.


5: Going in for self-parody, the city of San Francisco, which cannot stop people from taking a crap all over the pavement, declares the National Rifle Association a "domestic terrorist" organization.
17: Bogus "impeachment hearings" against President Trump begin.
20: Prince Andrew of the United Kingdom is accused of patronizing Jeffrey Epstein's sex trafficking enterprise.

Deaths: Robert Mugabe; T. Boone Pickens; Eddie Money; Ric Ocasek; Cokie Roberts; Aron Eisenberg (Nog on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine); Lee Paul; Jessye Norman.


6: Beginning of the Amazon Synod, which will feature pagan worship and idols in the Vatican and on the altar of St. Peter's.
13: Canonization of John Henry Newman.
19: The government of Chile declares a state of emergency over rioting in Santiago triggered by increases in subway fares.
21: Alexander Tschugguel, an Austrian Catholic, removed five pachamama idols from the Catholic church of Santa Maria in Traspontina and threw them into the Tiber, electrifying faithful Catholics around the world.

Deaths: Diahann Carroll; Rip Taylor; John Clarke; Elijah Cummings; John Conyers.


4: NASA announces it has received its first message from interstellar space, from Voyager 2.
11: Mercury transits the Sun.  The next such transit will take place in 2032.  
14: Murder spree, Santa Clarita, California: a 16-year-old shooter at Saugus High School kills two and wounds five before turning the gun on himself.
20: Prince Andrew withdraws from public life on account of his involvement with Jeffrey Epstein.
29: An Islamic terrorist stabs two and injures three others on London Bridge, before being shot dead by police.

Deaths: Michael J. Pollard; Clive James; John Simon (film and theater critic); Joan Staley.


1: Terrorist assault on Christian church in Foutouri, Burkina Faso, leaves 14 dead wounds dozens more.
10: Democrats unveil their laughable articles of impeachment against President Trump, whom they seek to remove from office due to their disagreement with his politics and policies.

Deaths: Don Imus; Danny Aiello; Philip McKeon; Rene Auberjonois; Leonard Goldberg; D.C. Fontana; Shelley Morrison; Gertrude Himmelfarb.

May the turn of the decade bring peace, grace and blessings, none of which we deserve, all of which we long for whether we acknowledge it or not.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Your Heart Deserves Better

I first wrote these words eight years ago.  I made a few little changes; but overall, I think they are still true.

He who is sated loathes honey, but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet.  
Proverbs 27:7
Now that the feminists have made the world safe for neanderthals by clearing away all the rules and taboos and social norms and fathers and truly masculine men that once kept boorish behavior in check, and put the kibosh on the sexual exploitation of women, all sorts of things are acceptable that should not be.  And now that the unacceptable is not only acceptable but respectable, many women seem unable any longer to distinguish between a good catch and a loser.  It is at once amazing, frustrating and heartbreaking to see what members of my sex are prepared to put up with in the name of Not Being Alone.  In our oversexed world, full of promiscuity, fatherless families and irreligion, we have been trained to view ourselves as nothing.

This is a depressing tide that I cannot stem alone.  But I still want to do my poor bit to shed some light into this overwhelming darkness, drawing upon my age and experience.  So, for all the ladies out there who are in a bad situation or teetering on the brink of one:

Your Boyfriend Is Probably a Loser If:

...He Is Violent and/or Emotionally Abusive.  Yes, this should be obvious, but sadly, for many, it is not.  Where there is true love, there is peace and trust.  Real love wants nothing but the best for the beloved; in fact, the ultimate goal of real love is the salvation of the other person as well as oneself.  No one who truly loves you is going to use physical force on you.  Period.  No one who truly loves you is going to terrorize you, or keep you in a constant state of frenzy, or belittle you or manipulate you.  Such behavior is repugnant to true love.  True love would rather die than treat the beloved that way.  If that is the treatment you are getting, run, and don't look back

