Saturday, April 22, 2017

By the Way...

...I just reminded myself.  Earth Day is really Lenin's birthday.  Here is the old bastard in a mugshot from 1895, looking every inch the punk kid brother of Satan.  And here is some first-rate commentary about his spiritual progeny, Ira Einhorn, the murderer who masterminded Earth Day.

Celebrate, if you must, this slithering hell-bait, the fuse that lit the explosion of destruction that was the 20th century.  As for me, I think I'll take the old internal combustion engine for a totally unnecessary trip across town in search of some white cheddar popcorn, the making of which produces greenhouse gas emissions.

Shining All the Lights for Earth Day: The Centennial Bulb

Today seems like a good day to bring back a classic post about a famous incandescent bulb in Livermore, California.  Obviously, a few elements of this post are now out of date: the socialist regime of Barack Obama, and its would-be successor, to have been run by Hillary Clinton, have now been sent packing.  Also, the Newcandescent bulb company discussed below has now apparently gone over to the LED market.  I am compelled to admit that, since this was written, the quality of LED bulbs has improved significantly; but it must be said that a big part of the improvement is the extent to which LED bulbs can now imitate the light of incandescent bulbs.  One thing that is not out of date is the Centennial Light itself which, as this re-post goes up, is still burning after 116 years.  

The Centennial Light, Livermore, California, the world's longest-burning light bulb.  This picture provides a good view of the mechanism of this lamp, as well as its beauty and careful hand-craftsmanship.  (Source.)
This light bulb hangs from the ceiling at Fire Station 6 on East Avenue in Livermore, California, where it serves as a night light over the fire trucks.  Hand-blown with a carbon filament, it was manufactured at the Shelby Electric Company in Shelby, Ohio and first installed at Livermore's fire department horse cart house on L Street in 1901.  It has been moved twice since then; since its most recent move, in 1976, it has been hooked up to its own independent power source, and has burned continuously without being turned off or going out.

Consider this.  The year this light bulb was installed was the same year that Queen Victoria died.  It was the year President William McKinley was assassinated, and Teddy Roosevelt took his place in the White House.  In 1901, Leo XIII was Pope in Rome; Winston Churchill was just beginning his extraordinary career in the House of Commons; the Panama Canal was still under construction; Douglas MacArthur was still a cadet at West Point; radio and motion pictures were still new inventions; the Wright Brothers' first flight at Kitty Hawk was still two years away, and it would be another seven years before Henry Ford's Model T would begin to roll off the assembly line.  Since 1901, two world wars have ravaged the planet; most of the world's monarchies have toppled; the Soviet Union rose and fell; the Cold War raged; man took flight, first across continents and oceans, then to the moon and back; telephones, televisions, and above all computers have brought the entire world right into our homes.  Through it all, this bulb has continued to shine.   True, the Centennial Light is down to only a fraction of its original brightness; yet even its manufacturers, who prided themselves on making the best lamps in the world, could hardly have imagined how long this light's working life would continue.

Nor is the Centennial Light the only bulb possessed of extraordinary longevity.  Others have been documented as having functioned for many decades, including one that has shone since 1908.  Who knows how many other bulbs have worked for decades that nobody has documented?  Truly, the incandescent light bulb is among the most useful devices ever come up with in the history of human innovation.  

So it makes perfect sense that the current socialist administration, whose ultimate goal is the moral and material enslavement of Americans, should make war upon the incandescent bulb and try to cram vastly inferior fluorescent bulbs down our throats.  

Let's face the facts about fluorescent bulbs -- and particularly the spaghetti bulbs meant to be installed in place of incandescent ones.  Like virtually all other things liberals are always trying to force-feed us, fluorescent bulbs stink.  They take forever to reach their full brightness, and their full brightness isn't much to write home about.  They're costly. They're full of mercury, which makes them dangerous.  They're worthless in an Easy-Bake Oven.  And you can't just throw them out when they burn out, like you can incandescent bulbs.  

Fortunately, there is still a company in this country that manufactures incandescent bulbs.  America's entrepreneurial spirit is still alive and well at Newcandescent, which legally manufactures incandescent bulbs.  And they say their bulbs will last 7 years.  

I don't usually plug products on this blog, but I'm glad there's somebody still manufacturing incandescent bulbs in this country.  Still, there is one thing that really sticks in my craw about it.  Even if you are a fan of fluorescent bulbs, if you are a patriotic American and lover of liberty, you must acknowledge that greater principles are at stake than the preferability of incandescent over fluorescent.  The fact that Newcandescent had to (a) redesign incandescent bulbs to comply with new federal requirements, and (b) apply to the Department of Energy for permission to manufacture the newly designed bulbs ought to fill you with rage.     

Did you ever think we'd reach a point in this country when American citizens would have to apply for permission from the federal government to manufacture incandescent bulbs on American soil?  Was this what the Founding Fathers had in mind?  Is there some provision of the Constitution, written, perhaps, in invisible ink, that gives the feds this authority?  Was this what generations of patriots shed their blood in distant lands to protect?

It's a shame to have to admit it, but the America upon which the Centennial Light first shone 111 years ago was a much freer one than the one we live in today.  Our first order of business in this country is to straighten ourselves up as individuals, governing our passions, recovering our Christian morals and living according to right reason.   Without this, nothing else will work.  Our second order of business is to throw out the socialist bums that have seized power in this country at every level of government.  Our third order of business is to reduce the federal government to its original constitutionally mandated functions, and every other level of government to reasonable proportions in accordance with state constitutions, common sense, and the principle of subsidiarity.  And in the meantime, we should support entrepreneurial efforts like Newcandescent that prevent the useful things that improve our lives from being cast into oblivion by socialist elites.

Shining All the Lights for Earth Day: Killing the Planet with Christmas

Since I wrote this nine years ago, I am compelled to confess that the quality of LED Christmas lights -- and indeed, LED lights in general -- has improved.  Nevertheless, my points below still stand.


*     *     *

Remember in Ninotchka, when Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas are at the top of the Eiffel Tower looking out over the city lights of Paris? He asks her if it isn't a beautiful view; after agreeing that it is, she delivers the other shoe, with a perfectly straight face: But it's a wa-a-a-aste of electricity.

Now, the line in question is very funny. It's funny both because of the deadpan delivery, and because the misplaced focus of attention on electrical consumption in the face of so much beauty is absurd. Nowadays, though, you have to wonder how many people would still find this funny. Unfortunately, too many people that are being looked up to as authorities have no sense of the absurd; and, even more unfortunately, too many people who should know better are taking them seriously.

And so it is that the Australian press -- also with a perfectly straight face -- vouchsafes us a story under the following headline: Scientists Warn Christmas Lights Harm the Planet.

