Sunday, November 30, 2014

Immortal Longings and the Human Soul



Our souls have been flattened.  And we don't even realize it.

My Life in Show Business - Part 3

Me as Rhett Butler on the Goldenrod Showboat
in the year 1999 or so, when we were performing
murder mysteries there.
Back in the 19th and early 20th century, before television, talkies and radio, the showboats used to ply the waters bringing popular culture to Americans who were desperate for entertainment.  Melodramas would be performed - which is to say soap operas for the stage - with simple stock characters representing good and evil.  The acting was larger than life, but the audiences were moved and grateful and in awe of what they thought was high dramatic art.  But that began to change.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Catholic are Just Like Everyone Else - Only Worse

I have been making a living in show business for 33 years.  I have dealt with a vast number of clients in all manner of businesses who have booked me to perform or produce a wide variety of shows.

In all those years, with all those clients, I have never had the sort of trouble I have when dealing in the Catholic market.  Clients for Theater of the Word often cannot be trusted.

Catholic Kaleidescope

Here's my interview with Alyssa Bormes from her show Catholic Kaleidescope on Radio Maria.  She talks to her mom about making sausage for the first ten minutes or so, then gets to me after that.



Thursday, November 27, 2014

More of My Life in Show Business

This is Part Two of My Life is Show Business.  

My first actress, Shannon, who never got to perform the show before an audience, and me as Groucho (Dr. Hackenbush), one of the characters in Murder at Bunny & Clyde's, 1989.


***

In trying to piece together a living by working at what I loved and what God had called me to do, I had done singing telegrams, stand up comedy, and children's theater classes - but a regular and consistent annual income had eluded me.


"Affection at a Distance" vs. The Point of the Piercing of Christ



There is nothing cheaper than affection at a distance.

We can love the poor, as long as we don't have to deal with them up close.  We can love our neighbor, as long as he stays on his side of the privacy fence.

And we can love God as long as He's not among us, as long as He's up there in heaven minding His own business and letting us show Him the cheapest of all of our charades, the shameful sham of "affection at a distance".

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What's Your "Unreality of Choice"?



Richard's comment in response to Rosemary at a recent post is worth repeating here.  In short, we love whistle blowers and truth tellers, as long as they tell the truth we're comfortable with hearing and blow the whistle on the other guy.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Pandemonium

Please pray for my city, St. Louis, and our suburb Ferguson.  CNN is catching only the tip of the iceberg.  Looting and fires set all over the metro area at this point.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Show Business and Faith: Scraping, Scrapping and Scrambling

On Dec. 17, 2014 I will celebrate 25 years of performing my own murder mystery dinner theater shows.  So for the next 25 days, I'll mark the 25 years with 25 stories of my life in show business - and (believe it or not), how it all relates to the Faith.  I'll try to keep it clean.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Radio Appearance



This coming Sunday, Nov. 23, at 1:00 pm U.S. Central Time, I will be a guest on Catholic Kaleidoscope, which airs live on Radio Maria.  The show is hosted by Catholic author Alyssa Bormes.  I have no idea what we're going to discuss, but Alyssa has a good sense of humor, so it could be anything!

Potential, Perfection and the Heresy of Inconsequentialism



Our Faith is made to be brought to life in a certain way.  Our Faith is not designed to be shut up and suffocated, placed on a shelf like other dry and dead things.  Our Faith is like a seed, a seed that is designed and programmed to bring forth a certain kind of life in a certain kind of way.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Gay Catholic Good Great Gay Hooray!



It's taken me a while, but I think I'm beginning to understand how people think (or don't think) on the internet.

Yesterday I posted a very powerful movie that tells the true story of how an ex-gay porn star escaped the hell that the world of gay porn is.  And I knew, I simply knew, what one of the comments would be, if I got any.

The comment would be, "Of course, this story is shocking and disturbing, but it's not typical!  There are plenty of good things going on among gay people!"  I really should have written the comment and posted it myself, saving Annonymous the trouble, who wrote ...

Upcoming TV Appearances



My actress Maria Romine writes ...

It's almost Advent and once again EWTN is airing A MORNING STAR CHRISTMAS and THE SURPRISE.