...He Is Chronically Unemployed.  Bad times hit us all.  I have been out of work and I have been underemployed in my life, and I know exactly how harrowing it is to have bills mounting and little or no money coming in.  But if your boyfriend is out of work, what's he doing about it?  Is he out pounding the pavement?  Is he at the unemployment office combing the classifieds, sending out resumes, making phone calls, visiting potential jobsites, signing up with temp agencies?  Is he taking anything and everything that comes along, no matter how grueling or humiliating, until he finds a good job?  Sending out an application a day is not looking for work.  Devoting ten minutes a day to job hunting and spending the remaining 23 hours and 50 minutes to sleeping, playing video games and bumming smokes is not looking for work.  Waiting to be named ambassador to the Court of St. James is not looking for work.  Is your boyfriend capable of holding a job for more than two weeks at a stretch, or has he had six jobs in the last six weeks?  Does he show up on time to work, and do his job diligently?  Or does he party all night and then sleep until 3:00 p.m.?  Is his mother paying his bills?  Are you?  If a guy is not serious about work, how can he be serious about a relationship?  His excuses for being out of work, by the way, should hold no water in times, like right now, when this country has millions more jobs than there are people to fill them.

...He Is Mutilating Himself Extensively.  Satanic and occult symbols, prison gang logos and swastikas permanently emblazoned on a guy’s skin are definitely things that should make you turn and run.  And, I know I am bound to catch hell for this in an age when everybody and anybody seems to be getting tattoos and piercings, but: you seriously need to think about how wise it is to get involved with a guy who has tons of tats and all kinds of piercings, especially on his face and neck.  It is a sign of a less-than-respectable lifestyle.  Sorry, but after many years as a career public defender, this is my experience.  Yes, there are many professionals who have ink, but almost never right on their faces, or on their necks.  Face tats and face piercings are common among people who are involved in drugs and other illegal activities, and who have been in prison.  But even if this were not the case, you have still to consider that a man’s willingness to cover himself in tattoos and piercings, especially from the shoulders up, tells you something about his priorities.  For one thing, tats and piercings are not cheap, and they add up the more you accumulate.  For another, ink and studs on your face cut you off from many respectable avenues of employment.  How easy will a man find it to support a family when he has the words “DIE” “PIGS” tattooed where his eyebrows ought to be?  Finally, what is it that makes a person not want to leave his body, and especially his face, the way God made it?  Think hard about this.

...You Are Taking Care of His Financial Obligations to the Criminal Justice System.  First off, if your boyfriend has constant entanglements with the criminal justice system, don’t walk, but run for the nearest exit.  He’s not in all that trouble because the cops are out to get him: the common denominator in all his woes is him.  Secondly, if you are constantly bonding his ass out of jail, or paying his fines, or paying for his court-ordered domestic violence treatment that he has to do because he beat you up, that should tell you everything you need to know about what he thinks is your mission in life.

...You Are Constantly Accompanying Him to Court.  This might be your turkey’s idea of a date, but it should not be that of any woman in her senses.  Add another three strikes if the reason you’re accompanying him is because his driver’s license is suspended and you are his ride.

...He Does Drugs or Abuses Alcohol.  A guy who does drugs is not taking care of business.  He is, however, wasting a lot of time and money on his habit.  Habitual drug use and habitual alcohol abuse do impair your mental faculties over time, and they do stunt your emotional growth — and yes, this includes marijuana.  An active addict cannot cope with life’s vicissitudes, great or small — except by using or drinking.  Also, if the guy does illegal drugs in your home, or uses your car for his illegal drug activity, you could end up having your property forfeited out from under you.  Plus, people do steal in order to nourish their habit.  Don’t imagine he’s above stealing from you.  A guy who abuses alcohol will be a source of endless domestic misery even if he can hold down a steady job.  Marrying an addict will not cure the addiction.     

