May 13, 2014 § 82 Comments
Statistically speaking, I’d guess that when someone in our modern culture uses the word “racism” in a discussion to accuse someone else of racism the odds are better than even that I would substantively agree with the position of the accused not the accuser.
That doesn’t mean that racism isn’t real or isn’t morally wrong. Racism is a real thing, and it is morally wrong.
But as a matter of how the word gets used statistically in conversation I am these days more likely to agree with the accused than with the accuser, because the function of the word in the discussion is as a kind of talisman or incantation to tarnish a particular point of view as beyond the pale. And since “beyond the pale” these days tends to mean “not authentically liberal enough”, ceteris paribus I am more likely to be in substantive agreement with the illiberal point of view than the liberal point of view.
There are plenty of words like this, and they multiply and proliferate as our nominalist society attempts to win cultural territory through the conquest of language. “Misogynist”. “Unpatriotic”. Heck, even “homophobic”, although I don’t think I’ve ever met a bona fide homophobe.
There is probably even a word for this kind of word, though I am not hipster enough to know it offhand. And even if you told it to me, what guarantee is there that we could even understand each other?
Tightening the thumbscrews of kindness
March 21, 2014 § 23 Comments
In my previous post I made the contention that Cardinal Kasper’s proposed ‘pastoral exception’ (hereafter “PE”) – the proposal that the Church, as a disciplinary matter, should endorse reception of Holy Communion by (some but not all) Catholics who are engaging in regular sexual relations with someone other than their valid spouse – is cruelty, not kindness.
(I’ll reiterate that what is proposed is that the Church should endorse some Catholics – those on a special list meeting certain criteria, I suppose – both engaging in regular sexual relations with someone other than their valid spouse and receiving Communion. Nobody is required to show ID and walk through a naked body scanner before reception of the Eucharist).
I might have left the impression that I think that adopting the PE would be cruel and vicious toward some people but merciful toward others, and I would like to correct that (possible) false impression. Adopting the PE would be cruel and vicious toward literally everyone.
It is obvious that the PE would be cruel and vicious toward Catholics who are in irregular situations and are putting forth the effort to try to do what is right. This is not merely theoretical. Implementing this proposal would kick the most vulnerable of penitents — those who are leaning heavily on the Sacraments and the unchanging doctrine of the Church to remain continent in the face of overwhelming pressure to do otherwise — right where it hurts. The PE would completely undermine all of the support that they have. These are real people we are talking about, not policy abstractions, and they are among the most spiritually vulnerable of the Christian faithful.
It is also obvious that this would be cruel and vicious toward any Catholics who are “on the fence” and depend on the steadfastness of the Church in order to choose what is right. This is true even of those on the fence who ‘break bad’, for many reasons. One reason is that it leaves them with the false impression that morality is a matter of arbitrary rules, as opposed to a calling to do what is good and loving for themselves and others. Another is that it leaves them with no concrete picture of the road home.
Another group of people toward whom this is cruel and vicious is those who are ignorant; and really, the whole spectrum from those who are invincibly ignorant to those who willfully reject sound doctrine. These fall into many subcategories. For example, Catholics who are ignorant and not yet married are presented, through praxis, with ideas about marriage (and in particular indissolubility) that are false and misleading — possibly to the point where, when they attempt “marriage,” it will be invalid.
It would be easy to get lost in the weeds of casuistry by looking at particular kinds of cases here, but one consideration overwhelms all others: that the only cure for ignorance is truth, and that the longer ignorance (or willful rejection of the truth) persists the deeper into the trap of sin people fall. Every ‘irregular’ union has a beginning and an ending (in death if not before); and the longer it goes on the more entangled and difficult it becomes for the persons involved. Even someone who stumbled into a difficult situation out of invincible ignorance is better off knowing the truth, and knowing it sooner rather than later; because only the truth can set you free. The Good, the True, and the Beautiful are a unity. Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Objectively evil behaviors are chosen because of defects of knowledge and/or defects of will. But even in those cases where the defects are of knowledge, the person is better off coming to know the truth – the sooner the better, in every sense of the word “better” – rather than remaining enslaved to ignorance.
Then there are those Catholics who are not involved in irregular relationships themselves but are looking on and possibly adopting various ‘pastoral’ positions. The PE is cruel and vicious toward them too, again for a whole variety of reasons. Just one is that it encourages an egotism-of-kindness, the attitude that we are good people because we hide sometimes painful truths from “those people” who are so much lesser than we are and cannot handle the fullness of truth. It encourages the same sort of self-centered attitude of “kindness” that is involved in endorsing euthanasia: the idea that if I, hypothetically, were suffering or radically disabled I would desire the “kindness” of death for myself, administered by a “merciful” murderer at the cost of his own soul.
Finally, we come to non-Catholics. The PE is manifestly vicious and cruel toward them, because it encourages false ideas about the Faith through praxis. The ramifications of this deception are (like all deceptions) diverse. But the PE is perhaps most acutely cruel toward those who are drawn to the Faith, because it is a bait and switch. Evangelism and ecumenism are real goods, but it is not kind to deliberately cultivate false beliefs in people as a way of – supposedly – drawing them to Christ, as if Christ were Pepsi to mohammedan Coke.
