Thursday, June 30, 2011

Not Built with a Full Deck


Back in January I blogged about things that are "fruit" or "unreal". This Unreality is related to the Catholic Ghetto, which I have written about at length. But you find Unreality all about you and not just in the pews.


For example, most of my actors live Unreal lives. They loom large in their own minds as brilliant, engaging people, as stars, as idols. And sometimes they are quite charming people. Sometimes they're just unemployed drug addicts. But they almost never seem to have any grasp on reality or on life beyond themselves. This makes it very difficult to work with them.


And we all know people who are Unreal in varying ways, whose lives and whose families just don't seem "down to earth", whose whole way of living seems contrived. Some people live as if their fecal matter doesn't stink, or as if the house of cards they've built were reality - someplace they could live in, as if their hall of mirrors were made of solid oak. And this applies to Christians and non-Christians, to people of all walks of life.


The lure of Unreality, of coming up with a substitute for what God has actually given us, is almost irresistible. Truth is stranger than fiction, says Chesterton, because we have made fiction to suit ourselves.


Of course we need to strive for Reality in religion, to adore not idols made by our own hands and minds, but God Himself. This is hard, as Newman points out, for we are bound to profess to be more Christian than we really are, to aim higher than we attain on a daily basis, and thus we are bound to be hypocrites to some degree.


But the problem is not so much aiming to be Real and falling shy of the mark as aiming at something altogether Unreal.


A book I recently finished is Authenticity - a Biblical Theology of Discernment by Fr. Thomas Dubay. Fr. Dubay argues that Authenticity is the hallmark of one's relationship with Christ, that Authenticity is the doorway to holiness.


This makes sense. For if God is anything, He is Reality: He is That Which is Ultimately and Completely REAL. The more real we become, the more we become like God - which is what sanctification is all about.


This is why humor is so important. With humor, we can laugh at who we really are, under our pretenses, behind our masks, beneath the cosmetics of Unreality. There have been those who have suggested to me that it's not right to make fun of fellow Catholics behaving badly; but if we can't laugh at our own sins, we're sunk - sunk beneath a tide of make-believe, an ocean of illusions.


We are lousy smelly sinners who pretend to be more than we are, and whose justification and salvation starts with God and hinges on our acceptance of Him. And if we can laugh at ourselves and our pretentiousness we can chase the devil away, we can rid ourselves of all our own conceits and become far less conceited in the process.


May we let the Lord of Many Mansions build us into Living Stones, and may we let fall our flimsy houses of cards. And may we have the grace to laugh at them as they crumble!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Removing my USCCB Rose Colored Glasses

This is good. Chrisopher Patrick, in a comment here, says to me ...


" ... so much of your career is dependent upon Church sponsorship (do you think you'd have a gig on EWTN if you engaged in regular criticism of bishops who deserve to be criticized?) No one appears on EWTN TV or radio who is critical of bishops who fail to defend or teach the Faith. ... Try removing your USCCB-issue rose colored glasses and see if the condition of the Church isn't a good bit more dire than you are allowed to say (and keep your job)."


So now I understand a bit why people like Michael Voris' video that I parodied here. They actually believe what he says, and they think that people like Mark Shea and me really somehow are "professional Catholics" on Church payrolls who are afraid to criticize bishops.


Well, I can't convince people like Christopher Patrick that I'm not on some Church payroll somewhere, but I can do this:


Christopher, listen up!


MOST BISHOPS ARE FAILURES. Most bishops have abrogated their teaching authority and have allowed apostacy to run rampant in their dioceses. With few exceptions, Cardinal Burke being foremost among them, the bishops are more like lame administrators than they are heirs to the apostles.


THE CHURCH IN AMERICA IS A REAL MESS. I agree with Michael Voris' general take on things - the liberals in particular have really messed things up. It is indeed "dire", as you phrase it.


"THE USCCB IS AS USEFUL AS TEATS ON A BULL." I'm quoting something a priest friend of mine once told me, and I agree completely.


THE PREACHING OF FR. CORAPI AND MUCH OF THE TEACHING OF MICHAEL VORIS IS SPOT ON, BOLD, FEARLESS, AND VERY MUCH NEEDED. This is why I am criticizing them both. They are too important to let them slip into the error of factionalism and disobedience without being called out for it.


Hope that helps.


We're on the same team. Let us pray for one another.

Abortion in a Broader Context

Someone sent me this interview, and I think it's well worth reposting:


Abortion Warns of Something Worse?


Ethics Professor at Rome's Holy Cross University Discusses Humanity's Loss



ROME, JUNE 27, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Abortion is a warning of something pervasive and deeply rooted in our society -- the loss of human identity, so that men and women no longer see themselves as called to participate in God's creative power.


This is the observation made by Father Robert Gahl, an associate professor of ethics at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.


Father Gahl spoke with the television program "Where God Weeps" of the Catholic Radio and Television Network (CRTN) in cooperation with Aid to the Church in Need, about the history of abortion and what it means for the future.


Q: Abortion is a universal suffering: More than 53 million abortions are carried out every year worldwide. In some countries, more than 70% of women have had an abortion. Why are these questions suddenly so prevalent today: abortion, euthanasia?


Father Gahl: Well, it is a sad paradox, which is evocative ultimately of Original Sin. With Original Sin, Adam and Eve really tried to supplant God by being gods in his place. When humans today try to take divine power -- the power over the origin of life -- and supplant him so that they can control the beginning of life in a way that is contrary to God's design and therefore contrary to the design of love, they feel powerful for a moment. They may even see themselves as successful in the product they have achieved. Yet shortly thereafter, they experience frustration and even a denial of their own identity because their identity is one of love, because we are made for love.


Our hearts are made for love. So, rather than people who are in love, instead of our family bonds, we become simply makers -- people who are in control of products. It becomes a denial of our own dignity because if our power to give life is simply that of producing elements that entail that "I've been produced" and "I'm simply the end line of a mechanized production system," this will be a denial of my own dignity as a child of God -- as the son of my parents.


Q: If we were to look back in history, what was the moment, the trigger if you will, that allowed us to take a step where, for example, abortion and stem cell research has become accepted and euthanasia is on the horizon?


Father Gahl: Abortion is sadly all over the place to the extent that many today, and documents of the U.N. even, see it as a reproductive right. The origin of this is the sexual revolution, which was not a revolution of liberation but a revolution of narcissism, of demise, of cutting bonds, affection, friendship, and of love with others. And central to the sexual revolution, which acted as a kind of a catalyst -- like pouring gasoline onto a wild fire -- was the development of chemical contraceptives, which allowed people to have sex without having babies so people could enjoy sexuality as simply a selfish pursuit. They were able to disconnect that intrinsic ordering toward the gift of life, and in doing so, they disconnected sexuality from serious commitments of love, from forming a family, and of course from becoming a father and a mother -- a diminishing of human dignity really.


I think the problem of abortion is like a warning light. It is a very severe warning light in which lives are being taken, but it's indicative of something even more pervasive and deeply rooted in our society which is deeper that one might think.


Q: And what is that?


Father Gahl: That is this loss of the identity of one's self as participating in God's creative power and being called to being Mother and Father.


Q: Abortion has often been justified as the right to choose but it has also been justified as an appeal to love. For example, I would prefer to abort my child than to raise it unloved. How is it that we have come to this inverse situation where death is justified by love?


Father Gahl: True human love is unconditional. It is when you love someone no matter what. No matter what happens to them you will take care of them. If they get sick, even if they are in a car accident and paralyzed, you take care of them the rest of their lives. Another kind of love -- maybe a selfish kind of love -- is where you give yourself to someone only for as long as you like it. Abortion becomes this instrumentalized kind of love -- as a means for a way out. We need to turn the whole issue around and say that we need to accept everyone, all human life, the way Mother Teresa said, there are no unwanted children. If there is a child that someone said is unwanted, bring that child to me and I will take care of that child because I love that child.


