Thursday, September 29, 2016

SEPTEMBER 29: FEAST OF THE ARCHANGELS


[first published 29 September 2012]




On this feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael -- some thoughts of Doc Pence on our angelic partners.  He begins with an anecdote:

   About a year ago when I was arguing with a theology professor at St. John’s in Collegeville MN about women priests and homosexuality -- it struck me.  I asked him, "Do you believe there was a first man and woman, Adam and Eve?”  He said, "No, science has proven that wrong."  I asked, "Do you believe there is a wicked angel, Lucifer, who is the devil; a real being, dedicated to evil and not redeemable?”  He said, "No, there is definitely evil in the world and in all of us but not an actual powerful spiritual evil being."  "Well, how about angels in general -- another order of beings -- purely spiritual who can know and love and who are actors in the domain of nature and history?"  I asked.  He hedged and hemmed and asked to be excused.

   I told myself, "I have been in the wrong discussion -- the problem is a lot of these guys don't have the cast of characters or central events of the Divine Drama in place.”

   What is priesthood, and who cares if it is all-male, if there is no Satan and the story of Salvation History is just a hodgepodge of Semitic texts?  I haven't gotten into arguments over women priests for a long time because I find those who favor them have a much bigger deficit that has to be first addressed.  


  Today we give thanks for the angels -- pure spirits organized in hierarchical orders -- our great elevated partners in the Divine Drama. 



God is an eternal Being outside of time: one Divine nature in three Persons. The angels are pure spirits. They have the two characteristics of spiritual beings: they can know and love.

The material world is mineral, vegetative, and animal. The minerals (atoms, chemical elements and molecules, and all non-living matter) do not have souls.  The vegetative and animal beings are living, and thus have souls. Souls are the central unifying principles of living things. All physical living beings have souls, but their souls are different. The souls of bacteria, fungi, plants, and animals die with the creature. Spiritual souls are immortal and rational. We don’t talk about an angel’s soul because a soul is a form in a material being.
 
Living Beings have interiority and agency and hierarchy. Living things act for themselves in a way that rusting iron and eroding rocks don’t (agency). All living things have an inside and an outside, from cell structure to internal body cavities to the interior spiritual life of man (interiority). All life comes from life, and exists within a structured sacral order (hierarchy).

Man is the one material being with a spiritual soul -- he can know and love. Thomas Aquinas thought one could logically argue to prove the existence of angels. He said there needs to be a created being which is spiritual but is not made of matter. (This balances the material world in which there is matter without a soul, material creatures with a “material soul,” and material beings with a spiritual soul.) Angels perfect the universe because they are created immaterial beings, which are spiritual. They too can know and love.

Angels know directly (they intuit), and desire and decide instantaneously. Their decisions are irrevocable. Angels use matter for appearances but do not become living material beings. Each angel is his own species. Angels are organized into hierarchical orders: some worshiping, some in charge of movements in nature, and some personally involved in the lives of men and nations.

When we contemplate the angels this brings us in closer contact with the hierarchical nature of the cosmos, the reality of Satan, the heroism of Michael, the ongoing active dialogue between the spiritual world and human development. We are part of a cosmic drama that started long before we got here. In this drama, the sons of Adam are given a major participatory role in the restoration of Justice after Satan’s rebellion. Man is part of a cosmological reality and so are the angels. Man cannot fully understand his role here without a robust and clarified view of the Angels in the Drama.


UPDATE: In both Jewish and Christian tradition, every nation has been assigned a guardian angel through which Divine Providence works out His purposes in history. While Pope Francis suggested that Catholic discussion be less preoccupied with homosexuality, abortion, and contraception, he has continually emphasized the present-day reality of the evil angel Lucifer. 

St. Michael, St, Raphael, and St. Gabriel: pray for us.   

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Hillary and Holt take Round One -- Lessons for Mr. Trump


by David Pence


In football when a coach is asked what went wrong after a defeat, he often waits "to look at the film." Hillary Clinton dominated the September 26th presidential debate. Much of the time, Donald Trump and a huge TV audience were listening to her well-prepared explanations of US policy and government. The possibility of a first female president was normalized. Indeed, for an hour that evening, the probability of this monumental change in American sex roles seemed assured. Her well-prepared zinger on being prepared was the best line of the night. Her surprise introduction of a woman whom Mr. Trump had called "Miss Piggy" and "Miss Housekeeping" was amplified with a post-debate release of video interviews with the beautiful Miss Venezuela. Even Mr. Trump was asking, "Where is this coming from?"

To radio listeners, Mr. Trump’s sniffles were distractingly diminishing; and on TV, Mrs. Clinton seemed the more vigorous and healthy of the two.