"CSIRO [Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation] researchers said householders should know that each bulb turned on in the name of Christmas will increase emissions of greenhouse gases," the story solemnly intones. Since Australia's electricity comes from coal, the evil of using Christmas lights to celebrate the birth of the Redeemer means an increase in "greenhouse gas emissions." Bottom line: Christianity is killing the planet.

But since the planet-destroying plebes are not willing to give up their primitive religious holidays and superstitions -- and the equally primitive desire for illumination during long winter nights -- the CSIRO has come up with helpful hints on how they can minimize their impact on our fragile ecosystem, until such time as they can be made to adopt the enlightened sterility of their betters. Timers, "energy-efficient bulbs," solar-powered lights, or "sourcing your electricity from verified green power suppliers" are all proffered as ways to avoid choking the globe on unnecessary Christmas emissions.

Well. Most people have no problem with timers, since they like to save on their electric bills, especially during tough economic times that are brought on in no small part by the meddling of the global warming people. In fact, WalMart, that citadel of white-trash consumerism and exploitation, sells timers, and even outdoor timers with light sensors, so you can have your lights come on at dusk and set them to stay on for just 2-6 hours. As for solar powered lights, there is frequently not enough sunlight to charge batteries in winter, so the net effect of solar-powered lights is likely to be little or no lights at all, which is what the global warming scaremongers are really after anyway.

And energy-efficient Christmas bulbs are the pits. Back when they used normal Christmas lights on the Idaho State Christmas Tree, you could see the Tree on the Statehouse steps all the way up Capitol Boulevard. Then the state started doling out Christmas cheer by the teaspoon, and switched to energy-efficient bulbs. The tree looks pretty in pictures, but the pictures don't convey the sad reality that you have to practically be standing underneath the tree to see it.

We live in a world that is long on violence, oppression, tyranny, hatred, and coldness, and short on kindness, gentleness, freedom, charity and warmth. It is made more so by the global warming Scrooges of the world, the new Puritans who can never rest easy as long as a spark of joy or innocent pleasure remains unextinguished anywhere on earth. If these sourpusses will not turn away from their perverted disgust with Christmas, then let them at least stop trying to drag the rest of us down into their private hell.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

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.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Toward Better Bribes

Anybody who has ever tried self-help on a plumbing job, without any training or experience in plumbing, has learned the hard way that there are times when it just doesn't pay to cut corners.  My landlord, for instance, thought he could do some plumbing repair on his own over at my place.  At some point during the course of proceedings, something broke.  So he had to turn off my water.  Then he couldn't get a plumber over until the next day.  So the whole venture ended up costing him the plumber's fees, plus whatever extra they may have charged for being in a hurry, plus supplies, plus  whatever extra time it took to fix the problem that didn't previously exist, plus some compensation for my not having water at my place.  The moral here is that in the quest to avoid invoking the costly remedy from the outset, you run a serious risk of having it cost you more than if you had done the right thing from the outset.

Now United Airlines is learning the same lesson.  One suspects they lost sight of the fact that, by asking passengers to leave the plane once they had (a) paid for tickets, (b) boarded, and (c) plunked their butts into their assigned seats, they were breaching their contract with those passengers to get them where they needed to go, at the bargained-for times.  They also seem to have lost sight of the fact that flying is already a dehumanizing experience, from the airport -- where people get herded and handled like cattle -- to the plane itself -- where quarters are cramped, drinks come in thimble-sized cans, and the food (if any) is barely distinguishable from the styrofoam-and-cellophane containers it comes in.  We already hate flying and don't think too highly of airlines as it is.  All of this requires the airlines to cough up something more than a token consolation prize for a breach of contract.

And, United, that's what you should have done in this case.  Next time you find a need to kick paying passengers off an over-booked flight, offer better bribes.  The better the bribe, the more hands will go up.  If no hands go up, then it's too chintzy.  However much you have to pay to settle up with people with whom you are breaching a contract, it can't be anything like what this latest P.R. imbroglio is costing you.

And while you're at it, do something to improve the overall quality of the flying experience, instead of making your passengers just embrace the suck.


Sunday, April 09, 2017

Palm Sunday

In other parts of the world, Christians breathe a sigh of relief when they don't get bombed by Muslim extremists while attending church.  Today, 43 people at two Coptic churches in Egypt did not live to breathe that sigh of relief, thanks to two suicide bombers who set themselves off during services.  27 people died and 78 were wounded when a bomb exploded in the front row of St. George's in Tanta during the liturgy, spraying the priests with blood.  Later, at St. Mark's Cathedral in Alexandria, 16 died and 41 were wounded, including three policemen who tried to keep the bomber out of the cathedral.  ISIS claimed responsibility for the murders.

As for me, in my well-padded, well-appointed, temperature-regulated little corner of the world, I breathe a sign of relief when I don't have gender-bending ideology shoved down my throat during the reading of the Passion.

At least I don't take my life into my hands just by attending Mass.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

LOL, Episode II

I'm noticing an online petition demanding that Melania Trump either move herself and Barron into the White House forthwith or foot the bill herself for her off-premises security.

Congratulations to the left for finally warming up to the idea of economizing on taxpayer dollars -- although, after eight years of remaining silent about the Secret Service bills the Obamas must have racked up for their constant overseas vacations, the idea is late in coming to them.

But wait: didn't Donald Trump waive his presidential salary?  That's $400K a year, and Trump gets up at 5 every morning and does actual WORK.  I never heard that Barack Obama waived his presidential salary, and he spent most of his time vacationing, playing golf, and taking vacations from vacationing and playing golf.  So over the course of eight years, we the taxpayers paid him $3.2 million just to destroy the country and screw around.  And that doesn't even count the cost of running Air Force One back and forth between D.C. and Hawaii, Secret Service details, military escorts, Michelle's entourage and (ugly) wardrobe and every other damn thing, about which liberals were entirely mum.

The left continues to flail.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

LOL

Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the EU Commission, threatens to "promote the independence of Ohio and Austin, Texas" if President Trump does not cut it out with his euroskeptic remarks.

The EU's top supporter of free speech also denies the EU is in any sort of crisis, and says Brexit is the beginning of something stronger and better -- all while threatening Trump over supporting it.

The left is really flailing. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Why Practice Makes Perfect


An old dog can indeed learn new tricks.  In my forties, I have taken up two activities that would have been much easier and maybe even more beneficial if I had taken them up (or, in the case of the second one, kept up) in my twenties: strength training and guitar playing.  They have taught me some valuable lessons. 

Both of these activities are physically painful in the beginning.  Guitar requires you to press strings firmly to the fingerboard with your fingertips.  This hurts your fingertips until they callous over.  It also requires your fingerboard hand to perform feats of gymnastics that hurt until you develop the necessary strength and muscle memory to do them easily.  This is especially true if God gave you diminutive digits, like He did me. 