And this is the truth of the matter. So if one were to make a claim that abortion allows us to act out some kind of altruistic care for other people by avoiding hardship, that logic leads tragically, I'd say murderously, to claiming that handicapped people shouldn't exist. Once you do that, it's the denial of all human dignity.


Q: We have moved from life as inherently important to an emphasis on a quality of life. The shift to a quality of life then begs the question: What is my quality of life? Am I enjoying my quality of life? This then points to the handicapped: Are they enjoying the quality of life they should be enjoying, which in fact places their very life in question?


Father Gahl: Exactly. Part of the abhorrent logic that is inherent in what you just described also leads to judgments of each of us according to our performance; my worth is based on what I can do in society. If, at some point, my results would disappoint due to sickness, mistake, or being in a sector of the industrial economy that is no longer desired by the consumer, I would feel no longer desired and therefore I am no longer important. This structure of judgment also comes up with mothers who give birth to babies who, for instance, have Down's syndrome. These mothers are judged severely and negatively; this is horrible, as though it was a bad choice to bring into this world their baby, which is a beautiful human being. This is eugenics, which has been substantiated in Western societies where nearly 90% of Down syndrome babies are aborted before they are born because of this perverse logic.


Q: God's greatest gift to humanity has been this gift to co-create life with him. What is abortion doing in the breaking down of this relationship between man and God?


Father Gahl: Sometimes we forget because of "scientism" -- which reduces everything to scientific fact -- that a beginning of new human life doesn't just come from man or woman, it also comes from God. It requires three people to be involved because the human soul is immaterial. It is a spiritual soul that is created directly and immediately by God. So when a man and women come together to have a child it's also -- and as much or even more -- God's child. Therefore, if we can recover this respect for life it will be on account of our being aware anew of God's role in the giving of life and therefore this power that we have within us, which is actually a divine power and is transcended. It is a creative power whereby we almost have God in the palm of our hands because we can, in a sense, tell him when to create a new human soul. So if we renew that respect for God's intervention it will also help us to respect one another as images of God, even as another Christ.


Q: In countries like Russia, more than 70% of women have had an abortion. Abortion rates in some of the Russian provinces can be as high as eight or 10 per woman because it is used as a means of birth control. In China the one-child policy has obliged women to abort. What spiritual and psychological impact does this have on a society?


Father Gahl: In Eastern Europe where we see these high rates of abortion, which is often associated with high rates of suicide, alcoholism and severe depression, there is a sense of nihilism, of total loss as to what life is all about. That occurs in a society that is not built upon love for their children. That needs to be renewed. Thank God that some of these countries have, in fact indicated a tendency in a positive direction. In the Russian Federation, in particular, there has been a recent increase in their birth rate. The abortion rate is still very high but let's hope that this increase in the birth rate will continue in such a way that the abortion rate will be reduced.


Q: What more can and should the Church do with these issues?


Father Gahl: First of all, when we think of "The Church" we tend to think of the hierarchy -- we priests, bishops, the Pope -- but really, the Church is the whole of baptized Christians. The Church is a family, so we need everyone -- all baptized Christians -- to accept life with love. We also need to help in crisis pregnancy centers. Of course the magisterial Church, the hierarchical Church also needs to be coherent with the principles of Catholic moral theology in this matter.


The Church needs to continue in following the example of Karol Wojtyła, who as the archbishop of Krakow, opened centers to help women in situations of crises. But what it really comes down to is this: God is love. I'm a child of God. I'm made in the image of God, so I too need to make present among other human beings the face of God, which is the face of love. If we do that in all of our human interaction, if we really show respect for human dignity, if we show respect and love for people who are suffering then we can begin to recover these principles that are needed so that all of human life will be accepted. Life will then never be seen just as a product, like designer babies to be made in a test tube according to the desires of some manufacturer.


If I can just step back, I'd like to also add that our own sexuality needs to be recovered as well as our awareness that sexuality is sacred and therefore our patterns of modesty and respect regarding our sexuality and sexual desires need to be lived with chastity and fortitude in a way that is preparing to give life within a structure of the family.


* * *


This interview was conducted by Mark Riedemann for "Where God Weeps," a weekly television and radio show produced by Catholic Radio and Television Network in conjunction with the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.


On the Net: Aid to the Church in Need: www.acn-intl.org

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Liturgical Wars


Sophia Mason treads into the shooting range of the liturgical wars here and "tags" me in her post. Now I'm much more comfortable giving my opinion when it's not asked for, but I'll jump into this anyway.


Sophia mentions her fondness for the "Latin Novus Ordo", more properly the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite untranslated. I, too, have a fondness for the Untranslated Ordinary Form, especially as celebrated by Fr. Brian Harrison and the Oblates of Wisdom at St. Mary of Victories Chapel in St. Louis. But the "Latin OF" is hard to find, and that's a shame.


It's a shame because, with the aid of the booklet The Mass of Vatican II published by Ignatius Press, which features the Latin text of the Mass on one page with a private-use English translation on the facing page, one can see how profound and solemn the "new Mass" actually is. The harm done by the "Novus Ordo" was done by those on the ICEL committee who deliberately mis-translated it into English years ago. Beginning this Advent we will have a corrected translation of the Ordinary Form of the Mass, which, I hope, will fix the dumbing down of the current mis-translation, a translation which at times is much more of a paraphrase, and a bad one at that.


The other thing about the Latin OF (Ordinary Form) at St. Mary of Victories is the reverence with which it is celebrated - ad orientem, Gregorian chant, incense, traditional hymns, excellent homilies, in a church filled with beautiful art and architecture. Plus it attracts Catholics who aren't contracepting, and who fill the church with dozens of delightful fidgeting children.


Indeed, I personally think the heterodox music of the typical suburban parish is far more the cause of the abandonment of faith than the dumbing down of the translation of the Mass. Marty Haugen and his ilk have the distinguishing talent of having written appallingly bad music that defies genre or classification or description. There's no music this bad, this cloying, this icky, this smarmy anywhere else but inside thousands of suburban Catholic churches every day of the week. Almost no men like this dreck. And it's not even the insipid lyrics that do harm, but the utter narcissism of the melodies. These songs do not even make good pop tunes or Broadway show tunes - they don't make good anything but good distractions. And invariably the effeminate music minister and the butch lady cantor in her jumper and female falsetto pick the absolute worst of the worst to "perform" for Communion - making it impossible for me, at least, to reflect upon the utter solemnity of this moment or to pray after I receive.


And speaking of distraction, I might as well deal with a charge that always comes up in the Liturgical Wars. This battle is not a distraction; it's not something that takes us away from worshiping God and serving Christ; it's central to that, it's the foundation of that, it's the supernatural backbone of that.


But, having said all this, I must add that the Extraordinary Form (the EF), the Tridentine Mass, is not a guaranteed solution. Sure, you won't get Marty Haugen and the St. Louis Jesuit Gay Guitar Chorus at an EF Mass, but you also won't get the Perfect Church. As a rule, most Suburban Catholic Marty Mass attendees are casual, secular, contracepting, and indistinguishable from the pagans who surround us outside of church; most EF attendees are judgmental, Puritanical, hateful, venomous, rancid and apoplectic people.


Now I'm trying to be funny here. This is a stereotype and a vast generalization. You will find good Catholics at both Masses, better Catholics than I am at both Masses. But I guarantee that you will find sinners at both Masses. If you're the only one there, you'll find at least one sinner at Mass.


Today on the Solemnity of the Body of Christ, Fr. Gregory Lockwood (who will soon be departing for Kansas City), a good priest who has brought much needed liturgical reform to St. Elizabeth of Hungary parish in St. Louis, instructed the cantor to sing the Sequence for Corpus Christi, a beautiful piece written by St. Thomas Aquinas, before the reading of the Gospel, right at the heart of this Ordinary Form Mass in English, right in the heart of the St. Louis suburbs.


"What is this?" people were wondering, for the sequence is long and adoring and patient. The packed church was fidgeting mightily, and not just the few children present. The sequence was in Latin, and not included in the skinny little Mass booklets in our pews. And it was beautiful, reverent, devout.