The moderator Lester Holt was serious, authoritative, and professional. He got out of the way when the candidates were sparring. He let the candidate exchanges dominate. On first impression he was impressively unobtrusive. After reviewing the film and watching the referee, a different conclusion emerges. Mr. Holt introduced the discussion of our nation's longest war by stating as a fact that Donald Trump was for the Iraq War. Mr. Trump, who took over the Republican primary by opposing the Bush/Rove/ McCain /Romney/Rubio narrative on Iraq and the Mideast, spent the next few minutes disputing the moderator who sidelined the important policy debate by blowing up a single comment of Mr. Trump on a Howard Stern radio show as his "support for the war." This 'fact' did allow Mr. Trump to explain his very early role in opposing Fox News (and his friend Sean Hannity) and the Republican foreign policy establishment on their strategy in the Mideast. Mr. Holt introduced (and Mrs. Clinton reiterated) that President Obama’s birth certificate controversy was a "racist" attack on America’s half white/half black President. Mr. Trump did not answer that this was a question of nationality, not race -- even though he once explained away Ted Cruz leading him in Maine because it is so close to Canada (Mr. Cruz’s birthplace.) Mr. Trump’s whole nationalist campaign is based on his ability to lead all Americans as a common territorial community against others with globalist loyalties, racial identities, and no concern for territorial integrity and nationalist identity. Mr. Holt identified such territorial concern with racism. He has a lot of journalistic company in making that assumption. For Mr. Holt the right of Americans to see Mr. Trump’s tax returns was more pressing than our claim on Mrs. Clinton’s destroyed emails, and her ties to foreign donors at the Clinton Foundation. Very unobtrusive, indeed.

Mr. Trump squandered openings by not turning the cyber question and his tax question to Mrs. Clinton’s security record. He lost the debate to two people, but he has beaten 17 before so we will cut him no slack in our halftime analysis. The only question (and it is a presidential one): will he and his team learn from the battlefield to make adjustments that win the game?
                                     

If your beauty queen gains weight while still representing the pageant you cajole her into regaining her discipline because her looks matter for the whole year. So Mr. Self-Centered, no sniffling! Get back on Hillary’s lack of stamina during the Benghazi attack when she went to bed early, sent Susan Rice to lie on talk shows because of "her fatigue in talking with families," and missed the Congressional hearing because she fainted. And remind us again that America can defeat ISIS and rebuild our economy because your leadership will unlock the fighting power of American men and the productivity and love of all Americans. You are running to make America great again by organizing protection and production -- the tasks of governance. You say you are a "winner" because you know how to set high goals and then figure out how to accomplish them. Hillary and Bill Clinton in their open marriage and their closeted criminal syndicate of foundation, public office, and a segment of the Democratic party have been preparing to take back the presidency for a decade. She is prepared not to govern well or organize protection, but to win the election and be the first woman president. The baby-boomer power couple thinks that is the ultimate achievement in itself. They are aiming to complete the baby-boomer sexual revolution. It is not governing, but becoming president that is her goal. The Clintons and the many cultural revolutionaries that accompany them really do believe that overthrowing human nature is being on the right side of history. They aim to fracture our masculine protective republic under God our Father. The "Moral Outrage against Donald Trump" Emmy Show was best summed up by one starlet leaving the stage smugly announcing their real slogan: "Smash the Patriarchy." No more beauty pageants for these ladies or all-male military units for our country, or safety from the domestic violence of abortion for our children. The culture of protection and life shall be subverted and the protectors shall be called bullies, whether they are husbands or local police or young males in the military. Donald Trump stands for all those protectors and he must be shamed. Give a big smirk and call him "Donald" as he addresses you as "Secretary Clinton." Then paint him the monster bully  with millions of dollars of TV ads. Crush the men who get "off the reservation."

Like Israel of old, our country must choose. There is before us an elaborate new pageantry of crashing glass ceilings and crowning the feminist Queen of careerism and abortion. The sexual license and moral anarchy unleashed by this electoral inversion ritual will make the revelry at the Golden Calf look like a Baptist picnic. For some unknown reason in God's Providence, Mr. Trump is the instrument afforded us to stop that unholy revolution masquerading as Moral Outrage. Let us all learn from Round One.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

CATHOLIC SOCIOBIOLOGY: Three popes on marital love, face-to-face eros, and the nature of the divine


[first published April 19, 2016]



by Dr. David Pence


Catholic Sociobiology is an explanation of the human species in terms of the Trinitarian God. We are made in the image and likeness of God – who is a Trinitarian communio of persons. Fatherhood, sonship, brotherhood, marriage, motherhood, and virginity are all manifestations of how ordered sexuality and sacral love are linked. Here are three popes reflecting on one of those forms of communio: spousal love.

God created man in His own image and likeness: calling him to existence through love, He called him at the same time for love.
God is love and in Himself He lives a mystery of personal loving communion. Creating the human race in His own image and continually keeping it in being, God inscribed in the humanity of man and woman the vocation, and thus the capacity and responsibility, of love and communion. Love is therefore the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being.
As an incarnate spirit, that is a soul which expresses itself in a body and a body informed by an immortal spirit, man is called to love in his unified totality. Love includes the human body, and the body is made a sharer in spiritual love.
(Pope John Paul II: Apostolic Exhortation 'Familiaris Consortio,' 1981)