In the case of both strength training and guitar playing, there are only two ways to get rid of the pain: either quit, or keep practicing until the pain goes away. 

But the biggest lesson I have learned is about the nature of progress.  After I started strength training a couple of years ago, I reached a point where I felt like I just wasn't getting anywhere.  Nevertheless, I persisted.  Then, one fine day, I suddenly felt different.  I felt like my muscles, rather than my excess fat, were in charge of my movements.  So I kept on keeping on.  I have continued to run into periods where I feel like I'm falling apart, but I can't quit, even when the rewards seem minimal or non-existent, because I now know from experience that I'm a lot better off with the training than without it. 

It's the same with the guitar.  I am still far from where I want to be, and I still have some overall struggles.  I run through a piece over and over and still hit potholes, always in the same part of the road.  Sometimes I feel like I can't get my fingers to obey me on anything.  But the lesson I learned through strength training holds here, too.  The problem areas are still problem areas, but they gradually get easier if I keep practicing.  As long as I persevere, one of these days, they won't be problems anymore.

Progress, then, may be completely imperceptible.  It is the watched pot that never seems to boil.  Making progress is like crossing a wide, featureless desert, where the land looks the same from horizon to horizon and you can't tell how far you've come, until suddenly you reach the water's edge.  Sometimes progress even takes on the appearance of regression, because there are difficulties that can only be encountered and overcome once you've reached a higher level.

Infused expertise is a rare phenomenon, so if you take on strength training, or guitar playing, or the project of mastering any skill, you will make a great many mistakes.  But unless you clearly have zero ability whatsoever in your chosen area, the biggest mistake of all would be to just give up.   

Sunday, March 26, 2017

About Atheism

1. It takes a greater leap of faith to be an atheist than to believe in God.  It takes a greater leap of faith to be an atheist than to believe that, at Mass, a little white piece of unleavened bread becomes God in the hands of a sinful priest.  What you're saying, if you're an atheist, is that in the beginning, there was Nothing.  Nothing turned its non-existent self into Something.  Something magically evolved into stars, planets, galaxies, dinosaurs and men.  By pure chance, these things all continue in being and do not wink out of existence.  Also by pure chance, they are governed by the laws of physics.  You believe all this nut stuff, explicitly or implicitly, but you, who claim to be a disciple of Science and Reason, think I'm the loon.

2. There is no such thing as a principled atheist.  St. Paul blasts that notion out of the water in the first chapter of his Letter to the Romans.  Some people disbelieve in God because that's what they were taught.  These have not arrived at atheism by an exercise of reason, but are merely taking what they have been given.  They have a duty to investigate the truth of what they have been taught.  Some people reject the existence of God because of some trauma they have suffered.  These have not arrived at atheism by an exercise of reason, but based on emotion.  They need prayers.  Some people choose to disbelieve in God because they are attached to some vice they don't want to give up.  These have not arrived at atheism by an exercise of reason, but because they are enslaved to their passions.  They know that to acknowledge the existence of a Creator means acknowledging their duties toward Him, and His claims on them.  This would get in the way of doing whatever they want.  I suspect these are the majority.  

3. Atheists like to argue that religion is evil because of all the people who have allegedly been killed in the name of religion.  This argument is generally trotted out without specifying a religion, and without distinguishing between aggressors and defenders.  It is easily disposed of.  The number of people killed in the name of religion is dwarfed by the number of people murdered in the name of atheism since the French Revolution.  It was the great atheistic republics of the last two and a half centuries that gave us murder and destruction on an industrial scale.  Over the course of three and a half centuries, the Spanish Inquisition may have turned between 3,000 and 5,000 people over to the secular arm to be executed.  This figure is dwarfed by the millions upon hundreds of millions slain by the governments of revolutionary France, the Soviet Union, Red China, Nazi Germany, North Korea, Cambodia -- every one materialist, totalitarian and officially atheistic.

4. Which brings us to the inescapable conclusion that atheists are far more insistent on shoving atheism down everyone else's throats than believers -- at any rate, Christian believers -- are at pushing their creeds.  Islam has always been notorious for sword-point conversions.  Atheism, which has enlisted swords, guns, bombs, spies, snitches, prisons and insane asylums in its wars against throne and altar, can hardly claim to be gentler. 

5. In the words of Bing Crosby's Father O'Malley in Going My Way: you even throw like atheists.  

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Problem of Evil

A lot of the news stories out of the U.K. about the terrorist attack at the Palace of Westminster in London this past week describe the perp in mental health terms, like "sick" and "maniac."  Despite the fact that ISIS has taken responsibility for this attack, a Telegraph story tracing the perp's path from popular, sporty schoolboy, through a life of hooliganism, to his murderous rampage at Parliament Square, suggests that racism is to blame:
Masood, may have eventually snapped because of racism in his village leading him to slash the face of a cafe owner.
It is thought he may have then been radicalised while in jail, eventually leading to his involvement in terrorism.   
Set to one side the Telegraph's failure to make clear how the young Masood (then named Adrian Ajao) could at one and the same time have been very popular and well-liked by everybody, as his old schoolmate describes him, and the victim of such racism as could reasonably be expected to provoke him to commit the crime of mayhem against a cafe owner.  The two elephants in the room here are (1) the deadly ideology of radical Islamism, to which the West has recklessly opened itself up, and (2) the responsibility of human beings, rational by nature, for their own choice to do evil.  It is with Elephant Number Two that we are primarily concerned here.

We pride ourselves, in our rationalistic age, on our "scientific" and "logical" approach to the world; but in fact, rationalism is a creed whose adherents are every bit as rigid, inflexible, unseeing and hide-bound as they accuse Christians of being.  Rationalists ignore all evidence of any realities over and above nature and stubbornly insist that such do not exist.  They also ignore all evidence contrary to their beliefs that Man is a mere intelligent chunk of meat, and that consciousness is a mere concatenation of chemical reactions, and that humanity is therefore infinitely malleable according to its own whims.  This means that there is really no such thing as evil, let alone consequences for immoral behavior.  This idea that nothing has moral significance is really useful for anyone with an attachment to a vice that they don't want to give up, but when it comes to dealing with being on the receiving end of someone else's vice, its bankruptcy is -- or should be -- apparent.
      
The reality is that there are in the world evil people, and they freely choose to do evil things.  Not everyone who commits acts of horrific violence is insane.  Many are in full possession of their faculties and have deliberately chosen to do what they are doing.  The more they do evil things, the more inured to them they become -- like, for instance, the Parliament Square perp with his history of violent crimes -- and the easier it becomes.  As long as we take the position that every evildoer is necessarily crazy, we will fail to meet reality head-on.  We will continue to fail with the clinical approach to evil, treating it as a disease.  We dehumanize villains by denying their responsibility, because we cannot do this without also denying their rational nature and their free will.  Worst of all, we help lock them into their path to damnation, giving them ready-made excuses to stay right where they are, and go on doing what they are doing, and never even think about repentance and conversion.