At Fr. Lockwood's homily, he kept stressing how everything the priest does at Mass, everything the deacon does, everything the servers do, everything we all do - is supposed to be about God and not about Us.


Anything at Mass that takes us away from that, from bad music to the temptations to judge our neighbors, is a corruption of the central act of the Body of Christ.


And the next time this topic comes up, I'll be even more blunt about how I feel - especially if no one asks me to!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Michael Voris behaves with Less than Christian Charity

His latest video slamming bloggers who are critical of Fr. Corapi is slanderous and insipid.


In the past I've only made fun of his hair.


To imply that he is above the fray because he's not a "professional Catholic on the internet" (which is exactly what he is, as he claims we are) is absurd. He has slammed me and all of you who love Christ and His Church and who are upset about the hypocrisy of Fr. Corapi and Father's abandonment of his priesthood, Father's frustrating the investigation against him, and Father's slander of his bishop.


Let's just say this: if we are partisan enough to support this Voris and his "Real Catholic TV" (and his hair), if we are partisan enough blindly to defend Fr. Corapi after he has shown that he's a disturbed personality at least and an outright fraud at best, if we are partisan enough that we consider ourselves Vorisians or Corapians rather than Christians, than all this is mere politics and to hell with it and with all of us.


Everybody's been saying "thou shalt not judge" when it comes to Fr. Corapi. Well, Voris is judging Father's critics, claiming we have ulterior and shadowy motives. I will not stoop to Voris' level. I assume his own motves are pure and zealous for the Church. But I do call on him in charity to realize that those of us who have criticized Fr. Corapi are not doing it for money or fame or popularity - just read Mark Shea's comboxes if you want to know what kind of money, fame, and popularity he must be reaping over this. Oh, and we don't like Fr. Corapi, you claim, because he's staunchly pro-life anti-gay marriage and bold in his orthodoxy? Voris, my man, those are all the things I love about him!


We are doing it out of love for the Church and the priesthood. Call us wrong-headed, Micheal Voris, but don't insult our motives or our love for the Church.


How dare you.


And how dare your hair.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

On the Beach I Bring von Mises


"On the Beach I Bring von Mises" Michele Bachmann tells the Wall Street Journal. I thought it a great title for a gay love poem to my favorite Austrian.





On the beach I bring von Mises


Though my nephews and my nieces


Not a one doth understand


Why we frolic in our speedos on the sand.




On the beach I bring von Mises


While our country falls to pieces


And as we cavort invisible-hand in hand,


Our economic forturnes left unplanned




Though Ludwig he is lackluster and bland


Still we idolize and worship our Ayn Rand


As our country falls to pieces


On the beach with my von Mises - hand in hand

Fr. Corapi's Superior Speaks

This is from the website of the Society of Our Lady of the Trinity.

Official SOLT Statement Regarding Fr John Corapi

As the Regional Priest Servant of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT), I issue the following statement on behalf of the Society.


On 16 March 2011, the Bishop of Corpus Christi, Texas, and the SOLT received a complaint against Fr. John Corapi, SOLT. As is normal procedure and due to the gravity of the accusation alleging conduct not in concert with the priestly state or his promises as a member of a society of apostolic life of diocesan right, Fr. Corapi was suspended from active ministry (put on administrative leave) until such a time that the complaint could be fully investigated and due process given to Fr. Corapi. In the midst of the investigation, the SOLT received a letter from Fr. Corapi, dated June 3, 2011, indicating that, because of the physical, emotional and spiritual distress he has endured over the past few years, he could no longer continue to function as a priest or a member of the SOLT. Although the investigation was in progress, the SOLT had not arrived at any conclusion as to the credibility of the allegations under investigation.


At the onset, the Bishop of Corpus Christi advised the SOLT to not only proceed with the policies outlined in their own constitutions, but also with the proper canonical procedures to determine the credibility of the allegations against Fr. Corapi. We reiterate that Fr. Corapi had not been determined guilty of any canonical or civil crimes. If the allegations had been found to be credible, the proper canonical due process would have been offered to Fr. Corapi, including his right to defense, to know his accuser and the complaint lodged, and a fair canonical trial with the right of recourse to the Holy See. On June 17, 2011, Fr. John Corapi issued a public statement indicating that he has chosen to cease functioning as a priest and a member of the SOLT.


The SOLT is deeply saddened that Fr. Corapi is suffering distress. The SOLT is further saddened by Fr. Corapi’s response to these allegations. The SOLT will do all within its power to assist Fr. Corapi if he desires to seek a dispensation from his rights and obligations as a priest and as a professed member of the SOLT. We request your prayers and the intercession of the Blessed Mother for the healing of Fr. Corapi and for any who have been negatively affected by Fr. Corapi’s decision to end his ministry as a priest and a member of the SOLT.


Fr Gerrard Sheehan, SOLT
Regional Priest Servant

Monday, June 20, 2011

Perspective


Well, I get defensive at first because when something like this happens, I first hear the voices of the enablers and the excusers and I seek to answer them. But now I hear the groaning, the deep groaning of a lot of people who are seriously hurt.


The fact is that Fr. Corapi stood as a light on a hill for many of us. His virile, potent Catholicism stirred his listeners at a time when the Faith seems compromised and infested with namby-pamby nonsense. His conversion story, from millionaire to homeless drug user to Catholic priest, was an inspiration to many. I have heard folks tell of returning to the Church after hearing Fr. Corapi.


So what are these people now to think? Do we indeed heed the words of St. John, "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us." - 1 John 2:19? Is it really that bad?


And if he's going to renounce his priesthood, malign his bishop, blame everyone for being out to get him, dye his beard, tan his skin, identify himself with a creepy and demonic-looking logo, continue preaching publicly when his bishop has suspended him from that function, market himself like a rock star, discount items on his website to celebrate the anniversary of his ordination the very week he renounces that ordination - if he does all of this in front of God and everybody, then what are we to make of the accusations against him - whatever they are? What are we to make of his conversion story, which has always read like a work of fiction?


Doesn't this throw his whole career into doubt?


Why, yes. Yes it does.


But keep something in mind. Remember, whatever his sins are, this is not the first priest to sin, nor will it be the last. Even if he turns out to have been a fraud and a fake from the beginning, he still spoke the Big Truth about Him while lying about "me me me". You can't do worse than St. Peter denying Christ or St. Paul persecuting and killing Christians. And they are two of the foundations of the Church on earth. Don't forget that. Even if Fr. Corapi is a media whore who's trying to deny his priesthood and is back into drugs and fast cars, he's no worse than Peter or Paul before their total conversions, no worse than we are in the dark corners of our hearts.


Our job, then, is not to make excuses for him. That is not Charity. That is partisanship.


Our job is to pray for him and call him to repentance, as Christ prays for and calls all of us. Do not follow him down this road to absurdity and self-parody.


And don't buy the lie that it's unfair for priests to be suspended from ministry pending the outcome of investigations against them. Remember that even in the secular world, if a fireman, cop, teacher, or corporate executive is accused of something untoward, that person will be suspended by his superiors while the investigation is carried out. Suspension does not imply prejudice or a kangaroo court. Suspension is prudence, plain and simple. If the allegations are untrue, the fault lies with a dishonest accuser, not with an overseer doing his job. And don't buy the lie that Fr. Corapi had been hung in limbo by a flawed canonical process - this investigation has not been dragging on; it's only been a few months at this point. A teacher at my daughter's school was suspended for an entire year pending the outcome of an investigation regarding allegations of sexual contact with a student. The allegations were determined to have been false, and the teacher was reinstated and is back to work. The sin here was the sin of false witness; the process prevailed, the process was not to blame.


Are certain priests or secular folks railroaded and smeared with false accusations? Of course. Is this the case with Fr. Corapi? We don't know, but the problem with him is not what he might have done, the problem is what we all see him doing now.