A MORNING STAR CHRISTMAS will air December 20 at 10pmDecember 21 at 3amDecember 24 at 6pm  and December 25 at 10am 

THE SURPRISE will air December 24 at 1pm and December 26 at 3am

All showtimes are listed at EST.

TOLKIEN'S "THE LORD OF THE RINGS"-ELVES, HOBBITS AND MEN will be on EWTN on December 14th at 9pm (EST) and December 16th at 5pm (EST)


I'm in all of these shows, and the Tolkien special is a new one.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ex-Gay Porn Star Escapes from Hell

Here is a very powerful witness to God's grace and to the evils of the pornography industry and the "gay lifestyle".  It is a difficult video to watch.  It's very well made and quite simple, but it's disturbing.  It points out the great lie-du-jour in a very effective way.




Joseph Sciambra on his website reveals that he's a solidly orthodox Catholic who does not buy in to any of the "gay Catholic" nonsense that's out there.  When you've paid the kind of price he's paid, you're in no mood to play along with the make-believe.

The Right Wing Continues Rallying Around the Wrong People

Edward Pentin, Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Register

It pains me to point out that National Catholic Register, once a fairly solid and trustworthy publication, has become the only mainstream journal (to my knowledge) to buy into the trad hysteria over the removal of one of the worst bishops in the world.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Why Do Mormons Understand Catholic Teaching on the Family Better than Catholics?

I had dinner with two Mormons over the weekend, a husband and wife with three kids.  He's about 20 years older than she is.  I'll call them Henry and Minnie.  She talked about how she had been dating other guys when they met, but that she and her future husband formed an intense spiritual bond and friendship.  She said ...

I was engaged at the time, to someone else.  I remember this moment clearly.  We were at the river.  I said to Henry, "After I'm married, you'll still be my close friend, right?  We'll still email and talk and text and stuff, right?"  He said, "Of course not.  That's for husbands and wives.  If I see you, I'll be friendly to you, but our close friendship will end when you have a husband.  That's the way it has to be."  And I realized he was right!  And that I'd lose him unless I married him.

We Catholics should be ashamed that most Mormons have a better understanding of marriage, family and romance than we do.   Especially since it's the one thing they've kept in their religion that is utterly and totally Catholic.




The Suburban Parish and The Heresy of Inconsequentialism

I have come to a conclusion.  Most Catholics don't believe in God.

At least they don't believe in the Christian God, the God who became man to save us from sin and who died on a cross and rose again, calling us to participate in a life of sacrifice and love until He comes join us in his resurrection by raising us bodily from the dead at the Last Judgment, where some will find they've chosen eternal life, others eternal damnation.

Most Catholic instead believe (to quote H. Richard Niebuhr) that ...

“A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.”

***

Today at Mass I walked out during the homily.  I've only done that twice in 14 years as a Catholic, counting today.  It wasn't especially bad, as homilies go, but I realized that it was pointless to stay any longer.  I realized at one point that Whatever religion this man is preaching and these people are celebrating, I'm not in communion with it.  In other words, I was at a putatively Catholic Mass at a so-called Catholic parish, but I was not at a service honoring anything resembling the Catholic God.

It was a parish that I was forced to go to because of time and travel constraints.  It had (as most parishes do) a guitar player singing bad songs very badly and very loudly.  He was quite obviously enthralled with the sound of his voice over the loud speakers.  It was a form of bad performance art, or a kind of narcissism on parade.  I imagine when this man enters into an intimate physical relationship with his wife, his favorite part is hearing himself moan at the moment of climax.  Perhaps he records that moan and listens to it over and over again, admiring the tones and cadences of his marvelous voice.  You know the type.  At any rate, he made me moan at this Mass, that's for sure.

Speaking of sex, before Mass a teen aged girl with a Steubenville T-shirt on ran up to an attractive young man and gave him the Christian Side Hug.  It didn't phase him in the least, but she went away quivering and giddy.  She sang the bad songs out loud with the rock star very loudly, in a pew right up front, swaying and all abuzz.