...He Asks You for Sex and You’re Not Married.  Startling — in this day and age — but true.  Sex is not merely recreational.  It is the deepest expression of love and commitment possible between two human beings.  It is a total self-giving.  It leads to the creation of life.  It calls for reverence.  That is why it is only for marriage.  Anything outside of marriage is a mockery.  A man who wants to bed a woman down without any sort of commitment is only using her.   Every good father understands this: that is why good fathers are the natural enemies of boys who want to bed down their daughters.  It is a shame that so many girls grow up in fatherless families, and therefore never learn this.  But if you have a good father, or know one, think about this: run from any man who wants to do anything with you that he couldn’t do in front of a loving father.

...He Wants You to Shack Up.  Remember this, ladies: shack-up relationships are made to be walked away from.  What else could possibly be the point of playing house without a marriage license?  Moving in with him will not make him marry you.  Repeat: moving in with him will not make him marry you.  All you are doing is providing this jerk with a housekeeper, an economic advantage (is he even working?) and commitment-free sex into the bargain.  And by the way, you will not hang on to the bum by getting pregnant by him, either.  Do you read me on that?  The existence of kids does not change the fact that shack-up relationships are made to be walked away from.  If he really loved you and any future kids, why would he be afraid to enter into a legally binding commitment with you?

Ladies: it is perfectly okay to be alone.  In fact, that may well be your vocation.  It is far, far better to be alone than to live in the captivity of an emotional slave-driver.  If your man is a bum, the love of a good woman is not all that he needs to become a good man.  If he is a bum, he is incapable of appreciating you or your love, except to the extent you serve his purposes for the moment: you cannot fix him.  If he is a criminal, it is beyond your poor power to reform him.  You will not succeed where the criminal justice system, with all its money and coercive police power and shrinks and probation officers and prisons, have failed.  The cube of sugar he tosses you now and then is not worth the gallons of bile you get the rest of the time. 

A man is not a unique fixer-upper opportunity.  Look: you can’t cure a decent man of annoying little habits like leaving the seat up, or throwing his socks on the floor, or filling the bathroom sink with his whiskers.  If you can’t do that, you certainly will not make a Sir Galahad out of an Al Capone.  

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Francis’ Bad Emanations Do Not Mean He Is an Antipope

In these confusing times, we have to educate ourselves on our Faith.  In these times, we have particularly to educate ourselves on the scope of the Pope’s powers and prerogatives, and the limits of his authority.  It is providential that Ryan Grant, an Idaho (!) Latinist, has been busying himself with the long-overdue task of translating the works of St. Robert Bellarmine into English.  On the Roman Pontiff is a must-read for all faithful Catholics who find themselves suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous pontiffs.  We are bound to suffer even more, and needlessly, if we are laboring under misconceptions about the limits on papal authority, when the Pope can legitimately bind Catholics, and when the Pope is and is not protected by the charism of infallibility.

Taylor Marshall interviews Christopher Ferrara about the meaning of the message of Fatima for our time.  The entire interview is fascinating.  If you struggle to reconcile the errors of Pope Francis with his authenticity as Pope, then pay attention, starting at 37:28.  Here Ferrara explains why the errors of Pope Francis do not trouble him about the Church’s indefectibility, even though the current Pope’s audacity exceeds anything we have ever seen before in the history of the Church.  He explains in particular how to cope with bad teaching from the Pope, and how to distinguish teachings that are truly magisterial from those that aren’t, even if they are labeled as such.

 The key point is that God is not mocked.  He is not fooled by false labels; nor does He require us to accept false labels, even when they are applied by the Pope and his minions.  On the contrary, we are bound to reject that which is false.  Therefore, God does not put us in a Catch-22 even when He allows us to be governed by a bad Pope who purports to change doctrine.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Bring Back the Communion Rail

Thou shalt not take nor remove thy neighbor's landmark, which thy predecessors have set in thy possession, which the Lord thy God will give thee in the land that thou shalt receive to possess.
Deuteronomy 19:14
Pass not beyond the ancient bounds which thy fathers have set. 
Proverbs 22:28
Cursed be he that removeth his neighbor’s landmarks: and all the people shall say: Amen.  
Deuteronomy 27:17

One of the worst moves pastors and bishops made in the wake of Vatican II was to tear the Communion rails out of existing churches, and to build new churches without them.  Egalitarianism, don’t you know, dictated that there be no boundaries between the sanctuary and the rabble in the pews.  We ought not even to have to climb steps to the altar!  God should be on our level.  Everything must be flattened and horizontalized.  After all, there ought to be no barriers between us and our pal, the Man Upstairs.