Anyway, let's continue to pray for him, for Bishop Mulvane, for the accuser, and above all for Fr. Corapi's fans. May this scandal not lead them to doubt the True Faith. We have the treasure in earthen vessels; we all know that. God uses sinners and nothing but sinners in His Church. He will sanctify them if they let Him. But we hardly ever let Him.


And remember ... 'I mean that each of you is saying, "I belong to Paul," or "I belong to Apollos," or "I belong to Cephas," or "I belong to Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you?' (1 Cor. 1:12-13).


We are Christians, not Corapians.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Character and character


My wife Karen has begun to date other guys. I said, "What is this? You can't date other guys! You're my wife!"


And she said, "No, as of today, Father's Day, I'm not your wife. I'm not MRS. O'Brien, you see, I'm MISS O'Brien, and as MISS O'Brien I can date whomever I choose!"


Then she said, "I'm the Female Dog Sheep! Woof woof! Howwwwllll!"


Mid-life crisis, I guess.


Anyway, it's obvious my wife can't renounce our marriage, for marriage is a sacrament that confers an ontological change (as my friend Deacon John Wainscott says), a change that lasts as long as you live on earth. The sacrament of marriage changes a person's very being, so that a married man or woman is in nature and essence different from a non-married person. It is more than just a change of status, it is a change of identity, which is why it can't be undone.


Two other sacraments produce an even more profound change in identity, in one's being, in one's nature - for the change these sacraments effect is a change that lasts beyond life on earth through all eternity. Both Baptism and Holy Orders produce an indelible mark, or character, on a person. Baptism kills us; it destroys the old man and creates a new man, as it participates in the passion, death and resurrection of Christ. Holy Orders likewise changes a person's nature, making a man a priest (or deacon) forever in the order of Melchizedek. Thus these sacraments can never be repeated, for their effect is permanent.


Father Corapi, therefore (God bless him in his struggles and confusion) can no more renounce his priesthood than my wife can renounce our marriage, or than I can renounce my masculine gender. Sure, Fr. Corapi can call himself "Mr. Corapi", Mrs. O'Brien can call herself "Miss O'Brien" and I can get a sex change operation and call myself "Tiffany", but Corapi is still a priest, Karen is still my wife, and I am still a man even if I get circumcised past the point of recognition.


It is a great modern error to think that we can deny Nature. Yes, we talk about how we love nature, but we don't really, for we ignore and deny our own Natures all the time, either if we want to date guys (by claiming we're not a wife and thus our husband has no authority over us); or if we want to preach as a rogue-televangelist-for-hire when our bishop has forbidden us - temporarily - to preach (by claiming we're not a priest and thus our bishop has no authority over us); or if again we want to date guys (by claiming we're really Tiffany).


A Character (big C) is an indelible stamp, a stamp on one's being that cannot be erased. Our characters, however, (little c) can be changed, and by God's grace, can be sanctified.


And so much of what God sends us in life is a way to test our characters. When the chips are down, do we acknowledge and live up to the Character He has impressed on our souls, or do we mis-characterize it and do what we want to do anyway?


Please pray for Fr. Corapi, for Bishop Mulvane, whom he is unjustly maligning, and for the accuser, who whether victim or victimizer, is surely suffering through all of this.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Commentary

"They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us." - 1 John 2:19

Friday, June 17, 2011

Scandal


Father Corapi needs our prayers. He has announced that he is laicizing himself and is becoming a rogue evangelist. If you Google his new company "Black Sheep Dog" you will find his disturbing announcement under the heading of an outright demonic logo at the top of the page. I will not link to it. What he says is despicable double talk, extreme, psychologically disturbing, and egomaniacal.


Bishop William Mulvey of Corpus Christi needs our prayers. He is Fr. Corapi's bishop, and Fr. Corapi is placing all the blame on him (while claiming he's not blaming him), fomenting a phone call and letter writing campaign against his bishop (while claiming he's not doing that very thing), and flagrantly disobeying his bishop, who, from all I've heard, is a very good man and a solid Catholic. He is the one being persecuted here, not Fr. Corapi.


Fr. Corapi's accuser needs our prayers. Fr. Corapi's behavior lends credence to her allegations. She will be vilified and excoriated all the same.


Those of you who will follow this man into de facto schism need our prayers.


We can argue about torture, we can argue about super-disciples, we can argue about lying, but above and beyond all these squabbles within, one outward sign indicates fullness of communion with the Catholic Church, and that is unity with and obedience to your bishop, and your bishop's unity with and obedience to the Pope.


When one rejects that, renounces one's priesthood, and sets off on one's own, that is schism, plain and simple.


My prediction: there will be a lot of noise from the true believers, Fr. Corapi's die-hard followers, but only briefly. He has by this very act alienated half of his base, even though he's energized the remaining half. He will continue to spiral downwards until it becomes an embarrassment to watch him. There's a satanic element at work here, and it's not at work in canon law or in the episcopacy, as Fr. Corapi more or less implies. We are, however, a Church of Good News, and the Good News is there is a kind of self-regulating tendency in Catholics (a fruit of the Holy Spirit) which prevents us from going as nuts as the televangelists, end times gurus, and cult leaders who surround us - for if we do go that far off we cease to become fully Catholic and effect a kind of self-purgation from full communion with the Body of Christ.


This is a despicable scandal and Fr. Corapi is the perpetrator, not the victim.


Mark Shea says we should not be angry with him, for we are sinners as he is. I agree there are no perfect Christians here, and Fr. Corapi could still repent and rejoin the flock. But we should indeed be very angry.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Descent of the Dove - VII, VIII, IX


OK, so I didn't get to blog on a chapter per day of Charles Williams' Descent of the Dove for each day of the Great Novena. The best laid plans and all that.


But not deterred by my utter failure (my utter failure has never stopped me before), I am posting an epilogue of sorts that wraps everything up.


In general, this was an engaging and fun book to read. Williams view on Church history is similar to Belloc's, in that both take a sweeping view of things without losing the reader in details.


But there is something nagging at me.


There is something not legit about this book. There is something that smells a tad bit funny. Maybe it's Williams' complacent Anglicanism in the face of the Holy Spirit, Whose actions he clearly sees in bold outline at least. Maybe it's his continuing theme of frustrated Eros, which rings just a tiny bit hollow and strikes a discordant note. Maybe it's his refusal to be anything but vague on the things in this book that are most typically original to Williams. Maybe it's his weird fixation on "co-inherence", which is really nothing more than the Incarnation playing itself out over time and in the life of individuals and their societies. Why a new word for such an old and familiar thing?


But I think there's an extra element here, a hint of New Age spirituality that underlies the otherwise orthodox views of the book. It's a kind of gauze that is woven throughout the fabric. It's hard to be specific about it, as it shows up when Williams is least specific himself: his vagueness is an alarm for it. There's a quasi-philosophy that enters. "Co-inherence" sounds legit enough ... but; "The Liberation of Eros" sounds like a plan ... however; there are in both those spots something not Catholic, something that tends to spoil the writings of an otherwise Catholic Anglican.


Thus my alternate title for this book would be Belloc Compromised.


Still, it was worth reading and it's worth praying for Williams and the other Inklings, whose work and lives were all pointed toward Christ - even if imperfectly so (kind of like ours).

The Revolution Continues


Last weekend my actors and I participated with Joseph Pearce in the Portsmouth Institute Conference as we performed scenes from Hamlet, with Joseph dissecting and commenting on the scenes, pointing out the Catholic theology and worldview behind them. (Pictured above - some of my cast and Joseph: moving around the table and starting left - Emily Lunsford, Kevin O'Brien, Joseph Pearce, Maria Romine, Dave Treadway, Deacon John Wainscott)


We had a tremendous time. Joseph seems to think my actors are very entertaining people both on stage and off. I know this much: they are certainly off. Very off.