The homily had one simple message: don't be afraid when Christ comes.  Even if He comes like a thief in the night, even though Scripture warns us of "darkness" and "grinding of teeth", even though "our God is an awesome [fear inspiring] God", we Christians can be confident that "when Christ comes, it will be a good thing."

Not for this guy it won't, as Michelangelo imagines it ...


Not for that guy it won't.  But he only finds that out on the day Christ comes, not at his Suburban Mass.

So what is this weird thing that is happening all over the country, and apparently all over the world?  What is this weird religion that calls itself Catholic?

This is the religion of antichrist, of Christ without the cross.  

Others have called it Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, but that phrase is not only awkward, it's a misnomer.  For this heresy is neither Moralistic, Therapeutic, or Deist.

There is nothing Moralistic about the Suburban Parish Mass at all.  Universal salvation is offered to everyone, regardless of your ethical beliefs or practices.  There's nothing Therapeutic going on there, either.  Any good therapist challenges his patient to get better, and not to continue wallowing in his addictions and bad choices; I've never heard any homily or modern hymn do anything like that; we are always affirmed right where we are.  And this whole thing isn't exactly Deism, for there is a personal God in the mix and we do more or less pray to Him, or at least we try to if the music isn't too loud.

So what is this sick and bizarre heresy that we find in the vast majority of Catholic parishes, especially in the suburbs, that we find in Mainline Protestant churches and that the "Progressives" at the Synod on the Family are pushing?  If it's not really Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, what is it?

Belloc called it Modernism, but even he acknowledged that it seemed to be a mixture of all heresies and that it was hard to pin down or define.

I think the best name for it is Inconsequentialism.  

It is the belief that the Consequential does not exist.  None of our choices or actions matters.  Nothing we do will lead to heaven or hell.  Our lives are works of fiction written entirely by our own selves.  God stands back and applauds whatever choice we make, like an indulgent public school Kindergarten teacher.  

And since nothing leads to anything (which is what "inconsequential" means), the culture of this heresy is a kind of parody of the Kingdom of heaven: it's hell on earth, a place that is above all else Unreal.  It is a place where we can choose our own genders, our own doctrines, our own way, our own truth, our own life.  It is a place lacking all judgment, for judgment is the Consequential - and by judgment I mean both the Last Judgment as well as personal judgment or discernment: both God's judgment of us and our own judgment-in-practice, our own decision making day in and day out, our own "tough choices", none of which (we are assured) matters in the least, all of which are Inconsequential.

T. S. Eliot described the effects of what I call Inconsequentialism.  "Hell is a place where nothing connects with nothing," he said.  Inconsequentialism is isolating, fragmenting, and atomizing.  

But Inconsequentialists gladly pay that price, for their entire goal is to deny the Cross and everything that the Cross implies: sacrifice, suffering, discipline, decision, death, shame, and sin.  To have Christ without the Cross is their goal.  This, according to Bishop Sheen, was the hallmark of the spirit of antichrist: the denial of the cross in all its forms.

But if your entire philosophy of life is devoted to denying the Consequential (and the Cross is the most emphatic expression of the Consequential), then everything you do - especially your religion - becomes Inconsequential - which is to say, unimportant, minor, meaningless, bland, and ultimately (like the loud guitar music) a form of public masturbation.

Why would any normal human being seek something like this out?  Most of us aren't thrilled with Christian Side Hugs, even when we're teen agers.  I can get better pop psychology watching an Oprah rerun than I'll ever get at a Suburban Mass.  Dr. Phil is more challenging than just about any parish priest you'll come across.  If I want loud pop music, I can pull up good (rather than bad) pop music on my computer and put on headphones.  If I want sex, I don't need to swallow the pervy weirdness of a Christopher West or a Mark Driscoll.  If I want a religious experience, I can sleep in on Sundays and take a walk in the woods and pray in peace and quiet.  Of course, I need the Church for the Sacraments and for infallible teaching on morals and faith, but normal people don't see the value of either, as it's never pointed out to them.