There is in fact a system in the world that has proven highly effective in dealing with the problem of evil -- a system founded more than two thousand years ago by a Middle Eastern carpenter's Son, building upon a fisherman.  And it's the one thing that so many are completely unwilling to try.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

This Is Why

We don't yet know the identity of the human debris that mowed down innocent people with a rental car and then stabbed a policeman to death at the Palace of Westminster today, before police -- mercifully -- gunned him down.  But it is confirmed that this was a jihadist assault.

Whether this scumbag turns out to be an immigrant or home-grown, incidents like this are the reason we need to protect our borders.  The ideology that produced the Westminster attack and others like it is entirely foreign to the American ethos, as it is to that of Great Britain and the West in general.  Nations -- which are an extension of families and clans -- have a natural-law right to self-defense, and to extend citizenship only to those who have the nation's good at heart.  No duty of charity requires the importation of persons and ideologies hostile to the continued existence of a nation; indeed, for the sake of the common good, charity demands the reverse.  It is not only a dereliction of a government's duties to its citizens to let in all and sundry without vetting or in spite of known terrorist connections or even in violation of our laws; it only fans the flames of terrorism everywhere.  Bringing people who hate us in to dwell in our midst does not make them change their mind and love us.  On the contrary, it makes them think we are stupid and increases their contempt for us.  And frankly, if we adopt suicidal immigration policies, they have a point.  The majority of the country that elected Donald Trump seem to get this.  This is why Trump, the only candidate to take seriously their concerns about our present immigration policies, got elected.

Political correctness causes the death of real, flesh-and-blood human beings -- human beings with families and friends and hopes and dreams and aspirations and potential, nearly always unknown to, and callously dismissed by, the elites who champion stupid policies like open borders.  As more details emerge, we will find out to what extent the events at Westminster may be laid on the doorstep of political correctness.   

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

There Are Reasons People Hate Clowns

I don't know how many of the three or four people who read this blog are priests; but if you are a priest or bishop, and you think you are there to entertain your congregation at Mass, this post is addressed to you.

Some of you priest celebrants at Mass cannot resist doing a clown act on the altar.  Some of you confine this nonsense to your sermons, which is bad enough.  Others of you pepper the liturgy with stupid jokes; or you constantly halt the liturgy in order to try to warm up the crowd with "humorous" asides.  The nervous, raised-eyebrow tittering of your congregation suggests nothing to you.

You need to cut this crap out right now.

First of all, you are living, breathing proof of what a rotten idea it was (a) to turn the priest around to face the people during Mass; (b) to give him a microphone; and (c) to cobble up a liturgy where every part of the Mass has numerous different options for how it can be done, all entirely at the discretion of the priest-celebrant.  (The new Mass has so many options to it, in fact, it is next to impossible for us in the pews to follow in the missal and know whether you are using a legitimate option or just making up your own.)  No wonder you think it's all about you.  No wonder that after decades of this kind of stuff, you are now convinced that you are supposed to be the center of everything.  And having had your ego thus stoked all these years, no wonder you fight tooth and nail to resist the traditional Mass at your parishes, no matter how much your people might want it.  You have weakened and fattened your flock up for the wolves on a steady diet of liturgical junk food, until the ones who still actually believe in the content of the Catholic faith are reduced to gritting their teeth and telling themselves that at least they are getting the Eucharist.

Somewhere along the line, you clown priests convinced yourselves that you need to spice up the Mass with your own peculiar (and I do mean peculiar) brand of humor in order to be "pastoral."  Well, let me give you the perspective from the receiving end.

You have no idea who all in your congregation is dealing with what -- not even those of you who bother to find out who your parishioners are (and not all of you do).  That man sitting way in the back, in a corner, behind a pillar, has been away from the Church and the Sacraments for years and years, and is in shock over his realization that he has been leading a bad life.  That miserable-looking, unfriendly woman who doesn't want to engage in pre-Mass ice-breakers or the sign of peace has just suffered a major bereavement.  That couple off to the side with haunted expressions on their faces have no idea where their child is or whether they will ever see her again.  Those teenagers who aren't singing along with the offertory hymn have just been told that their mother has terminal cancer.  That stony-faced father with three little kids has just lost his job.

And here you come, administering blows on top of bruises with your "pastoral" method.

In the first place, you are not cheering these people up.  You are trivializing and adding to their pain.  Proverbs 25:20: He who sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on a wound.

In the second place, what these people most need, in the midst of these awful changes in their lives, is something that does not change.  At one time, and until very recently, that was the liturgy, which opened up a window onto the supernatural.  But your people can't see through that window, because you are in their face, dancing around in front of them while they are trying to look at something greater and more important than yourself.  You have no idea how jarring your "improvements" to the Mass are.  You have no idea, because you never listen.  After all, you are the priest, and therefore, you know better.  Nobody can tell you anything, so they eventually give up trying.

Since so many of the changes in the liturgy over the last 60 years or so have purported to be about going back to the "purity" of the early Church, maybe we should bring back the ancient practice of the laity rioting anytime they heard changes in the wording of the Gospel.  The time has not yet passed out of living memory when it was considered a mortal sin for a priest to make changes to the liturgy sua sponte; that's another idea whose time has come again.  It has not been considered so during this extended period of experimentation; but it's time we seriously asked ourselves whether it is possible that the objective sinful character of such acts can really have changed.  The answer surely lies in the rotten fruits of experimentation, and the real pain it has caused us in the pews.

Priests, you have got to stop playing the fool at Mass.  You are driving your flocks, and yourselves, away from the True Shepherd, and you are going to have to answer for every one.  The Bread of Life is Jesus Christ, not you.  Stop giving us stones when we come to you for the Bread.

Monday, March 20, 2017

It Don't Make Sense

Back when the Russians, under the communists, really were conspiring to subvert American democracy, the liberals were (a) all for it; (b) telling everyone else to get over their "inordinate fear of communism; (c) sending guys like Teddy Kennedy to Moscow to serve as communist propaganda tools.  Some of them even went as far as to shift their allegiance to the Soviet Union.  Now, suddenly, the liberals are beside themselves at the (totally unproven) idea that the Russians rooted for and colluded with Trump in the 2016 election -- the only thing, in their version of reality, that could conceivably have caused Hillary to lose.

Have they even stopped to ask themselves why the Russians should prefer Trump to Hillary?  