At one point we all sat under a gazebo on the beautiful grounds of Portsmouth Abbey School, overlooking Narragansett Bay as the rain came crashing down around us. Joseph, in an inspired moment, had begun to imitate Elvis Presley - an imitation with an odd cockney / Memphis mix. Then I imitated Joseph imitating Elvis, and then I imitated a southern friend of ours, Leslie Kaufmann of Kaufmann Publishing, imitating Joseph imitating Elvis, and then actress Ashley Ahlquist Johnson took up the charge and imitated Kevin imitating Leslie imitating Joseph imitating Elvis.


Anyway, that's how it went.


The Portsmouth Conference is one of the best conferences in the U.S. for a number of reasons. It is situated at a beautiful site, they always invite the top scholars to give presentations on the topic being discussed, the food and drink are wonderful, and there's always a mixture of music, theater, and other activities to break the monotony of lectures and presentations. The attendees are smart and fun, and all in all the Portsmouth Conference is a delightful annual get-a-way. The first year's conference topic was William F. Buckley, last year's was Cardinal Newman, this year's was Shakespeare, and next year's will be thrilling, whatever topic they choose.


And in the midst of all the fun is the fact that the Revolution Continues. Catholic Culture is making a comeback. Last year the conference was part of the effort to make sure Newman is not consigned to the nihilistic void; he was not a theological liberal, a homosexual, a modernist, or any of the other things the Sad Set wants to make of him. This year all of this drama and music and drinking and fun was likewise part of a counter-attack. Shakespeare was not a sulking teenager, an atheist, a proponent of gay marriage, or any of the other things the Sad Set wants to make of him. He was a sign of contradiction to the modern world, as was Newman, and as is anyone devoted to the ultimate sign of contradiction, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


At any rate, if you're tempted to join the Sad Set because you missed the Portsmouth Institute Conference this year, be sad no more. You can make up for it at the Chesterton Conference, to be held this year in St. Louis, my home town, Aug. 4, 5 & 6. My actors and I will be performing Chesterton's Magic, and it will be well worth the visit. Perhaps we'll even find a gazebo where I will imitate Ashley Ahlquist doing me doing Leslie doing Joseph doing Elvis.


Which will be worth the price of admission.



Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Feast of Chesterton


Today is the 75th Anniversary of the death of G. K. Chesterton. It is also Dale Ahlquist's birthday. Last year I came up with liturgical readings for what will one day be officially recognized as Chesterton's Feast Day. They are as follows:




1. JOB 19:23-27

Oh, that my words were now written! Oh, that they were printed in a book! That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever! For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another ... How my heart yearns within me!


2. PSALM 8

O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger. When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!


3. REV. 10:8 - 11:4

And the voice which I heard from heaven spake unto me again, and said, Go and take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel which standeth upon the sea and upon the earth. And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey. And I took the little book out of the angel's hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter. And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings. And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months. And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.

(ALTERNATE EPISTLE READING: 1 COR. 1:22-25

For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.)


4. MARK 10:13-16

And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.


GILBERT CHESTERTON, PRAY FOR US!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Descent of the Dove - VI


Williams now brings us to Chapter Six, "Consummation and Schism".


The consummation to which he refers is played out in Dante. Williams gives a long literary analysis of Dante's works, all of which somehow fit into Williams' notion of the importance of Eros as a spiritual impulse. I must admit Williams sounds rather vaguely spiritualist at some points when discussing this stuff, and I catch a whiff of folks like C. G. Jung, the Swiss psychologist who rationalized promiscuity by making all of our appetites equally spiritual in their origins and destinations. But Williams never goes as far as Jung or as far as the New Age spiritualists of our day. He is clear to point out that Eros cut off from God, Eros that is satisfied in itself and in possessing the lover, leads to the Inferno in Dante, not to Paradise. Still, it's clear that Williams thinks the Church denigrated romantic love and sexual desire and even marriage in favor of the more ascetic way of celibacy. The Way of Negation, as he would put it, is given priority over the Way of Affirmation - and that's certainly true from St. Paul and even from Martha and Mary onwards. There is probably much to be said for the case Williams is making, especially in light of how the issue is addressed by Vatican II and the Theology of the Body, but it's a dangerous path to tread, for it can lead so easily to a man having all sorts of sexual liaisons as long as he tells himself his heart's in the right place, or to a man justifying any kind of lust - lust for power, for money, for fame - as being a spiritual way.


I had a good friend once who was notorious for being a womanizer. "People say that all of those hundreds of pictures of women in your office are pictures of women you've slept with," I said to him.


"That's true," he replied, "I don't put a woman's picture up unless I've slept with her." Then he grew serious. "But, you see, Kevin, I've paid a horrible price."


"What is that?" I asked.


"Every single one of them fell in love with me," he answered.


Or as Fr. Groeschel would say, there might be something to this Eros thing, but "I'm from New Jersey, and I'm not so sure."


The Schism to which Williams refers is the Great Schism, the complex and distressing split between the Popes and the anti-Popes of the 14th and early 15th centuries, which was a kind of spiritual Black Death within the medieval Church. And Williams ends this chapter by pointing out that an entire generation of men grew up living with this unprecedented contradiction in the practise of the Church, this terrible schism - an atmosphere that paved the way for the Reformation, an atmosphere of confusion that two generations have grown up breathing in our own day.


I had hoped to post a reflection on each of Williams' nine chapter each of the nine days of the Great Novena. For the next three days, however, I will be in Rhode Island at the Portsmouth Institute Conference on the Catholic Shakespeare performing scenes from Hamlet with my Theater of the Word actors, with commentary by Joesph Pearce. If my final three installments don't appear until after Pentecost, I beg your indulgence, as well as that of the Holy Spirit.


The Same HOLY SPIRIT, I beg, to COME!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Descent of the Dove - V


Chapter Five is entitled "The Imposition of Belief" and Williams works his way through the glory of the Middle Ages touching on a little bit of everything, as the Middle Ages themselves did. He makes no apologies for the Inquisition or the sacking of Byzantium by the Western Christians. At the same time he does not flinch from the sanctity of St. Francis, St. Dominic or St. Thomas Aquinas.


In fact, in the case of St. Francis and St. Dominic, Williams sees a recapitulation in miniature of the problem faced by the Church as a whole. "Perhaps in them the alteration between the initiation and the institution is most clearly seen, between the flash and the prolongation. It is not suggested that the children of Francis and Dominic are unworthy of their Founders. But the Orders have a proper stability in time which Francis and Dominic could not have nor could desire to have. They looked to, they hastened to, their end; the Orders cannot do as much."


Williams separates as opposites the initiation, the flash, the consummation on the one side and the institution, the prolongation, the duration on the other. His over-arching view of the history of the Church applies this distinction throughout. The Church, in Williams' view, begins with a sudden flame at Pentecost and the expectation of an early end, a nearly present consummation in Christ; it is challenged by duration in time, itself a frustration and a paradox, for the Spirit of Christ "coinherent" in the Church is Himself timelessness. Suddenly something infused with and inspired by eternity must come to terms with the world, the world of time and space and human nature, the world which demands administration and corporation and institution. The challenge for the Church, in Williams' view, is how to keep this inspiration embodied, how to, in a sense, continue to bring a perfect and eternal God into a fallen and temporal world.


Clearly the Church is more apt to fail at this challenge when she is established than when she is hiding in the catacombs. And in a turn of events that turns the stomach, the Church in the Middle Ages even winks at torture when secular authorities question suspected heretics. But even in that case, when the Church seems most compromised by the world and the tactics of the prince of this world, Williams points out that the priests themselves did not torture or shed blood. Yes, they allowed others to do so, they enabled such horrors - but even in the face of worldly compromise, the teachings of Christ were at least hypocritically honored. And this tells us much of the power of this teaching and of the Divinity that guarded it.


The best line in the chapter deals with this - how even when the Church seemed most compromised by her establishment as Christendom, the Holy Spirit's work can still be seen in an irony within the heart of hypocrisy. "At least Society believed in belief; it believed in the Creed if it did not believe the Creed," Williams writes.