The priest said today in his homily that when Christ comes, "all our desire will be fulfilled".  But the Religion of Inconsequentialism is all about denying the purpose of desire, as well as the purpose of anything.  Desire is just a kind of physical manifestation of sentiment to Inconsequentialists.  Loving a woman, marrying her, forming a family that lasts your entire life, and having a bunch of babies is not the point of normal human desire for an Inconsequentialist.  "Getting off" is.  Sterility is the sole sacrament of the Inconsequential Faith.  "Get off" however you will, but make sure nothing comes of it; make sure there are no Consequences.

And heaven?  It's a big dessert buffet where you can eat all you want and not get fat, not suffer the Consequences.  It's a place where no one ever judges anyone any more, where there is no Judgment built into the nature of Reality, where we are all happily Unreal forever more, where our desires are easily fulfilled because our desires are shallow to begin with.

Who would want a heaven like that, or a faith like that?  Rod Dreher writes of the impending collapse of what I've called the Church of Inconsequentialism (my emphasis in bold and my comments in red ) ...

Sociologist Philip Rieff, in The Triumph of the Therapeutic, observed that institutions die when they can no longer communicate their core values to the next generation in a convincing way. He said this to support his contention (in 1966!) that Christianity was dying in the West, because we Westerners have become hostile to the ascetic spirit that is inextricable from authentic Christianity and has been from the beginning.  [In other words, we have rejected the Cross] As you know, I believe Rieff was right, and that his being right is not something that traditional Christians should take comfort in, except in this one way: a Christianity that does demand something sacrificial from its followers is not only being true to the nature of the religion, but is far more likely to engender the kind of devotion that will endure through the therapeutic dark age. Aside from its radical theological innovations that are impossible to harmonize with Christianity as it was known for its first 1,900 years, Progressive Christianity has fully embraced the therapeutic mindset, in the sense that Rieff means. It is dying because it cannot convince young people to embrace its values within the institutional churches. It can’t be denied that many of the young do accept the social liberalism embraced by the progressive churches, but it also can’t be denied that most of them don’t see why they have to be part of a church to be socially progressive.

In that article, Rod points out that the Last Episcopalian has almost certainly been born.  By the time a baby baptized today in an Episcopal church is 80 years old, the Episcopal church will have ceased to exist, at its present rate of decline. The churches that worship Christ without a Cross, the churches of the Inconsequential are reaping what they have sown.

They are finding that they are Inconsequential indeed.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Francis vs. Burke - Tickets on Sale Now!


For those of you sane enough to stay out of Church Politics, the story of the past several weeks has been right wing Catholics having a meltdown because Pope Francis hates Cardinal Burke.

But it turns out that the left wing is having a meltdown because Pope Francis loves Cardinal Burke!  Read the comments at this post over at Bilgrimage and you'll see what I mean.

What interests me is that there is some truth to be found here underneath all the hysteria.  As Bill Lindsay writes ...

I'd add that Burke has disproportionate sway within economic elites, particularly in the United States, who try in every way possible to influence the direction taken by the Catholic church at its top leadership level — to mute its teaching about socieconomic justice, and to use select culture-war issues, notably the abortion issue and the issue of same-sex marriage, to continue a politics of divide-and-conquer, reinforced by the religious right, that extends the political power and control of these elites.

There's a great deal of truth to that.

And because we're all miserable sinners, the real schism in the Church runs down this divide:


  • The left wing ignores Church teaching on sexual morality and on the nature of Christ and His Church.
  • The right wing ignores Church teaching on economics, social justice, torture, lying and makes fun of the centrality of the command to "love thy neighbor". 


In both cases, ideology trumps the Faith.  

And this is what Pope Francis has been saying.  Francis has been very even handed in criticizing both the right and the left, and keeps insisting that ideology blinds us, and that the only way to get beyond the narcissistic infighting in the Church is to reach out with love to those in need - which is everybody.  Jesus Christ annoys us because He keeps drawing us out of our comfort zones, including our precious ideologies, our prejudices, our man-made false dichotomies, our "happy blending of good and evil things".