Popes are human too
October 18, 2013 § 27 Comments
I was musing on Pope Benedict’s resignation recently and had a few “what if I was in his shoes” thoughts. They are worth what you paid for them, but I thought I’d blog them anyway because, well, why not?
The first thing to understand is that the conclave that elects the Pope doesn’t have the capacity to confer super powers on the new Pope. Popes put their pants on one leg at a time like the rest of us. Infallible proclamations are extraordinarily rare, and even invocations of fallible magisterial authority on matters of doctrine are not all that common. Denzinger isn’t the fattest book on my bookshelf, and it covers magisterial documents over the entire history of the Church over a huge range of topics.
My impression of Benedict is that his primary concern, above all others, was liturgical reform and in particular reconciliation with the SSPX. For those who don’t know, the SSPX is a traditionalist group which broke off from the Church over the changes to the Mass that happened in 1969. Benedict was, clearly, very sympathetic to their concerns.
However, in the end, the SSPX refused to re-enter into full communion with the Church. They got a Pope who was willing to work with them, but they ultimately just couldn’t bring themselves to submit to the authority of the Roman Pontiff — not even an extremely conciliatory Pontiff with deep sympathy for their cause. Too much time in the wilderness had taken its toll, and now the SSPX had become just a different kind of Protestant. I can only imagine how discouraging this was to Benedict, already an elderly and frail man with failing health.
So now we have a different kind of Pope. He is human too.
Salvation history tends to work that way. God is always offering us gifts we don’t deserve; and when we refuse there are consequences.
Homeschooled and sheltered, what a shame
October 15, 2013 § 25 Comments
A common cultural theme is to blame hedonistic immoral behavior on a sheltered upbringing. The idea is that once the homeschooled or private-schooled child grows up she is inevitably overwhelmed by twerktastic “reality” and goes feral.
This cultural theme serves two purposes. First, it provides a ready-made excuse for people of weak character who were given all the advantages of an orthodox upbringing and squandered it. Second, it blames the parents and shames the communities who dare to attempt to bring children up in a healthy environment.
Magisterium re-opens the Index Librorum Prohibitorum
September 30, 2013 § 4 Comments
The Faithful should read the motu proprio for themselves, but here is the central rationale:
A politically motivated, decades-long war on expertise has eroded the popular consensus on a wide variety of scientifically validated topics. Everything, from evolution to the origins of climate change, is mistakenly up for grabs again. Scientific certainty is just another thing for two people to “debate” on television. And because comments sections tend to be a grotesque reflection of the media culture surrounding them, the cynical work of undermining bedrock scientific doctrine is now being done beneath our own stories, within a website devoted to championing science.
Apparently issuing Fatwas is not enough to keep the heretics from blaspheming. Fortunately, formation in seminaries is still reinforcing sound doctrine.
(HT commenter Maryland Bill at Catholic and Enjoying It).
Provincialism of the present in papal polemics
September 28, 2013 § 17 Comments
I’ve mentioned before that I am watching from a distance, with a kind of bemusement, all of the various reactions to Pope Francis. I personally haven’t read a single thing he has said that – read charitably – I disagree with; although I haven’t been reading and scrutinizing everything he says at all, so that may not say much. For example I have seen a few snippets of, but have not read, the Big Scandalous Interview that has everyone so worked up.
Well, there is one exception. His remarks about the Church “talking too much about abortion” do strike me as … uninformed. I’ve been to lots of Masses of course, and the number of Masses where abortion is mentioned at all are very few and far between. And I can understand how those specific remarks could be demoralizing to folks who have dedicated their lives to fighting abortion, which is one of the largest-scale atrocities ever committed by human beings in all of history, far outstripping anything done by the Nazis or the Communists. I wonder if the Holy Father’s perspective on this is skewed by Argentinian provincialism, because Argentina is a Catholic enough country that abortion is illegal there.
But here is the thing. Lets grant – purely for the sake of argument – that Francis is a terrible heretic out there saying and doing all sorts of scandalous things. People who think that a pope saying and doing scandalous things contrary to doctrine undermines Catholic ecclesiology simply have to be, among other things, ignorant about some of the basic history of the Church. They simply must be suffering from a kind of provincialism of the present.
What precisely is it that makes such people think that the current age deserves – that we personally deserve – a better pope than Alexander VI or Benedict IX?
It would be wildly out of character, but I can’t help but picture John Paul II kind of winking at traditionalists and saying “miss me yet?”
(This post is an expanded version of a comment I left at the Orthosphere).
 There is a “life of the mother” exception written into the law, as I understand it. If that exception permits doctors to perform any procedure whatsoever to save the mother, no matter what that procedure entails, it goes against Catholic doctrine and the natural law. If however it carefully delimits procedures and circumstances it might not. But in any case the point is that abortion as a political football is quite different in Francis’ homeland than it is in the first world, so his personal view of how things are in America and Europe could be wildly inaccurate.