Today we no longer believe in belief; we no longer believe in the Creed much less believe the Creed. Today we are like the children of affluent hippies, whose parents give us everything and expect nothing from us in return. Today we don't even have anything to make us rise to the level of hypocrites. We not only miss the mark, we don't even have a mark to miss. If the mass of men can never be perfect Christians, no man can ever be a perfect post-Christian, for there is no such thing as perfection in his case.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Descent of the Dove - IV


Men are most foolish when we're in love - that's when our rash vows come: to marry, to walk to Jerusalem on our knees, to post a daily commentary on each chapter of Charles Williams' Descent of the Dove during each of the nine days of the Great Novena. It's the Holy Spirit, you know, He takes us beyond ourselves - out of our "comfort zones". Such is magnanimity.


In Chapter Four, Williams, like the Spirit, takes us on a wild ride of his own from the Fall of Rome to the Eastern Schism, covering more than five hundred years of time and a wide parabola of thought. It's hard to digest. But somehow central to this book are two words that Williams never defines - "Eros", a word we know, but a word that can mean a number of things; and "co-inherence", a word peculiar to Williams, and a word which means ... well, what? More on that later.


It has at least become clear to me that Williams is talking about the Descent of the Dove, or the operation of the Holy Spirit in human history, not merely in the Church as "church" but in the Church as "Christendom" - the workings of the Holy Spirit in the wider Christian culture.


For instance, Williams writes: "There were what may be called mass conversions [of barbarians], and therefore uninstructed conversions. This is not to say they were insincere [but] ... it is doubtful whether Christendom has ever quite recovered from the mass-conversion of fashionable classes inside Rome and of the barbaric races outside Rome ... It is at least arguable that the Christian Church will have to return to a pre-Constantine state before she can properly recover the ground she too quickly won."


Now that's a great phrase, "recover the ground she too quickly won". By this he seems to mean that the Church was challenged not only by the prolongation of time, but by its own geographical expansion and success. But Williams is quick to point out that even if the mass conversions of the Dark Ages were not heartfelt, a huge cultural shift had occurred all the same, and Christian man - even nominally Christian man - had a life whose focus was utterly different from that of Pagan man.


"There was a difference between self-sacrificed and un-sacrificed Deity; between the God who died of His own will for the salvation of men and the God who died at others' will for the reproductiveness of vegetables ... The rites of sorcery which, it was believed, were practised had not, as their single, if remote, aim, the creation of a new will towards love; the new Christian rites had no other essential aim."


And here we see what seems to be the key of Williams' concept of Christendom, the creation of a new will towards love.


Thus he keeps coming back to the quote of Ignatius of Antioch, "My Eros is crucified." This, he says, "was quite different from the old Stoic tolerance of things as indifferent to the wise man; this is the first spark of the fire of charity and joy," and he connects this observation to Boethius' realization that "every lot is good ... whether be it harsh or be it pleasing." In other words, that which is good may not be pleasing, that which is good may take us out of our "comfort zones" - but how? By demanding of our Eros a crucifixion, by calling forth our love, our passion, our desire, our longing - by calling our love to a suffering, an unbearable agony of self-giving for the sake of another, by keeping Eros from becoming mere eroticism and transforming it into a painful question of and desire for another, answered and satisfied when "it is finished" on the cross.


Thus, contrary to stoicism and Buddhism, both of which deny desire, and contrary to hedonism and modern contraceptive promiscuity, both of which fulfil only a parody of desire, Christ offers us satisfaction through the cross - "My Eros is crucified".


At least I think this is close to what Williams means.


As to "co-inherence" ... ? Well, "the inter-penetration of two separate orders" is perhaps the best way to say it; "incarnation" viewed from both ends, God becoming and interpenetrating man and everything man does, including his culture and his communities; and man lifted up and participating in the eternal existence of God, which is joy, eternal life, the Kingdom.


I am working through this book a chapter a day, however, and this is all preliminary. It's almost as confusing as the Eastern Schism, with which Charles Williams ends this chapter, and from which split the Body of Christ still suffers.


For unity in the Church ... HOLY SPIRIT COME!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Descent of the Dove - III


This book is a journey through the history of the Church, focusing on how the Holy Spirit acts in her. In chapter three, Williams displays a fine understanding of both the importance of orthodoxy as well as its radical component, the surprising lengths to which it goes and the demands it makes of us.


"If some small mistake were made in doctrine, huge blunders might be made in human happiness," G. K. Chesterton observed, and Hilaire Belloc affirmed this: "There is no greater error in the whole range of bad history than imagining that doctrinal differences, because they are abstract and apparently remote from the practical things of life, are not therefore of intense social consequence."


Here Williams deals with Arianism, Manicheanism and Pelagianism.


When Constantine urged his subjects to drop the dispute over Arianism, by saying, more or less, "Why can't we all just get along?" "Constantine's protest was natural; it was his misfortune that the point at issue should be one of the few more important and not one of the many less important. That is clear now; it was not everywhere equally clear then." For the issue of Arianism was the nature of Christ, was He both God and man or merely a man? Elsewhere Belloc notes, had Arianism won the battle of doctrine, "all our history would have been other than what it has been from that day to this. Deny, as the Arians did, the incarnation, and human dignity is lessened, the authority of Our Lord is weakened, He appears more and more as a man, perhaps a myth, the substance of Christian life is diluted, it wanes."


And yet, by the actions of the Holy Spirit, orthodoxy carried the day.


Likewise, the Manichean tendency was quite strong during this period, encouraged even by the popularity of the Desert Hermits. But Williams, with Chestertonian insight, points out that the Church makes it clear that Renunciation is only a value because the things renounced are good, and Affirmation only a value because of the detachment sacrifice brings; in fact "rejection was to be rejection but not denial, as reception was to be reception but not subservience. Both methods, the Affirmative Way [feast days, celebrating the goodness of life] and the Negative Way [fasting, renouncing the goodness of life], were to co-exist; one might almost say, to co-inhere, since each was to be the key of the other."


Williams concludes this chapter with a brilliant comparison and contrast of Pelagius and Augustine. The Pelagian heresy taught, in effect, that man could pull himself up by his own bootstraps, that our effort was central to salvation, God's grace but an aid to our efforts. St. Augustine, on the other hand, with a profound understanding of sin, asserts the "co-inherence" of man with Adam's sinful nature. Pelagius, Williams say, "was almost declaring that man was his own principle, that he did his own good deeds. But all Christendom, and especially Augustine, knew that only Christ could act Christ."


And this brings us back to two subjects debated hotly this year, both of which, a friend of mine points out are related to a kind of neo-Pelagianism. The Super-Disciples issue, which seems to assume that salvation is all about our efforts, emphasizing far more what we do and fail to do than what God's grace works in us; and, yes, the Lying for Jesus issue, which has this same presumption: if we don't do SOMETHING, the culture of death will win. We must be active, even if we must compromise morality in our activity; for it's all up to us. Thus activism doth make heretics of us all, and thus the native hue of sanctification is flush with the bold cast of Us and What We Do, to paraphrase Shakespeare.


It's become clear that Williams has a real sensitivity to the Church and the Spirit and the rest of the book, each of whose chapters fill a day of the Great Novena, will be quite rewarding.

HOLY SPIRIT COME!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Descent of the Dove - II


In Chapter Two of Williams' The Descent of the Dove he continues his intriguing theme from Chapter One, the work of the Church as a Reconciliation with Time, "a kind of reconciliation between the Church and the ordinary process of things ... she made preparations for drawing into herself the whole of normal human existence".


By this he means that over the course of the second and third centuries, through the persecutions, the Church becomes more aware of a certain process to which she is called. Between the rigorous ethical demands of the Montantists on the one hand and mercy toward sinners on the other; between the Evangelical Counsels and their call to utter abandonment and perfection on one side and the more ordinary life of average Christians on the other; between the demand to excommunicate "lapsed" Christians and the desire to accept them and reconcile with them - between these pairs of opposites the Church is seen to exist.