But there are barriers between us and God, starting with the fact that He is the Infinite God and we are dust and ashes.  There is an infinite abyss between us and God, and only God can bridge it -- which He in fact does.  But we still have to acknowledge that we are nothing compared to Him.  Another barrier between us and God is sin.  Christ died to destroy that barrier, and Baptism removes from us the stain of original sin; but we still suffer from the effects of original sin, and we still commit personal sins.  It takes a colossal pride for us to decide to act as if we are not in fact beggars at God's doorstep, and to dictate the terms upon which we are to approach God.  

Yet that's exactly what we did after the Second Vatican Council.  We decided we were too grown-up to abase ourselves anymore before God.  Can you credit that?  After a century and a half of atheistic revolutions, two world wars, atomic bombs, the Holocaust, the Cold War, the Cultural Revolution, millions of people across the world still being murdered by their own governments,  and millions of Catholics suffering under communist persecution, the need for humility and penance totally escaped us.  There we were, thinking we were Too Good to Be Lower than the Sanctuary and Kneel before God to receive Him in Holy Communion!  And Nothing is going to Keep Us Out of the Sanctuary if We Want to Go There!

But the irony is that, since most of the lay faithful do not in fact want to tramp gratuitously through the sanctuary, removing the Communion rail actually had the effect of distancing us from it.  The Communion rail is not a "barrier," but a boundary marker that shows us the point at which heaven meets earth.  The sanctuary represents heaven.  The Communion rail shows us where God comes to meet us.  How do we know where to go to meet the invisible, hidden God without a boundary marker?  The laity used to be accustomed to kneeling at the Communion rail to pray outside of Mass, so as to be as close as possible to Jesus in the tabernacle.  Now that the rails are gone, not only can we no longer kneel for Communion (with the hope of being able to get up off the floor again), we can no longer pray close to the tabernacle while keeping our proper place in the church.  Removing the Communion rail needlessly violates the sensibilities of faithful Catholics, and is thus an offense against charity.

Attacking people's faith is also an offense against charity.  It is practically impossible to view the changes to the reception of Holy Communion, including removing the rail, as anything but an attack on people's faith, especially in view of the boldness of many members of the hierarchy in our time who now openly display their lack of faith.  If the prelates responsible for these changes truly believed in the Real Presence, why would they want people to disrespect our Lord by approaching Holy Communion in a less reverent manner?  And let us not deconstruct the difference between kneeling and standing by pointing to the practice of Eastern Catholics.  We in the Latin Rite are not Eastern, and we do not receive Holy Communion in the same manner.  In the Latin Rite, kneeling is clearly more reverential than standing; and when you purport to abolish a more reverent posture in favor of a less reverent one, you are sending a message.  The message has clearly been received: now a majority of Catholics disbelieve in the Real Presence.  Incidentally, you also encourage non-Catholics to get into the Communion line, thus exposing the Sacrament to a heightened risk of profanation by people who simply do not know what to do with It.

Holy Scripture clearly anathematizes the removal of boundary markers.  We have now spent the last half-century learning the reasons.  Take away boundary markers, and you have to learn the hard way why they were there in the first place.  You also get to find out how hard, and how costly, it is to put them back.  It is high time we faced up to the difficulties of doing the right thing and accept them as a penance.

And all the people shall say: Amen.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Repost: Potuit, Decuit, ergo Fecit: Why the Immaculate Conception Must Be True

I will shew thee all good, and I will proclaim in the name of the Lord before thee: and I will have mercy on whom I will, and I will be merciful to whom it shall please me.  
Exodus 33:19

Once in a while, a comment comes along that deserves a post-length response.  Here, from a self-professed ex-Catholic turned non-denominational, is one that just came in on my post about the appalling song "Mary, Did You Know?":
Mary had to have sinned. She called Jesus "my Savior" and what is Jesus the Savior for? Sinners. She had sinned. And there is no biblical evidence for her having no sin.