And let me add that I know Cardinal Burke.  He was very instrumental in helping us when we started Theater of the Word Incorporated here in St. Louis seven years ago.  He's a man of deep sanctity and compassion and he doesn't seem to have a political bone in his body.  Honestly.  Any archbishop with a politician's sense would never have tried to fix the problem at St. Stanislaus, for example.  Perhaps with more political acumen, Burke would be more aware of the flames his fanboys are fueling on the internet (Lifesite News, to their shame, has been using this hysteria to try to sell subscriptions, for crying out loud).  

But I've complained a lot about bishops who are nothing more than politicians - people pleasers.  Burke is not that at all, and I doubt that Francis is either.  Maybe that's why the right and the left are finding both of them so hard to read.

And here's a hint that the Catholic Church is what she says she is and that Jesus Christ was more than a mere man.  Where else on this planet or in history does any institution teach consistently things that offend half of its base?  Where else will you find anything on earth that trumps the left / right divide?  The only way to get beyond the limitations of ideology are with love, in friendships, in the family - and (as much as the people in the Church drive me crazy) in the Church that Christ established - divided and torn though it currently is.






Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Hypocrisy, Trust and the Christian Challenge


My friend Tom Leith notes that most people view marriage as a legal or consensual arrangement, not as an ontological change.   By "ontological change" he means a change in our very being.

There are many of these ontological changes that we go through in our lives.  Adolescence is the first big one, one in which we grapple with the great change of going from being a child to being an adult.  But we recognize other ontological changes in life as well, if only subconsciously.

When a man becomes a father or a woman becomes a mother, we realize that this changes who we are.  At least we used to recognize that readily.  Many people are very casual about this ontological change these days and don't recognize the responsibility suddenly thrust upon them by becoming different people from what they once were.  And we fathers are surprised to learn that, foolish and inept as we sometimes are, our children nonetheless view us as entirely different sorts of creatures from every other person on the planet.  Mommy or Daddy is something other and something greater than Aunt or Uncle or brother or sister.  Our kids see that, sometimes to our embarrassment and chagrin.

And even our attitude toward marriage still has vestiges of this.  "You can't do that now.  You're a married man!"  "Now that you're a wife, things will be different for you."  Even under the modern assumption that marriage is just a more formal kind of "shacking up", there exists the recognition that a married person is a different kind of being from a single person.  With rampant divorce and remarriage and the sham of "gay marriage", we're losing sight of this, but at some level we still get it.

This alteration of our being is also, for better or worse, true of the priesthood.  Many Catholics may not believe or may not even know the doctrine that the Sacrament of Holy Orders brings about an ontological change.  A man who becomes a priest is no longer what he once was.  He is changed in a fundamental way, and even if he leaves the priesthood or is laicized, he still remains a priest for the rest of eternity, whether or not he functions as one.

Indeed, the sacraments of Holy Orders, Matrimony, Confirmation and Baptism all confer a change in the order of being.  By virtue of the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ, a baptized man is dead to the Old Adam and remade in the New Adam.  He dies to sin and to his natural body and begins the process that will end in his existence as a life-giving spiritual body.

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven.  Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. (1 Cor. 15:44-49)

But we baptized Christians all know that it doesn't seem to work that way.  "How can we, who are dead to sin, still live in it?" Paul asks (Rom. 6:2).  Well, it's easy!  We're still sinners!  Apparently God allows this so that we will not be "too elated" (2 Cor. 12:7) or puffed up.  The transformation of our existence from sin and death to sanctity and life is allowed to be drawn out over time, and the effects of the change wrought by our baptisms and confirmations is something that we must help build up and cooperate with, working out our salvation (Phil. 2:12) hand in hand with God and His grace.

This is a mystery, though we see it even in other natural changes in life.  Just because a bachelor becomes a husband, he doesn't automatically fall into the role.  He has to work to be true to the new status he has been granted.  Those of us who are fathers deal with the same thing.  And even if you're promoted at work, suddenly becoming a boss or a manager of some sort, you know that your new identity is something you have to suffer and sacrifice for in order to fulfill.

Of course as an actor, this is something I understand well.  The mask you don on stage, your role, does not by itself transform you.  You have to work to be true to the mask, sometimes (if the role is challenging) with a great deal of frustration over many public rehearsals and private struggles.  At times, however, it "clicks" and you "become" your role - though there is always that artistic distance that any game or artifice demands.