The Greeks—not unlike other cultures—considered eros principally as a kind of intoxication, the overpowering of reason by a “divine madness” which tears man away from his finite existence and enables him, in the very process of being overwhelmed by divine power, to experience supreme happiness. All other powers in heaven and on earth thus appear secondary: “Omnia vincit amor” says Virgil in the Bucolics—love conquers all—and he adds: “et nos cedamus amori”—let us, too, yield to love. In the religions, this attitude found expression in fertility cults, part of which was the “sacred” prostitution which flourished in many temples. Eros was thus celebrated as divine power, as fellowship with the Divine. 
The Old Testament firmly opposed this form of religion, which represents a powerful temptation against monotheistic faith, combating it as a perversion of religiosity. But it in no way rejected eros as such; rather, it declared war on a warped and destructive form of it, because this counterfeit divinization of eros actually strips it of its dignity and dehumanizes it. Indeed, the prostitutes in the temple, who had to bestow this divine intoxication, were not treated as human beings and persons, but simply used as a means of arousing “divine madness”: far from being goddesses, they were human persons being exploited. An intoxicated and undisciplined eros, then, is not an ascent in “ecstasy” towards the Divine, but a fall, a degradation of man. Evidently, eros needs to be disciplined and purified if it is to provide not just fleeting pleasure, but a certain foretaste of the pinnacle of our existence, of that beatitude for which our whole being yearns.
5. Two things emerge clearly from this rapid overview of the concept of eros past and present. First, there is a certain relationship between love and the Divine: love promises infinity, eternity—a reality far greater and totally other than our everyday existence. Yet we have also seen that the way to attain this goal is not simply by submitting to instinct. Purification and growth in maturity are called for; and these also pass through the path of renunciation. Far from rejecting or “poisoning” eros, they heal it and restore its true grandeur. 
This is due first and foremost to the fact that man is a being made up of body and soul. Man is truly himself when his body and soul are intimately united; the challenge of eros can be said to be truly overcome when this unification is achieved. Should he aspire to be pure spirit and to reject the flesh as pertaining to his animal nature alone, then spirit and body would both lose their dignity. On the other hand, should he deny the spirit and consider matter, the body, as the only reality, he would likewise lose his greatness. The epicure Gassendi used to offer Descartes the humorous greeting: “O Soul!” And Descartes would reply: "O Flesh!" Yet it is neither the spirit alone nor the body alone that loves: it is man, the person, a unified creature composed of body and soul, who loves. Only when both dimensions are truly united, does man attain his full stature. Only thus is love —eros—able to mature and attain its authentic grandeur. 
Nowadays Christianity of the past is often criticized as having been opposed to the body; and it is quite true that tendencies of this sort have always existed. Yet the contemporary way of exalting the body is deceptive. Eros, reduced to pure "sex," has become a commodity, a mere “thing” to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself becomes a commodity. This is hardly man’s great “yes” to the body. On the contrary, he now considers his body and his sexuality as the purely material part of himself, to be used and exploited at will. Nor does he see it as an arena for the exercise of his freedom, but as a mere object that he attempts, as he pleases, to make both enjoyable and harmless. Here we are actually dealing with a debasement of the human body: no longer is it integrated into our overall existential freedom; no longer is it a vital expression of our whole being, but it is more or less relegated to the purely biological sphere. The apparent exaltation of the body can quickly turn into a hatred of bodiliness. Christian faith, on the other hand, has always considered man a unity in duality, a reality in which spirit and matter compenetrate, and in which each is brought to a new nobility. True, eros tends to rise “in ecstasy” towards the Divine, to lead us beyond ourselves; yet for this very reason it calls for a path of ascent, renunciation, purification and healing. 
More:
The Prophets, particularly Hosea and Ezekiel, described God’s passion for his people using boldly erotic images. God’s relationship with Israel is described using the metaphors of betrothal and marriage; idolatry is thus adultery and prostitution. Here we find a specific reference—as we have seen—to the fertility cults and their abuse of eros, but also a description of the relationship of fidelity between Israel and her God. The history of the love-relationship between God and Israel consists, at the deepest level, in the fact that he gives her the Torah, thereby opening Israel’s eyes to man’s true nature and showing her the path leading to true humanism. It consists in the fact that man, through a life of fidelity to the one God, comes to experience himself as loved by God, and discovers joy in truth and in righteousness—a joy in God which becomes his essential happiness: “Whom do I have in heaven but you? And there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides you … for me it is good to be near God” (Ps 73 [72]:25, 28).
(Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical 'Deus Caritas,'  Dec 25, 2005)


