Monday, August 24, 2009
Liturgy seems to be on the mind of everyone on the cat-blogs. It's on my mind, too, but I'm busy at the moment so I'll put my thoughts in later - thoughts stemming from a conversation I had over breakfast with my wife.
D. Propaganda 2. Reawakening the old liturgical traditions in the home, that link domestic joys with the calendar of the Church, and using for this end especially the musical works composed for such purposes.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that shall take the name of the Lord his God in vain. (Ex 20:7)
Cursing in the name of God has often been thought in modern times to be the exclusive way to sin against the second commandment. If you were to read an examination of conscience, you might find some other ways that tend to be uncommon (e.g. blasphemy, lying during a confession, etc.). In pre-Christian days, the Hebrews made it very easy to keep this commandment – never utter His name at all. Nowadays, we can see the wisdom of that prohibition, as variants of God’s name are used in the most casual way. But let me propose another means of breaking this commandment that I think is quite common, but often overlooked. What if we were to use God’s name for our own manipulative purposes?
Obvious examples of this are clear; televangelists whose obvious motive is to manipulate their preaching into cash, religious charities that front for other purposes, and those who invoke God to justify their own sinful behavior. But I think we are all are more susceptible to this sin than we may realize. As fallen man, we tend to turn creation upside down and create God in an image suitable to our sensibilities. That way, we can get along with him much better. This temptation is all the more enticing when it comes to politics.
The Founding Fathers of the United States invoked God, declaring it a “right” granted by God to declare independence.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."
While our Founding Fathers were not very Catholic (only one of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence was openly Catholic), they were most certainly steeped in the Natural Law, which owes it’s heritage to pre-Enlightenment Era Catholic thought, even as some of its practitioners often considered the Church it’s greatest foe. The human right to be governed in such a way is truly “self-evident”, and it can certainly be reasoned that war may be necessary to achieve such governance. But then they took it one step further, suggesting that it was a God-given “duty” to sever the tyranny of the English crown.
"Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government."
And the grievances were listed – all of them true, but most were exaggerated. One could reasonably conclude that “Prudence” had not yet run the course. But the Founders took liberty at this point to declare it their duty to change the government. To believe that was fine – but it was still a debatable point that they essentially declared to be “self-evident”. To declare it God’s expectation that they take up all means necessary to achieve independence is shaky ground. A few humble words, such as, “We believe that such has been the patient sufferance,” would go a long way toward admitting the proper relationship between the Creator and the created.
Nit-picky? Well, lay mystagogues tend to be that way. Even when it comes to opposing brilliant and esteemed icons. But one might think, “That’s probably what they meant.” To that, I reply, “This document was heavily scrutinized and painstakingly drafted. I’m confident they meant what they wrote.”
Speaking of brilliant and esteemed icons, let’s fast-forward to 1862. Abraham Lincoln exemplifies how American presidents have historically invoked the name of God.
"The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God's purpose is something different from the purpose of either party - and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect His purpose.”
Unassuming. Completely lacking in self-serving presumption. Humble. Acknowledging His sovereignty, and asking His blessing. This is the standard, and presidents have generally held to that.
Now let me bring forward the much maligned George W. Bush, in what I consider his greatest speech, given during the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance. He ended his speech with this, very much in line with Lincoln.
“On this national day of prayer and remembrance, we ask almighty God to watch over our nation, and grant us patience and resolve in all that is to come. We pray that He will comfort and console those who now walk in sorrow. We thank Him for each life we now must mourn, and the promise of a life to come.
As we have been assured, neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, can separate us from God’s love. May He bless the souls of the departed. May He comfort our own. And may He always guide our country.
God bless America.”
This was a humble, comforting reminder of who we are, at a time when the nation truly needed that reminder. This ending was a walk-off grand slam if there ever was one. I hesitate to point out, though, the line that preceded this closure, one which would echo with resilience through his first term as president.
“And the commitment of our fathers is now the calling of our time.”
We have a case of presumption. Veiled as it is, the implication is undeniable. According to President Bush, America was called to fight and defeat the ideology of Islamic terror and deliver the torch of freedom to those repressed by the same.
Now let me be clear. I’m not claiming that Bush was wrong. In fact, just the opposite. To accomplish the defeat of this deadly ideology and bring freedom to oppressed people would indeed be moral, and more importantly charitable. It is not out of line to believe that this is what God called our nation to do.
And it is also notable that other presidents in the past seemed to have shared similar ideals for America (Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, Woodrow Wilson, and John F. Kennedy, just to name a few), so Bush isn’t unique in his outlook. All of the listed men had a faith in God, and believed in His hand guiding the actions of the nation. But I haven’t found any of them stating in public a particular divine calling for a specific endeavor.