Modernity reframes all authority as “abuse”
August 27, 2013 § 36 Comments
Abuse of authority is pretty pervasive in human societies, because human beings are fallen creatures and we frequently abuse the things over which we are stewards. A recent thread at The Orthosphere turned into a discussion of the relationship between Christian orthodoxy and slavery. This discussion in turn depends on mostly unspoken assumptions about property.
Liberalism has always used the fallenness of actual human beings in authority as a rhetorical means of attacking authority in general. In manosphere terms this represents a colossal multi-century cultural “reframe”: rather than expressing outrage at actual abuse and attempting to get actual abuse corrected, distinguishing between legitimate authority/hierarchy and its abuse, authority/hierarchy in general is treated by liberalism as intrinsically abusive.
Ironically, by attacking all hierarchy/authority as abuse liberalism leaves us with only arid concepts of authority (including the authority of ownership), concepts which are intrinsically abusive. My comment in the Orthosphere thread:
I’ve been saying for a long time now that it isn’t just slavery that is intrinsically wrong under modern conceptions of property: all “ownership” is intrinsically wrong under modern conceptions of property. The proprietor understood as tinpot god, completely unfettered triumphant Will, unchecked lord and master over some (any) material thing at all is morally problematic.
When ownership is understood properly, as a cognate of stewardship and sovereignty, the supposed problems disappear.
In attacking all authority/hierarchy (monarchy, aristocracy, male headship of the household, etc) as intrinsically abusive – because the mere existence of nonconsensual authority/hierarchy violates the core liberal tenet of equality – liberalism creates a world in which nothing but abuse is possible.
At least Live Action lies for Jesus
August 20, 2013 § 20 Comments
Just yesterday I received news of another person in my circle who was killed by her doctors, this past weekend.
In totally unrelated news it recently came to light that actually, as it turns out (oops), Andrew Wakefield was right all along that the MMR vaccine actually does cause autism. The mainstream media’s reaction is, as usual, to step up the denunciations.
The pervasive lies told and believed about modern medicine might lead one to believe in massive conspiracies. But don’t be fooled by that. The reason people pervasively tell lies is to protect their gods. It doesn’t matter if it is true that MMR sometimes, in fact, causes autism. What matters is that if the benighted masses come to believe that it is true, they might not worship the pagan gods of modernity with unequivocal devotion.
And the idea of a society in which the pagan gods of modernity are not worshipped by the masses with unequivocal devotion is terrifying to its high priests.
 A nuclear family relative of an in-law.
 It doesn’t follow that people should not be immunized for measles, mumps, and rubella. If you think that, you need to do more reading before collecting your pitchforks and torches.
There is only one God, and technologists are His prophets
August 1, 2013 § 10 Comments
The modern world is in significant part composed of vast human institutions staffed by technological and functional experts. Jim Kalb gives a compelling take on (among other things) why that is the case in his books.
But given a background of vast institutions staffed by technological experts, I am frequently puzzled by the starry-eyed idealism with which many folks approach them. This idealism manifests itself in viewing these human institutions as unmitigated goods or unmitigated evils. Some vast human institutions are given unwavering deference while others are treated with jaundiced suspicion: we live in a world of Good Institutions and Bad Institutions.
Which institutions are which depends on the individual and his tribal alliances, and many examples could be given of the Pure vs the Corrupt: the military vs the civilian government; the medical establishment vs the food industry; big finance versus organized labor; etc etc.
I suspect what we are witnessing is a kind of Manichean spiritual template impressed upon a naturalistic, modern, technocratic world view. A naturalistic world view crowds out the Divine; and when you crowd out the Divine, man will seek perfection in created things. Technocratic modernity builds a world made of vast institutions staffed by technocratic and functional experts. Because evil and corruption manifestly exist, though, the Good Institutions must be opposed by Bad Institutions in the anti-spiritual spiritual economy of modernity.
So some vast institutions become as pure as the whitest snow, trustworthy and good; while others are treated as if they provide no public good whatsoever, only serving the selfish interests of some oligarchical elite. When big institutions assert “trust me”, sometimes folks do and sometimes they do not, based on tribal alliegences. The military-industrial complex can’t be trusted when it says “we only kill bad people”; but calling into question the unmitigated good of biochemically altering billions of people through various vaccines is heresy. Trust doctors, but don’t trust generals. Or trust generals, but don’t trust doctors.
I would suggest that vast human institutions composed of technological and functional experts should be treated as what they are, though; not as tokens in a Manichean spiritual economy filling in after the death of God.
Hate the sin
May 31, 2013 § 5 Comments
The idea that fornicating with the same person over and over again is morally superior to fornicating the same number of times with different people is pervasive. I suspect that is because the relationship many are in right now began as a fornicationship; and if not one’s own relationship, perhaps it is true of many of the relationships of the people one loves.
Because of the pervasiveness of long term fornicationships, acts of fornication in a long term relationship have taken on a kind of sacred quality in our culture. Folks are kind of sorry that they did it, but they aren’t really and fully sorry they did it. Folks kinda sorta disapprove of the sin, but they don’t hate the sin.
But if you don’t hate sin, you are not a follower of Christ.