Let us cross the threshold of this tranquil home, with its family sitting around the festive table. At the centre we see the father and mother, a couple with their personal story of love. They embody the primordial divine plan clearly spoken of by Christ himself: “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female?” (Mt 19:4). We hear an echo of the command found in the Book of Genesis: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and they shall be- come one flesh (Gen 2:24)." 
10. The majestic early chapters of Genesis present the human couple in its deepest reality. Those first pages of the Bible make a number of very clear statements. The first, which Jesus paraphrases, says that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (1:27). It is striking that the "image of God" here refers to the couple, "male and female..." 
11. The couple that loves and begets life is a true, living icon – not an idol like those of stone or gold prohibited by the Decalogue – capable of revealing God the Creator and Savior. For this reason, fruitful love becomes a symbol of God’s inner life (cf. Gen 1:28; 9:7; 17:2-5, 16; 28:3; 35:11; 48:3-4). Seen this way, the couple’s fruitful relationship becomes an image for understanding and describing the mystery of God himself, for in the Christian vision of the Trinity, God is contemplated as Father, Son and Spirit of love. The Triune God is a communion of love, and the fam- ily is its living reflection. 
12. In speaking of marriage, Jesus refers us to yet another page of Genesis, which, in its second chapter, paints a splendid and detailed portrait of the couple. First, we see the man, who anxiously seeks “a helper fit  for him” (vv. 18, 20), capable of alleviating the solitude which he feels amid the animals and the world around him. The original Hebrew suggests a direct encounter, face to face, eye to eye, in a kind of silent dialogue, for where love is concerned, silence is always more eloquent than words. It is an encounter with a face, a “thou”, who reflects God’s own love and is man’s “best possession, a helper  fit for him and a pillar of support”, in the words of the biblical sage (Sir 36:24). Or again, as the woman of the Song of Solomon will sing in a magnificent profession of love and mutual self-bestowal: “My beloved is mine and I am his... I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (2:16; 6:3).
The result of this union is that the two “become one flesh”, both physically and in the union of their hearts and lives, and, eventually, in a child, who will share not only genetically but also spiritually in the "flesh" of both parents.
          Your children are as the shoots of an olive tree. 
14. Let us once more take up the song of the Psalmist. In the home where husband and wife are seated at table, children appear at their side “like olive shoots” (Ps 128:3), that is, full of energy and vitality. If the parents are in some sense the foundations of the home, the children are like the “living stones” of the family (cf. 1 Pet 2:5 )
(Pope Francis: Apostolic Exhortation 'Amor Laetitia' The Joy of Love, April 2016)


                                                     



UPDATE: Rod Dreher at American Conservative chose these first two selections to show that Francis isn’t the first pope to talk about love and sex in a positive way.


Monday, September 26, 2016

Map on Monday: NATIONS WITH NUCLEAR WEAPONS AND GEOGRAPHY OF NUCLEAR TESTING SITES (1945-2016)


By A. Joseph Lynch

Image of first nuclear explosion
The United States tested its first nuclear warhead - named "Trinity" - on July 16, 1945. It would be the first of 2,000 nuclear detonations on planet Earth, including the two used on Japan in August 1945. Today there are seven nations in addition to the United States that have developed and tested nuclear weapons: Russia (1949, then the Soviet Union), the United Kingdom (1952), France (1960), China (1964), India (1974), Pakistan (1998), and North Korea (2006). Israel has not tested its own nuclear weapons, but it is a well-known secret that Israel has a stockpile of nuclear weapons from the United States for self-defense. Although the above map shows Israel as having roughly 80 nuclear weapons, a leaked email written by Colin Powell reveals that the number is really around 200.


While many are familiar with the list of nuclear powers, few know anything about the vast number of nuclear bomb detonations or where they occurred. The map above is a screenshot of a video called "A Time-Lapse Map of Every Nuclear Explosion Since 1945." The video is somewhat lengthy (and it ends before North Korea's testing), but it is a very good representation of the temporal-spatial dimensions of nuclear testing.

If you asked someone where the United States tested its nuclear weapons, most would say the American Southwest. Although this is true, few are familiar with the two underground nuclear detonations that took place in the state of Mississippi in 1964, or that the United Kingdom also tested nuclear weapons in the United States. In fact, the last British nuclear detonation took place in the state of Nevada. French nuclear testing in Algeria and British nuclear testing in Australia make sense given their colonial holdings -- yet it is not well-known that the Sahara and the Australian Outback were home to many nuclear blasts.

Oceanic Testing: Operation Crossroads (July 25, 1946)

The oceans have also hosted nuclear tests. One such example, Operation Crossroads, took place on July 25, 1946, at Bikini Atoll. Nuclear detonations have not only taken place under the Earth's surface, but even high above. An American test called "Starfish Prime" took place in outer space on July 8, 1962. It was the largest nuclear blast to take place in space (the detonation occurred at an altitude of 250 miles). The blast was seen through cloud cover in Honolulu almost 900 miles away.

The blast of Starfish Prime - 250 miles above and almost 900 miles away from Honolulu.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, September 24

by Dr. David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch


I. POPE FRANCIS AND THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

INCREDIBLE GROWTH OF CATHOLIC CHURCH: Worldwide the boom continues.

RETHINKING RUSSIA AND REMEMBERING THE ATHEISTS WHO BUTCHERED THE ORTHODOX: Rod Dreher distills two excellent articles on Russia vs. the Soviets.

RUSSIAN ORTHODOX IN FRANCE: Not all are pleased.

POPE BENEDICT GAVE A SERMON TO THE WEST AND A NUN WAS KILLED IN SOMALIA: What he was saying in his address at Regensburg, 2006.

AN INTERVIEW WITH ROBERT SPENCER AND AN ORTHODOX PRIESTSpencer is excellent teacher when moderated by the presence of this priest. Lots to learn, lots to disagree with.