Those of you with a kick against the Immaculate Conception always want to set limitations on God.  You generally have no problem acknowledging in theory that God is infinitely good, infinitely holy, infinitely perfect, infinitely merciful and infinitely powerful; but in practice, what you really want is a sort of bite-sized God, One that we can wrap our woefully inadequate brains around and Who does not confound our puny capabilities.  So when God actually goes and does something that only an infinitely good, holy, perfect, merciful and powerful Being could do, you protest.  The fact, however, is that God can do whatever He wants; and whatever is fitting, we may be sure that He will do.

God can do the impossible more rapidly and easily than we can blink our eyes or draw a breath.  It was perfectly within His power to preserve Mary free from the taint of sin from the instant of her conception.  This singular privilege of His grace was purchased for her by the limitless merits of Christ's suffering and death on the Cross.  God, not bound by the constraints of time or space, was perfectly capable of applying these merits beforehand and granting this privilege in advance of the Crucifixion.  Thus God really was Mary's Savior, and did not need her to sin in order to be her Savior: His intervention to prevent her from receiving the taint of sin that she would otherwise have contracted as a descendant of Adam was also a salvific act.  Have you never been prevented from committing sins -- by being deprived of means or opportunity, or because you have never experienced the temptation to commit particular sins?  These are also interventions of God's grace.  So you should know from experience that God saves us, not only by forgiving sins we have actually committed, but also by preventing us from committing sins we would otherwise have committed, perhaps to our eternal ruin.   Why, then, should it be so hard to accept that God, out of the abyss of His goodness and mercy, could exercise His infinite power to prevent the Mother of His Son from being tainted by the least stain of iniquity from the very instant she began to exist?

It is altogether fitting that God should preserve Mary inviolate and immaculate from the first instant of her life.  God always gives us the grace we need to do the work He gives us: the greater the work, the greater the grace given to carry it out.  Was ever a more important mission given to a mere human being than that entrusted to Mary?  It was her task to supply the matter out of which the all-holy Son of God would take flesh, to bear Him in her womb, to nurse Him and to rear Him to manhood, and to share in her soul in the agonies of His Passion.  This touches on a point raised by my correspondent in a follow-up comment:
Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for dying for our sins because He was without blemish. If Mary had no blemish either, that would pretty much validate her for crucifixion too. Which would make Jesus less important.
Here my correspondent, though off the rails in the implications for the importance of Jesus, hits on an important truth.  Mary did in fact suffer with her divine Son, more than any other human being could have.  The saints (e.g., St. Alphonsus Liguori) are of the opinion that her sufferings were greater than that of all other men who have ever lived or will ever live put together, and that only a miracle kept her from dying of grief.  This is why Catholics honor her under the titles of Mother of Sorrows and Queen of Martyrs: only her Son's sufferings exceeded hers.  When she presented her Son in the Temple, holy Simeon prophesied that a sword would pierce her soul, that out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed (Luke 2:35).  It makes sense that she should bear so great a share in her Son's Passion: not only was she his loving mother; she was also fully aware that He was God, and therefore of the horrible outrage that He should be murdered by His own creatures.  Moreover, would it have been possible for her to suffer entirely for his sake and not at all for her own if she herself had had a share in the sins that caused Him to be nailed to the Cross?  Still, this share of hers in Christ's suffering does not in any way diminish Him.  Jesus was the perfect Sacrifice not only because He was without blemish, but because He was God.  Mankind had outraged the infinite God, and therefore it would take infinite merits to repair the outrage; these could only be offered by the Son of God. 