Indeed, we see this today. We have the rad trads on the right,
who at their worst are Puritanical rigorists and Pharisees; and we have the liberalists on the left, who at their worst are permissive indifferentists. These two opposites reveal the demands of timelessness (in Williams' terminology) and the need for process within time. We are not all holy at once, the "now" of redemption is a nnnoooowwwwww that is stretched out over our lives. But the Church, unlike the liberalists, seeks not to compromise with sinners, but to reconcile them, "redeeming the time" as St. Paul calls it (Eph. 5:16).


"The Rigorous view is vital to sanctity," Williams writes, "the relaxed view is vital to sanity."


What a great line that is!


Williams sees in the process of the Church becoming more institutionalized a kind of banishment of Prophecy, a kind of driving the Holy Spirit underground. ("If St. Paul came back to Rome, they'd kill him again for being a Prophet," a friend of mine observed.) But he is not simply a carping charismatic. I was worried at first that Williams' view of the Holy Spirit would be this individualistic one, in which the Holy Spirit, as in the Protestant model, works only individually and only in violent dramatic ways, such as healings and tongues, and so forth. But his view of the workings of the Holy Spirit is quite Catholic, for while he recognizes that God concedes to the "taming" of the Spirit (so to speak) as the Church is institutionalized and as she works toward the reconciliation with time and ordinary things, he nevertheless realizes that the Spirit is no less at work and no less present in the Church - indeed, in this very act of reconciling ordinary sinful men to her, calling them to an ongoing process of sanctification, whether rigorous (monastic, eremitic, celibate) or relaxed (as with those called to more ordinary vocations).


Williams points again to the hint he made in the first chapter of there being - spiritually speaking - something more to love, even erotic love, than one might first suspect. For one thing, Origen insists that while the Son is co-equal with the father, the Son is obedient to the Father. "A thing so sweetly known in many relations of human love is, beyond imagination, present in the midmost secrets of heaven." He also quotes a phrase "tossed out" by St. Ignatius of Antioch on his way to martyrdom, "My Eros is crucified". Williams remarks, "The Eros of five hundred years of Greece and Rome was to live after a new style; unexpected as yet, the great Romantic vision approached."


And finally, Williams ends this chapter with the image of Constantine presiding over the Council of Nicea, this image of the throned secular figure presiding over a Church council signifying not the corruption of the early Church the Evangelicals would see, but on the contrary signifying that "the acceptance of time was completely manifested ... a new basis - a metaphysical basis - was ordained for society. The Roman past was rejected; the effort of the Middle Ages was begun. Intellect was accepted; marriage was accepted; ordinary life was accepted."


The incarnation continues, "what I have cleansed that call not thou common." (Acts 11:9)


And thus the Holy Spirit continues to work in His Church.


HOLY SPIRIT, COME!

Descent of the Dove - I


I am reading The Descent of the Dove by Charles Williams. I began it yesterday, June 3, the first day of the Great Novena which culminates in Pentecost, our celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit. I noticed today that the book has nine chapters, a perfect fit for the novena.


With that in mind, I will summarize each chapter daily (more or less) with a separate post. If you enjoy this "Cliff's Notes" version, perhaps you'll pick up the book.


Chapter one is "The Definition of Christendom" in which Williams takes us through the early days of the Church.


Williams defines the work of the Church (or of "Christendom") as The Regeneration of Mankind. "The Apostles set out to generate mankind anew." This is more than mere political activism or ethical reform, this is spreading rebirth throughout the human race.


He notes the astonishing phrase uttered by the Apostles at the end of the Council of Jerusalem "It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us" (Acts 15:28), the most appalling juxtaposition in all literature. The certainty of God coupled with the absurdity of man! Of course, this is the heart of Catholic ecclesiology, this simple phrase, uttered by the Apostles and their successors through the ages - "It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us" - the infallible presence of God working through the earthen vessels of men.


Williams at one point alludes to what he seems to think was the possible recognition of the potential holiness of sexual love in the early Church which was rejected for an emphasis on celibacy over matrimony, so that the Church "eventually lost any really active tradition of marriage itself as a way of the soul; it is, no doubt, practised in a million homes, but it can hardly be said to have been diagrammatized or taught by the authorites." There may be something to this claim, which Vatican II and the Theology of the Body sought to address.


But the most interesting part of Chapter One, as far as I'm concerned, is Williams assertion that the Church had to reconcile a contradiction in itself, the contradiction of time. "The Kingdom - or, apocalyptically, the City - is the state into which Christendom is called; but, except in vision she is not yet the City. The City is the state which the Church is to become." In other words, while Christ has raised us into an eternal now, we still exist in a duration where the now is not yet completely here - we are saved and we are being saved; we are justified and we are being sanctified; the Kingdom of God is among us, and the Kingdom of God comes fully only at the end of time.


Williams says that at the beginning, with the fervor of the Spirit, the Apostles performing miracles, the presence of Christ very much a reality even in his absence, the Church was this "now", this "eternal city", this "unity". "She for a moment was one with her state. But she was too soon all but divided from her state." This error of division is, Williams says, "her very opportunity for being" - in other words, the need for the Church is justified not because of its saints because of its sinners.


This is a fascinating concept, but a bit of a Protestant one. The myth of the perfect early Church is but a myth. Even when Christ walked the earth, his followers, his Church, were far from perfect, and not perfectly unified. Despite the simplicity of the early Church, divisions and foibles can be seen even from the beginning, even in Scripture. Setting aside, however, Williams' Protestant myth of the early perfect Church, what he says about this paradox is true - God is both with us and separate from us, and between this tension, this tension of the eternal and the temporal, the perfect and the sinful, we reside.


Williams says two more really great things. He talks about the Christians refusing to sacrifice to the Roman emperor - "It was embarrassing to everyone when the Christians solemnly and formally anathematized what no one had ever dreamt of believing." How many New Pagans really believe the squishy spiritualism they hold to? People no more believe in the reality of the Great Spirit these days than they do the Easter Bunny. It's a nice tame myth that makes you feel good and doesn't demand anything from you but a nod in the Earth Mother's direction and a pinch of something burned to the emperor - and you're willing to shove our disbelief in our faces and be fed to the lions for it? How infuriating say the Old Pagans - and the New Ones.


Finally, Charles Williams gives an excellent definition of FAITH. "Faith was not a poor substitute for vision; it was rather the capacity for integrating the whole being with truth." That sentence alone can be unpacked in prayer for all of day one of this novena.


HOLY SPIRIT, COME!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Unmentioned Assumption

In the course of this debate, many have been converted from justifying lying to realizing what the Church teaches about lying and assenting to it. Sean Dailey was one of those. So was I, really, since I was the first to offer publicly the defense "The Act in Question was not a Lie", a position that holds no water once examined objectively.

I will quote Mr. Dailey here in this post, as I did in my most recent post, for he transcends the argument and shows us what's behind it and what's behind the Chruch's surprising and seemingly rigorous condemnation of lying always and everywhere. After all, argumentation isn't working at this point. The Lying Apologists are simply ignoring what we say or mischaracterizing it. Perhaps, then, in the hopes of moving on, we can address the truth behind this issue, and the reason so many who rationalize lying are having trouble with their consciences.

Sean Dailey writes ...

***

[In the proscription against lying] love is the key element, and love elevates the objective situation to a higher plane. ...

But it was just this key element -- love -- that was absent when the Live Action actors entered the PP facilities and secretly filmed their encounters. Rather than love, their hearts were filled with malice and deceit. They objectified the Planned Parenthood workers; used them -- the exact same thing that Planned Parenthood does to pregnant women and to the babies they abort. Wow. What an accomplishment, Live Action.

All Live Action accomplished was to score points, as it were. It was the worst kind of "gotcha" journalism, and it accomlished absolutely nothing. Did it save a single baby? Hard to say. Did it convert a single soul? I highly doubt it.

You do not have the Catechism on your side in this [if you defend Live Action] ... because you are defending a loveless act. And without love, as St. Paul says, you have nothing. You can wrap yourself in all the CCC quotes you want to. But without love, you are still naked.