TIM KAINE PROMISES CATHOLIC CHURCH WILL CHANGE ON MARRIAGE: Something happens when Democrats talk to LGBT groups.

PRAYING AT ASSISI: The original intent of St. John Paul II and a long, helpful reflection.


II. ISLAM AND THE MIDDLE EAST

PUTIN, BIBI, AND TRUMP: What we can learn from Israel-Russia relations.

ISRAEL, NUKES, AND ANOTHER COLIN POWELL EMAIL: A Colin Powell email defending the Obama Administration nuclear deal with Iran stated that Israel has 200 nuclear weapons pointed at Iran. This highlights a little-known peculiar anomaly in American-Israeli relations. The fact that Israel has nuclear weapons is considered "secret intelligence" so US officials cannot discuss the matter in public. Thus, the US has a huge debate about denying Iran centrifuges for the making high grade nuclear material but cannot discuss Israel nuclear weapons and a delivery system already in place. The lack of proportion in discussing the danger of Iran to the Mideast feeds the obfuscation plan of Saudi supporters and aids the warlike posture of the Israeli government. Those two powers (one our natural ally and the other our greatest foe) have dictated and confused our own understanding of who our friends and enemies are in the war against Satanic  jihadists.

HOW DOES JIHADISM END -- THE LOGIC OF NATION BUILDING: A substantial argument about military strategy and compromise proposing a military strategy that must end with established nations to keep the order.
"Compromise between opposing preferences is the key to success in politics but to failure in military strategy. Political leaders…tend to resolve political debates about whether to use force massively or not at all by choosing military half-measures, which serve no strategic objectives at all.”
THE MAN WHO SAVED US FROM WAR WITH IRAN OVER A NAVIGATION MISTAKE HAS BEEN PUNISHED: Interview with Naval Officer David Nartker. He seems to have a point that Fox News is missing.

THE WAR IN SYRIA - REPORTERS MISS THE KEY PLAYERS: Mr. Kinzer at the Boston Globe has told this story better than anyone.

CHINA NOW AN ALLY OF SYRIAN GOVERNMENT:  Consider the support for Syria from Russia, Iran, and China as well as Syrian Christians - doesn’t an obvious alliance take shape?

THE KILLING IN YEMEN - BRITAIN AND US AID A HUMANITARIAN DISASTER: Part of the great "Saudi smokescreen" is that stories like this just don’t get told. This week 27 US senators voted against further arm sales to Saudis in their brutal war against the Shiites of Yemen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky, Chris Murphy (D) of Connecticut and Al Franken (D) of Minnesota are in the lead. There is also a real possibility that families of the 9/11 victims will be able to make a court case against the Saudis for their involvement in the Twin Towers attack. A sea change in our policy toward Saudi Arabia is coming no matter who is elected president!
It is unfortunate that instead of the Senate recognizing our national enemy (71 senators sided with the Saudi arms deal), we have to resort to a lawsuit to attain a serious public forum to rectify the misdirection that has so confused our war against the jihadists.

SAUDI LOBBY -- NOT FOR LOVE
"The kingdom added another three lobbying contracts to its roster, retaining the services of former Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi and former Democratic Sen. John Breaux of Louisiana as part of a $100,000 monthly contract with Squire Patton Boggs [law firm], according to documents filed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act." 

Anthony Podesta, a major financial bundler for Hillary Clinton, is a paid lobbyist for the Saudis. Podesta’s brother, John, is HC campaign chairman, and previous chief of staff for President Bill Clinton.  
Norm Coleman, the former Republican Senator from Minnesota, is also a paid lobbyist for the Saudis. He helps head up the Congressional Leadership Fund - a super PAC to influence Republican House races. 
The Saudis were a significant source of money for ads opposing the Iran nuclear deal.

TERROR AND WAHHABIS - THE IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MAKES THE AOA ARGUMENT IN THE NY TIMESThe problem is Wahhabism - this should be the foreign policy issue of the campaign.

ISRAEL WARS IN LEBANON AND THE GAZA STRIP: An interesting review.

A CHRISTIAN HOMELAND? A Nineveh proposal.

MUSLIMS WOULD LIKE THE RECONQUEST OF EUROPE. THAT DOESN’T MEAN WE SHOULD DEFEND EUROPE WHIMPERS THE CARDINAL: The Cardinal of Vienna, Christoph Schonborn, is one of the more public and passive cardinals in the Church today. He was a principal writer of the Catechism and had the trust of several popes. He is "gay friendly" to a fault, and is hopelessly pacifistic in his understanding of the nation-state. A great beauty of the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church is that all of us are reminded by our feast days that once there were Catholic personalities who ruled in a more masculine and religious era. Cardinal Schonborn got a little tongue--twisted on the feast of the "Holy Name of Mary." The holiday commemorated the victory of several Catholic princes over the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Vienna in 1683 (most notably that fighting Polish leader - Jan Sobieski - King of Poland and Archduke of Lithuania).The cardinal noted that Muslims see that Europe is dying and many of them desire that its culture will be filled with a more theo-centric way of life -- think Islam. The cardinal lamented that Europe has lost its Christian character. He then showed his own utterly emasculated sense of public Christianity by reassuring all that this doesn’t mean we should regulate the young male refugees flooding Europe or in any way fight back.