Because they think Trump is a buffoon?  I don't know that the Russians think Trump is a buffoon.  If they have studied him, and read his books, they might think he is a boor and a vulgarian; but they would also realize that he is a workaholic, a fighter, well-informed, conscientious, and anything but stupid.  Yet even if they do think he's a buffoon, Trump, as a non-politician, would be an unpredictable buffoon who has been very outspoken, for instance, on the need to build up the U.S. military.  It might serve their interests to have a buffoon in the White House, but surely not one who likes armaments and might use them.

Surely, therefore, the Russians would far rather have had Hillary in the White House.  She has the triple advantage of (a) being a buffoon; (b) being entirely predictable; (c) supporting policies that are bad for us but good for them, such as the disarmament so beloved of Barack Obama.  Even if the Russians didn't think Trump would be able to carry out his agenda if elected, surely they would have much preferred the candidate who would not even make the effort in the first place.  Hillary, not Trump, would surely have been the path of least resistance to the Russians.

The testimony in today's hearings was unequivocal that there is zero evidence to support the cockamamie notions of Russian tampering and collusion with the Trump campaign; and it doesn't even make sense that they should have favored Trump in the first place.  

Spring Has Sprung

At the moment this post went up, Spring began.  At 04:29 Mountain Daylight Time, the sun crossed the celestial equator in its apparent path northward in our sky.  At that moment, the plane of Earth's equator passed through the center of the sun, and the sun was exactly overhead of the equator.  Today we have equal periods of daylight and nighttime -- hence the name "equinox."

When Julius Caesar reformed the Roman calendar in 45 B.C., he set dates when the equinoxes and solstices were deemed to occur.  According to the Julian calendar -- followed in the Western world for more than 16 centuries, until the reforms of Pope Gregory XIII -- March 25th marked the vernal equinox.  June 25th marked the summer solstice, when the days begin to shorten; September 25th marked the autumnal equinox; and the winter solstice, when the days begin again to lengthen, fell on -- December 25th.

Note how the changes in season coincide with the great feasts of Christianity.  On March 25th, the beginning of spring, we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation, when the Word was made flesh and broke the winter of hell's dominion on earth.  Christ is also believed to have been crucified on March 25th, the same day as His Conception, so the beginning of spring also coincides with the opening of heaven's gates, previously closed by sin, and the Resurrection, when Christ conquered death.  June 25th, when the days begin to grow short, coincides with the nativity of John the Baptist, the Savior's forerunner and herald, who said that he must decrease while Christ increased -- just as daylight begins to increase with the Nativity of Jesus on December 25th.  As for September 25th, perhaps that change of season, which marks the harvest, stands for the harvest of souls, the wheat gathered into the Master's barn at the end of time.

I can almost hear the groans and tongue-clicking from persons steeped in the idiotic rationalism of our day.  No, Christians didn't make this stuff up.  Julius Caesar, who gave the world the Julian calendar, was not the pagan tool of a cabal of proto-Christians who were just waiting for the right moment to spring upon the world a new-fangled religion that would incite bloody persecutions.  Nor are we filling in the blanks with imaginative mummery just to satisfy our irrational urge for spirituality and add a little color to gray, prosaic reality.  We humans are just not smart enough to come up with these things on our own.  Only God is smart enough; though He does give us enough wits to take notice of the symbolism, and the truths it points to.

Spring, Idaho Style

Harbingers of spring in the Gem State:


Confirmation: March 20, 1984

Future Bishop Juan Arzube in his youth.
33 years ago today, I received the Sacrament of Confirmation at the hands of +Juan Arzube, then an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, at the parish of St. Catherine of Siena in Reseda, California.  Bishop Arzube died Christmas Day of 2007 at the age of 89.  

It is good to remember, and pray for, the priests at whose hands you received your first Sacraments.  I received all mine (to date -- still haven't received the Sacrament of Matrimony) in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.  I was baptized by Rev. (later Msgr.) Austin J. Greene in November of 1970 at St. Joseph the Worker parish, then in Canoga Park, now Winnetka, California.  I made my first confession to Fr. Sergius Propst, O.P. in 1978 at the aforementioned St. Catherine of Siena, and received my First Holy Communion the same year and at the same parish from Fr. Richard McCarthy.  Fr. Propst is still living and still in ministry.  I am unable to find out how Msgr. Greene turned out, though I see that the convention hall of the parish he founded is named in his honor.  Fr. McCarthy, a native of Ireland, left the priesthood not long after my first Communion.  Bishop Arzube was unfortunately dogged in his later years by sex abuse allegations, which he denied, but which formed part of a monster settlement by the Archdiocese.  

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Reflections on the Last Full Day of Winter, 2017


Boise: where it's sometimes hard to tell which
season it is.
-- This winter we got more snow in the Treasure Valley than we have ever had since I moved down here in 2003.  All the years I lived up in the Idaho panhandle taught me to deal with huge amounts of snow (though winter is still a huge trial for me, even 21 years after leaving southern California); but up there, the local authorities are pretty good at snow removal.  Down here, we are pretty clueless as to how to deal with even a little snow.  Even busy thoroughfares go unplowed and untreated during snowfalls, so if you work in downtown Boise, and it's been snowing, it might take you an hour to an hour and a half to travel the five miles from there to the Bench.  The great winter avalanche of 2017 was such a disaster, and the local highway district was so unprepared to cope, that they had to suspend their red-tape requirements for private snow removal contractors (question: why should we ever have red tape for such a thing?) and even bring in the National Guard to remove snow.  Still, it was days before any residential streets got plowed, and the local schools quickly exhausted their quotas of snow days for the year.  A lot of people ended up getting stuck in various places; I personally had to be rescued twice.

-- In the wake of all of which, the (already-much-despised) local highway district backed a bill in the state legislature that would limit highway districts' snow removal responsibilities.  You have to hand it to them for their sense of timing.

-- I have spent the last couple of weeks of winter battling a viral infection that started in my sinuses and settled into my upper respiratory tract.  It couldn't have come at a worse time from the point of view of my work calendar.  There is not a lot you can do about viral bronchitis except treat the symptoms, get as much rest and fluids as you can, and ride it out.  I have drunk gallons of black tea with honey and lemon (and occasionally rum).  I cut out the rum when I got a prescription for codeine cough syrup, and cut out the lemon when it started to give me a sour stomach.  God bless whoever invented codeine cough syrup.  It is worth all the money in the world not to be up all night coughing your brains out.

-- With the end of winter comes the beginning of Lent (at least this year, when Easter falls a little on the late side).  I am making a terrible Lent.  My whole life has felt like one long Lent for the last couple of years -- especially last year, with the death of my mother, hard on the heels of the death of a dear friend, in turn hard on the heels of the death of my grandfather.  There is nothing messier than life; it does not seem that one can become a saint by avoiding the mess.