Now considering both Bush and the Founding Fathers, both made and stated presumptions on God’s will for a specific course of action. In both cases, I agree with their presumption. In both cases, assuming they believed what they stated, they certainly did not break the second commandment. My problem is that, in both cases, as statesmen, it would be preferable to leave such assumptions unsaid. This is a bad precedent. It opens a can of worms to any armchair theologian in politics.
In fact, one of those armchair theologians has risen to the oval office. We are to believe now that God is calling Obama to have the federal government take over our health care. “We are God's partners in matters of life and death,” he proclaimed to some clerical supporters. And then, despite the fact that he is lying with impunity, he has the audacity of accusing those trying to set the record straight of “bearing false witness.”
Now it is absolutely necessary that religious and lay mytagogues walk on this shaky ground of announcing God’s will from time to time. We need that. For example, on the issue of abortion – there is no debate on the issue itself. Abortion is evil, no ifs, ands, or buts. What to do about it, though, is not a matter of dogma. It’s a matter of prudence. This is where we need leaders who stand up and preach the need for a specific course of action, to the point of declaring the opposite course of action a sin. Specifically in regards to health care, our bishops have repeatedly stated that universal access to health care is a human right and a Christian obligation. We need this kind of guidance from people who know God well. We need it from our Pope, our bishops, our priests, our families, and our friends. We don’t need it from our President, who isn’t (unfortunately) elected on the basis of how well he knows God.
Our chief statesman should invoke the name of God often, privately and publicly. But such an invocation must be done humbly, acknowledging His majesty, and asking His divine assistance. From our chief statesman, it should never be done with presumption. A can of worms has been open, and is now being served by a man who, either sincerely or insincerely, appears to be using God’s name for his own wrongful designs.
Sorry to be a petty hair-splitter, but I do believe that sometimes those hairs make a noticeable difference.
Update - Looks like I'm not the only one to notice that President Obama was calling the Bishops liars. Deal W. Hudson at InsideCatholic has a post on it. He rhetorically asks, "How stupid does Obama and his advisors think we are?" I've been asking the same question since I saw Obama's first stump speech in 2007.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
"This difference in perspectives, I think, is at the heart of the recent debate among Catholics over questions such as whether or not Catholic Charities should support health-care reform legislation. Some Catholics-- let's put the folks from Catholic Charities in this category-- have been working hard to enact health-care reform. Now the time is ripe, there's plenty of momentum behind the effort, and they're frustrated to see that the abortion issue is jeopardizing all the progress. That's understandable."
"Over the years we have carried literally hundreds of stories about the sufferings of Christians in India-- as well as the trials that our Christians brethren face in other countries. (See today's Feature about the latest fervent pleas by Vietnamese Catholics for an end to government oppression.) But I'm sorry to say that these stories attract fewer readers than most other CWN headlines. That's a shame-- literally-- because Alex Kannattumadom is right. Wherever Christians are suffering for the faith, they deserve our support.
Maybe there isn't much that we can do to help our fellow Catholics living thousands of miles away, apart from praying for them. But prayer is the most important step that we could take to preserve their hope and their courage. And the knowledge that we are praying for them should bolster their morale."
Monday, August 17, 2009
One thing I always love is when a great mystagogue adds another piece to the puzzle - in this case, that puzzle that we'll keep mystagoging for eternity, the Paschal Mystery of our Blessed Lord. Father Schnippel added another great piece today, my emphasis in bold:
"As Israel became established as a nation, this sacrifice was moved from the home to the Temple, for in the Temple, the Sacrifice became more liturgical, with associated prayers and rituals. In fact, one such ritual is vitally important for our study of Jesus as the New Passover: after the lamb for each family was killed, two wooden rods were inserted to assist in the roasting: one along the spine, the other through the ribs, from shoulder to shoulder. Each of these lambs, by the thousands, would be carried out of the Temple and to the homes of the people in and around Jerusalem. ‘Crucified lambs’ were being offered for the people."
Friday, August 14, 2009
There are many reasons for homeschooling. It’s a very useful means to pass along the Catholic faith and a sure means of avoiding the leftwing indoctrination towards relativism, diversity, environmentalism, and sexualization. For those who don’t have the means to homeschool or send their kids to a private school that won’t push such nonsense, parents have a responsibility to de-indoctrinate their kids at home, and thankfully many parents are doing this.