If you do not accept the Immaculate Conception, then I am bound to ask you why you would want the Mother of God to have been a sinner.  Is this not tantamount to wanting an unworthy vessel for the Incarnate God?   Does it make sense for the woman entrusted with bearing and caring for and suffering alongside the Son of God to have spent even a single instant under the dominion of hell?  No: especially when you consider that the Woman of Genesis 3:15, between whom and the serpent God put enmity is none other than the Mother of God, and her Seed is none other than Jesus Christ:
I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.
Here is scriptural proof of the Immaculate Conception.  If God creates perfect and implacable enmity between the Woman and the serpent -- and surely it is unthinkable that if God creates enmity between the Mother of God and evil, this enmity will be imperfect and half-hearted -- then it follows that she could never be under the serpent's sway, or in allegiance with him, as she must be if she had sinned.  Thus it was fitting for God to preserve her without sin from the very beginning.

Since it was perfectly possible for God to preserve Mary free from sin from the moment of her conception, and it was fitting that He should do so, it follows that He in fact did do so.  It would be a gross omission on God's part, and incompatible with His infinite perfection, if He should leave undone that which was fitting.  Therefore, we may safely take it that He did not leave it undone.  

Potuit, decuit, ergo fecit! He could; it was fitting; therefore, He did it!

H/T Canterbury Tales

Repost: Mary, Conceived without Sin, You DID Know

Raise your hand if you have ever heard the song "Mary, Did You Know?" within the precincts of a Catholic church.  I can't see you, but I know you're out there.  My hand is also up.  Somehow, because this song mentions the Mother of God, it has become a Christmas tradition in some parishes.  But although the gentleman who wrote "Mary, Did You Know?" clearly means well, this song is both musically inappropriate for Mass and subversive of the Catholic faith.

From a musical standpoint, "Mary, Did You Know?" is basically a pop song, and although the Mass has been saturated with such for a couple of generations now, the fact remains that it is not sacred music suited for use at Mass.  But even more objectionable, from the Catholic point of view, is the lyrical content.  

"Mary, Did You Know?" is based on some abysmally erroneous assumptions.  To begin with, it is supposed that Mary does not know that her holy Infant is the Son of God.  Some saints -- for instance, St. Alphonsus Liguori, bishop and Doctor of the Church -- are of the opinion that even before the Annunciation, Mary had a profound understanding of prophecies and Scriptures concerning the promised Messiah.  But even without such an understanding, it would have taken a high degree of inattention on Mary's part to the message of Gabriel and the inspired greeting of her cousin Elizabeth for her to labor under ignorance of her Son's divinity.  It is further supposed that Mary does not know that her Son will suffer for the redemption of mankind.  This would have required her to utterly gloss over the prophecies of holy Simeon concerning her Son as God's salvation, a sign of contradiction, and concerning the sword of sorrow that would pierce her own soul.  The idea of the Mother of God not being in possession of the most critical facts about her divine Son, particularly in view of explicit revelations received by her, is absurd on its face.

But there is an even more blatant error in the lyrics of "Mary, Did You Know?" that ought to induce in every Catholic a sharp intake of breath.  It is a defined dogma of the Catholic faith that the Mother of God was conceived without original sin.  On December 8, 1854, in the Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus, Pope Pius IX defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception:

We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful. 
Contrast this with the following lyrics from "Mary, Did You Know?":
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you.
Whereas Catholics accept as revealed truth that Mary was free from sin from the instant of her conception by virtue of the anticipated merits of Jesus' suffering and death on the Cross, the foregoing is based on the assumption that Mary was under the sway of sin at the time she gave birth to the Christ Child, and that she would remain so until His Sacrifice of redemption.  In short, it is a flat denial of the Immaculate Conception.  As such -- and for this reason alone -- it should never be sung in a Catholic church, or find any place in any Catholic liturgy, and Catholics should not embrace it.

Perhaps a fitting way to honor today's feast of the Immaculate Conception -- in addition to fulfilling our obligation to attend Mass -- would be to defend the dogma which this feast celebrates by doing what we can to see that "Mary, Did You Know?" remains unheard in our parishes during this and every Christmas season.