-- And there does not seem to be a greater mess than the mess that is currently the Catholic Church.  My own diocese feels like the most God-forsaken one on the planet.  Every parish is so busy doing its own thing that one is reduced to finding the least-offensive Mass possible on Sundays and holy days of obligation.  Long gone are the days when you could attend Mass anywhere in the world and it would always be the same, always Catholic and always familiar.  I have news for priests: idiosyncrasies in the liturgy -- including tinging it with your malodorous personalities -- was never, ever something the laity in the pews clamored for.  This is something you wanted, because you forgot who you are and who God is (hint: you aren't Him) and why you are there at the altar, and you were therefore becoming bored with the whole affair.  Now you have succeeded in making several generations of Catholics forget it, too.  Congratulations.

-- Part of the mess in the Church is the idiotic idea that rules are bad (except of course any rule that prohibits the traditional Mass), and that Jesus did away with rules.  Set aside for the moment the irony of holding this view during the reign of perhaps the most autocratic, authoritarian pope in recent history (who himself ridicules people who pursue private devotions according to rules).  The reality is that if you take away rules, you kick out from under a lot of people a much-needed support for their weakness.  Rules give people clarity and certainty.  Some people need these things, even if you think they're stupid.  And if you think something is stupid that legitimately serves the needs of your fellow man, and you don't care what effect depriving him of it might have, then maybe you have not made as much spiritual progress as you think.

-- On the political front.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news to liberals (well, maybe not so much), but: all the stuff President Trump is doing that you think I should find outrageous, from knocking the media to cutting funding for PBS, I actually enjoy seeing him do.  In fact, these are things I have wanted to see for years and years -- and so have plenty of other Americans.

-- And while we're on the subject of Trump, the media just can't stop lying about him -- like the latest wholly-manufactured firestorm about how he is going to eliminate Meals on Wheels.  But even if Meals on Wheels were a federal program (which it isn't) and Trump was going to abolish it (which he isn't), what is to stop all these reporters from reviving it and funding it on a private basis?

-- In fact, where does the idea come from that, unless the government confiscates our money and does "charity" for us, we in the United States are going to leave old people to starve in ratty, run-down apartments or die in the streets?  It's true that in a lot of ways, we Americans have our heads up our butts; but it's also true that Americans are some of the most generous people in the world.  We have an all-volunteer military, so everybody who joins up -- especially when we have troops committed to various hell-holes around the world -- has demonstrated a willingness to give up creature comforts and even their lives for their fellow Americans.  The same goes for those who voluntarily join police departments and fire departments.  Whenever some disaster strikes on the other side of the globe, we are the ones who rush to the scene with rescue personnel and equipment.  And we Americans contribute substantially to charities.  We even found charities.  We are the ones who gave the world the Red Cross.  The Christian spirit -- which liberals have worked so hard to undermine and destroy -- is nevertheless still so potent that even in its diluted form, it is powerful enough to motivate Americans on behalf of the needy.

-- Back to the seasons.  Now that the end of winter is only about 12 hours away as I write this, we are swiftly approaching another harbinger of the change of season, namely, the roaring back to life of the irrigation works.  We southern Idahoans know spring is well and truly under way when the sluices are opened and the irrigation canals fill up.  Northern Idaho doesn't need irrigation, so they miss out on this minor spectacle.

-- Meanwhile, we look for another sort of spring in a world that seems hopelessly messed up -- a spiritual spring; the real springtime the fathers of the Second Vatican Council thought they were ushering in, though the hopes of those who acted in good faith were cheated.  There have certainly been plenty of changes on the political front, over which all the right people are dismayed.  I hope this represents a real sea change, and more than a mere temporary reprieve from the disasters we had previously been hurtling toward.  

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Beware the Pi's of March

Julius Caesar: fooled by success, did NOT beware the Pi's of March.
Yesterday was Pi Day; and yesterday, I was thinking that, if certain people had had their way, today would be Pi Day.  I seem to recall that a few years ago, there were some parties who thought pi as presently constituted is toooooooo haaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrd, and should be rounded up to 3.15.  Fortunately, the iron-clad laws of math -- a subject I have always hated -- do not move with the swirls and eddies of Political Correctness. 

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

More on The Common Good

The common good entails respect for people's sensibilities.  I hasten to add, in our cock-eyed world: people's legitimate sensibilities.  Legitimate sensibilities are reasonable and grounded in nature and reality.  Sensibilities that are unreasonable, grounded in fantasy, and purport to require other people to give way before them at all costs, are not legitimate and should not be catered to.

Recall that the good of individuals is bound up in, and not swallowed up by, the common good.  The good of individuals involves consideration for their feelings, and for their attachments -- to family and friends, to places, to neighborhoods, to institutions, to culture, to manners, to creeds, to traditions.  The common good is not being served in any situation where callousness is institutionalized.  Where flesh-and-blood human beings are viewed as raw material to be "formed" and "molded" and experimented on according to some ideology, and can be uprooted and moved around and situated and employed according to the pleasure of governing elites -- and where there is no real emergency, like armed invasion, forcing a drastic change in priorities -- the common good is being trampled.  If you treat people's feelings as worthless, and their legitimate, natural attachments and aspirations as stupid and pointless, they begin to believe it, and to treat others accordingly.  Then we shouldn't be surprised when crassness and coarseness and even violence become widespread.

When people are objects to have things done to rather than for; when they are valued only to the extent they are "useful"; when their feelings and sensibilities are trivialized; then the common good is being violated.    

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Taking Even Bitter for Sweet

It is said to be an abuse to neglect to give a homily at Sunday Mass.  Apparently, there are places where this abuse is widespread.  I want to know where to go to sign up to have the neglect of homilies enshrined in canon law as it applies to my parish, where I have been given to understand, among other things, that the hierarchy of the Church was not divinely instituted; that the Eucharist was established by the Christian community as a memorial to Christ; that you don't need to believe in God to be a good person; and that the darkness the people walked in before they saw the great light was not sin, but the oppression of the priestly classes.

Today, instead of a homily, we got a really lame joke from the priest, followed by a layman ascending the pulpit and dunning us for donations to the diocese.  Not quite what I had in mind, but at least I didn't have to listen to the Gospel According to Karl Marx.

Still, it's a mark of how bad things are when you find yourself rejoicing that this time you only got slapped in the face instead of getting beaten with a baseball bat.

A soul that is full shall tread upon the honeycomb: and a soul that is hungry shall take even bitter for sweet.  Proverbs 27:7.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Use It or Lose It

Because he calls CNN "fake news" "very fake news"; calls reporters liars at press conferences; declines to invite the big-time media giants to press functions; and decides to skip the White House Correspondents' Dinner, President Trump is being denounced as a threat to the survival of the First Amendment. 