When asked about our reasons for homeschooling, Mrs. Jack’s primary response is that we want to provide our kids with a classical education. Along with mathematics, art, science and faith, it is very important to us that our kids are well-grounded in the classical trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric). This is the learning style that built Western Civilization. That same civilization that has dominated the earth for the last 2,500 years. There was sound reasoning behind this style. Our modern schools for the most part have shrugged this in favor of a style that is primarily indoctrination and secondarily k through 12 day-care.
It’s one thing to be Catholic. Yes, we are weird. For good reason, we’re peculiar. That’s understandable, and it has always been so from the birth of the Church nearly 2000 years ago. But here in the United States, natural human reason is now a rare commodity. The history of mankind has been best characterized by “might makes right”. But in our grand experiment here in the United States, the respect for the God-given freedom and sovereignty of the individual has allowed for us as a nation to actually be right most of the time. Though we’ve gotten some things terribly wrong (slavery comes to mind), peoples’ pursuit of happiness generally leads them closer to truth. But if we dismiss our educational inheritance, we will become pawns of our passions and easily manipulated by those whose passion is power. The United States of America could very possibly slip into tyranny.
Mrs. Jack has seen this first-hand, as she has instructed and assisted at university classes at a major state institution. This is a center of learning with a respected academic reputation in this field, yet to witness it from the inside, Mrs. Jack wonders how bad it must be at the mediocre universities. Students are only concerned about memorizing what they need to for the tests. And instructors are all-too eager to spoon feed these students what they want them know. Students receive a very narrow education, so narrow and manipulative that in some cases, they actually leave the class less intelligent than when they entered. The idea of learning wisdom from the great minds and works of a chosen academic field is lost. What its been replaced with is learning the various agendas of the instructors just enough to score well.
I think all of us have seen the loss of honest debate. We used to have a news media that would prevent people from telling lies. If some major figure lied to the country, he ran the risk of being exposed as a liar and ruining his reputation. That didn’t completely prevent people from lying, but it has at least held our civic leaders somewhat in check.
People who are younger than me may not remember what it was like to have a somewhat honest media. They have always been liberal, but they did a better job giving our people the whole story than they do today. What we’ve seen in the last few years has been steady progression towards an altered reality.
Most people can remember in the 2004 presidential election, when bloggers and swiftboat veterans were questioning Candidate John Kerry’s account of his service record and clearly caught him in a lie. The main-stream media avoided the story, either pleading ignorance, or dismissing the bloggers and veterans as nut-jobs and liars. On the other hand, they couldn’t wait to trash President Bush’s service record, so anxious that they ran with documents that were obvious forgeries. In fact, President Bush’s entire eight years, minus a short 9/11 honeymoon, was under constant fire from a press that would gin-up stories and keep him under relentless attack.
Now it’s even worse. Barrack Obama, who’s past was carefully hidden by the same media that left no stone unturned when it came to a conservative vice-presidential candidate, became president, and the Whitehouse press corps was transformed from rabid vermin to parrots and pack-mules.
In George Orwell’s novel 1984, his protagonist works for the Ministry of Truth, the official government agency that delivers the news to their people. This is the key to the control of the people. With the exclusive authority to deliver information, the citizens of Oceana are manipulated in any way the state deems it necessary. 1984 didn’t introduce this concept. We have already seen this played out throughout history. The United States and other places that take their God-given right to a free press seriously are truly the exception.
But what if? What if the free press voluntarily decides to support one side? What if, in mass, all the various private agencies that deliver the news decide that they are going to support a specific agenda? Could the same propaganda effect of 1984’s Ministry of Truth be accomplished through voluntary compliance?
We are certain to find out if we watch for it, because that is exactly what is evolving right before our eyes. It has been in the process for many years. For instance, how did Senator Ted Kennedy get away with his baseless screed against Judge Robert Bork in 1987? And how about that “crisis” of the government shutdown in 1995? In both cases, the media failed to report the whole story, but propagated the lies of the liberal agenda toward a successful outcome. But as time has gone on, past attempts of the media to manipulate public opinion look modest by comparison.
Take President Obama’s Town Hall this past Tuesday. In public and on the record, he took a room stacked with supporters and told lie after lie after lie after lie (Imagine Bush attempting something like that?). We have the black and white text of the bills running through the House and Senate, but Obama won’t address the specifics, continually addressing generalities which are contradicted by the language of the bills. The news media, rather than call him out for that, continues to run with these lies as if they are the truth, and tries to portray those who point out the lies and the real agenda behind Obamacare as kooks.
It’s gotten to the point now that they go after a Senator that gives veiled credence to the possibility of a “Death Panel”, suggesting that he should be censured.
Has it really come to that. A Senator is to be censured for admitting what is obviously in the bill, while the media angrily insists it is not?