Our new bishop's motto is "Lex cordis caritas" -- the Law of the Heart is Love. Live Action violated that law.

***

And it also strikes me that this is something I wrote privately on this matter (to a certain "Dave"), which I think helps ...

***

Dave writes, "I do not think this was the case, I think Live Action was leading them in love to truth. Perhaps this is the source of our mis-communication."



Yes, Dave, that is entirely the source of our mis-communication. So much so that we are in agreement that truth was the END in sight (we both agree); it was the MEANS used that was not truthful, but deceptive (you disagree). You can not lead one into truth by way of error. We know the truth L.A. was revealing was right and noble; it was the WAY by which they were revealing it that our side objects to.



We can not defeat the Culture of Death with a Culture of Deceit. I know you don't think deceit was involved, so you would agree with me here in principle, just not in this particular instance. Thus, if you claim there was no deception (when there obviously was) we can't get past that and we must agree to disagree regarding the application of a principle we all agree on.



I will say, Dave, that I have great sympathy with your argument; it is really the only good argument your side can make. There exists in all drama the revelation of truth by means of pretending, the "virtue of IF" as Touchstone says in "As You Like It". The problem is, drama and all fiction presupposes the willing cooperation of an audience in the falsehood, pretending "as if" the falsehood were true, and from that hypothetical world deeper truths are revealed. When one is unwittingly thrown into a situation that is false and buys into the falsehood, this is called by all people of common sense, "deception". And this is simply wrong always and everywhere, per the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. You can't get around the fact that deception was involved in these stings unless you simply assert that it wasn't, as you're doing.



We are accused of being Pharisaical on this point. We are not. We are arguing that a failure to use good means to a good end is a failure in love or charity. We are calling all of us to live to the highest Law written in the heart, the Law of Charity, not to justification by following petty legalisms. We are arguing for the appalling demands of love, not nit-pick-ery.



Also, men of good will justify lying; I justify lying every time I lie. Saints do not, for saints are more than men of good will, they are men of good will transformed by the grace of Christ. Let us, gentlemen, be saints and quit making apologies for what we all know are lies, despite the political gain we think these lies will get us in the end.



By the way, Sean has been doing penance for this because he was shamefully on your side of the fence for the first week or so of this debate. I have been doing penance because I was THE FIRST PERSON TO ADVANCE PUBLICLY THE ARGUMENT DAVE IS MAKING - which I did in defense of James O'Keefe at the Chesterton conference last summer.


By the way, I keep encouraging James O'Keefe to come to the Chesterton conference this summer. He is an idealist (though misguided in my opinion) and he very much needs us. I have told him he has supporters and detractors among us, but either way he will get honesty from us and he will be surrounded by the most entertaining and enlightening group of people imaginable. Let us pray for him, for Lila, and for one another.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Truth and Our Enemies

OK, here we go.

Sean Dailey has made this case in the Gilbert Editorial despite my telling him he was going to far, but he was right and I was wrong.

Here's Sean's latest comment at the ACS website:

***

Finally, the worst part of Live Action’s lies is that those lies had the effect of leading the Planned Parenthood workers deeper into sin, of undermining their-God given free will to choose good, if given the opportunity. CCC 2489 speaks of “charity and respect for the truth.” Yes, now we know that Planned Parenthood aids and abets teen prostitution and teen abortion and contraception. Is it really any surprise? In other news, water found to be wet. But if the Live Action actors had entered the PP facilities with “charity and respect for the truth” in their hearts, rather than intending to commit evil so good may come from it, how much more might they have accomplished? Could they maybe have converted a soul or two?

As I wrote in my editorial, we are called to be salt and light to everyone we meet. Can you justify exempting Planned Parenthood workers from that mandate? If not, then how can you justify Live Action’s tactics? As our Lord said, “Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me.” What good are we as Christians if the best we can do with the least of Christ’s brethren is help usher them into hell? How will we answer for that at the Judgment?

Remember, the majority of Planned Parenthood’s employees could very well be there because they have been lied to. Now the employees in the videos have been lied to by people who should know better. For shame.

***

My fear was if people have been ripping me a new one for saying, "Don't lie" they'll freaking crucify me for saying, "Love your enemy".

They did that to someone else once, I hear. Sean Dailey may be next!

Responding to Joe Trabbic

To clarify, here is my position on this matter, which again has blown up all over the internet. For example, follow (if you dare) the debate in the comboxes at the American Chesterton Society website on this.


I agree entirely with Joe Trabbic that the application of Church teaching (meaning to apply general principles to specific instances) is a question of prudence and is between the individual and his conscience.


However, we have not been dealing with such claims in this debate. The arguments advanced in this debate have not been as reasonable as Joe's. Catholics have not been content to say, "I accept Church teaching and here is what my prudence tells me regarding the application of Church teaching in instance."


Instead, people's arguments have been variations of the following two points:


1. Attacks on the Catechism


2. Attempts to Re-define the Act in Question


The most common examples of the first plank, Attacks on the Catechism, are those who simply ignore the Catechism. A more sophisticated (and in my opinion sinister) variation are those who claim the Catechism does not contain valid Church teaching on this issue and thus can safely be ignored ("We are not bound by what the Catechism teaches" as the conservative Catholic proudly told me who fired me up for this debate).


Now, to save our readers a lot of research, yes the Catechism of the Catholic Church contains a variety of teachings the Magisterial weight of which varies - some have been definitvely pronounced by the Extraordinary Magisterium; most have been taught by the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium, including the teaching on lying. Granted, theologians, even saints, have argued about the morality of lying, but the Magisterial teaching on this matter has been consistent. Even the Catechism of Trent, nearly five hundred years ago, proscribes lying as something evil by its very nature, or what we would now term intrinsically evil (something that can never be done regardless of the circumstances or of one's intention).


In fact the argument made by Peter Kreeft, which I call the Just Say Know argument (just say, "I know it's so"), advances quite rightly a case for moral intuition, but falls under Plank One above by ignoring Magisterial teaching on this matter . Kreeft's argument fails becasue Church teaching trumps moral intiution for Catholics, period.


Indeed, after going round and round with my friend Deacon Jim Russell of the Archdiocese of St. Louis on this issue, he has finally publicly stated, “I concede that the Magisterium, through the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and with the authority of Divine Revelation, teaches the faithful that lying ('Lying consists in saying what is false with the intention of deceiving one’s neighbor') is a sin against the 8th Commandment, is intrinsically evil, and cannot be done under any circumstances.” (see the comboxes at the Chesterton website)


If all Catholics were conceding this in this debate, I would not be making the noise I have been.


Now, once this is admitted, the argument advances to Plank Two, Re-defining the Act in Question.


Since we know that actors in a play are not "lying", neither are fiction writers nor those who tell fables to children, we must ask ourselves why one can sometimes speak a falsehood without "lying". The obvious answer is that a lie consists of leading another into error, leading him into a false relation with reality. This is done by asserting an untruth. When actors act on stage, they are not trying to deceive the audience, who are "in on" the illusion. Thus actors, fiction writers, and story tellers are engaged in what I would call pretense and not lying.


However, in the case of the Live Action videos, while the ultimate YouTube audience was aware of the pretense (actors claiming to be pimps and prostitutes when they really weren't), the immediate audience of Planned Parenthood workers were not. This immediate audience was being deceived by the false representations of the actors, and deliberately so. They were being lied to.


And to reiterate - I am in no way saying that the lies told to the Planned Parenthood workers in any way compare with the far greater evil of abortion and of covering up for underage prostitution. There is no doubt that the wrong done to the workers pales by comparison to the wrong the workers do to young women and to unborn babies.


However, Scripture tells us that we must not do evil that good may come. And the Church is quite clear that lying is by its nature disordered, the object of which (deceiving one's neighbor) is never vitiated by any cirucmstance or good intention.


In other words, for committing or condoning the act involved in this particular situation really to be a question of prudence and not a kind of "practical dissent", the act in question can NOT be lying. If the act in question IS lying, it may never be done, nor condoned, regardless of one's prudence.