Sounds to me more like he's USING his own First Amendment rights.  Presidents have them, too.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Signs

God gives us signs; our shepherds give us signs.  In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI gave us a sign when, surrounded by earthquake damage in the church of Santa Maria di Collemaggio in L'Aquila, Italy, he laid his pallium on the tomb of Pope St. Celestine V, who abdicated in 1294.  Four years later -- and four years ago today -- on February 11, 2013, he announced his abdication.

For the benefit of those who believe (and those who disbelieve) in signs from heaven, on that day, God commanded, or at least permitted, lightning to strike St. Peter's Basilica.  (Yes, God pays attention to details, down to the subatomic level, and even the most trivial things cannot happen without His permission; otherwise, He wouldn't be God.)  To underscore His point, His providence arranged for Filippo Monteforte of Agence France-Presse to capture the moment on film, thusly:


It is superstitious to believe that our lives and the course of history are governed by the motions of stars and planets, or that we can predict the future based on tea leaves or goat entrails; but it is not superstitious to take heed of signs in nature.  Our capacity and inclination to read these occurrences as signs is God-given.  The God Who created us gave us our taste for symbolism, and He satisfies it without the need for us to make up for any lack of ingenuity on His part.  Chapter 27 of Matthew's Gospel records that when Jesus was crucified, darkness covered the earth for three hours; and upon His death, the earth quaked, the rocks were split, and the veil of the temple was torn in two.  These were signs that indicated that this execution on Calvary was quite out of the ordinary.  Even the changes of season are freighted with spiritual significance, and not because we give them that significance ourselves in order to satisfy some primitive instinct for religion.  They are significant because God, Who is a God of Order and Harmony, interwove nature and salvation history.  There is no reason to believe that God has ceased giving us signs, merely because, in our modern, rationalist age, we choose to chalk them up as mere coincidences.

So what was the nature of the sign given here?  Was it a sign that God was angry with Pope Benedict for having stepped down from an office that is normally held until death?  Or was it a sign that this abdication marked the beginning of a punishment to be visited upon the whole Church for her unfaithfulness?

Four years on, the answer seems clearer.  The shepherd who tried to rule his flock and undo the damage of the last half-century with fatherly gentleness is gone, and a wrecking ball has been appointed to fill his place.  Our present Pope is admired by the world.  He publicly celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Protestant revolt, and heaps contumely on those who try to live as faithful Catholics.  On his watch, the punishments that should be visited on the priests and bishops who openly proclaim errors land instead on faithful clerics and tradition-loving religious orders.  We find ourselves in the midst of a showdown between several cardinals and the Successor of Peter, over the appearance that the latter has publicly countenanced grave errors concerning marriage.  The Sovereign Order of the Knights of Malta is feeling the mailed fist of this highly authoritarian Pope.  Meanwhile, the "progressive" elites in the Church, down to the lowest levels, are having their Big Mo, and are more blatant and arrogant than ever.  Sunday Mass is increasingly a narcissistic display featuring the preaching of Marxist interpretations of the Gospel; keeping the obligation becomes more and more burdensome and tedious.  A feeling of unease and confusion seems to pervade the Church, even among those who, on an intellectual level, are not confused about what the Church teaches.

The reading of the lightning strike on St. Peter's as a sign of trials to come seems amply justified by events.  Now we await signs that these trials may soon end.  Perhaps we are seeing it in the political arena, where voters in Europe and America are giving the Order of the Boot to left-wing ideologues of the sort that have infested both Church and State for decades.  This is not the same as a conversion to the True Faith; but it does show that people are at last ready to discard the slick, shiny notions of godless "progress" and "change" that have captivated so many in the West since the "Enlightenment," and that have wrought so much death and destruction.

The devil has his hour; but, as Bishop Sheen used to remind us, he gets only an hour.  God, on the other hand, has His day.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Authentic Goods

A partial list of authentic rights and what they entail: 

Freedom: the power to act deliberately on one's own responsibility; the basis for merit or lack of merit; inherent in the dignity of the human person.  It includes the freedom to act in accordance with one's conscience, rightly formed.  Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) at 1731 et seq.

Religious liberty: freedom from external constraint by political authorities in religious matters.  It does not mean the right to adhere to error.  CCC at 1747.

Private property: the legitimate acquisition of private property in order to guarantee freedom and dignity, and to secure the necessities of life for oneself and those in one's charge.  CCC at 2401 et seq.

Life: the right to life and physical integrity are inherent in human nature and human dignity.  It includes the right to the legitimate defense of persons and societies.  It does not exclude recourse to the death penalty.  CCC at 2258 et seq.

Economic initiative: everyone has the right to legitimately use his talents to contribute to the abundance that will benefit everyone, and to enjoy the fruits of his labor.  CCC at 2429.

Access to employment and professions: Work is a carrying on of creation and a carrying out of the stewardship of creation that God has committed to man; therefore it is a duty.  Unemployment is injurious to dignity and the stability of life.  CCC at 2401 et seq.

Just wages: fair remuneration for work, taking into account both the needs and the contributions of the wage earner.  A wage rate is not just merely because the parties agree to it.  CCC at 2434.

School choice: a fundamental right of parents as the first educators of their children to choose a school for them that corresponds to their own convictions.  CCC at 2229.

Choice of profession and state of life: persons should not be forced in this area.  CCC at 2230.

Expression of opinion in matters pertaining to the good of the Church: both to pastors and to other members of the faithful.  CCC at 907.

Right of a child to be naturally conceived: a child is not an entitlement or a piece of property, but a gift, and must be respected as a person from the moment of his conception.  CCC at 2378.

Right of a child to be born of parents known to him and united in marriage: makes artificial means of conception, sperm donation and surrogacy immoral.  CCC at 2373 et seq.

Spreading the Gospel: both a right and a duty of Christians.  CCC at 900.

Right of the Church to announce moral principles: to the extent required by the fundamental rights of the human person or the salvation of souls.  CCC at 2032.

Immigration: persons have a right to emigrate.  Nations have a right to make policy on immigration and defend their borders.  CCC at 2241.

Preservation of material and spiritual heritage: to nations that take them in, immigrants owe, in gratitude, a duty to respect their material and spiritual heritage.  CCC at 2241.

Good name: everyone has a natural right to his good name and to respect.  CCC at 2479.

In an age when we are so busy pursuing imaginary rights, it pays to remind ourselves of authentic rights, lest we cease to value these and fritter them away.

Note on the Common Good

The common good cannot be separated from the good of individuals in particular.  The good of individuals is a necessary element of the common good.  Persons who love humanity in general but have no use for particular human beings do not thereby advance the common good.  Subordinating flesh-and-blood human beings to ideology does not serve the common good.  Even when an individual interest must give way to the common good, the common good nevertheless does not steamroll and run roughshod over the interests of individuals.