It is the soft princes of the Catholic Church like Schonborn who remind us that when Christianity collapsed as a public force in governance, the fascists took Italy, the Nazis got Germany, and the Soviets captured Russia.

THE FIRST DRONE: A short history in the war against al Qaeda.


III. PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS

ON HILLARY: You cannot learn about people if you don’t start with some empathy. So this article is a good place to learn more about Mrs. Clinton.

COLIN POWELL EMAIL ON HILLARY: "A 70-year person with a long track record, unbridled ambition, greedy, not transformational, with a husband still d---ing bimbos at home (according to the NY Post)," Powell wrote.


IV. AROUND THE WORLD R&G ROUND UP

SHORT HISTORY OF INDONESIA - MALAYSIA WAR (1963-66) THAT LED TO A.S.E.A.N.: Malyasia Independence and Indonesia opposition.

THE UN - WHO SHOULD RUN IT? Very seldom is there an interesting article about UN inner workings. But this piece on Chinese and Russian attempts to wrest some high offices from the American-Euro axis is different. The Pope has actually joined forces with the global South in advocating that the ruling structure of the UN begin to look like the world of nations as they exist. Why are England and France, but not Germany or India or Indonesia or Japan or Brazil or Nigeria part of the Security Council? Asia is underrepresented; and Africa, South America, and Islamic nations are all absent from the Security Council. To make the UN a more international organization, the US should quit paying so much money and argue for a less "Western, victors of WWII-approach" to our international forum.

'FIRST THINGS' EDITOR RUSTY RENO BREAKS THE MOLD - ON NATIONALISM AND DISRAELI: There was a time that First Things magazine was the place to go for incisive blending of religion and politics. Then there was a period after the death of Fr. Neuhaus (and actually in his last years) where there seemed a stricture on the writing - maybe a combination of bowing to a subtle feminism and not so subtle neocon bias. It seems George Weigel and Robert George are still evidence of such "petrified and principled" writing. But the editor of First Things is R.R. Reno and he suddenly seems to dealing the cards a bit differently. Two excellent essays - on nationalism and on Disraeli.

FIGHTING  SATAN: Christian brotherhood is a fundamental form of Christian love because one of the mandates to the apostles was to "cast out demons." To fight and expel such a mighty and devious foe from the earth will take a fellowship of holy priests and righteous nations.
Brotherhood is not a sexless formless sentiment. Political brotherhood is made of men who take up their cross and risk death to provide protection in a particular time and space -- a tribe, a city, or a nation. The two ways of  brotherhood -- the liturgical road of the priests and the political road of the Christian nationalists -- will meet in the end at the Lord’s Coming. I always think in 'Lord of the Rings' that Frodo is the priest doing a liturgical act (destroying the ring) while the laymen are gathering as the national armies of different allies. Two paths to fight the same enemy and serve the same King.

WHY THERE IS NO MIDDLE WAY ON SACRALIZING SODOMY: The Civil Rights Commission tells us what’s in store.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Friday BookReview: PADRE PIO (d. 1968)



[first published May 29, 2015]


"When you feel despised, imitate the kingfisher, who builds its nest on the masts of ships. That is to say, raise yourself up above the earth, elevate yourselves with your mind and heart to God, who is the only one who can console you and give you strength to withstand the trial in a holy way."
                                                       
                                            


In an isolated mountain village on the east coast of southern Italy, Padre Pio lived for 50 years in a Capuchin friary. Often hounded and persecuted by Church officials, he submitted to their restrictions with patience -- saying, "Let God's will be done."

Pio was declared a saint by Pope John Paul II in 2002. His shrine is visited by millions each year; in popularity, it is second only to Mexico's basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

"The fascination of his gruff manner and the magnetism of his extraordinary saintliness drew people to him... The only way to talk to him personally was through the medium of confession."

I've enjoyed paging through Magic of a Mystic by the Duchess of St. Albans -- stories of Padre Pio told in a folksy way (her sister lived for many years in the priest's village of San Giovanni Rotondo), along with photos of the people and landscape. A huge Franciscan hospital rose up during the priest's lifetime, "built exclusively with mule and bullock transport." 

Pio suffered greatly, literally bleeding for his flock. Things were always exciting in his orbit as he thundered, when necessary, at folks in the confessional; made simultaneous appearances in two places; and converted violent Communists.


An opera star (L) sings for his friend Padre Pio

"If you can talk with the Lord in prayer, talk to him, offer him your praise; if, due to great weariness, you cannot speak, do not find displeasure in the ways of the Lord. Stay in the room like servants of the court do, and make a gesture of reverence. He will see you, and your presence will be pleasing to him. He will bless your silence and at another time you will find consolation when he takes you by the hand."

[When asked if his stigmata hurt, he replied:] "Do you think that the Lord gave them to me for a decoration?"