And so everything that we aspire to opens us up to risk - the risk of hypocrisy.  How often we fail to conform to the masks we don or to the ontological change that we are called to be true to!  Most of us are pretty rotten at filling our roles - we're sorry examples of the ideals we aspire to.  We're mediocre husbands, poor parents, lousy managers and - most typically of all - Bad Christians.

And the higher the goal, the greater the disparity when we don't reach it.

Take, for instance, Holy Orders.  I'm becoming more and more convinced that the majority of bishops and even a solid contingent of priests are not only bad at what they do (which is to be expected, as they are called to be remarkably great), but simply scoundrels, bad men who have adopted a mask that allows them to exercise their badness is ways that normal people can't.

Here's a long description of a priest who simply appears to be a predator in a collar.  It's by Peggy Warren of Wichita, a woman who (if her story is true) was preyed upon by a priest and treated with contempt by his bishop, while, because of the whole sordid mess, her marriage and sanity began to crumble around her.  I'm not sharing her story to enter into a discussion on the fiduciary duty of priests and to examine how abuse can happen even between adults, when one of them is in a position of authority and the other is vulnerable.  I'm sharing it because priests having affairs with married women is much more common than priests molesting children, and this flouting of marriage and the priesthood does an incredible amount of damage, despite the fact that bishops take it lightly.

Note that it's the ontological change, which is apparently viewed as a mere mask by the priest in the story - it's this ontological change or alteration of identity that allows the abusive relationship to happen.  The priest was able to begin his long process of grooming, he had access to the wife, to the home, to the family in the way that he did because he was a priest.  No unmarried guy off the street would have been given the opportunity this man was given.  He was operating under cover, a convenient cover that works automatically in the minds of many people.  "Father is a priest!  He's a nice guy!  Why would I worry that he spends time alone with my wife in my living room after I go to bed at night?"

This is a simple truth about human nature that we don't want to admit any more.  We are so busy ourselves struggling to conform to what we ideally are meant to be - our idealistic identities- that we can't imagine someone using an idealized identity as a cover for doing wrong.  Priests who molest children or who target vulnerable married parishioners are probably not struggling at all to be true to their vows.  They are much more likely opportunists who see that the priesthood is a role that brings automatic trust and even a kind of adoration from people who would otherwise be very suspicious of them and who might see them for the scoundrels they are.

And yet ... and yet we must not become cynics.

Even on Peggy Warren's website, she acknowledges that "women are attracted to holiness".  We give this kind of credit (this "taboo" as Freud would call it) to priests and to fathers and to leaders because we recognize a real thing.  Our masks are not just things we hide behind or false fronts we adopt in order to fool others.  They are the images of who we are ideally meant to be, of who in some sense we are becoming, of who in some sense we are.  Good priests, true priests, are indeed loving and holy, good fathers are caring and wise, good leaders are brave and devoted to doing the right thing.  This is true even in a world full of perverts in collars, absent dads who don't pay child support, and crooked politicians intent only on lining their own pockets.

We are called to be more than what we are, to be reborn as the true selves that we only imperfectly and occasionally manage to be.

And to be fair to the priest in question, it is a terrible temptation to find your rotten self suddenly trusted and revered simply because you wear a collar, or because you happen to be "daddy" or because you've been promoted, or because you have a knack for entertaining people.  But if we give in to the shadowy whisper, we end up using these gifts of blind trust to our own sordid advantage - and the next thing you know we not only fail to meet our aspirations, on the contrary we find that we are far, far worse than we have ever known ourselves to be.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Chesterton and Conversion

My friend Dale Ahlquist, president of the American Chesterton Society, has been on EWTN's program The Journey Home several times before, telling his conversion story.

But I think I have him beat.  I've been on The Journey Home a total of five times, to which Dale replies, "But how many times as yourself?"  Indeed, most of my appearances on The Journey Home have featured me portraying famous converts from history.

But tonight at 8:00 pm Eastern in the U.S., Dale appears as himself and tells his amazing conversion story yet again.  It will be well worth watching, and here's a teaser to convince you to tune in ...