So anytime you hear somebody advancing some position in the name of the "common good" which however does not take into account the good of individuals, or which advances only the interests of one set of individuals at the expense of, or in disregard of, those of others...then the common good is not really being advanced.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Open Borders: Not a Catholic Doctrine

St. Thomas Aquinas: smarter than the rest of us
put together.
The impression is being created and fostered that, in order to be a truly good and great country, we must, at all costs, take in all who want to come here, no questions asked.  Many bishops and clergy seem to be on board with that view.  For this, and for a whole host of other reasons, it would seem that the Summa Theologiae is no longer required reading in Catholic seminaries.  But despite being a dead white Western male, and a member of the oppressive Catholic hierarchy into the bargain, the Angelic Doctor does have one or two illuminating things to say that are pertinent to the question of open borders.

Before we get to Aquinas, a couple of observations are in order.  First of all, when the rubber meets the road, virtually nobody really believes in open borders.  How many people would like to dissolve the borders of their own real estate holdings?  How many allow all and sundry into their residences?  How many open-borders advocates go so far as to live in gated communities from which most even of their fellow Americans are excluded?  During the last days his administration, Barack Obama, a passionate unbeliever in borders for the rest of us, busied himself with building a big, brick wall around his post-presidential palace.  He also put an end to "wet foot, dry foot" for persons who manage to escape the workers' paradise of Cuba, proving that there are some categories of people that even he thinks we already have enough of in this country.

Secondly, the average person who supports restrictions on immigration is not an ogre who wants to turn our backs on persons in dire distress.  I for one support reinstatement of "wet foot, dry foot," and I deplored the forced repatriation, under Bill Clinton, of Elian Gonzales, whose mother died getting him to our shores.  I think persecuted Christians from Syria and Africa and Asia should be moved to the head of the refugee line.  I welcome persons who believe in what America stands for and want to come here to work hard and be a part of it, like my Italian great-grandparents at the turn of the last century.

But am I wrong?  Is it true that, in order to be a good Catholic, I must support a policy of flinging wide the doors of the country to let in all comers, regardless of who they are or where they came from, or what they believe, or whether they have a criminal history, or contagious diseases, or are violently mentally ill, and to grant them all the privileges and prerogatives of citizenship?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church at paragraph 2241 says (emphases added):
The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.
Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants' duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.  
Clearly, (1) the obligation to take in immigrants is not absolute, but must be balanced against the common good, and (2) immigrants owe duties toward their country of adoption.

Let's look at the Summa Theologiae, First Part of the Second Part, Question 105, Article 3 (ST I-II. Q.105 A.3).  Question 105 explains the judicial precepts of the Old Law.  As you read through Question 105, it becomes clear that the preservation of a nation is a good, and the Law was designed in part to effect that good.  In his Reply to Objection 3 in Article 2, Aquinas says, "...the regulation of possessions conduces much to the preservation of a state or nation," and explains that the reason for the law against permanently alienating real property "was to prevent confusion of possessions, and to ensure the continuance of a definite distinction among the tribes."  Article 3 of Question 105 explains the laws pertaining to foreigners.  Aquinas begins by noting that there are two kinds of relations with foreigners: peaceful and hostile, and the Law provided suitably for both kinds.  Then he lists the three opportunities Israel had to carry on peaceful relations with foreigners: when they traveled through the land; when they came to settle as newcomers; and when they wished to join their full fellowship and mode of worship.  In the first two cases, the Law commanded that they not be molested.  Be it noted that you will nowhere find Aquinas suggesting that this precept applied to troublemakers and disturbers of the peace.

In the third case, Aquinas observes, there was a certain order:
For they were not at once admitted to citizenship: just as it was law with some nations that no one was deemed a citizen except after two or three generations, as the Philosopher [Aristotle] says (Polit. iii, 1). The reason for this was that if foreigners were allowed to meddle with the affairs of a nation as soon as they settled down in its midst, many dangers might occur, since the foreigners not yet having the common good firmly at heart might attempt something hurtful to the people. Hence it was that the Law prescribed in respect of certain nations that had close relations with the Jews (viz., the Egyptians among whom they were born and educated, and the Idumeans, the children of Esau, Jacob's brother), that they should be admitted to the fellowship of the people after the third generation; whereas others (with whom their relations had been hostile, such as the Ammonites and Moabites) were never to be admitted to citizenship; while the Amalekites, who were yet more hostile to them, and had no fellowship of kindred with them, were to be held as foes in perpetuity: for it is written (Exodus 17:16): "The war of the Lord shall be against Amalec from generation to generation."  [Emphasis added.]
So peaceful foreigners are not to be molested.  Nor, as Aquinas emphasizes, are men of any nation excluded from the worship of God and the things that pertain to the good of the soul.  The question is to what extent are they admitted into a nation's civil affairs.  Answer: not until they have the common good firmly at heart.  Foreigners, then, especially newly-arrived ones, are not deeply rooted enough in their adoptive country to become involved in its affairs; thus, as Aquinas notes in Article 1 of Question 105, the Law forbade the Israelites to choose a foreigner to be king, "because such kings are wont to take little interest in the people they are set over, and consequently to have no care for their welfare...."

And foreigners have no right to cause injury to their adoptive country or its people, any more than any one else has.  Under the old Law, some nations were to be excluded entirely from citizenship, on account of their hostility.  Aquinas:
But in temporal matters concerning the public life of the people, admission was not granted to everyone at once, for the reason given above: but to some, i.e. the Egyptians and Idumeans, in the third generation; while others were excluded in perpetuity, in detestation of their past offense, i.e. the peoples of Moab, Ammon, and Amalec. For just as one man is punished for a sin committed by him, in order that others seeing this may be deterred and refrain from sinning; so too may one nation or city be punished for a crime, that others may refrain from similar crimes.
From the talk these days about immigration, one gets the impression that the rights are supposed to all be on the immigrant side of the ledger, and the obligations all on the nation side.  But the Catholic Church teaches otherwise.  Nations have rights as well as obligations, and immigrants have obligations as well as rights, and these must all be rightly ordered for the sake of the common good.  A nation has the right to self-preservation, and to grant citizenship only to those who have the common good firmly to heart.  Gratitude imposes on immigrants the obligation to respect the law and the culture of their adoptive country.  If they don't, the state has the duty not to tolerate disorders for the sake of the people's welfare.

Those of us who want strong borders believe that our distinctive American culture (as distinguished from foul, rotten pop culture), founded on Judeo-Christian beliefs, is worth preserving.  We want our lives and our property to be protected from people who mean us harm.  We want to preserve the value of citizenship, and to not have its benefits diluted by conferring them on persons who are not entitled to possess them.  We want to help people in need, to the extent possible, but we want them to be willing to fulfill the duties of immigrants to their adoptive country.

None of which is contrary to the Christian faith, as the Catechism and St. Thomas Aquinas seem to indicate.