An excerpt from the Duchess' book:

"Father Pasquale Cattaneo also gives us a testimony showing Padre Pio’s ability to read hearts. Fr. Cattaneo had received permission from his superiors to visit San Giovanni and to go to confession to Padre Pio. During his bus trip he prepared himself with a good examination of his conscience so as to be ready to make a sincere confession of his sins. With the help of the Holy Spirit he looked into every corner of his soul, and made new promises of amendment. However as the bus going to the Gargano was on the last part of the journey and the town came into view, he ended his examination perplexed thinking: 'The spiritual life at times seems like trying to climb glass.'

"When he arrived at the friary, he went into the sacristy and told the friar who helped with the confessions that he had come to confess to Padre Pio and afterwards he patiently waited for his turn. When the time came he entered the confessional, greeted Padre Pio and made his confession. After confessing his faults, Padre Pio gave him absolution. He then arose, feeling happy that he had made a sincere confession, when he turned one last time and glanced at the Padre -- the Padre smiled at him and with an amused look he wittingly said: 'So, the spir­itual life seems like climbing glass, eh?'

______________


The Duchess of St. Albans wrote Magic of a Mystic 15 years after Pio's death. Several times at her home in France, she experienced (though, earlier, she had been skeptical hearing of it from others) the sweet spicy "odor of sanctity" that emanated from him -- in life and death, in rural Italy and far beyond.

With no hesitation, if someone asked me the craziest year I've witnessed in the world, my answer would be 1968. It surely is more than coincidental that Padre Pio (the most unique of all modern saints) was taken to heaven then, to fulfill his prediction that he would be able to do more for humanity after his death than he had in life.





UPDATE -- This excerpt is from an essay by Patricia Snow:

Padre Pio of Pietrelcina was not a philosopher like John Paul II or a lawyer like Thomas More; he was not a teacher like Elizabeth Ann Seton or a subtle theologian like Thérèse of Lisieux. He was a religious and a priest, an alter Christus even to the wounds in his hands, feet, and side. Coarse and unsophisticated as he was, in his person the vertical of the cross—the love of God above all created things—was manifest. Writing to a friend after a visit to San Giovanni Rotondo monastery, Don Giuseppe De Luca, an Italian historian of Christian spirituality, shared his impressions of the wounded friar:
Padre Pio, dear Papini, is a sickly, ignorant Capuchin, very much the crude southerner. And yet (bear in mind that besides making confession to him, I also dined with him and we spent a great deal of time together), and yet—God is with him, that fearful God that we glimpse in reverie and which he has in his soul, unbearably hot, and in his flesh, which trembles constantly . . . as if battered by ever more powerful gales. I truly saw the holy there, holiness not of action but of passion, the holiness that God expresses. Although he is a man of very meager intelligence, he offered me two or three words that I have never found on the lips of other men, and not even (and this is harder to admit) in the books of the Church. . . There is nothing of ordinary spirituality about him, nor is there anything extraordinarily miraculous, stunning, or showy; there is merely intelligentia spiritualis, a free gift from God. And there is a passion, even a human passion, for God, dear Papini, that is so beautiful, so ravishingly sweet that I can’t tell you. The love of woman and the love of ideas are nothing by comparison, they are things that do not go beyond a certain point, whether near or far. While the love of God, how, I do not know, burns, and the more it burns the more it finds to burn. I have the absolutely certain sensation that God and man have met in this person.


Parish procession in Boston's North End several years ago

The celebration in this year of 2016 will be especially memorable for Boston:
"I’m very excited to announce that the Capuchin Friars who run the Shrine of St. Padre Pio have offered to come to Boston with the heart of Padre Pio for his feast day this year," Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston announced in a Sept. 2 post on his blog. 
"This is the first time any major relic of Padre Pio has left Italy, and we are so pleased that they have offered to come to Boston for this historic visit..."

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Christian Realism: The Mystical Body of Japan


by David Pence


Many historians lump Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, Mussolini’s Italy, and Franco’s Spain as the "fascists" of the twentieth century. Such a lumping was convenient for the anti-fascist coalition of Joseph Stalin, and is perpetuated by critics of the "authoritarian personality" today. This leaves us, though, quite ignorant of the Catholic nationalism of Franco, the Hegelian fascism of Mussolini, the Darwinian racism of Hitler, and the religious racialism of Shinto Japan. Each of these was a distinct type of social organization shaping a people in response to the bloody twentieth century.
                               

Shinto Japan was a spiritual military response against the West’s armed materialism and Social Darwinism poisoning Asia. Integrating mass participation with a revitalized Shrine Shintoism centered on a Divine Emperor is called "radical Shinto ultranationalism" in Walter Skya’s 2009 book, Japan’s Holy War. Skya's fidelity to Japanese sources untapped by previous scholars and his willingness to treat religious and spiritual forces as major determinants in social organization have given us the best intellectual history yet of the spiritual organism that was the 20th-century Japanese nation. (Review of book -- scroll down to page 144).