The Granted, these two fools are liberal commentators, but in a forum of honest debate, they wouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a respectable news outlet.
We have a media that promotes lies and selectively covers stories to provide their viewers with an altered reality, specifically designed to promote the same left-wing agenda as the current administration. Unlike 1984, there appears to be no central authority controlling this. Neither is there a central authority filling our universities and entertainment media with left-wingers. This has simply happened as a matter of natural progression. How? Well, a qualified and honest sociologist might be useful to present a theory. But thanks to the deterioration of the academics, good like finding a sociologist without an agenda willing to take this question on. But while I’m at a loss as to how to explain how it happened, I can easily answer what enabled it.
If you sent your child to a university and found that they were teaching him insane ideas, and they were training him to be an imbecile, what would you do? Of course, you would stop wasting your money on an institution that was wasting the intellect of your child. But universities spent centuries developing public trust. With that trust in hand, who are we to question it? In the past, instructors would have to defend their teachings in public, before all to hear, and they had to adhere to logic, rhetoric, and the scientific method. And that defense was not a one-time deal. It could occur at any lecture or public forum, and could happen at any point during a career. Instructors who couldn’t adhere to these principles didn’t last. Nowadays, defenses are conducted in limited circles, and if you find a circle of fools, you too can be a respected scholar.
That’s the problem. We don’t even know how to defend common sense, let alone complex issues. As our society has drifted from the model of a classical education, we now no longer have a capacity to debate issues. Passions now drive the masses. We begin with a conclusion based on feelings, and we need not reach it with sound logic, nor defend it with sound rhetoric. Respect for differing opinions is dead because those opinions either aren’t presented well or, when actually well-presented, they aren’t heard. All that matters is how we feel.
Feelings are very important. They are there for a very important reason – to act as a check again faulty reasoning, or to take-over when the time is not there to think things through. But they cannot replace thinking. There once was a time when serious debates took place. People put their feelings aside, listened, and respect both. Now when a serious debate takes place, it’s a game of how many lies you can tell, worried not that a compliant media will expose you after the debate.
We continue, in more rapid fashion, drifting towards Orwell’s 1984, even if it is not in the way Orwell supposed. In the past, I believe our grounding in a classical trivium allowed us to separate truth from lie and prevent this oligarchic team from forming. Now, without that grounding, education is no longer a passing of wisdom and the tools to grow. Instead, we are used to being spoon-fed how to think. And now, who are we to question what we are being told?
I am encouraged by current events which show that people are standing up to the lies. We haven’t entirely forgotten our American instincts. However, our current state is so bleak, I don’t know if we will always be able to walk away from totalitarianism unless we reclaim our educational inheritance.
That is why we homeschool. And while we do it, we also need to evangelize this priceless gift from the past. Future generations depend on our society reclaiming a classical education.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
The Catholic Church teaches that marriage, validly entered, is indisoluable, and while there are certain passages that (in some Bible translations) say that there is an exception for adultery, the church doesn't teach that, and it takes a long drawn out explanation of what the word "porneia" means and its really a hard thing to explain to your plain average Joe Protestant.
Instead, lets look at divorce from a common Protestant perspective, which is that divorce itself is a sin. There is argument among even Protestants as to whether or not this is true, and whether or not marriage is a covenant, but those who believe it is not often claim that divorce is a sin and that, once you divorce, you just need to confess it to God and he will forgive you. Then, they may claim that you are free to marry another person.
This logic does not hold, though, and the reason is simple: divorce cannot be a sin because God permitted it (via Moses) in the Old Covenant. Since God is all good, he would never give someone a license to sin, because that would make God evil. But because of the fact that God cannot approve of sin, divorce is not a sin. And if divorce is not a sin, then you cannot confess it and have it forgiven of you, thus you cannot get out of a marriage by confessing a divorce to God. You are still married, just as God intended, if you are a Christian.
Also, let's say for argument's sake, that divorce were a sin. Then you could confess it, but you need to repent, that is, amend your life. How do you amend your life for a divorce? You "remarry" or reconnect with your "divorced" spouse. So regardless of whether divorce is a sin or not, you are not able to exit from a marriage covenant that is validly made.
Now that is not to say that in certain circumstances, such as abuse, a person could not leave their spouse. But if they were to remarry they would be committing adultery, and the only way to repent from that would be to leave their new spouse and remain single for the rest of their life.
The apostles understood this when Jesus spoke to them. You can hear it in their voice when they said "If that is the case, then it is not expedient to marry."
Call this human logic but the Catholic Church has got this right. Marriage is forever. Praise God!