Revitalizing its centuries-old religion into a more organized  hierarchically ordered shrine-centered Shintoism was a fundamental aspect of the Meiji restoration (1857). This was deeply intensified in the first decades of the 1900s as state and familial theories of the sovereign gave way to a more organic sense of a Divine Emperor linked to the mass participation of the people in a Holy Nation. Shinto means the way of the Kami, or spirits or gods. The original creation narrative was centered on sexual order, the physical islands of Japan, and the ethnic continuity of the Japanese people. The Kokutai, or form of the Japanese polity, has been ruled by an unbroken chain of emperors "come from the same womb" of Amaterasu Omikami — the Sun goddess. The emperors are, in fact, the living reincarnation of Amaterasu. All of the people of Japan are meant to unite as one body under the head of the Emperor, breathing with the same lungs, beating as a single heart. The army, especially, becomes his limbs and the farmers his working arms. The Japanese are not a chosen people called from the many peoples created as a single humanity. The Japanese are a unique creation separated from other peoples by their story of origin.

The binding of the person in the sacred order of the Kami occurs through rituals consecrating  different life events. These must be performed in set aside holy ground. At the official and hierarchically ordered shrines there are different Kami to encounter. Coming to a shrine and performing the proper rituals brings a person in contact with the spiritual order. The goal of life is to become one as a people, as the people become one with the Kami. To die for the Emperor is to more fully enter into union with him. Die to self and become a true being.

Mr. Skya describes an important Japanese thinker: "Being was being only in so far as it formed an organic part of an irreducible aggregate of Beings. The affirmation of the existence of one's own being was possible only in the recognition of the interdependent existence of the self with the other selves in an organic reality …The movement of being related in a cause and effect relationship with other beings in a spatial environment was called man’s sokan. There also was the interrelationship with other beings in time, which he called man’s renzoku. Each being mutually and interdependently developing and perfecting the self in relation to other selves in a definite spatial temporal matrix was called hito no sokan to renoku. The mutual development and perfection of beings in this spatio-temporal matrix is called morality. Useugi’s concept of being was not limited to living beings with the living...It also included spiritual beings..the spirit of those who had come before us…"

This was not the atheist Darwinian racism of Hitler!

(From the linked review): "Another of Skya’s key themes pertains to the worldview of Shinto ultra-nationalists. Their goal was the establishment of a new world order based on the concept of Japanese imperial rule that was to replace the Wilsonian-inspired world order of 'democratic internationalism' that had been institutionalized through the League of Nations after World War I. Again, it was this so-called 'divine oneness' of the Japanese nation that was an attribute not shared by any other people. “ China, for example, was not one nation, but "a space where five major competing ethnic nations (Han, Manchu, Mongol, Uighur,and Tibetan) vied for dominance." (Doak, 2001). "Therefore, the rule of the Japanese emperor should have encompassed the globe since no other people could stand on an equal level with the pure Japanese in their sacred land. Thus, the worldview of these proponents of Shinto ultranationalism was that the war that they waged in the Pacific was a civilizational and religious conflict between a divinely governed theocratic Japanese empire and a secular global order created and controlled by the imperialist nations of the West."
             

Christopher Dawson has written about Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union: "The racialist ideology like the Communist ideology... was an attempt to find a substitute for the spiritual reality in some other social element which is primary and indestructible. But Europe... was a spiritual reality and cannot be replaced by a biological or economic unit, for these belong to a different plane of social reality."

His words do not as aptly describe the Japanese who were consciously organizing a spiritual principle "opposed to western individualism and materialism."

When we consider Japan in the language of "social capital" we contrast their incredible ability to "bond within the in group" and their spectacular failure to "bridge to the out group." Certainly, though, there is more of a lesson to be learned here than painting Japan as just another fascist state. They achieved a deep level of human cooperation that defended the Eastern peoples from the rapaciousness of their foreign invaders. When one reads from the seminal 1937 document, Kokutai no Hungi (Fundamentals of Our National Polity), of botsuga kiitsu ("casting aside self to return to the One" or "dying to self and returning to the one") one is brought into the temporal/spatial sacred matrix of the Catholic Mass. The description of the spiritual and organic union of the Japanese under the Emperor is striking to anyone familiar with the ecclesiology of the Mystical Body of Christ. The Japanese who wrote the document were fully conscious that they were attacking the entire intellectual structure of the European Enlightenment, which as religious patriots they saw as a well-armed human catastrophe. The Japanese felt Western thinkers had adopted the social Darwinism model of humanity that held perpetual conflict -- not harmony -- as the basic reality in nature. They saw Western thinking as based on individuals and families with a mechanistic view of the state. They considered this lack of a more organic sense of the polity as a great impoverishment of the West; and they blamed Christianity for positing universal loyalties over the nation, and the Enlightenment for elevating the individual over the social group. They employed Aristotle to scold the Western thinkers for forgetting that man gains his true identity in the polis. Without that, he is an idiot (idios—entirely unto oneself). This remains a serious problem in Catholic social teaching today.

There are powerful Kami in Japan. So many great souls loved and died. So many killed others so harshly. We cannot lose their social courage or their spiritual sensibilities of union, beauty, and natural order. We cannot overlook the terrible slaughter. Certainly the Japanese spiritual and intellectual thinkers were right that the individualism and materialism of the Western empires couldn’t be the principle of social organization for humanity and the nations—not then and not now.





[Sketches of Shinto shrines by Russell Stutler, a Protestant missionary to Japan who converted to Catholicism several years ago.]